We arrived to be greeted by Gwynedd Roberts, the head gardener and Manager.
"It had been at about my twenty-fifth birthday that my father unexpectedly handed over to me the control of the old (Williams) family property of Plas Brondanw which I would ultimately inherit," wrote Clough Williams-Ellis. “Gradually but surely the old house and its rehabilitation became my chief absorbing interest outside my profession.”
The estate was enlarged when Clough bought two adjoining mountainous properties threatened by mining. The Brondanw Estate has never been bought or sold and is now owned by a charitable trust for its protection The gardens are open to the public.
John ap Hywel finished building Plas Brondanw around 1550, and a later member of the family William Williams, made improvements in 1660. In 1807 The Reverend John Ellis married Jane Bulgin, heiress of the Williams estate and from then the two names were joined to make Williams-Ellis.
Clough Williams-Ellis was brought up on other family property. In 1908 he was offered the Brondanw Estate by his father: "Nothing, just then, could possibly have been more ecstatically welcomed by me... The guardianship of a rambling old Carolean Plas set in a wildly romantic little estate among the Welsh mountains, that had been held by my family for over four centuries, was well calculated to inflame me."
In 1915, during the First World War, Clough married Amabel Strachey and when the war was over the Plas again became a family home. He became devoted to the rehabilitation of the house and the development of the gardens.
The gardens at Plas Brondanw are not as famous as his village of Portmeirion, but many people consider them to be Clough's most marvelous creation.
“It was for Brondanw’s sake that I worked and stinted, for its sake that I chiefly hoped to prosper. A cheque of ten pounds would come in and I would order yew hedging to that extent, a cheque for twenty and I would pave a further piece of terrace.”
This devotion continued throughout Clough's long life - he lived to 95. As the gardens grew and matured the avenues extended outward into the fields with vistas up to the mountain peaks, as he had planned.
The Foundation is a charity that was founded by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1972, to protect his property and ensure its conservation. The charity was re-registered in 2007 as the Clough Williams-Ellis Foundation.
The Foundation is managed by up to eight trustees. Some are descendants of Sir Clough. All are volunteers who bring expertise in a range of areas.
The Foundation seeks to ensure Clough's vision continues, specifically to "Cherish the past, adorn the present and construct for the future."
Written by Donna Dawson.
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