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Latitude: 52.3649 / 52°21'53"N
Longitude: -4.0572 / 4°3'25"W
OS Eastings: 260024
OS Northings: 276089
OS Grid: SN600760
Mapcode National: GBR 8S.S5PJ
Mapcode Global: VH4FK.MTHF
Entry Name: Plas Abermad
Listing Date: 20 December 1989
Last Amended: 27 October 2003
Source ID: 10710
Building Class: Domestic
Location: Set in its own grounds on the floor of the Ystwyth Valley. Reached by short drive curving N off the A485 midway between Llanfarian and Llanilar.
Traditional County: Cardiganshire
Victorian Gothic country house of 1870-72 by John Pollard Seddon, for Lewis Pugh Pugh, David Williams, builder. J P Seddon one of the leading High Victorian Gothic architects, was at the time architect to the University College in Aberystwyth. Lewis Pugh, prominent saddler in Aberystwyth, bought the Abermad estate in 1852 from the Vaughans of Trawsgoed having made a fortune at the Copa Hill lead mine, which he bought in 1834. Pugh's daughter married John Evans, lime merchant of Commerce House, Aberystwyth, in 1843, reputedly with a dowry of her weight in gold sovereigns, and their son Lewis Pugh Evans inherited Abermad on his grandfather's death in 1868, on condition of changing his surname. He was a barrister at the High Court at Calcutta as was his brother, Sir Gruffydd H. Pugh Evans (1840-1902) who built Lovesgrove, near Aberystwyth. Lewis Pugh Pugh (1837-1908) was MP for Cardiganshire 1880-85.
Abermad is among the most important High Victorian Gothic houses in Wales, an exemplar of asymmetrical design, the form following function in the hierarchical elaboration of the principal elements. The stained glass at the house by the designer F Vincent Hart and made by G E Cooke is of high quality. The original drawings for the house with interior details and a design for the library stained glass are at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Country house, High Victorian Gothic style, in brown local stone with dressings of yellow Doulting stone, and blue-grey tooled stone to quoins, relieving arches and chimneys, possibly Llanddewi Brefi. Slate roofs with fine tall chimneys, three on main ridge, one on W side wall and one on rear roof between gables of rear NE wing. Chimneys are chamfered at angles, with battered bases, moulded plinths and brattished caps in ashlar. House is L-plan with projected double gabled wing to rear NE, and asymmetrical 5-bay S front with double gable to the 2 bays to right and single gable to left bay. Gables are shouldered with copings and stone finials. Principal rooms are in first 3 bays from right with entrance in second bay, while narrow fourth bay has service entry and stair and left bay has service rooms with lower floor levels. Heavy machiolated eaves band over third and fourth bays, between gables, and over 3rd bay, a 2-light dormer with steep roof, ornate cusped bargeboards with collar, and Gothic 2-light window with pointed top lights. The windows are mostly plate-glass small sashes in square-headed ashlar surrounds, pointed larger windows in the gables. In the 3 right bays, the 2 right gables have 2-light windows under pointed arches with trefoil lights in heads and hoodmoulds, first floor has mullion windows with shouldered heads to lights and brattished dripmoulds above, 2-light to the flanking bays 1-2-1 lights to centre. Relieving arches over centre and right windows. Ground floor has massive 3-bay porch to centre, plate-traceried ashlar rose window to former library to right, with stone voussoirs to arched head and flat sill beneath, and segmental pointed 3-light to left, lighting former study, with hoodmould, stone voussoirs, transom and stepped cusped heads to lights. Iron casement windows. The porch is the dominant element of the front and is of singularly massive construction. The deeply-shouldered openings have lintels of massive single ashlar blocks, roll-moulded, while the shoulders have large-scale Gothic leaf-carving on the inner faces. Four Gothic columns with carved capitals, shaft rings and bases, the shafts of pink Shap granite. Interlaced roundels in pierced ashlar parapet, low relief foliage carving to the spandrels including around the corners, unusually varied naturalistic carving to the 'shoulders' of the openings and to the capitals including a fox with a bird, rabbits, squirrels and an eagle. The columns have high octagonal plinths; modern pavement. Coved and ribbed painted boarded ceiling. Within is trefoil-arched main doorway flanked by single-light windows with transoms. Panelled main door with 2 glazed panels and traceried overlight. At extreme right corner slate corner stone inscribed July 1870.
The narrow fourth bay, to left, has square-headed door and 2 stair-lights above joined vertically by a pierced ashlar panel, the top one with cusped pointed head. The fifth bay, to left, has ground floor flat-headed 3-light window, first floor 2-light, both with relieving arches but without the dripmoulds and shouldered heads of the similar windows on the main part of the house, and attic tall plate traceried pointed 2-light window with hoodmould, two plain pointed lights and roundel. The windows of the two upper floors here are set lower than those of the main apartments though the gable is of matching height. On W end is a big wall-face chimney over machicolated eaves, over a 2-storey projection twin-gabled to W with S side machicolated eaves (at first floor sill level to first bay of main range). The 2 W gables have first floor rectangular lights, 2 to left, a pair to right and ground floor hipped porch with shouldered-headed door to S side and ashlar chamfered eaves.
East garden front of 3 bays, 2 stone dormer gables, coped with finials and each with single pointed arched opening with trefoil over a transom and single square-headed sash. Machicolated eaves. Similar details to main front at first floor (mullion windows with brattished cornices), one to left, one to centre altered to a door, and a pair to right. Almost full width ashlar projection to ground floor with moulded cornice. To left an open 2-bay loggia with 2 broad shouldered openings similar to those on front porch, and pointed arch on S end. Sculpture detail of similarly fine quality (one of the best figures being an owl), and pavement of encaustic tiles by Maw and Co. Within, large French window with 2 lights and top lights and ring-shafted column between (capital below top lights). To right under same cornice is a big 3-light drawing-room window with similar ringed columns between French windows but with ashlar cusped pointed top-lights in square-headed openings.
Rear echoes front with projecting double gable to left and single gable to right. Higher rear wall to right as ground has been excavated for a full-height basement, formerly opening onto an enclosed courtyard. Twin gables to left have 2-light pointed attic windows with trefoils in heads, single and 2-light windows to first floor with shouldered heads, and ground floor 2-light window to left of dining room big splayed bay of 1-3-1 lights with lion and leopard gargoyles. Cusped pointed heads to lights in roll-moulded square-headed surrounds. Relieving arch over left window, parapet to dining-room bay with hipped roof behind. Timber attic dormer on the W return side. Small second floor oriel set diagonally in angle between NE wing and main rear range. Main rear wall has machicolated eaves, tall 2-light pointed stair window to left with transom, cusped heads to lights and quatrefoil above. Narrow single light each floor in next bay to right, the upper one with cusped head and panel between windows linked vertically, the lower one square-headed. The further gable to right has pointed plate-traceried 2-light to attic with big roundel in head, two-light to first floor and 3-light to ground floor, with relieving arches. Basement under this range has cambered heads to openings in grey stone.
Some good surviving cast-iron rainwater heads and downpipes.
Especially fine interior with strong High Victorian Gothic detail, mostly in pitch pine, including panelled, mostly quatrefoil, doors with Gothic doorcases, ramped overdoors, high dados, and panelled shutters. Square entrance hall with heavy roll-moulded beams to ceiling and massive ashlar corbelled chimneypiece. The floor has Maw & Co tiles below carpet (in poor condition). To N is the dining room with canted ribbed ceiling and crenellated cornice, fireplace removed. Very large N end bay window. To right, is the former library at the front (SE) and drawing room at the back (NE) with big sliding panelled doors between and coved ceilings. The library has fine stained glass rose window by F V Hart, the large central panel missing but the 7 small outer roundels surviving. depicting Ruskin's 'Seven Lamps of Architecture', in exceptionally fine Gothic drawing style. The drawing room has the bay window beyond a broad segmental arch carried on marble triple shafts with shaft-rings and carved capitals. Brown marble chimneypiece with pink marble panels. Both drawing-room and library have top lights to the garden side windows with stained glass. To left of the hall (NW) a pointed roll-moulded arch with panelled reveals opens onto the stair hall from which a further door opens into the (SW) study. The study has exceptional full-length cupboards and shelving with typically Seddon panelling to base. The stair hall has another ribbed coved boarded ceiling. The splendid staircase is cantilevered to the upper flight and the stair hall is crossed at uppermost level by the gallery connecting the 2 sides of the attic storey, timber on brackets, enclosed with blank cusped headed panels and a row of glazed quatrefoils above. The main stair has panelled dado, unusual semi-trefoil arches to balustrade with squat columns and trefoil punched band between each baluster. Square newels with geometric finials. The vertical boarding below the 2 lower flights has Seddon's characteristic inlaid butterfly joints. The underside of the upper flight is roll moulded with dentil detail to tread bases, and cantilevered on a raking colonnette. The attic level is cantilevered on chamfered bracket; the landing has full height Gothic screen (now glazed) with deep quatrefoils. The long stair window has fine stained glass by Hart to window head, an angel in top quatrefoil and emblems of sun and moon in 2 cusped top lights.
The principal first floor rooms are at the SE end reached under stilted pointed arch with linenfold panelling. The doorcases here have crenellated bands and the doors have latticework panelling below T-shaped brass handles and ornate lock plates. The ceilings have incised plaster ribs creating diamond and square panelled areas. The main room facing the front has fine architraves to the windows with brattished cornices and latticework panelled aprons, and inset blue and white tiled chimneypiece. All the chimneypieces are different. The doors to the other end are 9-panelled with studded corner blocks to shouldered architraves.
Access to the attic is only via the secondary staircase. This is dog-leg with simple Gothic punched band to base of balustrade, pyramidal finial to newels and pendants. The lower flight has been rebuilt with some different detail. The attic has simple 6-panel doors, with the T-shaped brass handles and elaborate lock plates. The exposed beams have punched quatrefoils. Two rooms have been created out of the former billiard room at the W end, with panelled ceiling.
The large basement has 3-course corbelling below the wallhead to most walls, barrel vaults to the W end, in transverse rows including pantry with full height 3-tier slate shelving. The ice house was unusually in the body of the house, it now contains the lift shaft.
Graded II* as an exceptionally complete High Victorian Gothic country house by a major architect, retaining particularly high quality interior detail.
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