When we moved into the house we inherited lots of documents, articles and letters full of titbits and speculation on its history with building dates ranging from the 15th to the 17th century. Then we joined the Dating Old Welsh Houses project and from the science of dendrochronology we now know the first house (west) was constructed around timbers that were felled between 1559 and 1565 and the second (east) house from fellings between 1600 and 1604. These two houses, on a cliff overlooking the Vale of Ffestiniog, were joined together at the first floor although we don’t know when; the tithe map (1842) shows them separate.
One of the other things we inherited with the house was a framed copy of the Dduallt page out of Griffith’s Pedigrees. The full title of the book, first published in 1914, is ‘Pedigrees of Anglesey and Caernarfonshire Families’ with each page tracing the genealogy structured around significant houses. From this we have leapt to the likely conclusion that the first house was built by John of Dol y Ddwyryd, an older way of describing Plas Dol Moch in the valley below, and the second house by his son David Lloyd. Unlike the tree ring dating this is not a fact - John Edward Griffith did not always get it right!
Lloyds are named in documents connected with the house all the way through to 1903 but it’s a common name and we can’t (yet) prove the Lloyds of the 1840s are related to the previous Lloyds.
|Cores from beams with crumbly sap wood at the end|
Early history is sketchy and confusing in places. David Lloyd, builder of the second house, married into the Pengwern family, as did his grandfather. One of David’s sons married into the Park family of Llanfrothen whilst his oldest son John Lloyd inherited Dduallt and married Margaret, daughter of John ap Richard of Ffestiniog, who had also married into the Park family!
The Civil War must have been tricky times for families such as these. There is evidence that the current grand house at Dol Moch, built around 1643 by John Jones, was used as a royalist headquarters. There are also stories that Dduallt was used as the headquarters of the parliamentary forces and billet for the officers during the siege of Harlech. But the Lloyds survived.
There are several references to John Lloyd, including the tax payment of five hearths in 1662 and his death in 1665 without children and thus his nephew Hugh Lloyd inherited.
Hugh married Katherine, daughter of Robert Evans of Tan y Bwlch, and there is mention in Hanes Plwyf Ffestiniog of a cupboard at Dduallt with the inscription H.Ll 1672 K.E. In 1684 Hugh Lloyd died and his will, written early that year, contains the following provision ..... ‘unto my daughter Catherine Lloyd all that tenement and lands known as Bron-y mannod ... for and during the terme of five years’. This property, a 100 acre farm just beneath Manod Mawr, remained a part of the Dduallt estate all the way through to 1920. Why should Dduallt have a long term satellite that far away? Bron y Manod abutted the Pengwern estate which in turn abutted Dol Moch and thence Dduallt. We suspect, but can’t prove, that the power and influence that created Dduallt emanated from the Pengwern family. Maybe a marriage settlement?
Within the same will Hugh Lloyd goes on to leave his ‘manhor houses’ to his eldest son Robert Lloyd including the four wainscot bedsteads at Dduallt and the two at Bron y Manod. Locally this type of bedstead is referred to as a ‘gwely wenscot’ and we have obtained some pictures from St Fagan’s. In essence it is a bit like a four poster enclosed on three sides with wood panelling and either a sliding door or thick curtain on the fourth: imagine how cosy that must have been, a bit like camping in the bedroom.
|Gwely Wenscot (St Fagan's Museum)|
Appended to the will is the inventory and valuation for probate which lists the total value of possessions at £167 14sh 00d. Included in the list are the following livestock: 6 oxen, 18 cows, 12 bullocks and heifers, 1 horse and mare, working horses and wild horses, 219 sheep, 1 hog and 59 goats. Descendants of these goats are still here today!
Robert Lloyd married Anne, daughter of Griffith Vaughan of Dolmelynllyn who entered into an agreement with Katherine Lloyd (Robert’s mother) in 1693 to pay a marriage portion of £170. Robert and Anne were quite prolific spawning nine children including Elizabeth who married into the Brondanw family.
By the time of Robert’s first will the eldest son Hugh had died and Griffith, the second eldest, is or is about to become an attorney at law. In his subsequent will of 1753 ‘being far stricken in years but of a sound and perfect disposing mind and memory (praise be God)’ he leaves five shillings to his by now eldest son William Lloyd and other legacies including the yearly interest of the principal sums of two hundred pounds to both Evan and Robert Lloyd who are described ungraciously in Griffith’s Pedigrees as ‘idiots’. To outlive two sons and have another two described as idiots is dreadful bad fortune.
In 1747 William Lloyd had married Catherine Jones, daughter of Evan John Owen of Dolwreiddog, and together they had five children. William Lloyd’s will was dated 10th February 1774, just twelve days before he died. Neither William nor his wife Catherine were able to sign their names but simply placed their mark. We suspect their eldest son had died and therefore John Lloyd inherited with £200 legacies for two of his sisters but no mention of his youngest sister Catherine who goes on to marry Rice Price from the Parish of ‘Dolgelly’ in 1781.
There is an implication that Catherine and Rice Price did not meet family expectations. In her mother’s will, Catherine Lloyd, is the following provision ‘to my grand-daughter Catherine Price daughter of Rice Price Mariner the sum of twenty pounds the interest thereof to be allowed my daughter Catherine Price (being her mother) for and during the term of the natural life of her my said daughter Catherine Price to her own use free and uncontrolled by her husband Rice Price’. What had Rice Price done to offend his mother in law?
John Lloyd had six children all of whom were said to be of Dduallt at baptism, the last one being the second son, William Lloyd, in 1793. William celebrated his 21st birthday at the Pengwern Arms on 5th May 1814 ‘when his friends and tenantry were sumptuously entertained’. In a subsequent newspaper report in August 1817 we learn of his marriage ‘At Corwen, William Lloyd, Esq. of Dduallt in the County of Merioneth, to Margaret youngest daughter of Mr Richard Horne, Solicitor, Ruthin’. The parish register for Corwen records the marriage on 1st August with William being of Ruthin parish. Presumably he was no longer living at Dduallt.
Between 1813 and 1827 there are four baptism records in the parish registers showing children from Dduallt with surnames of Roberts, Edwards and Williams but no Lloyd.
In 1832 the Ffestiniog Railway Act of Parliament was passed which included an appendix listing the landowners against whom compulsory purchase orders could be served. Trustees of the late William Lloyd were the owners of the Dduallt section. His widow Margaret is recorded in the 1841 census living in Vale Road, Ruthin, with (probably) a younger brother and his wife. She is shown as being 'independent’.
By 1842 Dduallt and Bron y Manod were owned by the Rt Rev Lord Robert Ponsonby Tottenham from County Wicklow who was also Bishop of Clogher. The property passed down the line to the next two generations of Tottenhams who lived between Ireland and Plas Berwyn in Denbighshire. Both held local positions of office including being a JP and Deputy Lieutenant of Merionethshire. Why were they in the Vale of Ffestiniog? Maybe they were railway or quarrying investors.
At this time what had once been a minor noble’s house was very different with the 1841 census showing it split into three units housing a total of fifteen people. To complicate matters a Thomas Lloyd and his family had spread themselves between Glanyrafon, a farmhouse at the bottom of the hill and part of the Dduallt estate, and Dduallt. At present there is no evidence this Lloyd family was related to the original Lloyd family. The first unit of Dduallt housed Richard Lloyd and Elizabeth with their five labourers and two servants. Maybe not surprisingly the second unit housed a railway foreman and his family. In the 1851 census the foreman had been replaced by a copper miner, which may give a date for the mine working just outside the house, and we learn that Richard Lloyd is farming 665 acres.
Richard died in 1852 and David Lloyd took over the Dduallt farm tenancy having moved up from Glanyrafon. His father, Thomas Lloyd, and other members of the family were still in Glanyrafon in 1851 but by 1861 they were living at Dduallt with David being the farmer and Thomas retired.
In 1903 David Lloyd died and by 1910 the tenant at Dduallt was Morris Thomas, with his wife and three children in residence at the 1911 census. Morris was the farmer until his death in 1927. By 1920 the farm had been sold at auction and become part of the Tan y Bwlch estate. More tenants followed until World War II when the house became home to 18 evacuees and their schoolmistress from Liverpool. After the war the reverend Hopkinson rented it for five shillings a year using it as a holiday home. One of the children, Barney Hopkinson, recently came back and described how dilapidated the place was. By great coincidence Margaret Dunn was a guest of the Hopkinsons in 1959 and can remember staring into space at the top of the collapsed stone spiral staircase.
The death of Hilda Inge in the 1950s triggered massive death duties resulting in the 1962 auction of the Tan y Bwlch estate. Colonel Andrew Henry Knight Campbell, formerly of the Black Watch regiment, went to the auction and ended up owning Plas y Dduallt. For the next twenty years he dedicated himself to the restoration of the dilapidated house adding, to the annoyance of historians, many embellishments.
His epitaph is Campbell’s Platform, a private platform on the Ffestiniog Railway from which passing steam trains can still be hailed by occupants of the house. He got this through allowing the deviationists, volunteers building the deviation route to Blaenau, to stay in his barn. Also for using his explosives licence from army days to blast through the rocks.
At that time there was no vehicle access to the house and this was the subject of a classic BBC documentary in 1974 called The Campbells Came by Rail which described his commute from the office in Dolgellau, where he was county solicitor, by car to Tan y Bwlch station and thence on his private engine ‘The Colonel’ to Campbell’s Platform. At the time of the filming he had already bulldozed a zig-zag hairpin route up the cliff face through the national nature reserve so the camera crew took great pains to exclude this from the camera as this would have spoilt the story.
His widow Mary Campbell sold to Margaret and Tony Eaton in 1984 who added their artistic mark on the house and started the self-catering holiday business. This continued with many more improvements organised by Ruth and Ray Lewis between 1990 and 2004 including central heating and a tarmac driveway. Huw Jenkins and Sue Farrand are the current ‘caretakers’.
In the 1841 census there were fifty two people living in the five buildings on Dduallt farmland. In the census of 2011 there were just five!