LAST week we visited Dewstow House and Gardens, Chepstow.

Unfortunately none of our readers recognised the picture. Below is an extract from the book Caldicot and the Villages of the Moor, from which the ‘Then’ photograph was also taken, with the kind permission of author Richard D Jones.

“In 1893, Mr Henry Roger Keane Oakley became the owner of the Dewstow Estate, near Caldicot.

Henry Oakley, or Squire Oakley as he was known locally, was a director of the Great Western Railway, but at home, he had two main interests.

“The first was the breeding of shire horses for which he established a reputation. All had names with the prefix of ‘Dewstow’. His other main interest was the growing and cultivation of ferns, tropical flowers and plants.

“Shortly after his arrival at Dewstow, he embarked on the creation of a garden which is remembered by some of the older generation in the area as a wondrous and magical place.

“Many of these folk remember an annual Sunday school outing to Dewstow, where they picnicked in the gardens at the invitation of Mr Oakley. This was a garden, the like of which is not known to exist anywhere else. On the ground level, there were many rock gardens, ponds, water features, ornamental areas, tropical glass houses and a vast variety of plants, shrubs and trees from around the world.

“It is only when you go below these gardens and you enter the subterranean world underneath, that you begin to understand the extent of the vision and enormous amount of work and skills involved in creating gardens that were unique at the turn of the 20th Century and may still be unique at the start of the 21st Century.

“Most of the surface gardens were filled in at various points over the years, but recent excavation has shown that what has been uncovered so far is in excellent condition and the gardens are now proving to be a highly popular visiLast week’s picture tor attraction.”