Historic Landscape Characterisation

Vale of Ffestiniog - Area 8 Wern

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

Historic background

There has been a house at Wern since at least the late medieval period, and the neighbouring Penmorfa parish church is likely to be an early foundation. The house belonged to the Wynns in the seventeenth century but was abandoned by them in the second half of the eighteenth century, and sold in 1800. There followed a long period during which the house was empty or rented out, until it was bought by Richard Methuen Greaves in 1886. In 1892 he had it enlarged and rebuilt by John Douglas.

The terraces to the south of the house were built at two different times; the upper, in about 1895, by John Douglas and the lower, in 1902, by Thomas Mawson, who also designed the long walk and garden pavilion.

The house is now used as an old people’s home but the estate belongs to the Williams-Ellis family, to whom it was left by Greaves, who was childless.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Post-medieval house, gardens, garden designer association

The house is surrounded by a modest park, of which the part to the west, on rising ground, may date back to the eighteenth century or earlier (see photograph). This part contains a wooded hill – the woods probably originally planted in the eighteenth century – with a derelict ‘look-out tower’ or folly. There is also a lake. The eastern part of the park is low-lying and marshy but has two circular copses, probably planted in the nineteenth century, which are sited so as to break up the continuous line of the horizon.

To the south-east of the house are the pleasure grounds, which are about half wilderness and shrubbery and half lawns with formal features. The wilderness is to the south and provides a screen for the road and railway; there are paths through it which are now overgrown, and a former drive, the entrance to which has recently been reopened.

Between the wilderness and the south lawn is a tiny stream, which forms a water garden where it approaches the drive on the east. The lawns are extensive and informal, ending at a ha-ha on the west.

Crossing the full width of the garden is a formal walk with rose pergola and yew hedges, terminating in a round garden with a formal layout which contains a small garden pavilion. This was designed by Thomas Mawson; the plan is dated 1901 and the design for the pavilion 1903. North of this is an apsidal lily pool also designed by Mawson.

On the north lawn, close to the formal walk, are some specimen trees including a very large tulip tree. North of the north lawn are a shrubbery and overgrown rockery.

A square kitchen garden to the north of the house shown on the 1839 tithe map may have occupied the site of the original garden belonging to the sixteenth or seventeenth-century house. When the house was enlarged in 1892 part of this garden was taken up; what remained was turned over to glasshouses and a new kitchen garden was laid out to the north-west. Both are now derelict and overgrown.


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