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History of Llanerchaeron

The yellow exterior view of the house at Llanerchaeron, Wales
The exterior of the house at Llanerchaeron, Wales | © National Trust Images / James Dobson

For over three centuries the Llanerchaeron estate was home to ten generations of the same family. Each generation contributed to the estate as you see it today with a villa, servants' quarters, stables, farm buildings and walled garden, set in a landscape which is both beautiful and productive. Delve into the history of the people who lived there and learn about how John Nash the architect turned the house into a villa.

Early history of Llanerchaeron

Llanerchaeron was purchased in 1634 by Llewellyn Parry, who could claim his lineage all the way back to the Welsh Princes. At this point the estate comprised of a small farmhouse with 500 acres of land and a small formal garden - possibly the first in Wales.

The estate would continue to grow over the following 100 years, with purchases of more land and an advantageous marriage to the Lewis family of the neighbouring estate at Ciliau Aeron.

Redesigning Llanerchaeron

Colonel William Lewes married a local heiress Corbetta Williama Powell of Nanteos mansion in 1786. Corbetta not only brought greater social status for the Lewis family, but also a large dowry that paid for the renovation works to the farmhouse already situated here.

John Nash at Llanerchaeron

John Nash was employed as the architect and work started in the 1790s to the house. It was transformed under Nash’s vision from a small farmhouse into the elegant villa that we have today.

When commissioned to design a new house at Llanerchaeron, John Nash was a little known architect from London. He later established his reputation as a great Regency architect responsible for designing the Royal pavilion in Brighton and Buckingham palace.

A young widow, alone

William and Corbetta's son John Lewis inherited the estate on his father’s death in 1828. John Lewis married Mary Ashby Mettam in 1841. He sadly passed away early into the marriage in 1855 leaving Mary alone at Llanerchaeron without any children.

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.

A caring employer, landlord and neighbour

During this period standards of living were changing and new technological advances were being implemented into homes, but under Mary’s management, Llanerchaeron remained unaltered. Reports of Mary’s management are admirable; she looked after the people around her including staff, tenants and neighbours, in a very maternal but progressive way.

'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

Mary continued to manage the estate until her death in 1917 aged 104. She outlived most of the heirs of the original will and the estate eventually passed to Captain Thomas Powell Lewes, Major John Lewis’ Great-Nephew.

The mechanical workings of a waterwheel showing water coming along a gulley through a wall and a waterwheel speeding round.
The waterwheel at Llanerchaeron | © ©National Trust Images/Paul Harris

The modern era at Llanerchaeron

Captain T P Lewes, made some minor alterations before moving in to Llanerchaeron in 1919. These were the first substantial changes in over 120 years. The captain incorporated new fireplaces in some rooms, fitted wardrobes in the bedrooms, and the first bathroom installed at Llanerchaeron.

Utilising the water wheel

Captain Lewes utilised the water wheel on the estate by adding an electrical system within the house. The water wheel charged up two large batteries that were brought to the house to run electric lights and sockets. Luckily the fabric of the Nash building remained untouched and unaltered.

Economic hardship

It was during this period that many historical houses suffered economic hardship. Llanerchaeron managed to survive as the Lewes’ sold some of the acres of farms and land to maintain the estate. On the death of Captain T P Lewes in 1940 his only son, Mr John Powell Ponsonby Lewes, inherited Llanerchaeron.

Mr Ponsonby Lewes lived here successfully managing the estate until his death in 1989, at the age of 89. Mr Ponsonby Lewes left the National Trust the remaining estate of 760 acres along with the villa and farm.

A child and adult, pushing a pram, walk past the entrance of the villa at Llanerchaeron, Wales

Discover more at Llanerchaeron

Find out when Llanerchaeron is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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