Brymbo Hall in the early 1950s. Crown copyright.

Brymbo Hall in the early 1950s. Crown copyright.

The picture to the right shows Brymbo Hall from the air, taken in the early 1950s. While the level of detail shown isn’t huge, it reveals a few interesting landscape features long since destroyed by opencast mining.

The house is surrounded by what locals, in the 20th century, called Brymbo Park. On earlier documents it was known as Brymbo Demesne, and consists of those parts of the Griffiths‘ old estate not let out to tenant farmers but directly attached to the main house. A further subdivision of this land was the formal, partly terraced garden seen on older Ordnance Survey maps, and glimpsed in a few older photographs. Given the neglect of the house from the 1920s onwards, the garden is otherwise poorly recorded, but it is possible to reconstruct some of its main elements.

One of the more prominent features on 19th century maps is the semi-circular garden boundary to the south and east of the site. Although these maps don’t indicate the nature of the boundary, the picture above (and others of similar date) seem to show that it was a fairly deep ditch, rather than a hedge or wall. This fact, along with its orientation in the landscape, are strongly indicative of it being a ha-ha, a kind of visual trick employed by 18th century landscape gardeners to create the illusion of a garden continuing seamlessly into the surrounding parkland. (The ditch, of course, stopped your livestock escaping from the surrounding parkland and eating your prized garden).

An early OS depiction of part of Brymbo Park, showing the outline of the garden prior to 20th-century alterations.

An early OS depiction of part of Brymbo Park, showing the outline of the garden prior to mid 20th century alterations. Crown copyright.

The south / south-easterly orientation of the presumed ha-ha is of a piece with the south-facing later (early 18th century?) extension of the house itself. The unknown designer’s plan seems fairly clear; a  terrace in front of the building leads down into a larger area placed to take advantage of the spectacular views out into the parkland, scattered with trees and including a fishpond towards the eastern boundary, and further into Cheshire and Shropshire.

The north-eastern side of the garden included a walled orchard, and beyond that, an avenue running east from the house to the well (and probably, as I’ve noted before, a cold bath). The overgrown orchard and remains of the avenue are still visible in the photograph above. Although small, the garden seems to have possessed many characteristic 18th century features – much like the house itself, it packed a lot of detail into a small area, and made superb use of its setting. A 19th century resident, Janet Walker Wilkinson, hinted at this in her description of its “yew-clad walks, and boundless view / And roses that around the terrace wreathe“: for once, she wasn’t using too much poetic exaggeration.

While can only speculate who might have been responsible for commissioning it, I think there’s a strong argument that it dates from the early 18th century, like the eastern wing of the house, and would most likely have been laid out in the time of Mary Griffith‘s occupancy. In particular, I’ve seen copies of invoices dating from the 1730s for large numbers of fruit and other trees, which would seem to show that there was some kind of landscaping taking place at that time.