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History of Bodnant Garden

House with autumn trees around it reflected in lily pond in foreground.
View of the house from the Lily Terrace at Bodnant Garden, Conwy | © National Trust Images/John Miller

Nestling in the Snowdonian foothills, Bodnant Garden was forged by the Victorian vision of one extraordinary man, honed by his descendants and is today cherished by garden lovers the world over as a horticultural haven.

Bodnant Garden during the reign of James I

Early records show that Bodnant (which in Welsh means 'dwelling by a stream') was home to the Lloyd family from the reign of James I, passing by marriage to the Forbes family in the mid 1700s. In 1792 Colonel Forbes built an Italianate mansion to replace an earlier house and developed the parkland around Bodnant Hall, in English Landscape style.

On Colonel Forbes’ death in 1820 the estate passed by marriage again to William Hanmer of Bettisfield Park in Flintshire. Hanmer made his own improvements, building the present Old Mill between 1828 and 1837, and extending the garden around the mansion house.

150 years text over image of Lily Terrace at Bodnant Garden
A year to celebrate in 2024 | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Bodnant Garden - 150 years

In 2024, Bodnant Garden celebrates 150 years since it was bought at auction by Victorian industrialist Henry Davis Pochin and his wife in 1874. This year also marks 75 years since Bodnant Garden was gifted to the National Trust by Henry McLaren, The 2nd Lord Aberconway.

From March, the Old Mill down in the Dell will be open for visitors to step inside and discover more about the history of the garden. On display, there’ll be information and archive photographs from the last 150 years.

The history of Bodnant Garden

Early to mid 1800s

Henry Davis Pochin

When Victorian industrialist Henry Davis Pochin and his wife bought Bodnant at auction in 1874 it was an estate with walled garden, woods and plantations; it was Pochin's grand vision which shaped the garden into the world renowned one which we know today. 

The Laburnum Arch 

Pochin enlisted the skills of landscape designer Edward Milner to develop the formal Victorian shrub garden around the house, including the famous Laburnum Arch. He also sculpted the sloping valley sides down to the river, planting North American conifers and creating pathways to form the romantic dells and water gardens. 

As a local landowner Pochin was no less active, building cottages on the Bodnant estate and improving farming practices.  

A painting of Henry Davis Pochin titled 'The Chemist' by Walter William Ouless from Bodnant Hall, North Wales. The painting depicts Pochin sat at a table with chemistry equipment on the table in front of him appearing to be distilling liquid.
Painting of Henry Davis Pochin titled 'The Chemist' by Walter William Ouless | © National Trust Images
The family mausoleum at Bodnant Garden, otherwise known as The Poem

Bodnant Garden's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Bodnant Garden on the National Trust Collections website.

Pink rhododendron blossom in the spring at Bodnant Garden, Conwy

Bodnant Garden's botanical collections 

Explore the many exotic and rare plants and trees at Bodnant Garden, including five National Collections, as well as Wales’s largest collection of UK Champion Trees.

The Lower Rose Terrace at Bodnant Garden, North Wales, photographed in early June. Beyond is the Canal Terrace with its lake and the Pin Mill. Planting includes roses and Alliums.

Things to see at Bodnant Garden 

Visit a world-class garden in Wales at Bodnant Garden and enjoy 80 acres of formal gardens, woodland and meadows and botanical collections from around the globe.

Two visitors sat eating sandwiches outside the cafe at Gibside Tyne & Wear.

Eating at Bodnant Garden 

Enjoy delicious refreshments at Bodnant Garden’s tea-rooms all year round or from the riverside kiosk down in The Dell.

Enjoying a walk around the grounds

Visiting Bodnant Garden with your dog 

With 80 acres to explore, there’s a walk to suit everyone. From 1 April to the end of September, dogs are welcome on short leads (not extendable) every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Find out more about bringing your dog to Bodnant Garden here.