Thomas Greening’s cascade at The Gnoll

One of the great things about sharing my research on this website is the fact that it brings me interesting queries and contacts. I was recently approached by Ian Baggott of CFP consultancy who has been commissioned to work on a conservation management plan for Neath Port Talbot council which runs The Gnoll as a public park.

The listing description prepared by CADW is very useful and I have been transcribing some of the 1720s letters to which this refers. They show that Thomas Greening Snr was working there with Herbert Mackworth from at least 1724. By this date he was improving Sir James Bateman’s gardens at Shobdon in Herefordshire, where he also bought a farm of his own. Travelling from there into Wales was a much more realistic proposition than the journey from his nursery garden at Brentford!

One of the letters suggests that he supervised the work at The Gnoll through occasional visits – “Greening was here a few days since and protested to me that he never saw any thing in his life more properly layd out”. He would have needed an experienced foreman, upon whom he could rely, and a skilled team.

The landscaping at The Gnoll includes a very ambitious cascade, restored in 1995, which I visited in 2018. The 1740 map below shows the lake into which the cascade descends and the numerous other water courses on the estate, used for industrial purposes as well as ornament. The circular feature near the mansion (on the left) may have been the bowling green, referred to in a letter from September 1727 on which work was not expected to start until the next year. In my discussion with David Jacques about this garden he described the irregularly-laid out pleasure grounds behind the house as ‘quite a la moderne’ for the period. Today it is harder to interpret the landscape as much is overgrown and only footings and fragments of the house remain, but I look forward to a return visit in the future when the new CMP may have prompted regeneration of the estate.

The Gnoll with the  straight line of the cascade bottom right, from a map of 1740.