I grew up living on a farm on the Pembrokeshire/Carmarthenshire border. I always had an interest in buildings and architecture, but crumbling houses, that are clearly in need of some love, have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. Growing up in the country, I can remember exploring derelict farmhouses with their roofs falling in; some still with their old kitchen ranges and some of them still with beds, tables, cloths and kettles left inside. I remember feeling almost envious when I discovered yet another ruined building on a neighbouring farm of ‘why do all the other local farms have ruins and we don’t?’ I would dream about restoring them; produce internal plans and external pictures. But going up a scale, when I started to discover the old mansion houses of Wales, my imagination really started to take off. There is something about them; the impression they give of a sense of history, the work that has gone in to them and the people who have lived in them.
Often these great mansions would be located in a village-type setting, surrounded by their own barns, stables, walled gardens, service buildings and sometimes even their own church. As a teenager I would avidly collect and scrapbook all the information I could find about these old houses; articles, adverts for sale and photographs. I was always asking my parents to detour on journeys to pass these houses so I could get a glimpse of them, and of course, when asked what I wanted for Christmas, I always asked for a derelict mansion (although, unsurprisingly, I never got one!)
It was in the late 90’s, in the local library that I discovered “The Lost Houses of Wales” by Thomas Lloyd. This book fed my passion about these buildings. For the next few years I constantly had this book out on loan and spent huge amounts of time pouring over the details of the houses it featured.
Then, in the early 2000’s, I saw in the local paper that the old mansion of Edwinsford was on the market for sale. This was my favourite house in the Thomas Lloyd book. Cheekily, and after much pleading by me, my parents booked to go on a viewing. It was a day I will never forget. Edwinsford was a jumble of buildings sitting next to the Cothi River, with a beautiful arched bridge. I was spellbound. I took photos and walked around and started to dream of one day buying this inspiring old place to return it to its former glory.
Since then I have been further inspired by the work of Michael Tree and Mark Baker and their book “Forgotten Welsh Houses” and the photography of Paul White as published in the book “Ancestral Houses The Lost Mansions of Wales”. I have scoured the internet to trace old mansions and their stories, and have visited as many as possible the length and breadth of Wales.
I still dream of being able to undertake the restoration of one of these wonderful old buildings at some time in the future, but in the meantime this Blog and my book is the result of my on going fascination with them.