Plas Newydd x two

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Plas Newydd (or New Hall in English) overlooking the Menai Straits, Anglesey, where I lived for three months when training at HMS Conway.

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The site was originally occupied in the 13th century and was known as Llwyn-y-Moel, but by 1470 it was owned by the Griffith family, and they created a hall-house. Over the centuries through marriages, it became the home of the Marquis of Anglesey.

In 1533 Ellen Griffin married and she and her husband lived in Llwyn-y-Moel and their grand daughter married Lewis Bayly, and it was Lewis Bayly who renamed the property as Plas Newydd during renovations. Lewis Bayly’s grandson gained an Irish Baronetcy and became Baron of Plas Newydd and also Lord Lieutenant of Anglesey in 1761.

His son, Henry Bayly, born 1744, inherited the title of the 9th Baron Paget from a distant cousin, and later changed his name to Paget, because the title could not pass through the female line. He took over various estates in Staffordshire, and on his father’s death in 1782 he acquired a third Baronetcy and Plas Newydd and the Anglesey estate. He was made the Earle of Uxbridge and also became Lord Lieutenant of Anglesey in 1784.

Henry Bayly died in 1812 and his son Henry William took over and he became the Second Earl of Uxbridge. Henry William had raised a regiment in the 1790’s and was commissioned in the army in 1795. He fought in several campaigns and distinguished himself and became a Major General in 1802. In 1815 he was in command of the army’s cavalry and lead a charge during the battle of Waterloo.

Scotts Greys

Cavalry charge

The film ‘Waterloo’ concentrates on the Scotts Greys, rather than the whole of the heavy brigade. If you click on the above link and scroll down you’ll gain a better understanding of the heavy brigade.

As a reward for his skill and courage he was made Marquis of Anglesey. Unfortunately one of the last cannon balls fired by the French shattered his leg which necessitated amputation. He had a false leg created, which was the world’s first articulated prosthetic leg made from wood – he had several for different functions -walking, dancing, riding etc – well you would wouldn’t you . . . .

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The original prosthetic leg – photo from the internet.

Henry William died in 1841.

During the 1930’s Rex Whistler was a frequent visitor to Plas Newydd where he painted the large mural in the dining room. Well worth a visit.

Rex_Whistler_-_Dining_Room_Mural_-_Capriccio_-_Plas_Newydd It is painted trompe-l’oeil, which means that the scene changes as you walk the length of the painting.
I first saw this painting at a cost of 6d in 1960, when I was a Conway cadet, and I have never forgotten the thrill of seeing such a painting.
In the centre of the picture are steps leading down to the water and it is up these steps that Neptune is supposed to have climbed, and if you are on the left of the picture the wet footprints come towards you from the top of the steps – move to the right side of the picture you will see the footprints still coming towards you, although you would expect them to point to the left, away from you.

Rex Whistler volunteered for service at the outbreak of WW2, but was killed on the  18th July, 1944, in Normandy – he was an officer and tank commander in the Welsh Guards.

Don’t get Plas Newydd Anglesey mixed up with Plas Newydd, Llangollen.

Plas_Newydd,_near_Llangollen_-_the_seat_of_the_late_Lady_Eleanor_Butler_and_Miss_Ponsonby_(1132208)Plas Newydd, Llangollen, about 1840
In the picture the house retained the Gothic features that the two ladies introduced.

The home is famous for two ladies of Llangollen, Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby, who lived there from 1780 – 1829. They became celebrated throughout the country as the story of their friendship spread through Regency Society. They were known as the most celebrated virgins in Europe.

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They both met in Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1768 – Sarah was an orphan, whilst Eleanor was the daughter of Walter Butler, owner of Kilkenny Castle. Eleanor was clever and bookish, but she was 39 and had passed the point of getting married. Her father was trying to get her to join a convent, which would keep everything tidy for the family, because her brother had married well, as had her sister.

In the meantime twenty three year old Sarah was receiving the unwanted amorous attentions of her guardian, Sir William Fownes. Sir William’s wife Betty was still alive, but not in the best of health. Sarah could see that Sir William was waiting his time out to make Sarah the second Lady Fownes, only she didn’t want to have anything to do with Sir William.

The two single women turned to one another for support, and hatched a plan to escape from Ireland. It was all very cloak and dagger, with Eleanor and Sarah dressing in men’s clothing, and armed with a pistol, and Sarah’s dog, climbed through a window to flee Ireland, via the Waterford ferry to England. Two days later, both women were caught.

Eventually the Fownes family gave in and allowed Sarah to join Eleanor and they both left for Wales.

While they were searching for the right place for them both to retire, so as to paint and write, they heard that Sir William had become ill and died of ‘strangulation of the stomach’ followed by a stroke.

They lived together at Plas Newydd, Llangollen, for fifty years and became the centre of a fashionable place to visit.

Some of the more famous people who came to stay –

Duke of wellingtonDuke of Wellington

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Lady Caroline Lamb – the novelist and lover of Byron, even though she was married to another man.

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 Josiah Wedgwood – potter and anti-slaver Official_medallion_of_the_British_Anti-Slavery_Society_(1795)

Wedgwood produced the medallion ‘Am I not a man’ in support of William Wilberforce’s campaign against slavery.

William_Wordsworth_at_28_by_William_Shuter2

William Wordsworth

and many other well known people.

After the ladies died the house was owned by several different people including a General John Yorke who altered it somewhat, to what it looks like today.

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In 1932 the house was taken over by Llangollen Council.

Wales – land of my mother

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I’ve always loved North & Mid Wales, perhaps because my mother was Welsh and only when the family moved from Caernarvon (Carnarfon to be PC) to Birkenhead, when she was thirteen, did she start to learn English. When my mother spoke of the move she would comment that she moved to England, which sounded strange to me as a child, because Caernarfon was only about eighty miles from Birkenhead, but it is in England so I suppose she was correct.

When Mum wanted to tell her sisters anything that I shouldn’t hear, it was always in Welsh, which was very convenient for them because they never had to whisper.

My grandfather had a butcher’s shop just off the Castle Square at 17, Pool St, which is now a branch of the Lloyds Bank

Lloyd and funny enough at 16 Pool St across the road is

Jones Dafid Wynn Jones the butcher!

It passed through my mind that perhaps the family lived across the road from their butcher shop, but I think it more likely that they would have lived over the shop, because I doubt that they were rich enough to have owned two properties, or even to have rented two properties.

My grandfather’s problem was that he had four daughters – my mother, born in 1909 was the youngest – but he didn’t have a son to take over the butchery shop. In the early part of the twentieth century, and living in Wales, daughters did not run or own a butchers shops. His other problem was his generosity – he allowed his customers to run up bills, because they were his friends, and as one would expect there came a time when his friends couldn’t pay for one reason or another. The mixture of poor payers and the lack of a male to carry on with the business was all too much, so the family ’emigrated’ to England.

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Castle Square around 1900

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Castle Square a hundred years later.

A short while before moving to England my mother’s eldest sister married a local man, so we always had a place to stay when on holiday.

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In the 1950’s I was old enough to be let out on my own and I spent hours in and around the castle. I became so well known at the castle that they gave me the same concession as a local – I was allowed in for nothing.
Later in life I revisited the castle, once in 2004 & again in 2008, (I paid each time) and I was very pleased to see that a lot of care and attention had been spent on the inside of the castle, because now it had become a major tourist attraction. Perhaps the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969 had helped create the demand. There have been two investitures in Caernarfon castle in the twentieth century, 1911 and 1969.

As a child the other attraction for me was swimming across the Aber River or this is what I thought the river was called. Later I found out that the river is called Seiont River and ‘aber’ is a Welsh word that means ‘river mouth’ in English, and for years I thought I’d swam the Aber River – we live an learn.

Swing bridgeThe old bridge that I used to cross the river and sometimes swim under when the tide was right.

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The new bridge installed in 1969

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All our yesterdays – I would dive in to the river from about this point and swim across to the trees – I could do it at ten, but I doubt that I’d do it now – too far.

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The red car is near where I was standing in the previous photo.

The first picture in this blog is of the Welsh flag flying over Harlech Castle, which is in mid-Wales. You can just see the sea, which used to lap the bottom of the battlements.

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It is now a long way from the sea. During a siege the castle was supplied by sea.

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The castle can just be seen – I had my back to the start of the sand hills, the sea was further away again from the sand hills.

Men of Harlech the original was as a poem, which was later set to music. In the film Zulu the song that the British (Welsh) soldiers sang was written especially for the film.

Rick Rescorla check this link for something different linked to the music of Men of Harlech and the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York.

To drive from the mainland to Anglesey we would have to cross the Menai Straits.

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P5131829rBuilt by Telford and opened in 1826

Holiday 049rWhat ever the weather I never get tired of the scenery in Wales.

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I did manage to swim the Straits a couple of times, to the house on the other side, and back again, all in one go. At sixteen it seemed a good idea – I slept well that night.

The photo was taken from the Marquis of Anglesey’s home on the Anglesey side of the Straits.

As a child, North Wales was more than castles, bridges or swimming in rivers it meant Gronant, and beaches, where the sun always shined, the sand was clean and the water was warm.

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The boy on the left is yours truly abut 1953, my best mate, John, was three years older than me, but the age difference never bothered us, and we stayed friends for over sixty years – he died a couple of years ago.

We’d never heard of ‘flop flops’, you either had sandals or you went bare foot.

Gronant 1Try peddling these things across grass . . .

Gronant 3

I told you the water was warm . . . me on the right.

The accommodation at Rainford’s Holiday park was a wooden bungalow, which didn’t have running water or an indoor toilet. John and I had the job of keeping two large buckets full of fresh water for the kitchen which we hauled from a central tap. The public toilets were ‘dry’ toilets, so you only visited this area of the camp when you had to  . . ..

We spent a fortnight of living in shorts and running bare foot everywhere everyday unless we went in to Prestatyn for a knickerbocker glory.

knickerbockerglory_bluesmThe treat of the holiday, cost was 1/- when I first went to Prestatyn, (which was expensive, so it was a great treat), but over the  years the price grew to 2/6d by 1958, which, I think, was my last visit to this ice cream shop and my last visit to Gronant.

The whole experience of Gronant was the creation of great memories – we didn’t even have a radio never mind an iPad, smart phone, DVD player etc and our amusement from dawn to dusk was self created using twigs as guns for cowboys and indians and going mad by spending 6d for a bamboo poll with a net on the end so as to fish in the gully that ran from the shore to the sea. With hindsight we were fortunate in not catching anything, other than stings from nettles.