Caerynwch

Caerynwch, Brithdir, Nr Dolgellau, Gwynedd, LL40 2RF, Wales

Caerynwch has belonged to the same family since about 1650. Plas Hen (which is part of Torrent Walk Cottages) was the original Caerynwch (C15th) and then this much bigger Georgian house was built by Baron Richards in 1780 and the name was transferrred to this house. Caerynwch translates as 'Ynwch's Camp' and is very ancient - going back to the brigands and the Red Men of Mawddwy- we think.

The earliest confirmed records of the family at Caerynwch are for Robert Vaughan of Caerynwch who died in 1693. However, wooden pannelling in the main hall of 'Old Caerynwch' which can be dated to around 1600 or before suggest a much earlier connection. Robert's daughter Grace inherited the estate and following her marriage to William Humphries the estate passed through 2 further Humphries generations until, on Robert Vaughan Humphries death, the estate went to his daughter Catherine. She was born in 1758 and in 1785 she married Richard Richards of Coed. He was the son of Thomas Richards who owned land just across the valley from Caerynwch. The house at Coed is still in the Richards family and is now lived in by my brother Henry Richards.

Catherine and Richard married in St Mary's Church, Dolgellau by Richard's Uncle Rev William Parry warden of Ruthin School. There are various versions of events surrounding the marriage, one of which suggests that the couple eloped. However, given the account of the wedding and the reception at Caerynwch, this is unlikely - the details of the occasion are recorded by Elizabeth Baker a prominent local diarist.

Richard proved to be a highly gifted young man being educated at Ruthin School and Oxford. He entered the Middle Temple and was called to the Bar in 1780. His career at Chnacery Bar prospered and from 1794 until he became a judge he was Solicitor General to the Queen. He twice served as a Member of Parliament for Heston in Cornwall in 1796 and again in 1807. On each occasion he gave up the seat shortly afterwards by applying for the Chiltern Hundreds. Richard was a great friend of Lord Chancellor Eldon hence Eldon Square in Dolgellau. He was knighted in 1814 and in 1817 was appointed Chief Baron of the Exchequer. For a short period during 1819 Richard was appointed acting Speaker of the House of Lords whilst Chancellor Eldon was ill.

Back at Caerynwch Catherine produced 10 children and, finding the house at Caerynwch too small, the Richards built the present house in 1780. The name Caerynwch passed to the new house with the old house becoming known as Plas Hen or Old Hall. Plas Hen continues in family ownership complete with its pannelled hall and is a listed Grade II building of considerable architectural significance.

The Richards family have continued to occupy Caerynwch with its surrounding farms and estate. Succeeding generations have followed carreers in the legal profession. The Chief Baron's son another Richard became Accountant General of the Exchequer. The pattern was broken by the war years of 1914 - 1918 and 1939 - 1945 with my Grandfather serving in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and my father in the Royal Navy.

My family have been proud to serve their county and five generations have acted as High Sheriff of Meirionydd and more recently Gwynedd. Robert Vaughan Humphries was Sheriff of Meirionydd in 1760 and more recenly I was High Sheriff of Gwynedd in 2006.

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