William Pettigrew – Cardiff’s Head Gardener

WIlliam Pettigrew in his time in Manchester

William Wallace Pettigrew

William Wallace Pettigrew was born at Dumfries House in Scotland on 20th November 1867. He was the eldest son of Andrew and Agnes Pettigrew.

Andrew Pettigrew came down from Scotland in November 1873 to take up the post of Head Gardener of Cardiff Castle. His work transformed the setting of the castle and deer park, into one of the most fashionable, productive and innovative estates of the day.

Andrew Pettigrew family with WIlliam, Hugh and Adrew Pettigrew

Andrew Pettigrew with his sons William, Hugh and Andrew Pettigrew

Growing up at Cardiff Castle, William Wallace worked alongside his father from the age of 16, before training in horticulture at Kew Gardens in London.

After his formal training at Kew, he was appointed as gardener at Culzean Castle, Ayrshire and the 1891 census shows him living with three other domestic gardeners in the ‘Gardener’s Bothy’.

William Pettigrew - 1891

A younger photo of William Pettigrew

Later in 1891 William Pettigrew was appointed to the post of Head Gardener for Cardiff Corporation and initially oversaw the development of Roath Park, which opened on 23rd. June, 1894. This was the same year William married Ruth McConochie.

Roath Park 1894

Sketch of Roath Park the year it opened – 1894

Ruth herself was a triplet and daughter of Charles McConochie, a marine engineer.  Family legend has it that Charles worked on the boilers in the Winter Palace in St Petersburgh in 1859 and “spoke with the Czar”.

After the marriage the couple went to live in Roath Park House, which had been purpose built in the Pleasure Gardens in 1897, for the Superintendent of the Public Parks and Open Space of the Borough. The  Reports  he wrote whilst in office have been transcribed and make interesting reading.  The 1911 census shows William and Ruth living in Roath Park House along with William’s elder sister Mary.

Roath Park House - 2018

Roath Park House in a sorry state – 2018


William Pettigrew  went on to develop Cardiff’s Grange Gardens, Victoria Park and Cathays Park.

Roath Park garrdens

Roath Park

As well as his busy life as Cardiff’s Superintendent of the Public Parks, Pettigrew as an elder at Roath Park Presbyterian Church, now St Andrew’s URC Church , at the corner of Marlborough and Pen-y-lan Roads.

In 1915, William Pettigrew was appointed as Chief Parks Officer in Manchester, where he remained until his retirement in 1932.  During the First World War Pettigrew was also appointed  Chef Officer of the Foodstuffs Committee Chief Officer to the Food Stuffs Committee and no doubt many of the Manchester Parks were used for food production. In 1917 he made the suggestion that conscientious objectors be employed to help grow produce. The suggestion was accepted and accommodation for the men was found in Platt Hall, Manchester. In 1926 he was awarded the prestigious Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH) by the Royal Horticultural Society.

William Pettrigrew and Manchester Cemetries Committee 1915

William Pettigrew in his time in Manchester.

The couple later they moved to the South Coast, where William Pettigrew continued to write and lecture on parks matters. In 1937 he published “Municipal Parks: Layout, Management and Administration”, the first text book on public parks administration. The 1939 Register shows William and Mary living at 18 First Avenue , Worthing, Sussex and William describing himself as Chief Officer,  Municipal Parks Department.

William Wallace Pettigrew died in early 1947 in Worthing, Sussex, at eighty years of age, just three weeks after his wife Ruth died.

The Herald 21st Feb 1947 Pettigrew Obituary

Newspaper obituary of William Pettigrew

Pettigrew Presentation

Presentation to Pettigrew at Roath Park Presbyteryan Church