Plas Teg: A Haunting in Wales
Today, I have a special post for you in honour of All Hallow’s Eve. Is it a tradition you celebrate or used to as a child? It’s always been a favourite of mine, although I guess what else can you expect from the pretty weird little girl that I was? Known to hunt down vampires and ghouls in the depths of my closet, you could also find me reading the eerie tales of Edgar Allan Poe by flashlight way past my bedtime, and my family will attest to the fact that I had an unhealthy obsession to devise forever more intricate grand plans to half scare my sister Melissa to death.
As a teenager my fascination for the macabre reached its apex and there are few horror films I didn’t rent from the local video store, from ghosties to slashers, mysteries, monster films, old classics and everything in between. I used to retell the stories in detail to my little sister and if you chat together about Rosemary’s Baby, A Tale of Two Sisters or Stir of Echoes, you would never know she never watched those films – that’s how descriptive my recounting was.
The first time Rob invited me to his family home in Wales, I raided their library and found this small book compiling the hauntings and folklore spooky tales of the county of Flintshire. My attention was caught, in particular, by a Jacobean country house located between the towns of Mold and Wrexham, about twenty minutes away by car. Since then, I’ve been determined to visit and finally last weekend we did. I loved it so much I can’t even say.
The formidable silhouette of Plas Teg can be seen towering over the landscape from the A541 (the latter is famous for sightings and the resulting accidents, some of them fatal). It was built around 1610 by a Welsh politician, Sir John Trevor I, who represented Howard’s pocket boroughs in the Commons from 1592, was knighted in 1603 and served as an MP from 1621. Throughout the 17th century it was a family home for the Trevors and the setting for some lavish entertainments. Set within vast beautiful grounds and with what used to be an exotic garden at the back of the house, it was one of the most striking and modern houses of its time.
Sadly, after the death of Sir John’s wife, Lady Margaret, the Trevors let out the estate to a succession of tenants until Plas Teg finally changed hands around 1930. During WW2, the house was requisitioned by the War Office and slowly, its decay began. By the mid-50s, it was in such a derelict condition that it was threatened with demolition but following a public outcry, a descendant of the Trevors purchased the estate back and made some attempts to restore the building, without much success. In the 70s, a couple known as the Llewelyns moved in but they only lived on the ground floor and slowly but surely the building continued its slow descent into oblivion.
Fortune finally smiled to Plas Teg in 1986 when it caught the eye of its present owner, Cornelia Bayley, a London antiques dealer and former prop designer, who purchased the house (or what was left of it) for £75,000. At the time, the roof had been pierced through by a huge tree with its roots in the grand hall and there was even a water stream running from one side of the house to the other. Over the years many of the valuable furniture, antiques and artworks of the house had been pillaged and you could say that the task ahead of her was truly unfathomable.
Cornelia negotiated a grant for £200,000 with Cadw, the Welsh historic environment service and invested £400,000 of her own to try and restore the house to its former glory. A condition of the grant was that she should have the house open for public visits under a year and somehow within ten months, she managed to open the doors of Plas Teg to curious local visitors. I’m not sure how best to describe the building so I hope that the pictures I took from outside speak for themselves. It is an ominous beauty, but a beauty nevertheless.
The epitome of an early-Stuart country house, Plas Teg boasts a front portico and a roof intricately made of four high reaching towers, finials, and cupolas. Inside, proportions and symmetry are exquisite with frequent nods to the Roman, Egyptian and Renaissance architecture, style and art. Each of the bedrooms, studies and parlours have been restored and decorated with historical accuracy by Cornelia in a variety of elegant themes down to the colour palettes, textiles, original materials, artwork and a wealth of household objects. There is a gorgeous staircase leading to the upper floor which dark wood, it is believed, came from the ship of the Spanish Armada as they wrecked against the English coast and were stealthily taken by Sir John Trevor for the property, landing him for a short amount of time in the Tower of London (then as today, everything that ends up on British land is property of the crown, you have officially been warned!).
I can’t imagine how passionate (and skilled) you have to be to carry out such a grand project over what has now been three decades (and arguably, there is still so much to do). Every piece of furniture and decor in Plas Teg, from the rugs that are hundreds of years old, to the sofas in a Venetian style that have been meticulously brought back to life and copied, to the beautiful hand-painted frescoes that hang in the hall and corridors that Cornelia has commissioned from talented artists in Eastern Europe… everything will take your breath away. There is so much to marvel at.
If you’re in the area on a Sunday, I really recommend heading to Plas Teg for a walking tour. Tickets are £10 for adults and volunteer guides will show you around the secrets of the house for an hour and a half, letting you roam freely at times (something that would never happen in an historic house under the National Trust by the way). They have a wealth of anecdotes to share about the history of the house as well as its restoration, which have been featured on Channel 4’s Country House Rescue, ITV’s Extreme Ghost Stories and Living’s Most Haunted.
Because yes, as you can imagine, Plas Teg is reportedly one of the most haunted buildings in Wales. Over a dozen ghosts roam the house and grounds and it should be no surprise really when you think about the many tenants it hosted over 400 years. Not only that but it is also believed to have served as a local court where people were temporarily tried and hanged, as well as a sanatorium for a short while. In some of the rooms, the cold is pervasive and giggling, sobbing, knocking, whispers and footsteps are said to be regular occurrences.
Cornelia herself, woke up to loud arguments on the upper floor and when this would happen, she would (bravely or insanely I don’t know) head up to investigate to find that no one was there. Our guide also mentioned that in one of the bedrooms she slept in, she woke up to find a man standing over her and closed her eyes until he had gone. Volunteer guides often find objects have moved from one place to another without anyone touching them and on some days, things can shoot across rooms or to the floor in front of your very eyes.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Would you stay in Plas Teg overnight? Well if you’re a thrill seeker, I guess you can find out. Head to one of the monthly paranormal evenings (from 8pm until 2am) for a night tour and a group seance. If you’re interested in the history of the house and its tenants through the ages, you can check out Mark Baker’s book “Plas Teg: A Jacobean Country House” (2006). He’s a friend of Cornelia’s and stayed at the house to write his manuscript.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I thought I would keep an uncanny little present for the end. When I looked back through the pictures I took around the grounds, I found something strange which I cannot explain. There is a little area to the back of the house where I took two successive shots trying to get a sharp picture of a statue. In the first picture there is nothing out of the ordinary but in the second one well, see for yourself.
And in case you’re wondering, I didn’t edit these pictures at all.