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Leighton Hall - A History

Last updated: 25 March 2008

In March 2008 Derek Smith recounted the history of Leighton Hall near Welshpool and its connections with The Great Exhibition and every gardener's nemesis, the dreaded Cupressocyparis leylandii:

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  • "When the Great Exhibition of 1851 was being planned, a Great House and model farm in fact a small village, Leighton Park Estate and Hall, was being built just outside Welshpool in the upper Severn Valley.

    Leighton village, at the foot the Long Mountain and in the shadow of Offa's Dyke, is today a quiet backwater but then was to some extent a precursor of the Great Exhibition in demonstrating the practical use of Victorian "industrial" farming methods.

    Leighton Hall, a grade 1 listed building, was bought from the Corbett family of Shropshire by Christopher Leyland, a Liverpool banker in 1845. Two years later he gave it to his favourite nephew John Naylor as a wedding present along with a reputed £100,000.

    John Naylor, who was one of the richest men in Victorian England, rebuilt the house and estate at a reputed cost of £275,000. The hall and estate buildings were designed by Liverpool architect W H Gee whilst the hall interior design in Palace of Westminster style is attributed to A W N Pugin.

    Leighton Hall In the same period the gardens at Leighton Hall were laid out by Edward Kemp a pupil of Sir Joseph Paxton.

    The Hall has been recently restored to some of its former glory, but the garden and grounds are but a shadow of the original design.

    Now in private hands and not accessible to the public the Hall can still be viewed from the road.

    Whilst not on the same scale as the Prince Consort's farm in Windsor Great Park Leighton Park Estate was nevertheless a very ambitious project.

    Its scale can be judged by the fact that £200,000 was spent between 1848 and 1856 on the latest in Victorian farming technology in a bid to reduce labour and increase efficiency.

    The estate of some 4000 acres (1.620ha) included Glan-Hafren Farm Barn and the Cil-Cewydd Corn Mill, powered by a water powered turbine. Other "industrial" works included a gas works, saw mill, wheelwright's shop, smithy, all now put to other uses.

    Leighton HallThe farm buildings now used for commercial purposes are still standing although in disrepair and much of the infrastructure has gone as has the funicular railway that carried manure slurry from the farm buildings up to a storage tank at the top of Moel y Mab but the Tank, Old Cable house and Top Cable House can still be seen though they are in private hands.

    The estate workers religious welfare was also catered for in the estate Church of the Holy Trinity which is still in regular use.

    The Park, now mostly populated with conifers contains some Redwoods, a few Monkey Puzzle trees; an interesting decorative water Cascade fed from a series of lakes sequencing down the Mab and a Victorian Foul House (that can be visited) that's been restored by English Heritage. Leighton Park is also the birthplace of the now much disparaged Cupressocyparis leylandii!"

    Article written by Derek Smith

    your comments

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    We try to publish as many comments as we can but unfortunately, due to the volume of comments we receive every day, we cannot guarantee that all comments submitted will be published

    Catherine Wright, Leighton
    I live in Leighton estate, love it very dearly and a beautiful place to bring up my 2 yr old so.
    Tue Mar 23 15:42:17 2010

    Sarah Morgan, Welshpool
    My lovely nan used 2 work there when she was a teenager,she was a live in worker.i can always remember her telling me she worked there,she was very proud and loved leighton,she has just passed away a few months ago and is now at rest at leighton church,along with her mother,father,sister and husband.she had great memories of leighton which in turn has made it a very special place of mine.
    Mon Jan 4 09:33:59 2010

    Helen, Morayshire
    In the sixties i had a summer holiday job there, working for Senator & mrs davies as a skivvy! there were 4 of us there all students. Senator Davies was the father of the celebrated novellist robertson davies. He was also the owner of several canadian newspapers. The hall was beautiful, and exquisitely furnished. There was a permanently employed cook called Rose who made the best pastry i have ever tasted. We [the students] had to do all the washing, cleaning, waiting on table etc. Mrs Davies...had been his secretary and he married her after his wife died and she ruled everything with a rod of iron - down to counting the slices of bread we got to eat. The gardener came down each day from the walled garden with a basket of fruit and veg for the house, the stff got the scabby apples and pears and wwe never got any of the peaches...there was a large fountain in the grounds and one day when the davies were away at the Royal Welsh Show, we turned on the water and had a splash around in the basin of it - needless to say we couldn't turn it off and so were found out. We got half a day off each week - but extra if we went to church - as a result we all suddenly became very devout and got an extra half day off to go to church.!
    Thu Aug 27 14:25:39 2009

    Ken Judge, Arthog, Gwynedd,
    Have been inside this magificent building many years ago, with a view to taking on a complete electrical refurbish for W.J NunnBuilders, vrey interesting building semi derelict at that time around 1989, wonderful carilon and clock tower, and enormous chandelier in the main entrance hall, had its own Diesel generators in thebasement not seen any use for many years,I walked the entire interior and decor etc sent me back in time many years.
    Tue Apr 28 09:44:20 2009

    Derek Evans from Porthmadog
    Wasn't the hall once owned by a canadian senator Rupert Davies who was reputed to be a local boy made good
    Wed Apr 8 09:05:08 2009

    Heulwen McCay , Aberystwyth.
    I had the honour of living in the hall, at a young age; m y mother was housekeeper at the time when Jonh lee lived there. I have very very fond memmories, that will never go away.
    Fri Dec 5 14:55:48 2008

    Sarah, Powys
    I went to school at Leighton Hall in the 1980's as part of Brookland Hall School (Powis College) near Guilsfield. It was a great place, our xmas concerts in the big hall were fab.
    Wed Sep 3 15:22:24 2008

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