Benarth Hall; Owners, Occupants & Visitors

The Speaker at this year’s November AGM was Dr Stephen Lockwood who had done extensive research on the history of Benarth Hall its owners and tenants since the 18th Century. Dr Lockwood’s interest in the estate came about because he had worked in the Government Research Laboratory in Gyffin which is adjacent to the estate. It is also on the opposite bank to Glan Conwy where he used to live.

Benarth and its estate originally comprised lands and farms in Gyffin which have since been sold but Dr Lockwood concentrated his talk on the many owners of the hall since 1779 when the Rev Owen Jones, Vicar of Conwy, lived there but it was then bought by Samuel Price, a lawyer who demolished the original house and commissioned Samuel Wyatt, the architect of Kinmel Hall to design the new building. A gardener ‘s son of this period called John Gibson born in 1802 became even more famous as a sculptor who worked with Antonio Canova in Rome and has examples of his work in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. A memorial to Gibson can be found in the nave of St Mary’s church, Conwy.

Benarth Hall

We heard about subsequent owners and tenants of the Hall as well as some well-known visitors among them William Wordsworth and the artist John Cotman, and possibly J.M.W. Turner, when Benarth was leased for five years between 1778 and 1803 to Sir George Beaumont, the joint founder of the National Gallery in London. Sketches of the hall by Sir George are held by the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester.

The High Sherriff of Caernarvonshire, Thomas Burrowes bought the estate in 1805 but then it was inherited by his son Arnold Robinson Burrowes a Major in the Scots Guards in 1830 who emigrated to Canada as he had no wish to live in the Hall. Between 1830 and 1852 extensive work was being carried out on the banks of the River Conwy at Benarth by Telford and Stephenson for the bridges and railway and it is possible that for this reason no buyer was found for the Estate until 1852 when it was bought by a Surgeon at Chester General Hospital James Edwards MD. Although he was buried at in St Benedicts Church, Gyffin, his memorial is in his father’s church at Aldford, near Chester.

Sadly, after giving birth to five children his first wife died. He then married twice more with five sons living to adulthood, the most well-known being Lionel Robertson Edwards who illustrated Black Beauty and Lorna Doone. His third wife Harriet lived on the estate until 1915.

Various tenants also lived in Benarth Hall among whom were Richard Davies MP the Lord Lieutenant of Anglesey; Albert Wood who had bought the Bodlondeb Estate in Conwy and lived in Benarth while demolishing the old Bodlondeb and replacing it with the present house, now the Council Offices.

Dr Joseph Bayley, a psychiatric physician bought Bryn y Neuadd in Llanfairfechan in 1898 whilst living at Benarth. He brought patients to Wales for treatment by the sea.

Another tenant wasThomas Glynn, Professor of Medicine who established a School of Medicine in Liverpool. He lived at Benarth for two years up to 1900 so there was a continuous series of medical men living in the Hall.

The next person of note who was generous to Conwy was Thomas Tattersall who bought the estate in 1912 and who undertook an extensive renovation of the Hall adding a portico to the front door and converting the coach house for use in a less horse-drawn era. A High Sherriff from 1920 – 21 he then hosted a visit of the Prince of Wales in 1927 bought the old Conwy Constitutional club and gave it to Conwy as well as the Old College which was given to house the higher elementary school.

In 1933 the estate was bought by Sir Joseph Kay who had spent his working life in India then in 1958 the estate was broken up and a local consortium bought part of it with a view to developing it as a holiday park but this scheme came to nothing.

A local GP Dr Clive Arkle became the next owner who was coincidentally the grandson of the earlier mentioned Thomas Glynn. Dr Arkle lived in the Hall 1961 – 96 when his wife Morna sold the Hall and estate to Mel and Liz Herman. It is thanks to Mel’s skill as an architect and developer and great personal investment that the Hall and the buildings on the estate have been restored to their former glory.

The Hall was reconfigured to two separate dwellings and sold having been completely restored and upgraded. The Coach house too became a beautifully restored dwelling and the Vinery was converted into an ultra-modern bungalow overlooking the walled garden and Conwy Valley. Benarth Hall will now stand for another two hundred years and will welcome many more visitors to enjoy its hospitality.

The talk was illustrated by photographs of many of the personages mentioned over the course of the evening as well as with pictures of the Hall and grounds.

After questions and comments from members of the society the speaker was thanked for his most interesting talk by the Chairman, Kevin Slattery.

Wendy Lonsdale

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