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.

Mike Snowden Erddig Head Gardener 1973 to 1980 talks gardening and penny farthings with Philip Yorke III
Erddig Head Gardener Mike Snowden meeting Philip Yorke III and his penny farthing

Erddig 40th anniversary

27 June marks 40 years since Prince Charles declared Erddig open to the public after a mighty four-year restoration. 

Discover our evocative multi-media installation, as we remember this 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."
- Mike Snowdon, Erddig Head Gardener 1973 to 1980

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.

Erddig's building contractors working hard to repair the banks of the canal
Erddig's building contractors repairing the banks of the canal

Original plans

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!

Fruit trees are carefully trained along the walled garden at Erddig
Trained apple tree blossoming with pink flowers along the garden wall at Erddig

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.

Frosty pattern

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.

Discover top topiary as you walk along Erddig's walled garden
Tall topiary flanking a gravelled pathway to the Victorian garden

The garden today

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.

Erddig 40th anniversary

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. 

From June through to March 2018, follow in the footsteps of Philip Yorke III and explore the estate’s journey from dereliction to distinction with an evocative multi-media installation throughout the house, gardens and outbuildings.

Discover Erddig, a room with a view
View from Erddig house overlooking the eighteenth century walled garden

Pop inside and discover a new window into the stories of the past and meet the characters who make Erddig a special place.

But whilst our celebrations take a warm-hearted look back, we’ll also look ahead to the future, with new things to see and do planned.

Learn about our history, design, restoration and conservation. Discover how our magnificent house and garden is managed today, for ever for everyone. Then, in your own time, revisit your favourite parts, or just find a spot to sit and relax.