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The history of Buckland Hall

history

Buckland Hall – an historic mansion with literary links

Buckland Hall is privately-owned country house built on the site of a much older mansion – it was re-built after a fire in 1894 in Tudor-Elizabethan style with gables, mullioned windows, huge fireplaces and a spectacular grand hallway and staircase.

But the history of Buckland goes back much further. The country estate, which now covers 62 acres, once stretched across 25,000 acres and included the Brecon Beacons’ highest mountain, Pen y Fan – now part of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Early history

Buckland Hall sits at a strategic point on the River Usk between the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. It’s an area of Wales which has always been fought over by local tribes and was colonised by the Romans. A Roman road from the Roman garrison town of Caerleon, near Newport, actually passes right through the estate. You can also see a complete section of Roman road not far away at Sennybridge, near Brecon.

The history of Buckland Hall

Medieval history – the first home at Buckland

In medieval times the lands of the Buckland estate were fought over by Welsh princes and the first house here was owned by one of them, Daffydd Gam. He was killed fighting at the battle of Agincourt alongside Henry V and warrants a mention as ‘Davy Gam’ in Shakespeare’s history play, Henry V – the first of our literary connections.

Following ‘Davy Gam’s’ death the estate became the property of various royal supporters including the Duke of Buckingham. We see evidence of a home here in Elizabethan times – there is an Elizabethan garden under what is now the archery terrace.

A Jacobean house was built here by one Meredith Games (an ancient surname and one still heard locally) and in 1756 it was bought by a member of the landed gentry, Roderick Gwynne of Carmarthen. He was well-connected and was married to a descendent of Edward III. The Georgian estate of Roderick Gwynne is still seen today – the outbuildings of the estate including the old coach house date from his time.

The history of Buckland Hall

Victorian history

The Gwynne family became the Gwynne-Holfords who continued to own the estate right through until its Victorian heyday. They prospered thanks to the Industrial Revolution which began not far away in the Valleys of South Wales. And, like many Victorians, they became importers of unusual flora and trees – many of these are still seen in our arboretum today. They also built a maze (modelled on Hampton Court) and an azalea garden.

The history of Buckland Hall

A great fire – and a rebuilt mansion

Tragedy struck the estate’s owners (by then the Holfords) when it burnt down after a fire in 1894. The mansion was rebuilt to the design of a Welsh architect, Stephen Williams, in ‘Tudorbethan’ style in 1898. And we’re still enjoying the fruits of his design today.

The Holfords also built tennis courts, had electricity connected and a stone verandah to enjoy the fabulous sunset views. They owned the estate until 1916 when it became the property of the son of a wealthy solicitor from Merthyr Tydfil. A social climber, Mr Berry invited Lloyd George to tea and not long after became Lord Buckland.

Lord Buckland’s tenure was relatively short-lived and, after a riding accident, the estate was back on the market and bought by the Llewellyn family – who passed it over to the War Office in 1941. Before that it was also used by the army as a military hospital. After the war it was owned by the British Legion for several decades (they called it Crosfield House) before being sold once more to a private owner whose tenure ended in the 1990s.

It was finally bought in 1996 by the Buckland Project Limited, a group of friends whose aim was to restore the building. It took three hard years before Buckland opened for business to allow others to enjoy the peace, tranquillity and beauty of this special place.


Buckland and its literary links

As well as one-time Buckland owner Dafydd Gam being mentioned in Shakespeare’s Henry V history play, the country mansion has another literary claim to fame.

In the 1940s a young Oxford author, JRR Tolkien, was staying in Talybont-on-Usk and visited Buckland and other local places whose names ended up in his Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

In the books Buckland is the childhood home of Frodo Baggins in the Shire (where the Buckleberries live). It’s possible that the nearby town of Crickhowell inspired Crick Hollow, and Tredegar became the character Fredegar and Merthyr’s steelworks became Mordor – but hard to prove.

Some people believe Tolkien’s Buckland relates to Buckland in Oxfordshire – but a researcher from New Zealand for the Lord Of The Rings film production company came here and was convinced our Buckland was the source of Tolkien’s inspiration.

That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.