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Nanteos Mansion

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       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.”

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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.

Anne married Cornelius Le Brun who was born in Cologne Germany. He came over to Wales to work on the lead and silver mines as a mining engineer, and made his wealth. In 1674 he became the High Sheriff of the County. He died in 1705 and Nanteos was left to his only child Averina.

Averina Le Brun (1675 - 1728) married William Powell (1658 - 1738) of Llechwedd Dyrus, which was situated across the Paith Valley from Nanteos. William was the son and heir of Sir Thomas Powell K. C. who was Knighted by King James II in 1688 and was one of the Judges on Kings Bench.

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.

Thomas Powell (1699 - 1752) began to build the present Nanteos, in 1738 immediately on the death of his father. He married Mary Frederick, grand-daughter of Sir John Frederick, Lord Mayor of London in 1662. It was her wealth that built Nanteos, but sadly Thomas died before completion of Nanteos with no issue, (though it is said that there was an illegitimate son). Nanteos was left to his brother William.

The Reverend William Powell took over the estate in 1752 on the death of  his brother Thomas. He married Elizabeth Owen, eldest daughter of Athelstan Owen of Rhiwsaeson, Montgomeryshire. William was ordained deacon in the diocese of Lincoln in 1731 and was made D.C.L. in 1763. He died in 1780, with issue - a daughter and a son Thomas.

Thomas Powell (1745 - 1797) married Eleanor the eldest daughter of Edward Maurice Corbett of Ynysmaengwyn, Merioneth. Thomas became High Sheriff of the County in 1785. They had five children William Edward, Thomas John, Richard Owen, Elinor Elizabeth and Anna Corbetta Hanna Maria. Thomas died of an epileptic fit on a street in London in 1797. The estate was left to the eldest son William Edward, but he was only nine years old, he was too young to run the estate. His mother Eleanor took her young family to live in France, (where later she died). During this time in France Nanteos was let to Samuel Pocock Esq.

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.

William Thomas Rowland Powell (1815 - 1878). He married Rosa Edwyna Cherry in 1839 eldest daughter of William George Cherry of Buckland Herefordshire. They had two children George and Harriet. Harriet sadly died at the age of 13. William T. R. Powell became a member of Parliament in 1859 and 1865. In later years he was confined to a wheelchair, and died in 1878 and left the estate to his only son George.

George Ernest John Powell (1842 - 1882). After the death of his mother in 1860, George who never got on with his father left the family home. He never returned until the death of W. T. R. Powell, eighteen years later. George the most interesting character of the Powell family. Educated in Eton then on to Oxford where he met Charles Algernon Swinburne the famous poet. George himself also published a few poetry books. His most famous publication is the Icelandic Translations.

In 1878 he returned to Nanteos to run the family estate. During this time he tried to establish a free library at Aberystwyth but it was unsuccessfull. He married Dinah Harries in 1880, from Goodwick Fishguard, but sadly a year later he died with no issue at the age of forty years. The estate was left to his second cousin.

William Beauclerk Powell, (George's fathers 1st cousin, Richard Owen Powell's son). Bequeathed Nanteos in 1882. He married Anna Maria in 1864, 3rd daughter of David Lewis of Bronavon Cardiganshire. They had one issue, Edward born in 1870. They lived at Nanteos until 1911, when William and Anna died within days of each other.

Edward Athelstan Lewis Powell (1870 - 1930) married Margaret Lousia Joan Pryse, which united two of the largest estates in Cardiganshire. Gogerddan and Nanteos after centuries of disagreement. But their marriage was scared by tragedy - their only son born in 1899 was killed in action in Buvignes France during the First World War, on the 6th November 1918, just 18 years old. Edward Powell lived on until 1930. In 1930 the Powell male line at Nanteos came to an end.

Margaret Lousia Joan Pryse Powell (1862 - 1951) continued to live at Nanteos until her death in 1951. This was the end of the Powell family at Nanteos. She bequeathed the mansion and the estate to Mrs Elizabeth Mirylees, a distant relation of Edward Powell.

Major Mirylees, and his wife Elizabeth moved into Nanteos with their daughters in 1956 and lived there until they sold in 1967.

Rose and Geoff Bliss bought Nanteos in 1967. Together with their two children Tony and Michael, they open Nanteos to the public. Showing how the Powell’s lived their 'high' life. Thousands of people came to see the stately home, from all over the world.
After 18 years of running Nanteos as a stately home, the Bliss family decided to sell. Nanteos was sold in 1983.

Since 1983 Nanteos has gone through many changes of occupancy. Finally it was converted into a Hotel in 1989, restored in elegant preference to the historical aspect of the mansion. Giving a traditional feel to the guests of a local County House. 


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