Hope you had fun trying to pronounce that title. I know myWelsh is quite horrible.
After returning from the Czech Republic, Catherine and I took an impromptu trip to the Bangor in Northern Wales. While there we toured two National Trust properties, Penrhyn Castle and Plas Newydd. After the three hour train we were surrounded by hills, the ocean, and lots of rain and fog. So it was perfect weather for walking around the inside of a castle.
Our first stop was Penrhyn Castle, a huge castle built of an industrial slate fortune. There is some bad karma surrounding the castle has its money came from not so ethical means. After a first look of the castle you can see its imposing and magnificent beauty. We had the opportunity to walk around with some NT specialists who pointed out how they restored certain areas, what paintings are what, and how to utilize a space for its full advantage. The torrid history of the castle compares nothing to its construction. The whole castle, while beautiful, is a complete façade. It is not made of stone, it is made of bricks and the parts that have not been restored are completely falling apart. We toured parts of the servants quarters and floors were missing doors led to twenty-five foot drops and walls were falling apart. It was really interesting to see the juxtaposition of the great rooms to the actual skeleton of the house without all its decorative features. The castle is huge and it felt like we walked three miles just inside the castle and there was still no end to the amount of rooms. There is also a rail museum in the castle that has a lot of restored steam trains on display. I found it quite ironic that this castle that was the source of much disdain in the community was in fact a fake castle that was built entirely to intimidate was falling apart while the community around it is still standing strong.
The next day we were off to Plas Newydd, which is on the island of Anglesbury, a close drive from Penrhyn (the properties share the head gardener). Plas Newydd is a cozy, country house of Lord and Lady Anglesbury, whom still resided in the house until Lord Anglesbury’s passing last year. This property was also featured in the Fit for the Future event because they installed a marine pump that saves them from spending 40,000 GBP on oil to heat the house. The general manager, Nerys, gave us a behind the scenes tour of the estate. One of the most interesting parts of the house was the basement, storage area. Since the passing of Lord A, Sotheby’s has been inventorying the items, and it was like a treasure chest full of interesting items down there; including Napoleon’s spyglass from Waterloo. It was really interesting to see a NT house that still had its owners living on the property and how they were able to utilize the space for tourists and guests and home.
Besides the architecture, Rex Whistler’s dining room, and the collections. Plas Newydd had such characters as the owners. The 1st Marquis lost is leg in the battle of Waterloo, and was the first with a moveable prosthetic leg instead of a peg leg. He also had numerous children, so losing his leg did not harm him that much. There was also the 5th Marquis was a theatre persona who basically bankrupted the family because of his obsession with jewels and fashion, and was banned to Monte Carlo. The photos of his costumes, and makeshift theatre in the house are priceless. The most recent Marquis while he lived at the house would come out and give the visitors tours in his pipe and robe. He was also an accomplished historian.
It was really interesting to get a full view of how some of the NT properties are run, and how they keep them running. It is a lot of work for the people who run these houses, and it was great to see their passion and energy in wanting to make their properties amazing with the funds that they have. Wales was incredibly beautiful, and I hope to be able to travel back there in the future.