The current Georgian house was started circa 1788 by Sir Robert Howell Vaughan and completed by his son in 1796 after his death in 1792. There was a house-warming celebration on January 1st 1797 with a set of glasses engraved for the event).
The current house is probably the fifth to stand on the site (or close proximity) of the earliest one. The house is built of dressed blocks of local dark grey stone, with the recessed parts having sandstone surrounds. It has a shallow pitched slate roof.
Part of the tower of the previous 17th century house is incorporated in the south-west corner and bricks from the 16th century house can still be seen inset into the back wall. Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (creator of Portmeirion, some twenty-five miles away) designed some alterations to Nannau in 1934, but I am unsure what these were or if they were implemented.
The Pavilion Wings (which can be seen on the two early postcards above and on the header photograph) were located behind the house and were added by Sir Robert Vaughan (2nd Baronet) in 1805-1806, from designs by the architect Joseph Bromfield (1744-1824) who also designed the new house at nearby Caerynwch in 1780 and is reputedly the architect of the main Nannau house, although this cannot be confirmed.
The wings were demolished in the late 1960s-1970, although the cellars seem to have survived, as do the arches of the east (right) wing and some of the outline of the buildings behind.
Behind the west (left) wing there used to be a kitchen which was built to celebrate the coming of age of Robert Williames Vaughan, 3rd Bart in 1824. To the rear of that is an old Smokehouse, including openings at the base of one wall to permit the entry of smoke and another utility building is next to that, both of these are in a good state. Also to the rear are the remains of an old squash court flooring.
There are also three ponds in the garden, which still survive, although they are now overgrown.
The house was listed Grade II* in 1952. It is important to point out that it is Grade II STAR and not just Grade II. This is a breakdown the percentage of graded buildings (although based on buildings in England, I think it is roughly the same in Wales):
Grade II - 92%
Grade II* - 5.5%
Grade I - 2.5%
Major-General John Vaughan describes Nannau in his war memoirs, “Cavalry and Sporting Memories”, published in 1954: “Nannau is about the best built Georgian house I have ever seen. With huge blocks of stone and round, pointed and projecting mortar. Incidentally, I cannot find out the composition of the cement but I have been told that it was burnt lime, fine river sand and bullocks’ blood or white of eggs. It is previous to Portland cement. All the stone was, of course, hand dressed and the interior woodwork and ceilings are a monument to the old Welsh craftsmen, who have now entirely ceased to exist”.
He describes the estate as “one of the most beautiful in the United Kingdom”…
“Nannau house is nearly 800 feet about sea level although tidal water is only three miles distant, so it rejoices in both mountain and sea air. In my youth it was an ideal place for anyone who could use a gun or fishing rod, with two rivers and two lakes, four small grouse moors and about 3000 rabbits a year in the Park, Warren and Home Farm, plus pheasants reared on the profits of the rabbits”.
View a FLICKR ALBUM of photos of Nannau during its 1999 renovation. Photos courtesy of Baron Westwood.
The surrounding grounds are beautifully wooded. The oak, the beech, the walnut, the acacia, the fir, the lime, the ash, with almost every variety of tree and shrub, are grouped in good taste, and the gardens are spacious and beautiful.Thomas Turner 1837
The estate is covered with fine timber which clothes all the sides of the dingles for many miles: the park is remarkable for its small by excellent venison.Richard Lloyd 1831
The Nannau gardens in July, “abounded with vegetables of all sorts and all fruits then in season, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currants and cherries”.Richard Fenton 1813
1887 Map - View Full Map
Exterior back view of central section of Nannau showing the pavilion wing and other buildings. © Crown copyright RCAHMW.
Detail of the bannisters at Nannau. © Crown copyright RCAHMW.
Nannau from the north-west. Taken on May 17th, 2005. © Crown copyright RCAHMW.
Nannau from Foel Offrwm
Old Postcard of Nannau
Old Postcard of Nannau
Nannau in 2013 - Courtesy of The Georgian Group
Nannau in 2014
DETAILS OF THE GRADE II LISTING:
Date Listed: 14 June 1952
CADW Building ID: 4710
OS Grid Coordinates: 274307, 320814
Latitude/Longitude: 52.7699, -3.8633
National Park Snowdonia
History: The ancestral seat of the Nannau family and from the late C18 the Vaughans. Cadwgan, son of Bleddyn ap Gynfyn, Prince of Powys built the first recorded house on or near the site in the late C11. His descendants, the Nanneys, were on site until 1701 (unbroken male line). An early house was destroyed by Owain Glyndwr c.1402 during the revolt. In the early C17 Huw Nannau Hen built a new house in lavish style, much praised by his contemporaries. There is no record of this in the 1660s hearth tax returns so it is possible that the house was a casualty of the Civil War. Col. Huw Nannau rebuilt the house c. 1693 and a subsidiary domestic range behind the present house probably relates to this; it now lies in ruins. Nannau eventually passed to a relative, Robert Hywel Vaughan, created a baronet in 1791 and High Sheriff of Merioneth at the same time. He built the present restrained Georgian house c.1795, incorporating part of the late C17 building in the SW corner. To the three-storey primary block the second baronet added storied pavilion wings c.1805, to the designs of Joseph Bromfield. These elegant additions were swept away this century, that to the NE as late as c.1970.
Reason Included at Grade II* as a highly important late C18 regional house.
Interior: The entrance hall has an open segmental arch with around arch within leading to the stairwell; Ionic columns and engaged columns, and a dentilated entablature. Dentilated plaster cornice to hall and a wooden fireplace with moulded egg-and-dart entablature; engaged Doric columns and scallop-headed niches. Well stair on 3 floors with swept mahogany rail and decorative iron balusters. Moulded doorcases off hall with 6-panel mahogany doors. Drawing room to R with decorative plaster cornice; moulded architraves with gadrooned and carved overdoors. These flank a restrained marble fireplace with panelled pilasters and foliate carving to central plaque. Shallow segmental-arched niche to rear wall containing twin doors. Reeded window architraves with panelled shutters. The L ground-floor room has an Adam style plaster ceiling and cornice and panelled splays as before. Wide segmental-arched opening to rear room with plaster cornice. Modernised upper floors have been partitioned off and false ceilings inserted.
Exterior: 3-storey 5-bay house in restrained Georgian style; square plan. Of large dressed blocks of local slate-stone with sandstone dressings; shallow, hipped slate roof with plain chimneys. Recessed, wide entrance bay to main (SE) front. Elegant entrance porch with Ionic columns and simple moulded entablature. Within, a large C19 part-glazed door with 12-pane upper glazing and panelled lower section; flanking 8-pane internal windows. Above the porch a tripartite sandstone window in a shallow, segmental arched recess; 12-pane central light with narrow 4-pane vertical flanking lights. Similar, squatter window to third floor, though with 3 equal lights, all with plain C19 sash glazing. Tall 12-pane recessed sash windows to ground floors of main and side elevations and contemporary 6-pane sashes to the upper elevations. The middle floor has plain Victorian sashes to the front and left-hand sides, though the original 12-pane glazing survives to the R; all windows have projecting stone lintels. External stepped cellar access to the first side bays from the front. Good decorative and heraldic lead hoppers survive, 2 ofwhich are original (one dated 1795) and 2 of which bear the date 1872. Plain parapet with moulded cornice; balustrading above entrance bay. Rough-dressed rubble rear with much disturbed masonry. 12 and 16-pane windows and a modern fire escape to first floor. Out of character flat-roofed modern extensions to ground floor rear. Adjoining the R side of the house, a triple-arched section of walling, a surviving fragment of the pavilion wings.