History of Tyllwyd Estate

Tyllwyd is one of many similar estates in the Cardiganshire area, the estate and it’s owners have a long and interesting history including a visit from the Rebecca rioters, links with Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, links with the East India Company, the formation of the British Homeopathic Society and an attempt on to derail a train carrying Gladstone to west Wales.

The Tivyside in social geography was some twenty miles long by four or five miles broad and it included portions of the West Wales Shires of Cardigan, Carmarthen and Pembrokeshire. Within its limits were situated some forty to fifty country houses which were in close touch with each other. Their connecting links were the Tivyside Foxhounds and the Lawn Tennis Club at Newcastle Emlyn.

To my knowledge there have been three books written about the estate and/or it’s owners, plus there are excerpts in other books written about the locality and the county of Cardiganshire. [The South Wales Squires Herbert M Vaughan.  Memoirs of an Old Soldier Sydney Jones Parry.  Beta Jones Parry, Her Family and Tyllwyd, Her Home Ginny Jenkins] This helps to keep the history of the estate alive where many others are lost to anonymity.

It is thought the original house dates back to the 1730’s, it was extended over time with the front wing added in the early part of the 19th century. The servant’s quarters took up the attic space, when I bought the house in 2003 there remained the structure of 7 bedrooms in the attic.

Many local people have connections with the estate, many through previous generations who lived or worked at the estate.

The following is reproduced from: Beta Jones Parry, Her Family and Tyllwyd, Her Home,  put together by her granddaughter Ginny Jenkins taken from a Woolworth notebook of Beta’s memories. [Copies of the book are available at Over the Rainbow]

Tyllwyd when owned by the Vaughan family

Tyllwyd was a farm 8 miles from Cardigan which had been taken by my great grandfather Colonel John Vaughan Lloyd. It is one of the really old Welsh houses and we are fortunate that it remains. This is because, since in the 1760s the Welsh squire, growing fat on years of agricultural prosperity, started a fashion for rebuilding and house after house was pulled down, or turned into stables, and a Neo-Georgian house built on a slightly different site.  Tyllwyd, my old house had a front stuck on to it. The old farmhouse remains intact with a belfry, which is still used to summon the workers to meals.  Col. Vaughan Lloyd, built on a hall and good dining room and gave men’s parties.  His wife, Jane had the little sitting room of the farmhouse, a gloomy room we always called the little parlour.  She had money, as she was one of the four co-heiresses of good financial standing and an old family, but she led a sad life as the marriage was unhappy. Her one solace was her garden which she cultivated and made charming.  She laid out the grounds, planted discreetly, and was a notable housewife.

Tyllwyd when owned by Charles Arthur Pritchard

After sampling Monmouthshire Grandpapa Pritchard decided to buy the shooting box from his brother in law, John Lewes. Grandfather’s money was tied up and he had to invest it in Great Britain. Tyllwyd had a draw-back, it was only a small holding relatively, and he had to pay accommodation prices for adjacent farms and to buy at a distance.  He could have bought a ring fence property with ready made “mansion” of far better value for the same price.  After some time (in 1840), he added a finely proportioned drawing room [now the ballroom] to the house with a good front bedroom and dressing room over. This brought the house up to eleven bedrooms and an attic floor. He also installed indoor sanitation on the first floor. The lower lavatory was and still is only approached from the outside. The bathroom was not installed till the 1930s, by my eldest brother Charles, well after my father’s death.[1]  When my grandfather died, my mother got a pension of £150 pa and spent it all on the place – built a good home farm house and put water into both houses.

In 1841 my grandfather built a new drawing room, getting into it through the main wall of the house.  The date is fixed in my mind because my mother remembered jumping from one joist to another, chanting “Thanks for a Prince of Wales, that horrid Victoria won’t be Queen any more.”  Well, in spite of little Dora’s wishes, she kept her throne for seventy more years.

[1] The family story is that Dorothea Anne Jones Parry refused to have the bathroom installed although the room had been identified and some plumbing installed  She is supposed to have said that if it was done what would there be for the servants to do.

Tyllwyd when owned by Dorothea Jones Parry

Grandpapa Pritchard’s death made my mother owner of Tyllwyd, a nice medium-sized house and, for those days, a more than medium income.  Pater had spent a happy year at Malta – he learnt to play the ‘cello and the cornet’, and his master persuaded him to play in the orchestra at the opera….  The Maltese Opera House was being re-decorated and he bought of the two flower studies designed for the fronts of the boxes, I don’t know if they were the chosen designs but they still hang on the walls of the dining room.  However Father then sold out of the army and, with the money, bought stock and crops for the farm, and started as a gentleman farmer, a very unprofitable job.

Our home lacked all the amenities now considered essentials.  Huge fires, but rooms and passages dreadfully cold.  My mother was Spartan, sat for hours in a fireless room – and the hall stove was rarely lighted.  When I was moved from the nursery, my room, cut off my father’s dressing room (now the bathroom) faced East.  The custom of the time was that the housemaid half filled the hip bath with cold water, and brought up a big can of hot when she called us in the morning:  constantly there was a coating of ice on the bath.

…Rubber!  what a change that made in our lives.  We had constant hot water. A spring fed the pump in our yard, and every day the coachman pumped water into the big cistern by the back door until it was full. A pipe under the floor of the servants’ hall then fed the boiler at the back of the open fire which was a culm fire. Culm was the popular Welsh fuel, made from a mixture of clay and small coal which were mixed with water and moulded into cones by the kitchen maid. It was a filthy job, but everyone used it. The girl kilted up her petticoats and got down to it.  The fresh cones were put on after breakfast and got a glowing mass for lunch at 1 o’clock.  The last make up was 10pm, when everything was shut down. The low fire kept in till the maids were about at 6am.  We roasted by jack boiling, we had a separate oven, wood heated; we only lighted it twice a week as a rule.  The Welsh boiled everything that could be boiled.

Mother Seacole: After choosing the first camp at Beyukdere and Sunday being a day off, I went to see Lewis of the Buffs ……… Met West of the Ours there acting as Paymaster. I was introduced to Florence Nightingale, who gave me a cholera- belt  ……..Arrived at Balaclava and made our way up the hill and our first visit was to Mother Seacole. She was a character well known to all the army. A dear fat bundle of clothes with a smiling dark countenance. She was in the throes of packing up but would not be satisfied until we had something to drink her health in. At that early hour Mrs Haliburton did not care for stimulants; at last a bottle of lemonade was found, but no corkscrew. I knocked the top of with my sword, when the old lady said, ‘Bless him he’d get liquor out of anything.’ She gave Mrs Haliburton some tracts, but would not give me one saying they were no good for me. I bought a five rouble piece from her, which I now have on my watch chain.

So highly was she esteemed by our own people that a bazaar was got up in her aid by Lord Ranleigh; she had been so generous to our men that she had made no money at Sebastapol. The story goes that, whenever there was a big fight on, she trudged out with all the liquor and provisions she could carry and gave them to the wounded.

British Homoepathic Society
One day out of the blue I got an invitation to lunch with Dr. Barford in Queen Anne Street.  When I arrived, I discovered Mrs. Barford was not there and that I was joining 6 men. Sir George Truscott, a future Lord Mayer of London and five others all of whom were doctors, I think…. Dr Barford put forth his plan to form a group of people (homoeopaths) who would watch out for our interests and help in many ways mostly the ways barred to the professionals…We got our Council, formed our Committee, took a room in Regent Street and found an excellent part-time secretary.  For years I was the only woman on these bodies and, after a time, I suggested forming a Ladies Branch, and then we really got going, raising money by holding dances, work sales, etc., and we kept it.  We endowed a travelling scholarship, helped various activities – and, as founder member of it, I can say struck work when we had attained our objective.

 Tyllwyd in the Twentieth Century

At the end of the 19th century, two major external factors came into force which had severe long-term effects on Tyllwyd and ultimately forced its sale. Although a form of death duty existed in Britain for some time, it had rarely been collected. However, in the 1894 budget, the Liberal party introduced a comprehensive system for estate duties.  There was a worldwide agricultural; depression which continued well into the 20th century. The Welsh farmers suffered especially because of their comparatively small acreage and the difficulty they had in getting cattle to large markets. Also, beef, lamb and mutton were being exported cheaply from new producers in Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. Sydney Henry gave well-reported evidence into how it had affected him in the years since he left the Army to a Government Commission…

Sydney Henry and Dorothea were both independently wealthy, and though she had inherited the estate  and was probably the wealthier, they were not what would Tyllwyd Gates by Jill Thallerhave been described as rich.  By Victorian standards, the five children of Jones Parrys of Tyllwyd represented a modest number… Charles would of course inherit the estate. Sydney Herbert…followed the family tradition of the forces and went into the Navy. Charles went to Cambridge but did not graduate… he was sent to America to be out of harm’s way. (He and a fellow student tried to derail the train carrying Gladstone on a visit to the Tivy valley). Charles and his family regularly travelled back to the UK for holidays. When the attics of Tyllwyd were cleared before it was sold in the late 1980’s, boxes of American sanitary ware catalogues were found.

Sydney Henry died the day after his golden wedding in August 1907. However, no significant taxes were due as the Tyllwyd estate belonged to Dorothea who died in 1925..… the glory days were over and Blanche who, with Sydney’s support had been managing Tyllwyd, wrote to Charles urging him to sell as, in particular, it was almost impossible to get suitable servants. In 1926 Charles … put the house on the market for sale by auction, but it was withdrawn when it did not reach its reserve…following the failure to sell Tyllwyd, Charles and his family returned to Wales and Blanche left the property … She went to live in the local small port of Aberporth.

Charles modernised the house, putting in those American essentials of central heating and a bathroom. Unfortunately he died in 1941 resulting in another tranche of death duties… Paul, Beta’s grandson commented that if the owners of Tyllwyd needed money they just sold another farm, the estate shrank from 17 farms at its largest to just the Home Farm by the 1950’s

Tyllwyd was inherited by Charles’ eldest daughter Dorothy and she lived in it with her sister Helen. Dorothy became the second wife of Price Lewes…although he would have had more than enough money to restore Tyllwyd and reinvigorate the estate, all his money was in trust for his children. Dorothy’s marriage to Price Lewes only lasted four years 1939-1943 and afterwards she lived a simple life of gentile poverty, passing much of her time playing bridge with friends. Appearances were kept up, but there was no money. She had to sell a fine pair of Regency knife boxes to buy a car – a Morris Minor 1100, and a Rolex watch to help with general running costs.

When the house eventually had electricity installed, it was only in the few rooms she used and in the winter she lived in the kitchen rather than heat the whole house… Mains water reached Tyllwyd Home Farm in 1955, in an attempt to increase hygiene in dairy farms, it became compulsory for the, to have mains water.

Eventually Tyllwyd took on the look consistent with its owner, an old lady with no help and in need of care. Dorothy died in1987 and her nephew Christopher Jones Parry inherited the estate. Cotoneaster was growing in through the windows and …dry rot was spreading across the carpet in the room she had used as a summer sitting room. Reluctantly the decision was taken to sell and the estate shrunk to just the house, ruined outbuildings and 20 acres of garden and woodland.

The house was eventually sold, in a bad state of repair, to Miriam Lewis who took on the enormous task of saving and lovingly renovating the house over a period of around thirteen years (this is when the round window was installed).

Tyllwyd in the 21st Century

Tyllwyd was sold in May 2003 by Miriam Lewis to Marie Lewis, the third female Lewis/Lewes to own Tyllwyd.  The house was then transformed into the guesthouse you see today.

The estate, once with many tenanted farms, a Gatekeepers Lodge, Home Farm, Walled Garden, Bakery, Dairy, Water Well, Pond, Ha-Ha, Stables, Grooms Cottage now consists of the main house, ruined outbuildings, 18 acres, the pond, ha-ha and the Wellingtonian Sequioa probably brought back from America by Charles Jones Parry.