Bodnant Garden near Conwy in North Wales is marking the centenary of its grand terraces, famous for their rose gardens, lily pools and stunning mountain views with a special rose planting and a poignant public appeal about those who worked on the terraces and went on to serve in the First World War.
The famous terraces were completed just before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Gardener Fran Llewellyn said: “Nineteen-fourteen marked probably the biggest achievement at Bodnant with the completion of the terraces. They are a testament to the vision of the garden’s founder family and to the men who built them, some of whom went away to fight and never came back.
“The fact that roses are still blooming on our beautiful terraces, and visitors from all over the world come to see them, is a lasting tribute.”
The National Trust garden is world famous for its five Italianate terraces which were built by the garden’s owner Henry McLaren in the years between 1905 and 1914 – with some final touches added in 1919. He completely re-sculpted the grassed hillside overlooking the Snowdonian mountain range, creating a Top Rose Terrace, turfed Croquet Terrace, Lily Terrace with pond, Lower Rose Terrace with pergola walkways and Canal Terrace with it’s now iconic canal pond and Pin Mill.
It was a grand earth and stone moving project all done by men with wheelbarrows and carts.
It is estimated that the work done by 50 labourers in an hour pre-1914 would equate to one skilled labourer using machinery after 1966.
Granite was quarried from the surrounding estate to build great buttressed walls which supported the earthed-up levels and provided shelter for exotic new plants being introduced to the garden from abroad such as Chinese magnolias.
Fran added: “Census records for 1911 when the terraces were being built list villagers living in estate cottages working as grounds men, gardeners and labourers. There were also many ‘journeymen’ – travelling carpenters, builders and stonemasons – lodging with village families, probably working on the massive landscaping job at the garden.
“Of the 22 names listed on the war memorial in the village all were living within a mile or so of each other and many had links with Bodnant; how deeply their loss must have been felt by families, friends, neighbours and workmates in such a close-knit community.
“We’d like to know more about this early workforce to piece together a picture of life at the garden at this time. If anyone out there has information and pictures they can provide, we’d love to hear from them.”
In recent years the two rose terraces have been completely renovated; the Top Rose Terrace in 2006 and the Lower Rose Terrace in 2012. Gardeners had to dig out and replace around 500 tonnes of soil from both terraces. Paths were re-laid and pergolas repainted. The beds were then planted with fragrant English Roses, many from the award-winning David Austin collection, which provide a continuous display from June to October.
Events planned in celebration and remembrance include guided rose walks with the gardeners and a special rose planting to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War.
As part of the anniversary the garden is also making a public appeal for information to help build a record of the workforce involved in the ambitious, nine-year building project, and the impact of the Great War on the small village community.
In August there will be a planting of a special rose to mark the completion of the terraces and the centenary of the First World War.
If you have information you can provide to add to our historical records, contact the garden office at Bodnant on 01492 650460.