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Gardens developed by Clough Williams-Ellis
The Hotel Portmeirion
The gardens at Plas Brondanw are a fine example of Sir Clough's talent for creative landscape design. The main features date from the early part of the 20th century before he began Portmeirion, but work continued on and off until the 1960's.
Sir Clough was given Plas Brondanw by his father in 1902. The house and garden had long been abandoned by the family and subdivided into allotments and tenements. Only the big trees remained of its earlier grandeur. Over the next seventy years, Sir Clough created a unique and characteristic garden landscape. His main objective in a landscape was to provide a series of dramatic and romantic prospects. Inspired by the renaissance gardens of Italy, the design of the Plas gardens is strongly architectural, relying on stone wall, topiary and avenues of trees to form the vistas which lead the eye to distant mountain tops.
To appreciate properly the whole scheme, one should take the time not only to examine the gardens around the house, but to walk up the avenue that leads past a dramatic chasm to the folly castle or watchtower. From here there is a wonderful view of Snowdon and the mountain landscape.
Plas Brondanw, built by John ap Hywel dates from 1550, with a new wing added in 1666 and additions by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1930. The house, which has never been bought or sold, was inherited by Sir Clough from his father and it became a passion, an obsession if you like, he wrote in the Architect Errant. Yet it was really part of my profession, it was for Brondanw's sake that I worked and stinted, for its sake that I chiefly hoped to prosper. A cheque would come in for ten pounds and I would order yew hedging to that extent, a cheque for twenty and I would pave a further piece of terrace.
The house caught fire in 1951 and was burnt out except but for the massive three-foot thick outer walls which remained standing. Re-construction took two years but Sir Clough never ceased planting trees and landscaping the garden. In 1971 he wrote It is warming indeed to see the avenues that I then planted growing so flourishingly and the whole place maturing in ever-increasing beauty.