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History of the house
Llansantffraed is the smallest parish in the county of Monmouthshire, totalling just 220 acres in its entirety, and housing a total population of only 22. It takes its name from St Bride or St Bridget, or St Ffraid in Welsh, a fifth century saint, and the Church in the grounds is called St Bridget's.
The original mansion was said to have occupied a position somewhere to the south of its present spot, between the hotel and the church. Indeed some of the foundations still remain under what is now the lake. Unfortunately, the rateable value of the whole parish has now risen substantially from its sensible value of £317 in 1891!
In the fourteenth century this was the country seat and estate of Sir John Morley. Maud, daughter and heir of John Morley married Thomas ap Gwilym of Perth-hir, who was the fourth son of Gwilym ap Jenkin (or "Herbert") of nearby Wern-ddu. Her fourth son, Philip had Llansantffraed estate, whilst her other three had their own elsewhere. He was given the 'advowson of the living' by Sir Edward Nevill and Elizabeth de Beauchamp (Lady of Abergavenny, pronounced Abergenny) in 1449, and subsequent generations of his family lived here in an unbroken line until the seventeenth century. The family chose to take the permanent surname of Jones until Henry Jones died in 1739, and his only child Susanna married George Rickards of Worcestershire. Their descendant, John Rickards, died in 1804 and left the mansion house, manor and advowson of Llansantffraid to his good friend William Lawrence of Withington in Gloucestershire. He very promptly sold it all on, and in 1813 it was bought by Richard Lee from nearby Llanfoist, who left it to his daughter. Through her later marriage it became part of the Herbert family. Latterly Colonel Ivor and then Major Edmund Herbert both lived here.
Many of the Herbert family are buried in Llansantffraed Church, which is sited half way down our drive. The Church has a fascinating history of its own, and it houses some unique alabasters set into the walls that date from possibly as early as the 16 century, as well as an 800 year-old 12th century font. We keep the key and the short stroll down the drive to it is recommended. Take a look at the visitors book which goes back to 1948!
In the latter part of the eighteenth, and early nineteenth century, the house was occupied by James Green, the M.P. for Arundel, who was buried here in 1814. Afterwards it was the residence of two Bishops of Llandaff, and for many years was the home of Major Edmund Herbert, then the Chief Constable of the county. Sadly his wife, Elinora, died, aged 43 in 1876, and even more tragically his son died the previous year aged just 6 and 11 months. They are both buried in St Bridget's churchyard. There was a serious fire around the turn of the 19th century and the roof line and windows seem to have been substantially altered in the re-building. The house is now a Grade Two Listed building, and is featured in the architecture student's bible, the Buildings of Wales by John Newman. The house as it stands was re-designed by Fairfax B. Wade and C Frankis in 1912, but in a late 17th century style. In fact the Lutchyen's Monkton House is Sussex could well be its model.
Between the first and second world wars the house belonged to Major L R Kettle, a Master of Foxhounds, who came here to hunt the Monmouthshire Farmers Pack from 1937. The estate was advertised for sale on his instruction in the April 1st, 1939 edition of Country Life magazine. It was described as a 'modern residence' in the Queen Anne style, with 334 acres, Electric Light, 12 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, nurseries, a Lodge, a Home farm, Farm House, and ample free water.
The hotel has had a somewhat chequered past, but has been trading on and off for over 50 years. The main house was totally re-built in 1912, and was completely restored very recently, although some parts of the Restaurant date back to 1670.
Sadly, and in common with many old stately homes, much of the original estate that belonged with the house was sold off over the years, and the original stables, and the magnificent home farm are now owned by our neighbours.
Like the owners of all old houses we are delighted to be able to wheel out all manner of ghost stories at the slightest encouragement. Indeed some of the best include a wailing nun, a highwayman on horseback, a crying child, and a guest who had forgotten his credit cards!
Llansantffraed was acquired by Mike Morgan in 1997, and is now personally run by him. We are always delighted to hear from anyone who might be able to fill in the many gaps in the story of this amazing place, and photographs are particularly welcome. Please do not hesitate to contact us through this site, thank you.