Set in the shadow of a 12th-century Norbertine abbey in Talley near Llandeilo is this charming Grade II-listed Georgian farmhouse. Defined by its symmetrical façade, a superb example of late-Regency gothic revival architecture, the house is steeped in history and romanticism. Nestled in 23 acres of fields and hedgerows, the house stretches across nearly 7,000 sq ft, unfolding across two stories and a cellar. Additionally, the former stable block has been cleverly converted into four perfectly formed cottages with commercial designation, and there is also a barn for storage. Beautiful gardens full of fruit trees and vegetable beds surround the house, and the lovely town of Llandeilo is a 10-minute drive away.
Setting the Scene
The hamlet of Talley was built around its abbey, founded by the ruler of the Welsh Kingdom of Deheubarth, Rhys ap Gruffydd, in 1186. Constructed for Norbertine monks, a religious order founded in France, the abbey was destroyed during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Much of the remaining stone was used to build houses in the area.
Before the house’s current iteration, it was likely a humble Welsh long house. Records show it was available for lease in 1826, described in the deeds as ‘an old farmhouse’ with the possibility to build a new ‘respectable house’. In 1828, Sir James Hamlyn Williams of Edwinsford bought the site and began building the house we see today. A letter from Sir James’ agent dated March 1832 discusses the overcharging of a blacksmith and fixes the date of the home’s finished construction. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
A cherry-tree-lined lane leads to the house with its handsome rubble masonry façade, punctuated by 19th-century six-paned, horned sash windows, while fan lights with vertical glazing bars are set in pointed arched recessed with stone voussoirs. Entry to the house is through a front door with inset stained glass and to a central hallway. On the right, a cosy living room is painted an enveloping shade of ‘Hicks’ Blue’ by Little Greene. Built-in shelving adds storage, while a wood burner is set into the original stone chimney breast, making the room the perfect spot to curl up with a book on colder nights.
The original dining room is laid out as a snug, with the large country kitchen beyond, which is centred around another exposed stone fireplace with a wood burner. A pair of gothic arched sash windows with original shutters overlook the orchard outside and allow the room to be flooded with light. Stone walls gently undulate under lime plaster, complementing the quarry tiles that run underfoot. There is also a useful utility room, a further store room, and a study in the oldest part of the house, where large flags run underfoot and thick stone walls hint at its earlier origins.
A central dog-leg staircase leads to the first floor, where a nook on the spacious landing has been arranged with a desk as a study area. Three large bedrooms and a family bathroom are arranged around this landing; the primary bedroom is painted a soft shade of ‘Livid’ by Little Greene, echoing the rural view framed by sash windows, and a 19th-century fireplace with a cast-iron grate centres the room; an en suite shower room, clad in Mandarin Stone tiles, is a handy addition. Two further bedrooms are light and airy. In the family bathroom, butt and bead panelling is painted in the chalky ‘Bone China’ by Little Greene, and a copper pipe towel warmer adds a clever accent.
The former stable has commercial designation and is attached to the house. It has been converted sensitively into four two-storey cottages. Each has terrific views of the abbey, the nearby lake and the surrounding countryside and currently generate a good source of holiday let income.
The Great Outdoors
A lovely lawn sits in front of the house, with a mature orchard filled with ancient apple trees and a Victoria plum flanking the side, providing dappled shade and bountiful yields in late summer. At the back of the house are a patio and raised vegetable beds. Two large paddocks framed with hedgerows extend along the cottages. Wooded hillsides rise from all angles and frame the spire of the 18th-century church built among monastery ruins. A good-sized, two-bay barn and woodshed provide ample storage of gardening tools and countryside accoutrements.
Out and About
Talley is a small rural hamlet with plenty of walks from the house into nearby Talley Woodland. The remains of Talley Abbey, managed by Cadw, overlook the house. Nearby is a community-run shop and pub, The Cwmdu Inn, convenient for picking up essentials or a quick pint.
Llandelio, a 10-minute drive away, is well known for its brightly coloured houses and excellent collection of boutiques, bookshops and cafes. Famously the birthplace of the well-loved brand Toast, there is still a flagship shop in Llandeilo today. Davies and Co is an award-winning interiors shop and cafe, well-stocked with a beautiful range of traditional Welsh blankets and other home furnishings. Pitchfork & Provision was begun as a craft bakery and has expanded as a deli with gourmet produce.
Further afield, the beautiful coastlines of Cardigan Bay and Pembrokeshire are around an hour away, offering a host of wild beaches with excellent surfing and sea kayaking available. In the opposite direction lies the Brecon Beacons AONB. The bustling city of Cardiff is just under 2 hours away by car, with a rich array of cultural offerings in its many theatres.
Llandeilo station is a 15-minute drive away and offers train connections with London or Manchester in around 4.5 hours and Bristol in 3.5 hours.
Council Tax Band: H
The village of Talley takes its name from Talyllychau, or “head of the lakes”. There is evidence of significant woodland clearing around 3,000 years ago, as indicated in the fossil pollen found in Talley Lakes.
The Roman period saw military activity in the region, such as the establishment of a fort in Pumsaint, gold mines in Dolaucothi, and possibly silver-lead mines in Rhandirmwyn. After Roman rule ended in the fifth and sixth centuries, small Welsh kingdoms emerged.
The most significant change occurred during the 12th century with the establishment of Talley Abbey, which led to the steady clearance of the woodland and increased cultivation in the area. The abbey was founded by Rhys ap Gruffydd, the ruler of the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth, for the monks of the Norbertine order, also known as the ‘White Canons’ (because of the colour of their habit).
It is thought that Lord Rhys established the abbey because he was influenced by Ranulf de Glanville, the justiciar of King Henry II. Ranfulf was a supporter of the Norbertines and a close connection of Rhys’ during the Welsh-English peacetime in the 12th century.
The financial struggles of the Talley Abbey and its monks during the late 13th and early 14th century were likely due to poor management, ongoing supervision by English abbots, and a dispute with the Cistercian Abbey in Whitland. Additionally, the black death epidemic between 1346 and 1353 caused a decline in the number of monks and workers and, therefore, the monastery’s income.
In the early 1400s, the Owain Glyndwr uprising significantly damaged the abbey, as the English army looted and burned the buildings. In 1536, it was finally abandoned as part of the dissolution of monasteries across England and Wales. The annual income of the monastery at that time was £136, much below the required amount of £200.
Following the dissolution, local residents demolished most of the monastery and used the ruins as building materials. However, the chancel of the monastery church was used as a parish church until 1772.
Today, only two walls of the tower, a fragment of the transept, and the foundations of the remaining parts of the church remain. While the enclosure of monastery buildings can be seen, only the outline of the cloister foundations and a small amount of the west range is visible.
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