To begin at the beginning …
Newton House sits at the heart of the Dinefwr estate. The majestic house dominates the landscape.
First built in 1660, the house was home to the Rhys (or Rice) family for over three hundred years. The family were descendants of the Lord Rhys, the powerful Prince of the Welsh Kingdom of Deheubarth, who ruled from the now ruined Dinefwr Castle. Over the years the house had undergone various redesigns, the most notable in the 1850s when a Gothic façade, fashionable at the time, was added. It is this façade that you see on the house today. Luckily some of the original 17th century features survive, including the magnificent grand staircase and exceptional ornate ceilings.
Newton House takes its name from the ‘New Towne’ that was built for English settlers in the medieval period. By the time Newton House was built the new town had long since disappeared, but as the house stood on the site of the new town, the family took inspiration from this in naming their house. Four important paintings of the house and landscape welcome you in the main hall on your arrival.
The landscape around Newton House was originally formal gardens, but this all changed in the mid-1700s. George and his wife Cecil (see the copy of Reynold’s portrait of her) were inspired by Lancelot Capability Brown to transform their formal gardens into a more naturalistic designed landscape. Capability Brown visited in 1775 to give his stamp of approval on their designs and made some suggestions, although not all were taken on board. If you look out the windows today, what you see is George and Cecil’s glorious vision.
The Rhys family faced huge financial challenges in the mid-20th century, with two lots of death duties. To try and raise funds to keep the house, Richard, 9th Baron Dynevor established a creative programme of arts in the house supported by the Arts Council. For a brief magical period in the 1960’s the house hosted prestigious exhibitions and performances including names like Cleo Lane. This valiant attempt to bring a rich cultural programme to rural Wales ultimately failed, and by the mid-1970’s the house and grounds were sold.
The National Trust saved the house from the brink in 1990, and have slowly brought it back to life. We have just begun to revisit the 9th Baron’s arts-centred approach, we think he was on the right track, and we hope very much to honour his legacy.
So why not visit the Black Raven Gallery , a small contemporary curated art space, named after the Black Raven Press established by Lord Dynevor, or enjoy our second-hand books shop in the old kitchen, Y Gegin. We love books! On the first floor you’ll find the Reflections Room, with a collection of books that give depth and breadth to your visit (these books are not for sale). Don’t forget to visit our shop which has books and gifts galore
In our café the ancient and very important veteran trees of Dinefwr are celebrated with weavings by Ritta Sinkonen Davies, they make a lovely back drop to lunch or a coffee.