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History of Plas yn Rhiw

Inside the Kitchen at Plas yn Rhiw, Gwynedd. The wooden kitchen table is laid with a breakfast tray, teapot and teacups. There's a stone fireplace with a stove in it, and clothes airer stands in front of it.
Inside the Kitchen at Plas yn Rhiw | © National Trust Images/Robert Morris

From a 17th-century house to an appealing 19th-century manor house, discover more about Plas yn Rhiw’s residents and its restoration throughout the years.

Early owners of Plas yn Rhiw

The 17th-century building was occupied by John Lewis, whose family descended from a ninth-century King of Powys and had been at Rhiw since the Tudor times.

Remodelling the house

The house passed down through the family to Jane Lewis, who married William Williams, the owner of Plas yn Rhiw in 1811. Their daughter married Captain Lewis Moore Bennet, and it was probably their marriage that led him to remodel and enlarge the house in 1820.

New kitchen wing

The north kitchen wing was added in the mid-19th century and the estate remained in the family until 1874, when it was bought by Thomas Roberts and occupied by a succession of tenants. One included Lady Strickland who may have laid out the garden.

Plas yn Rhiw was later passed to Mr Roberts’s son and eventually abandoned.

The Keating sisters

In 1939 the Keating sisters acquired Plas yn Rhiw. Originally from Nottingham, Eileen, Lorna and Honora were three unmarried sisters, who, together with their widowed mother Constance, came to live in Plas yn Rhiw in 1939.

Tireless campaigners

Their devoted efforts gradually restored the building, which was in a serious state of disrepair, re-created the garden, and tirelessly campaigned to protect the environment.

The sisters were ardent supporters of the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales and other conservation organisations. They waged campaigns of vigorous opposition against certain proposals; especially against construction of a nuclear power station in Edern.

The garden at Plas yn Rhiw, Gwynedd, in summer. Colourful flowers are blooming in beds beside box hedges, and the stone manor house stands on an elevated position above.
Summer flowers blooming in the garden at Plas yn Rhiw | © National Trust Images/Gwenno Parry

Restoring the garden

Before the Keating sisters moved into Plas yn Rhiw it was overgrown with brambles, so densely blocking the front door that they had to climb through the front window.

A mild climate

At nearly an acre in size, its characterised by a series of spaces enclosed by box hedging and linked by grassed and gravel paths. The garden is below the house on a wooded hillside, providing a favourable sheltered site for a wide variety of species that thrive in the mild climate.

Handwritten note

Unfortunately, the Keatings kept few notes and no diaries of their work in the garden, except for this note by Honora, found pencilled on some old plant catalogues.

'Magnolia mollicomata, planted by me in 1946, for the first time the tree is covered in perfect blooms, over 150 counted on the 7th April.'

- Honora Keating

A garden highlight

The magnolia is often the highlight of the garden today, both in early spring and in in August/September when it’s covered with crimson fruit.

For everyone, for ever

In 1946 the sisters donated the surrounding land to us in memory of their parents, Constance and William Keating. It wasn’t until 1952 when the Keatings donated the rest of the property.

Opening the house

The sisters opened the house to the public (before it was donated to the Trust) and they continued to live there until Lorna died in 1981.

Plas yn Rhiw remains the same today, as if the sisters never left. Look out for the datestone on the front of the house; inscribed ‘1634. IL’.

Inside the Kitchen at Plas yn Rhiw, Gwynedd. The wooden kitchen table is laid with a breakfast tray, teapot and teacups. There's a stone fireplace with a stove in it, and clothes airer stands in front of it.

Plas yn Rhiw's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Plas yn Rhiw on the National Trust Collections website.

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