Wednesday Wander – Plas Newydd, Llangollen

This week I’m wandering to a rather wonderful place tucked away on the hillside above Llangollen. This is Plas Newydd, once home to the famous ‘Ladies of Llangollen.’

The two ladies in question were Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Charlotte Butler, who came from Ireland in 1778 to live in Llangollen, North Wales. Their story is a fascinating one. Both born to noble families, they met at school in 1768 when Sarah was 13 and Eleanor 29. Sarah was an orphan and ward of Sir William and Lady Fownes, while Eleanor came from the Ormonde family and lived at Kilkenny Castle. Lady Fownes was friends with Eleanor’s mother, and Eleanor was asked to keep an eye on Sarah while she was at school. The two became close friends, corresponding for several years until, both unhappy in their home lives, they decided to run away together. Eleanor was under pressure to enter a convent, while Sarah was enduring the unwelcome attentions of Sir William, who had decided she would make a perfect second wife (even though his first wife was still alive!).

The two women first attempted to escape in March 1778. Dressed in men’s clothing and armed with a pistol, they made it as far as Waterford before being apprehended and brought back to their families. Despite further pressure, Eleanor managed to escape again, running to Sarah. Faced with such devotion, their families finally relented and they were allowed to leave Ireland in May 1778 to start a new life together.

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons – Manfred Heyde (own work)

They moved into Pen Y Maes cottage, as it was known then, in 1780, renaming it Plas Newydd (welsh for New Hall). They extended and renovated the cottage, including the addition of stained glass windows and extraordinary wood carvings on the interior and exterior of the building, many of which were salvaged from old churches and furniture. You aren’t allowed to take photographs of the interior, but I did manage to find this image of one of the staircases, just to give you an idea of what it looks like inside. The details around the exterior doors are also extraordinary, and it must have been a magical place to live. The Ladies lived there for almost fifty years, in what they called ‘a life of sweet and delicious retirement’, until Eleanor passed away in 1829, Sarah dying just two years later.

During their lifetime the ladies were figures of curiosity, well-regarded and attracting many famous visitors, including Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington, William Wordsworth (who composed a poem while staying with them) and Madame de Genlis. Their relationship was seen to embody romantic friendship, a high ideal much sought after at the time. The true nature of their relationship is still unclear – they shared a bedroom, sleeping together in the same bed, and referred to each other as ‘Beloved’. They also dressed in men’s clothing and powdered their hair, as can be seen in the few portraits that survive.

Whether The Ladies’ relationship was simply one of platonic love, or something more, doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that they were both strong enough to live their lives outside the conventions of the time – yes, they both came from privilege, but this was still a time when women were reduced to ‘wife of’ once they were married, no longer allowed to hold either property or their names. I love the story of the Ladies because it’s a story of love, of friendship, and the desire to live life as they pleased. The house in its in green gardens, ruined castle on the hill beyond, stands as a beautiful memorial to life, to the Ladies, and to love.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

A Nice Day For A Walk

I haven’t walked to work along the canal for the past couple of weeks. Early starts and unusual weather have meant I’ve not been able to do so. But this past Friday I managed to get myself organised and headed down the hill, backpack on, looking forward to the walk.

It takes me just over half an hour to get to the office when I walk, and it’s a time for me to think and clear my head. The canal, despite being close to a main road and crossed by a major trainline, is a quiet place. Birds sing, water laps, leaves rustle. It is green and lush at this time of year, the water still and smooth.

Cows were beneath the hawthorn trees, and the tiny cygnets I’d seen only weeks ago were now almost swans (although still very fluffy).

The old tree stump seat was almost overgrown with brambles and nettles, while the roses growing up the side of the old lock-keeper’s cottage had bloomed.

There were new boats moored along the way, some of them with bright potted gardens and unusual decorations.

I also found some fragments of pottery, blue and white. Probably over a hundred years old, little pieces of history tumbled among the flint and gravel, treasure to no one but me.

Along one stretch I walk on a narrow strip of land, the canal to one side of me and, hidden beyond a hedge, an angler’s lake to the other side. It’s an interesting feeling, almost like walking on water, even though I know the earth beneath me is solid.

I also found inspiration on my walk, a couple of blog posts and some more plotlines coming to me. I’ve been missing my old freedom these past few months – while I’m enjoying my new job and all that comes with it, I miss the time I had in the past to just walk and think. So I’ll make sure to do the canal walk regularly from now on.———————————————————————————————-If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

 

Thursday Doors – Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon

img_2049This lovely door with wisteria crown belongs to one of the buildings at Shakespeare’s birthplace, Straford-Upon-Avon. There are several sixteenth century buildings on the site, including the main house where Shakespeare was born and grew up –  he even spent the first five years of his marriage to Ann Hathaway there, the couple living with his parents.

dsc_0500During his lifetime, Shakespeare leased out part of the property and it became an inn called The Maidenhead(!). Upon his death, the house passed to his daughter, Susanna, and it stayed in the family until 1847 when it was purchased by The National Trust, who continue to manage the house today.

dsc_0505The house and surrounding buildings have been restored to how they would have been during Shakespeare’s lifetime (except for the gift shop on the ground floor, of course). It’s a fascinating place to visit, and an insight into how wealthy families lived in the sixteenth century.

This is my entry to this week’s Thursday Doors Challenge, courtesy of Norm.2.0. For more doors, or to add one of your own, visit Norm’s page and click the link.