Ladies of Llanerchaeron

Mary Ashby Lewis managed the Llanerchaeron estate for 56 years after the death of her husband

This year Llanerchaeron is celebrating the women that lived, worked and transformed this charming estate. We will be discovering some great characters that have played a part in the growth of the early estate, helped to maintain its security throughout hardships and its very survival in later years.

In the cellar you’ll discover what Elizabeth Lewis (nee Johnes) was hiding; learn about the last children to be raised in the house; understand how Mary Ashby Lewis managed the estate and be inspired by Annie Ponsonby’s charitable work. 

If you’re planning your visit, find our opening times here

Elizabeth Lewis (d.c1774)

Elizabeth was the daughter of Thomas Johnes, who owned Dolaucothi, now another local National Trust estate. She seems to have been quite a character in West Wales and her story adds plenty of humour. A letter to her brother reveals that she was passing on illegal cargo from a ship wreck, while her husband was out searching for the culprits. 

Corbetta Williama Lewis (1757-1831)

Corbetta Williama was born into the Powell family of Nanteos Mansion near Aberystwyth. We don’t know much about Corbetta’s character except that her marriage appears a successful one, seemingly filled with respect and love. As well as bringing the Lewis family greater social status, Corbetta also brought a large dowry. That dowry essentially paid for John Nash’s involvement in redesigning the Villa that we can still see today.

Mary Ashby Lewis (1813-1917)

In 1841 Mary Ashby Mettam married Corbetta's son, Major John Lewis. She moved to Llanerchaeron but unfortunately her husband passed away in 1855. John made his sister and her daughter heirs of his will and not his nephew, which was a remarkable decision for this period. His will also stipulated that Mary be allowed to stay at Llanerchaeron for as long as she lived, however as she did not own it she couldn’t make any changes to the estate. During this period standards of living were changing and new technological advances were being implemented into homes, but under Mary Ashby Lewis’ management, Llanerchaeron remained unaltered.

Reports of Mary’s management of Llanerchaeron are admirable; she looked after the people around her including staff, tenants and neighbours, in a very maternal but progressive way. 

Mary Ashby Lewis never married again and continued to live at Llanerchaeron until her death at the age of 104 in 1917. 

" “The reputation which you have acquired in the discharge of your public duties as a large landed proprietor has been well sustained by the great respectability of your private character…Your name will remain in mid-Cardgianshire for a very long time and will be ever mentioned with sincere affection.”"
- The Llanerchaeron tenants, 1913

Pamela Muriel Ward (1908-1996)

Pamela Ward has a more unusual and less direct connection to Llanerchaeron. Pamela was an antiques collector living in Knightsbridge. Shortly after her death her vast and eclectic collection came to Llanerchaeron. Pamela was an independent spirit, living through the vast changing role of women in the twentieth century.