The Clwyd branch of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust have been sharing our heritage. A six panel Capability Brown exhibition celebrating his work at Wynnstay, and his influence on William Emes and Humphry Repton, has been seen by hundreds in North East Wales.
- Temple Dairy at Wynnstay by Brown Photo Glynis Shaw
- Wynnstay House (p. 146 The Country Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland. vol. 2. Francis Orpen Morris 1866
Lancelot 'Capability' Brown began work at Wynnstay, Ruabon, in 1774 for Sir Watkins Williams Wynn and visited the estate at least five times
Wynnstay, one of the largest and most important estates in Wales, was Brown's largest commission in the country. Brown replaced the formal grardens with lawns sweeping right up to the house overlooking the lake.
His client Sir Watkin was a friend of the composer Handel and playwright and actor David Garrick and commissioned Robert Adam to design his house at 20 St James's Square in London. He began improvements to the grounds of his estate in 1770. The lake was made to look more natural by Richard Woods and Edward Pugh, with Thomas Leggat as Clerk of Works.
In 1774 Capability Brown was engaged to plan and supervise a new scheme for the parks and gardens at Wynnstay. It included the alteration of the house and offices, the grounds, the lake and the provision of a new dairy. Work did not proceed smoothly as Sir Watkin had also commissioned Robert Adam to build him a new house at 20-21 St James's Square in London at around this time (1771-1775), and the expense of this work delayed work at Wynnstay.
In 1777 Brown improved the approach to Wynnstay from Ruabon. The gravel walk was made and the mount removed at the head of the former canal. Brown designed the shrubery "which is neat and well laid out", and according to his friend John Byng, was Brown's last work. Brown's pleasure ground can still be seen today.
He also landscaped the Lower Park. A second lake, Belan Water, was constructed with a cascade. It was completed after his death by Surveyor John Midgeley, and ceremoniously opened in 1784. In John Byng's opinion it was not as good as Brown had intended.
"Several brooks and rills were made confluent, so as to form a torrent; which dashing over a lofty ledge of artificial rock-work, covered with mosses and lichens, assumes the appearance of a natural cascade, and very similar to the much-admired one in the Marquis of Lansdowne's park, at Calne, in the country of Wilts."
The Lower Park also had an ice house, boat house and a bath house.
In 1777-1782 a ha-ha was constructed enclosing the garden and outbuildings.
Trees are very important to the Wynnstay landscape with old trees providing a focal point in the landscape. Brown invented a means of moving mature trees. He kept the venerable avenues already established at Wynnstay.
A bridge is pictured in 18th and 19th century paintings of the estate, but no trace of it remains.
Glynis Shaw, Welsh Historic Gardens Trust: www.whgt.org.uk
Dorothy Stroud, Capability Brown, Faber & Faber, 1975, pages 182-3