Grand Declines: The hauntingly beautiful abandoned mansions of Wales

They were once grand and bustling with activity, but have long since crumbled in the elements or been eaten up by nature.

In truth, there are dilapidated and neglected houses all around Wales where time has stopped still since the last person to live in or love them slammed the front door shut and walked away.

They remain hidden among the woods, behind massive rusty gates, or in lonely corners of forgotten fields – until, that is, someone manages to stumble across them again.

Some have been taken on and, happily, given new leases of life.

Hall of Hafodunos

(Image: Hefin Owen/Flickr)
(Image: Creative Commons)

Hafodunos Hall in Conwy features a stunning ancient garden that is being restored after 30 years of neglect and an arson attack. The garden was established as part of the National Garden Scheme.

Sir George Gilbert Scott designed the Gothic revival home, which was erected between 1861 and 1866 for Henry Robertson Sandbach to replace a house built in 1674. After being sold by the Sandbach family, Hafodunos hosted Kent House School for Girls, which was headquartered in Sale but purchased it as an evacuation destination during WWII.

Dr. Richard Wood bought the palace and grounds in 2010 and has begun restoring Hafodunos to its former splendour.

Kinmel Hall

(Image: Robert Parry Jones)

The ‘Welsh Versailles’ was once one of the most beautiful residences in the country, but it is now dilapidated and neglected.

Kinmel Hall has been a private residence since the 12th century. The present Grade I 122-room building was finished in 1876 and funded by Robert Hughes, heir of a huge copper mining fortune.

It served as a boy’s school, a health spa, a military hospital, a hotel, and a Christian conference center before becoming the family’s residence until 1929.

The restoration of the building is expected to cost £20 million.

Plas Glynllifon

(Image: Daily Post Wales)

Lord Newborough erected Plas Glynllifon, a large neo-classical house, in the 1830s and 1840s. It lies in the center of a historical estate that has had a long and significant effect on the landscapes and communities of Caernarfonshire.

The Prince of Wales Investiture Ball was held there in 1969, but the estate had been abandoned for some years after a previous effort to build a wedding venue had failed. However, in 2016, Paul and Rowena Williams purchased the 102-room stately property and announced multi-million pound plans to turn it into a five-star hotel. Here you can find the top 50 hotels in Wales as well as the greatest restaurants in the country.


(Image: Ceridwen/Creative Commons)

This abandoned home may be found in Llanychaer, Pembrokeshire. Despite its decaying façade, it maintains an undamaged roof, according to Urban Ghosts Media. According to the website, the home was characterized as “a beautiful contemporary residence” in Richard Fenton’s 1811 Tour of Pembrokeshire book.

According to Urban Ghosts Media, “now, its outbuildings are likewise in ruins, and the tree stump in the foreground is all that remains of a cedar produced from a seed transported from the Holy Land.”

Edwinsford House

Listed in Grade II Sir Rice Williams, the high sheriff of Carmarthenshire in the 1680s, lived at Edwinsford.

It was built in 1635 on the left bank of the River Cothi, north of Llandeilo, and fell into ruin in the 1970s.

Cornist Hall

(Image: Adam Tas/Flickr)
(Image: George Lloyd/Creative Commons)

Cornist Hall near Flint is the birthplace of a naval admiral who served under Lord Nelson, but it has been vacant for some years and has become a popular target for vandals.

The structure was the family home of Thomas Totty, who served under Nelson on various ships, notably the HMS Invincible, in the 18th century. It was utilized as a dining and wedding venue until 2013, when it closed.

Members of the Summers family originally controlled John Summers & Sons Ltd, a large iron and steel manufacturer in Shotton. The house was converted for catering purposes when it was taken over by Clwyd Council in 1953. The building was privately owned until 1987, when it was sold to a new owner.

Golden Grove

(Image: Robert Melen)

This Carmarthenshire estate has had three mansions. The Vaughan family constructed the first around 1560. This was destroyed by fire in 1754 and reconstructed. In 1804, John Vaughan, the last of the Golden Grove Vaughans, bequeathed the estate to his Oxford friend John Frederick Campbell, Lord Cawdor of Castlemartin, later the first Earl Cawdor, who demolished the previous property and built the current house, designed by the leading architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville.

Golden Grove remained in Cawdor ownership until 1935. During WWII, it was held by the US Air Force then, until 2003, by Coleg Sir Gar as an agricultural college.

Ruperra Castle

Ruperra Castle (Image: Andrew King / Flickr)
The centuries old fortress has seen better days (Image: Andrew King/Flickr)

Sir Thomas Morgan erected it in Caerphilly in 1626 as one of the first’mock’ Tudor castles in Wales. In 1645, King Charles I slept there for two nights.

It was purchased as a residence in the 18th century by John Morgan, a rich merchant, and was integrated into the Morgan family’s Tredegar holdings. It was destroyed by fire in 1785, but it was rebuilt and used as a residence. After years of legal wrangling over the site, it was put up for sale in 2010 for £1.5 million.


Iscoed, photographed in 1996 (Image: Paul White)
(Image: Peter Shaw/Creative Commons)

Iscoed, near Ferryside in Carmarthenshire, is a destroyed eighteenth-century palace designed by Anthony Keck. It was erected in 1772 for Sir William Mansel and bought in 1812 by Napoleonic commander Sir Thomas Picton. It was passed down through that family until the conclusion of World War One.

It was then used as council housing, however it has been vacant since the 1950s and is now a decaying shell. It was up for auction in 2018 as of 2018.

Great Frampton

(Image: Virginia Knight/Creative Commons)

Great Frampton is a late-eighteenth-century front on a sixteenth-century home. Great Frampton was gutted by fire in the late 1990s and became an empty shell. According to the website, in the 1770s, the famed astronomer Nathaniel Pigott settled in Frampton, near Llantwit Major, and built an observatory. Great Frampton has a walled garden as well.

Red Dress Manor

(Image: Dan Circa)
The windows have been put through, letting in the wind and rain (Image: Dan Circa)
A ceiling rose’s delicate ornateness remains intact, but the rest of the ceiling is ruined (Image: Dan Circa)

This grand-looking old dairy farm in Llanymynech, Powys, appears to still be occupied. If it weren’t for the decades of dust covering personal things such as photos, lights, and clothes, you’d swear someone lived there. It still contains portraits of the previous owner on the walls, and the clothing that gave the dilapidated manor home its name may be discovered within.

The abandoned dairy farm was built around 1725. A photographer obtained entry in 2013 and captured these incredible images.

Piercefield House

Overgrown, greenery is slowly swallowing up the building (Image: Andy Walker/Flickr)
Heritage campaigners have been fighting to save the dilapidated landmark (Image: Andy Walker/Flickr)

This architectural marvel at St Arvans, in the Monmouthshire countryside, was created by British architect John Soane – the man behind the Bank of England building – and was hailed as a neoclassical masterpiece when it was erected in the late 1700s.

It was once a location for US troops to perform D-Day Landings drills in 1944, overlooking 129 acres of parkland. Despite being purchased in recent years by wealthy property developer twins David and Simon Reuben, it has remained derelict since then.

Gwrych Castle

(Image: Daily Post Wales)

Gwrych Castle has a rich and varied history, including direct ties to the British Royal Family. Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh erected it between 1810 and 1822, integrating his ancestral house. The castle was created by numerous notable architects and was the largest freshly built edifice of the nineteenth century. The facade is more than 1,500 feet long and has 18 battlemented towers with wide views of the countryside and the Irish Sea.

The main house at Abergele, Conwy, is thought to have had 120 rooms and a marble staircase, and it is regarded as one of Britain’s best examples of beautiful architecture. But, after half a century of uncertainty, its future seems bright: after falling into dangerous ruin, it was purchased by the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust, which aims to open it to the public.

Baron Hill

The ruins are now too dangerous to enter (Image: Stuart Madden)
(Image: Stuart Madden / Flickr)

Originally erected in 1618 for the Bulkeley family, one of the most prominent families in north Wales, it was renovated into the Neo-Palladian style in 1776 for the 7th Viscount of Bulkeley, who was also the first and final Baron of Beaumaris, by architect Samuel Wyatt.

It remained the family residence until the 1920s, when they relocated to more humble quarters and the house became a storage facility.

When World War II broke out, the government requisitioned it and used it as a billet for Polish soldiers.

However, the home at Beaumaris and its adjacent outbuildings have deteriorated with time and are now roofless and overrun by trees.

Multi-million pound plans were disclosed in 2007 to convert the Grade II listed building into 43 flats in a collaboration between developers Watkin Jones, Sir Richard Williams-Bulkeley, and the Baron Hill Estate, however the project never materialized.


(Image: Paul White)
(Image: Creative Commons)

Cilgwyn House was formerly a significant estate with vast holdings in Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. The current Cilgwyn was erected in 1870.

Paul White, a West Wales postman, has spent years photographing run-down and ramshackle houses, frequently to extremely eerie effect, like this one. More of Paul’s photographs may be seen here.

“Being a postman makes it easier to find them,” he said. “Otherwise, I’d utilize reference books and Ordnance Survey maps, reading them for hours until I had a list of probable destinations.”

“And I’d generally see the few telltale indicators of an abandoned property right away, like wireless electrical poles or driveways that hadn’t been used in years.”

Denbigh Hospital

(Image: Unplugged / Flickr)
(Image: Unplugged / Flickr)

Denbigh Hospital, not a palace, but one of the most spectacular abandoned structures in Wales, was erected between 1846 and 1848 and formerly housed 200 patients. This Grade II-listed mental facility in North Wales closed in 1996 before being destroyed by a series of fires, leaving it on the verge of collapse.

Lawrence Kenwright, a multi-millionaire, said earlier this year that he intended to convert it into two luxury hotels and houses. You may learn about the terrible history of abandoned asylums in Wales here. Here you may discover the heartbreaking stories and haunted faces of the unhappy men and women who lived at the Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum.

Mid Wales Hospital

(Image: Ben Salter/Flickr)
(Image: Ben Salter/Flickr)

Another Victorian institution, this one built in the early 1900s and closed in 1999. Kitchens, workshops, a bakery, a tailor, printing businesses, and eight acres of market gardens were all part of it.

The Brecon and Radnor Counties Joint Lunatic Asylum was the hospital’s original name.

At least one patient is said to have died on the spot as a result of a pre-frontal lobotomy.

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