There’s an illustrious history hidden in the old stone walls and ancient parkland at Glynhir – an interesting story behind almost every feature, from the crumbling dovecote to the ice house buried in the woods.
The earliest records show that Glynhir was owned by a Welsh family called the Powell’s. Very little is known about them other than that Morgan and Elizabeth Powell attended and are buried at the local church.
In 1770, the estate (then 420 acres) was bought by Peter Du Buisson for £3,000. A Frenchman, he had fled to England in 1685 as one of the 40,000 Huguenot Protestants seeking refuge from religious persecution at the hands of King Louis XIV.
The archives describe how Peter Du Buisson was detained in Carmarthenshire by bad weather in 1770 en route to Ireland. Taking advantage of this delay to visit the surrounding countryside, he was so charmed by the beauty of Glynhir that he bought the estate there and then. He didn’t end up going to Ireland!
After he died, Peter’s son William inherited Glynhir and his investment in agriculture (mainly growing wheat, barley, oats and hay) secured the Du Buisson reputation as an important landowning family. His wife Caroline was also active in the community, founding a girls’ school and commissioning the rebuild of two local churches.
One source of speculation was the ‘cutlery works’ (or knife factory) that the family set up. Rumour had it that the factory was used to manufacture weapons which were then illegally smuggled to France during the Napoleonic Wars. The 25 foot deep ice house, which guests can still find down by the river, was supposedly used to hide contraband, arms and even French spies! Some also believed that the dovecote with its 750 nesting boxes was the means for sending treasonous messages across the Channel.
While all this is generally regarded as being not much more than conjecture, there is one famous story that the historians vouch for. One summer, William Du Buisson’s two nephews stayed at Glynhir; it is said that when they were recalled to join their army unit in France, they took several carrier-pigeons back with them. Some time later, following the English victory at Waterloo, the pigeons flew home to Wales with the news of Napoleon’s defeat, making the Du Buissons some of the very first people to hear of it. Apparently, Caroline Du Buisson then rode at once to London with the intention of buying up British Government stocks which were at a low ebb, reflecting the country’s fear of defeat. When the depressed stock market finally got wind of Napoleon’s defeat, prices rose sharply and Caroline Du Buisson was able to sell her stocks at a huge profit. It is thought that the line of chestnut trees at Glynhir was planted to commemorate the battle and her financial triumph!
The Glynhir estate remained in the family until it was sold by Arthur Edmund Du Buisson in 1921. It then had eight successive owners until it was bought by Mr Bill Jenkins in 1965, by which time only 240 acres remained and most of the buildings were in disrepair.
In an interview with a local journalist, Bill Jenkins explained, “When we arrived, the mansion hadn’t been used for many years except for three rooms. You can imagine the state of the rest of the building.” The early years were hard but the Jenkins’ stuck to their dream, turning down offers from numerous developers along the way; one wanted to knock down the mansion and build a 200 room hotel! They went as far as selling the Glynhir Mill, and the ruins of the old knife factory with its adjoining land which were used for residential development and a golf course.
For the Jenkins family, their ownership of Glynhir has never been about money. “That would be a betrayal to history,” said Bill, “I don’t look upon myself as the owner of the estate but as a keeper who will look after Glynhir and protect it for future generations.”
Sadly, Bill Jenkins died in 1992 but his wife Carole and daughter Katy (current owners) have stayed true to everything Bill believed in – and Glynhir remains a place of authentic Welsh history to this day.