About Plas Newydd – Llangollen
Plas Newydd (meaning ‘new hall’ or ‘new mansion’ in Welsh) in the town of Llangollen, Wales, is a historic house known as the home of the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’, Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby. Today the iconic house has starred in multiple television series and is a symbol of queer ways of living. Plas Newydd is run as a museum by Denbighshire County Council, and the surrounding area of outstanding natural beauty offers stunning walks.
Plas Newydd – Llangollen history
The dwelling at Plas Newydd was originally a 14th century 5-room stone cottage but became a notable home in 1790 when 2 upper-class Anglo-Irish women bought the house in North Wales. The couple, Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, had left County Kilkenny together in April 1778 to escape the conventions of heterosexual marriage.
Ostracised by their families and friends, the ‘Ladies of Llangollen’ – as they came to be known – were tacitly accepted, testified to by the many famous guests who stayed at Plas Newydd, including the Duke of Wellington, Sir Walter Scott and Mary Shelley.
After moving in, Butler and Ponsonby with their modest income significantly enlarged and improved both house and gardens. The Gothic features included a ‘ruined’ archway, the garden saw rustic bridges and a temple added as well as ornate greenhouses full of exotic fruits.
Most significantly, the ladies added a collection of reclaimed oak carvings throughout Plas Newydd, set in patchwork style over the house’s exterior. The carvings came from broke furniture and church fittings dating from the medieval period to the Baroque. These were accompanied by a great deal of stained glass and at the house’s heart, an extensive library, which symbolised the upper-class status of the two inhabitants to their guests.
After the deaths of Butler and Ponsonby in the 1830s, the property passed through various hands, each leaving a mark on the building. General John York added the notable black and white features to the outside while filling the interior with oddities from across the world. Plas Newydd was eventually acquired by Llangollen Urban District Council in 1932 who turned it into a museum.
Plas Newydd – Llangollen today
Today, Plas Newydd looks largely as it did when the Ladies of Llangollen resided there and the museum is open to the public. Visitors are welcomed by impressive topiary in front of the black and white house with the hills looking over its shoulder. Within the house there are plenty of pictures, artefacts and informative displays to read as you learn the story of the Ladies of Llangollen.
You can take an audio tour around the house before wandering around the immaculately kept gardens with its Gothic features. Finish your visit to Plas Newydd with a treat in the Stableblock Tearooms.
Getting to Plas Newydd – Llangollen
Plas Newyyd is located just off the A5 near the River Dee, a 45 minute drive from Chester or 50 minutes from Shrewsbury. Erw Deg is the closest bus stop, 6 minutes away, on bus route 64.