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Craig-y-nos

A Grade II* Listed Building in Tawe-Uchaf, Powys

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.8248 / 51°49'29"N

Longitude: -3.6839 / 3°41'2"W

OS Eastings: 284042

OS Northings: 215363

OS Grid: SN840153

Mapcode National: GBR Y9.W6VH

Mapcode Global: VH5FY.3D9F

Entry Name: Craig-y-nos

Listing Date: 14 March 1985

Last Amended: 29 April 2005

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 7491

Building Class: Domestic

Location: In the upper Tawe Valley, the grounds descending to the river, with spectacular views to the surrounding mountains.

County: Powys

Town: Swansea

Civil Community: Tawe-Uchaf

Locality: Craig-y-nos

Traditional County: Brecknockshire

Find accommodation in
Pen-y-cae

History

Incorporated into the wall of one of the buildings fronting the S courtyard is a mullioned window and blocked arched doorway, evidence of the C16- C17 predecessor of the C19 development. The elaborate mid C19 Scottish baronial style house which fronts the main courtyard and is the core of Craig-y-nos was originally called Bryn Melin and was built by T H Wyatt for Rhys Davies Powell in 1841-3. This extravagance bankrupted Powell and the estate was sold to the Morgan Morgans, a branch of the Tredegar family. In 1879 the property was bought by world-famous opera singer Adelina Patti. In 1890 she had built a theatre at NE (see separate entry for history) and in 1891 a large extension to N in pink Crai stone to provide additional spacious reception rooms and accommodation for guests and changing rooms for the theatre; a clock tower was also built adjacent to the theatre, the clock mechanism dated 1884. Further enrichments included a pavilion which was built as part of a Winter Garden development at the far SE corner of the building and was moved and re-erected at Victoria Park,Swansea, in 1920, and a large glass conservatory with attached aviary facing the garden to E accessed off the S courtyard and from the breakfast room. This conservatory, one of the earliest additions, was 'the most used room in the house' and illustrations show it with extensive plantings, tables, chairs and caged birds; the attached aviary was specifically erected for Patti's collection of tropical birds. Additions to and alterations of the stable court to W were also made at this time. An aerial photograph displayed in the house shows the complete complex of the Winter Garden including Pavilion and the buildings of the frameyard before dispersal and demolition, only the single storey bothy now surviving.

The Sale Particulars of 1920 identify the main rooms as follows: boudoir, noble dining room, music and billiard room, orchestrion, drawing room, library, ante-room, palm court, conservatory, veranda. The staircase (replaced by a lift) was described as a massive oak gallery staircase with carved newels. On the floor above were 3 principal bedrooms and 4 other best bedrooms. On the top floor, reached by two staircases (still extant) were 8 further bedrooms. The S wing contained 7 visitors' bedrooms and 10 servants' bedrooms, and the small chapel. The theatre wing contained 5 dressing rooms.

Adelina Patti had a long and brilliant career, touring worldwide, sometimes with her second husband Ernesto Nicolini. This was interspersed with time spent at Craig-y-nos. The building was richly furnished and entertainment was in lavish style, with a special apartment kept for the Prince and Princess of Wales, later Edward VII. The railway station on the Brecon Neath line at nearby Penwyllt was remodelled for her and re-named Craig-y-nos; she also had her own railway carriage complete with piano and solid silver bath . The couple were local benefactors and active supporters of Welsh musical life. Nicolini died in 1898 and subsequently Adelina Patti was married a third time, to the Swedish Baron Cederstrom, though the estate began to decline. In 1905 a recording session was held at Craig-y-nos. She died in 1919 aged 76 and is buried at the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Montmartre, Paris.

Development of the building is shown clearly in the difference between the first and second editions of the OS map and a series of C19 and early C20 prints and illustrations displayed in the building show it in its heyday. The building later was first used as a hospital during the Great War, the room layout mainly unaltered though a lift later replaced the central staircase. Ward wings were built in place of the Winter Garden pavilion. Photographs show the conservatory also in use as a ward. Subsequently the house reverted to private ownership, and is currently mainly used for private functions and in association with opera performances.
Patti commissioned William Barron (1800-1891) to lay out the gardens E of the Castle. These descended beneath the main frontage in an unusual stepped terrace to the river where a rocky water garden was constructed with summerhouse (restored). On the plateau either side of the house were the walled winter gardens to S and walled kitchen garden to N with game larder and glass houses; fishponds and boating lake beyond, also rose garden, croquet and tennis courts, and paddock. A network of paths allowed Patti and her visitors to enjoy the formal gardens and the wilder meadows, woodland and mountain scenery.

Exterior

Large castellated country house in Scottish baronial style. Sited to maximise views of surrounding mountains, the front courtyard opening onto mountain road to W and E frontage overlooking the River Tawe and the mountain ranges beyond. The original castle was built of grey/brown snecked rubble with matching ashlar or rockfaced dressings; the later C19 extensions are of pink Crai sandstone with contrasting pale dressings, grey rockfaced or buff ashlar. Welsh slate roof with a plethora of mostly narrow rectangular corniced stacks, many retaining terracotta pots, and a number of decorative lead finials including weathervane to apexes . Original mid C19 entrance frontage is highly asymmetrical with deliberately varied narrow lights of different designs at different levels. 3 main storeys. Twin towers with pyramidal roofs linked by gablet top incorporating harp motif - a tall 2-bay range; the small narrow lights of varying forms have hoods, continuous to top floor. A 2-light window with trefoil heads and mullion within a wide recessed surround at first floor level (formerly incorporating false machiolations) is set centrally over a wide 4-centred arch, below which protrudes a heavily buttressed Tudor-arched entrance porch with stepped parapet; single storey lean-to extends either side. Lower 2-bay wing to right has a crow-stepped gable to left incorporating a corbelled turret room at first floor level; to right are double square-headed lights at each level; at first floor the continuous hoodmould to right extends to become a sill band to left. Projecting at end right is a later cross wing with steeply pitched roof at the angle with the 2-storey former stable court range which forms the S frontage to the entrance courtyard (see below). To left of the porch entrance is the main later C19 extensive addition: first unit is a 3-storey 3-bay castellated range, the 2 main bays with false machiolations and topped by embattled turrets; mostly 4-light windows with mullions and transoms to each floor again of varying designs over the 3 storeys; ground floor has decorative relieving arches. Adjoining at left is a lower cross wing with crow-stepped gables and long narrow lights attached at left to the clock tower. This has a steeply pitched pyramidal roof with swept eaves, lucarnes and weather vane over louvred belfry openings; clock faces on each ashlar side over a deep moulded band echoing the machiolations of the main tower: ground floor doorway with heavy surround. The theatre frontage (see separate list description) extends at right angles forming the N frontage of the courtyard. To rear of the theatre and forming the N side of the complex is the extensive dressing-room wing fairly utilitarian in appearance over 2 and 3 storeys.

The E frontage facing river is comparable to the W in its fusion of the two periods. To right (N) is the Patti extension, again with embattled parapet and turrets, one polygonal and one taller and rectangular, and large windows over 3 storeys; again the attached wing with crow-stepped gable. To left (S) is the original mid C19 castle, again with twin pyramidal-roofed towers, a large inserted first floor window, and ground floor bay window; stepped back to left is a lower 2-window range with small cross-gable and tall polygonal end turret with slender broached spire. Extending southwards for 10 bays is the conservatory, glass and iron, with a replaced wooden roof. It has a lozenge-shaped E front and upper panels incorporating coloured glass; recorded dimensions 80' x 27' (24.4m x 8.2m). Attached at S is a long narrow former aviary of timber, iron and glass, though masked by later extension. This whole glazed wing backs onto the former stable courtyard; single storey hospital ward wings added at SE on the site of the Patti pavilion in the Winter Garden.

The S courtyard frontage is formed by the former service wing, an extension and enlargement of the original mid-C19 development; a 2-storey range comprising a 3-window hipped roof square building to left; central gatehouse with wide-arched entrance and embattled parapet; to right a lower unit with prominent crowstepped gabled dormers and at end right a projecting cross wing with similar gable; windows to these service rooms are mostly 4-pane sashes; prominent ridge and lateral narrow stacks The former stable yard behind was remodelled both by Patti and the hospital but retains two wide carriage arches to W.

Interior

In spite of institutional use the interior retains most of its original layout though the function of some rooms has changed. A short flight of stairs leads from a front lobby with skylight surrounded by probably re-used Jacobean woodwork to the sequence of main first floor reception rooms reached by a lateral arched corridor, all with spectacular views over the mountains to E. Much decorative detail is also retained, including in particular moulded plasterwork comprising friezes, cornices, arches, ceilings, Gothic-arched recesses. In detail: the Drawing Room has a deep coffered ceiling; the Dining Room has moulded egg and dart cornice; the Music Room ceiling has decorative foliage plasterwork to ceiling panels which incorporate ventilators above a strapwork frieze; the Billiard Room retains a high coved ceiling and, though blocked in, its original ceiling lights. Fireplace in Morning Room has a carved wood chimney piece with foliage motifs and tiles with scenes from Walter Scott's novels; similar fireplace in Dining Room. Other woodwork includes panelled shutters and reveals, panelled doors and door surrounds; in the Drawing Room is a doorcase incorporating a Gothic-arched recess. Many windows, very varied in style - some with trefoil heads - retain their original frames, some metal; some original glass and many fittings. Bedrooms, including that of Madame Patti, are above on the second floor, some incorporating small turret recesses with tiny lights. Service stairs of stained wood with twisted balusters at each end ascend over three storeys; the main central staircase was replaced by a lift. Former chapel of Madame Patti is in the older S wing over the and has a window of arched lights incorporating coloured glass. Third floor has further rooms of generous size. Conservatory attached at SE has a tiled floor, wooden barrel roof replacing an original curved glass roof, and is supported by slender cast iron piers and trusses; the attached aviary also retains iron roof trusses and decorative window frames.

Reasons for Listing

Listed II* for its architectural and historical importance in C19 Wales. Group value with other listed items in the complex.

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