These once magnificent places were bustling with life and activity, but over time, they have fallen into disrepair and succumbed to the forces of nature.
In reality, there are neglected and decaying houses scattered throughout Wales, frozen in time since the last person to inhabit or cherish them closed the front door and walked away.
These hidden treasures can be found amidst the woods, behind rusty gates, or in forgotten corners of fields, until someone stumbles upon them once again.
Some fortunate homes have been revived and given a new lease on life.
Hall of Hafodunos
Hafodunos Hall in Conwy boasts a breathtaking ancient garden that is currently undergoing restoration after 30 years of neglect and an unfortunate arson attack. The garden was established as part of the National Garden Scheme.
The Gothic revival mansion was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and constructed between 1861 and 1866 for Henry Robertson Sandbach, replacing a house built in 1674. After being sold by the Sandbach family, Hafodunos became the home of Kent House School for Girls, which used it as an evacuation destination during WWII.
In 2010, Dr. Richard Wood purchased the property and has embarked on the task of restoring Hafodunos to its former glory.
Once hailed as the ‘Welsh Versailles,’ Kinmel Hall was formerly one of the most splendid residences in the country, but today it stands dilapidated and neglected.
With a history dating back to the 12th century, this Grade I listed building was completed in 1876 with funding from Robert Hughes, the heir to a vast copper mining fortune.
Throughout its existence, Kinmel Hall has served as a boys’ school, a health spa, a military hospital, a hotel, and a Christian conference center. However, it eventually became the family residence until 1929.
The restoration project for this grand mansion is estimated to cost £20 million.
Lord Newborough constructed Plas Glynllifon, a magnificent neo-classical mansion, during the 1830s and 1840s. Located in Caernarfonshire, it holds a significant place in the history of the region’s landscapes and communities.
In 1969, the Prince of Wales Investiture Ball was held at Plas Glynllifon. However, the estate had been abandoned for several years following a failed attempt to establish it as a wedding venue. In 2016, Paul and Rowena Williams purchased the 102-room property with ambitious plans to transform it into a luxurious five-star hotel.
This abandoned residence can be found in Llanychaer, Pembrokeshire. Although its facade may be deteriorating, the roof remains intact, according to Urban Ghosts Media. The house was described as “a beautiful contemporary residence” in Richard Fenton’s 1811 Tour of Pembrokeshire book.
Urban Ghosts Media also notes that the outbuildings of the property are now in ruins, and the foreground features a tree stump that is the last remnant of a cedar tree grown from a seed brought from the Holy Land.
Edwinsford House, listed as Grade II, was once the residence of Sir Rice Williams, the high sheriff of Carmarthenshire in the 1680s. It was built in 1635 on the banks of the River Cothi, north of Llandeilo. Unfortunately, it fell into ruin during the 1970s.
Cornist Hall near Flint is the birthplace of a naval admiral who served under Lord Nelson, but it has been vacant for many years and has become a popular target for vandals.
Thomas Totty, a member of the Summers family who controlled John Summers & Sons Ltd, a prominent iron and steel manufacturer in Shotton, resided in the house in the 18th century. It was later converted into a dining and wedding venue until its closure in 2013. The building changed ownership multiple times, with the Summers family, Clwyd Council, and subsequent private owners playing a role in its history.
The Golden Grove estate in Carmarthenshire has seen three mansions. The first one was constructed around 1560 by the Vaughan family, but it was destroyed by fire in 1754 and subsequently rebuilt. In 1804, John Vaughan bequeathed the estate to his friend John Frederick Campbell, Lord Cawdor of Castlemartin, who demolished the previous structure and commissioned the current house, designed by renowned architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville.
Golden Grove remained under Cawdor ownership until 1935. During World War II, it was occupied by the US Air Force and later served as an agricultural college until 2003.
Ruperra Castle, a centuries-old fortress, has certainly seen better days. Sir Thomas Morgan constructed it in Caerphilly in 1626 as one of the first “mock” Tudor castles in Wales. In 1645, King Charles I stayed there for two nights.
In the 18th century, the castle was purchased by John Morgan, a wealthy merchant, and incorporated into the Morgan family’s Tredegar estate. It suffered a devastating fire in 1785 but was subsequently rebuilt and used as a residence. After years of legal disputes over the site, it was put up for sale in 2010 for £1.5 million.
Iscoed, near Ferryside in Carmarthenshire, is a ruined eighteenth-century mansion designed by Anthony Keck. It was constructed in 1772 for Sir William Mansel and later purchased by Napoleonic commander Sir Thomas Picton in 1812. The property remained in the Picton family until the end of World War One.
While it served as council housing for some time, the mansion has been vacant since the 1950s and now stands as a decaying shell. It was listed for auction in 2018.
Great Frampton, located near Llantwit Major, is a house that combines a late-eighteenth-century front with a sixteenth-century structure. Tragically, a fire in the late 1990s left Great Frampton in ruins. In the 1770s, renowned astronomer Nathaniel Pigott resided there and even built an observatory. The property also boasts a walled garden.
Red Dress Manor
This striking old dairy farm in Llanymynech, Powys, still gives the impression of being occupied. Despite decades of neglect, personal items such as photos, lights, and clothing are still present, covered in layers of dust. The manor is adorned with portraits of its previous owner, and remnants of red dresses, which gave the place its name, can still be found within.
The abandoned dairy farm was constructed around 1725, and in 2013, a photographer gained access and captured incredible images of its haunting beauty.
Piercefield House, located in the Monmouthshire countryside at St Arvans, was designed by renowned British architect John Soane, known for his work on the Bank of England building. When it was completed in the late 1700s, it was hailed as a neoclassical masterpiece.
During World War II, the house overlooking 129 acres of parkland was used for D-Day Landings drills by US troops. Despite being purchased by property developers David and Simon Reuben in recent years, the house has remained abandoned and in a state of disrepair.
Gwrych Castle has a rich history and direct connections to the British Royal Family. Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh built the castle between 1810 and 1822, incorporating his ancestral home. It was constructed by several notable architects and was the largest newly built structure of the nineteenth century. With a facade stretching over 1,500 feet and 18 battlemented towers, it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside and the Irish Sea.
Located in Abergele, Conwy, the castle once boasted 120 rooms and a marble staircase, making it one of Britain’s finest examples of architectural beauty. After decades of uncertainty and deterioration, the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust purchased the castle with the aim of opening it to the public.
Originally built in 1618 for the prominent Bulkeley family of north Wales, Baron Hill was later transformed into the Neo-Palladian style in 1776 by architect Samuel Wyatt for the 7th Viscount of Bulkeley, who was also the first and last Baron of Beaumaris.
The house served as the family residence until the 1920s when they relocated to more modest accommodations, and Baron Hill was converted into a storage facility. During World War II, it was requisitioned by the government and used as a billet for Polish soldiers. Over time, the house and its outbuildings have fallen into disrepair, with the roofs missing and nature taking over the surroundings.
In 2007, plans were unveiled to convert the Grade II listed building into 43 flats, but the project never materialized despite the collaboration between developers Watkin Jones, Sir Richard Williams-Bulkeley, and the Baron Hill Estate.
Cilgwyn House was once part of a significant estate with extensive holdings in Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. The current Cilgwyn House was constructed in 1870.
Paul White, a postman from West Wales, has spent years photographing abandoned and derelict houses, capturing their eerie essence. Cilgwyn House is one of his subjects. White’s role as a postman has made it easier for him to locate these properties, although he also utilizes reference books and maps to compile a list of potential destinations.
“I can often spot the few telltale signs of an abandoned property right away, like electrical poles without wires or driveways that haven’t been used in years,” he said.
Denbigh Hospital, while not a mansion, is one of the most impressive abandoned structures in Wales. Constructed between 1846 and 1848, this Grade II-listed mental institution in North Wales once housed 200 patients. However, it closed its doors in 1996 and suffered a series of fires that left it on the verge of collapse.
Earlier this year, Lawrence Kenwright, a multi-millionaire, announced his intention to convert the hospital into two luxury hotels and residential properties. The history of abandoned asylums in Wales is often tragic, and you can learn more about it here. Additionally, you can explore the stories and haunted faces of the unfortunate individuals who lived at the Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum.
Mid Wales Hospital
Another Victorian institution, the Mid Wales Hospital was built in the early 1900s and ceased operations in 1999. It featured kitchens, workshops, a bakery, a tailor, printing businesses, and eight acres of market gardens.
Initially known as the Brecon and Radnor Counties Joint Lunatic Asylum, this hospital near Talgarth, Powys, accommodated up to 1,000 patients at its peak. However, it eventually fell victim to budget cuts and a changing approach to mental health care.
The building has been subjected to vandalism and decay over the years, but in recent times, there have been efforts to transform it into a luxury hotel and spa.
Please note that the current status and condition of these abandoned places may have changed since my knowledge cutoff in September 2021.