Bangor University Research Vessel Prince Madog

Prince Madog

Date

20 August 2017

Location

St George’s Pier, Menai Bridge
SH 55932 72003; 53.22546°N, 4.15953°W

Information

Research Vessel Prince Madog (School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University)

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Plas Rhianfa (1)

Plas Rhianfa

Plas Rhianfa

Date

20 February 2016

Location

Cwm Cadnant, Anglesey
SH 57055 73421; 53.23850°N, 4.14335°W

Information

John Hay Williams (1794-1859), who was descended from William Williams (1634-1700) 1st Baronet of Gray’s Inn who acquired Bodelwyddan Castle, became the 2nd Baronet of Bodelwyddan in 1830. During the 1830s he held the posts of High Sheriff of Anglesey, of Flintshire and then of Denbighshire. In 1842 he married the daughter of the 1st Earl Amherst, Lady Sarah Elizabeth Pitt (1801-1876). She was a proficient artist, having trained under English landscape painter Peter de Wint (1784-1849), and she made sketches of castles and country houses while the couple toured the Loire region of France. They had two daughters, and so with no male heir, Sir John’s title and properties were to be inherited by his younger brother, Hugh. He therefore decided to build a dower house as a residence for his wife and daughters in the event of his death, and it was to be Sarah’s drawings of chateaux that were to serve as inspiration for its design.

Birkenhead architect Charles Verelst (1814-1859) – known as Charles Reed until he inherited his uncle Harry Verelst’s (1773-1837) estate at Aston Hall, South Yorkshire – was engaged to draw up plans for the main structure based on Sarah’s sketches. In 1849 Beaumaris builder John Rogers started construction of the French gothic villa situated on the banks of the Menai Strait between Menai Bridge and Beaumaris. The Hay Williams took charge of the design of the interiors themselves and construction was completed in 1850 or 1851. Careful thought was given to the name of the villa – Plas Rhianfa (rhianfa meaning lady’s place in Welsh) – which was suggested by Reverend William Hicks Owen of St Asaph.

Following Hay Williams’ death in 1859, Sarah lived in the house until she died in 1876. Their eldest daughter, Margaret, inherited the property and she in turn lived there until she died in 1930. Margaret’s grandson, Dr Andrew Verney, received the property as a wedding present in 1955. The Verneys, however, sold it off in 1957. Most of the grounds were sold separately, with three of the original 12 acres remaining with the mansion, which was then subdivided into individual holiday apartments.

In 2003 Beaumaris architect Peter Bailey and his partner Vivienne Serene purchased Plas Rhianfa and resolved to re-integrate the apartments into a single home. In 2004 they secured a Grade II* listing for the building and, guided by the diaries of Sarah Hay Williams, embarked upon the process of restoration. However, ill health forced Bailey to discontinue the project and the property was put on the market in 2008 as a 15-bedroom mansion, together with Gate House, Coach House and Stables, set in three acres of grounds for £3.25 million.

Plas Rhianfa was eventually sold in 2011 for around £2 million to Buckinghamshire-based holding company Clarenco LLP for its AmaZing Venues division, which operates a portfolio of prestigious hotels and events venues in iconic country properties. After 16 months’ renovation, Clarenco opened the property in 2012 as Chateau Plas Rhianfa, a five-star luxury hotel and wedding and events venue. In May 2015 its restaurant was named Top Hotel Restaurant of the Year by the Foods Wales Awards. The hotel currently has 22 bedrooms plus three self-catering cottages and in September 2015 it was granted planning permission to convert a dwelling linked to the Chateau into an additional eight bedrooms.

Further Reading

Plas Rhianfa (British Listed Buildings);
Chateau Rhianfa (AmaZing Venues)

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Plas Cadnant

Plas Cadnant

Plas Cadnant

Date

13 September 2015

Location

Plas Cadnant, Menai Bridge, Anglesey
SH 55636 73309; 53.23711°N, 4.16454°W

Information

Plas Cadnant manor house was built in 1803 by John Price the younger (1780-1855), agent to the Marquess of Anglesey. The neo-classical Georgian house, which received a Grade II listing in 1967, was set in an estate comprising gardens and parkland on the west bank of the Afon Cadnant about half a mile from its estuary on the Menai Strait. The estate remained in the Price family until after the First World War when it was divided up and sold to different owners.

The current 80-hectare private estate was purchased in 1996 by former Staffordshire-based farmer Anthony Tavernor, who first of all renovated and converted the house’s outbuildings into five self-catering holiday cottages. In 1997 he then embarked upon the long-term and continuing project of restoring the gardens which had been neglected for over 70 years. The gardens were opened to the public in 2011.

Further Reading

Plas Cadnant;
Gardens to visit: Plas Cadnant, Anglesey (The Telegraph, 8 July 2011)

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Eglwys Sant Tysilio

Eglwys Sant Tysilio

Eglwys Sant Tysilio

Date

8 November 2014 (Feast day of Saint Tysilio)
Location

Church Island, Menai Bridge

SH 55181 71768; 53.22315°N, 4.17067°W

Information

The seventh-century Welsh saint Tysilio, or Sulio, was the second son of Brochwel Ysgithrog, King of Powys. He turned his back on the royal court and military service, opting instead for a religious life and later became an abbot. He is believed to have founded a hermitage on Church Island (Ynys Tysilio) in the Menai Strait. He also built churches in Meifod, Powys and Saint-Suliac, Brittany – the latter being the place to where he fled after refusing to marry his brother Cynan’s widow and succeed to the throne of Powys; it is also where he ended his days in 640.

Church Island is now accessed by a short causeway from Belgian Promenade in Menai Bridge. The churchyard covers the whole of the one-hectare island and the present church, which is still in use, was built in the 15th century and was restored at the end of the 19th century. Eglwys Sant Tysilio was a parish church until 1858 and was formerly a chapel of ease of St Mary’s Church in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.

Further Reading

Tysilio (Wikipedia);
Church of Saint Tysilio (angleseychurches.co.uk)

 

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Ynys Gored Goch / Whitebait Island

Ynys Gored Goch in the Menai Strait with Britannia Bridge behind

Ynys Gored Goch in the Menai Strait with Britannia Bridge behind

Date

8 November 2014
Location

From Church Island, Menai Bridge

SH 55108 71736; 53.22284°N, 4.17175°W

Information

Differences in the tides at either end of the channel separating Anglesey from the mainland give rise to strong currents flowing in either direction at different times through the Menai Strait. The stretch between the two bridges (Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge and Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge) – known as the Swellies – is the most hazardous and experiences various whirlpool currents owing to the rocks. Tidal conditions in the strait were, however, favourable for catching fish using traps. These employed weirs that allowed fish to enter at high tide but then left them enclosed at low tide. One such fishery was located on the 100m-long island in the strait close to Britannia Bridge. Ynys Gored Goch (literally, Red Weir Island, but known in English as Whitebait Island) is documented as having been owned by the Diocese of Bangor in the late 16th century, when it was leased to a Thomas Fletcher of Treborth for an annual rent of £3 plus a barrel of fish. There are two buildings on the half-hectare island: the main house together with the now converted smoke house where the fish were cured. During the early 20th century visitors could cross to the island by boat to avail themselves of a ‘whitebait tea’ for a shilling. The church authorities sold the island in 1988 and it has had a number of private owners since then. Mains water and electricity were installed in 1997 and for a while the house was used for holiday accommodation.

 

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Belgian Promenade

High tide in the Swellies and a partially flooded Belgian Promenade

High tide in the Swellies and a partially flooded Belgian Promenade

Date

8 November 2014
Location

Menai Bridge

SH 55296 71708; 53.22264°N, 4.16892°W

Information

During the First World War around 60 refugees from Mechelen, between Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium, were accommodated by the town of Menai Bridge. In appreciation of the welcome they received they helped to build a walkway, completed in 1916, along the banks of the Menai Strait from Carreg yr Halen – former landing place of the Porthaethwy Ferry – to Ynys Tysilio (Church Island). The 400m-long walkway, known as Belgian Promenade, was rebuilt after storm damage in the 1960s and, more recently, its surface was renewed in 2000.

 

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Menai Suspension Bridge

Menai Suspension Bridge

Date

6 October 2012
Location

Menai Bridge

SH 55753 71234; 53.21851°N, 4.16186°W

Information

The Menai Suspension Bridge was designed by Thomas Telford and built between 1818 and 1826. Prior to its construction, the only transport links between the island of Anglesey and the mainland were the ferry crossings, which could be perilous, and cattle drovers taking livestock to market on the mainland had to swim their herds across the Menai Strait.

With the 1800 Act of Union, in which Ireland became part of the UK, the importance of a mail route between London and Dublin increased. Telford built the suspension bridge as part of his road from London to Holyhead, the ferry port chosen to link Great Britain with Ireland.

The bridge’s main span is 580 ft (177 m) long, the longest in the world at the time, and the height of the deck had to provide a clearance of 100 ft (30 m) to allow fully rigged Royal Navy sailing ships to pass beneath. The stone piers were built from Penmon limestone, the suspension chains were wrought iron, and the deck was originally wooden. The ironwork was replaced by steel when modernisation work was carried out in 1939-41.

Menai Suspension Bridge (Wikipedia)

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