Croeso Network

Tours in Wales 1810 - Thomas Pennant

AFTER a short repose, on my descent from the castle, I made an excursion to Rhiwabon, a few miles from Llangollen. For some time the ride along the sides of the Dee, which watered a beautiful narrow vale. The hills at length approximate so nearly, as only to leave room for a most picturesque passage, shaded with trees. Cross a bridge called the New bridge, and ascend for some space, leaving on the left considerable pits both of coal and canal: reach the village of Rhiwabon, which takes its name from the Rhiwafon, or little river on which it lies.

THE church is dedicated to St. Mary. It has been lately fitted up in a very neat manner, chiefly at the expence of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, who bestowed on it an organ, and a small font; the last, on occasion of the christening of his eldest son in 1772, is of white marble, supported by a tripod of distinguished elegance.

THE monument to his first wife, lady Henrietta Somerset, who died July 24, 1769, is in a fine taste. The figure of Hope reclines on an urn, and is attended with her usual emblem of an anchor. A serpent with its tail in its mouth, expressive of eternity, includes the inscription on one side of the pedestal.

As a contrast to this excellent performance of Mr. Nolleken, is placed against the wall a great monument of Henry Wynn esq. tenth son of old Sir John Wynn of Gwedyr, who died in 1671. His attitude is that of a fanatical preacher; and, dress a full-buttoned coat, short skirts, and square shoes; a most unhappy subject for the sculptor. On one side kneels Sir John Wynn of Wynn-stay, baronet; and on the other, Jane his wife, daughter to Eyton Evans, by whom he acquired the estate. He died at the age of ninety-one, in 1718; and left his fortune to Sir W. W. Wynn, who was nearly related to him; Sir John being descended by the male, Sir Watkin by the female line from the great Gwedyr stock. His other being the daughter and sole heiress of Edward Thelwal esq. of Plâs y ward, by Sydney Wynn only daughter of William Wynn esq. prothonotary of North Wales, and seventh son of the old baronet. Sir John is represented blind: this accident (in his extreme age) is mentioned in his epitaph as a benefit, since his inward perceptions were improved by this bodily defect. It reminds me of two lines of Waller, in which the same idea is much better expressed :

The soul's dark cottage batter'd and decay'd
Lets in new light, thro' chinks which time hath made,

IN the same chapel is an antient tomb, of the altar fashion, with monkish pleureurs on the sides, and angels holding shields of now defaced arms. On the top are recumbent two figures; an armed man with a collar of SS, and a lady lying on a cloak; at their feet a lion, with a monk sitting on it, with his head reclined on one hand.

AROUND the edges of the tomb is this inscription;

Orate pro anima Johannis ap Elis Eyton, armigeri, qui obiit vices-simo octavo die mensis Septembris, anno Domini 1526; et pro anima Elizabeth Calfley, uxoris ejus, quae obiit xi. die mensis Junii, anno Domini 1524; quorum animabus propitietur Deas. Amen.

THIS gentleman joined Henry VII. before the battle of Bosworth; and for his good services had considerable grants of land in these parts. He was of the house of Eyton before mentioned. His grandfather was twice married to the same lady; who, on some pretence of consanguinity, had been divorced from him after bearing him a son of the name of Ellis: but, obtaining a dispensation, they were re-united in form. After the second marriage, were born other children. A division of the estates was then made: Rhiwabon, and Watstay fell to the share of Ellis; and Eyton to John, the first of the second brood.

ON the other side of the altar is a noble monument to the first Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, whose virtues are still fresh in the minds of his countrymen. A fall from his horse, on September 26th 1749, deprived the world of a useful citizen. Rysbrack has preserved his figure in a graceful attitude. The late Doctor King of St. Mary-hall thus expressed the qualities of his mind :


Qui ab illustri Britnnorum veterum stirpe oriundus, majoribus suis se dignissimum semper præbuit, et non modo nomine, sed virtute et fide hominem vere Britannum. Admodum juvenis in senatum electus confestim cunctis innotuit gravitate et judicio: Postquam vero et ipse de republica cœpit disputare, et libertatis patrocinium ac defensionem suscipere, incredibilem animi magnitudinem, atque ejus constantiam omnes ita suspexerunt, ut, cum senatus princeps tum patriæ pater merito haberetur. Tam rectis studiis et ea singulari bonitate fuit præditus, ut non posset fieri, quin maximam sibi gratiam et venerationem compararet vir innocentissimus, idemque prudentissimus paterfamilias, continentissimus maritus, benignissimus hospes, optimus literarum patronus, et assiduus DEI et CHRISTIANÆ veritatis cultor. Ad hæc quam suavis et jucundus fuit in convictu! Quanta fides ejus sermonibus! QuaIis in ore probitas et decor! Quæ mensæ reverentia! Quæ in cultu moderatio! Quæ in omni vita modestia, elegantia, comitas, liberalitas! Talis tantique viri immaturo interitu quam grave damnum fecit Britannia; quum cuncti qui ejus virtutes cognoverint (cognovit penitus qui hæc mœrens scripsit) eo erepto, miserorum omnium perfugium, bonorum omnium delicias, doctorum omnium præsidium, Walliœ suæ decus et ornamentum, et clarissimum reipublicæ lumen ereptum et extinctum esse fateantur !

Obiit 26º. die Septembris 1749.  Ætatis suæ 57mo


THE park of Wynn-stay reaches to the village of Rhiwabon; and is most advantageously situated. The grounds well wooded; the views distinct and extremely elegant; especially those towards the Berwyn mountains, and the august breach made into them beyond Llangollen, by the rapid Dee, through the country of the irregular and wild GLYNDWR. NANT Y BELE, or the Dingle Of the Martin, lies about a mile from hence, and merits a visit from every traveller. From a rock at its extremity, is a magnificent view of the Dee, rolling awefully in a deep chasm fringed with woods; at last terminating sullenly in a black and still pool. Towards the north is a great view of the conic mountain, and the rude fortress of Dinas Bran, rising amidst a fertile vale, and bounded by the barren Alps.

THE house has been built at various times. The most antient part is a gatewaye of wood and plaister, dated 1616. On a tower within the court, is this excellent distich, allusive to the name of the house :- Wynn stay, or rest satisfied with the good things Providence has so liberally showered on you.

Cui domus est victusque decens, cui patria dulcis,
Sunt satis hæc vitæ, cætera cura, labor.
Struxit Johannes Wynn miles et baronettus, A. D. 1706.

The former name of the place was Wat-stay, from its situation on the famous dyke; but was changed to the present by Sir John Wynn, out of respect to his own name. It was originally called simply Rhiwabon, and had been the residence of Madog ap Gryffydd Maelor, founder of Valle Crucis.

THE new part, built by the first Sir Watkin, is of itself a good house; yet was only a portion of a more extensive design. It is finished in that substantial yet neat manner becoming the seat of an honest English country gentleman; adapted to , the reception of his worthy neighbors, who may experience his hospitality without dread of spoiling the frippery ornaments, becoming only the assembly rooms of a town house, or the villa of a great city. The present owner meditates the re-building of the old part; and, as he has already shewn such good judgment in a noble room, in which simplicity is joined with grandeur, there is little doubt but he will preserve a style of local propriety throughout the whole.

ADJOINING to the house is a most beautiful small theatre, in which the munificent owner annually enlivens the gloomy season with dramatical entertainment during a whole week, and in a most princely manner treats the whole country with a most rational and elegant amusement.

THE present set of pictures belonging to the house are portraits of the families of Wynn and Williams. Here is a very fine three quarters of the old Sir John Wynn, of Gwedyr, in a high hat, and with a vast white beard, and in the dress of the times of James I. I reserve further mention of him till I arrive at his antient seat.

HIS son, Sir John Wynn, knight, is drawn half length; a young man, with whiskers and a peaked beard; dark hair; great flat ruff; black vest; white- girdle, stuck with points; a white flowered baldric. Sir John died on his travels, at Lucca, and was  succeeded by his brother Richard. A most exquisite head of Sir Richard, by Vandyck, is preserved here. He was gentleman of the privy- chamber to Charles I. when prince of  Wales, and attended him in the romantic journey he took into Spain in 1623, to visit his designed bride. Sir Richard drew up an admirable account of his travels, which is printed among other scarce tracts, by Mr. Thomas Hearne. On the accession of Charles to the throne, he was appointed treasurer to the queen; and, dying without issue, was succeeded by his brother Owen.

A HALF-LENGTH of Henry Wynn esq. before mentioned, representative of the county of Meirioneth, in the last parlement of James I. He is painted in black hair, a great turn-over, and a letter in his hand. Here is also a portrait of another brother, a captain of a man of war, in the same dress: both of them good performances.

HERE are, besides, several more modern portraits; such as of the two late dukes of Beaufort in their robes. A composition, with Charles duke of Beaufort leaning on the late Sir Watkin's shoulder, looking at the horse called Legacy. This figure of Sir Watkin is the strongest resemblance to him of any.

Two portraits of the late owner of this place, and his first lady, by Dahl. His full wig and dress give a very disadvantageous idea of him. The fashion is equally the misfortune of the artist and his employer.

A THREE-QUARTERS length of Sir John Wynn, baronet, with a full wig and cravat. The same whose monument we have before mentioned.

Two very fine full-lengths of Charles II. and his queen, close this shortlist.

Note:- The house and most of the pictures were destroyed by fire on March 6th 1858


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