The National Trust took over Dyffryn House and Gardens in the Vale of Glamorgan in January 2013. The trust has not yet been able to “dress” the interior of the house with historical furniture, furnishings and paintings, which must be an expensive task, but the permanent fixtures are still worth a quick look.
My favourite feature is the main stained glass window…
Owner John Cory commissioned the window, which shows Queen Elizabeth I arriving at Tilbury in 1588 to give her famous speech before repelling the Spanish Armada. Apparently this subject was chosen because the house had Elizabethan roots.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the place was called the Manor of Worlton and was home to the Button family, which eventually gave rise to Thomas Button, a Royal Navy officer and explorer.
The official description is that these are Scagliola columns, plain, emulating red marble, with a gilded Ionic/composite capital, painted limestone plinth and pedestal. So I wasn’t far off, apart from the fact that I was fooled by the artificial marble.
Most of the detailed information here is from the National Trust Collections website.
Coal-owner and ship-owner John Cory bought Dyffryn House and gardens in 1891 from a banker named Henry Ellis Collins. Cory did a lot of remodelling of the house and among the old features still there are the fireplaces. They seem immovable now, but some of the grand fireplaces are older than 1891 and were bought and brought from other great houses.
The carved oak surround is Dutch but the stone chimney piece is French. At the sides are two carved female figures. The one on the left holds a cornucopia (representing abundance) and the figure on the right holds a mirror and a snake (representing prudence).
This fire surround is also oak and shows two winged men. In the middle of the overmantel is a carved heraldic shield surrounded by foliate swags.
This oak panelled room even has built-in billiard seats. The carving is in Jacobethan style with a leafy design and medallions containing male heads in profile. The panels are divided by what are called hermes holding grotesque masks.
The official description says “An ornately carved, white marble fire surround. Carved with nude women and cherubs amongst grape vines and roses”.
This one is in ornately carved alabaster, decorated with strapwork, painted in reds and blues and gilded. The overmantel panel depicts a scene of a soldier in classical style armour, riding a horse through flames (representing war). The panel is surrounded by the motto “DIEU BENIT LA ZOUCHE DE COURSON”. The fireplace looks 17th century, Italian in style.
This fireplace is similar but shows a woman in classical dress holding a cornucpia (representing peace). This time the motto is reversed – “DIEU BENIT LE COURSON DE LA ZOUCHE”.
We know where these two came from – John Cory bought them from Scarsdale House in London, home of the Curzon/Zouche family. Interestingly you can see one of the fireplaces in an old black and white picture of that house in this blog post.
This is a 21-branch chandelier (I didn’t count them myself). It’s made of enamelled metal with ormolu mounts, the enamel body decorated with roundels of pink flowers on a blue ground. I don’t know where it came from.
Apparently it’s one of four plaster roundels above the doors in the Great Hall, although I saw only two. The roundels each depict a different classical scene. This one shows three women holding fruit and offering it to a fourth. A cherub leans against her.
This roundel shows a group of people feasting and celebrating with putti (chubby male children) riding a ram to the right.
I’m annoyed I didn’t take a picture of another map on display that showed John Cory’s many trading bases all over the world.
When John died in 1910, the estate passed to his third son, Reginald Cory, a keen gardener. When he died in 1934, the estate passed to his sister Florence and then when she died in 1937, Sir Cennydd Traherne bought Dyffryn House and Gardens.
In 1939 Sir Cennydd leased the place to the then Glamorgan County Council, as a botanical garden on a 999-year lease.
Sir Cennydd seems to have been hailed as a bit of a hero…
In 1995 Sir Cennydd died, and in 1999 his nephew Rhodri Llewellyn Traherne sold the freehold to the Vale of Glamorgan Council for the sum of £300,000.
The National Trust took over stewardship of Dyffryn House and Gardens on a 50-year lease from the Vale of Glamorgan Council in January 2013 and is still working on its restoration, as shown by the items, now public again, featured in this piece.
Also see my recent post on Dyffryn House in two seasons.