Meet Lady Cecil
A warm welcome to you all! The name Lady Cecil Rice will probably not mean anything to you, but I am one of Dinefwr’s most influential women.
I arrived as Lady of Dinefwr in 1756 and straight away my husband, George, and I embarked on a mission to redesign Dinefwr to make it our own and bring it into the 18th century. It would turn out, however, that my influence would take Dinefwr much further than the just the 18th century. Follow me around Newton House as I tell you a little about my life here at Dinefwr and introduce you to the women who followed my lead.
Let me introduce myself
Before you go any further let me introduce myself properly. I am Lady Cecil Rice, but I was born Cecil Talbot in July 1735, only child of William, Baron Talbot of Hensol and Mary de Cardonnel. I was sole heiress to three of the family estates, but as a woman, I could not inherit any of my father’s titles. In 1756 I married George Rice and came to live with him here at Dinefwr. My father did not want to leave me with no title, so in 1780 he created the title Baron Dynevor with the provision it would pass onto me, which it did with his death in 1782 when I became 2nd Baroness Dynevor, the only woman ever to hold the title. In 1779 my beloved George died, and from then until my death in 1793 I successfully managed the Dinefwr estate alone.
Mr Brown, how kind of you to visit
If you look outside today, what you see is the landscape that I helped to create. Fashions were changing in the mid-18th century, gardens were no longer simply gardens, they were landscapes to be explored. One of the most influential landscape designers of the time was Lancelot Brown, or Capability as he is often known, who was an advocate of naturalistic landscapes. We liked to keep up with fashions, so George and I set about transforming our original 1660s formal gardens into a naturalistic landscape. We managed to design most of it ourselves but consulted Capability on a few things, including the positioning of the new driveway, and he suggested placing it where it is located today. In 1775 we were honoured to have the man himself visit Dinefwr. Our designed landscape has stood the test of time because it has not been dramatically altered since our redesign.
Women making a difference
As Lady Dynevor, I liked to do my bit for the community. I gave clothes and money to the poor, helped local children into schools and donated to good causes in the community, such as the Agricultural Society. I was not the only woman at Dinefwr to help the community, women in the Second World War followed my example. Women had to do their bit for the war effort with the men away, and they certainly took up the challenge here at Dinefwr. There were land girls helping to work the land with the farm hands away, nurses looking after wounded soldiers here in the house when Walter, 7th Baron Dynevor, allowed the house to become a military hospital, and Lady Margaret, wife of Walter, helped the community as I did, making clothes and holding fund raisers. It all goes to show how influential women at Dinefwr have been.