Don’t miss this unique experience with charming, talented, and interesting hosts.
Abbey-Cwm-Hir Hall is a Grade II listed Victorian country house built in gothic revival style in 1834 by Thomas Wilson. Its name comes from the former 12th century Cistercian abbey sited here. He purchased the 3000 acre estate and landscaped the grounds, choosing for the hall a steep south facing slope that overlooked the ruined abbey, the site of the grave of Llewellyn the Last. The abbey name means ‘Abbey of The Long Valley’.
Wilson used some of the abbey stones to build a garden wall. He went so far as to import trees from London to provide a mixed woodland on the estate. He then created a lake so the village would have water power for their sawmill. He spent so much money that he fell on financial hard times and emigrated to Australia where, after a time, he became Lord Mayor of Adelaide. Eventually the hall and grounds fell into a state of disrepair.
After some time the estate was purchased by the Phillips family who lived here for four generations. In 1869 they doubled the size of the house, re-inventing it as a Victorian gothic revival mansion. In 1894 a snooker room was added, overseen by Liverpool architects Poundley and Walker. The grounds and gardens were maintained during their residence. Unfortunately the woodland was not, and it became overgrown. Farms on the estate were sold off by the family.
Sometime between 1960-1990 the walled garden was ploughed over and became an overgrown field. The greenhouses (a heated peach house, melon house, three vineries, an unheated peach house, a cucumber house, a mushroom house and a free standing greenhouse) were removed, and eight mature Wellingtonia were chopped down. Sections of the Hall walls were seriously damaged by water leaks.
The hall and grounds remained in this poor condition until purchased by Paul and Victoria Humpherston in late 1997. It was instant love on their part for both the house and grounds, and they spent 10 years and their own funds restoring both. Lawns, terraces, four courtyards, a lake and a waterfall were restored and replanted. Undergrowth was cleared from the woodland, and paths were created for visitors to enjoy.
The 1.5 acre walled garden area proved too expensive to restore to its original form, so they created a newly designed garden consisting of more than 2000 trees, shrubs and flowers with a series of circular and rectangular beds fitted within the original stone and brick walls. If you visit between April and September roses and rhododendrons are in bloom. St Mary’s church can be seen from the grounds.
Tours of the Hall are conducted by the family or friends in a homey relaxing atmosphere. Visitors see all 52 rooms with their original architectural features, including the below stairs area and upper servants’ rooms. At Christmas, Valentine’s, and Easter all the rooms are decorated with individual themes appropriate to the holiday.
The house has gothic windows with carved stone surrounds, original cast iron down pipes and surrounds, 14 original marble fireplaces, wooden shutters, bell pulls and window catches. Rococo ceilings are on show, while above the main staircase and in the snooker room they are of stained glass. Furniture in the house is an eclectic mix. The floor of the main entrance hall is set off with Minton Hollis tiles.
In the former domestic rooms are 10 iron fireplaces, each of a different design. The larder, pantry and cellar areas still have their original slate slab surfaces. The seven cellar rooms have vaulted ceilings; one has pig salting slabs.
Victoria has used her considerable artistic talent throughout the house painting images onto existing wallpapers, decorating doors and embellishing friezes. Bathrooms and bedrooms are themed to both colour and content.
There are many collections in all the rooms as both Paul and Victoria are avid collectors—not just of antiques but of whatever takes their fancy. The collections range from clocks, phonographs, kitchen equipment, office machinery, china, and hats to a large collection of the Boys and Girls Adventure books in their original bindings in the library. In the entertainment room there are collections of enamel signs, packaging and tins.
A visit to Abbey-Cwm-Hir Hall is a unique experience and not to be missed.
Mid Wales and Brecon Beacons
10 miles north of Llandrindod Wells in countryside; accessed from A483 and A470 (signposted); .5 mile north of Crossgates; map on website; after turning off the main road, continue about four miles down a narrow quiet country road, with a turning over a village bridge, shortly after which the Hall appears on the right.
Tel. 0 1597 851 727
Open: year round, daily, by two hour tour only; tours start 10.30am and 2pm; tours must be prebooked by phone number above or by emailing Abbey Cwmhir Hall
Allow extra time if having refreshments and exploring the garden, grounds and woods. We suggest making a day of it.
Parking at the Hall; refreshments (small charge) are available at tour’s end; meals can be prebooked for groups
Web: Abbey Cwmhir Hall
Note: For photos of the Hall decorated for Christmas visit the website.
All text and photos © by Barbara Ballard
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