Plas Glynllifon developer digs into archives to ensure £6m restoration is historically accurate

The owners of Plas Glynllifon near Caernarfon are enlisting the support of Lord Newborough, Bangor University and historic conservation experts as they progress plans for their multi-million pound mansion restoration project.

Paul and Rowena Williams, of Rural Retreats & Leisure, are turning the 102-room stately home, the original seat of Lord Newborough, into a five star hotel and heritage centre.

In a bid to ensure the property and grounds are as historically accurate as possible to the original mansion estate they have set up a number of collaborations to bring in the expertise needed.

This is seeing them work with Bangor University, the Institute for the Study of Welsh Estates, Gwynedd Archives, and other bodies to explore the centuries long history of the estate.

Paul Williams at Plas Glynllifon mansion near Caernarfon
Paul Williams at Plas Glynllifon mansion near Caernarfon

Expert consultants Pell Frischmann are leading on the restoration of the gardens.

The project could see a post-graduate position created at Bangor to research the site.

A draft proposal has been created with the Institute, which is “designed to unlock the heritage potential of the site, identifying stories, narratives and collections from Glynllifon’s past which can play an essential role in defining Glynllifon’s future”.

Paul and Rowena Williams said: “We want to dig into the history of the estate and use this information to inform the restoration.

“To do this properly we have to collaborate with others so we have the expertise we need.

Paul Williams with Dilwyn Williams from Gwynedd Archives and Dr Shaun Evans inside Plas Glynllifon
Paul Williams with Dilwyn Williams from Gwynedd Archives and Dr Shaun Evans inside Plas Glynllifon

“We always said that we wanted to do this the right way. This means things take longer, for example it recently took two months to paint the cornices in a single state room in the South Wing, but we are still on target to open in 2020.

“Lord Newborough is also involved and he can provide the family archive alongside other archive information, we are pleased that the family has agreed to assist.”

Plas Glynllifon is a grand neo-classical mansion built in the 1830/40s by Lord Newborough and sits on the site of a series of earlier houses and at the heart of an historical estate which exerted a profound influence over the landscapes and communities of Caernarfonshire for centuries.

In 1948 the estate was sold to a timber merchant and in 1954 the house and park were sold to Caernarfonshire County Council, the buildings later transferred to Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor.

Plas Glynllifon
Plas Glynllifon

In 1969 Plas Glynllifon played host to the Prince of Wales Investiture Ball. The mansion has lain empty for several years after a previous attempt to create a wedding venue failed.

The couple have estimated the cost of the restoration as between £5.5m and £6.5m and have agreed a finance package with Together in Manchester. They are also in talks with the Welsh Government about grant support and up to 70 jobs could be created once the hotel is open.

Paul and Rowena want to bring back as many of the historical items of the estate as possible for the hotel and museum.

An open day will soon be arranged to allow people from the locality to share their memories of the house and to showcase any items they have relating to its history. They are also keen to involve local schools to ensure the community feels part of this major project.

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