Monday, 18 September 2017

A Visit to Treholford House and Gardens

It's Brecknock History Festival this month, and the theme is The Houses and Estates of Brecknockshire - which is why Treholford House was open to the public on Saturday. A friend asked me if I'd like to go with her to see it.

It's a beautiful building - the part to the right is older, with the rounded middle and the rest of that wing added in 1837. The views of Llangorse Lake (which is part of the 3,000 acre estate) are gorgeous. It's also very obviously a family home, so it was very generous of them to let visitors in to wander everywhere - especially as some of the carpets are white, and they'll need a good clean now! Upstairs there are several school photos of boys of the family at Malvern College.
We also noticed that one of the Blackham family is a talented cross stitcher - there are several framed embroideries around the house, including a fine pair in the library of Nefertiti and Tutankhamun on a dark blue background with gold thread.
There was a lot of historical information laid out (on what is probably a Jacobean table) in the library, including Victorian family albums and reports of the big estate sale in 1919. At that time Treholford was part of the Buckland estate, which covered 30,000 acres! The death of the owner, JPW Gwynne Holford, meant the break up of the estate into smaller units.
We spent a lot of time looking round the house and gardens - although there are only two main phases to the building of the house, it was still quite complex to unravel, and there are supposed to be 17thC elements hidden within the older part of the house. We counted 20 chimneys when we were standing at the back of the walled garden (you could see in the walled garden from the house, but it wasn't open to walk round). It must be wonderful to wake up in that master bedroom to that amazing view of the lake (my friend said she'd move the bed to see it better), and then descend into the en suite bathroom (three or four steps down). What we presumed to be the mistress bedroom had only a wash basin, but it may have been installed in the 1920s, by the style of it, so would have been the height of comfort then. We did wonder where the original fireplaces were, though - those big rooms with big windows must have got chilly in winter, and there's no sign of them now, unless they were behind the big wardrobes.
We saw the sliding doors of the carriage house (now a garage) and tracked down the stables in the garden outbuildings just up the hill. Further up is an orchard, and there's also a walled garden, which is listed. We noticed drainage, and gullies in the garden - it must get quite wet in winter.
And there was also cake, and tea, provided by the members of the Llyn Syfaddan History Group, who are raising money to fund a volunteer dig at nearby Blaenllynfi Castle. Llyn Syfaddan is the Welsh name for Llangorse Lake.
Among the historical information were mentions of other places of interest in the area, which all seemed to have been part of the Buckland estate. If my friend had been on her own, she would probably have come home, but since we were together, we decided to go on and search out some of the other places in the area that we'd seen mentioned.
First was Cathedine Church, just at the bottom of the drive. It was interesting that two of the houses next to it were called The Towers and Tower House, though we couldn't see a tower. We managed to find a place to pull in to park - sadly for the church, there seems to be no place for cars to park to get to it. Someone is still maintaining the churchyard - the paths were mown, but the latest grave there we could see was dated 2003, and someone had chalked "Please Help Save Our Church" on the front step.
The church looks as if it is all one, Victorian, build, until you get round the far side and see the remains of an older wall sticking out from the tower. Some of the graves are older than the church building, too - this was the earliest one we saw:

Sorry it's sideways!

Then we explored the back lanes, looking for Blaenllynfi castle. Finding houses called Blaenllynfi Cottage and Castle Cottage, we stopped - and trespassed in a neighbouring garden to inspect what looked like a small motte. However, looking it up online later, I found that the main castle, which includes quite a bit of stonework, is actually in the woods - which we couldn't get to - and the boggy area we could see from the mound is probably the medieval fish ponds!

So then we decided to try to find Penkelly Castle (as it was spelled in the 18thC picture we saw earlier). This is in the village of Pencelli, near Talybont - and it's now a caravan and camping park! There was a picture of the original castle, which was quite substantial, in the reception area. The lady there was very helpful and told us where the castle ditch was - it's still very deep, and part of it was used for the canal when they were building it in the 18th century. That's when most of the remaining stonework was taken down and used elsewhere, too. And this was the chapel of the castle, St Leonard's, which was later converted into a house:

Pencelli Castle Caravan and Camping Park has a website at, and it looks to be a well-run site - they had signs up saying they'd won awards for their clean loos! The barns by the house were full of vintage farm carts and tractors, too.

So we did quite a bit of exploring in the end, and had a lot of fun.

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