Abbey House and Ranton Abbey, Ranton, Staffordshire

Ranton is a quiet little hamlet in Staffordshire, around 3 miles from Stafford and it is recorded in the Doomsday Book in 1086 under the Pirehill Hundred.

One thing about Ranton though is that it has hidden a couple of pretty big pieces of history that most people in Staffordshire probably know nothing about. Ranton Abbey's surviving 14th century tower and the ruins of Abbey House, a large country manor house in a 300 acre estate.

Ranton Abbey (also known as Ranton Priory), was built in 1150 by Robert Fitz Noel of Ellenhall. It was an Augustian Abbey and flourished in the 13th century, as a subordinate house to Haughmond Abbey (near Shrewsbury). Life at Ranton was not necessarily the peaceful existence which we might expect though, as there are many recorded problems with discipline and mismanagement, particularly in the 14th century.

The Abbey was dissolved by the Act of 1536 (Dissolution of the Monasteries). There is some evidence that the cloisters and some other parts were st…

Plas Newydd, Llangollen, Wales - Home of The Ladies of Llangollen

At the turn of the eighteenth century Llangollen was well-known for being the home of the Ladies of Llangollen : Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby. The romantic story of their elopement from their families in Ireland, their journey to Wales and their setting up home at Plas Newydd captured the imagination of Regency society. They claimed they were seeking a better way of life, devotion to an ideal but with hindsight we can see Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby were probably just devoted to each other. This 18th century couple found each other in Ireland where they lived in the comfort and privilege provided by their wealthy families.

Plas Newydd, Llangollen, Wales

Over the years they improved their home and created a way of life peculiarly their own.They became more and more reclusive, hiding from strangers. Although the more they did this, the more popular they became. Avid readers, their library improved to become one of the best in the area and their home was fitted in good taste throughout. 

Plas Newydd, Llangollen, Wales

Plas Newydd was originally a five-roomed stone cottage, but over the years it was enlarged to include many Gothic features. Although originally ostracised by their families, the ladies and their unconventional lifestyle gradually became accepted, and their home was visited by many famous people including Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, Caroline Lamb and Sir Walter Scott, the Duke of Wellington and the industrialist and potter, Josiah Wedgwood.

Plas Newydd, Llangollen, Wales
The original cottage was expanded by the ladies and then again by the subsequent owners in the 19th century. It is now restored to essentially the final structure left by the ladies. It's most unusual feature is the profusion of pieces of reclaimed oak carvings collected by the ladies and set in patchwork style over the exterior of the house. These came from broken up furniture or church fittings and date from the medieval to the Baroque, but with folk and Jacobean vernacular styles of shallow carved decoration predominating as well as Gothic style black and white trim and carvings. The ladies also added much stained glass.

Plas Newydd, Llangollen, Wales

The ladies also expanded and improved the gardens, adding many Gothic features such as a 'ruined' archway, rustic bridges over rushing torrents and a temple that included a font removed from the ruined Valle Crucis Abbey. Ornate greenhouses grew exotic fruit and poetic notices were attached to trees.

Plas Newydd, Llangollen, Wales

After their deaths in 1829 and 1831, the property passed through various hands and saw a number of changes. General John Yorke added the black and white features on the exterior and filled the interior with oddities from around the world. In 1932 the house was acquired by Llangollen Urban District Council and is now a museum that all the family can enjoy. It is educational and a beautiful place to visit, especially in spring when the gardens are in full bloom. Details of visiting the house are available on the National Trust website.

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