Archive for the ‘Carmarthenshire’ Category

Brown was here

October 28, 2011

Newton House, Dinefwr Park, as seen from the newly reopened Brown Walk. ©National Trust

The team on the Dinefwr Park estate, Carmarthenshire, has just opened up one of the historic park walks originally created by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. The walk was officially reopened by Lord Dynevor on 22 October, the first day of the National Trust’s Walking Festival.

Newton House in its Brownian landscape. ©NTPL/David Noton

There had been guided tours along the walk before, but National Trust warden Wyn Davies has made it more accessible to the public, marking the route clearly and commissioning tree surgeons to remove potentially unsafe branches.

Dinefwr Park in an 1822 print after J.P. Neale, showing the maturing of Brown's planting scheme.

Capability Brown was invited to Dinefwr by George Rice, whose marriage to heiress Cecil Talbot enabled him to make improvements to the estate.

Evidence of recent replanting work at Dinefwr Park. ©NTPL/David Noton

Brown first visited Dinefwr in 1775 and continued to advise on the park until 1783. He generally worked as what we would now call a ‘consultant’, assessing the ‘capabilities’ of a landscape, advising the owner and recommending local contractors capable of carrying out the work.

The east front of Newton House, with its deliberately designed backdrop of trees. ©NTPL/John Hammond

A record of ‘Mr Brown’s Directions’, dated May 1776, has recently been rediscovered in Lord Dynevor’s archive. The walk, which is just over a mile in length, was designed as a circular route around Newton House, with carefully composed planting and framed views.

Previous posts about Dinefwr Park and its owners can be seen here.

The beauty of change

June 18, 2010

Newton House from the east in about 1710

Responding to the discussion inspired by a recent post, about the interesting problems around beauty, taste and historical accuracy, Stephanie Evans has now sent me some more pictures of Newton House, in two of its previous incarnations.

The picture above shows the house in about 1710. It is a straightforward rectangular block only decorated with quoins at the corners and with a modest pediment over the front door.

The painting is quite honest in showing the jumble of service wings and outbuildings clustered around the main house, including a row of haystacks. But one can also see the enclosed formal gardens complete with corner pavilions or banqueting houses, and an avenue of trees leading up to the house.

Newton House in an 1822 print after J.P. Neale

As mentioned earlier, the house was remodelled during the second half of the eighteenth century for George Rice and his wife Cecil. The above print shows the house in the 1820s with square corner turrets capped with smal domes. The walls seem to be uniformly covered in a light-coloured render and a crenellated parapet has been added.

The house is now set in a Reptonian ‘picturesque’ landscape, with the lawn sweeping almost right up to the house. The service buildings seem to have been removed from the immediate vicinity of the house and hidden behind a strategically placed clump of trees. The whole composition has been consciously conceived as ‘beautiful’ and has been represented as a painterly composition by the artist, rather than as just a topographical view.

A recent view of the east front of Newton House, showing the changes made in the 1850s.

The Victorians, with their interest in engineering, favoured elaborately fitted-out servants’ quarters. The image above shows how the service wing was reattached to the house in the 1850s remodelling, and how various other Franco-Venetian elaborations were added, as discussed earlier.

Quite apart from the merits or demerits of the successive appearances of the house, I tend to think that the changes have a certain beauty in themselves, like the development of a person’s character (or indeed face) in response to life’s changing circumstances. But that is just my personal bias – what do you think?

Rice, Rhys and Rebecca

June 14, 2010
A 1926 photograph showing a glimps of the portrait of George Rice hanging above the glass-fronted cabinet. ©National Trust

Toby Worthington commented on the previous post by asking why the portraits are hanging so high on the wall in the Drawing Room at Newton House. Curator Stephanie Evans has now supplied this 1926 photograph of that room. The portrait of George Rice as a boy can be seen above the glass-fronted cabinet.

Walter Rhys, seventh Baron Dynevor, by William Miller (op. 1873-1903). ©NTPL/John Hammond

As Stephanie said in her reply, the current display of the room is based on how it looked in the Edwardian era. This was the time of Walter Rhys, seventh Baron Dynevor (1873-1956), who was a soldier and was also active in national and local Welsh politics. In 1916 he changed the family name back from Rice to Rhys (still pronounced ‘Rice’, rather than the more usual pronunciation ‘Reese’), a sign of the increased popularity of Welsh heritage.

George Rice-Trevor, fourth Baron Dynevor, by John Lucas (1807-1874). ©NTPL/John Hammond

The man who gave Newton House its current appearance was George Rice-Trevor, fourth Baron Dynevor (1795-1869). He seemed destined to live the life of a country gentleman, like the Rices before and after him, but in 1842-3 he was forced to confront what became known as the Rebecca Riots.

A serious economic depression was causing considerable poverty in south-west Wales. The imposition of toll barriers on roads, which were run privately and often levvied excessive charges, caused frustration to boil over.

Bands of men with blackened faces and wearing women’s clothing began to attack and destroy turnpike barriers at night. Soon the attacks spread to the property of landlords, magistrates and others.

Newton House seen from the north-west, showing the Italianate arcade and conservatory on the west front. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The rioters named themselves after a quote from the Bible: ‘… and they blessed Rebecca and said unto her, Thou art our sister, be thou the mother of thousands, of millions, and let thy seed possess the gates of those who hate them’ (Genesis, ch. 24, v. 60). In a mixture of comedy and romanticism, the leader of each band was called ‘Rebecca’ and rode on a white horse to distinguish him from his ‘daughters’.

The Lord Lieutenant of Carmarthen, the third Baron Dynevor (shown as a boy in the previous post), was elderly and frail, but his son, George Rice-Trevor, played a prime role in suppressing these disturbances. He called in troops as well as contingents of Metropolitan Police from London, then the only professional police force in the country.

Feelings ran so high that the rioters dug a grave within sight of Newton House and announced that Rice-Trevor would occupy it within a month.

Detail of the 'Venetian Gothic' arcade and conservatory. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

In the event that did not happen, and the reform of the turnpike system, together with as an upturn in the economy, soothed the discontent.

In the 1850s, after inheriting the title from his father, the fourth Baron refaced Newton House with stone, added the Italianate touches and enlarged the corner turrets. Could the slight over-confidence of these architectural additions have been a reaction to the uncertain times he had lived through?

The power of pastel

June 11, 2010

George Rice, later third Baron Dynevor, by John Russell. ©NTPL/John Hammond

These pastel portraits depict George Rice (1765-1852), later third Baron Dynevor, and his sister Henrietta Rice (1758-1849). They are by John Russell (1745-1806), who has been called the last of the masters of pastel painting in the heyday of the art.

Henrietta Rice, also by John Russell. ©NTPL/John Hammond

These portraits were purchased in 2006 with generous donations from the late Simon Sainsbury and from the Kensington and Chelsea National Trust Association.

The Drawing Room at Newton House, Wales, arranged on the basis of a 1926 photograph. ©NTPL/John Hammond

They have returned to Newton House, formerly the ancestral home of the Rice family, Barons Dynevor, and are on display in the Drawing Room.

Newton House. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Rice family (originally spelled Rhys, the name was anglicised in 1547) has roots in this part of Carmarthenshire dating back to the twelfth century.

George Rice (1724-1779), the father of the children shown above, in a pastel portrait by William Hoare of Bath (1707-1792). ©NTPL/John Hammond

In about 1770 George Rice and his wife Cecil, the parents of the children shown here, gothicised the house and, with the help of ‘Capability’ Brown, naturalised the park. Further alterations in the 1850s turned the house into a cross between a Venetian Palazzo and a French chateau.

One of the distinctive white cattle that have been associated with the estate for at least 700 years. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The National Trust acquired the park in the 1980s, with the help of local authorities and other organisations, and the house in 1990. The interiors have been recreated as they would have looked in the Edwardian era.