Full Report for Listed Buildings

Summary Description of a Listed Buildings

Reference Number
Building Number
Date of Designation
Date of Amendment
Name of Property
Hensol Castle (Including attached Courtyard Ranges to N)  


Unitary Authority
Vale of Glamorgan  
Street Side
Country house set within a landscaped park with lake and tree lined drive. Reached off the by-road to Pendoylan approximately 2km from the M4 motorway.  


Broad Class
Health and Welfare  

Late C17th/earlyC18th origins. Fully remodelled circa 1735 in a remarkably early Gothick manner as shown in a sketch of 1774; it has been suggested that this may have been the work of the renowned London architect Roger Morris. After 1782 (but probably sometime between 1790 and 1815), during a period of frequently changing ownership, it was greatly extended giving the house some more castellations and corner turrets together with the raising of the main block. About 1840 a final major remodelling began to the designs of T. H. Wyatt and D. Brandon, architects of London; this work extended the house, added a new courtyard and refashioned some of the Gothick into Perpendicular. After 1927 the park and house were converted into a County mental hospital with the erection of new buildings and today Hensol Castle is used as a conference centre. Hensol was owned by the Jenkins family in the C17th. In 1721 the estate passed to Charles Talbot, who served in Walpole's government and in 1733 became Lord Chancellor, taking the title, Baron Talbot of Hensol. His son William was MP for Glamorgan and became Earl Talbot in 1761 after his death in 1782 the title changed and the estate was inherited by his nephew John Chetwynd Talbot who became 1st Earl Talbot of Hensol. Samuel Richardson then became the owner until 1815 when Hensol was purchased by Benjamin Hall, the industrialist and politician. It was soon leased to and bought by the ironmaster William Crawshay II (who went on to build Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr 1824-5) before being sold in 1838 to another ironmaster, Rowland Fothergill of Llwydcoed.  

Stone built house comprising 2 and 3-storey main block at South end, square inner courtyard to the middle with 2-storey ranges and a further, outer courtyard to North end with single storey ranges. Slate roofs and simple freestone dressings; profusely crenellated to all main elevations and towers. The main front to South is almost symmetrical. The 3-storey central block with projecting tower and porte-cochere is flanked by 2-storey wings and it is encrusted with crenellations, machicolations, corner turrets and arrow-loops in a strong 'castle-air' manner; 2 and 3 light mullion and transom windows with hoodmoulds. The porte-cochere has 104-centred openings to each side and ribbed plaster vault within. Many of the alterations, eg. heightening, are illustrated by changes to the masonry. The 3 storey block is terminated by slender towers and the 2-storey wings beyond are of 3-bays each and end in similar towers before returning to begin the side elevations; to the right is a traceried bay window. The main front follows the line of the C18th building, retaining and fitting between the two tall polygonal bays that are shown in the 1774 sketch. The long East side begins with this projecting 3-storey bay which has distinctive Gothick sash windows; tall similar windows to right. Beyond this the East side is stepped, becoming single-storey where it fronts the service courtyard; it is also punctuated, first by a round tower , then a 3-storey square tower followed by a 2-storey gatehouse tower with bellcote and clock and ending to the North east in a slender corner tower. Similar mullioned windows; round-arched entry to the courtyard. The West side has square-headed traceried windows beside the corresponding polygonal bay which on this side is cement rendered and has an added storey with blocked Tudor windows and flatter machicolations. 1-window Gothick section to the left before becoming late-Georgian and then stepping forward for the 2-storey, 6-window block with horned sashes, Tudor hoodmoulds and round towers to either end. Reverts to rubble for the adjoining West wall of the courtyard. The inner courtyard has small-pane sash windows and a confusing amount of masonry changes on the south wall near the deeply recessed tripartite staircase window. Covered walk to east side with iron columns; similar to outer courtyard which has paired high arches to west side.  

The panelled inner hall is late C17th but probably owes its character to the Wyatt and Brandon works of 1840's and is an impressive example of its period. Exceptionally finescalloped hoods to the doorways each of which is broadened by splayed and concave panelled reveals. Panelled ceiling with laurel wreaths; marble chimneypiece with surrounding C17th style timber-carved garlands and figureheads of Shakespeare and Raleigh. Opens onto the Classical Drawing room to the East which is largely 1730's but with some 1840's changes (eg the Doric window surrounds); panelled ceiling with guilloche and fret pattern borders; pediments over doors and to the overmantel with good volutes; Gothic traceried shutters to later bay window. Square antechamber beyond with similar detail; opens onto Gothick polygonal bay. The Inner Hall leadsto the Staircase Hall from which run part groin-vaulted corridors with Doric columns. Fine early Georgian main staircase with carved and swept up handrail over barley-twist balusters and carved tread ends; crowned by equally fine ceiling with coffered coving, garlanded corners and central rose. Some original glass retained. The plan of Hensol is confusing in that there are two substantial staircases. Presumably the similar but 'secondary' stairs to the East was intended for the family wing; the doorcases here are in debased Baroque manner. The Dining Room is reached past a now stranded Venetian window and could formerly be entered through an antechamber which has Ionic columned 'screens' to both ends. The main room, now known as the Seminar Room, at the far West end of the main block, is in Baronial style with rib-panelled ceiling bosses and linenfold panelling to dado, doors and shutters. Lavish marble chimneypiece with bright tilework. The C18th polyogonal bayed room to the West side has different glazing bar detail to that on East side. On 1st floor the main staircase opens onto an offset landing perhaps indicating retention of earlier fabric. Ionic columns to 1st floor corridor off which a bathroom has been created with a profusion of pedimented surrounds.  

Reason for designation
Listed Grade 1 as a major Welsh country house which retains C18th fabric of national importance in the development of the Gothick style whilst also representing a fine example of earlyVictorian remodelling.  

Cadw : Full Report for Listed Buildings [ Records 1 of 1 ]