Plas Newydd, is the country seat of the Marquess of Anglesey. It is situated on the bank of the Menai Strait and has magnificent views of Snowdonia.
Photo by Darren Haddock
The history of the estate can be traced back to the 15th century, and the Griffiths family, owners of a large estate in Bangor on the Welsh mainland. They were an enormously powerful and wealthy family of the Penrhyn estate in Bangor. They did in fact at that time own most of the important Anglesey estates. One of their descendants married and her granddaughter married Sir Lewis Bayly. Their grandson Sir Nicholas Bayly married Caroline Paget. The son of Edward and Caroline, Henry became 9th Baron Paget and 1st Earl of Uxbridge. During his lifetime he would own land extending to 100,000 acres, within which the mineral wealth alone was worth fortunes. Under his guidance, during the 18th century, the appearance of the house changed dramatically largely through the work of James Wyatt, and given the Gothic look that it has to this day. Henry married Jane Champagne, and it was their son Henry William Paget that was to become the most famous, as the 1st Marquess of Anglesey.
The 1st Marquess of Anglesey, Lord Henry Paget was given this title for his service as a cavalry commander and second in command under the Duke of Wellington, at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Towards the end of the battle he incurred wounds so severe as to result in the loss of his right leg, which was buried under a Weeping Willow, close to where his leg was amputated.
In 1817 a column was erected in the nearby village of Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll, by the people of Anglesey and Caernarfon to mark his achievements. During his lifetime he had married twice and had 18 children. He died in 1854 and six years later a bronze statue of him was raised to sit on top the column previously erected to commemorate his valour. Today you can visit the Marquess of Angelsey Column and can get some great views over the Menai Striat.
Over the coming years the title and house would pass through the generations and the next generation to make his mark on the estate was the 5th Marquess, Henry Cyril Paget, who did his best to squander the large fortune he had inherited. He was an eccentric, and he converted the chapel in the house into a theatre, where he ran his own theatrical company, often playing the main character himself. His casts could number in the 60`s, and they toured the UK and the continent. There are many stories of the vast amount of money that was squandered on obtaining extravagant costumes, but suffice to say that one costume he had designed for one of his productions was at a cost of £40,000. Due to his excesses, he was later made bankrupt owing over £500,000. He died in Monte Carlo in 1905, with no children, so the title and estate passed to his cousin, who became the 6th Marquess.
In the 1930s the interior was restyled when the 6th Marquess commissioned a family friend, Rex Whistler, to paint what was to become his largest painting, a mural 58ft long. This painting can be seen in the dining room and more of Whistler's work can be viewed in the permanent exhibition devoted to him at the house. Of the six children he fathered only one was a son, and in 1946 when he died, the title passed to him, also Henry who is the present and 7th Marquess of Anglesey.
Following World War II, the 7th Marquess, a military historian, leased the stables and part of the house to HMS Conway, a naval training school. This has now closed and is used by Cheshire County Council for short term educational courses.
In 1976 the Marquess gave the house and 169 acres to the National Trust, but he continues to live in apartments there.
Visiting the House and Grounds
The National Trust opens the house to visitors and there are a number of things to see and do. A walk through the the rooms open to view, you get to see some of the 1930's look created by Rex Whistler including his 58ft mural which is hanging in the dining room, which appears to move as you walk through he room. There is also the world's largest collection of paintings by Rex Whistler a friend of the family, as well as love letters he wrote to Lady Caroline Paget the eldest daughter of the 6th Marquess.
Also at the house there is a Military Museum which contains campaign relics of the 1st Marquess of Anglesey and the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Here you will see many exhibits including the first articulated wooden leg ever manufactured, designed for the 1st Marquess who lost his right leg in the Battle of Waterloo. Another exhibition that may be viewed at the house is a military exhibition, and records of some of the battles and colourful adventures of the 1st Marquess. It includes the blood spattered leg of the trousers he wore at the battle of Waterloo. His medals and those of his son, General Lord George Paget, second in command at the battle of Balaclava are also on display. As well as a collection of military uniforms and contemporary paintings.
The extensive gardens at Plas Newydd is one for all seasons, packed with plants from all over the world. In the spring the five acres of Rhododendron Garden, accessed along a woodland walk along the banks of the Menai Strait is on display. In the summer the Italianate terrace garden is an explosion of colour. The autumn brings golden colours and massed hydrangeas. There is also an Australasian arboretum, with an understorey of shrubs and wild flowers, and a woodland walk gives access to a marine walk beside the Menai Strait.
There are crafted timber shelters and bird hides around the grounds, and in the woodland an adventure playground and tree house. There are also Menai boat trips.
The Herbaceous Border Photo by Peter Barr
The Anglesey Coastal Path has a break in it at this point, it does not go through the grounds of the estate. However if you are walking this route you have to go around it via the roads, so if it is open it is worth stopping off to take a look.
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