Twyn yr Hydd Restoration

A brief history of Twyn yr Hydd 

Twyn yr Hydd House was built in 1890-3 by Emily Charlotte Talbot for her new land agent, Edward Knox. The 1901 Census shows that Land Agent Gordon Lipscombe was living at the house. The house forms part of a self-contained estate within a larger estate with gardens and outbuildings surrounded by walls, a ha-ha and entrance gates. The house, like Margam Castle was supplied with electricity from the estate.  

When Sir David Martyn Evans-Bevan purchased the whole estate in 1942, he chose to live in Twyn yr Hydd House with his family, considering the castle too large for his requirements. He generously offered the castle as a gift to St. Michael’s College, Llandaff, but the offer was declined!


An Aerial view of the House and Grounds.

In the early 1950s, the kitchen gardens and orchards were leased to a local nursery man who produced fruit, vegetables and flowers for the local market. Dafydd Bowen and Dyffryn School worked at the Garden Centre. Later, Richard Williams and Afan Horticultural College were based at Twyn yr Hydd House and Gardens. They were last occupied by Neath Port Talbot Horticultural College, and for a short period after the College departed they were used as a conference centre and wedding venue.

Joyce Hunt and The Friends of Margam Park 

Sometimes, and very rarely, one comes across an individual whose enthusiasm and determination takes your breath away. A person who takes the proverbial bull-by-the-horns and won’t let go!

Here at the website dedicated to the extraordinary life and career of Ralph Hancock, we have encountered one such person. Whose enthusiasm for a garden he built just before his untimely death in 1950, has energised and motivated others. 

Joyce Hunt is a retired school teacher from South Wales. She began her research of the garden at Twyn yr Hydd, near Port Talbot, in January 2017 when she contacted this website. As previously documented, Joyce’s grandmother, Bella Clunn was Housekeeper at the property in the 1950’s and Joyce has many wonderful memories of the house and garden from her childhood.

It soon became clear to us that Joyce was one of those extraordinary people whose passion is more than just a hobby. Before we could say, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwilliantysilliogogogoch, she had immersed herself with the devotion of a Mother Superior! 

Her research didn’t stop at finding out more of her family’s connection to the house. She began looking into the history of the house and its garden at Margam Park and then extended her investigations into Ralph, his life, his family and, more importantly, his garden creations, primarily within the nation of his birth, Wales. Joyce has contacted everyone and anyone that may have any information and, through sheer determination, she uncovered several other Ralph Hancock gardens within Wales. Then, with the owners endorsement she visited many of these gardens and documented them in detail and with wonderful photography. Cataloguing their features and comparing them to known work by Hancock himself. 

But, Joyce didn’t stop there! Whilst undertaking her research she begun to look into the real possibility of restoring the gardens at Twyn yr Hydd. Since 2015, Joyce had a vision of returning the gardens to that which she had known as a child. She became an active and enthusiastic member of the Friends of Margam Park. Joyce has worked tirelessly since early 2018 working with like minded enthusiasts. And, in September 2018 she put together a proposal which she sent to Neath and Port Talbot Council to restore the walled garden at Twyn yr Hydd. The following month the council passed her plans, and an ambitious 12 week scheme was designed by the Councils Head Gardener, Jeanette Dunk. That plan has now become a scheduled programme of weekly gardening.

Throughout 2019, Joyce and her fellow enthusiasts transformed the once derelict site into a recognisable Ralph Hancock designed garden. As you will see from the before and after photographs below, much has been achieved by the volunteers. And they’re not finished yet.

A volunteer clearing years of neglect

Cadw, the Welsh Government’s Historic Environment Service has taken an interest in the restoration of the gardens. Joyce has painstakingly put together a detailed report on the gardens, their history and use. It details the restoration and preservation of the historic Grade II listed garden and its ambitious plans to take the gardens forward with the aim to restoring them to the condition they were in when Ralph Hancock handed over the newly completed gardens to Sir David Martyn Evans-Bevan in 1949/50.

We would like to thank Joyce and her fellow gardeners for all their wonderful efforts. They have taken on their task with a rarely seen enthusiasm. Their dedication has brought the gardens at Twyn nr Hydd from the brink of being lost to time, forever!

The team of volunteer gardeners include; Joyce Hunt, Andrea KennedyAnne Beaumont*, Doreen Nash, Anne Chant, Jan Evans, Peter Ross, Peter Lindsey, Andrew Lyons , Luke Rosser, and Anthony Morgan. Park staff, Jeanette Dunk, Head GardenerLisa Roberts, Assistant gardener and Garry Davies, Duty Officer.

*Anne Beaumont, vice-chair of the Friends of Margam Park passed away in 2019.

The overgrown bushes removed

Lost fountain

A centrepiece of the garden is the round pond which can be found at the far end of the walled garden. At its centre was an ornate fountain which had been installed by Ralph Hancock. The fountain had long been missing and was thought lost. Described by 
Basil George, former Park Manager and Rosemary Jones, the former Butler’s granddaughter as having had a twisted dolphin base. They both confirmed that it had been in working order.

The walled garden and round pond

Joyce set about hunting down the fountain. If her endeavours failed, the local Tata Steelworks Company in Port Talbot had Already agreed to fund a suitable replacement. 

Her research included studying fountains in other known Ralph Hancock designed gardens, including St. Quentin’s House garden where there is a very good example of a stone bird bath with a twisted dolphin base. Joyce found that three twisted stone fountains had featured on The Orangery terrace at Margam Castle, howeverthe centre fountain is missing. The Richards Report, Planting and Design Supplement for Neath Port Talbot Borough Council, 2013 states that Emily Talbot removed the central Orangery fountain to the diving pool in 1902. The Council examined a number of possibilities as to its disappearance after that date without success which led Joyce to wonder if it had been installed at Twyn yr Hydd?

In June 2019, Joyce met and interviewed Sir Martyn Evans-Bevan, the son of Sir David, and spoke about the garden at Twyn yr Hydd where he had lived until he married. During the interview he gave assurances that he would send original photos of the gardens with the fountain. A subsequent telephone conversation with Lady Jennifer Evans-Bevan at her home in Jersey, confirmed that the fountain was not in her garden there!

The round pond at Felin Newydd

As is the custom, the wealthy Evans-Bevan family moved the entire household of Twyn nr Hydd to Felin Newydd, their estate in the Brecon Beacons for the annual shoot. Joyce was fortunate enough to be invited to tour the house in September 2019. 

She recalled: “Whilst there, I was thrilled to see a fountain at the front of the house with a stone twisted base and a cherub holding a swan neck and head fountain. I was delighted to meet Lady Jennifer and I shared with her my research, which she gladly took home with her“.

Later, she corresponded with the current owner and grandson of Sir David, Hugh Evans-Bevan who confirmed that the fountain at the front of Felin Newydd had been removed from Twyn yr Hydd in 1973, by Sir Martyn and Lady Jennifer Evans–Bevan and that the family were pleased to help in any way they could.

Future work and restoration: 
  • Design and cut our rose beds based on extensive research
  • Re-setting the round pond stonework
  • Conserving and restoring the wrought iron gate and Claire-voies
  • Design and set new sundial
The newly rediscovered fountain from Twyn yr Hydd

Restoration video

Joyce and her dedicated colleagues from the Friends of Margam Park, have recently put together a video about their experiences of restoring and conserving the walled gardens at 
Twyn yr Hydd. You can view this fascinating film by clicking here This will open the video in a new window (YouTube). It’s a terrific insight into the gardens and of those dedicated volunteers who have devoted their free time in maintaining one of Ralph Hancock’s last creations. 

Before and after images 

Flagstone path 

The round pond

Pathway flanked by Cotswold drystone walls

 Low Cotswold drystone walls and Ralph’s trademark herringbone brickwork

This plaque was installed in the walled garden in 2007 by Bob Priddle, Lecturer at the Neath Port Talbot Horticulture College. They were based at  
Twyn yr Hydd for a number of years. It was through a research project, suggested by Bob which uncovered the designer of the gardens and lead to further research into Ralph’s extraordinary career. The plaque was unveiled by two of Ralph’s granddaughters.

Excerpts from the report: Twyn nr Hydd Project 2019, as well as all images are reproduced by kind permission of Joyce Hunt and The Friends of Margam Park.