Discover our story
The Weir Garden has a rich and varied history, from Roman settlement to family garden. Discover the stories of times past and learn a little about the gardens history before you visit.
Little is known about The Weir Garden throughout the Middle Ages as few records exist from beyond the seventeenth century. Interestingly, where it is situated is near what was once a thriving Roman town, now known as Kenchester. One of the first features visitors notice is an exposed octagonal cistern which was discovered by workmen who were digging trenches, in the year 1891. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when the cistern dates from but the stones used were found to be plugged with ‘tesserea’ a material which was invented and utilized by the Romans. It is possible that this feature could either be a Roman wash basin or shrine or possibly a structure from a later date made with Roman-inspired materials.
Excavations took place at The Weir by ITV’s Time Team in 2005 which revealed the site did indeed have Roman roots. It was found that once a large riverside villa or temple stood in the riverside garden, the two large buttresses which would have offered support can be seen today as well as steps down to the river. Amazingly, the team even discovered a mosaic, hidden away under centuries of dirt.
The first records we have of The Weir Garden date back to 1673 where Thomas Symth is recorded to have owned the estate in the ‘Alphabetical Account of the Nobility and Gentry of England’. The Symth line continued to live here until 1765 when the current Richard Symth died with no son, making his daughter, Elizabeth heir to the estate. Elizabeth married a gentleman called Timothy Markham who was responsible for the impressive white mansion we see at the top of the riverside garden today. Markham appeared to have drained his funds with the new build as in 1778 it was up for sale and the Markhams retreated to a lesser dwelling on the estate.
By 1788, the New Weir, as the mansion was known, was brought by William Parry, a Hereford solicitor who made many alterations to the mansion. He added new windows, wings to the fascia and made improvements to the pleasure grounds surrounding the house with advice given from Humphry Repton.
Throughout the nineteenth century the house was owned by the Griffiths family who rented the estate to tenants for over forty years. One of the tenant families was the Burneys who used The Weir as their country retreat. The youngest, Cecily, took many photographs, providing us with the earliest known pictures of the walled garden.
In 1923 the mansion was sold to Roger Charlton Parr and four years later he purchased the rest of the estate. Being a wealthy man, Parr made vast improvements to the mansion and grounds and upon his death bequeathed his beloved estate the National Trust. Parr’s one request was to let his dear friend and chauffeur, Victor Morris live in the mansion until his death in 1985. It was then the mansion was converted into a residential home for the elderly, as it is today with the Trust still maintaining this lovely building.
This is The Weir’s story in a nutshell, if you would like further details please pick up one of our ‘History of The Weir’ lanyards when you next visit.