“By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!” . . . “By God, sir, so you have!”

In general, I do not read up about any of the National Trust properties we visit ahead of the visit. Maybe I should, from time to time. On our way to Holyhead recently, for an overnight stop before we took the ferry over to Ireland early the next morning (for our National Trust tour of Northern Ireland), we visited Plas Newydd, a mansion alongside the Menai Strait, and home to the Paget family, Marquesses of Anglesey.

There has been a house at Plas Newydd since the late 13th century. The house today reflects the significant changes made by James Wyatt in the late 18th century. There are stunning views along the Menai Strait north to the famous Stephenson Britannia Bridge (the original was constructed in 1850), south towards Caernarvon on the mainland, and further east, of course, the Snowdonia panorama fills the skyline.

The original Paget family home was at Beaudesert, an estate near Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, in the 16th century. Plas Newydd, acquired by the Pagets in the 18th century, was only a holiday retreat, but eventually became their permanent residence.

I didn’t know too much about the estate nor the family, apart from something I’d read about the flamboyant 5th Marquess (featured on the cover of the National Trust magazine for Spring 2017) who squandered much of the family’s wealth, and died, aged 29, in 1905. The consequence of his debts was the sale of Beaudesert by the 6th Marquess in the 1930s, which was demolished but not in its entirety. Many of the contents, particularly paintings, were brought to Plas Newydd. Those in the drawing-room are particularly notable.

The 1st Marquess, Henry William Paget (as the Earl of Uxbridge) was one of the Duke of Wellington’s senior commanders (of the heavy cavalry) at the Battle of Waterloo, who was elevated to the marquessate of Anglesey just three weeks after the battle. Towards the end of the battle, he was struck on the leg by a cannonball, apparently eliciting the exchange between him and Wellington that I have used as the title of this post.

The Duke of Wellington was not well disposed towards Uxbridge, who had eloped with the Duke’s sister-in-law, but who he eventually married. He had eight children by his first wife, and seven surviving infancy from his second marriage. There is a several displays in the house of the Marquess’s regalia, his uniforms, even one of his artificial legs. He was eventually promoted Field Marshal.

In the ample grounds there are many walking trails, a small arboretum, and a terraced garden on the north side of the house.

On the wall of the small Gothick Hall, with its balcony, are early Paget ancestor (which you can just see through the open door from the Music Room). The Music Room itself opens off the left side of the hall.

Through a small door in the far corner of the Music Room, there is an elegant staircase leading to the first floor bedrooms. On the wall above the staircase is an impressive full-length portrait of the Duke of Wellington.

Just a few bedrooms are open to view, including the Alcove Bedroom, opened to the public in 2013, from which there is a wonderful of the Menai Strait. Very relaxing! The bedroom of Shirley, Lady Anglesey and wife of the 7th Marquess, is decorated in pink. Either side of the fireplace are paintings by Constant Joseph Brochart (d. 1889). But what is more remarkable is the hand decoration to the bed posts and canopy that was added by family friend and British artist, designer and illustrator Rex Whistler (d. 1944). More of him later, downstairs. Beyond Lady Anglesey’s bedroom is the bedroom of the 7th Marquess. In several rooms there are examples of old wallpapers.

The study of the 7th Marquess on the ground floor has several desks, piled high with books and documents. He was an enthusiastic military historian. The wallpaper reflects this interest.

Lady Anglesey kept a study at the south end of the house, overlooking the Menai Strait.

Along the east side of the hall (Menai Strait side), several rooms flow from one to another: the drawing-room, a breakfast room, and the dining room with the famous room-length painting by Whistler, and some exquisite trompe d’oeil illustrations on the end walls.

From a vestibule behind the Gothick Hall, you pass through to the drawing-room. At first glance, its colour scheme doesn’t seem to work: green and blue, and a red smaller carpet in front of the fireplace. But I had an enormous feeling of relaxation just walking into this room. Several large landscape paintings by Flemish painter,Balthazar Paul Ommeganck (c. 1789), cover the walls. They were brought from Beaudesert, and cropped to fit the available space. The effect is most pleasing.

Beyond the drawing-room is the breakfast room, with a bust of the 7th Marquess, by Whistler, on the mantelpiece.

Then you come to the masterpiece that is the Whistler painting in the dining room. And how stunning it is, providing different perspectives on the mountains when viewed from different angles.

What a stunning finale to our tour of Plas Newydd, which fitted in perfectly with our plans to visit Northern Ireland. I’m sure we will repeat the pleasure one day.

 

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