Throughout Wales there are countless derelict buildings that require a determined owner to come to their rescue. I have visited many of these buildings over the years, but none so magical and evocative as the ruined mansion of Edwinsford in Carmarthenshire.
I had made my first to Edwinsford when I was just 14. It was summer and the mansion had just been put on the market. To my astonishment I had persuaded my parents to take me to have a look at it. The mansion sits in a valley, with the river Cothi running alongside the main gardens. Crossing over the river is a single arched bridge that once linked the main house with the stables, home farm and kitchen garden that were on the other side of the river. I can vividly remember climbing over the piles of fallen masonry by the house; at this point the front doors were still in situ and the main hall way resembled a forest full of young trees and brambles, what an exciting place to explore for a 14 year old. I left Edwinsford that day with a massive grin across my face as I was so sure that I would be able to convince my parents to buy it for me! Alas for all my efforts at persuasion, it did not happen.
It would be over ten years before I next returned there, this time, in the depth of winter, by now the new owner had made an effort to clear the saplings that had ten years previously surrounded the mansion and he had removed the fallen piles of stones to uncover a cellar and the boiler room, but all the clearance work could not hide the fact that the structure of the building looked in a perilous state. This was confirmed when I discovered a freshly collapsed wall, which looked as if it could have fallen moments before my arrival. Other walls also looked so weak, that the next gale would see them tumbling down. Although the state of the house was a sad sight it still retained the magical feeling that I could so vividly remember from when I was 14. Edwinsford began as a square building built into the side of a hill. Over time the house was continually enlarged resulting in a somewhat rambling building that we have today. The house included three very fine plaster ceilings, a large oak staircase and many panelled rooms.
Edwinsford was not to escape the effect that WW2 had on our country houses. It was taken over and used to house Polish refugees, who grew mushrooms under the floor boards. Later it was used as a school. Long gone were the days when Edwinsford was used as a rather lavish summer residence by Sir William Drummond and his ancestors.
One story I recall hearing when standing in front of the mansion on a bitterly cold early January morning speaking to a farmer who had grown up living on the estate, was that of when Sir William Drummond drove down from the family seat of Hawthornden Castle in Midlothian In the 1960’s to inspect the house. When he arrived he was so horrified by the state that Edwinsford had been reduce to that he turned the car around and left without even stepping out the car.
Later on a rift in the family saw the mansion being willed to the former butler, who subsequently left it empty and so Edwinsfords future began to look bleak.
Poor old Edwinsford, I wonder what will become of this most magical of buildings?
-Written by Tim James