He was the son of the coal and shipping magnate John Cory who by 1904 had built ‘The Duffryn’ a large country house and grounds in the Vale of Glamorgan. Reginald Cory who was a keen amateur gardener assisted the Landscape Architect, Thomas Mawson, and between them they created the beautiful gardens that now surround Dyffryn House.
The Royal Horticultural Society held its first Great Spring Show in 1862 and it survived as such until 1911. In 1912 the Great Spring Show was cancelled to make way for the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition. R. Hooper-Pearson and Reginald Cory produced ‘The Horticultural Record’ to commemorate the occasion and The Great Spring Show was later to evolve into the Chelsea Flower Show that we know today.
On the occasion of his death in 1934 Reginald Cory’s personal library of manuscripts and documents became the largest single bequest to The Lindley Library and the Cory Cup became the Reginald Cory Memorial Cup that is awarded today for the most notable new introduction. Reginald Cory was a Vice-President of the Royal Horticultural Society and President of the National Dahlia Society. In 1913 the two organisations collaborated to trial over 7,000 dahlias in 1,000 cultivars at Dyffryn Gardens and from the trials only ‘Glow’ and ‘Tommy Keith’ have survived.
The Reginald Cory Bequest has benefitted the Royal Horticultural Society and the Cambridge Botanic Gardens. Other items including jewellery and Oriental porcelain that have been donated to various museums and galleries including the British Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
As I have already mentioned the gardens at Dyffryn are the joint creation of wealthy south Wales’ industrialist John Cory his son and horticulturalist Reginald Cory and the landscape architect Thomas Mawson. The result is a garden of great quality revolving around a strong architectural framework to contain a wide variety of plants that were being introduced into the United Kingdom during the early part of the 20th Century. Reginald Cory was a major sponsor of many of the plant hunting expeditions during that period especially Ernest (Chinese) Wilson’s, probably the most famous of all the Plant Hunters. Many of the trees and shrubs growing at Dyffryn are there as direct introductions from those expeditions and the most notable must be Acer griseum, the paper Bark maple that was planted in the “Nursery” that later became the Arboretum. They proved to be some of the few trees that set viable seeds.
Typical of gardens created during the early twentieth century Dyffryn is a combination of glasshouses, lawns, formal beds, shrubberies and a series of outdoor “garden rooms” enclosed within clipped yew hedges. Each room is different and Cory displayed his infant trees grown in pots in a bonsai fashion in the Japanese Garden which later became more popularly known as the Theatre Garden where outdoor performances were put on.
Thomas Mawson was the first President of the Institute of Landscape Architects and a founder member of the Royal Fine Art Commission. In common with many industrial philanthropists Cory wanted to build a model village in the Vale of Glamorgan to house his employees who worked in the Company’s offices in Cardiff. He and Mawson designed the Village of Glyn Cory better known today as Peterson-super-Ely.
After Cory’s sister, Florence’s death a couple of years after Reginald’s the entire Cory estate was put up for sale. Sir Cenydd Trehearne a local landowner bought Dyffryn House and Gardens to the intention of donating them to the Welsh nation wanting them to become the National Botanic Gardens of Wales. The outbreak of the Second World War prevented this from happening and the House was requisitioned for the duration of hostilities. Eventually the House and Gardens were leased to the former Glamorgan County Council until various reorganisations of local government in Wales saw the entire estate passing into the hands of the Vale of Glamorgan council in 1996. The gardens have gone extensive restoration, with the help of over £6 million in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
After one more change Dyffryn Gardens reopened under National Trust Management on 1st January 2013 The garden at Dyffryn House in the Vale of Glamorgan is regarded as a perfect example of Edwardian garden design.
The National Trust has been granted a 50-year lease on the estate from the owners of the property, Vale of Glamorgan council, and the Trust is now responsible for its care and development.