A Rose Garden Restoration

The original canal layout discovered
The original canal layout discovered
The Museum's 1951 design with the statue of 'Joyance'
The Museum's 1951 design with the statue of 'Joyance'
The Rosary in 1902
The Rosery in 1902

St Fagans Castle is a late 16th-century manor house on the outskirts of Cardiff. It was given to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth. In 1947 St Fagans became part of Amgueddfa Cymru and since then has gone on to become one of the most popular heritage attractions in Wales.

Part of its attraction lies in the beautiful grounds surrounding the castle, including a spectacular rose garden, the Rosery. After years of neglect, a major redesign and restoration programme was undertaken to return the Rosery to its former glory.

The Design of 1899

Old photographs showed a triangular, walled garden. This had been started in 1899 to a plan drawn up by the new head gardener, Hugh Pettigrew (1871–1947), who had trained at Kew.

A Handlist of Roses from 1904

The Rosery's design was based around a series of circles and featured a moat, pergolas, trellises and interconnecting pathways. 19 flower beds were planted with 124 different varieties of rose. It was possible to recreate the original layout from a handlist of roses drawn up by Pettigrew in 1904.

Garden Archaeology

The restoration gave the opportunity for some experimental archaeology — where the moat had once been, tile work was discovered about 18" (45cm) below the soil, showing what would have been the original bed of the canal.

It became apparent that four small areas of the original canal had not been destroyed, as they lay beneath the new 1950 turf pathways. Enough of the foundations of the moat walls also remained to confirm that they too had been tiled, in red.

Replanting the Rose Beds

Rose suppliers had to be found and tracking down some varieties proved difficult. Some of the successful finds were to prove susceptible to mildew and rust. However, this showed the sort of difficulties that must have been around at the turn of the century too.

The Rosery Today

The original restoration in 1999 used the varieties of rose listed by Pettigrew. Many of these roses were susceptible to black spot, rust and mildew, and flowered only for a short period of time. The garden was replanted in 2017, using mostly modern roses. These have the appearance and scent of the old roses, but are much more disease resistant and flower for much longer. Perennials have been added to increase the biodiversity in the garden, which helps control the aphids. We hope we have recaptured the beauty of the original Rosery.


Nia Evans Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
6 May 2020, 16:33

Dear Joyce Hunt,

Thank you very much for your enquiry. I have passed your message on to my colleague who works within the Social and Cultural History department, we will be in touch to advise further.

Kind regards,

(Digital team)

Joyce Hunt
3 May 2020, 09:26
Hi I am restoring the grade 2 listed walled garden at Twyn yr Hydd ,Margam Park to its original 1948 Ralph Hancock design
We have 2 blurred photos of the garden and no original roses
I have started researching Ralph’s plantsman ,Esme Bradburne and would like to find her designs ,as she planted formhim at the Ideal Home exhibition and Chelsea Flower Show
Please could you give some advise about finding original roses and rose bed designs at that time
I have visited many gardens but Ralph wasn’t influenced by Gertrude Jeckyll and the Arts and Crafts movement
His blurred design shows more abstract ,random shapes as opposed to the more formal,symmetrical cruciform quadrant shapes
I look forward to your reply Joyce Hunt
Marc Haynes Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
8 February 2019, 10:42
Dear Mrs McLeod,

Thank you very much for your enquiry. I have brought it to the attention of our Senior Garden Conservator and will let you know of her response.

Best wishes,

Digital Team
Mrs R McLeod
7 February 2019, 15:14
Hello. When the museum was first doing the restoration, my mother bought a heritage rose in memory of her father. It is my own parents Golden Wedding anniversary shortly. Is it still possible to do the same thing? I know from my visits to the museum that there are gaps in the book detailing which roses have been purchased.

Thank you.

R McLeod
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