St Fagans Castle 3084

Cardiff, Wales

Brief Description

St Fagans Castle has one of the most important historic gardens in Wales. It is a multi-period, extensive garden in compartments and terraces. There is an underlying Tudor structure, but the layout is now predominantly Victorian and Edwardian, retaining much of its structural planting. It is now the National History Museum of Wales.

History

The main phases of the site are around 1098, 1560-96, 1855-1870s and 1898-1935.

Visitor Facilities

The site is now an open air museum, with several reconstructed buildings in the parkland. The site is open daily from 10 until 5. More information

Detailed Description

The main front of the house (to the east) is accessed through two formal courtyard gardens. There is a lead cistern in the inner courtyard dated 1616, at which date the site was bought by Edward Lewis. The courtyard gardens have a central walk with pleached limes, planted in 1901.

There are several inter-connecting compartment gardens on the north side of the house. These are divided by walls and hedges. The formal garden areas include the knot garden (dating from 1950), herb garden (dated to 1901), the mulberry grove and, nearest the house, the parterre or Dutch garden. There is a Rosery east of the herb and knot gardens. This was restored in 1998-99.

There is a kitchen garden to the north of the house, beyond which is the Italian garden. This was laid out at the turn of the 20th century in Arts and Crafts style. There is a raised water tank with a number of water jets, herbaceous borders, stone paving and a raised terrace. This garden was restored around 2000, and opened in 2003.

Topiary had been a significant feature of the gardens, but with the scarcity of labour after World War 2 cutbacks had to be made and simpler planting arrangements were introduced. In 1946, the site was given to the National Museum of Wales, and much of the grounds are now an open air museum.

Features

Style

  • Formal
  • Manor House (featured building)
  • Description: The house is a whitewashed, roughcast construction.
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  • Tower
  • Description: 'Watch tower'.
  • Terrace
  • Description: Terraced gardens.
  • Planting
  • Description: The main front of the house (to the east) is accessed through two formal courtyard gardens.
  • Cistern
  • Description: There is a lead cistern in the inner courtyard dated 1616.
  • Walk
  • Description: The courtyard gardens have a central walk with pleached limes, planted in 1901.
  • Pleached Trees
  • Description: Limes
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  • Knot Garden
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  • Planting
  • Description: Herb garden.
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  • Grove
  • Description: Mulberry grove.
  • Parterre
  • Description: The Parterre or Dutch garden.
  • Rose Garden
  • Description: There is a Rosery east of the herb and knot gardens. This was restored in 1998-99.
  • Planting
  • Description: This is the Italian garden. It was laid out at the turn of the 20th century in Arts and Crafts style. There is a raised water tank with a number of water jets, herbaceous borders, stone paving and a raised terrace. This garden was restored around 2000.
Stable Block, Drinking Fountain, Dovecote, Pond, Kitchen Garden
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The site is now an open air museum, with several reconstructed buildings in the parkland. The site is open daily from 10 until 5.

Directions

The site is off the A4232, 4 miles west of Cardiff.
History

Detailed History

The main phases of the site are around 1098, 1560-96, 1855-1870s and 1898-1935.

St Fagan's Castle has one of the most important historic gardens in Wales. It is a multi-period, extensive garden in compartments and terraces. There is an underlying Tudor structure, but the layout is now predominantly Victorian and Edwardian, retaining much of its structural planting.

The formalised ponds may be medieval in origin and were certainly in existence in the 16th century. To their north is a water garden designed and built by the famous Victorian rockwork and water garden designers, Pulham and Co. There is also the partial survival of an unusual experimental woodland laid out with axial rides at the beginning of the 20th century.

The first castle was built on the strategically defensive site in the 12th century. The earliest known gardens on the site date to the late-16th century. In the 1560s, the estate was bought by a Dr. John Gibbon. It is thought that he, or Nicholas Herbert, the next incumbent of the site, built the new mansion. The site was bought by Edward Lewis in 1616, and he spent a substantial amount on improving the buildings and gardens. The property stayed in the Lewis family until it passed by marriage to the Plymouth/Windsor family in 1730. The castle was little used until the 1850s, at which time the buildings and grounds were substantially improved.

Although the garden designs of the 19th and early-20th centuries have made a substantial impact on the landscape, the layouts of earlier years have not been completely removed. An estate map of 1766 shows the house, with geometric compartments to the north, fruit trees to the west and rectangular ponds in the valley. The trees are shown planted in lines along the length of the slope. Such planting probably made use of terracing which may have dated to the Tudor period, at which point such terracing was in fashion.

Although the family spent little time at the castle, it appears that in the mid-18th century tenants such as Madam Morgan of Llanrumney invested a substantial amount in the site (see Hilary Thomas, references). However, by the early-mid 19th century the gardens were becoming neglected. Retrospectively, however, this neglect preserved the earlier components of the gardens, which thereby escaped more structural ‘improvements'.

The Plymouth/ Windsor family suffered several early deaths of heirs to the estate, compounding the neglect of St Fagan's. In 1852, Robert Windsor-Clive married Mary Bridgeman, and their intention was to make St Fagan's their family home. However, Robert died in 1859, and his mother and widow saw through the initial restoration plans. The next heir, Robert George, and his wife Alberta completed the restoration, bringing the garden into its late-19th century splendour.

Period

  • Victorian (1837-1901)
Associated People

People associated to St Fagans Castle

Contact

Telephone

01443 336000

Official Website

Click Here

Other websites

Owners

  • National History Museum of Wales

References

References