Monday, July 6, 2015

The Landscape, Gardens, & Grounds at Wales' ancient Dinefwr Park

The 17C & 18C gardens & grounds at Dinefwr in Wales are examined by the researchers of the The Dinefwr Project here. "They examine the  Restoration Landscape with its avenues & formality.  It is generally assumed that the present house was constructed in the middle of the 17C but we have neither architectural, archaeological nor documentary evidence beyond the road diversion to confirm this. Our picture of Dinefwr in this period in based almost entirely on the set of 4 landscape paintings thought to date to the first 2 decades of the 18C. These show a house, farm, formal gardens, deer park, avenues, castle & clumps of mature trees. Elements of this landscape survived into the 19C & a few continued on into the 20C,  sufficient to confirm that these paintings reflect the actual layout.

1700 Unknown artist, Dinefwr, Wales -Newton House, Llandeilo, from the North showing possible burgage plots, farm buildings & a formal garden

"Formal lines of trees demonstrate that there was an avenue linking the house with the Carmarthen to Llandeilo road & another running south towards the castle. A few of these trees still survive - limes & oaks to the north & sweet chestnut to the south & they also appear on early maps. There may also have been linear planting to the east & certainly there is today the remnant of a north-south line of limes that was later incorporated into clumps. Each of the 4 images also depict mature trees suggesting a heavily wooded landscape within the deer park & around the castle.

1700 Unknown artist, Dinefwr, Wales -  Newton House, Llandeilo, from the East  showing mature trees, formal avenues & farm buildings

"Two of the paintings show agricultural buildings to the rear of the main house, though the layout differs between the 2 so they may not be contemporary. The size of these structures implies a significant enterprise. Architectural evidence suggests that one of these buildings was incorporated into the present-day inner courtyard & wall footings discovered during the restoration of the fountain garden in the 1990s match the outline of another. With the exception of a piece of a medieval floor tile, all the finds recovered during a small-scale excavation of this structure are 17C or 18C. Lack of stratification implies deliberate destruction, possibly when the landscape park was created. One of this pair of paintings depicts burgage plots, one containing a small house, to the west of these buildings.

1705 Unknown artist, Dinefwr, Wales. Castle

"To the north & east of the house the paintings record formal, Italianate gardens with pavilions & a canal. No evidence of this has survived & indeed its existence has been questioned. Watching briefs conducted during refurbishment of services to the house in the 1990s failed to uncover any evidence of this garden & a geophysical survey carried out in 2003 produced no conclusive images.  The age of the Deer Park is not known. Recent surveys have failed to identify when the walls were built but it was in existence when these paintings were created.

1710 Unknown artist, Dinefwr, Wales. Castle

"By the early decades of the 18 th century the castle had acquired a gazebo that afforded magnificent views over the park. This addition apparently reflects a desire to impress visitors with the quality of the park. The date of this structure is not known though the family did not acquire the castle until 1659. It appears to serve the same function as a mount. These raised hillocks were considered old-fashioned by the 1640s but several survived through to the end of the century. A small pavilion, shown to the west of the castle, has been variously interpreted as a bathhouse or a building that was later removed.  Although acquisition of land continued, in 1675, when Griffith Rice inherited, there were still parcels of land in different ownership within the vicinity of the house. He retained the park as he inherited it though in the 1720s he modernised the house by renovating the interior & creating the inner courtyard."