Copy of a booklet sent by Major and Mrs. E. Mirylees (Mrs. Mirylees being a descendant of Sir Thomas Powell through his daughter):- received Dec. 1964
“Nanteos lies in the lovely wooded Paith Valley about three miles South-East of Aberystwyth between the roads to Devil’s Bridge and to Trawscoed. The view from the latter road is particularly fine.
Traditionally the place is linked with the nightingale, hence the name Nant Eos or brook of the nightingale. The birds were reputed to have sung in the trees bordering a brook which flows past the mansion. Unfortunately, no one within living memory has seen or heard a nightingale in this district.
It is generally accepted that from time immemorial there has been a house or houses on or in the vicinity of the present site of Nanteos mansion, and that several families have resided there.
In modern times Nanteos has always been associated with the distinguished Powell family, which claimed descent from Edwin ap Gronw, Prince of Tegaingl, the founder of the 13th noble tribe of North Wales and Powis. They lived for centuries at nearby Liechwedd Dirus, and acquired Nanteos by marriage at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
During the seventeenth century the former mansion of Nanteos was occupied by the Jones family. This family produced the famous Colonel John Jones, who raised the Cardiganshire militia in support of King Charles I during the Civil War. He helped to defend Aberystwyth Castle against the Roundheads yet, curiously enough, subsequently assisted at its reduction. He remained an ardent monarchist to the end of his life and suffered imprisonment and severe fines for his opposition to the Commonwealth regime. It can only be assumed that his part in the capture of the castle would only have been in order to pay off some personal score.
Colonel Jones had no sons and he was succeeded at Nanteos by his daughter Anne. She married a very remarkable personage, Cornelius Le Brun, and this union was later to bring considerable wealth and property to the Powell family.
The mansion presents a somewhat severe and forbidding exterior being typical of the style of country houses built in the mid-Georgian period, square and unromantic, with southern frontage. At a later date wings were added to the east ends. This from a purely aesthetic point of view tends to impair the architectural symmetry so much sought after by the Georgian builders.
Nevertheless, the house , out-buildings and stable yard, comprising one unit, is a particularly fine example of the period. Unfortunately, there is no record of the architect’s name.
The stable-yard and building are attributed to Cockerill, who designed many similar structures in the eighteenth century. The entrance to the yard is perhaps one of the most pleasing features, presenting a lovely façade in the Roman style, including a graceful arch surmounted by an equestrian statue. Sad to relate the arch is just a shade too low to permit the modern hauler’s large vehicles to enter.
Like other old century houses, Nanteos is also reputed to be haunted and to have its ghost, which takes the form of a lady dressed in grey, descending the staircase from the gallery to the hall. She is said to be looking for her jewels, which she had hidden shortly before her death. But, as many generations of Powell’s and others have carried out fairly exhaustive searches for these jewels without success, it is felt that the poor spirit might just as well rest in peace. A portrait of this lady hangs in the dinning room together with other Powell’s, their wives and children.
In the dinning-room there is an interesting example of the eighteenth century drinking or port table. It was the custom, after the ladies had withdrawn after dinner, for the gentlemen to place this table in front of the fire. A screen at the back of the table protected their faces from the glow of the fire. Decanters mounted on rails were then pushed from one to the other.
The main hall has recently been re-decorated in the style of the late eighteenth century in contrast to the hitherto somewhat somber depressing Victorian style. On the walls on either side of the fireplace are some of the weapons used by the Cardiganshire Militia, commanded by Colonel William Powell and formed to protect the coasts from the threatened Napoleonic invasion during the first decade of the nineteenth century.
An iron bowl in the corner is known as the Tregaron Rent Bowl. Into it the tenants used to pay their dues on quarter days, usually in kind, the bowl being originally a corn measure. It is inscribed “Cornelius Le Brun, Esquire, Tregaron, 1674.”
In the inner hall, one sees to advantage the fine proportions of the carved oak staircase. Incidentally, it is believed that all the timber used in the construction of the house was grown on the estate. No doubt there must have been mixed feelings about cutting down these fine old oaks, many of which must have been planted about the beginning of the sixteenth century.
At the bottom of the staircase, standing in the well of the hall, is an interesting piece of furniture known from its shape as the Heart Table. It is said to have been a gift to Admiral Lord Nelson from Lady Hamilton. Her maiden name was Emma Hart, and the shape of the table was a pun on this. The table is exceptionally heavy mounted on three massive thick legs and is thought to have been designed to stand in a ship’s cabin.
A portrait of Richard Wagner, the famous German composer, commemorates his stay at Nanteos, where he is popularly supposed to have composed part of his opera “Parsifal”. Another distinguished vistor to Nanteos was the poet Swinburne, who was a friend of the late George Powell.
The library at Nanteos contains many seventeenth century books, mainly of a legal or theological nature. Amongst them is a very interesting and complete account of the Coronation of King James II with illustrations showing the order of precedence in the various processions, including the names, titles and offices held by the personages taking part; even the menus and the seating plans for the banquets are there in detail.
Several hundred volumes of historical and local interest are at present on loan to the National Library of Wales.
The old kitchen is reputed to contain one of the finest Batterie de Cuisine in Wales. All the cooking utensils are there, each in solid, heavy copper. Over the old fashioned range hangs a large black kettle and nearby is a spit and an enormous oven. The long kitchen table and the flagstone floor both show the imprint of many generations’ use. From the windows can be seen the tall, tower-shaped game larder in the court-yard outside: its function has degenerated to that of an oil store.
No account of Nanteos would be complete without some reference to the Nanteos Cup, the origin of which is still wrapped in mystery, Today, it is little more than a fragment of blackened olive wood, but many are the legends surrounding it.
The belief most popularly held, at least by the older members of the community inthis district of Wales, is that this was the Cup used by Christ at the Last Supper, in other words, the Holy Grail. It is supposed to have been brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, who is said to have founded the Christian community at Glastonbury. After his death, the cup was treasured as a holy relic in the monastery there. With the reign of Henry VIII came the dissolution of the monasteries. Before the dissolution of Glastonbury, several monks left the Abbey with such precious relics as they could conveniently carry, and made their way to the Cistercian Abbey at Strata Florida in Cardiganshire. In due course it became the turn of Strata Florida Monastery to be dissolved, but on news being received of the imminent approach of Thomas Cromwell’s Commissioners, some monks left the Monastery and fled fifteen miles over the mountains to Nanteos, bringing this precious Cup with them. There, they were kindly received and, so far as is known, ended their days there. Just before the death of the last of the monks, so the story goes, he entrusted the Cup to the safe keeping of the Powell ancestor “until such time as the Church would claim her own”.
Whatever is the true origin of this Cup, there is no doubt at all that many generations of Welsh people of all denominations have held it in veneration. Its healing powers are well known and there are records of not a few sufferers who have claimed that they have been cured after drinking from the Cup.
In the old days the Cup was borrowed and returned after a reasonable time, a sovereign or a gold watch being left as security. There are several such ‘receipts’ some dating back to 1857, still to be seen at Nanteos. These generally read “Cup lent this date to Evan Jones of Ty Gwyn for his wife, suffering from arthritis. One gold watch left” and then below “Cup returned this date; case cured.”
The Powell's of Nanteos (1705-1967)
Col John Jones of Nanteos who was known to have raised the
Cardigan Militia in support of King Charles I during the Civil War. He had three
daughters - Mary, Anne and Elinor. His daughter Anne succeeded at Nanteos on her
father's death in 1666.
William Powell and Averina lived at Nanteos
after the death of Cornelious Le Brun in 1705. They had five children - Thomas,
William, John, Anne and Elizabeth. William died in 1738, and the estate was
passed down to the eldest son Thomas.
William Edward Powell (1788 - 1854) took over the estate at the age of 21, in
1809. By 1810 he was the High Sheriff of the County and married Laura Phelps,
eldest daughter of James Sacksville Tufton Phelps, of Coston House Leics. They
had two children William and Cornelius . Sadly Laura died in 1822. He married
again in 1841 to Harriet Dell, widow of George Ackers of Moreton Hall, Cheshire.
William Edward died aged 66 and the estate was left to the eldest son William.
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