Roz and I went on another of our breaks in Wales, this time to celebrate her birthday. We stayed in a beautiful converted forge in Betws Ifan in the county of Ceredigion. The Forge is in the grounds of Glanmedeni, which was built in 1835 by Abel Walters who had made his fortune in the tanning industry. In his blog, David Edward Pike articulates that John Evans describes the property as a magnificent mansion house. David Pike also refers to Glanmedeni as Glan Medeni, which means ‘on the bank of the Medeni river . The mansion has a magnificent view over the Medeni valley. Abel Walters built the mansion house for his two unmarried daughters Frances and Jane.
The blog also includes an account of the adjacent Watch Tower building, which was built by Jane Walters and is now a private residence.
The Walters sisters were embroiled in the Rebecca Riots that took place between 1839 and 1843. These were triggered by the bad harvests of 1837 and 1838 and the Poor Rates (Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834) and subsequent hike in the road tolls, which were set-up by the Turnpike Trusts to raise funds to maintain the roads. The Riots affected the counties of Pembrokeshire, Cardiganshire, and Carmarthenshire. These Toll Roads were vital links in the movement of stock and farming commodities. This objection to the increased tolls resulted in violent protests towards toll gates and toll houses by men dressed in women’s clothing to disguise their identities. The term Rebecca Riots or Merched Beca (the Daughters of Rebecca) is believed to refer to a passage from the Old Testament Genesis ‘and they blessed Rebekah…let thy seed possess the gate…’
To assist with my research in the involvement of Walters family and the Rebecca Riots, I was directed to a very well written and interesting article by Dr Lowri Rees of Bangor University.
Jane, the younger of the Walters sisters (born 22nd October 1792), was dragged in to the conflict by a debt allegedly incurred by her now dead father, for non-payment of a servant 20 years previous. The princely sum if £1, plus interest, was demanded in a letter, and failure to comply would result in ‘Rebecca and her daughters’ taking action to recover the money owed. Glanmedeni was attacked on 4th September 1843 whereupon shots were fired, windows smashed, and the capture of three male servants. If the money was not forthcoming, Jane was threatened by the rioters with the burning of the house and a symbolic noose as a menacing warning. Jane survived the rioting and died in 1881 at the age of 88.
It is a wonderful feeling whilst perambulating down the ancient driveway, to consider what it may have felt like to have been driven in a horse and carriage down the tree-lined avenue to the mansion house Glanmedeni. The gate-less gate posts suggest a time of wealth and privilege of the 19th century. These gate posts that are now being subsumed by nature, perform no contemporary function, but nevertheless they elevate one to an expectation of feeling special as you approach the mansion house along the almost 1,000-foot driveway.
It’s incredible to drive down the beautiful tree-lined avenue and consider, 180 years ago, the rioters attacking the house and occupants and dragging out the servants after firing shots at the at a window, and to transport one’s self to that time of turmoil and uncertainty, is exhilarating.
The nearby village of Betws Ifan revealed some interesting photo opportunities with a charming little church to St John, and a wonderful rustic building, which I believe was once the village store.
The Forge itself is now a beautifully converted and comfortable, relaxing sanctuary. As seasoned visitors to interesting locations in Wales, this property stands-out amongst the best. The attention to detail is evident in every corner of the Forge, the bathroom just has to be experienced, and the kitchen is not only fully equipped, but it’s obvious that each element has been selected as if it is the host’s own accommodation. With the selection of materials and colour pallet it is evident that the host is an accomplished artist. A must-have for us is a log burner, and the Forge doesn’t disappoint. And breakfast on the balcony watching the birds amongst the trees is the perfect way to start the day. We’ll be back.
Lowri Ann Rees, “The Wail of Miss Jane”: the Rebecca Riots and Miss Jane Walters of Glanmedeni, 1843-44’, Ceredigion, xv, 5 (2007), pp. 37-68.
David Edward Pike,