Historic Landscape Characterisation

Vale of Ffestiniog - Area 4 Tan-yr-Allt


An eighteenth-century farmhouse transformed by William Alexander Madocks into the first Regency house in north-west Wales. The site was chosen chiefly for the view and in order to accommodate the larger house the hillside behind was cut back, leaving an exposed rock face. Stables and outbuildings are a short distance to the west.

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, 100017916, 2005

Historic background

Madocks, who bought the property in 1798, was a philanthropist and the focus of a circle of 'Romantic' philosophers and literary figures. He was responsible for building the Cob at Porthmadog and draining the Traeth Mawr as well as building the model town of Tremadog. Madocks’ circle of friends included Sheridan, Thomas Love Peacock and Shelley, the last of whom rented Tan-yr-Allt from 1812 to 1816 and wrote Queen Mab while living there. Peacock based his satire Headlong Hall on Tan-yr-Allt and Madocks and his friends.

After Madocks the house belonged to the Greaves family, owners of slate quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog, and until recently it was a Steiner school.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Early 19th-century wooded park, ornamental garden and residence

The ancient woodland on the hillside above the house (now a SSSI) would have been one of the attractions of the site as far as Madocks was concerned. He added trees to both woods and garden; being especially fond of beech he created pockets of chalky clay to help them thrive. He also experimented with moving large, mature trees. Many of his trees survive, by now superb specimens.

The garden, on a steeply sloping site, is informal in character, blending into a small area of parkland to the south. It consists mainly of lawns and areas planted with specimen trees; near the house there are rhododendrons and other shrubs, and there is a small formal pool at the foot of the sloping lawn in front of the house. The garden also contains a memorial to Shelley.

The long east drive has surviving informal plantings, including many good trees, and the small stream which crosses has artificial pools and waterfalls which create attractive sights and sounds. There is a lodge at the end of this drive, also built by Madocks.

The kitchen garden, laid out by Madocks, was important to him. The walls survive in good condition and there is a large (empty) water tank in the north-west corner, more recently used for swimming. Soil was brought up from the Cob during its construction to improve the garden’s naturally thin soil.

The garden was neglected after Madocks’ time but brought back into use and productiveness by the Steiner school. Some plantings survive from before the period of neglect and show that ornamental plants and fruit were grown as well as vegetables, a tradition that has been continued. The path layout appears to be original and the bases of cold frames survive; it seems that there was never a large area of glass.


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