Historic Landscape Characterisation

Mawddach - Area 25 Abergwynant designed landscape (PRN 18355)



Historic background

Abergwynant is a small nineteenth-century garden and park with kitchen garden and outbuildings (designated as grade II on the Cadw Register of Parks and Gardens - PGW (Gd) 32 (GWY)) which has the appearance of having been laid out all at one time and to have been little altered since.

The house and farm occupy most of a relatively level, sheltered site on the southern banks of the Mawddach estuary, and the house, which lies near the bottom of the landward slope of a substantial ridge, faces south-east and has a view down over its garden and then up to the hills south of the valley side. It is a solid, gabled, Victorian house, built of grey stone on a square plan, with large chimney-stacks and extravagantly decorated barge-boards. It was reputedly built by Sir Hugh Bunbury for Sir Robert Peel who died in 1850, but information about Peel's connections with this area has proved elusive. Later the property belonged to the Richards-Peel family. The house was sold and became a hotel in 1951, and remained so until 1992. After 1992 the house lay empty until recently. When the restoration is complete, it will once more open as a hotel.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Victorian house, designed park and garden

The house is surrounded by a series of connected stable buildings, cottages, coach house, kitchen garden etc. All the buildings are of stone with slate roofs, and a stone wall links them to enclose the yard. The greater part of the park, to the north, alongside the Mawddach estuary, is hilly and wooded, on the riverside ridge. The home farm lies on level ground to the south-west, beyond the Afon Gwynant, and on the east of the river is a small area of gently sloping open parkland. The house is on the north-eastern edge of this and the north-western valley is occupied by the kitchen gardens and stable-yard. The south-eastern valley is taken up by woods and a large fishpond. This is clearly not natural, being retained by a dam across its small valley.

Where the valleys open out is the parkland, with the garden area in the middle, immediately to the south of the house. The house is thus surrounded by its garden and park and backed by woods, but in fact lies towards the south corner of the park, the larger, wooded area being to the north, east and west. The woodland to the north has an extensive network of paths and rides, many now becoming overgrown but until recently offering literally miles of recreational routes. The woodland on the slope up from the edge of the Mawddach estuary is ancient oak woodland.

South of the woods, the parkland is still easily recognisable as such, and the area immediately south-east of the house retains a number of specimen trees. This area has rocky outcrops and has probably not been ploughed, although the rest has. Further east is a large artificial fish-pond, which once had a boat house, and more woods fill the long triangle north-east of this, between the main drive and the A 493. The garden, woods and parkland all appear to be contemporary, and are stylistically compatible with a mid nineteenth-century date, as suggested for the house. From maps it is clear that the present layout is close to that of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, and as it is stylistically Victorian it may well be original. During the time it was run as a hotel the gardens and parkland were maintained but little altered.

The garden area is fairly small, and consists largely of a shrubbery or 'wilderness', with a sloping lawn and a terrace around the house. The wilderness, which is given this designation on the second edition 25-in. Ordnance Survey map, is of course not in any modern sense wild, and has in fact an immensely complex and detailed design, thickly planted with shrubs. The kitchen garden is probably contemporary with the house, and the orchard is presumably more or less contemporary with the rest of the gardens and park, but may have been added to the kitchen garden, with the extension of the latter, at a slightly later date.


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