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the story of St Collen the story of St Tysilio

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Places

Valle Crucis Abbey Valle Crucis Abbey

Valle Crucis Abbey was founded in 1200. Madoc ap Gruffydd gave the township of Llynegwestl to the monks of Strata Marcella to build the Abbey. Because the Cistercians preferred isolation the existing inhabitants were re-located to Stansty and Northolt, 10 miles to the north east.

Valle Crucis is Latin for Valley of the Cross. The name derives from the nearby Eliseg’s Pillar, which was erected as a cross in the first half of the 9th century.

Valle Crucis Abbey prospered for 300 years, but by the latter part of the 15th century the monasteries were fast losing their commanding position in society. The story of decline was a long one, but the final fall came suddenly with Henry VIIIs dissolution of the monasteries. Valle Crucis was one of the first to be suppressed in Wales, being dissolved in 1536.

Having passed through several owners, the Abbey was purchased by John Trevor of Trevor Hall around 1663. It passed down the Trevor family to Mary, his great great granddaughter. She converted the Chapter House into a dwelling. From this time on the Abbey was rented out as a farm. Passed down through the Lloyd family before being sold to Mr Lloyd Jones of London in 1947, it passed into the care of the Ministry of Works in 1951 and is now looked after by Cadw.

 

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Dinas Brân Castle Dinas Brân Castle

The hill on which the ruins of Dinas Brân now stand was occupied in very early times. Four bronze axe heads found on the slopes, and the earthworks of a prehistoric hill fort around the ruins, point to ancient occupation of this natural stronghold.

Different authors ascribe different dates to the stone ruins that remain today. It seems most likely, however, that the castle was built by Gruffydd ap Madoc, Prince of Powys, sometime before his death in 1269.

The impressive stone fortress had a very short active life. In 1277, Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, lay siege to the castle and the Welsh, realising their hopeless cause, set fire to Dinas Brân.

The ruins of Dinas Brân have attracted tourists for over a century. At the end of the 19th century, a ‘camera obscura’ was built in the ruins to take advantage of the height of the hill and the views it afforded. In the middle of the 20th century there was even a shop on the summit, with the supplies carried up by donkey.

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Llangollen Bridge Llangollen Bridge

There are references to a bridge at Llangollen as far back as 1284 but the first stone bridge was built by John Trevor, the Bishop of St Asaph in 1345.

Rebuilding took place in 1656, and a stone with this date and the name of the stone mason, Rondle Reade, was found during a later bridge widening. The downstream side of the bridge is unaltered since the 15th century but the bridge has been widened twice on the upstream side.

In 1871 a census recorded 6585 people, 298 horses, 129 waggons, 92 carts and 79 cattle using this 8 foot wide bridge – sufficient evidence of chaos to justify the 1873 widening! In 1863 the symmetry of the arches had been spoilt by the addition of the railway arch and, during this work, pieces of tombstones with Latin inscriptions were found, thought to have come from Valle Crucis Abbey. The widening in 1968 was due to traffic congestion.

Llangollen’s bridge is regarded as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Wales’:

“Pistyll Rhyadr and Wrexham Steeple,
Snowdon’s Mountain without its people,
Overton yew trees, St Winefride’s Wells,
Llangollen Bridge and Gresford bells”.

 

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Plas Newydd Plas Newydd

Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby moved into the small stone cottage of Pen y Maes in 1780, having run away from their families in Ireland two years previously.

Re-naming it Plas Newydd (New Hall) they made extensive improvements to the house and created new gardens. The ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ finally purchased the house in 1819 and went on to live there until their deaths in 1829 and 1831.

Over the years they became known for their eccentricity, preferring always to dress in dark riding habits, and played host to many famous people, including the Duke of Wellington, Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth.

After the death of the Ladies Plas Newydd was purchased by another two spinsters, Amelia Lolley and Charlotte Andrew, who attempted to emulate the Ladies’ lifestyle. In 1861 Plas Newydd was bought by Mrs Robina Couran who owned it for 15 years before selling it to Richard Lloyd Williams of Denbigh, who in turn sold it a few months later to General John Yorke. General Yorke added the black and white timbering, built a new west wing and opened the older rooms to the public. On his death in 1890 Plas Newydd was sold by auction and passed through a number of owners until it was bought by Llangollen Urban District Council in 1933 who opened it to the public.

In 1963 The Council demolished the east and west wings, leaving Plas Newydd the same size as when occupied by the Ladies. Today it is owned by Denbighshire County Council and continues to be open to the public.

 

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Llantysilio Hall Llantysilio Hall

Thomas Pennant, in his tour of 1773, refers to the House of Llantysilio as being the seat of Thomas Jones and in 1750 and again in 1792 we find that Thomas Jones of Llantysilio Hall was the Sheriff of Denbighshire. Pennant says that the “previous possessors were the Cupers or Cuppers – styled even so early as the time of Henry II the ancient Cuppers of the north”.

Thomas Cupper purchased the estate and built the original Hall at the beginning of the 18th century, and his daughter and sole heiress conveyed it to the Jones family by marriage with Thomas Jones, then of the county of Montgomery. Thomas Jones’ son and grandson, both also called Thomas, continued to own the estate, with the last Thomas Jones dying in 1820 leaving no will. The Hall, a “large brick building” passed to a Major Harrison who had proved his case to inherit and spent the next seven years fighting challenges to his claim.

In 1822 the housekeeper of the vicar of Oswestry dreamt that the will of Thomas Jones had been buried with him. Because of this dream a party of seven or eight people, including a lawyer and a surgeon, broke into the tomb and opened the coffin, although it would appear that the will was not found.

In 1873, Charles Frederick Beyer, who had purchased the Hall in 1867, constructed a new building of Ashlar stone and, in 1875, demolished the old Hall. He left the Hall to his godson, Sir Henry Beyer Robertson, and the house remained in the Robertson family until the late 20th century. During the Second World War Llantysilio Hall formed the Junior School for Moreton Hall School, catering for girls between the ages of 6 and 13.

 

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Bryntysilio Bryntysilio

Originally a small cottage called Braich y Gwynt, in 1865 Bryntysilio was bought by Sir Theodore and Lady Martin. The house was greatly enlarged, the work being completed in 1870. In 1889, Queen Victoria, a good friend of the Martins, took tea at Bryntysilio when she visited Llangollen.

Occupied by the military in the Second World War the house was afterwards restored, but much reduced in size by Mr Sydney Aston before being later sold to Walsall Education Authority as an outdoor education centre.

 

Trevor Hall

The current Trevor Hall was built in 1743, but occupies a much more ancient site which was the home of John Trevor, builder of Llangollen Bridge. Constructed of brick, the south front is a modernisation of the much earlier house, built entirely of stone.

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Chain Bridge Chain Bridge

The first Chain Bridge was constructed in 1814 by Exuperius Pickering in order to take his coal across the river for delivery to Corwen and Bala.

In 1870 the bridge was re-built following damage by heavy flooding. Further heavy flooding in 1928 piled up trees against the bridge and the whole structure was washed away.

In 1929 Henry Robertson built the suspension bridge that still remains.

 

Plas yn Pentre Plas yn Pentre

Plas yn Pentre was a Grange belonging to Valle Crucis Abbey. In a survey of 1291 it is described as:- The Grange near the monastery, three ploughlands, mills and other conveniences.

On the dissolution of Valle Crucis Abbey in 1536 Plas yn Pentre came into the possession of the High Sheriff of Denbighshire, Ieuan Edwards. His grandson partially re-built the house in 1634 and his initials and the date can be seen carved into the exterior of the west gable.

In 1834 the house was bought by the Reverend T. Whitwell Rogers and it was during his ownership that some loose boards in the floor disclosed three pieces of sculptured alabaster, two of which fitted together. These two pieces show a scene of the crucifixion and the other was described as ‘a scene in the life of St Arthmael, a south Wales saint’. It is thought that the alabaster scenes were taken by the first Ieuan Edwards from the abbey after the dissolution.

 

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Plas Uchaf Plas Uchaf

There are many stories associated with Plas Uchaf (Highest Hall), and much history. The oldest legend associated with the house is that of Owain and Nest. Owain, Prince of Powys at the beginning of the 12th century, became infatuated with his cousin Nest, who was married to Gerald, steward of Pembroke castle. Having heard of the beauty of Nest, Owain visited her at Pembroke castle on the pretext of kinship. He returned, however, the same night and set fire to the castle. Nest made her husband escape through the privy hole, but she was captured by Owain, along with her children, taken to Powys and hidden at his hunting lodge at the site of Plas Uchaf. The kidnap is reported in contemporary documents, but no mention of a hunting lodge is made, simply that Owain returned to Powys.

Most of the manor is of Tudor and Elizabethan construction. It is, however, possible that some parts of the house are older, possibly dating back to the 14th century. There is speculation that the site was occupied back in Roman times, although the only evidence for this was the discovery of a possible Roman floor tile in peat dug nearby. A later known occupant of Plas Uchaf was Colonel John Jones, who’s second marriage was to the sister of Oliver Cromwell. Until about 1904 a picture of Oliver Cromwell hung in the hallway at Plas Uchaf.

W. Watkin Davies recorded in 1930 that there was an inscription over the door stating that “the manor was inherited by the princes of Powys in 1073 from Bleddyn, King of Gwynedd”. The inscription is not genuine, however as it was put there by Thomas Jones of Plas Llanerchrugog who purchased the house towards the end of the 19th century.

 

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Dinbren Hall

Dinbren Hall occupies a splendid location half way up the hill. Indeed, it is possible that the name Dinbren, referred to in some of the early records from 1626 as Tynbrin (Ty yn Bryn = House in/on a Hill), is derived from the location of the manor of this estate. Another possible source is that the name is compressed from Dinas and Br�n, coming from the nearby castle.

In the 17th century, many of the properties in Dinbren were owned by the Wynnstay Estate. Over the next 200 years a number of these were acquired by Dinbren Hall and the estate grew. In the latter half of the 18th century the estate was owned by David Roberts, being sold to Richard Jones in the 1800s. Richard Jones was a man of independent means who lived in the Hall with his wife Emma and three servants.

The present Hall, a two storey Georgian country house, has a date of 1793 and was built on the site of an earlier house, part of which was incorporated into the later building until the house was reduced in size in the late 1950s.

 

Ty'n Dwr Hall

Ty'n Dwr Hall was built in the 1860s by John Dickin on land once belonging to the old Pengwern Hall estate. It has in the grounds what is considered to be the largest yew tree in Wales. The small cottage next to the Hall pre-dates it and was visited by George Borrow in 1854, when he remarked upon the nearby yew tree.

How long people have lived on the site of Ty'n Dwr is not clear, but a well in the cellar of the hall is much older and is said to date from Saxon times. Ty'n Dwr has for the last forty years or so been a youth hostel owned by the YHA.

 

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Plas yn Vivod

There has been a house on the site of Plas yn Vivod since at least the early 18th century and maybe before. Some re-building was done in the early 1800s by the Ellerton family but the current building mainly dates from the 1850s or early 1860s, with considerable enlargement and remodelling in 1871 by W.J. Green for William Wagstaff.

Further additions and alterations were made in 1906-10 by R.T. Beckett for the Best family, who were descendants of the Wagstaffs. The Best family continue to occupy Plas yn Vivid today.

For many years Plas yn Vivod was home to the Vale of Llangollen sheepdog trials (see photo), now moved to a new venue at Llandyn.

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