The McLaren Family of Bodnant Garden

The McLarens at Bodnant Hall.

Laura Pochin shared her father’s passion for the garden, as did her own son, Henry Duncan McLaren. Together they built on the grand and solid foundations laid by Mr Pochin.

In 1877 Laura married Scottish barrister Charles McLaren, MP for Stafford and Bosworth and nephew of John Bright the famed Liberal politician. Charles was made a peer in 1911 and chose the title Lord Aberconway (in Welsh meaning 'mouth of the river Conwy'.)

Laura continued the works in the riverside garden after her father’s death, developing the wild garden and arboretum in the Far End. She was a lover of herbaceous plants, roses and peonies, and began enhancing the garden's shrub borders, as well as developing plans for the Italianate terraces with her son.

Laura also continued her mother's campaigning work for the suffrage movement and while the McLarens’ business and political life kept them in London, she handed much of the care of Bodnant Garden to her son Henry on his leaving Oxford University in 1901, aged 21. Following in his father’s footsteps Henry served as Liberal MP for West Staffordshire and Bosworth, and went on to captain the family businesses, however the 2nd Lord Aberconway's great love was Bodnant Garden.

Crowning achievement

Henry’s crowning achievement was the design and construction of the five magnificent terraces, from 1904-1914. He also had a passion for the more exotic new trees and shrubs being discovered in Asia and the Americas; he sponsored many plant hunting expeditions in the early 20th century and was keenly interested in propagating and hybridising plants from the 1920s.

Henry was president of the Royal Horticultural Society from 1931 until his death. In 1948 he persuaded the National Trust to accept gardens on their own merit into the fold of the charity - Bodnant being the second admitted, in 1949, after Hidcote. When Henry died in 1953 his son Charles inherited the title of 3rd Lord Aberconway and the care of Bodnant estate and garden. 

Over the course of another half century Charles continued to develop Bodnant Garden with the National Trust, making improvements, opening new vistas and adding new plants. Like his father, he served as president of the RHS from 1961 until 1984. His son Michael McLaren inherited the estate in 2003 on his father’s death and plays an active role to this day, as garden director, maintaining the family's cherished connection to Bodnant Garden.