Newton House at Dinefwr
Standing proudly at the heart of the Dinefwr estate is Newton House, a family home for over three hundred years to the descendants of Lord Rhys, the powerful Prince of the Welsh Kingdom of the Deheubarth. Cared for by the National Trust since 1990, Dinefwr is now a place to enjoy, relax and refresh.
History of Newton House
First built in 1660, Newton House at Dinefwr, a Grade II* listed mansion, 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 has undergone various redesigns, the most notable in the 1850s when a Gothic façade, fashionable at the time, was added. It’s this façade, that you see on the exterior of house today. Many of the original 17th century features can still be seen within the house , including the magnificent grand staircase and exceptional ornate ceilings.
There has been a house on this site since pre-medieval times but the current house takes its name from the ‘New Town’ built for English settlers in the medieval period. Even though the town was no longer in existence, its former presence was the inspiration for the naming the house.
The 9th Baron and the arts
The Rhys family faced huge financial challenges in the mid-20th century, with two lots of death duties falling simultaneously on the estate. To try and raise funds to maintain the house, Richard, the 9th Baron Dynevor, established a creative programme of arts in the house supported by the Arts Council of Wales. For a brief magical period in the 1960s the house hosted prestigious exhibitions and performances including famous names like jazz legend, Cleo Laine. The inspiration, energy and vision to bring such a rich cultural programme to rural west Wales flourished for under a decade and by the mid-1970s the house and grounds were sold and sadly, subsequently fell into disrepair.
We’re taking inspiration from the 9th Baron’s approach today at Dinefwr with an ongoing programme of arts and cultural events that celebrate the legacy of that vision. Visit our exhibitions article to find out more.
Under the floor discoveries
During the restoration in 1999 and 2000 some of the floorboards were lifted to carry out repairs. Whilst the voids were uncovered our archaeologists surveyed them and discovered some intriguing items – look out for a lit corner in one of our first-floor rooms to encounter one of strangest things they discovered!
Some of the finds are believed to have been deliberately placed as magical house protection measures to ward off evil spirits and safeguard houses from witchcraft and supernatural forces.
Other objects date back to the foundation of the current house - a charred copy book page dated 1689; a tiny early 18th Century child’s silver thimble or a hand-made playing card with a hand written note on the back inscribed by a lovelorn lady of the house. Come and see some of the finds in our current exhibition Unlocked: 125 Objects from Dinefwr.
First floor exhibition rooms
Our exhibitions reflect on the many and varied aspects of life at Dinefwr over the centuries, providing a glimpse into the history of the estate and its people, unveiling objects from the collection for the first time and providing a platform for contemporary creative practitioners to respond to the long history of the site and the landscape.