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A Nash House Vanishes

Early in August of this year Llysnewydd, the most imposing survival of John Nash's work in the county, disappeared with explosive suddenness and is now no more than a picture in the record books and in the memory of those who knew it.

The house, which was built to the design of Nash towards the end of the eighteenth century, stood on the west side of the road between the village of Drefach and Henllan bridge over the river Teifi. An earlier house, of which nothing is known, probably stood on the same site and was purchased early in the seventeenth century by John Lewes, a strong supporter of the Royalist cause during the Civil War and ancestor of Mr. J. P. Ponsonby Lewes of Llanayron in Cardiganshire, the last owner. Llysnewydd had thus been associated with the Lewes family for over three hundred and fifty years.

The Nash house, of conventional square plan, originally had unusual elevations. The entrance or south front, though simple, was well spaced. Latterly there were panelled double doors with sidelights and an arched fanlight within a stone portico possessing two pairs of Ionic columns. The opposite elevation had five windows on each of the two floors. The west front had three windows on each floor, there being a pediment in the centre of the upper floor beneath which, on the ground floor, was once a high window. This window was 'an ingenious deceit to achieve symmetry, the semi-circular head and half the lower part being sham'. The east side was obliterated by nineteenth century additions. On the south and north sides, the servants' dormitory under the hipped roof had dormers, the original oval lights of which were replaced by rectilinear windows. The eaves cornice was dentilled and the whole building was cement rendered.

Nash's elevations were much altered towards the end of the nineteenth century, when an ornamental cast-iron balcony and colonnade was added along the south and west sides on the ground floor, where some of the fenestration was turned into french windows. Other modifications had a more drastic result in the interior, which was 'ferociously altered', according to Sir John Summerson (John Nash, Allen and Unwin, 1935). In consequence the curved staircase with S-balusters disappeared, though the fluted drum and circular windows of the top-light remained, but these were damaged during the last years, when the house had been abandoned, and rainwater caused the staircase to collapse. The columns in the hall and parlour, with Corinthian and Ionic capitals, were also removed during last century's alterations. But the library, with fine built-in bookcases, survived intact.

Information about the Lewes family and a description of the interior of the house, together with an inventory of its contents in 1828 will be found in an article by F. Breudeth in The Carmarthenshire Historian, Vol. IV, p. 74.

A drawing by Mrs. E. M. Lodwick showing Llysnewydd as it was at the time of demolition appears on the cover of the present volume.

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