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Aberglasney - A garden lost in time
Tel: 01558 668998July 25, 2010
The Early Years
The Rudd`s (1600`s)
The Dyers (1700`s)
The Phillips & Walter Phillips (1900`s - 1900`s)
The Twentieth Century
The Present Day

History - The Early Years (before 1600)

Wales was a turbulent place in the Middle Ages. The dramatic ruined castles punctuating the Tywi valley are a reminder of those times, and the country around Aberglasney saw fighting more than once. A bloody battle was fought on its doorstep in 1257, and the fields round about still have names that commemorate the event - Cae Tranc (field of vengeance), Cae'r Ochain (groaning field). Around 1400 the rising of Owain Glyn Dwr again brought bloodshed to the area. The lords of Llangathen who must have been the antecedents of the Tudor owners of Aberglasney were in the thick of things.

Coins dating back to 1288 were found in the Cloister garden

Until the fifteenth century we depend on tradition rehearsed in ancient pedigrees for our knowledge of the people who owned the future Aberglasney. The family claimed descent from Elystan Glodrydd, 'Prince between Wye and Severn' and Gwenllian, granddaughter of Hywel Dda, who lived around AD 1000.

The old genealogies show ten generations of Welshmen before the arrival on the scene of Bishop Rudd brought a change of ownership. A handful of figures in the family tree are distinguished by some brief description - Gruffydd ab Elidir, allegedly 'Knight of Rhodes' in the thirteenth century, and his son Owain, 'Esquire of the body to Edward III'; half a century later came Llywelyn ap Llywelyn Ddu, who for some unknown reason was surnamed 'Foethus' ('the luxurious').

Eventually, around the time that Henry Tudor went into exile before returning to victory at Bosworth Field and English kingship, we find a benchmark, a reference point, thanks to an ode by the bard Lewis Glyn Cothi. As a professional itinerant poet, he enjoyed the hospitality of many patrons and visited a number of houses in the area.

In this ode he singles out the high quality of the husbandry of his Llangathen patron Rhydderch ap Rhys (comparing his skills with those of Adam, the first gardener) - and, incidentally, gives us one of the earliest descriptions of Welsh horticulture in the 'nine green gardens' surrounding Rhydderch's home in the 1470s. The mists of time begin to clear more decisively in the days of Rhydderch's grandson, William ap Thomas or Sir William Thomas - knighted by Henry VIII - who fought in France, served at court, held public office and married a Herbert of Coldbrook, Monmouthshire. The next three generations of what was now the Thomas family are well documented - including Capt. William Thomas, killed at Zutphen in 1586 in the battle in which Sir Philip Sidney was fatally wounded.

He has a proud hall.
A fortress made bright with whitewash,
And encompassing it all around
Nine green gardens.
Orchard trees and crooked vines,
Young oaks reaching up to the sky.
Lewis Glyn Cothi, Ode to Rhydderch ap Rhys

Lewis Glyn Cothi, Ode to Rhydderch ap Rhys
(Translation, Dafydd Johnston)

Each successive heir married into a wealthy Caernarfonshire family and held office in North Wales as well as maintaining links with Carmarthen - until Sir William (1572-1633) and his wife Gaenor loosed hold on the Carmarthenshire properties and settled in the north. Marking this move was the datestone 'W.T./G. 1606' on their new house at Coed Helen on the North Wales coast - a house that no longer stands. Meanwhile, Sir William must have sold Aberglasney to Bishop Rudd.

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