History

Llanforda – The Historic Landscape

1500’s

On the death of Richard Lloyd in 1508 his eldest son John inherited Llanforda (Gough 2009). Gough describes the Lloyds as a long established borders family. It is
assumed that Llanforda was a medium status country manor with a House at its centre (somewhere in the vicinity of the later house) and with productive gardens and orchards close around the house and fields beyond. It is likely that fishpond(s) would have been used to supplement the diet and that there would have been a mill on the river Morda to grind grain – evidence of both would have been overlaid by developments in the 1600’s.

1600’s

Colonel Edward Lloyd (1609 – 1662)
Edward’s Lloyd’s grandfather; inherited Llanforda in 1634, aged 25; lived 53 years

He fought as a Royalist in the Civil War (1642 -51), returning to Llanforda in 1645. He is described as having a somewhat reckless lifestyle as a young man and spent money freely – when he died in 1662 he left debts over £8,000.00. In a letter to his mother in 1645 he wrote: ” …. I have been charged (accused) with folly for
(spending on) my gardens and walks, for my wilderness and fountain…” implying he had spent a considerable amount ‘improving’ his gardens from whatever was there before.  But this tantalising scrap of information hints at a fashionable formal layout with a series of compartmented gardens.

Stamper suggests that the layout would have been in a similar style to Thomas Hanmer’s garden, as well as the gardens at Llanerch.

The assumption is that Lloyd was following fashion by laying out gardens around the house in a formal style with axial walks, formal woodland (wilderness) and ‘garden features’ such as the fountain. The layout would have overlaid the naturally folded and sloping topography (there is no evidence of major earthworks to level ground when compared to the adjacent natural landscape form) meaning that the formal lines and vistas would have largely been enclosed and inward looking with, perhaps, one or two vistas that extended to the countryside beyond.

It is possible that some of the fishponds existed during this period (as noted for the previous phase).

When Lloyd died in 1662 the gardens would have been in place for some thirty years and would have been fairly well grown.

Edward Lloyd (b.1635 d.1681)
Edward Lhuyd’s father, (lived 46 years), gardened at Llanforda for nineteen years after his father’s death. Entrepreneur, well connected, involved with the fishing
industry and probably experimented with commercial horticulture (see B.F. Roberts).

Edward Lhuyd (1659-1709)
Lhuyd was Lloyd’s (1635-1671) eldest, illegitimate son who inherited Llanforda.

1600’s

Edward Lhuyd (continued)
He is ranked with the greatest naturalists, antiquaries and scholars of his day and, like others during the Enlightenment, spent a lifetime studying the natural world, environment, people and language of the British Isles. He travelled alone or with like-minded fellow enthusiasts through Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall and Brittany (where he spent eighteen days in prison suspected of being a spy).

He was at Jesus College, Oxford, in 1682 but dropped out and became assistant to the first keeper of the Ashmolean which had opened in 1683, later becoming Keeper until his death in 1709. His acquaintances included Jacob Bobart the younger (1641-1719), superintendent of the Oxford Physic Garden and later Professor of Botany, and John Ray (1627-1705), one of the earliest parson-naturalists.

Commercial Activity at Llanforda
The garden at Llanforda was special to Lloyd, writing to his mother in 1668 (aged 18): “no sight ever pleases me so well as the snow drops now in the wilderness”

The estate was still in debt and Lloyd tried various ventures including partnering with the north Welsh fishing industry and a rented fishery on the river Dovey. Stamper suggests that he may have extended the fishing idea to his own park at Llanforda where current ponds and surviving earthworks appear to have numbered over twenty individual man made ponds.

Further, Stamper suggests a possible venture in commercial market gardening – Lhuyd was growing cucumber, melon and asparagus (which needed skill and horticultural equipment) and cauliflowers and artichokes – using seed from the top London suppliers Fuller and Dryhurst.

Lady Herbert (Collector of rocks)
In the 1680’s Lloyd offered ‘an interest’ in the estate to Lady Herbert of Powys (1659-1744). She was the first female aristocratic collector of rocks and minerals so may also have taken an interest in Lloyd’s son Lhuyd as a fossil hunter. Lloyd wrote that she would have: “the absolute command of my house during my life, the Tulip Garden, Pigeon House Garden, Parlour Garden, Wilderness, Lower Garden and well, the command of my Fish Ponds for herself and a key to the Physick garden and the Fruit Garden beyond the nursery”.

Edward Morgan, botanist (1639 – 1685)
In 1679 Lloyd employed Edward Morgan, presumably as Head Gardener, at Llanforda. Morgan was 40 years old and immediately before was the Head Gardener at the Westminster Physic Garden.This was one of three well known central London Physic Gardens, the others being: The Royal Physic Garden in St. James’s Park and The Privy Garden in Whitehall Palace (recently restored after the Commonwealth). The Privy Garden at Whitehall would have been the principal, personal garden of the King and faced out on to the Thames, the opposite side of the Banqueting House from St. James’s Park.

1600’s

Edward Morgan, botanist (continued)
The Westminster Physic Garden was within the walls of the Westminster Abbey Estate, probably in the area now known as Little Dean Yard. John Evelyn, diarist and keen gardener at Deptford (next to Henry eighth naval shipyard by Greenwich) visited the Westminster Physic Garden on June 10th 1685:
“I went to see the Medical Garden at Westminster, well stored with plants, under Morgan, a very skillful botanist. The garden contained plants from Tangier, Canada and our Northern Plantations (North America).”

Plant specimens were gathered and pressed / dried for a herbarium collection from the garden and survive in Volumes 24, 25 and 26 in the Sloane herbarium at the Natural History Museum. Sloane was the founder of the Chelsea Physic garden and amassed a huge Herbarium from collectors in the UK and abroad.
Morison, Professor of Botany before Bobart at Oxford commended ‘Ned’ Morgan in 1672 for: ‘ye best collection of plants in England’. Building up such collections for use in medicine (an Apothecaries Garden) was a vital element in the tools of the apothecaries’ trade and was very competitive. Three years later in 1675 Compton, Bishop of London, started making his collection at Fulham Palace which was to exceed, in number, the collection at the Royal Palace at Kew and would have contained ‘stove plants’ (needing a greenhouse) as well as temperate plants.

Morgan at Westminster was visited by and corresponded with most of the leading Botanists of the day, including Ray who knew Lhuyd. Morgan took students from London to Llanforda to record the differences in rates of plant growth between Shropshire and London. After one year at Llanforda Morgan is recorded as working at Bodysgallen for Robert Wynn in 1680, in the gardens that had been laid out there in 1678.

1700’s

On Edward Lhuyds death in 1709 the estate passed to William Williams. His descendants were associated with the estate until the early 20th century. His connection with the Wynns of Wynnstay and the Vaughns of Montgomery eventually brought Llanforda into one of the largest concentrations of land ownership in North Wales. The first Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn was born at Llanforda Hall. His son, the second Sir Watkin, demolished the Lloyd residence and, in the 1780’s, began to build a large house which was partly destroyed by fire during the rebuilding. The stables and walled garden from the same period survived.

1800’s

The ruins of the house were incorporated into a smaller mansion built by a younger brother of the third Sir Watkin in 1813. The estate was occupied by tenants not the family between 1838-1844.

The house was demolished in 1949. The 18th century stables survived for a time.

(Research Undertaken by Dominic Cole CMLI FIOH OBE, Landscape Architect)