Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby were the Ladies of Llangollen. The devoted friends moved from Ireland to Wales and lived in their delightful black and white house, Plas Newydd, from 1780 until 1829.
At first glance Plas Newydd looks like yet another of the dozens of magpie houses scattered around the UK. But once the observer draws nearer, and cuts within, she sees what a truly eccentric cake it is!
The house outside bears carvings over doors and windows of fantastic animals or of classically dressed (meaning sometimes nude) figures at work. Inside the visitor gets the feeling of suddenly being miniaturized, like Alice in Wonderland, and held captive within walls and ceilings of what looks like (but, of course, is not) elaborately carved dark chocolates.
A house of dark chocolate has to be even more daemonic a notion than a gingerbread cottage. Interesting how no writer has tackled this subject. Perhaps it’s because no one has dared to write whimsically about the house, not since William Wordsworth anyway.
Wordsworth, one of the Ladies’ many talented friends (with whom they often held soirees), once referred to Plas Newydd as a low-roofed cottage, in a sonnet no less! He was excommunicated from their company.
Plas Newydd is, indeed, economic of space, but expansive in its rich details: heraldic stained glass windows, velvety drapes and cushions, leatherwork, carved sunbursts, polished faces, and hallways as mysterious as the throats of dragons.
A few effects from the Ladies’ personal lives including gifts from their admirers are on display in glass cases. Herein a pair of dainty shoes attests that to their mistress the cottage’s roof could not have been low at all.
Plas Newydd is just west of Llangollen off of the A5. It is open from Easter until October. Other nearby sites include Chirk Castle and Valle Crucis Abbey.
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