Nannau on August 18th, 2015
The lorry was finally moved from Nannau on March 15th, 2015, after being there for around ten years. Video courtesy of Terry John Ephraim, Iwan Lewis Hughes and Sion Hughes. See the photos page for more.
An amateur historian is keen to find out more about one of Meirionnydd’s most fascinating buildings.
Ian King, who runs a popular Dolgellau Facebook page, has spent the last few years exploring the Cader region learning about the area’s history and its prominent houses, as well as collecting historical photos and artefacts relating to the area.
In particular, Plas Nannau — situated just a few miles from Dolgellau and dating back to the late 18th century — captured his imagination.
“Nannau is an important house, it’s Grade II*, and the star is very important. Grade II buildings make up around 92% of listings, with Grade II* and Grade I making up the other 8%,” Ian told the Cambrian News.
“It’s at least the fifth house built on the site with the first possibly dating back to the 1100s — a span of nearly a thousand years.”
“You can still see walls from the c.1693 house and even some of the bricks from the 1581 house in the brickwork of the current one. There’s a good chance that one of the earlier houses was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s troops” so we’re dealing with an awful lot of history.
“The current Georgian building was built between 1794 and 1796. It’s had many notable visitors over the years, including the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, who stopped for lunch on their tour of Wales in 1949.”
In 2014, Ian began taking a real interest in the house. The sad spectacle of one of Meirionnydd’s jewels deteriorating spurred Ian into action to try to save the failing house. He set up his nannau.com website and pushed for the house to be restored.
People started approaching Ian with a few old postcards and bits and pieces of information to get his website up and running. Crucially, the owner of the Nannau Estate gave permission to take photos of some of the old buildings to gain a wider perspective on the history of the area.
“The house itself split from the estate in 1974. It’s still a stunning place with panoramic views,” said Ian, “but there’s a dark side to Nannau’s history too. In the old deer park — from which all the deer have escaped over the years sadly — there stood a tree known as ‘Derwen Ceubren yr Ellyll’ (The Hollow Oak of the Demons). Legend suggests that Owain Glyndŵr stuffed the body of his traitorous cousin Howel Sele — who had tried to murder him - into the bowels of the tree, only for his body to be released from its wooden tomb some 40 years later.”
“The tree fell in 1813 and was replaced by a sundial and later by a post which can be found in the old walled garden ‘Yr Hen Ardd’ on the opposite side of the road to the house.
“The deer park probably dates back to Medieval times, being landscaped around the time the
current house was constructed, with the beautiful Gothic ‘mini—castle’ Hywel Sele Lodge built as its noble western entrance. It’s now a very popular self-catering accommodation and one of my favourite buildings on the estate.”
So what does Ian want to achieve with his website? He said: “I was asked that question recently and the answer is that I don’t really know. It’s just a hobby project and I add things when I can. I suppose my main interest is in the buildings rather than an in-depth analysis of the families. Hopefully the website will go some way to help people remember what it used to be and what it could be again.”
”I would like nannau.com to include as much information as possible about the house, estate and the families that have lived there, where people can see everything online and for it not be hidden in an archive.”
”If you have any photos, slides, information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact me via my Nannau Facebook page.”
Nannau in 2013 - Courtesy of The Georgian Group
One of Meirionnydd's most historic houses is to be restored to its former glory after years of neglect and planning disputes, say developers. Nannau Hall at Llanfachreth, described as the 'jewel in the Meirionnydd crown', fell into disrepair after numerous failed attempts to develop it as a recreational venue. But, in March of this year, Jason Cawood, a keen property restorer from Rugby, applied to Snowdonia National Park Authority for planning permission to reconvert the listed building into a private house and the application was granted last week.
Built in the late 18th century by the Vaughan family, at one time one of most powerful families in the county, the hall and the estate were sold off in the 1970s. Since then the property has been a hotel, a country club with squash courts, a time-share complex and, most recently, a caravan site with permission to pitch up to 100 caravans and four log cabins. After being left empty for many years the inside has become ravaged by dry rot and unauthorised demolitions had been carried out internally by a previous owner.
Geraint Lewis from Llanelltyd, who is Mr Cawood's agent, said: "It's just a shell at the moment, nothing but bare stone walls. Listed items of great value have been taken from the house over the years but the new owner hopes to return it to its original splendour. We're in touch with the Georgian Society and, thanks to the Ancient Monument Commission at Aberystwyth, we have pictures and documents showing the house as it was. In particular, the coving, wall-panelling, doors and fire-places will be reproduced as closely as possible to the original Georgian style."
"A lot of damage has been done to the place: It's great to see someone restoring the place to a condition that it's worthy of for the purpose making it a family home again." However, the biggest challenge facing the builders will be protect the bats that live in the roof and cellar of the house. "As bats are a protected species, we're not allowed disturb them so we can't start work in these areas until after September when they will hibernate until April," said Mr Lewis.
After a period of consultation, the work should start this year and will be completion within two years, according to Mr Lewis. Dolgellau councillor Dyfrig Siencyn, who is also a member of the National Park Authority approves of the move: "I welcome any move to safeguard the use of this historic building for the future."
Previous to that, here is a piece in The Wales Daily Post:
A Millionaire businessman and financier, who is reported to have lost up to £20m belonging to leading City financiers on speculation on the Stock Market, has resigned as an unpaid non-executive director, deputy chairman and treasurer of the Ffestiniog Railway Company. Hugh Eaves, 56, a chartered accountant, lives in Canfield Gardens in the heart of London and, until his resignation from the FR board last Friday, had been a non-executive director for nearly 20 years.
"Mr Eaves has been a generous supporter of the company but has not been very actively involved for several years," said FR chairman Mike Hart last night. Responding to the fact that Mr Eaves loaned £100,000 interest free to the FR some years ago, Mr Hart said: "We have been very grateful for the time, advice and money that Hugh Eaves contributed over many years to the company which has been of such enormous benefit to the Ffestiniog Railway Company and helped its development." Mr Hart then went on to reveal that "given the company's ownership by a charitable trust and Mr Eaves' title as company finance director" the FR now felt duty bound to ask their independent external auditors to confirm all donations had been well spent and the company's financial arrangements were good. Our accounts are monitored monthly by independent accountants, but given our public profile we believe we should give this further reassurance, "said Mr Hart.
It also emerged yesterday that Mr Eaves recently bought Nannau Hall on the outskirts of Dolgellau, which is currently being renovated. City reports reveal Mr Eaves has written an apologetic letter to his former City friends, explaining the "nest egg" they had entrusted to him had been lost on a series of wild financial gambles. Mr Eaves is the largest shareholder of Bury Football Club, where he is said to have invested at least £4m. He is also a shareholder and director of Swinton Rugby League Club. The scandal springs from Mr Eaves's administration of a fund of about £20m held in bonds in a Swiss bank account on behalf of 15 former colleagues from the investment house Phillips & Drew. Mr Eaves was Phillips & Drew's finance director until he left in 1988, but continued to administer the fund. News of Mr Eaves's resignation from the Ffestiniog Railway board last night prompted a statement from Gwarchod, formed in Caernarfon last year to defend the future of agriculture in Snowdonia, particularly those farmers affected by FR's plans to re-open the Welsh Highland Railway from Dinas, near Caernarfon to Porthmadog.
"As the treasurer of the Ffestiniog Railway it is likely that Hugh Eaves had a major part to play in drawing up the financial plans for the Welsh Highland," said Gwarchod's press officer, Eleri Carrog. "We note that he lent £100,000 in 1976' to FR to make up part of a deficit, and'" possibly in other years. "We have always questioned how viable is the FR when it constantly needs: loans and grants, and how viable are. plans for further development." Gwarchod was now calling on Gwynedd Council and other bodies to examine the financial side of Ffestiniog Railway/Welsh Highland proposals; "with a fine tooth comb."
1999 Daily Telegraph Text: Two views for the price of one: from the rear of the house, the hills that form part of the Snowdonia National Park; from the front, huge swathes of isolated pastureland.
Nannau Hall is a Grade II* Georgian house in the hills above Dolgellau. It has seven-plus bedrooms, a splendid drawing room, huge reception rooms and not withstanding its stupendous views - no buyers as yet. The price, £375,000, is far from off putting - and about the same as for a three-bedroom house in Clapham in south London - but many potential owners are chary about taking on such a remote property that needs so much refurbishment. In this valley, the sound of pneumatic drills might be lost, but once the builders arrived, would they ever depart?
Nannau Hall is for sale through Strutt and Parker.