DINEFWR CASTLE PARK AND NEWTON HOUSE
Upstairs/Downstairs in Carmarthenshire
Fairly unique among the castles and manors of Europe, in Wales near the town of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire you get two for one at Dinefwr Castle and the Newton House. Many castles were later updated into manor houses, or the lords of a castle moved entirely to another location, but the intact grounds of the extensive park held by the Rhys/Rice family (the name was anglicised in the 18th Century) remained together, allowing a visit to two historical eras in one go. Dinefwr Castle (Dynevor Castle) is a medieval ruin on a promontory overlooking the Tywi River Valley which featured prominent in the fights over control of Wales in the age of the Plantagenet kings. Henry II was once fooled by a local cleric loyal to Rhys Gruffydd who promised to help the Norman king to assault the castle, but instead lead his troops through the most difficult path possible, thwarting Henry’s plans. It was Gruffydd’s son who built most of what is seen of the earliest parts of the medieval castle today. King Edward I captured Dinefwr in 1277 during his consolidation of the English control of Wales (see Caernarvon Castle) and his son, the unpopular Edward II gave the property to Hugh Despenser before being overthrown by his wife, Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer (see Traitors Gate to Mortimer’s Hole). The castle was burnt, dismantled, restored and built again in rebellions of the 14th and 16th Centuries. In 1532, the Rice family abandoned the medieval fort and built a manor house on the flat grounds, but remodeled portion of the castle as a summer house.
The current Newton House manor on the grounds of Dinefwr Park was built during the next century in 1660 by Edward Rice, remodeled in 1770 by George Rice and his wife Cecil, who engaged Capability Brown to design the parklands. The house was again remodeled in the Victorian era by the 4th Baron of Dynevor, George Rice Trevor, adding a covered porch for coaches and corner towers with steepled roofs, a style referred to as Venetian Gothic revival addition to the more simple earlier design as was the fashion of the time. Curiously the parklands and manor house are adminstered by the National Trust, while the castle is under the care of Cadw Wales. Also rather unique among historic palaces and manors to visit, where ropes divide the vistior from the rooms on display and a photogrph is near enough to get one arrested, at the Newton House visitors are allowed, even encouraged to sit on the furniture or play the piano as the residents might have. In the main rooms and dining hall you’ll find landscape paintings and portraits, as well as a detailed history of the house, park and castle.
The Newton House experience is as much about the downsatirs as the upstairs. The basements consist of a number of rooms where the servants whould have spent their days in service. The Brushing Room where the outdoor clothing would have been cleaned. The Gun Room decorated as a sports room, though a pantry in the 1850s. The Plate Room where the silver was kept with a heavy fire resistant door. Butler’s Quarters and Wine and Ale cellars. As you explore these working rooms of a Victorian estate, the recorded voices of actors portraying the staff, present and auditory represention of the activity, almost as if ghosts haunting the place. Real ghosts are less likely, the only acknowledged one is the spectral ‘White Lady” of Newton House, thought to be young cousin of the Rice family murdered by a rejected suitor in the early 1700s, though perhaps more guessed at than from any particular evidence.
Visiting Dinefwr Castle Park
and the surrounding nature reserve land is owned and managed by
the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, while the Newton House
Trust. Though the
two parts of the property are administered by two entities,
is through a single ticket office on the grounds at
the parking area. A walk one way takes you to the
castle and the
other direction the Newton House. Admission to the house is £6.70
£3.35 adults with a family ticket available for £16.75 with
reductions for UK taxpayers. The other, perhaps more famous castle in
the area, Carreg Cennon, is four
miles away. Llandeilo
the western edge of the Brecon Becans Park natural area about an hour
from Cardiff. © Bargain
Dinefwr Park and Newton House are included in the
Great British Heritage Pass
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These articles are copyrighted and the sole property of Bargain Travel Europe and WLPV, LLC. and may not be copied or reprinted without permission. Dinefwr Castle photos courtesy Cadw/National Trust.