Description: Llanvihangel Court
Date Listed: 5 June 1952
Cadw Building ID: 1919
OS Grid Coordinates: 332781, 220411
Latitude/Longitude: 51.8778, -2.9766
In Llanvihangel Crucorney about 400m south east of the Church of St Michael.
The origins of the house are in the late C15, possibly the traditional date of 1471. the internal timber framing and some of the walling in the north west (kitchen) wing seem to date from then, or possibly the early C16. This original house has been considerably extended in all directions. The appearance of the present house dates largely from 1599, when the existing main block was enlarged and recased by Rhys Morgan, and from the various additions and improvements undertaken first by Nicholas Arnold after his purchase of the property in 1627, and more by his son Edward Arnold in c1673. Its appearance at this time is recorded by the painting of c1680 still in the house. The Arnolds sold it to Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford in 1722. There were minor changes in the late C19, these include a number of chimneys eg. the red brick ones, and the windows; and quite major ones, eg. added rooms, by Mrs Arnold Matthews (owner 1900-24), but these were largely reversed by Mr Bernard (owner 1924-46). This included stripping the plaster, panelling and Victorian decoration from some of the rooms. Since this period the house has largely remained unaltered, but there have been some like-for-like repairs.
The physical development of the house began with a rectangular hall block which is the core of the present entrance range and this had a service wing at the north west corner, the core of the present service wing. In 1599 the hall block was enlarged and recased in stone so as to have a half H-shaped entrance front with the door to the screens-passage in the inner right-angle. A chamber wing was added at the left end of the hall and this is the three gabled garden front. The Arnolds then re-windowed and put the front door in the centre in the early C17 and added the stair tower in the 1670's. The service wing was also extended at this time. The late C19 saw the service wing changed again and there was much re-windowing at this period which gives the rear part of the house the present rather Arts-and-Crafts look.
The most obvious internal feature is the considerable survival of the oak box-framed walls of the late medieval or early Tudor house. These are three panels high and form the end walls of the hall and frame the old kitchen behind. They also extend upwards into the first floor rooms and indicate that the hall was always floored. Their original extent can clearly be seen because the plaster and panelling was removed from the main rooms, presumably in the early C20. There are photographs showing the rooms decorated with typical Victorian wallpapers and drapes etc.
The Hall has two timber framed walls and two rough stone ones. These would all have been wainscotted in the C17 and possibly plastered in the C18, they were wallpapered in the C19. The ribbed plaster ceiling with lozenges containing Tudor roses and fleur-de-lys looks out of place without the more formal wall covering, but may be C17, otherwise it is C19 reproduction. All the decorative plaster ceilings in the house are of a character and would either be C17 or Victorian reproduction. The small one with pendant in side the closet inside the original front door is the only one that certainly appears early C17. The present Hall seems to have been moved to the right of the original one as the screens passage was added into the low end when the main entrance was altered, and the side wall was moved forward to give access to the wine cellar. The large Tudor fireplace has the later arch to the added C17 stairs to the left, and an original external window to the right; 3-light mullion-and-transom which possibly gives some idea of the original windows on the entrance front. Beyond this is the doorway to the service wing which was at the end of the screens passage. This has a magnificent four plank nail studded door with strap hinges. There is an oak doorway with a 4-centred head set into the frame which goes through to the Morning Room. This room has a ribbed plaster ceiling and some repaired panelling with a marquetry cornice. The Drawing Room in the 1599 wing is wainscotted and has a ribbed plaster ceiling, the panelling has been altered and repaired, and there is an apparently early C20 fireplace.The lobby at the end of the screens passage contains a framed staircase which may be original in situation, but has been altered. The Dining Room is partly oak framed and was the kitchen of theTudor house. It contains a large open fireplace which must have held a range at some time, and a charcoal stove to the right of this. Chamfered ceiling beams with bar-and-scroll stops. A screen leads through to the present kitchen which must previously have been the wet kitchen. Most of the ground floor rooms are stone paved, the 1881 survey suggests that these were replaced at that date.
The oak staircase rises in a compartment added in c1673 by Edward Arnold. It is an open-well stair with a closed string, twisted balusters, a moulded hand-rail and turned knobs and pendants on the square newel posts. There are stained glass windows on the half landings, one of Elizabeth I and the other Charles I and his family (both sovereigns are supposed to have visited the house). The treads are oak, the soffit is plastered and the staircase rises clear to the attic.
The first floor has two panelled rooms, one with linenfold and the other with square panels, this room has a Tudor fireplace. Both rooms have ribbed plaster ceilings and good floorboards. There are also two rooms with compartmented ceilings with moulded oak ribs, the King's and Queen's Room. These ceilings are of an older character and may be C16, one has cranked ribs so that the ceiling is bowed upwards.
The attic floor is of interest because it seems to have a kind of Long Gallery. It runs the full length of the entrance front and has a 3-light window at the north west end, also the dormer in the middle of the north east front. The room is ceiled at collar level and has eight principal rafter trusses with ashlar pieces. Smaller rooms in the gables lead off on the garden side.
The exterior shows very little of the late medieval or Tudor house. Red and brown sandstone rubble with freestone dressings; only the stair tower is now painted, but the whole was presumably once rendered and lime-washed, all the roofs are stone tiled. Large irregular L-shaped block of two storeys and attics facing north east, with a large service wing attached at the north west corner. This is partly full height and partly two storeys only. The inner angle of the L later infilled by the stair tower in c1673.
Entrance front : This is built to a standard pattern for 1599 with a recessed centre and wings projecting to either side. 2 : 2 : 2 windows, the wings have double gables, the inner ones being narrower, but the same height, flat copings and kneelers. All the windows on the ground floor, and to the wings on the first floor, are cross-framed casements with ovolo mouldings, 2-light with 4 panes over 8, the centre ones on the first floor are 4 over 4 to accommodate the higher ceiling in the hall. The gable windows are 8 + 8 casements. The central hipped dormer has an 18 + 18 casement, this has a very Arts-and Crafts look, but appears in the c1680 painting. The central doorway is an Arnold alteration from c1630, the 1599 doorway can be seen blocked in the right hand wing; the present doors however appear to be early C20 reproduction.
Garden front : this is of 1599 and has three equal gables over a string course. 2 + 2 windows with a gap as wide as the central gable in between. All the windows are 2-light cross-framed casements with 3 over 12 panes on the ground floor and 3 over 9 above. Decayed plaque which once said in relief letters 'This front rebuilt 1599'. This plaque is said to date from 1831 when the gables were rebuilt.
Courtyard elevation : To the right is the gable end of the garden front which has a rebuilt 3-light mullion and transom window on the ground floor and an apparently unaltered 3-light window with four centred heads, diamond lattices, and dripmould over. Above this is a sundial said by Bradney to be dated 1627. Next comes the stair tower which has a window to the ground floor and the attic landing, both small paned casements, and two large windows on the half landings which have leaded lattices. To the left of this is the chief surviving chimney with four diamond set stone flues. This is for the hall fireplace among others. The rest of the courtyard elevations have oak mullion and transom windows on the ground floor and painted sashes, these are all replacements. The doorway is modern. Hipped wing with timber roof ventilator to left, this may have been a granary and now has all reproduction windows.
Kitchen elevation : This has a large external stack topped by two Victorian red brick diamond set shafts. Otherwise the walling is plain and the windows are reproduction casements. This part may include some surviving walling of the early Tudor house. The left hand end is the end gable of the entrance front and this has the Stuart type windows as before. Several other chimneys, some of which are rebuilt in red brick. One is corbelled out on the first floor and has been added to a small hipped roof room, but the fireplace is no longer in use, and the chimney has been truncated at eaves level.
Reason for Listing
Listed grade I as an architecturally and historically important country house of late medieval origins which has developed over the centuries and has well preserved features from several periods. It is also a part of an important group of associated buildings.
Archaeologia Cambrensis, 19th Annual Meeting, 1936, Description by Sir Cyril Fox.
Sir Joseph Bradney, A History of Monmouthshire, Hundred of Abergavenny, p.216.
Peter Smith, Houses of the Welsh Countryside, 1978, Maps 47,49 and 50, also Photograph 92 of the staircase.
Edward Foster of Abergavenny, plan of 1881 in the house.
Painting of c1680 in the house.
Information from the owner, Mrs Johnstone and photographs from her collection.
In Llanvihangel Crucorney about 400m south east of the Church of St Michael.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.