PLAS NEWYDD

In 1918 Plas Newydd was sold to the approval of locals. However, within months its historical contents were sold at auction.

Plas Newyd 1 - The Sketch 15 Apr 1903 (BNA)
Plas Newydd had many occupants after the Ladies of Llangollen. It was for a time the residence of two other maiden ladies and afterwards, until 1890, was in the possession of General Yorke, who added a wing and made many alterations. (The British Newspaper Archive).

One hundred years ago, The Liverpool Daily Post reported on the sale of Plas Newydd, the one-time home of the famous ‘Ladies of Llangollen’. Mrs Thomas Wilson of Riseholm Hall, Lincolnshire, had bought Plas Newydd, with all its interesting art treasures, in 1910. She had sold it to Mr George Harrison of Bryntisilio, once the summer residence of Sir Theodoro and Lady Martin, and Liverpool. “In Mr Harrison’s hands it is felt that Wordsworth’s ‘Low-roofed cot by Deva’s Stream,’ as he described Plas Newyd, and Browning’s ‘House beautiful’ of Bryntisilio are in safekeeping.”

However, things weren’t not quite what they seemed. In June it was reported that the house and its contents were going to be sold. “The fine old oak collected with such rare taste by ‘the ladies’ to adorn their home is unique; and included in the collection now to be dispersed, are memorials of the great Duke of Wellington, Madame de Senlis, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Southey, Wordsworth, and many other famous personages, with whom the ladies were contemporaneous”.

The Sketch - 15 Apr 1903 (BNA)
It is scarcely a matter of wonder that two ladies of such divided originality, in days when the female sex generally entertained no views on woman’s rights or emancipation, became quite a power in the little village of Llangollen. (The British Newspaper Archive).

The ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ were Lady Eleanor Butler (1745-1829), a sister of the 17th Earl of Ormonde, and Miss Sarah Ponsonby (1735-1831). About 1776, discontented with their life in Ireland, decided to take fate in their own hands and moved to Llangollen. They occupied a small four-roomed cottage called Pen-y-Mae which they enlarged and renamed Plas Newydd. With a fine taste in art and decoration it was transformed into a dwelling that people flocked to see from far and wide.

Plas Newydd (History Ireland)
The original cottage called Pen-y-Mae, later enlarged to become Plas Newydd. (History Ireland).
Plas Newyd 1 - The Sketch 27 Sep 1893 (BNA)
General Yorke spent thousands of pounds and spared nothing that would add to its charm and quaintness. After his death the property came into the possession of Mr G.H. Robertson, a wealthy Liverpool merchant, and later Mrs Thomas Wilson . (The British Newspaper Archive).
Liverpool Echo 7 June 1918 (BNA)
The LIverpool Echo. 7 June 1918. (The British Newspaper Archive).

At the 1918 auction the house was submitted and withdrawn at £5,250. The sale of the treasures realised about £10,000 after the six day sale. A movement was started to guarantee the retention of the house as a public property and it was thought that about £8,000 would be sufficient. However, in 1919 Plas Newydd was bought by Mr Duveen of London and Liverpool.

This turned out to be Lord Duveen of Millbank who lived his whole life in art and was known as the ‘King of Galleries’. He built the Duveen Gallery of the British Museum to house the Elgin Marbles and a major extension to the Tate Gallery. His ownership of Plas Newydd was brief. Within twelve months it had been sold to the Right Hon George Montagu Bennet, 7th Earl of Tankerville, who handed it over in perpetuity to Llangollen Town Council (after it had borrowed £3,350 from the Ministry of Health) in 1932. Today it is run as a museum by Denbighshire County Council.

Plas Newyd - The Sketch 15 Apr 1903 (BNA)
The ladies filled the small rooms to overflowing, the dining-room, the library, the drawing-room, and the bed-room, which, of course, the friends shared. (The British Newspaper Archive).
Plas Newyd 2 - The Sketch 15 Apr 1903 (BNA)
One of the richly furnished rooms in 1903. The ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ lived at Plas Newydd for fifty years. “There is not one point to distinguish them from men; the dressing and powdering of their hair; their well-starched neckcloths, the upper part of their habits, which they always wear, made precisely like men’s coats…” (The British Newspaper Archive).
Plas Newydd (Geograph-Gwynfryn)
Plas Newydd, Llangollen. The original cottage was expanded by the ladies, and then again by subsequent owners. It is now restored to essentially the same structure left by the ladies. Its most unusual feature are the pieces of reclaimed oak carvings set out in patchwork style on the exterior of the house. The modern-day house looks remarkably different from the one shown in earlier photographs.(Geograph/Gwynfryn).

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