PENMAENUCHAF is situated on the south side of the Mawddach valley west of Dolgellau, with a
good view over the estuary. It is a large, grey stone, gabled, Victorian looking house of two
storeys with attic dormers. The roof is slated and all the window frames appear to be modern
replacements, including those of two oriel windows on the south end of the main block.
In the middle of the south side of the house is a new, Victorian-style, white painted conservatory.
From the first and second editions of the 25 in. Ordnance Survey map it can be
seen that the house was slightly enlarged between 1888 and the turn of the century,
and it may be at this time that it acquired its present appearance (there had been a
house on the the site since early, in the eighteenth century at least). It certainly
cannot have been before this that the oriel windows were added, as they are on the
extended part of the house. The formal gardens were laid out during the same period.
A crest over the house door is that of J. [John] Leigh Taylor, who owned the
estate by 1902, but from 1865 until, presumably he acquired it, it belonged to
Charles Reynolds Williams, who enlarged the house and created the gardens at
Dolmelynllyn a few miles to the north at Ganllwyd. Charles Williams obviously
enjoyed adding to houses as well as garden planning, as can be seen from the
photographic record of his activities at Dolmelynllyn, and there is a striking
similarity, between both the houses and the gardens. Penmaenuchaf also seems to
have undergone a change of name about the time he acquired it, to The Cliffe,
but was Penmaenuchaf again by Leigh Taylor's time. All these things tend to
suggest that Williams, rather than Leigh Taylor, was responsible both for
enlarging and updating the house, and laying out the gardens.
Though mentioned in documents from early in the eighteenth century,
Penmaenuchaf seems never to have been a house of much importance and was let
for much of its history, the owners preferring to live elsewhere. The original
owners, a branch of the Vaughan family, lived at Penmaen (after the building of
Penmaenuchaf sometimes known as Penmaenissa), an older and more low-lying
house to the west. Penmaenuchaf seems to have remained with the Vaughans and
their relatives, still usually let, until it was sold in 1860, following the
death of Hugh Jones. The purchaser was a Reverend John Harvey Ashworth,
living in Kensington, who inherited a sitting tenant and seems to have used
the estate only for raising mortgages, two of which were with Charles
Reynolds Williams, who eventually bought the estate from him in 1865.
The name 'The Cliffe' is used on the sale documents.
Penmaenuchaf front (east) wing.
Section of a pre 1879 map of Penmaenuchaf showing the property named as The Cliffe before the east wing was added. (n.b. the map points south.)
Crest of John Leigh-Taylor showing a lion holding a (scallop?) shell.