Two miles from the centre of Wales’ newest city Newport, stands Tredegar House, one of the finest architectural wonders of Wales.
For over five hundred years, it was home to one of the most powerful and influential families in the area – the Morgans, later Lords Tredegar, until they left until 1951. Their estates stretched through Monmouth, Glamorgan, and the Brecon Beacons.
The oldest building that stands today dates from the late 15th century. This was part of a substantial stone manor house that the Morgans built shortly after the succession of the Welshman, Henry Tudor, to the throne of England as Henry VII. The Morgan family had been great supporters of Henry, and were rewarded with lands and titles, which they used to extend their wealth. They lived quite happily in this stone house until the 1660s - indeed, the house was considered grand enough for King Charles I to visit in 1645. In the 1660s, however, the head of the household at the time - William Morgan (d.1680) - decided to rebuild the house on a very grand scale. The new house was built in red brick, which was a rare building material in South Wales, but one favoured in England. The Morgan family lived in the red brick Restoration mansion until 1951.
No records survive to identify the designer or builder of Tredegar House, but much of the external embellishment seems to follow the style of Inigo Jones - the first and greatest of English Renaissance architects. Internally, the rooms have been restored as far as possible to their original condition. Although the majority of contents were scattered at the sale of the house, some have since been recovered, and returned to their rightful place in the house. The rare 'Tredegar Salt' - a silver salt cellar inscribed with the Morgan family crest, was discovered at auction a few years ago and purchased for a staggering sum in order to be reinstated in the dining room.
Tours of the House are highly informative and amusing, and offer visitors an opportunity to explore the architectural delights of Tredegar, take in the family history, and learn a little about some of the bizarre family traits. There was Catherine who, believing she was a bird, made numerous nests and even some big enough for her to sit in; Evan who kept a menagerie of strange animals, and had a macabre interest in black magic; Godfrey - the ‘peoples favourite’ he donated land generously to establish Newport's health and education facilities. Godfrey was a survivor of the ill-fated charge of the Light Brigade on October 25 1854, during the Crimean War. The bloody battle was made famous by Lord Tennyson's poem soon after. Godfrey was so grateful to have survived the carnage that when his horse, named Sir Briggs, finally died, he had him buried in the garden’s at Tredegar House.
In the grounds is the Orangery, approached through a walled garden containing a stunning 18th Century parterre created from an assortment of gravel, crushed shells and grass. Orangeries were essentially designed to conserve exotic fruits and tender greens during the harsh winter months. During the summer, potted apple, peach and citrus trees would be moved into the Orangery garden. The stables were probably built just after the house, and were designed to reflect the style of the House.