We’ve often wondered about the history of Pentre Bach. We’d heard vague stories of monkeys, ghosts and whisky swilling landowners. Last night we were invited to Nick and Margaret’s (the previous owners) for a drink and slide show of how Pentre Bach used to look and the huge project they undertook when they bought it. We asked Margaret about the history. This is what we found out
Thanks to Margaret for this.
We know that someone was living at Pentre Bach in 1770 but we don't know what buildings were here then.
A maltster was the tenant here in 1840. His sons qualified as medical men and practised at Pentre Bach. The house has a plaque on it, telling us that it was re-built in 1868. This is when it was bought from the Garthangharad estate and we guess transformed from a farmhouse into a rather grander house with 11ft ceilings in some of the rooms.
The lower road through Llwyngwril passed down the lane by the post office and along the narrow left fork of the drive before coming down the rest of the drive past the house and along between the old sycamore and corsican pine trees behind and beyond Pen y Lon, meeting up to the south of the village with where the railway line now runs.
The upper road went up along the hills behind the pub and up again behind the church.
When the railway was built in the 1850s, it used part of the lower road, so the present road was built between the two and a new entrance made to Pentre Bach, with the big stone pillars.
On the dining room wall, behind the shutters is a note "snowing heavy, very miserable day 1st 1897". On the window reveal of the Sweet Chestnut room is a pencilled drawing of a butterfly. On a purlin in the main roof are the names of three builders from local villages who must have been part of the re-building team in 1868.
William Williams was wheeled to church in a bathchair for his marriage in 1920. He died three days later and his new wife claimed the estate. His family objected to that so she burnt all the papers she could find, except her marriage certificate. Hence the fact that the deeds for Pentre Bach go back only to 1954. The fight over ownership went all the way to the High Court and she won.
From 1920 until her death in 1953, Margaret Winifred Williams hardly lived at Pentre Bach preferring to spend her time in the village shop that she also owned, now Ivy Cottage. In 1954, there was a two-day sale of the property and contents of Pentre Bach and most people in the village bought something, including stuffed animals in glass cases that stood on the big marble fireplaces. Then the council houses were built on the top field above the road and the new primary school and head teacher's house were built below the road. The cottages to the south of Riverside Stores (Northern Terrace) and those on both sides of the Post Office (Meirion Terrace) all belonged to Pentre Bach until 1954. Most were offered to existing tenants for the sum of £20. One was sold for £10 because £20 was too much. Another was sold for £200 to a relative of Mrs Williams but who lived out of the area.
Stories about William Williams abound: before his marriage, the vicar objected to behaviour and it's said that he took his donkey up to the church, saddled it and when it charged backwards up to the altar, he shouted at the vicar "You mind your business and I'll mind mine!" Around 1910, he had a five-legged ram here. No pictures, unfortunately, only hearsay. He had a monkey that was prone to escaping, getting in through any open bedroom windows of cottages in the village and shredding feather pillows all over the place, then sitting above the chapel door when the worshippers were coming out - and peeing over them. William Williams used to shoot at the devil in the gooseberry bushes. In the Victorian Kitchen Garden on television in the 1990s, we were told that it was common practice to fire a shotgun along a line of gooseberry bushes to make the caterpillars fall off. So, we guess that he too was an organic gardener. He was also known to gamble with the local vet. They would race with ponies and traps along the road to Tywyn with farms at stake.
Boys from the village were forever coming down for sweet chestnuts. Thomas Owen's father caught them one day and locked them in the stable between 1954 and 1971 when he and his wife left (in their 90s) to move to Tywyn. The boys' friends came along and removed stones from the wall under the window and they clambered out. The stones were replaced rather randomly and can still be seen today!
Nick and Margaret bought Pentre Bach in 1979 after it had been empty for 8 years except for a few months when the schoolmaster from Friog was here with his family. When they arrived, there were 15 retail businesses in Llwyngwril:
Haberdashers, post office and shop, paper shop and groceries, paint and glass, butcher, greengrocer, pub, Sunday papers & toys & gas &everything else, repair garage, petrol garage, antiques, hairdresser, 3 banks. Gradually over the years, several of them have closed as the owners have retired. However, new businesses have also started up. Many chapels have also closed and several have been converted to other uses.
Apparently many years ago, soon after Nick and Margaret started letting out the cottages, at least two guests saw the ghost of a young girl and an old man. Nick and Margaret brought in some ‘experts’ who discovered that the ‘old man’ had ‘interfered’ with the young girl in some way and she wouldn’t let him settle, after he’d passed away. The ‘experts’ had a word with them both, sorted out the problem and the ghosts were never seen again!