Hafod exhibition at Croft Castle

A painting of the landscape at Hafod, Wales

Discover an exhibition of prints in the Upper Gallery, daily from 18 July. The prints were created by Joseph Constantine Stadler and depict the 'Picturesque' landscape at Hafod, near Aberystwyth. Hafod was designed by Thomas Johnes II, who was brought up at Croft Castle.

Who was Thomas Johnes II?

Thomas (1748-1816), was born at Dinham House in Ludlow but brought up at Croft Castle. His parents Elizabeth and Thomas moved to Croft after being given it as a wedding present from Elizabeth’s father, Richard Knight.

Thomas’s father introduced him to their Welsh estates, and at Hafod, near Aberystwyth, the younger Thomas professed that he had found ‘Paradise’. It was said that Thomas was overwhelmed by the rugged beauty of the area and, despite it being in a poor condition, he was inspired and moved to the estate in 1783.

A dramatic view of the landscape at Hafod
A painting of the landscape at Hafod, Wales

During this time, Thomas was married and widowed within a year. He married again to his first cousin, Jane Johnes of Dolaucothi. The hasty marriage, coupled with their move to Hafod, caused a severe rift in the family. However, the couple shared a love of the place and devoted their time and Thomas’s inheritance to improving farming and local amenities as well as reshaping the landscape, urged on by the two most influential proponents of the Picturesque, his cousin Richard Payne Knight and friend Sir Uvedale Price.

" in search of beauty, I never feel, saw anything so fine, never so many pictures concentrated in one spot...the sweetest interchange of hill and valley, rivers, woods and plains, and falls with forest, crown’d, rocks, dens and caves."
- George Cumberland

At the heart of the estate was a Gothic house designed by Thomas Baldwin of Bath which was completed in 1788 and substantially altered from 1793 by John Nash, who built an octagonal library.

Thomas had over three million trees planted during 1782 - 1813 and laid out walks and drives so that guests could enjoy the landscape as an ever-changing sequence of views. He received the Royal Society of Arts medal for tree planting on five occasions.

Eventually, Hafod became more of a nightmare. Thomas had overspent and incurred such debts that he had to sell the Croft estate in the 1780s.

Picturesque pools and dramatic vistas at Hafod
A painting of the landscape at Hafod, Wales

In 1807, Hafod House burned to the ground and in 1811, the Johnes’s only child Marianne died. Thomas Johnes had lost all his money, he was bankrupt and heartbroken; after an illness he and his wife moved to Devon, where he died in 1816. He is buried at the church at Hafod.

Thomas Johnes left Hafod in despair; thinking that his dream of creating paradise had been lost, but his piece of paradise would survive and eventually thrive. Today, the estate of Hafod is recognised as one of the finest examples in Europe of a Picturesque landscape and is being restored by Natural Resources Wales, in partnership with the Hafod Trust. Hafod has become a lasting legacy to Thomas Johnes and his hard work to create a Picturesque landscape.

'A Tour of Hafod' - Exhibition in Upper Gallery (daily from 18 July)

The series of prints in our exhibition were produced by Joseph Constantine Stadler and were based on a series of watercolours painted by John ‘Warwick’ Smith in 1792. The prints by Stadler were used as illustrations to Sir James Edward Smith’s book ‘A Tour of Hafod’ which was published in 1810. The book and the prints take the reader on a journey through Hafod and allow walkers to view the landscape in a ‘series of pictures’. The prints depict these views in artistic form.

The perfect spot to admire the landscape
A painting of the landscape at Hafod, Wales

When viewing the prints of Hafod there is an order in which you view them, starting with ‘Hafod House’ and ending with ‘The Parson’s Bridge’. You will take a journey through Hafod, exploring the beautiful naturalistic landscape which Thomas Johnes created. When you visit Hafod, it’s like walking through a series of landscape paintings and that was exactly what Thomas Johnes wanted to create.

These prints, along with Smith’s book, allowed readers to be inspired by Hafod, to feel like they were there walking through this landscape and catching glimpses of Johnes’s version of ‘paradise’.

Fishpool Valley - Restoring the 'Picturesque'

Around this time, Fishpool Valley was also created in the heart of the Croft estate. Like Hafod, this valley was originally landscaped in the 'Picturesque' style, but has sadly degenerated over the years and the sweeping vistas have been obscured.

We're embarking on an ambitious project to restore this almost forgotten valley; find out more by following the link below.