One of the Garden’s volunteers has been undertaking research as part of the group of volunteers helping the Regency Restoration Project to find out more about the history of the Middleton Hall parkland and its people. Here are results of his work looking into the history of some of the peripheral buildings.
Approaching the entrance to the Botanic Garden from the direction of Porthyrhyd there can be seen a collection of farm buildings which are now known as Gorswen. The bungalow, which is visible from the road, was designed as two semi detached dwellings in 1934, and then built by Carmarthenshire Council as one of the starter farms on the Middleton Estate, and designated as Holdings 16 & 17. We believe that the first tenants were the Davies family who lived there until 1940, but they were probably the only occupants at that time.
Gorswen occupies the site of a much older farm known as Gorsddu which is one of the contenders for the location of the Home Farm mentioned in Paxton’s Sale Documents of 1824. The first mention of Gorsddu is in the will of Christopher Middleton of 1699, but we have no record of any residents until James Grier arrives in the area in 1789. Grier, who became William Paxton’s estate manager, is said to have lived in a farm called Gorsddu, although at this time he might not have been employed by Paxton who had only recently purchased the estate.
It seems that the first appearance of Gorsddu on a map is in 1813 (2” Surveyors Drawing) and it is also clearly shown on an area map of 1820 and the Sale Plan of 1824. After this time it becomes difficult to trace – it is not clearly marked on the Tithe map of 1847 and there is no trace on the maps of 1886 until it then reappears as Gorswen on the 1947 edition. It therefore seems that Gorsddu was built before 1699, fell into disrepair after the estate was purchased by Edward Adams, and then demolished by 1886. Apart from a small section of wall, we have found nothing remaining above ground which could be identified as Gorsddu.
So how does Gorsddu become connected with the search for the mysterious ‘Home Farm’? There are some sources that state ‘The new estate manager (James Grier) was housed in the old mansion which was transformed into a home farm and renamed Gorsddu ‘.However it is difficult to accept this idea because the Sale Documents describe the Home Farm as a substantial building with possibly nineteen rooms and extensive outbuildings, but on a separate page it lists Gorsddu simply as a cottage and garden. Also we know that Gorsddu was a 17th century building which was almost contemporary with the original Middleton Hall and appeared to outlast it.
Perhaps some future archaeological investigation will uncover the secrets of Gorsddu.