I recently showed some images of the exterior of Tredegar House, Newport, which will now be managed under the aegis of the National Trust.
The new wing at Tredegar that Thomas Morgan and his son William were building in the 1660s and early 1670s was a flamboyant symbol of the family’s ambition. William’s marriage to Blanche Morgan, a distant cousin, had provided him with wealth, extensive estates and political influence, and he needed a house to match.
The building is in the fashionable baroque style, strictly symmetrical and with a cupola – since demolished – on its hipped roof. The red bricks for the walls, although probably made locally, would have been a rare sight in this region at this time.
Some of the baroque interiors survive as well, and they are as exuberant as anything in the British Isles. The State Dining Room includes some extraordinary carved wood decoration, including deep pediments, busts, foliage and grotesque masks.
This connects to the Gilt Room (or ‘Gilted Roome’ as it was described in 1688), where carved wood and marble is complemented by extensive gilding to create an even more overpowering effect.
William Morgan’s grandson, another William, sealed the family’s rise by marrying Rachael Cavendish, a daughter of the Duke of Devonshire, in 1724 and by being made a Knight of the Bath in 1725. Ironically by then the baroque splendour of Tredegar would have begun to appear rather old-fashioned – but it had clearly fulfilled its public relations function.