Wenvoe Castle

Wenvoe has a castle which is over 600 years old; it is not really a typical castle but rather a very grand house with some architectural features which gave it the appearance of a castle. It is an important and historic building and something of which we can be proud. The first record of a castle in Wenvoe was in the 1500’s and that was somewhere to the west of St Mary’s church, possibly in the area of Church Rise. There is no further information about that early fortification, though at the time it was recorded as being “badly decayed”. It is said that it was destroyed by Owain Glyndwr.

Fast forward a couple of hundred years to 1762 when a survey of the estate of the Thomas family showed a floor plan of a “long rambling building of irregular design” and that is where Wenvoe Castle Golf Club is located. One writer at the time wrote that “Wenvoe Castle is not at all worth seeing!”.

The Thomas family were leading gentry in the county for over 150 years. A family with a chequered history which at first amassed wealth and significance, but as often happens this turned from affluence to extravagance. After ambitions of being Members of Parliament and grand landscapers they were forced to sell off parts of the estate to cover their losses.


AUG castle

By 1769 the family could not carry on and the estate was put up for sale. It was finally sold in 1774 toMr Peter Birt for £14.000. Mr Birt had made his fortune from coal and canals in Yorkshire and had made enemies there among the woollen traders, so he felt it was time to move to pastures new.

In 1776 Peter Birt engaged stone masons and labourers and demolished the Thomas mansion, rebuilding in the same place a large mansion house with castellated battlements. The architect for this was Robert Adam. Adam was a British neoclassical architect, interior designer and furniture designer. He was the son of William Adam (1689–1748), the country's foremost architect of the time, and trained under him. Much of the original stone from the Thomas’ mansion was used in the new building but additional Bath stone was brought in from Cardiff docks. At one stage over 30 masons were engaged on the building. By the end of 1776 the roof was complete but the interior was so grand that it was not finished ten years later.

The castle has been variously described as “one of the finest houses standing anywhere in Wales” while another said it was “an extremely large but uninspired castellated mansion”. In appearance it had a long three storey south front. On either side there was a long low wing ending in a three storey pavilion with a smaller two story pavilion half way along each wing. The entrance was on the North side, facing Wenvoe village.

Over the years the Birt family married into the Jenner family and so the estate came into the hands of Robert Jenner in 1800. We know that in 1887 Mrs Laura Jenner, the widow of Robert Jenner was living in the Castle and she employed a large staff for a single lady. The family were rich because they derived a royalty, or income, from all the coal passing by train through their lands between 1890 and 1920. In the early 1900s the estate employed ten labourers, seven gardeners and a further twenty three beaters, quarrymen, masons and painters. In 1903 Mrs Jenner organised an outing for the estate workers and eighty people went to Bristol from Wenvoe station to visit Bristol Zoo.

The castle was mainly destroyed by a serious fire in 1910 and the remaining building was demolished in 1930. All that survives is the east pavilion together with the stable block, which is attributed not to Adam but to Henry Holland an architect who was working at Cardiff Castle in the late 1770’s.

1n 1936 Wenvoe Castle Golf Club opened, but during the war much of the golf course was ploughed to produce cereal crops, while the Club house became an officer’s mess. Since the war the golf Club has flourished and the Club Secretary Nicola Sims welcomes new members, especially from the village.