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The name, Garn, may signify an artificial mound, on which a fortified house might be built. The site appears to have been occupied by the Griffith family since the Elizabethan era, when it was in the tenure of Thomas Griffith. He was a younger son of the poet and antiquary, Gruffydd ap Ieuan ap Llywelyn Vychan of Llannerch Hall, Lleweni, whose ancestors had held lands in the old territory of Tegeingl (Englefield) and the area around Llanasa, Tremeirchion, Whitford and Rhiwlyfnwyd (Newmarket) in Flintshire.
In 1633 Thomas Griffith's son, Edward, purchased the freehold from the heiresses of the Panton family. The main estate lay in the townships of Lleweni in the parish of Henllan, and Alltfaenan in the parish of Llanefydd and it seems to have consisted of two substantial properties, Ty yn y Green and Tu a thir Harry Salusburie Wyllt, which was probably the main residence and forerunner of the house later known as Garn. At about the same date, Edward Griffith built another house nearby called Plasnewydd and he lived there until renovations at Garn were completed in 1643. Plasnewydd was then inhabited and eventually inherited by his eldest son, Thomas. In the years prior to the Civil War, Edward Griffith had increased the extent of his estates in Denbighshire by means of purchases, notably from Hugh Lloyd of Foxhall and the Salusbury family. Other holdings, such as the neighbouring Coetmor estate, came to him by inheritance and family settlements. He was married twice, firstly to Anne Hedley of Shropshire and secondly to Frances, daughter of Gawen Goodman of Ruthin, and he made provision for the children of both marriages by means of various settlements. In 1640 he conveyed lands in Lleweni, Henllan, Alltfaenan, Llechryd and Llanefydd in trust for Robert Griffith, the son from his second marriage. He confirmed the settlement prior to the marriage of Robert Griffith to Jane Prichard of Cwyber (Rhuddlan) in 1642, also adding the Coetmor estates and land bought from Rees ap Ievan Lloyd. The Cwyber estate was settled on Jane by her father and was thereafter passed down as part of the estate in tail to her son, John Griffith (1) of Garn.
Robert Griffith died in 1652, so a new settlement was made in 1660, by which the estate was divided between Thomas Griffith, Edward's son from his first marriage, and John Griffith (1), Robert's son. Thomas Griffith received the part of the estate which included Plasnewydd and Ty yn y Green. After his death in 1707/8 it was inherited by his eldest son, Edward, who was married to Grace, daughter of Dr David Maurice, clergyman, of Abergele. Plasnewydd was inherited in turn by their daughter, Elizabeth, who married Robert Wynne of Garthmeilio and Cwm Mein.
Under Edward Griffith's settlement of 1660, John Griffith (1) had received the portion which included Tu a thir Harry Salusburie Wyllt (the site of Garn), Coetmor lands, his mother's estates of Cwyber and lands at Ruthin. However, by 1685, John Griffith was seriously in debt from poor estate management and unsuccessful mining ventures. He had to take out mortgages on Cwyber and other lands in Trelywelyn, Flintshire, which were not fully redeemed for over sixty years. Chancery commanded the disposal of Cwyber to ease the legal and financial complications which followed his death, but the family managed to retain it until its sale by W. D. W. Griffith in the early twentieth century. The house itself was demolished.
Edward Griffith the elder had died in 1671. His grandson, Edward Griffith, married Margaret, daughter of Holland Williams of Conwy, c. 1694. There is some evidence that Edward Griffith the younger lost money through gambling and gaming.
At Garn the house itself underwent changes with further renovations and improvements in 1661. A fire in 1738 destroyed most of the interior, portraits and the library. A number of deeds and documents were lost, as is evident from letters and lawsuits of the family, although the majority were fortunately safe in a solicitor's office at the time. The exterior at the front of the house does not seem to have suffered much damage. It was immediately rebuilt on the same plan and completed in 1739.
From the early eighteenth century, the estate was further increased by purchases and a series of marriages into other moderately wealthy families. In 1723 John Griffith (2) married Mary Davies of Trewylan, Montgomeryshire, but after her death he chose not to retain her estate in Collfryn and Trefnannau. He purchased lands from Henry Hughes and Catherine Raper's administrators in Waun Dwysog, Henllan, Denbigh and Nantglyn (1748-56) and Roe in St Asaph (pre-1755). John's sister, Jane, married Cadwalader Wynne of Voelas. Family trust papers of the mid-eighteenth century provide evidence of John Griffith's administration of the Voelas estate and the inevitable disputes, which continued even after his death in 1758.
His son, John Griffith (3), married Jane, daughter and heiress of John Hughes of Weeg (Aber, Caernarfonshire) and Cae'rberllan (Llanrwst) in 1762. As well as the estate, she had also inherited considerable money and personal goods under the wills of her uncle, Hugh Hughes, and her spinster aunts, Jane and Mary. A portion of Cae'rberllan was sold in 1781 for the construction of a turnpike road and the rest was sold in the nineteenth century. John Griffith (3) died in 1791 and his widow moved out of Garn to a house in Denbigh.
In 1785 John Griffith's only son, John Wynne Griffith, had married Jane, daughter of Robert Wynne of Garthmeilio and Plasnewydd. Jane must have brought a sizeable fortune with her; in his will, her father had made provision for a marriage portion totalling £10,000, some of which was then used by her husband for the purchase of Vedw. By 1805, Jane Griffith's brother, Robert Watkin Wynne, was heavily in debt and he conveyed Plasnewydd to John Wynne Griffith and other trustees to oversee the financial management and the sale in 1807/8. Letters and trust papers show that John Wynne Griffith was plagued by demands for money from creditors and members of the Wynne family for many years afterwards. In 1801, he had made a fresh settlement of part of his own estate, as a compromise to disagreements between him and his ageing mother. His will and various deeds and settlements dated between 1801 and 1833 record purchases made by himself and his son, Robert Griffith, and the provision through trusts and financial arrangements to expand the estate in Henllan and Llanefydd, mainly for the benefit of the younger children.
John Wynne Griffith and Jane had thirteen children, nine of whom survived to adulthood. Of those, only Edward Humphrey and George lived to any great age. Edward Humphrey Griffith had inherited lands in Denbighshire and Merionethshire through his elder brother, Robert. He chose to live at Greenbank, where he built a house to his own plan, renaming it, rather confusingly, Plasnewydd. In 1834 he married Maria, daughter of Philip Parry of Ty Newydd and Castle House, Denbigh, by whom he had two children.
George Griffith inherited Garn, as the eldest surviving son of John Wynne Griffith. When he married in 1836 to Charlotte Maria, daughter of John Douglas of Gyrn Castle (Llanasa), the entailed estate comprised Garn, Bryn y Garn, Waun Dwysog and Llindir in Henllan, Coed in Llanefydd, Roe in St Asaph, Brynllwyd in Nantglyn, houses and shops in Denbigh, Llwyn Gronw, Cae'rberllan, and Votty Cae'rberllan in Llanrwst, Cwyber, Tre Llywelyn, and other lands in Rhuddlan, together with allotments of common land. George continued his father's estate expansion by an exchange in St Asaph with Lord Mostyn, 1844, and by purchases of Bryndeunydd, 1849, Plas Coch and Groesffordd (Llanefydd), 1854, Hafod estate, 1856, premises in Henllan and Llanefydd, 1864, Twysog and Bwlch Sadwrn, 1867. George's surviving son, William Douglas Wynne Griffith, married Jessy, youngest daughter of John Heaton of Plas Heaton. Their improvements to the estate buildings, carried out in 1891, included a coachman's house, entrance lodge and a farm house at Merllyn. The eldest of their six children, John Douglas Wynne Griffith, born 1874, married Winifred Ellen Nash, daughter of a Lincolnshire clergyman, in 1902. The eldest son, John William Griffith, born 1903, became owner of Garn and it was he who donated the estate records to NLW. The latter's descendants are his elder son, John Edward Griffith who has a son, Richard Wynne Griffith, and his younger son, Norman Christopher Griffith, who has two daughters and five grandchildren. Garn itself was sold to Simon Lloyd in 1955.