11 August 2010

Yet another hidden treasure

I sat down this afternoon with every good intention of doing the accounts when my inbox beeped at me and I discovered an e-mail from a Plasite.  I must first of all thank those of you who e-mailed and commented with information about the kitchen garden - I'm now gradually able to piece together the fascinating history of Plas y Nant and thought I'd share with those of you don't know it a little bit more. 

Now, the Plasite who's just e-mailed me reminded me of something which I had forgotten to mention in my last post about the Secret Garden.  I'm surprised I forgot actually as it's located at the point where I catapulted down the steps and I did have to pause there for quite a while to regain my composure! There had once been a bench there as well, apparently for amorous couples, which I would have found very handy at the time to sit and recover. Anyway, I'd best get on with this before I forget to mention it again in my ramblings.  

Just as we were about to fight our way through the brambles into the old building we noticed a long plaque, like a memorial stone, on the side of the wall set into a recess. My first thought was that the building was some kind of tomb and was determined that I wasn't going in - I've read about the Curse of Tutankhamun and, coincidently, that involved Lord Caernarfon - and Betws Garmon isn't far from Caernarfon you know. Well, no-one seemed to be taking any notice of my furtive imagination and so we went over to read the plaque. It was very worn and cracked but appeared to have an inscription in Latin, Welsh and English which read "In this tranquil retreat lived John Rowlands, in sweet oblivion and blissful balm. He obtained quiet from the cares of life, as also did his wife Frances. In the year 1671 he erected this house and place of rest". Well after reading this I had to find out more so after our exploration around what turned out not to be a tomb and our return home I carried out a bit of research on the internet. What I discovered, and this has since been confirmed by one of my Plasites, is that John Rowlands built a house in 1671 on the site of the current Plas y Nant. This was later extended in the early nineteenth century by Sir Robert Williams JP, who was a Magistrate in the County of Caernarfon. Then a Rev John Parry came along, bought it, pulled it down and built the current Plas y Nant in the late 1800s. What I now would like to find is a picture of what the original house pre John Parry looked like, but I don't think there's much hope of that.

I would like to think, though, that our future guests, like John Rowlands, will enjoy the tranquil retreat in sweet oblivion and blissful balm and obtain quiet from the cares of life.


  1. Hello Michelle, I worked at plas from october 1967 to March 1973, there were lots of old building off what was known as the 'back drive'. One I was told had been a smithy, their were garden sheds and a large lean to victorian greenhouse which at the time i was there had a couple of large & very productive grape vines. The large brass bell (if still outside at the back of the house) belonged to an old sailing ship belonging to the people who owned the house until the 1920's when the C.E bought it. ( this info i had from a relative of the family who visited there as a child and came to plas while I was there.) In the woods at the top of the main drive (opposite what was the kitchen - i worked their as cook) has hundreds of snowdrops planted by this family to spell out their name. There was an old water colour painting by the clergyman who owned the house in the early 1800's it was dated 1805 and showed the house from the road, it looked very much as it does now except there was no pebble dash only the old original stone structure, auntie lena still had the picture in the house when i left, but is have no idea what became of it. Hope this helps you, by maureen

  2. Many thanks Maureen for taking the time to comment, it's wonderful to receive information from people who knew Plas y Nant in it's previous life. When we bought the place the bell was no longer there and neither was the painting of the old house unfortunately - that would have been lovely to have had. I'm hoping to resurrect the kitchen garden, if I get grape vines growing again we could produce Plas y Nant wine!

  3. Hi

    I first wenjt to Plas in 1964 with a group of lads from our church. It was there that I met Pauline who I married in 1969 (I wasn't the only one who found love at Plas!)In 1965 as a student traing for the Baptist ministry I spent the summer helping Owen Roberts who was the gardener and who lived in the cottage at the bottom of the drive with his wife Blodwyn. For the next three summers I worked as an excursion leader and got great experience speaking a the services and meetings that were part of the Christian holiday. Pauline and I called in a few years ago and were thrilled tosee the plaques to Auntie Lena in The Rec (as the chapel was called) and on "Rapture Heights!" We shed a few tears and were saddened that the place then seemed to be rather run down. Plas holds wonderful memories and I wish you every success in your venture.
    Best wishes
    Jim Hamilton

  4. Thanks Jim for your good wishes and for adding a little bit more to the history of Plas y Nant. Hopefully you'll come back when we're up and running and I look forward to welcoming you there and showing you round the "new" Plas y Nant.

  5. Jill Ryan Browne6 April 2011 at 20:22

    Hello Michelle and all Plasites!
    I did send an email a few months ago,but I think it must have got lost in your 'move'.
    I'm excited and moved to read about all the great works you're planning, and I hope it all comes to fruition. Poor old Plas became so sad and neglected - but is still a place of golden memories for many of us. My parents - Don and Margaret Ryan - met at Plas and married in 1953.
    I've just logged on in an idle moment, and was delighted to read the one from Maureen the cook! I was a casual member of the domestic staff in my school and college holidays for a number of years in the early 1970s, and remember Maureen well - I still have a number of recipes copied from her book. Plas Y Pud is one...made up of all the leftover cakes (home-made of course) from the previous week or too, served hot with custard. And I remember Jim Hamilton as an excursion leader too. I won't write any more just now, but would love to keep in touch!