Only a small number of owners have been involved in the development of Clyne since the end of the 18th century; and three of those were of the well-known Swansea family of Vivian, who became wealthy through copper smelting. In 1954, the land and the house were separated for the first time; the gardens became a public park and the Castle was sold to the University for a hall of residence.
Richard Phillips was the younger son of a Carmarthenshire landowning family. Like others of his time he came to Swansea seeking his fortune through the exploitation of the mineral wealth of this area. In 1790 Phillips bought 27 acres of land between Mumbles and Swansea, choosing a site for his new house on a slight rise, protected by woods, but with a view of the sea. No subsequent owner has changed the position of the house. He built a Classically- styled two-storey castellated mansion in local sandstone in 1791, calling it, appropriately, “ Woodlands “. Other than clearing some trees there is no evidence of his building a pleasure garden.
Richard Phillips took an active interest in the development of his adopted town. As a Trustee of the Swansea Harbour Trust he was closely involved in the building of the first Mumbles Lighthouse.
He died in 1798 and his heir James Phillips, a nephew, died only the following year. The house and the estate were made available for sale.
George Warde was born in Kent and came to Wales after retiring from an undistinguished army career. In 1800 he bought mining interests on the east bank of the Loughor Estuary. He bought
“Woodlands” in the same year for £1800, bringing his wife and family to live in the small house built only nine years earlier. He too involved himself in local affairs. Because of his interests in a mill near the Pottery on the Tawe he vigorously opposed the building of a floating harbour which delayed the development of the docks area for a generation.
He was promoted to Major-General in 1805, even though he had retired a number of years earlier. His rank and army training enabled him to become Inspecting Field Officer of the local Yeomanry. He used what he now called “Woodlands Castle“ as the Yeomanry Headquarters.
Warde had the original house extended and remodelled to a fashionable Gothic style, firstly in 1800 and again, more extensively from 1817. It is known that a garden was laid out in 1805 to the north of the house.
During his 30 years at “Woodlands Castle”, Warde built up the estate to over 330 acres, including land near the house and in Mumbles. However his income did not keep pace with his expenditure and at the time of his death in 1830, the house was mortgaged. His heir, eldest son, George, was forced to put the estate up for sale.
The encumbered estate was bought by Benjamin Hall of Llanover in Monmouthshire for £8000. Benjamin bought the estate on behalf of his sister Charlotte who was an heiress in her own right.
In 1827 Charlotte married Jenkin Davies Berrington of Swansea and Woodlands Castle became their home. Warde’s changes to the house, only 10 years earlier, were too big for their needs and expensive to run. Consequently sixteen rooms were demolished from the north wing. They also sold some of the properties in Blackpill and along the turnpike road to Mumbles.
The Berrington family, including their son and heir, Arthur moved to Monmouthshire in 1857 to be nearer the now ennobled Lord Llanover and his eccentric wife, Augusta. It was intended that Arthur should become the heir to the Lord and Lady Llanover but irreconcilable differences between strong willed people later prevented that. In 1859 William Graham Vivian of Singleton Abbey started negotiations to purchase the Woodlands estate. The connection with the Vivian family would last almost 100 years.
William Graham Vivian was born in 1827, the second son of John Henry Vivian and Sarah Jones. He lived in Singleton Abbey until, five years after his father’s death, he bought Woodlands Castle from the Berrington family in 1859. A quiet man, typical of his class in that he obstructed increased wages for his workers whilst accumulating great personal wealth, he nevertheless was concerned for the protection of the countryside from urban expansion.
W Graham Vivian developed the house into a fine mansion of 50 rooms rebuilding the site to greater than its original size. He equipped it with fine tapestries and furnishings acquired throughout Europe. It became a house fit to welcome royalty and dignitaries of the age.
Both his parents were interested in plants and horticulture. Singleton Abbey was renowned for its conservatory full of roses and Sarah, his mother, was able to obtain some early examples of Rhododendron which she grew in what is now the Ornamental Gardens of Singleton Park.
Within twenty years of his arrival at Clyne, the Swansea Town Guide was able to describe the sheltered grounds as “genial…as could be found at Malaga or Marseilles”. Using the same connections with the horticultural world as his mother, Vivian was able to take advantage of the site and the soil conditions to grow exotic shrubs and trees. It is known that good specimens of camellia and eucalyptus grew on the upper slopes. Rhododendrons only recently discovered in the Himalayas were planted in the valley leading to the sea. He opened the grounds to the public once a year.
Over the more than forty years as owner of the estate now known as Clyne Castle, Vivian increased his landowning from around 100 acres to more than 1500 acres spread around Blackpill, Mumbles and parts of Gower. Being childless and unmarried, he made detailed plans to keep this estate within the family. On his death in 1912, he arranged for his unmarried sister to be the next owner and for the inheritance to pass, after her days, to his nephew, Algernon. The estate was valued at the time at £1 million “as far as can be at present ascertained”, so said the Index of Wills & Administration.
Miss Vivian was the younger sister of William Graham, born in 1839 in St James Square, London. She never married and spent her time doing “charitable and philanthropic work”, particularly in Blackpill and Gower. Her home at Parc le Breos, Penmaen became a hospital to treat the wounded during the First World War and was later transferred at an “advantageous” rate to the local hospital board.
Moving between London and Gower she would spend time at Clyne each spring, but she made no changes to the house or garden. Miss Vivian funded the Village Institute in Blackpill, now known as Vivian Hall. She died in London at the age of 82 and like her brother is buried at Clyne Chapel.
Algernon Walker-Heneage was the third son of Henrietta Vivian and Major Clement Walker-Heneage of Compton Basset in Wiltshire. Not expecting to inherit anything of his father’s estate he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1886. He had a distinguished naval career, retiring as an Admiral in 1927. He saw service in the Pacific, in the Boer War in South Africa, and off Gallipoli in the First World War. He was entrusted with a secret mission in 1915 to bring from South Africa 84 tons of gold bullion to finance the war effort. It was valued at the time at £17 million [now about £1800 million].
The Admiral maintained the house to a good standard and again welcomed royalty and politicians to be his guests. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill are recorded as having visited.
Considering he had spent 35 years in active service in the Royal Navy, his interest in horticulture and the environment was said to be as great as that of his uncle. The Admiral became an expert on Rhododendrons, presumably because the soil and situation at Clyne favoured these new and exotic plants. As a founding member and long-serving Vice-President of the then Rhododendron Association, the Admiral planted the woodland extensively using many wild collected species from seed collected by Forrest, Rock, Kingdon-Ward and others.
He was one of the sponsors of the expedition in 1927 to Assam and Burma by Frank Kingdon-Ward. Seven specimens directly linked with this expedition were still thriving in Clyne in 2004. The Admiral was especially keen on large leafed Rhododendrons and became expert at hybridisation; that is crossing two varieties to produce a third which would be unlikely in nature.
Although he made few changes to Clyne Castle itself, during the 1920’s he commissioned a number of delightful buildings for the gardens. The Admiral enjoyed standing on top of the Admiral’s Tower to view his gardens from above and also no doubt to look out over busy Swansea Bay. Joy Cottage was built for his three daughters as a playhouse overlooking the lake. Both the lake and the Japanese bridge were constructed by in-house staff after research and planning with the help of staff at Kew Gardens. The bridge is a faithful replica of one found in the Palace of the Emperor of Japan.
The Admiral lived a long and full life, participating in the development of the town. He was Chair of Vivian & Sons, amongst other civic appointments and was a founder member and first President of the Gower Society. He died in 1952 aged 83 at Clyne Castle. The estate built up since 1860 had to be sold in order to meet death duties.
Clyne Castle and its surrounding parkland of 76 acres was bought by the Borough Council for £17,500 or £480,000 in today’s money. The parkland was opened to the public in April 1954 just in time for a good display of Rhododendrons.
The castle but not the parkland was sold to the University College of Wales, now Swansea University, in 1955 for £12,751. It became Neuadd Gilbertson, a hall of residence for the University, welcoming its first students in 1956. The University subsequently sold the castle for private housing
Today the parkland is a much loved asset to our city. It draws large crowds all the year round, with fine specimen trees, bluebells in spring, Tree Ferns and huge Gunnera; but particularly in May for Its display of Rhododendrons.
©PMM June 2018
Clyne Castle Swansea RA Griffiths University College of Swansea 1977 ISBN 0 86076 001 4
Clyne Gardens – The Golden Jubilee Teifion Davies Swansea City Council 2004
Clyne Gardens in Swansea is one of the gardens of the Botanical Complex and part of the botanical gardens complex. The garden located in Blackpill near the sea front in Swansea, It is part of the City of Swansea's Botanical Complex which is supported by the 'Friends'. The current park was formed from the landscaped gardens created by Glynn Vivian of the Vivian family who purchased the castle in 1860. The estate passed to his nephew Algernon, 'The Admiral' in 1921 who owned it until his death in 1952. He had the greatest influence on the gardens as we see them today. It is one of the Gardens worth visiting in Swansea.
[ Map © City and County of Swansea ]
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