2 July 2016
18 June 2016
Y Faenol estate (from Welsh Maenol for manor and anglicised to Vaynol) was originally owned by the Bishops of Bangor and was obtained by the Cochwillan family in 1533. It was subsequently in the possession of the Williams family until William Williams (c. 1668-1696), 6th Baronet of Vaynol, died with no heir and the estate passed to the crown.
In the early 18th century Vaynol was owned by English politician John Smith (c. 1655-1723), Chancellor of the Exchequer (of England 1699-1701 and of Great Britain 1708-1710) and Speaker of the House of Commons (1705-1708).
Thomas Assheton Smith senior (1752-1828) from Cheshire inherited Vaynol estate from his uncle William Smith whereupon he assumed the Smith part of his surname. Assheton Smith was MP for Caernarvonshire from 1774 to 1780 and he expanded the size of the estate by ‘enclosing’ large areas of common land. He was also owner of Dinorwic Quarry and developed Port Dinorwic for exporting slate from the quarry.
In the 18th century the Smith family built the new hall, which replaced the 16th-century Vaynol Old Hall as the main residence of the estate, with the old hall then being used as a farm building. Both Vaynol Hall and Vaynol Old Hall are Grade I listed buildings. Having fallen into disrepair, Old Hall was featured in the BBC Restoration programme in 2003. It has since been restored and is now a private residence. The new hall was subject to alterations in the 19th and mid 20th centuries and was later converted into flats.
At its peak the estate covered some 35,000 acres. Much of this was sold off in 1967 with the remainder being sold in 1984 after the death of Assheton Smith’s descendant Charles Michael Robert Vivian Duff (1907-1980), 3rd Baronet of Vaynol. Part of the former estate, Glan Faenol, is now owned by the National Trust and Parc Menai business park was developed on land in the estate. The current estate, covering 1,000 acres, is owned by Caeathro-based Glan Gwna Estates Ltd, which is owned by Myfyr Wynne Jones, and is used as an events venue. It has hosted events such as Bryn Terfel’s Faenol Festival, the National Eisteddfod of Wales, the Kaya Festival, and Radio 1’s Big Weekend.