GWYNFRYN PLAS, Llanystumdwy, Caernarvonshire 2009

GWYNFRYN PLAS, Llanystumdwy, Caernarvonshire 2009
Notes on GWYNFRYN PLAS, Llanystumdwy, Caernarvonshire 2009

I left the house at 4am and spent two and half hours driving in the dark miserable drizzle up to the village of Llanystumdwy. The only other traffic were articulates passing goods around the country. I parked the car and walked past a lodge house and up the winding path across open parkland passed large oaks and up to the imposing ruins of Gwynfryn Plas. The rain had stopped and a warm sun peered through the clouds just north of Snowdon skimming Gwynfryn’s façade with a warm and welcoming hue.

The house is positioned beautifully on the Lleyn Peninsula overlooking Snowdonia and Cardigan Bay. Looking up at the house it became quickly apparent that the larger tower is nearing the precipice of collapse. A stone window lintel on the first floor has buckled and cracked with a bulging mass of stone above it looking ready to burst out onto the ground below and no doubt bringing with it much of the tower above.

The tower, as much of the house, is built with brick but with a stone outer and was built by Hugh John Ellis Nanney and completed in 1876 (with a date stone on the tower). It remained a family home until 1928 (a mere 52 years) and then became a retirement home for the clergy, a hospital and then a hotel (a mixed, yet not uncommon, history). It burnt down during the 1980’s and has remained that way since (except for a brief period when a squatter took it upon himself to begin a restoration, a seemingly ambitious but futile attempt before eviction).

Wandering through the rear rooms and service quarters there’s much evidence of the house as a hotel. Slot machines fill an outbuilding, a room full of children’s books and toys fill another, a room with light fittings and chandeliers, maintenance rooms with metal boxes filled with nuts, bolts and other hardware, rusting and messy, in disarray and disorder.

Evidence of the ambitious and, quite frankly, brave squatter - a sole inhibitor - an easy chair and radio. A lot of machinery dotted around the rear of the building; heavy duty bench saws and drill presses, all rusting outside and destined for landfill one day. Many rooms are filled with building material, roof beams, an endless list of supplies and spares, either salvaged or bought for restoration, all redundant and wasted. All this is open to the elements and decaying in the damp. Cars litter the grounds barely visible in the summer foliage, other farming and foresting equipment laying redundant, damp, mouldy, lichen covered with weeds growing in and around wheels and engines. Overall Gwynfryn is a very depressing sight.

The entrance is at the side, a lavish decorative stone lattice porch and it was in this doorway that the better exposures were made. A view opened up into the house revealing fallen beans, passageways and into the main hall and onto a large fireplace. I can not say I particularly enjoyed my visit to Gwynfryn. The drive up there was long and slow and under horrid weather conditions. The house so beautifully positioned yet is so miserable and carelessly abandoned that you feel anger towards the waste. I hail the brave squatter and salute his resolve but this house needs more than care put into it. It needs a hefty wallet and a generous and willing loving restorer.

Although perhaps not evident, as seen here in the low resolution scan, this particular image is a joy to print and see appear in the red light of my darkroom. The shades and tones of grey appeal in the most aesthetic manner and this image has all i seek in a photgraph of a mansion; that is a feeling of atmosphere, abandonment but also of beauty in decay.

Plas Gwynfryn 2009
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GWYNFRYN PLAS, Llanystumdwy, Caernarvonshire 2009

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