Plas Gwynfryn, Gwynedd, May 2012

Author Zero81 - Last updated: 20.08.2012

Plas Gwynfryn, Gwynedd

The grade-II listed Plas Gwynfryn is another of the many Welsh country houses built to serve the minor gentry, with their increased wealth from the Victorian industrial boom. The estate had been inherited from a childless uncle by Owen Jones Ellis-Nanney in 1819, and he hugely increased the size of his lands by purchasing the neighbouring Plas Hen estate.

On his death it passed to his son, Hugh John Ellis-Nanney. Having been educated at Eton and Oxford and, on his 21st birthday, now owner of a huge estate, Hugh was the epitome of the eligible bachelor and wanted a house to reflect his status.

The old house was demolished in 1866 and the new house was completed by 1876 at the then astronomical cost of £70,000 (approximately £3m in today’s money). The design, by architect George Williams, was regarded as very fashionable to the extent that the house was featured in ‘The Builder’ magazine in June 1877.

Hugh was very active in local politics and in 1895 almost beat the local Liberal candidate, the future Prime Minister David Lloyd George, losing by only 194 votes. Almost by way of consolation Hugh was given a baronetcy and happily lived out his days at Plas Gwynfryn, dying in 1925, with his wife following in 1928.

As their only son had died aged just eight, the house was inherited by their daughter who moved out to Plas Hen. The house was then let to the Church of Wales before being sold off in 1959 when the estate was broken up.

It then became a hospital and then a hotel before a mysterious fire entirely gutted it in 1982. Since then it has stood as an empty shell, slowly deteriorating, and is now in serious danger of collapse with the tower a particular risk. Almost no work has been done on the house except for a brief period when a conservation-minded squatter moved in and started work.

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