History and Planting Plan
The Physic Garden is located within the Old Hall grounds in the centre of Cowbridge and is bounded on its south side by the medieval town wall.
In the mid eighteenth century the Edmondes family acquired Old Hall, a house fronting the High Street, improved the house and developed the gardens. Records show that in the nineteenth century the walled enclosure in the south-east corner of the gardens was formally laid out with beds and paths, a layout which suggests an earlier origin. This is where the Physic Garden has been created, its formal design echoing the pattern of earlier centuries.
After the departure of the Edmondes family from Old Hall in the 1920s the Physic Garden site became, successively, a kitchen garden for Cowbridge Grammar School and a tree nursery for the Local Authority. Neglected for many years thereafter, by the end of the twentieth century it was an overgrown wilderness. Its transformation into the Physic Garden has been the work of the Cowbridge Physic Garden Trust, a charitable body set up to carry forward a project initiated by the South & Mid Glamorgan Branch of the Welsh Historic Gardens Trust.
Clearance of the site began early in 2005. Landscaping and construction work started in August 2005 and was completed in August 2006. Planting then began and the public was admitted to the garden in progress. Over the next two years the work of volunteers has transformed the garden into what you see today. In June 2008 the Physic Garden was officially opened by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.
The layout and content of the garden are typical of the C18th, incorporating the formal, the functional (not only medicinal, but also culinary, perfumery, cosmetics and dyestuffs) and the aesthetic. Only plants found in Britain before 1800 are included in the garden.
Twelve central beds are devoted to plants which, over many centuries, have had medicinal properties attributed to them, and some of which have a recognised medicinal value today. Each of these beds contains plants specific to a part of the body or a particular illness and each bed is appropriately labelled (Kidneys, Eyes, Nerves, and Lungs etc.).
In the areas around the perimeter of the garden the emphasis is on colour and fragrance, but here again the medicinal and ‘soothing’ value of the plants is recognised. Fruit trees include apple, pear, walnut, quince and mulberry. The vines trained against the walls were a gift from Cowbridge's twin town of Clisson.
The tranquil atmosphere of the Physic Garden is enhanced by the central fountain. Seats in the pavilions and alongside the paths enable visitors to enjoy the Garden at leisure.