Dereliction to distinction at Erddig
In the early seventies, Erddig in Wrexham was on the brink of ruin. The last Squire and only remaining heir, Philip Yorke III had inherited the crumbling Welsh stately home.
Years of coal mining had undermined the house and it was sinking. The roof was leaking and the destructive forces of nature were setting in. The huge responsibility weighed heavy on Philip’s shoulders; he was to be the last curator of his family’s home, housing a unique collection of servants’ portraits and poems.
Eventually, in 1973 he handed the house and its contents to the National Trust ready for the biggest conservation challenge faced at that time.
Erddig 40th anniversary
On 27 June 2017 we celebrated 40 years since Prince Charles declared Erddig open to the public after a mighty four-year restoration.
Next time you visit, don't forget that it was once a crumbling, subsiding house that coal built, nearly destroyed and finally helped to re-build.
" We were intruders in a landscape that had been taken over by mother nature."
In 1973 Mike Snowden, Erddig’s Head Gardener, had the daunting task of tackling Erddig’s derelict garden ready for opening to the public. The scale of the challenge was one of the largest to be faced by any head gardener at that time.
No sign of a formal garden
Three resident sheep and a goat roamed in the overgrown 12.5-acre crumbling walled garden that contained diseased beech trees, a canal water feature full of “black blancmange” as Mike remembers it, a ruined Boat House and no sign of the formal garden, once the show-piece of former owners.
Mike wasn’t fazed by this daunting task and whilst the conservators were desperately trying to save the fragile collection and subsiding house, Mike began work on restoring the gardens.
The restoration was shaped by the garden plans of John Meller, the rich London lawyer who bought Erddig in 1714.
But during research of the archives, the team discovered some of the original plans for the garden when Joshua Edisbury first commissioned the house in the 1680s. There were references to fruit trees, and so fruit was to be a feature of the restoration. Edisbury’s garden would have fitted into John Meller’s garden walls 12 times!
Brambles and scrub trees
After the livestock had gone, the next job was to clear away the ravages of time. Brambles and scrub trees had to be cleared away to reveal the structure of the garden and the scale of the task.
The beech trees were surveyed and found to be rotten and dangerous, so the job of removing trees was undertaken and they were moved to the estate to create homes for a myriad of wildlife.
Sections of the wall were crumbling and had to be rebuilt and repairs continue today.
The team knew there must have been a formal bedding scheme, there were hints from shapes in the grass once mown. Dry weather and frosty days are good for giving clues to former garden designs.
One cold winter’s day, Mike ventured up to the roof-top of Erddig to see if a frosty pattern could be seen. To his delight, a clear outline emerged from the crisp grass below. Mike shouted instructions to a fellow gardener to peg out the shape and the formal bedding scheme of the Victorian parterre was reborn.
The garden today
It took four years for the house and gardens to be rescued from years of decay with over a hundred specialists working together to transform the sinking stately home. Join our gardeners on one of our daily garden tours around Erddig’s Grade I listed garden. Explore the impressive walled garden, now restored to its 18th-century formal design.
With rare fruit trees and a National Collection of Ivies, Erddig’s garden is a very special place.