So why did Mr. Jones build a funny looking castle?
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
The practice of erecting a memorial to a loved one is common enough but when William Jones’ wife Elizabeth died in 1787 he felt that something better than a tombstone was required. Marrying Elizabeth had made Jones a wealthy man. One cynical commentator of the period described her as, "the female heir of the House of Tredegar, who bestowed on the proprietor a splendid fortune.” To honour his wife, Mr. Jones decided to build a gothic castle in her memory. Not only did the gentleman pay for its construction; he project managed it himself. If there had been a television series called ‘Grand Designs’ in the 18th century William Jones and his castle would have made an interesting programme.
According to accounts kept by Jones, the notable architect John Nash was involved in the planning but most of the design work was done by John Davenport, a Welsh garden designer who specialised in the Gothic style. Davenport also designed the grounds for Clytha Park. The site chosen for the castle was a hill visible from the Clytha House. Mr. Jones wanted the monument to be a focal point on the estate. Work started on Clytha Castle in 1790 and the detailed records of the construction, written in Jones’ own hand, still exist. Rendered local rubble was used together with stone transported from Bath to finish the battlements, mullions and lintels. The ‘L’ shaped castle included towers and curious crenellated walls that sloped upwards to meet in the centre of the asymmetric façade. To improve the view of the castle, a ha-ha - a ditch to keep out animals - was dug at the front.
It took William Jones and his workmen two years to build Clytha Castle. When it was a finished he ordered gothic furniture from Mayhew and Ince, a fashionable London company. Purchases of expensive French china, silk and paintings were also recorded in his ledger. As well as serving as a monument, Clytha Castle would be a place to visit, take tea and enjoy. However, not wanting to forget his wife, William Jones added a plaque to the front of the castle which reads;-
This Building was erected in the year 1790 by
WILLIAM JONES of Clytha Houfe Efq
Fourth Son of JOHN JONES
of Lanarth Court Monmouthfhire Efq and
Hufband of ELIZABETH the laft furviving Child
of Sir WILLIAM MORGAN of Tredegar KB
and GrandDaughter of the moft Noble WILLIAM
Second Duke of Devonfhire
It was undertaken for the purpose of relieving a mind
fincerely afflicted by the lofs of a moft excellent Wife
whofe Remains were depofited
in Lanarth Church Yard A.D: 1787
and to the Memory of whofe virtues
this Tablet is dedicated.
In the 19th Century Mr. Jones’ descendants added extra rooms and turned Clytha Castle into estate cottages, housing three tenant families. Some of the rooms were, however, retained for use by the Herbert family; the Jones family changed their name in 1862. By 1948 the castle was empty and in 1950 Gwladys Herbert turned ownership of the castle over to the Welsh Office. They in turn passed it on the National Trust. Today, the castle is leased by The Landmark Trust a charity whose Patron is the Prince of Wales. The trust specialises in saving distressed historic buildings. Since acquiring the castle in 1973, extensive repairs and renovations have returned the building to its former glory. Today, Clytha Castle is used for holiday rentals and can accommodate up to six people in mock gothic splendour, a fitting use for such an unusual building.