The estate over the centuries
This smooth curve of the River Wye and its banks have been in use since Roman times. However, our family history starts in the tail end of the fifteenth century.
The early years at The Weir Garden
The banks of the modern river expose thick deposits of red clay, which is known as alluvium. These sediments have been eroded from the soils of the local red sandstones and mudstones as well as the glacial deposits. Initial erosion and deposition of these sediments on the floodplain probably started in later prehistory (the Neolithic and Bronze Age) and continues to the present day. Overbank floods deposit this material across the floodplain and overtime this has the potential to bury evidence of earlier human activity.
Within the vicinity, occupation is evidenced by a number of former settlement sites, the main of which being Kenchester, just a stones throw from The Weir Garden. The name of Kenchester means 'Cena's Roman Town' and is rendered historically as 'Kenecestram'. The Weir itself is recorded as 'La Wer' in the same document.
Excavations taken place at The Weir Garden by ITV's Timeteam in 2005 revealed the remains of a large Roman building and two butresses; support for a terrace overlooking the river. A mosiac floor was also uncovered during their time here. Although we cannot be sure what the dwelling was, it was though what had been uncovered were the remains of a large riverside villa; the home of an important Roman official or perhaps an ancient temple with steps leading down to the river.
One of the first features that visitors to The Weir garden notice is an exposed octagonal cistern which was discovered by workmen digging a trench in 1891. Unfortunately, the men moved the stones before realising the nature of the feature and placed the stones back meaning a less that perfect outline. The lowest stone was found to be plugged with tesserae, a Roman material; however it is impossible for us to know for sure whether the feature is actually Roman or of a later date.
During the reign of Henry VII
Little is known about this period of time at The Weir Garden as few records exist. What we do know is that the Estate belonged to a gentleman called David Boys.
The eighteenth century
Thomas Smyth of 'The Weare' is recorded in 1673 in The ‘Alphabetical Account of the Nobility and Gentry of England’. The last of the Smyth line was Richard Smyth who died in 1765 leaving an heiress, Elizabeth, who was married to Timothy Markham, an apothecary recorded at 'The Weare' in 1783. Markham placed an advertisement in the Hereford Journal in January 1777 for a new tenant at Old Weir suggesting that he and his family had removed from the house by this date, possibly to the New Weir. Markham built up the 'New Wear', formerly a farmhouse, into a modest mansion.
Markham put the New Weir up for sale in 1778, the house being described as 'new built' in a newspaper advertisement as follows:
'New built capital messuage or mansion called The Wear....situate on a delightful spot near unto the river Wye, having a large paddock in front, and the said river on the back part, and commands a very agreeable and extensive prospect of land and water.. The house is a proper residence for a gentleman and the grounds about it may be laid out to great advantage.'
By 1788, the New Weir was in the ownership of one William Parry Esq,' a Hereford solicitor who enlarged the house and improved the gardens.Parry added new wings and a fascia to the mansion in 1787/9. He followed Humphry Repton’s advice and later also made improvements to the pleasure grounds. With Parry’s death, The New Weir was put up for let.
The nineteenth and twentieth centuries
Details of occupation and ownership throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century can be traced in some detail through reference to tithe records, census returns and trade directories.The house and estate remained in the hands of John Griffiths and his descendants throughout the course of the 19th century and into the early years of the 20th century.
The house remained in the ownership of the Griffiths family down to its sale to Roger Charlton Parr Esq, descendant of the Cheshire banking family of Grappenhall Hays, Warrington.Parr paid the deposit for The New Weir in 1923 and moved in a year later. He made improvements to the mansion, pleasure grounds and the walled garden. He bought The Old Weir in 1927 and reunited the estate.
Upon his death, Charlton Parr bequeathed the Weir Estate and house to the National Trust, under the terms of a will dated 23rd March 1956, with provision for a lifetime tenancy to Victor Morris. Morris died in 1985 and between 1986-7 the house was repaired and converted for use as a residential nursing home entailing the subdivision of rooms, the removal of old fittings, the installation of a lift and fire escape and fire proofing all of the rooms.
Discover more about the history of The Weir Garden when you visit by picking up one of our 'History of The Weir' lanyards.