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The White Gates

Leeswood Gates“The parish of Leeswood has within its boundaries a work of art which equals anything of its kind in the world.  This is the magnificent piece of Palladian wrought iron work known as the White Gates standing at the bottom of the landscaped avenue that runs down to the road from the north-west façade of Leeswood Hall”, as stated by Charles Wynne-Eyton in his article on the Gates as published in the Leeswood & District Newsletter. To close the vista at the front of the house, Switzer commissioned the construction of an ornamental screen, or as described by Edward Hubbard in 1986, “…the stunning 100ft expanse of the White Gates”.  On either side of this were the ornamental stone piers.  The master gardener himself, did not seem to be impressed by the Gates for he relates, “the Stuff that he dug out of Cellars and other Foundations of a House” could have been used to construct terrace walks.  Further, he continues, “And the Reason why a Terrace Walk at the End is urged is the Expence it saves in Iron Work, which, at least, is but a kind of Net Work, I had almost said, contriv’d on Purpose to catch those Persons in, who are so unwise as to run to that great and unnecessary Expense”. This screen, a masterpiece of wrought ironwork consisting of five bays the centrepiece of which was a set of gates, was designed by an unknown architect, possibly a member of the London group of trendies known as the Burlington set.

Flanking the screen were square stone piers with low curving brick walls.  Each bay is topped by highly decorative pediments and the four open-work three-dimensional piers separating them are topped by solid cupolas on which stand urns holding delicate flowers.  An arched dolphin, the Wynne family emblem, stands at the pinnacle of the very ornamental overthrow which tops the Gates.

It is generally considered that the screen or gates as they were more commonly known were constructed by the famous Davies Brothers of Chirk and many examples of their wonderful workmanship still exist in North East Wales to this day.  However, despite the fact that the ironwork has long been attributed to Robert and John Davies there is no documentation to confirm this.  They have also been attributed to Robert Bakewell of Derbyshire.  The size of the project was so great that it is possible a group worked together on their creation.  Due to the complex work in constructing the gates, (if you look closely you will find that each piece of iron is joined to its neighbour by mortice and tenon joints), it is difficult to comprehend the amount of labour required for the task. There were no welding sets or power tools available in those days.  On the original layout of the grounds and surrounds, the public road which bounded the south-west side of the expanse of grass slope was shown to be widening into a rectangular area abutting the stables.  This road also widened to the north side of this point.  To close the main cross axis of the grounds which at that time ran south-west/north-east along the front of the house and through the woodland to the main north-south axis, the Black Gates were erected.  This set of Gates was a stark contrast to the screen sited at the front of Leeswood Hall and their construction was also attributed to the Davies Brothers of Chirk. From an artistic point of view, the White Gates are highly regarded because of their architectural design.  In the eighteenth century, most, if not all of the famous gates were designed as well as built by the gate smith.  These gentlemen wished to show everyone what brilliant craftsmen they were, so their gates were smothered in a profusion of ‘curls and whorls’.  However, with regard to the White Gates at Leeswood Hall, the architect stated what he wanted and the gate smith did as he was told. The result of this partnership has been gates which set a seal of excellence equal to any in Europe, in their classical Palladian restraint.  Contrary to popular belief, there was never a drive from the gates to the Hall, although whether there was an intention for there to be one eventually is unknown.  At the outset they were designed purely to be an ornamental screen.

Another tale in circulation was that the White Gates could not be opened as they had never been paid for.  Due to the wealth of George Wynne at the time they were built, approximately 1730, it is more likely that he did pay for them; he had a reputation for generosity.  Also, a gentleman by the name of Mr Phil Jones farmed the White Gates park and he used them as his principal access to the grounds.

Leeswood GatesThe parish of Leeswood has within its boundaries a work which equals anything of its kind in the world. The magnificent set of white gates set on the slope running down from Leeswood Hall to the River Terrig. Back in the year 1700 a baby was born to John Wynne of Leeswood and his wife Jane who came from Halkyn. The baby was christened George. His father came from a family who had lived in the Leeswood area for many years and they owned a little land but were of modest means. After his wife died when little George was only three years old John neglected his children and George was brought up by a Mr Evan Lloyd of Halkyn. After many legal battles, mainly with his father, George inherited a small parcel of land from his mother. He rebuilt the old family home which stood on the site where Leeswood Hall now stands. To set off his home to the best advantage he had the gardens laid out by a master gardener (probably Switzer) and he commissioned the construction of an ornamental screen one hundred feet long and seventeen feet high with ornamental stone piers at either side. This screen was designed by an unknown architect who was probably a member of the Burlington set. It is generally believed that the screens were contstructed by the Davies brothers of Chirk and many examples of their wonderful workmanship still exist in North East Wales to this day. However it is possible that another well known gatesmith of that time, a Mr Bakewell from Derbyshire, had a hand in the work. The size of the project was so great that it was quite probable that they worked together. The amount of labour required for such a job before the days of welding sets and power tools is difficult to grasp. A close look at the gates reveals that each piece of iron is joined to its neighbour by mortice and tenon joints. The White Gates are highly regarded from an architectural point of view because of their architectural design. In the 18th Century most, if not all, famous gates, were designed as well as built by the gatesmith. In the case of Leeswood’s gates the architect said what he wanted and the smith did as he was told. The result of this partnership has been a set of gates which set a seal of excellence equal to any in Europe in their classic Palladian restraint.