Plas Newydd is a country house set in gardens, parkland and surrounding woodland on the north bank of the Menai Strait, in Llanddaniel Fab, near Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Anglesey. From its earliest known resident in 1470, Plas Newydd passed by inheritance and marriage through 500 years of a family's increasing concentration of wealth, titles and estates, until the 7th Marquis of Anglesey presented it to the National Trust, so the house and grounds could be opened to the public. The house site was first occupied in the 13th century, and was known as Llwyn-y-Moel. By 1470 it belonged to the Griffith family, who also owned Penrhyn Castle near Bangor. Gwilym ap Griffith had acquired substantial Anglesey holding from his marriage to Morfydd, daughter of Goronwy ap Tudur of Penmynydd. Robert Griffith built the earliest parts of the current house in the early 16th century, creating a hall-house.
In 1533 Ellen Griffith married Nicholas Bagenal and they took possession of what was still known as Llwyn-y-Moel. Their granddaughter Ann married Lewis Bayly, Bishop of Bangor. It was Lewis Bayly who made the first major additions to the house, and was the first to call it Plas Newydd (Welsh for New Hall). The Baylys lived in Plas Newydd, along with other estates, particularly in Ireland, and Lewis's grandson Edward Bayly acquired an Irish baronetcy in 1730, when he was styled Baronet of Plas Newydd in the County of Anglesey and Mount Bagenall in the County of Down. Lewis's great-grandson, Sir Nicholas Bayly, 2nd Baronet married Caroline Paget in 1737, and became Lord Lieutenant of Anglesey in 1761, a post his family would fill for the next 100 years. Their son, Henry, was to be the beneficiary of substantial inheritances from both sides of the family.
Born in 1744 as Henry Bayly, he succeeded, through his mother, to the title and estates of the Barony of Paget in 1769, on the death of Henry Paget, 8th Baron Paget and Earl of Uxbridge, a distant cousin on his mother's side. As 9th Baron Paget, Henry Bayly took possession of the Beaudesert estates in Staffordshire, and changed his surname to Paget. (Unlike the Barony, an Earldom could not pass through the female line, so the Earldom of Uxbridge became extinct.) In 1782 his father died, which added '3rd Baronet' to his titles, and Plas Newydd to his estates. He also took over as Lord Lieutenant of Anglesey. In 1784 he was made Earl of Uxbridge as a second creation of that Earldom. Extensions of Plas Newydd had been made in the middle of the 18th century, with an octagonal tower at the south-east corner, but under the Henry's care, substantial additions and rebuilding was made throughout the estate, especially with the appointment of James Wyatt and Joseph Potter as architects.
Plas Newydd itself was greatly altered in the 18th century by James Wyatt who refaced it, blended the towers into the building front, and substantially made it into the building that stands today. He also had constructed the large gothic style stable block which is now part of the Conway Centre, and various lodges and gateways were constructed. In 1812 Henry died and the estate passed to his son Henry William Paget, who became the 2nd Earl of Uxbridge. Henry William had raised a regiment of volunteers in the 1790s, was commissioned into the Army in 1795, and distinguished himself in numerous engagements and campaigns across Europe. By 1802 he was a major-general, and in 1815 was appointed cavalry commander, leading a spectacular charge of the British heavy cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo. In recognition of his heroism he was created the first Marquess of Anglesey, although he lost a leg from one of the last cannon shots of the day. The following year the 27 metre column was raised in his honour, sited to the north of Plas Newydd.
At the end of the 19th century the 5th Marquess had the chapel turned into a theatre. Plays were put on regularly, with the Marquess often taking the lead role himself. After the 6th Marquess inherited the estate, all the furniture was sold to help restore the solvency of the family after the 5th Marquess' huge spending. The family also sold off their main home at Beaudesert and their London house and moved into Plas Newydd permanently. The 6th Marquess made the final big changes to the house by removing the crenellations from the roof, disposing of the theatre, knocking three servants' rooms together to make the dining room and covering over a courtyard to provide a roof for the servants. In the 1930s the artist Rex Whistler was a regular visitor to Plas Newydd. He painted numerous portraits of Lady Caroline Paget, and in 1936-38 painted the largest canvas painting in the UK. It is a trompe-l'oeil seascape painting that fills a whole wall of the dining room with an imagined scene of Italianate churches, castles, Snowdonian mountains and a complete harbour wall, with tricks of perspective that mean the scenes appear to change when seen from different parts of the room.
In 1949 the training ship HMS Conway was moored in the Menai Strait near Plas Newydd. The ship was supported from the small dock in the grounds of the estate. The ship was wrecked after running aground in 1953, and the school built temporary facilities in the grounds near the current reception centre. These were used for teaching and housing the senior cadets. The younger cadets were accommodated in the eastern wing of the house. The former stables building was used for teacher accommodation, classrooms and a laboratory. These arrangements continued until 1964 when the entire school moved into a new purpose-built building in the grounds of the estate. The school was closed in 1974 but the buildings and the grounds were subsequently acquired by Cheshire County Council. It was renamed the Conway Centre and is now managed by a stand-alone organisation, Quality Learning Partners, with the support of Cheshire West and Chester Council, and is used as an outdoor adventure centre. At the house there is also a military museum which contains campaign relics belonging to the 1st Marquess of Anglesey, mementos of the Battle of Waterloo and the Anglesey Leg - this being the leg that Lord Uxbridge had amputated after Waterloo. Uxbridge's close family lost several limbs in the service of the United Kingdom during the Napoleonic Wars: his brother, Major-General Sir Edward Paget, lost his right arm in the crossing of the Douro during the Second Battle of Porto in 1809, and his daughter lost a hand tending her husband on a battlefield in Spain. Uxbridge used an articulated above-knee artificial leg invented by James Potts of Chelsea, with hinged knee and ankle and raising toes which became known as the Anglesey leg, after his marquessate. One of the artificial legs designed by Potts and worn by the marquess is extant, preserved at Plas Newydd in Anglesey, as is a leg of the hussar trousers worn by the 1st Marquess at Waterloo.
There are two prehistoric scheduled monuments on the site. Neither of them is directly accessible to the public, although they can both be seen. The two monuments formed a single entry in the first Ancient Monuments Act in 1882, and so along with two other Welsh monuments, were among the first to receive legal protection. Plas Newydd Burial Chambers are two adjoining stone chambers of a Neolithic burial cairn or cromlech. They stand on private lawns in front of the house. Bryn-yr-Hen-Bobl Burial Chamber (the 'Hill of the old people') is a substantial mound with a stone chamber, to the south of the parkland. Bones were found here in 1754. It was excavated by W J Hemp in 1929-35, and Neolithic pottery appeared to lie under and in front of the mound, suggesting a settlement predating its use as a burial site. The chamber was given a doorway following the dig, but is not accessible to the public. It is visible from the southern edge of 'Garden Wood'. In addition to the grade I listed main house, Plas Newydd had a vast estate covering 3,848 hectares (9,510 acres) including outlying properties. The main estate lands stretched from the Grand Lodge in the north to Llanedwen in the south, taking in a further to 20 listed buildings and structures in the estate grounds.
There is designated mobility parking in the main car park with a Drop-off point. Buggy shuttle service for visitors with reduced mobility (subject to availability). There is an adapted toilet in the Old Dairy near the car park. Building - there are steps to the entrance,a ramp is available. Ground floor accessible to manual wheelchairs. Three wheelchairs, booking essential. Assistance dogs are welcome. Gift shop - including great ideas and inspiring offers. Coffee shop - in the house with a second-hand bookshop. Free parking, 400 yards. Old Dairy tea-room at Plas Newydd serves food and drinks. Tours available - please contact them before you visit. Photography - they welcome non-flash photography throughout the house. Dogs are welcome in the Dairy Wood with access through the gardens to Church Bank Wood.
Location : Plas Newydd, Llanfairpwll, Anglesey, LL61 6DQ
Transport : Llanfairpwll (National Rail) then bus ; note - this is a request stop OR Bangor then bus. Bus Routes : 42 and 389A stop close by.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 16:30
Tickets : Adults £9.80; Children £4.90
Tel : 01248 714795