Penaeldroch was built in 1884, as a shooting lodge.
The original manor was built in 1884 as a shooting lodge for Mr. George de Wolf, who was ‘part owner of the Prince Llewelyn Slate Quarry’. (The later addition shown white in this photo was added by the Roberts’ in ca. 1980). In the 1880’s the slate industry was a lucrative business in industrial Britain, and by 1882 North Wales quarries were churning out 450,000 tons of slate every year. A newspaper report claims that Mr. de Wolf had donated £5 ‘among the paupers in Dolwyddelen’ a year before he was to move into Penaeldroch – the rough equivalent of £240 in today’s money. However, this was probably less a good-hearted gesture, and more a move to establish himself in his new neighbourhood. Philanthropy was a privilege only of the middle and upper classes in this time. It appears de Wolf had settled himself into his desired social place, as in August 1884 de Wolf comes second in a competition for the ‘best pointer dog or bitch’.
The architect behind Penaeldroch was Mr. George T. Ewing. A newspaper, while discussing the architecture of the building, hails Penaeldroch as ‘one of the finest shooting lodges in this part of the country’. Ewing was already ‘a noted architect in his own country’ – Scotland – and was heavily involved with works on Drummond Castle in the 1870s and 1880s.
Ewing provided the plans to renovate the mansion on the Drummond Castle estate in 1878… Perhaps the tall windows, triangular juts into the roof, and towers look familiar?
The next mention we can find of Penaeldroch is at the beginning of 1888, when the house is now rented by Mr. R. Bibby Jones. While still functioning as a shooting lodge, every year Jones ‘treats the farmers and their shepherds and servants on the shooting lands rented by him to a supper’ (at the local Benar View Hotel, not at the house). It appears he was respected locally, as the North Wales Chronicle praises that this event ‘seems to promote the best feelings between giver and receivers’, and there came the ‘establishment of mutual respect and cordiality’ (although this would probably depend on who was being asked!).
However, in 1892 Penaeldroch is up for sale. By the early 1880s an agricultural depression was hitting arable farming in England, stimulated largely by the opening up of the Northern American grain market, which would undercut English produce. This was a depression which would last for over 20 years, as the fall of arable farming would create something of a domino effect in all forms of farming, and different factors (such as labour costs, or even railway rates) began crumbling. In 1894 the Earl of Ancaster must have been heavily affected by the depression, as he decides to sell off all of Lledr Valley. It totalled around 15,000 acres, of which Penaeldroch was a part.
It would take two years for the estate to start selling, and it was not until 1894 that a Mr. Jones would buy Penaeldroch, for £340.
Further research is still underway to clarify the later history of the house. We know it was a family house through to the 1950s (last owner possibly Dr Gordon); owned by the company TI (Tube Investments) as an outdoor pursuits centre for their cadets in the 1960s; and converted to a hotel by the Roberts in the early 1980s.