Well I started this blog post in May but have never found time to get round to completing this and the back log of blog posts that I have accumulated ever since… who knew living in Cardiff would be such a big distraction from my blog!
After having visited Tredegar House during my May Day holiday, the next day I visited Dyffryn Gardens, a National Trust estate located about 7 miles from Cardiff City Centre. The property consists of a Grade I registered garden that has been managed by the National Trust for quite some time and also a Grade II listed house that has only recently opened to the public having been acquired by the National Trust on a 50 year lease.
A Little History
The Dyffryn Estate dates back to the 7th Century when the estate “The Manor of Worlton” as it was then called, was given to Bishop Oudaceous of Llandaff. After passing into the ownership of the Button family the estate was sold to Thomas Pryce in the 18th Century, and the name was changed to Duffryn St Nicholas. During the tenure of Thomas Pryce’s residence at Duffryn, the house, walled gardens, pleasure grounds and dipping pools were created.
In 1891, the estate was bought by John Cory, who’s family wealth came from the South Wales coalmines, shipping coal around the world. John Cory hired a local architect to renovate the existing Duffryn House built by Thomas Pryce, into the grand grade II listed building we see today. John Cory also hired Thomas Mawson, a landscape architect, to design and build a grand set of gardens befitting his new house. After John Cory’s death in 1910, his third son Reginald continued working along-side Thomas Mawson, plant hunting and filling the gardens with an array of unusual plant life.
The estate was left in the trust of Florence Cory, Reginald Cory’s sister whilst he was pursuing his passion for horticulture and plant hunting away from the Duffryn Estate and on her death in 1936, the estate was purchased by Sir Cennydd Traherne, who then leased the estate to Glamorgan County Council, after which Duffryn House and the gardens fell into a period of institutional use, and as a result; decline. In 1996 the house was closed and later purchased by the Vale of Glamorgan County Council, who then changed the estate’s name to the correct Welsh version “Dyffryn”.
Since the purchase of the land by the Vale of Glamorgan County Council, there has been a period of restoration for the estate, particularly the gardens, which have been restored to their former glory, thanks to support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. In January 2013, the National Trust took over stewardship for Dyffryn Estate and have been maintaining the gardens, which have been open to the public for a few years, as well as restoring Duffryn House, which was opened to the public in April of this year.
The Dyffryn house and gardens have featured in many TV series over the last few years including several episodes of Doctor Who, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Merlin.
The house has only just opened to the public, with many rooms still in the process of being restored and almost all room without any furniture, which is quite a contrast to the majority of National Trust houses that I have been to.
Walking through the main entrance, you enter The Great Hall, a room that was once used as the main family room of the Cory Family.
The Great Hall has two main focal points; the intricate grand fireplace and the stained glass window above the entrance, depicting Queen Elizabeth I at Tilbury.
Walking into the house, through the Great Hall and past the fireplace, a door to your left will lead into the Billiard Room, complete with billiard table, cobwebs and a good example of a room still in need of renovation.
Heading back into the Great Hall from the Billiard Room, the door to your left leads into the Blue Drawing Room, one of several rooms that have undergone restoration.
The blue cushions on the floor are there to allow people to lie back and admire the painted ceiling.
After viewing the Blue Drawing Room, you walk through doors into the Red Drawing Room.
This room houses another fine highly decorative fireplace and painted ceiling, and leads into the Morning Room.
The wallpaper in the morning room was put up by the BBC for the Sarah Jane Adventures episode The Eternity Trap, which featured Dyffryn House and Gardens heavily throughout.
After walking through a door near the outer wall you enter into the Red Library, a room that was undergoing restoration during my visit.
Walking back through the Morning Room you will enter a small corridor that opens back onto the Great Hall, a doorway to your right, leads into the staircase hall and to the first floor rooms.
I couldn’t help but think that if this were my house, I’d want the Great Hall to be a grand entrance way with a decorative staircase leading to the upper gallery, using the space where the existing staircase hall is for some additional rooms. I imagine the Great Hall being used as a family room would have been quite a cold room.
The first floor, rather than housing bedrooms, uses the space to educate visitors about the history of the gardens in the Plant Hunter’s Room, the Estate and House in the Story Room, and a further room allowing people to leave messages on a chalk board tree.
The main visitor attraction for Dyffryn is not the house, but more the gardens and it is these that I will talk about now.
Dyffryn Gardens offer so much to see, with an array of smaller themed gardens, shrubberies and open lawn. Rather that write paragraphs for each, which would result in a very high wordcount, I will just show photos of each section of the garden.
- http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dyffryn-gardens/ – Dyffryn Gardens on the National Trust website