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Hensol Castle

South elevation of Hensol Castle, March 2003

Hensol Castle (previously Hensol House) is a castellated mansion in the gothic architecture style[1] dating from the late 17th century or early 18th century.[2] It is located north of Clawdd Coch and Tredodridge in the parish of Pendoylan (Welsh: Pendeulwyn) in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales. It is a Grade 1 listed building.


This substantially extended mansion is something of an archaeological puzzle. The south range came first and is thought to be an unusually early example of the gothic revival in Britain This may have been the work of the London architect Roger Morris.[3] Around 1735, William Talbot, Member of Parliament and later Baron Talbot of Hensol, added the east and west wings, reportedly spending some £60,000.[4] Samuel Richardson is said to have transformed the south front in the late 18th or early 19th century, by adding more castellations and corner turrets, but there is some doubt about this. In the 1840s Rowland Fothergill employed T.H. Wyatt & David Brandon to improve the property. They extended the house to the north, added a new courtyard, and refashioned some of the gothic into perpendicular, changed the battlements and added the off-centre window bay to the south front. The interior is classical in style of various dates.[5]


Early history

The Hensol estate dates from at least 1419.[6] It was owned by the Jenkins family in the seventeenth century,[7] and the house was said to have been built by David Jenkins' great-grandfather, David Tew.[8]

The famous judge David Jenkins (1582–1663),[9] the son of "Jenkin Richard of Hensol in the parish of Pendeulwyn" was born at Hensol.[10] He was described in old documents as "Counsellor at Law, and one of the judges of the Western Circuit in the reign of King Charles I".[11] Judge Jenkins was a man of great force of character and some eccentricity, named "Heart of Oak" and "Pillar of the Law". Being a staunch royalist, he took an active part against the Parliamentarians, during the Civil War, condemning several to death for activities deemed treasonable.[7] He was captured at either Hereford or Oxford in 1645 and sent to the Tower of London. On 21 February 1648 he was brought before the House of Commons but refused to kneel at the bar.[12] He was therefore fined £1,000 (equivalent to about £100,000 at 2009 values) for his contempt. He was impeached for high treason, and when an act was passed for his trial, he met it with a declaration that he would “die with the Bible under one arm and Magna Carta under the other”. After the restoration of the monarchy under King Charles II, he was liberated in 1656 and returned to his estate in Glamorgan where he subsequently died and was buried at Cowbridge. His wife, Cecil, was daughter of Sir Thomas Aubrey, of Llantrithyd.[11]

The 1670 Hearth Tax return shows that the Hensol mansion of that time possessed 18 hearths.[13] Judge Jenkins’ son, David Jenkins was described as being “of Hensol” when he was High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1685.[14] This David Jenkins married Mary, daughter of Edward Pritchard of Llancaiach Fawr.[15] They had a son, Richard, and a daughter, Cecil, who married Charles Mathew of Castell Mynach.[6] They in turn had a daughter, Cecil.

An annual assembly of the bards was for many years held under the auspices of the Jenkins family in the adjoining parish of Ystrad Owen, until the death of Richard Jenkins who was a warm admirer of welsh poetry and music, and a good performer on the harp.[16]

Eighteenth century

The Jenkins male line became extinct with Richard Jenkins’ death in 1721 and the estate passed to Charles Talbot (1685–1737)[17] though his marriage in 1708 or 1709 with the Jenkins heiress, Cecil (d 1720), daughter of Richard Jenkins’ sister, Cecil, and Charles Mathew of Castell Mynach.[6][18] The Talbot family had come into Glamorgan through the marriage of John Ivory Talbot of Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, with Mary, daughter of Thomas Mansel, 1st Baron Mansel of Margam Abbey, Glamorgan. John Ivory Talbot’s daughter inherited Lacock Abbey. Her son, William Davenport Talbot, was the father of William Henry Fox Talbot of photographic fame.[19]

Charles Talbot, 1st Baron Talbot served in Robert Walpole's government becoming Lord Chancellor in 1733 and taking the title Baron Talbot of Hensol.[20][21] His son, William Talbot (1710–1782) was elected Member of Parliament for Glamorgan in 1734. His opponent, Bussy Mansel of Margam (later Lord Mansel) contested the result despite having initially received 823 votes against Talbot’s 678; but 247 were struck off from Mansel, and only 21 from Talbot. The sheriff, William Basset of Miskin, was accused of great partiality. Charles Talbot died in February 1736/37, William becoming the 2nd Baron Talbot. Bussy Mansel was then elected MP. William Talbot became Earl Talbot in 1761.[22] In 1765 he leased some land near Merthyr Tydfil to Anthony Bacon[23] and William Brownrigg at £100 p.a. for 99 years without royalty payments.[24] This contained both coal and iron ore and was used to develop the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, that became the largest in the world and was later run by another resident of Hensol Castle, William Crawshay II. A large tablet inside the north wall of Pendoylan Parish Church commemorates a gift of £50 from Earl Talbot, the interest of which was to be given to the poor of Pendoylan. In 1770 it was matched by a further £50 given by Philip John, and in 1871, a row of six charity houses were built which stand as Church Row to this day.

The present house was either newly built, or was an extensive remodeling of the manor of the Jenkins family, in around 1735.[5][21] In 1780, William Talbot, 2nd Baron Talbot of Hensol, later 1st Earl Talbot, was created the 1st Baron Dynevor[25] with a special remainder in favour of his only child, a daughter, Cecil Rice, and “the heirs male of her body”. She had married George Rice of Newtown House, Dinefwr Park, Llandeilo.[26] In 1782 William Talbot died, the Earldom became extinct, and the barony of Talbot of Hensol passed to his nephew, John Chetwynd Talbot (1749–1793), for whom the title Earl Talbot was revived. The title Baron Talbot of Hensol is still held by the Earl of Shrewsbury, the premier earl in England and Ireland.

In 1789 the estate was sold by the Talbot family to Samuel Richardson (1739–1824),[5][16] a banker,[27] who may have modified the south front of the house, and who in 1798 was Sherriff of Glamorgan.[14] He is said to have been a pioneer in agriculture and made many improvements to the Hensol estate, including land drainage and introducing the threshing machine.[18][28]

Samuel Richardson left in 1815,[5] and Hensol was purchased by Benjamin Hall (1778–1817),[1][29] son of Dr Benjamin Hall (1742–1825) Chancellor of the diocese of Llandaff.[30][31] Benjamin Hall had married Charlotte Crawshay (1784–1839), second daughter of Richard Crawshay (1739–1810), ironmaster of Cyfarthfa,[32] in 1801 and had been elected MP in 1806. Their first son was another Benjamin Hall (1802–1867) and he also became an MP, was made baronet in 1838 and in 1859 became Baron Lanover.[30][33] In 1855, as Sir Benjamin Hall, Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Board of Works, he oversaw the later stages of the rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament, including the installation of the 13.8-tonne hour bell, “Big Ben”, in the clock tower. He was a tall man and many attribute its name to him, but this is questionable.[34]

Nineteenth century

Following the early death of the second Benjamin Hall in 1817, Hensol was put on the market in 1824[35] and passed to his widow's Crawshay family, Hensol being bought by her nephew, the “Iron King” of Merthyr Tydfil William Crawshay II (1788–1867), who later built Cyfarthfa Castle.[1][21] William Crawshay was High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1829.

Another ironmaster, Rowland Fothergill (1794–1871) of Abernant[36] bought Hensol in 1838,[1][37] and soon employed T.H. Wyatt & David Brandon to remodel it.[5] Despite being a county magistrate, he was convicted in 1844 of inflicting a serious injury with a pitchfork on a Mr. Brown, the superintendent of his farms. The plaintiff was awarded £500 damages.[38] Rowland Fothergill was High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1850.[14] In 1853 he commissioned David Brandon to rebuild Pendoylan Parish Church.

On Rowland Fothergill's death the estate passed to his unmarried sister, Mary (1797–1887). She built and endowed a new school building for Pendoylan in his memory in 1873. On her death, Hensol passed to her sister Ann Tarleton-Fothergill (1802–1895), the estate passing to her daughter, Lady Isabella Elizabeth Price Fothergill (1839–1918), who had married Sir Rose Lambart Price 3rd Baronet (1837–1899) in 1877.[39] Major Sir Rose Lambart Price travelled in America and published two books on his observations.[40][41]

Twentieth century

Their first son, Lieutenant Sir Rose Price (1878–1901) was killed in action at Villesdorp in the Anglo-Boer War. Their third son Lt. William Rose Price (1882–1907) also died in South Africa, whilst serving in the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers. Lady Price Fothergill died of pneumonia following influenza on 30 November 1918.[42] Their second son, Sir Francis Caradoc Rose Price (1880–1949) then inherited Hensol, but in 1923 he put it up for sale and was quoted in The Times newspaper as follows.
The old place requires a lot of money to maintain it. Income-tax and supertax have almost trebled since the war, and the cost of upkeep has considerably increased. These heavy burdens make careful consideration of one's position necessary, and there is a duty to younger children. If I died to-morrow, heavy death duties would make it impossible for them to live here. I can go on, but they could not. By the time one has paid all Imperial and local dues in the way of taxation there is not much left now, and for that reason I have decided to put the estate up for sale.[43]
In November 1926 he sold the castle and estate of Script error: No such module "convert". to Glamorgan County Council for the sum of £36,500 for use as a County mental hospital.[44] Part of the estate was divided up into smallholdings.[45]

Hensol hospital was opened in July 1930[46] as a “colony” for 100 men with learning disabilities ("mental defectives" in the terminology of the time). New blocks were built in the grounds in 1935 to accommodate up to 460 men, women and children and in 1937 it was visited by Sir Kingsley Wood, Minister of Health. At that time it housed 343 inmates and the Minister was reported a saying that he hoped to take back to his work in London fresh ideas which one could never obtain from minutes and records.[47] Further building and expansion took place with the advent of the National Health Service in 1948.[48] Latterly in the 20th century, with the move towards community care for people with learning disabilities, the number of patients progressively decreased. In the 1980s the ground floor of the house became a conference centre and, from 1992 to 2002, the upper two stories housed the Wales School of Occupational Therapy.

The hospital closed in 2003 and the castle and grounds were bought by local businessman and supporter of sport in Wales, Gerald Leeke, chairman of the Leekes group of companies who had previously built the 145-bed Vale of Glamorgan Hotel, Golf and Spa Resort on adjacent land. Some of the old hospital buildings have been converted in luxury apartments.

Hensol Castle was used to film scenes of Whitehall in the 1992 movie Rebecca's Daughters and scenes set in 10 Downing Street for the BBC television Doctor Who episode "Aliens of London".[49]

Rumours abound that the castle is haunted. Workers of the Centre for Health Leadership Wales, who used the castle as their Headquarters before it was sold in 2003, often reported feeling a "presence," especially in the attic storage area in the upper levels (that were eventually cordoned off due to Health and Safety issues). The said attic areas were often strewn with the bodies of dead birds that had found their way into the space but were unable to find their way out. This only served to support the rumours that a ghost lived in the attic.


  1. ^ a b c d CADW, Listed Buildings Database: building 13482 
  2. ^ "Hensol Castle, Hensol Park, Pendoylan. NPRN: 18963". Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  3. ^ CADW, Listed Buildings Schedule, ref. 72/D/7(2)  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine, January 1815: 77  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ a b c d e Newman, J. (1995), The Buildings of Wales: Glamorgan, Penguin Books/University of Wales Press, pp. 500, 501 
  6. ^ a b c "Hensol estate records 1429–1789". Archives Network Wales. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 19 July 2008. 
  7. ^ a b Gamage, William (1613). "Linsi-woolsie. Or two centuries of epigrammes". A hypertext edition by Glyn Pursglove. The University of Wales, Swansea. Retrieved 8 July 2008. To his old friend and Schoolefellow, Mr D. Jenkins,a worthy Barrister in the Lawes. 
  8. ^ The Times (London) (43455), 23 September 1923  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Randall, Henry John. "JENKINS, DAVID (1582–1663)". Welsh Biography Online. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 18 July 2008. 
  10. ^ Brooks, Christopher W (2004). "Jenkins, David (1582–1663), royalist judge". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  11. ^ a b Nicholas, T. (1874), The History and Antiquities of Glamorgan and its Families, London: Longines, pp. 128, 129 
  12. ^ "Journal of the House of Commons: volume 5: 1646–1648", House of Commons Journal, 21 February 1648 
  13. ^ Parkinson, Elizabeth, ed. (1994), The Glamorgan Hearth Tax assessment of 1670, (South Wales Record Society, 10) (Cardiff: South Wales Record Society), lxxxiii: 213  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ a b c "The Sheriffs of Glamorgan 1541–1900". Retrieved 19 July 2008. 
  15. ^ The Pritchard Family, retrieved 3 December 2012 
  16. ^ a b Lewis, Samuel (1849). "Penalley – Penmaen, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales". British History Online. Institute of Historical Research. pp. 299–308. Retrieved 19 July 2008. 
  17. ^ Davies, William Llewelyn (1849). "TALBOT, CHARLES (1685–1737)". Welsh Biography Online. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 19 July 2008. 
  18. ^ a b Lewis, D. (1975), The History of Llantrisant, Risca: The Starling Press, p. 101 
  19. ^ Leggat, Robert (2006). "TALBOT, William Henry Fox". A History of Photography. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  20. ^ Macnair, M. (2004). "Talbot, Charles, first Baron Talbot of Hensol (bap. 1685, d. 1737), lord chancellor". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 July 2008. 
  21. ^ a b c Nicholas, T. (1874), The History and Antiquities of Glamorgan and its Families, London: Longines, p. 6 
  22. ^ Nicholas, T. (1874), The History and Antiquities of Glamorgan and its Families, London: Longines, p. 149 
  23. ^ Price, Watkin William. "BACON family". Welsh Biography Online. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  24. ^ Jones, Stephen K. (2005), Brunel in South Wales: In Trevithick's Tracks 1, Stroud: Tempus, p. 32, ISBN 0-7524-3236-2 
  25. ^ The anglicised spelling of the Welsh "Dinefwr" is used for the name of the Barony
  26. ^ Dinefwr Park and Castle: Landed gentry, retrieved 3 December 2012 
  27. ^ The Diaries of John Bird 1790–1803
  28. ^ "Pendoylan: Llwyn Rhyddid" (PDF). Vale of Glamorgan County Treasures. Vale of Glamorgan Council. 2007. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  29. ^ Williams, David. "HALL, BENJAMIN (1778–1817)". Welsh Biography Online. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  30. ^ a b "Llanover estate records". Gwent Record Office. Archives Network Wales. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  31. ^ R.G. Hall; D.A. Hall. "The Hall Family Tree 1500 to 2000". Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  32. ^ "Crawshay Family of Cyfarthfa, Merthyr Tydfil". Gathering the Jewels: The website for Welsh cultural history. The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  33. ^ Forder, Helen (2004). "Benjamin Hall III (1802–1867) Baron Llanofer of Llanofer and Abercarn". Lady Llanofer The Bee of Gwent. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  34. ^ "THE STORY OF BIG BEN". Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  35. ^ The Times (London) (12386), July 9, 1824: 2  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  36. ^ Price, Watkin William. "FOTHERGILL family". Welsh Biography Online. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 20 July 2008. 
  37. ^ Nicholas, T. (1874), The History and Antiquities of Glamorgan and its Families, London: Longines, p. 169 
  38. ^ The Times (London) (18612), May 17, 1844: 7  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  39. ^ "Rose Lambart Price Dead", New York Times, 19 April 1899: 9, retrieved 24 August 2010 
  40. ^ Price, Major Sir Rose Lambart (2006) [1877], The two Americas: an account of sport and travel: With notes on men and manners in North and South America, Scholarly Publishing Office, University of Michigan Library, ISBN 978-1-4255-4115-6 
  41. ^ Price, Rose Lambart (2009) [1898], A Summer on the Rockies, BiblioBazaar, ISBN 978-1-110-16810-1 
  42. ^ The Times (London) (41963), December 3, 1918: 1  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  43. ^ The Times (London) (43426), August 22, 1923: 5  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  44. ^ The Times (London) (44441), November 29, 1926: 18  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  45. ^ Hopkins, T. J. (1973), "Pendoylan", in Williams, S., Vale of Glamorgan Series: History on my doorstep One, Cowbridge: Brown & Sons, p. 86 
  46. ^ The Times (London) (45564), July 14, 1930: 9  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  47. ^ The Times (London) (47784), September 8, 1937  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  48. ^ Hensol Hospital records. Glamorgan Record Office
  49. ^ 10 Downing Street (interior) BBC Wales Dr Who

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