Plas Newydd, Llangollen
A modest cottage stood on this site in 1780, when Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby moved in. Lady Eleanor (1739-1829) came from the Irish gentry, the Butler family of Kilkenny Castle. She was introduced to Miss Ponsonby (1755-1832) in 1768, when her parents were at their wits’ end trying to get her married off. Their plan was that the two women, who lived within 3km of each other, would become friends and together search for a husband each. The women became lovers. To escape the prospect of forced marriage they eloped in 1778, causing a scandal in upper-class society.
Their plan was to settle in England but they chose Llangollen instead. They set about enlarging their cottage, which they called Plas Newydd (“New Hall”). Carved oak panels were added to the structure, and projecting stained-glass windows installed. They lived together at Plas Newydd for 49 years, until Lady Eleanor’s death.
Known as “the Ladies of Llangollen”, they entertained many celebrity guests at Plas Newydd including the Duke of Wellington (feted after he led the defeat of France at the Battle of Waterloo), and poets William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Robert Southey, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Sir Walter Scott. King George III granted the Ladies a pension, and artistocrats even came from continental Europe to visit them.
Today Plas Newydd is a museum, owned by Denbighshire County Council, which includes the formal gardens, created later in the 19th century. A restoration project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has uncovered elements of the Ladies’ own attempts at creating a Romantic landscape around their home.
The Ladies and their first housekeeper in Llangollen are commemorated at St Collen’s churchyard.
Postcode: LL20 8AW