Old Hall gardens, Cowbridge
Old Hall gardens
In medieval times, this space was divided into perhaps 10 strips. There were houses or thatched cottages at the street end of each strip, while the rest formed a long garden for each dwelling.
In the gardens were toilets, middens (rubbish heaps), pigsties, stables, workshops, orchards, chicken runs and vegetable plots. Between the gardens and the town wall was land “commonly called the Cuninger” (rabbit warren), according to a deed of 1639. By then a mansion, now known as Old Hall, had replaced the houses.
Old Hall and the grounds were bought in 1744 by Thomas Edmondes, who also acquired land adjoining the town wall. He then created a series of landscaped gardens across the enlarged grounds. He and his guests could view the gardens from the rear windows of Old Hall or from the newly reconstructed rampart in the town wall, on which some kind of summerhouse had been built.
Orange trees, in two boxes, were growing here by 1762. They would have been sheltered over winter, and were a symbol of Edmondes’ determination to keep up with the Joneses (think of the Orangery at Margam Park, dating from around this time).
The gardens were updated as fashions changed. In the Victorian era there were tennis courts, where the library now stands, and a croquet lawn.
The gardens were still well-kept after Old Hall passed to council ownership and became part of the grammar school. The school continued the centuries-old tradition of growing fruit and vegetables in the area now occupied by the Physic Garden.
Old Hall gardens have been revived by Cowbridge Charter Trust. It aims to restore a semblance of their former beauty. Wildlife-friendly plants are grown alongside the town walls.
With thanks to Linda Osborn of Cowbridge Charter Trust, and to Cowbridge History Society