Appeal to Save the Plas Gwynfryn, Llanystumdwy Architectural Drawings

Love My Wales is trying to raise £1400 to save a collection of architectural drawings for Plas Gwynfryn, Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd. The full set of 40 original drawings date to 1875 when the house was rebuilt by the Ellis-Nanney family. We are asking for donations of £35 to help save this collection for the Welsh Nation. When we have raised the monies required, the drawings will be deposited with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales to celebrate their move to the National Library of Wales during summer 2016.
The Story of Plas Gwynfryn

In the south-east corner of the Llyn Peninsula, overlooking Cardigan Bay and with the grand panorama of the Snowdonian mountain range to the east, is Plas Gwynfryn, resplendent in an ancient parkland where veteran oaks and the remnants of Victorian ornamental planting still endure.  The site has been associated with the Wynne family since the dawn of the Tudors, but the estate passed by marriage to David Ellis of Bodychan during the mid-seventeenth century.  His great-great grandson, also named David Ellis, added the surname Nanney on inheriting Cefndeuddwr from his bachelor uncle; he became attorney general for north Wales under the Great Sessions dispensation.  No lawyer in north Wales was said to have been held in higher esteem than David during the early nineteenth century, and his knowledge combined of ‘common law and good common sense’ was renowned.  He died without issue in 1819 and left the estate to his nephew, Owen Jones of Brynhir, who assumed the additional surnames of Ellis-Nanney as a condition of his inheritance.

Owen Jones Ellis-Nanney was described as a ‘bucolic character, and a thorough-going Welshman, indistinguishable at sight from the neighbouring farmers; indeed he would at times take a delight in being mistaken for an out-of-work farmhand, and would ask a stranger, met when out for a walk, if there was any chance of getting a job at the Plas.’  Owen’s young wife died four years after giving birth to a son and heir, Hugh John Ellis-Nanney, in 1849.  Owen purchased the neighbouring Plas Hen estate, adding hugely to his lands, which were eventually settled on his young son and heir.  Hugh was educated at Eton and Oxford, becoming a firm Conservative and a most eligible Welsh bachelor.  On his twenty-first birthday, Hugh came of age and set about elevating the standing of his family home.  George Williams was employed as architect, building a sturdy baronial mansion in the castellated style, echoing nearby Deudraeth Castle.  The house was approached by a full size porte-cochere opening onto a top-lit central stair hall. The dining room suite lay to the service side of the castle, and the parlour and other reception rooms to the front.   Work was completed in 1876 and estimated to have cost nearly £70,000 – a prodigiously large expenditure for the 1870s.

Hugh married the Hon. Elizabeth Octavia Dillon, younger daughter of the 3rd Lord Clonbrock. The marriage produced two children, the eldest, Mary Elizabeth eventually inherited the estate, while a son died tragically at the age of eight whilst on holiday at Bournemouth, much to the grief of his parents.  Hugh was passionate about politics, becoming M.P. for Caernarfonshire. He was one of the strongest candidates against Lloyd George in 1895, being defeated by only 194 votes.  In 1897, Hugh was created a baronet and enjoyed the last twenty-three years of his life happily at Plas Gwynfryn. Lady Elizabeth survived him by eight years and died in 1928. Their daughter Mary Elizabeth moved from Gwynfryn to Plas Hen, renaming it Plas Talhenbont and leased the Gwynfryn mansion to the newly established Church in Wales as a home for the clergy. It was sold off when the entire estate was broken up in 1959, becoming first a private hospital for the elderly and then a hotel.  During the early 1980s, while under redevelopment, the house mysteriously caught fire and was gutted.  A squatter took over in more recent times, attempting to carry out repairs but was evicted before trying to claim the building as his own.  Presently, there are no plans in place for its future as the owner is believed to be abroad and cannot be traced.

Dr. Mark Baker
March 2016

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I gyfrannu at Caru Fy Nghymru, dewiswch un o’r ddau ddewis isod.

Donation Option 1: Select an amount below.

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Restoration of a Gothic Window at Gwrych Castle, Abergele

This Beautiful window, made of Pine was a created to replace an earlier 1820s cast iron interior window, which are common at the castle. Carved c. 1912, it was made so that the Countess of Dundonald could enjoy opening sashes in her writing room in the newly restored Gardener’s Tower rather than a sealed cast iron version.

Left to rot at the bottom with water ingress, the structure of the window was very weak and had caused all the top to break apart, and sections to fall away. Upon inspection, it was clear that a new base had to be constructed, and those parts which had suffered rot at the bottom of the sashes were in need of rebuilding with woof filler. The principle aim of restoring this window was to ensure that replacement of parts was kept to a minimum, so that the window is conserved and kept in its state in a stable condition.


My first step was to treat the window for woodworm, and to take off any wet rot, and treat it with wood hardener. I then involved Gareth, a local carpenter, who was kind enough to create a new base and advise us on the best approaches. Fortunately, the tenon and mortise joints to secure the base were still in existence, and together we were able to put it back on in minutes.

With wood filler, we reinforced the treated bases of the sashes. When looking at the tops, sections had broken away due to the stress of being without a base. These were glued and pulled together with a wratchet.


to reinforce this, a 9mm hole was drilled through each re-glued part, and a dowel was glued inside to pin it together. With all break pinned together with 9mm dowels, wood filler was used to reconstruct where the rot had eroded parts, this strengthened those parts which were reinforced, and built back the shape.     11701172_947442271945355_8160615195789902312_n

Once hardened, the window was sanded lightly to preserve evidence of repairs and painted in fence paint to avoid future water ingress and preserve the wood in a colour which we managed to identify as close to the original from scrapings found close to the bare wood. Glass was cut for the window and secured with window silicone, and panel pins. Later on, window putty was added to weather-proof it.



Lime Mortar Course at Gwrych Castle, Day 1

So today, I started a course on traditional lime mortaring. The course is being delivered by Ned Scharer from the Natural Building Centre who came to Gwrych Castle, Abergele. We started the day by learning about the lime cycle, and how lime is processed by burning limestone (calcium carbonate) in a kiln to remove carbon dioxide and water to get lime (calcium oxide), which is then turned into  mortar with the addition of water to create an exothermic reaction known as slaking, as the calcium oxide tries to reabsorb the water and oxygen to leave a putty, and sand to act as an aggregate! Ned explained to us that the use of Portland Cement which has been in use since the 1830s, was used a lot to repair old buildings in the later Victorian, and later, post WWII generally, which has caused a lot of previously mortared buildings to crumble as the two substances are incompatible- lime absorbs water from the stone/brick and allows it to evaporate, whereas Portland cement is completely waterproof. So water gets under the cement and gets soaked into mortar and causes damage in frost periods! We were told that there are two types of lime mortar: traditional putty which is really nice to use! Or hydraulic lime, which is a modern invention, with a quicker setting time. In both cases, you need to use sand which has enough grit to help strengthen the mix to the desired result- the larger pieces of sand should be one third of the gap size. Once pointing has been done on a moist wall, the mixture uses the moisture to carbonate and goes hard, like stone.

So we set off to the garden wall at Gwrych which is in poor condition, and we proceeded to ‘rake’ out the old soft and rotten lime with hammers and chisels, and ended up with the following result:


The wall with bits raked out.

Once we had that, we then mixed three different types of lime, traditional putty and two lots of hydraulic lime. We tried them all out and I can say for definite that I preferred the putty! We essentially filled the gaps, and where a stone fell out, we mortared it back in! It takes about a month for the putty to cure, and about a week for the hydraulic lime. During this time, we need to make sure the wall is wet to allow the lime to carbonate.


Ned mixing different types of mortar


The finished result for today with new pointing on the right, by Ned, and along the bottom parts.

I’m really looking forward to tomorrow!!


Post written by Spencer Beale from Love My Wales. Special thanks to Ned Scharer from the Natural Building Centre.


Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen- Sold out!

Just a quick update to let you all know that we have now sold out of the first edition of Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen! Thank you all so much for ordering. All proceeds will be going to this year’s archaeological dig in August.

For those who still would like a copy, we will be printing a second and revised edition for the summer, and are taking pre-orders. We are also offering an exciting opportunity for people to subscribe in the book; we will be printing the names of those who are interested within the book itself. Please contact us for more details!

© Antonia Dewhurst


Rhwng 11:00 a 16:00 ar 6 Rhagfyr yng Nghanolfan Gymunedol Golan fe lansir Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen, y casgliad hir ddisgwyliedig o ysgrifau sy’n seiliedig ar hanes y plasty nodedig hwn. Mae’r cyhoeddiad yn anadlu bywyd newydd i hanes Bryncir lle’r oedd parc ceirw hir anghofiedig Llywelyn Fawr. Bu’r Arglwydd Dafydd Elis Thomas AC mor garedig ag ysgrifennu’r rhagair i’r llyfr.
Dyma’r tro cyntaf i’r safle hwn sydd o bwysigrwydd cenedlaethol fod yn destun ymchwil ddofn. Daeth arbenigwyr o gefndiroedd gwahanol at ei gilydd, wedi tri chyfnod o gloddio archeolegol dan arweiniad Caru fy Nghymru, sy’n elusen leol, i greu’r llyfr hwn sy’n llawn hyfrydwch a gwreiddioldeb. Cyhoeddir y llyfr yn ddwyieithog ac mae’n cynnwys gweithiau celf sy’n dangos yr adeiladau fel roeddynt. Bydd Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen yn sicr o fod yn wledd i’r llygad o ran estheteg yn ogystal â chyflwyno gwybodaeth am y safle hynod ddylanwadol hwn.
Yn y llyfr mae penodau gan Spencer Smith sy’n cofnodi darganfod parc ceirw Llywelyn; mae’r Dr. Shaun Evans yn dadansoddi cerddi beirdd y cyfnod am y teulu Brynkir; mae Dilwyn Williams yn olrhain datblygiad y ddwy stad, y Wern a Bryncir; ceir disgrifiad gan Mark Baker o ddatblygiad y ddau blasty sydd bellach yn angof, a chyda’r Dr. Mary Chadwick mae’n rhoi llais i Elinor Huddart, nofelydd Bryncir yn y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg; gan y pensaer Adam Voelcker ceir hanes achub Tŵr Bryncir ym 1994; mae’r archeolegwyr Sarah Doherty a William Jones yn adrodd hanes y cloddio archeolegol gynhaliwyd gan Caru fy Nghymru ar y safle; ac mae’r daearegwr Andrew Haycock o Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru yn rhannu ei wybodaeth ar ddaeareg Cwm Pennant.
•    Ariennir y project hwn gan Gronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri drwy gymhorthdal ymchwil y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf. Bu Bryncir yn wersyll carcharorion rhyfel oedd yn gwarchod uchel-swyddogion Almaenig yn ystod y rhyfel.
•    Ond 200 copi o’r llyfr sydd yn yr argraffiad cyntaf ac mae pob un wedi’i rifo a’i lofnodi.
•    Pris y llyfr fydd £15 a chyflwynir yr holl dderbyniadau at ariannu’r cloddio archeolegol fydd ym Mhlasty Bryncir yn 2015. Gellir archebu’r llyfr o neu
•    Ymunwch â ni ar 6 Rhagfyr yng Nghanolfan Gymunedol Golan, Dolbenmaen, cipiwch eich copi a mynnwch air â’r awduron a wireddodd y freuddwyd.


Rydym am estyn diolch i’r rhai ddaeth i Ganolfan Gymunedol Golan ar 6 Rhagfyr ar gyfer lansiad y llyfr. Bu’n ddiwrnod llwyddiannus a rhannwyd nifer o atgofion am Blasty Bryncir yn ystod y Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf ac yn fuan wedyn. Mae gwahoddiad hefyd ar gael i’r lansiad fydd yn Adeilad y Pierhead, Caerdydd, rhwng 12:00 ac 13:00 ar 24 Chwefror. Bydd yno arddangosfa o weithiau celf Ceri Leeder sy’n dangos yr adeiladau fel roeddynt a lluniau dyfrlliw arbennig o Blasty Bryncir gan Liz Bolloten. Cynigir lluniaeth ysgafn a bydd yr awduron yno yn barod i drafod eu gwaith.
Eto, rydym am ddatgan ein diolchiadau i Gronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri, Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri a Cadw am eu cefnogaeth a wnaeth hi’n bosibl i baratoi’r llyfr hwn.

© Antonia Dewhurst

An invitation to the launch of Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen on 06/12/2014

The highly anticipated Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen, a collection of essays, discussing the Welsh landmark, Plas Brynkir, will launch on the 6th of December at Golan Community Centre  between 11.00am – 4:00pm. Brynkir, Llewelyn the Great’s lost deer park, with its forgotten mansions, has been brought back to life in this exciting new publication.  Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM has kindly provided a foreword for the book.
For the first time, this important site of national importance has been researched in depth – specialists from different backgrounds have come forward following three archaeological investigations led by Love My Wales, a local charity to create a book of beauty and originality. Published in bilingual format and featuring original reconstructive artworks of the site, Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen, is sure to aesthetically please the eye as well as inform people of this vastly important site.
The book includes chapters by Spencer Smith,  records the discovery of Llewelyn’s deer park; Dr. Shaun Evans analyses bardic poetry concerning the Brynkir family; Dilwyn Williams traces the development of the Wern and Brynkir estates;  Mark Baker describes the development of  the two forgotten  mansions, and, with Dr. Mary Chadwick, gives voice to Elinor Huddart, a nineteenth century novelist at Brynkir; architect Adam Voelcker tells the story of Brynkir Tower’s rescue in 1994; archaeologist Sarah Doherty and William Jones recount Love My Wales’ archaeological investigations on site; and geologist Andrew Haycock, from the National Museum Wales shares his knowledge of the geology of Cwm Pennant.
•    This project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through a WWI research grant. Brynkir was a prisoner of war camp during the war, and held high ranking German officers.
•    Only 200 copies have been printed for the first run, and each one has been numbered and signed.
•    The book costs £15 and all proceeds go towards the 2015 archaeological dig at Plas Brynkir and can be ordered from or
•    Join us on the 6th of December at Golan Community Centre, Golan, Dolbenmaen, to grab your copy and meet the writers that have made book happen.

Thank you for coming to ‘Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen’


We would like to thank those who came to the launch at the Golan Community Centre on 6 December, it was a successful day and brought forward lots of memories of Plas Brynkir during and just after the First World War. We would like to extend an invitation to our Cardiff launch at the Pierhead on 24 February between 12:00-1:00pm, where we will be exhibiting reconstructive artworks by Ceri Leeder, and wonderful watercolours of Plas Brynkir by Liz Bolloten. Refreshments will be available and the authors will be there to talk to people about their work.
Again, we would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund, Snowdonia National Park, and Cadw for all their support in making this book happen.