Those in the know might be puzzled as to why I have included what is clearly a ruin amongst the buildings that I have worked in. However, some may remember the recent feature on Carlton House, or even Barnbarroch House, and will realise that sometimes elements of a once great house survive. Indeed, I am currently working on a house in Upstate New York that is believed to have been built with elements from the long-demolished Cassiobury, in Hertfordshire.
Several months ago Michael Tree a fellow Trustee of the Georgian Group asked if I would match the colour of the dining room at Edwinsford, in Carmarthenshire. Risking life and limb, Michael had clambered over rotten floorboards and collapsed ceilings to remove a fragment of green-painted wall plaster, which he handed to me in a matchbox.
I took a measurement of the fragment with a spectrophotometer and then set a tiny piece of it as a cross section so that I could examine it under the microcope (see above). This shows that the walls of the Dining Room had been painted about ten times during the room’s existence, that it had always been green and that the surviving colour was much darker than the original one. The first – interim – scheme had been applied in a soft distemper. This had been partly washed off and overpainted in oil paint a few years later.
My colleagues at Papers and Paints produced a paint colour to match the precious sample and now Michael is able to paint the dining room in Hendre House, Gwynedd, which he is currently restoring in Edwinsford Green*.
Edwinsford is now a vast derelict, partly roofless mansion to the north of Llandeilo on the banks of the River Cothi in South Wales. At one time the house boasted 42 bedrooms, but it is was allowed to reach an advanced state of decay.
The ruins are set in the midst of over 350 acres of wooded valley and undulating hills, with access to one of the prettiest rivers in Wales and sporting rights throughout
The earliest part of the house was built in the 1630s. It was square in plan with a pyramidal slate roof rising to a tall central cluster of chimney stacks (see on the left hand side in the images above and below). A separate house was added to its north-west angle in the 1660s. This wing was a more conventional three bay composition, two storeys with attics under a gabled roof, with a central entrance hall and stairway with reception rooms to either side. A fourth bay had been added on the north by 1776 when what appears to be a chapel with a bellcote adjoined on the north.
In the 1860s the ‘chapel’ was replaced by a ballroom wing and the bellcote was reconstructed on the former dairy across the river. A pair of estate cottages opposite the park’s Iron Gate Lodge were built as a curious model of the original house. However, the house was shut up in the 1930s and before long it slid into disrepair and dereliction and is now beyond salvage.
The Williams of Edwinsford
The Williams family of Edwinsford claimed descent from Hywel Dda and Rhodri Mawr, and through Ellen, wife of Llewelyn ap Phylip, from Henry I of England. In common with many other Welsh landed gentry, the family married into other leading Welsh houses, such as the Morgans of Tredegar, the Vaughans of Golden Grove and the Philipps of Cilsant. It was through such a marriage in 1600 that the family acquired the Llether Cadfan estate in Carmarthenshire.
The estate then descended in direct male line until the death without issue of Sir Nicholas Williams in 1745. He was a great sportsman and had carried out many improvements to the house and garden.
The estate then passed to his brother, Thomas Williams. He married firstly, Arabella, daughter and co-heiress of John Vaughan of Court Derllys, Carmarthenshire, but she died without issue As his second wife Thomas married Anne, daughter of William Singleton of London. Their eldest daughter Bridget married Robert Bankes Hodgkinson of Overton and also of Edwinsford. It is from this period that the coloured print of the house (above) was made and also that the bridge over the River Cothi was rebuilt, transforming it from two spans to one (see coloured photograph above).
The Hodgkinsons died without issue and the estate passed to Thomas’s second daughter, Arabella, who had married Sir James Hamlyn, 1st Bart., of Clovelly Court, Devon, therefore uniting the estates of Edwinsford and Clovelly.
Sir James died in 1811 and was succeeded by his only surviving son, James, who took on the arms and surname of Williams after the death of his mother in 1797.
On his death in 1829 the estate passed to his eldest son, Sir James Hamlyn Williams (1790-1861). Various alterations were made to the house by Sir James. The first was the building of a new dining room in 1840, which was furnished with oak panelling and sideboards from the old hall at Llether Cadfan. Above this room were erected the “Peacock” or “best” rooms and there followed in 1861 the new drawing room, the north wing and the two corridors. In the same year a new lodge was built at “Iron Gate” and Moelfre and the old fish-pond was drained. The magnificent ceilings which adorned Sir Nicholas’s room, the boudoir and the library – apparently the work of 17th century Italian plasterers – were left untouched. Sir James died in October 1861 leaving no male heir and with his death the baronetcy became extinct. Three daughters survived: Mary Eleanor, Susan Hester and Edwina Augusta, who became respectively the heiresses of the Edwinsford, Clovelly and Derllys estates.
Mary married Sir James Drummond (1814-1866), 3rd Bart., of Hawthornden, Midlothian. He took on the additional surname of Williams in pursuant of his father-in-law’s will. By a grant from the Lord Lyon he also bore the arms of Williams quarterly, with those of Drummond. On his death in 1866, the estate passed to his eldest son, Sir James Hamlyn Williams Williams-Drummond 4th Bart. (1857-1913). According to the 1873 return of owners of land, Sir James owned an estimated 9,282 acres in Wales (all in Carmarthenshire) with an estimated rental of £6,358.
Sir James, was known as Joe (or as Josephus in some letters from his older sister, ‘Bella), probably to differentiate him from his father with identical name. In January 1889 he married Miss Madeline Agnew, eldest child of Sir Andrew Agnew, Bart. of Lochnaw Castle. She had first been married at the age of 19 to Mr Harry Clifton of Lytham Hall. When he died at the age of 35 she was left a 32 year old widow with 7 children, she had 9 years of widowhood.
His only child, Sir James Hamlyn Williams Williams-Drummond 5th Bart. (b. 1891-1970) had married Lady Enid Vaughan, daughter of the 6th Earl of Lisburne, but died in 1970 leaving no issue. It is understood that the house had been shut up in the 1930s and that the contents survived until well into the 1960s when it was sold at auction in the drill hall in Lampeter.
* Should anyone want to purchase a sample of the colour it is known as SC545 and is available from Papers and Paints.
Since posting the above I am delighted to hear that the present owner has spent a great deal of time and effort in clearing the site of rubbish and vegetation. It also appears that further research has been carried out, which includes the correspondence of Joe and Madeline Drummond. Joe’s letters survive from his teenage years, through his marriage with Madeline (she died aged 60 in 1907), until his death at the age of 56 in 1913. Interestingly, in the letters within the family they write of the house as Ed: (Ed with colon), and the current owner also now does so, reflecting the past with the present.
A story is to be told in due course, under the book title ‘Your Very Loving Madeline’. An introduction to this has been sent me by the author, Dane Garrod, to whom I am most grateful:
I am very grateful to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) for their kind permission to use a few of their images of Edwinsford House.
Information taken from:
D.L. Baker-Jones. Edwinsford. A Country House and its Families. The Carmarthenshire Historian. Vol. V. 1968.
Peter Smith in Tudor Barnes & Nigel Yates (eds). Carmarthenshire Studies: Essays Presented to Major Francis Jones to mark his retirement as County Archivist. (Carmarthenshire C. C.). 1974.
Peter Smith. Houses of the Welsh Countryside: A Study in Historical Geography. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales. 1975.
John Wiles (RCAHMW) Site Description. 5th October 2007.
My thanks too to Michael Tree for telling about this gem of a house and for obtaining a fragment of it for me.
Finally my thanks to Dane Garrod for giving me permission to link to his article on the correspondence.
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