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Latitude: 51.95 / 51°56'59"N
Longitude: -3.5074 / 3°30'26"W
OS Eastings: 296495
OS Northings: 229014
OS Grid: SN964290
Mapcode National: GBR YJ.M8MC
Mapcode Global: VH5FG.5830
Entry Name: Abercamlais including Dovecote Cottage
Listing Date: 17 January 1963
Last Amended: 27 May 2005
Source ID: 6785
Building Class: Domestic
Location: Situated down drive to N of A 40, some 4 km E of Sennybridge.
Traditional County: Brecknockshire
Seat of the Williams family since the C16, rebuilt in the early C18 as a large three-storey stone house with fine enriched modillion eaves cornice. Timber Gothic porch of c. 1864-6, possibly by Sir G. G. Scott, dormers added 1909-10 by W. D. Caroe.
The first of the family, who moved to a possibly existing house c. 1571, was the Rev. Thomas Williams, vicar of Llanspyddid, called Vicar Gwyn. On his tombstone he claims relationship to Queen Elizabeth I and descent from the C11-12 knight, Thomas de Boulogne, granted land in the area, and the bulls-head arms of Bullen or Boleyn. His son, the Rev. Daniel Williams, died 1643, had four sons, the Rev. Thomas (died 1690), who inherited Abercamlais, John (died 1680), who had Abercamlais Isaf, now Penpont, and Richard, who had Aberbran. The Rev. Thomas' son, Thomas (died 1700), was High Sheriff in 1668 and is said to have started the rebuiding of the house which his son, another Rev. Thomas (died 1750), continued, c. 1710-20. The next three generations, all called John, were clerics of distinction, all Canons of St Davids (died 1799, 1814, and 1841). This line ended with John Penry Williams, who died, unmarried, in 1861, and the estate passed to a cousin, Rev. Prebendary Garnons Williams (died 1908), (His father was the head of the Aberbran branch of the family, and had married Elizabeth, of the Abercamlais branch). Garnons was vicar of Brecon 1859-61, initiator and promoter of the restoration of the cathedral by Sir G. G. Scott. His son the Rev. Arthur (died 1935) was the last of the nine clerical owners. His son Capt. Nevill Garnons Williams, (R.N.), Lord Lieutenant 1963-73, died in 1983. Some time after his death some money was released, enabling a maintenance survey of the house to be carried out, leading to some necessary works to be completed in a four year programme by his daughter, Mrs S. Ballance, High Sheriff of Powys, 1994.
Country house, coursed squared sandstone on the main facades, colourwashed rubble stone elsewhere, with slate hipped roofs on highly enriched deep timber eaves cornices with big foliage consoles in the frieze. Three storeys, cellar and attic, L-plan. Windows with stone sills. Big chimneys of cut sandstone with cornices, probably rebuilt in the early C19. The seven-bay SOUTH FRONT has late Georgian sashes, 12-pane to top floor, 15-pane elsewhere and centre door in big gabled oak Gothic porch of the 1860s, on low stone plinth. Porch has renewed bargeboards, glazed Gothic lights, 5 each side and one each side of double half-glazed doors with similar lights. The timber panels have blind Gothic motifs. The door within has early C19 double doors with coloured glass margins, in moulded architrave. Three 1910 dormers, the outer ones 9-pane pedimented, the centre one 3-light, 6-9-6-pane with pediment over centre light. Big corniced chimney on ridge to left of right dormer. Stone WEST SIDE has one window range to left with 12-pane sash to each floor, and blocked door below, the lower ones with stone voussoirs; and two bays of blank windows to right, without stone voussoirs, the right bay with door within conservatory. Two 1910 nine-pane dormers, and corniced ridge chimney. Colourwashed irregular EAST SIDE with various blocked openings, indicative of the pre C18 house. Two surviving cross-windows and one with thick glazing bars are indicative of earlier window types. Tall, five bays, the three right bays with sashes: 9-pane to top floor, 12-pane to main floors; then, spaced closer to centre bay, are two cross-windows with leaded glazing, that light the service stair, over a blocked door, none precisely aligned. The left bay has only the top window glazed, 12-pane with thick Queen Anne type glazing bars. The two windows below are blocked, the first floor one in the C19 for bookshelves. Stone voussoirs, stone sills. Three 1910 dormers, as on S front, but centre one of five lights. Colourwashed narrow N gable with big stone corniced chimney, gable verges overhanging servants' bell. No windows, but a very small half-timber and brick hipped later C19 pantry addition. REAR W has two-storey lean-to, and plain flat eaves. Attached at NW is a C19 single-storey L-plan range hipped at NE corner and W end. Back door in the short projecting E wall, C20 window to left in N wall, and 4-pane sash in hipped W end. The W side, set back to right, has a door and triple casement. Rear N of main house has a 5-light 1910 dormer, without pediment, flat eaves, and large stone corniced chimney to right. Stepped 15-pane sashes to left, lighting main stair; then attic 9-pane sash over a first floor 12-pane to centre; no windows to right. On W side is a plain CONSERVATORY, on stone base, said to have been brought from his previous house by Prebendary Williams after 1861, linking to DOVECOTE COTTAGE, a C17 or early C18 L-plan former laundry, game-larder and dairy, altered as holiday accommodation. One storey and attic, with C20 eaves dormers and largely C20 windows. Roof is gabled to N and W, hipped to SE. Very large N end outside stack, rendered shaft. The N side has an original door with oak lintel and thin hoodmould, and a similar blocked window to right. The S side had one window in old photographs.
Plan of three equal sized front rooms, a centre hall with parlour to W and dining-room to E, the hall open to the N stair hall. Behind dining-room is service stair and kitchen in NE wing. Small NW room behind parlour.
The entrance HALL has full fielded panelling with bolection-moulded fireplace and overmantel on E wall, two 8-panel doors flanking opening to stair hall, one on left of E wall, into dining-room. Wide doorway in centre of W wall, with semi-circular lunette, to parlour. Fine plaster ceiling with moulded cornice with egg-and-dart detail, guilloche broad square border, centre moulded circle around swirled acanthus rose. Moulded spandrel panels with foliage, between circle and square border. Oak floorboards. PARLOUR was stripped of panelling apart from shell-headed niches each side of fireplace, one square-headed, to left was a door, the other arch-headed. Carved marble later C18 chimney-piece, from the sale of Fonthill Splendens, Wiltshire, demolished in 1807. Panelled shutters. Half-glazed door to W conservatory, and door to hall have Regency architraves with roundels. Fine plaster ceiling, more Baroque than the hall ceiling, with radiating motifs. The cornice similar to that in the hall. DINING ROOM is fully panelled, as the hall, but with plain plaster ceiling, one small acanthus rose. Large elliptical-arched N sideboard recess. Marble early C19 chimney-piece on W wall. The STAIR HALL has exceptional open-well stair with scrolled open tread ends, thin turned balusters, three per tread, and thick turned newels, generally of column-on-vase type. Thick hand rail ramped up to the newels with an unusual kick back at the top of the curve. the landings have rails ramped up at each end. The extraordinary feature of the stair is that the balusters are made of turned fruit-wood of at least six varieties including apple and cherry. The notched iron supports were introduced in 1875. Painted fielded wall panels and dado panels. Under the stair are 11 stone steps to the CELLARS. Two low stone vaults in parallel, under E part of house, another cellar, blocked under NE kitchen. An opening on E of stair hall leads to kitchen passage running N and to SERVICE STAIR, to E, enclosed at bottom then open well with short flights on E wall, closed-string, with delicate turned balusters, square newels, and moulded rail. Cupboard to S with 8-panel door: a newel post of a pre C18 stair is said have been found behind shelving in the cupboard. Room parallel to N of service stair has 8-panel door as does KITCHEN, at N end of passage. Kitchen has high ceiling with two plastered beams, fielded panelled window seat in one E window, N fireplace and large built-in dresser on S.
FIRST FLOOR: Stair hall has square ceiling with plaster rose and border. Landing has an extraordinary C19 dresser made up of sawn posts from C18 four-poster beds, late C17 fat turned balusters and bits of C17 woodwork, some of it from Brecon Cathedral, removed in Scott's restoration. SW bedroom is fielded-panelled with two 8-panel doors. Fireplace with Dutch tiles. Plain architrave to opening E of landing to service stair, open-well from here up. 8-panel doors to N, E and SE rooms.
Graded I as one of the best surviving early C18 country houses in S Wales, retaining fine panelled interiors and staircase.
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