A £6 million project to regenerate Llanelly House is restoring the grade one listed building, which is the most important Georgian townhouse in Wales and one of Llanelly’s most important historic buildings.
The building, which is a fine example of an early 18th century Georgian Town house, was in a poor state of repair and was bought in 1998 by the Town Council with the object of completely restoring it.
But while the restored Llanelly House will provide a snapshot of the elegant splendour of a Georgian House, it will also serve a much wider purpose. At the very core of the development are community initiatives and schemes which aim to ensure it is history of the people of Llanelly, and their stories, that are central to the house.
The project, funded by the Heritage Lottery and the Welsh European Funding Office, is being carried out for the Carmarthenshire Heritage Restoration Trust (CHRT) by main contractors John Weaver. Conservation Architects are Austin Smith Lord.
Standing immediately opposite the Parish Church, it is the former house of the Stepney family, and was built in 1714 by Thomas Stepney, M.P. for Carmarthenshire. It has a chequered history, and it is recorded that John Wesley, the apostle of Wesleyan Methodism, stayed there on several occasions during his visits to the town.
“The house is being restored to its original 1740 Georgian appearance. Interestingly the original house is in Jacobean style, and was encased in a Georgian frontage by the Stepney family” said Mr Craig Hatto of CHRT. Currently the Georgian frontage is being restored, including the removal of modern shop fronts,” he added. “Old render is being removed, new lime render applied and the building is being re-roofed.”
The original house foundations have just been excavated and have been dated at around 1640. The interiors, including the drawing best parlour and the Great Hall, are also being restored to their original Georgian appearance. Rare Grissaille artwork, which could be the work of John Lewis, has also been revealed when later over-painting was delicately removed by a restoration expert from the walls of one of the anteroom chambers. All the works are being carried out under the stringent requirements of CADW, the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly Government.
John Weaver are using the project to teach traditional building skills to number of apprentices who will learn everything from plastering to carpentry and stonemasonry.
The completed house will provide: a major heritage interpretation and exhibition space on the ground floor; a high quality cafe / restaurant facility for visitors and residents with linked training opportunities. The house will also showcase visitor experience and interpretive technology, creating a major tourist attraction.
Lisa Bancroft, Development Manager for CHRT is tasked with ensuring that Llanelly House balances the demands of restoration and long-term sustainability. She explains:
“The house itself when you walk in will ostensibly be renovated and restored to its pristine condition of the 18th century.
“Downstairs the house will be very much for people to use, to chill out in with a restaurant, shop, workspace area and events. Then upstairs we will be interpreting the house in different ways, using different characters”.
The works carried out in the project must meet the approval of both the local authority and Cadw – the Welsh Assembly Government’s historic environment division.
The majority of the refurbishment and remodelling within the main house is being carried out within the bakery wing, which had been semi derelict, but is now being fitted out to incorporate six new guest suites. Original features of the building are being retained and the works are being carried out using traditional construction materials and techniques and appropriate finishes from companies such as Farrow and Ball.
The works include structural repairs and retaining and restoring existing windows wherever possible as well as installing new windows where necessary, in a style to match the originals. Other works comprise the installation of lath and plaster partitioning and ceilings, the installation of new building services and decoration throughout.
Works to the main house include the installation of rigid blown glass insulation; significant remedial treatment for dry rot; structural repairs to the walls of all rooms including the reception area which has also been re-decorated, and the upgrading of all building services. Both the main house and the bakery wing have also been re-roofed and new oak window lintels have been installed in these areas.
Within the south wing of the stable block, one large self catering apartment comprising a lounge, kitchen, bathroom and four bedrooms is being formed, with the creation of further apartments scheduled for a later phase of the work which will follow in a separate contract.
Currently the roofing of the main house has been completed and work in the stables is progressing well, with good progress also being made on electrical work within the main house and stable block.
The project is due to be completed in 2012.
Nanteos Mansion is a Georgian building built in the Palladian style between 1739 and 1757 for the Powell family, on the site of a much older settlement. The present mansion is built around the walls of an earlier house, with the cellars dating back to the tenth century.
The mansion was designed to accommodate the needs of the gentry, particularly those addicted to hunting and entertaining. William Edward Powell (1788-1854) added to the main body of the building by adding butler’s and housekeeper’s quarters, a larger kitchen, the bakery and the billiard room. The completed house, with an impressive total of 69 rooms, was completed by 1847 at a cost of £2880.
The Powells gained their extraordinary wealth from owning lead and silver mines at Cwmystwyth and Llywernog, the workings of which can still be seen. However, the family’s fortunes dwindled after the First World War and the last Powell of Nanteos, the delightfully eccentric Margaret, died in 1951.
Upon entering the house, guests were received in the morning room (the first room on the left). The former library is now a bar, and is situated next to the ballroom where larger conferences and wedding receptions now take place.
The main reception room on the first floor is the Music Room. Its Italianate fireplace bears a delicate relief in white marble depicting Aesop’s fable of the Fox and the Stork. Its Rococo- style ceiling celebrates the four seasons, entwined with musical instruments.