Hafodunos

Old Hafodunos

Hafodunos is said to be named after a legend associated with the revered medieval saint, St Winifred.  Legend has it that her body rested there for one night (un nos), en-route from Holywell to Gwytherin Churchyard. By the early-seventeenth century a large mansion had replaced the monastic foundation, which was described by Margaret as having ‘seven gables’. It was situated at the base of a slope, with its back to the hillside so to protect it from harsh wind and rain. The E-shaped front overlooked meadows and the uncultivated valley below. Henry and Margaret attempted to make sense of the house by removing the Georgian additions. For her growing collection of sculpture, Gibson advised on building an octagonal sculpture gallery which was top lit, as to best show off the statues.  Following the demolition of the old house, this sculpture gallery was the last of the original buildings to be replaced, being used for storage before Gilbert Scott’s mansion was complete.

New Hafodunos

Hafodunos was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott (designer of St Pancras Station) between 1861 and 1866 for Henry Robertson Sandbach, and is Scott’s only executed domestic building in Wales. Built of brick, the house utilised Victorian technology, such as central heating and fresh running water.  The interior of the house had no paintwork, the woodwork and the furniture being of pitch-pine, red cedar, or dark bullace from Demerara, whilst the capitals of the columns leading to and on the grand staircase featured roses, lilies, snow- drops, and other British flowers. The gardens were planted and landscaped by Henry, developing the designs set out by his wife Margaret after her death.  They had collected tulip-trees, great magnolias, hemlocks, and other pines from America mixed with native oaks and beeches. A fernery with examples from all over Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, and New Zealand grew with hardy plants from the Continent. J.D. Hooker,director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Kew, is believed to have advised on the plant collection.

1933 to Present Day

Since leaving the hands of the Sandbach family in 1933, Hafodunos has had a variety of different uses including a girl’s school, accountancy college and nursing home. A period of neglect ensued from 1993 onwards, but CADW recognised the importance of the site, listing the house as Grade I and the gardens Grade II. Sadly the demise culminated in the destruction by arson of the interiors of the main wing of the house in October 2004. Dr. Richard Wood purchased the mansion and garden in 2010, and has begun a restoration project to return Hafodunos to its former glory.