At the beginning of May we took our Spring holiday, and got into the car for a tour up through Wales to Chester and Knutsford. My brother has recently moved to a farm just above Aberfan, and this is the view down the Merthyr valley towards the Brecon Beacons.
There was no way I was going to miss out Llangollen. I had heard about the Ladies who once lived there in a house called Plas Nwydd (below).
Who were they? Lady Eleanor Butler and Lady Sarah Ponsonby - Anglo-Irish aristocrats who in 1778 fled Ireland for Wales, Lady Eleanor to avoid being sent to a convent, and Lady Sarah to escape the unwanted attentions of her guardian. They wanted to live the 18th Century ideal of a romantic friendship, and with begrudging financial support from their families, succeeded in doing so for over fifty years. Their friendship intrigued their contemporaries and their many visitors included Josiah Wedgewood, Wordsworth, Scott, Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington and Lady Caroline Lamb, who was a kinswoman of Sarah Ponsonby.
Plas Nwydd is on the outskirts of Llangollen. It is on the River Dee (see above), which flows through North Wales to Chester (below).
Chester was once a large walled Roman town. The walls have survived, and the amphitheatre has only recently been excavated. The timbered merchants' houses in the main streets, although they look medieval are in fact later, the model for them being Little Moreton Hall, an absolutely fantastic timbered manor house a few miles south of Knutsford in Cheshire (see below).
What is so special about it? It is almost wholly Tudor. Building work started in about 1500, with wings being added over the next 100 years. No part of it is later than 1600. It belonged to the same family for centuries and has been preserved intact, if not exactly straight - you can see the wobbly bit in the photo. The inner courtyard is below. Nice tearoom too!
Knutsford itself is, of course, Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford. Shown below is a cobbled courtyard which is off the High Street where many period buildings have survived.
Knutsford is quite a bustling place, especially in the evening with so many places to eat. Quarrybank Mill and the Brontes' Haworth were the next places on the itinerary but I'll save those for the next post.