History of Abercelyn and the
Llanycil, Bala, Gwynedd, Wales
Abercelyn Country House
Abercleyn Country house was built in the early Georgian period (1729), as the Rectory to St. Beuno Church (Llanycil Church). The house appears to have been extended several times. The oldest part dating from the 16th century, comprising 'The kitchen', two upstairs bedrooms and an ancient cellar. This older part of the house apparently used ship's timbers in the construction. The dining room was added around 1970. The single-storey extension at the rear was more recently added when it was the garage and chauffeur’s room. The most recent addition was in 1992 when a small storeroom above the dining room was rebuilt into a larger room
The main outbuildings comprise the orginal stables building (1774) (the Poor House) and the Tithe Barn (1729 or earlier), which was used to store the produce from the tax levied by the church.
In 1890 the property ceased to be a rectory and was sold into private hands for the princely sum of £1,150. The orginal 'Deed of Sale' is framed and displayed in the Hall of Abercelyn Country House . The conveyance document was signed and sealed by both the Lord Bishop of St Asaph and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
One notable owner was Mr George Palmer Holt, the chairman of the Blue Funnel Shipping Company. Mr Holt bequeathed several works of art to the Walker museum in Liverpool and Sudley House also in Liverpool (Mossley Hill). Sudley House was bequeathed to the City of Liverpool by Emma Holt, who is related to George Palmer Holt.
Abercelyn Country House has been used as a Country Guest House since 1990 and is Grade II-listed by Welsh Historic Monuments, as a former rectory retaining good original external character and of a building of more than special interest".
The original stable building with hay loft (Poor House) was built in 1774. The was converted into self-catering accommodation in 1993.
The Tithe Barn was converted into self-catering accommodation in 2006. Abercelyn Tithe Barn is also Grade-II listed as a barn retaining good original character.
In the garden, is an "Old Privy" with a once continuous 'flush' from the stream via an underground pipe and tunnel, then back into the stream through the original stone block wall.
At the rear corner of the house is a small well opening filled by a natural spring which was the old farmhouse's water supply in the past. There is also another site of a well in the garden although this is now covered over.
The garden has been developed over a number of centuries and in the last few decades has been further landscaped around both house and cottages. Flowering trees and plants can be found throughout the year, starting with the snowdrops each New Year.
The field of Abercelyn has a wonderful grove of ancient oak trees surrounding an outcrop of moss covered rocks and stunning views of Lake Bala (Llyn Tegid).
The Stream - Aber Gwenwyn Feirch
The fast moving mountain stream, 'Aber Gwenwyn Feirch', which forms the west boundary to Abercelyn. Another name found on maps is 'Nant Gwenwyn Meirch'. The stream is contained by the bedrock base, and has rocky pools as well as small waterfalls and rapids when raining. One of the pools by the house is flat bottomed with an arc of stone blocks or seating and was dammed to proved extra depth for the water pipe to the "Old Privy".
According to local folklore, is known as the “Poisoned Stream”. Apparently after the battle of Naseby (1645), Oliver Cromwell instigated a hunt for Royalists - Rowland Vaughan, an ardent royalist, lived at Caer Gai, near Llanuwchllyn. Cromwell’s men came over the Berwyn Mountains and camped on the banks of the stream on their way to Caer Gai. Local women put leaves from a Yew Tree into the stream above the camp - the horses of the Cromwell’s men drank from the stream and were poisoned. This allowed Rowland Vaughan to escape - he then lived in a cave on the Aran Mountains. His home was destroyed by Cromwell’s men, although he did return later to rebuild his home.
Llanycil and Church (The Secluded Church)
The Church (St. Beuno) dates back to the 8th C. but was extensively rebuilt in 1881. The Church was closed in 2003. In 2007 it was purchased by the Bible Society who intend to turn it into the Llanycil Faith Heritage Centre but is now called the Mary Jones World. The Llanycil Faith Heritage Centre or Mary Jones' World opened in September 2014. The centre cost about one million pounds and tells the story of Mary Jones and the formation of the Bible Society.
The hamlet of Llanycil used to be larger than now. Directly across the road from Abercelyn the Cross Keys Tavern and a row of houses once stood. These were demolished in 1959 when the old single track road was widened to produce the A494. A photograph was taken in the 1930's showing an old car turning off the A494 to Parc with the tavern on the left.
Lake Bala (Llyn Tegid)
Bala Lake or Llyn Tegid, which is 100 yards from Abercelyn, is the largest natural lake in Wales approx. 3.5 miles long, 0.8 miles wide and 150ft deep. The lake fills an old glacial valley dammed by moraine depoists above the the Bala–Talyllyn fault. The Lake is the home of a unique fish, known as the “Gwyniad” - an indigenous land-locked herring, which was left after the Ice age ended 12,000 years ago.
Local legend relates that the lake was formed as punishment for the misdemeanours of Tegid Foel (Tegid the Bald) - a local prince. His mansion, with all its occupants, were reputedly drowned one night during a drunken orgy, after guards neglected replacing the cover on a magic well which would otherwise overflow at night. Only one survived – an itinerant harpist who was led out of danger by a small bird calling repeatedly, “Vengeance has come…”. When he awoke on the hillside in the morning he saw a huge lake filling the valley with his harp floating on its surface!
Abercelyn is situated on the A494 Bala to Dolgellau road, the route of which was a Roman road. There are Roman remains in the area, e.g. near Llanuwchllyn, at the end of the Lake, is a Roman auxiliary Fort named "Caer Gai". The Fort was garrisoned from AD 75-130 and contained a civil settlement and a cemetery. The Fort was positioned on an important strategic route near sources of gold, lead and manganese.