Case Study: Plas Glynllifon

Glynllifon is a large estate and mansion in North Wales, near Caernarfon and Snowdonia National Park.  Plas Glynllifon is being developed as a hotel and wedding venue, while Parc Glynllifon is run by the Gwynedd Council as a country park.

The first evidence of a garden at Glynllifon appears in 1641 when Thomas Johnson detailed ‘’dark groves, murmuring brooks, gardens on this side and that, beautified by many flowers and plants, the higher of them sloping gently’’.  Major developments followed, notably when the Second Lord Newborough, came of age in 1823 and moved back to Glynllifon.  An 1824 map shows extensive parkland and further change in layout to the pleasure grounds.  The third Lord Newborough built the current mansion after a disastrous fire in 1836 and went on to make many of the landscape features that we see and enjoy within the pleasure grounds and park to this day. This was to include the boathouse, the children’s mill, and many caves and grottos.

.Old maps help us research the history

In 1932 the house and lands reverted to the fifth Lord Newborough, Thomas John Wynn, but the family had to sell the estate in 1948 due to rising costs and death duties, which signalled the end of Glynllifon as a country estate.  Glynllifon was purchase in 1948 by a timber merchant, and in 1954 the site was purchase by the County Council, and the majority of the land and buildings turned into an agricultural college which still thrives today. Much of the grounds is now open as a Country Park, although lack of funding has seen the landscape diminish in quality.

.An aerial view of Plas Glynllifon (right) and other estate buildings

Lesser Horseshoe bat

Our own involvement began at Glynllifon when the current owners developed plans for a major hotel and wedding venue.  The first requirement was for a licence to disturb bats during major building renovation works.  In practise we have gone further, enhancing the winter colony by replacing background heating, to prevent the cellars freezing in very cold weather.  Natural caves, their original winter roosts are normally deeper and less prone to temperature fluctuations than a cellar.

Since that first work we have gone on to research the history of the grounds and its former layout, helping to devise a future for the gardens that reflects its past history, including helping rediscover a buried fountain and other features disappearing into the landscape.  The work has included producing a masterplan for the site.  The hope is that a wider scheme will come forward, integrating the mansion gardens and the country park into a thriving place for both local residents and clients of the hotel.  If successful Glynllifon has the potential to provide a destination on the scale and success of the National Trusts Clevedon Estate, where the House continues to operate as a luxury hotel within gardens open to the public.

Rediscovering a lost fountain