A cobbled path winds its way up a hill from the village of Tintern. It is covered in leaves and mud and the path seems to have been seldom used. As I walked up it a high stone wall appeared on my left, vegetation sprouting from the gaps between the stones. At the end of the wall two old gates, rusted and left open led into an over grown graveyard. I entered and spent a while looking up at the ruins of the Grade II listed Church of St Mary. The church is of medieval origin but was virtually re-built in 1886. The life of the church as we see today would span less than a hundred years before it was made redundant and then set on fire in 1977. History is sketchy to how the church’s fate was sealed, was it accident or arson? Indeed the history of this building is hard to discover at all! It is a romantic site, the graveyard, largely left to nature has a few paths cutting through it, which made finding the best view-points easier, however, the morning dew that lay on the ground soon soaked through my shoes and penetrated to my socks. The location is beautiful ; perched on a hill, the views look out down the valley, where just visible in the distance are the ruins of Tintern Abbey.
Walking up to the church door I took a closer look at the tower, which somehow had survived the fire of 1977. The roof remains although holes are visible. The walls of the tower have been resilient against the last 35 years of weather, Inside a different picture is painted. The walls are now largely covered in ivy and stones have fallen and now lie scattered on the ground. There are some signs of an attempt being made to cap off the walls many years previously. The delicate stone window to the east of the building is chipped and looks weak. Saplings grow from between the tiles and nature is trying to reclaim the site. An old cellar lies beneath part of the church, the floor long gone I trod carefully around the edge, not wanting to end up falling in. The church still boasts some beautiful stone carvings.
I had made my visit at a good time of year as winter had stripped the lush green vegetation from the walls making it easier to inspect its condition. St Marys is a romantic ruin, one that I think should remain a ruin. But for it to remain at all, work must be done to stop it from being enveloped by nature.
North of the small Carmarthenshire village of Cilycwm and surrounded by beautiful countryside stands Neuadd Fawr, a classically fronted grade II listed mansion set within its own parkland. The house was originally built in 1784 and was subsequently enlarged and remodelled in the 1820s to the neo-classical house we see today. The house remained with the original family until it was transformed into a school in 1940. It then had a brief stint as a youth hostel before being passed back to a distant member of the family. However the upkeep of the house was ignored and the rot set in.
The house now stands in a field, fenced off and open to the elements. The roof, although still in situ, now heavily undulates and holes are appearing where the slates have slipped allowing the wind and rain to penetrate deep into the fabric of the building. Trees have sunk their roots into the masonry, pushing the cast iron ionic columns of the porch out of line. Inside, the staircase with its Egyptian lotus leaf banisters has long gone and so too have the fireplaces and panelling. The first floor has largely collapsed, leaving the upper walls and doors seemingly floating in space. My initial impression, that this building seemed to be in fairly good order, were now gone! The precarious state of the inside shocked me; I would not be venturing in! It left me with a feeling that time is running out for this fine building. It will just take a single part of the roof to collapse and the process of decay will dramatically speed up. The out buildings surrounding the mansion are in a similar state, apart from the main stable block. They are now roofless and have cracks appearing in the walls and look in a desperate state.
In 1996 the owner applied for permission to demolish the house, but this was turned down. The building was then transferred into the ownership of a limited company to reduce any impact to the surrounding farmland should the house be the subject of a compulsory purchase order. The house is landlocked with no direct access. What will the future hold? Surely the best option for this building is to revert back to its original use as a large family house. I have no doubt at all that if Neuadd Fawr was to be placed on the open market it would be snapped up in no time at all. Few houses evoke emotions like this one. Let’s hope that someone steps in to save this glorious building…..before it’s too late.
A weekend in north Wales, led to a rather spontaneous visit to Brynkir, which is located on the edge of the beautiful Snowdonia National Park. Leaving the car in a lay by I asked my friends to follow me. Slightly bewildered they got out the car and trailed after me through the vegetation. They had no idea what lay ahead. After a few minutes venturing through the overgrown grounds, the grey walls, that I remembered so fondly from the previous summer, stood in front on us. My previous visit was in May 2012, but this time, now that winter had set in and the trees had lost their leaves, the building could be viewed in greater detail. Inside the building most of the saplings that had sunk their roots into the rubble from the fallen walls, have now largely been cleared. Now there is less vegetation I was able to explore part of the building that I had not been able to reach on my original visit. inside the building the lack of internal structure is disappointingly clear; where once there were walls, now there are just piles of stones. Although a large amount of the fabric of the building has long gone, there is enough still standing to evoke emotion about this magical ruin.
Llawhadden House is a Grade II listed hall which sits comfortably to the side of the road only a few minutes walk away from Llawhadden Castle. The house fell victim to fire in 2000. Sadly the elderly owner perished during this event, thus ending a 300 year long occupation of the house by the Skyrme family, and turning the property itself into a burnt out shell. The house now sits at the centre of the village surrounded by security fencing and large red KEEP OUT signs. After many years of lying abandoned with vegetation slowly creeping in, an effort has been made to clear the site by the current owner, with a plan, (still in its infancy), to restore the building. This is a promising development, but is, no doubt, going to be a long and slow process. Although Llawhadden is not the hugest of houses, it still makes you bring the car to a halt as you drive past to imagine how it was in the past.
Foxhall Newydd is a Grade 1 listed building and it is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It is located near Henllan in Denbighshire. It was 1592 when the building was started on the same site as an earlier house. It was an ambitious Elizabethan building designed as a statement of wealth. Originally conceived as a symmetrical ‘H’ shape, it was sadly never finished and what is now left visible is just a third of the planned original construction. Nonetheless, this four-storey building is an impressive sight as you walk along the footpath on the northern boundary. It has been left to deteriorate since the late 1800s and although recently some work has been done to remove ivy from the walls, time is now running out for the remaining structure. It is probable that this house was never lived in, and it now seems likely that, in spite of its archaeological interest, it never will be.
It would take an extremely enthusiastic and wealthy new owner to preserve this impressive building.
The decaying entrance hallway at Iscoed
Piercefield House is a large ruined neo-Palladian mansion on the fringes of Chepstow. I have made two visits to Piercefield during the last eighteen months. It is situated directly on a public footpath, so it is easy to access the parkland for walking and see the house. The house as we see it today was designed by John Soane. During the course of the life of the house the cost of building and its upkeep has bankrupted three of its previous owners. As with many of our great houses the two World Wars saw the start of the decline of this fine house to the ruinous state that we see today. During the Second World War the house was actually used for target practice. The house and grounds were incorporated into Chepstow racecourse, which lies on the western boundary of the parkland, in the 1920’s. Bruised and battered the house has been abandoned ever since.
Subsequently bought as part of a racecourse company business by super wealthy businessmen, the house is now the asset of an off-shore company and is separated from its parkland. Little has been done to strengthen the structure other than the windows and doors being shored up with wooden supports a number of years ago, now themselves in need of replacing.
Preservation groups are determined to see this important Grade II* listed building saved, possibly by means of a compulsory purchase order. Save Britain’s Heritage is working tirelessly to drum up support for this project. But as ever, when working with a large important building whose owners don’t seem prepared to consider any “realistic” offers, the road to restoration will be a long one.
(Image Dafydd hardy Estate Agents)
Wern Manor is a beautiful Grade II* listed manor located just outside Porthmadog. It is up for sale and in need of a new owner. Is anyone willing to renovate and love this old stone manor? It comes complete with stables, a clock tower and summer house all set in listed gardens. What a glorious project this would be!
I had a fantastic trip to Neuadd Fawr – a house that I had wanted to visit for many years. From my 100+ photos taken on that day in March, this one remains my favourite. This inquisitive flock of sheep followed me around the grounds while I took pictures of the glorious remains of this classical style mansion.
The Italianate tower of Pantglas Hall is all that now survives of the main house of what was probably the finest Victorian Estate in Carmarthenshire. The house and also the gardens are Grade II listed. The stable block and a stone bridge have also survived. Decline set in after the house was bought by the Local Authority and used as an asylum. After a relatively minor fire the Council decided not to carry out repairs and subsequently sold the property to a developer in 1972. This owner stripped the house for its valuable materials, demolishing the building except for the tower. The outbuildings and land are now in use in a tourism business with log cabins having been constructed in the grounds of the old hall for accommodation. A planning application for a vastly expanded holiday resort was made in 2012. This included a huge building which would surround the old tower, but the plans were called ‘bland and disparate’ and have been put on hold, although could be re-submitted anytime.