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Llanover Hall

Llanover Hall - Overview

Llanover Hall holds a special place in the modern history of the revival of Welsh-language culture and literature. The mansion was a comparatively recent addition to the list of Welsh country houses, commissioned by Benjamin and Augusta Hall, Lord and Lady Llanover in the year 1828, and deigned by Thomas Hopper.

Benjamin Hall (1802–1867) was a wealthy civil engineer, MP and social reformer from Abergavenny. As he was responsible for overseeing the later phases of rebuilding of the Houses of Parliament, it is thought that ‘Big Ben’, the large bell in the clock tower that was installed under his supervision, was nicknamed after him. In 1823, he married Augusta, neé Waddington, (1802–1896) from nearby Abercarn.

Lady Llanover’s chief interests were the study of Welsh history, language and literature. She adopted the bardic name Gwenynen Gwent (the Bee of Gwent) and as a patron of the arts, she engaged a series of domestic harpists to work at her house and, further, encouraged the revival of country fashion worn by the peasantry in different parts of Wales. So fond was she of the various locally produced dresses that she took to wearing a more gentrified version during various cultural celebrations and festivities, and it may be claimed that Lady Llanover created the ‘national costume’ of Wales. (As Benjamin Hall did not quite share his wife’s penchant for dressing in country fashion, there is no male equivalent to the women’s costume.)

In addition, Lady Llanover was a collector of manuscripts and established the annual Cymreigyddion Y Fenni, a local eisteddfod to which she invited many international guests who shared her fondness of Welsh poetry and music. She was a patron of the Welsh Manuscripts society, funded the compilation of a Welsh dictionary and was instrumental in the founding of Y Gymraes, the first Welsh language periodical for women. Over the years, prominent guests included her German brother-in-law, the diplomat Christian Carl von Bunsen, as well as Théodore Claude Henri, vicomte Hersart de la Villemarqué, from Brittany who was initiated as a bard into the Gorsedd.

Llanover Hall, renamed to Llanover House, was largely demolished in 1936, but the surviving range remains a private home with a large garden and park. The owners frequently open the doors to the general public to enjoy the carefully maintained, 200-year old, landscape garden that had been commissioned by its first owners, Benjamin and Augusta, as well as continue the tradition of tree-planting themselves.

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