History of Clyne


Ornamental planting at Clyne was begun by the Vivian family. Over a period of some 90 years from the 1860s, the family lavished time and money on Clyne to reflect their wealth, transforming it from an ordinary country estate into an outstanding private woodland garden. The oak woodland is a remnant of Clyne Forest, an important 11th Century Norman landmark.

William Graham Vivian – the millionaire of Clyne – purchased ‘Clyne Castle’ in 1860.  Three important trees planted by him can be found in front of the Castle; one Wellingtonia ‘Sequiodendron giganteum’ and two Monterey Cypress ‘Cupressus macrocarpa’, one a fastigiate form which is also one of the tallest recorded in Britain.

The estate passed to his nephew Algernon, ‘The Admiral’, in 1921. He owned it until his death in 1952 and had the greatest influence on the gardens as we see them today.

He sponsored plant collecting expeditions overseas, and many of Clyne’s rhododendrons still bear their original collector’s numbers. Many of the Admiral’s hybrids can be seen growing in the gardens, some of them named after his family; Rh,Graham Vivian; Rh, Dulcie Vivian; Singleton Blue and Clyne Castle. The tallest recorded white Magnolia in Britain ‘Magnolia Campbellii var. alba’ can also be found in the gardens, highlighted on the Tree Trail.

The Admiral’s influence on the garden can also be seen in the unique historical features, which include the Japanese Bridge, Admiral’s Tower and Gazebo and Joy Cottage, built as a playhouse for his daughters.

The Admiral received many famous visitors at the Castle, including the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII), Neville Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin and Adelina Patti.

In 1954, the land and the house were separated for the first time; the gardens became a public park and the Castle was sold to the University for a hall of residence.