Plas Newydd1 is a National Trust property located on the Isle of Anglesey, Wales, in the United Kingdom. It lies in 169 acres of gardens and woodland, with the east front facing directly onto the Menai Strait.
The property belonged to the Griffith family as early as 1470, but the beginnings of the present house date from early in the 1500s. The estate then passed to the Bagenal and Bayly families through marriage.
A Brief History
The house was added to extensively during its history. Between 1751 and 1753, Sir Nicholas Bayly added a semicircular turret to the east front and an octagonal tower at the south east corner. Both of these were in the Gothic style, and dictated the appearance and plan of the present building.
Sir Nicholas's son, Henry, inherited Plas Newydd in 1782. His alterations were completed in two distinct stages. From 1783-6, a second octagonal tower was built at the north end of the east front, making it symmetrical. The rooms behind this front were also substantially remodelled during this period.
The second stage, 1793-9, resulted in a new entrance front being built on the west, while the interior was recreated in Neo-classical and Gothic styles. Stables were also added to the north west of the house.
The north wing was added between 1805 and 1809, with an elaborate chapel on the first floor.
In 1812, the estate passed to Henry William, son of Henry. He was created Marquess of Anglesey, in 1815, for his heroism at the Battle of Waterloo, where he lost a leg. His artificial leg remains in the house to this day as part of an exhibition!
The fifth Marquess converted the chapel into a private theatre in about 1900, but apart from that, no major alterations were done for 30 years. In the 1930s, the sixth Marquess removed the battlements from the parapets, shortened and added Tudor caps to the two pinnacles in the east front, and altered the sash windows.
At the same time, he completely remodelled the north wing, destroying the chapel/theatre. He also created the long dining room on the ground floor.
The Whistler Connection
Rex Whistler was a renowned artist and illustrator in the early part of the 20th Century. He was perhaps best known for his murals, but was also a respected book illustrator. His masterpiece was illustrating Gulliver's Travels in 1930. He was killed in Normandy during World War II, when a mortar shell exploded while he was trying to clear an ensnared tank track.
The dining room on the ground floor houses what is perhaps the most famous of Whistler's works. A 58-foot-long mural on canvas, painted in the trompe-l'oeil style2. This masterpiece is truly stunning in its complexity, ranging from Italian buildings and a triumphal arch, to the family bulldogs. At the far end of the mural, there is a young man sweeping up leaves. This is a self portrait, and was the last painting of the great man before his untimely death.
There is an exhibition of Whistler's works in the former billiard room, later converted into a kitchen and pantry. It contains examples of his work, as well as personal items, and correspondence. It also houses the plates for the illustrations to Gulliver's Travels. The aim is to make this the definitive Rex Whistler exhibition, and new items are always being added.
Plas Newydd Today
Plas Newydd passed into the hands of the National Trust in 1976. It was given by the seventh Marquess, Lord Anglesey. Lord and Lady Anglesey still live in the house, in a self-contained suite on the upper floor.
Formerly occupied by the HMS Conway Training School, many of the outbuildings are now leased by Cheshire County Council for education and outdoor activities.
Plas Newydd lies one mile south west of Llanfairpwll and the A5, about 2 miles from the Menai Bridge, on the A4080.