Architecture and History
Llancayo House is a Grade II Listed Georgian mansion building. Nicholaus Pevsner, the renowned architect, described the house as follows: "Quite a sizeable three-storeyed double pile block, the South Front of five regular bays with angle quoins. The three bay East (entrance) front, clearly built at the same time, is by contrast an eccentric composition. Glazed windows in the centre bay only, and a small timber porch on Doric columns carrying an elegant iron balcony".
The Lower Llancayo Estate (i.e. the Llancayo House Estate) originally belonged to Edward ap Jenkin, who lived there is 1535. He was also a tenant of the land belonging to the Chantery of the Trinity in Usk church. The great grandson of Edward ap Jenkin, William Powell, squandered the estate and in 1697 the Llancayo Estate became the property of Sir Hopton Williams. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Edward Berry bought the estate and built the present mansion onto the old house.
Edward Berry was a prestigious velvet merchant, who worked in Spital Square, London (Kents Directory 1794): An alphabetical List of the Names and Places of Abode of the Directors of Companies, Persons in Public Business, Merchts., and other eminent Traders in the Cities of London and Westminster, and Borough of Southwark.
Listing address: Berry, Vaux & Bloom, Velvet Weavers, 24, Spital square, from: londonancestor
We are told that Edward Berry made his first fortune in the mid-1700's in Yorkshire (where he was born), but lost it gambling. He made his second fortune in the textile industry. He married a Huguenot lady in London and they had two daughters, Louisa and Jane. Tragically, while they visited their family in France at the time of the French revolution, Mrs Berry was captured and guillotined. Mr Berry and his daughters managed to escape. We are keen to learn more about this story and would be pleased to receive more details to substantiate it.
Edward Berry then retired and moved to Wales. The house he built formed part of an estate of 312 acres, which included a windmill. In 1825, a fire destroyed the windmill's sails and the working component and the windmill fell into ruin. However, the windmill (a noted local landmark) has recently been restored by the owner, and the sails have now been re-installed as part of the restoration. The windmill can clearly be seen from the North side of Llancayo House and from our dual aspect Room number 10.
Edward Berry died in 1818 and his tomb can be found in the churchyard at St Mary's Church, Usk. After his death, the house was inherited by Louisa Berry and her husband, Reverend John Jones of Langstone Court, Herefordshire. Edward Berry's last will and testament is described below. The magnificent Wellingtonia Fir and Cedar of Lebanon trees in the paddock were planted by the famous writer and adventurer, Edward John Trelawny. He also planted other specimen trees in and around Usk. He was a British biographer, novelist and adventurer who is best known for his friendship with the Romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.
During Word War II the house was used as a convalescent hospital for the wounded, and some patients engraved their names in the lead-covered access to the roof. Their names are still there today.
Edward Berry’s Will:
The proprietor's family acquired a copy of Edward Berry’s will from the National Archive. In it, we found the correct names of his children, Louisa and Jane, and from their birth records we have since discovered the name of Edward Berry’s wife, Elizabeth. The discovery of the will revealed so much about Edward Berry, his family, his friends and provided an insight into the running of Llancayo House in the 1800’s.
He is a benevolent and kind man, where his first priority (having dealt with the practicalities of his funeral), is to give to the poor folk living in his vicinity:
‘I give and bequeath the sum of two hundred pounds to my Executors herein after named to be by them distributed amongst the poor of the hamlet of Gwihilog and of the town of Usk both in the said county of Monmouth at their discretion…’
He was a generous and considerate man. The will shows how he regards his live-in companions very highly and rewards them appropriately giving them his most treasured and sentimental possessions:
‘…I give and bequeath to Joseph Bowmar now residing with me the sum of four thousand pounds and the Mare that he usually rides with the Saddle and Bridle belonging to it and my gold repeating watch and wearing apparel I give and bequeath unto Hannah Bowmar his sister now also residing with me the sum of one thousand pounds and my watch made by Grant and also the little Mare with her Saddle and best bridle…’
He also rewards his business partner with a donation to Guy’s Hospital (and the Foundling’s Hospital) which in turn provides him with the prestigious position of Governor. He also passes him a gold watch and his valuable book collection:
‘…I give and bequeath to the Treasurer for the time being of the Guy’s Hospital in the County of Middlesex the sum of one thousand pounds for the use of the said hospital on condition that the said Robert Vaux be appointed one of the Governors thereof I give and bequeath all my printed books to the said Robert Vaux and also three thousand pounds and my French Gold watch…’
He also repays his staff for all their diligent work:
‘(I give and bequeath the following legacies to)…Maria the dairy Maid twenty pounds to John Lewis my Mason forty pounds to William Morgan my Carpenter forty pounds to Isaac Dix my Shepherd forty pounds to Gareth Jones fifty pounds to Jenkin Davies twenty pounds to William Edwards thirty pounds to Paul Morgan twenty pounds to Abraham Phillips twenty pounds to John Thomas twenty pounds and to Johnny my driving Boy twenty pounds…’
Also, the will mentions his first son-in-law Arthur Young, the younger. Arthur Young was the son of the famous agriculturalist and writer of the same name. He married Jane Berry, we believe, in 1799. Some portraits of Jane Young’s famous father-in-law, Arthur Young and some of his writings can be found below and in the photos. This is a whole new development and we hope to find more fascinating and exciting details in the near future, especially something in Arthur Young’s writing on France just before the Revolution to substantiate the sad story of Elizabeth ’s execution.
Arthur Young's Travels in France During the Years 1787, 1788, 1789
Arthur Young 1741-1820 was an 18th century English writer who is best known for the detailed accounts he published of his “travels” in England, Wales, Ireland and France on the eve of the revolution. After he inherited his father’s family estate in 1759 he began experimenting with agricultural improvements in order to maximise output. Although he was not always successful in achieving his goals, his writings contained very detailed observations and analysis of agricultural matters and were extremely popular. He began with 'A Course of Experimental Agriculture' (1770), based upon his personal experiences, and then travelled widely, commenting on the state of agriculture in Britain and France.
In 1957 the house was purchased by George and Ann Jarvie, and is currently owned by their youngest daughter Sarah and her husband Gavin. Following the completion of a £700,000 refurbishment in 2008 Llancayo House opened to the public offering luxury bed and breakfast accommodation with full wheelchair access throughout for our disabled guests. Since 2000, Llancayo House has been a wonderful venue for many exciting events including wedding celebrations, VIP parties, a televised charity wedding and wedding fair. In 2010 it hosted a number of American guests who were attending the Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort.
Llancayo House was not just a home for Mr. Jarvie, but also his passion in retirement; not only did he enjoy the repairs and renovations over the years, but he and his wife Ann were also very conscientious about the wildlife and gardens, encouraging and helping protect Llancayo House with the planting of thousands of native trees and hedging. The use of Llancayo House as a guest house became the key source of income for the family following his retirement, and without Mr. Jarvie's knowledge and experience, it wouldn't have been able to run successfully. Mr. Jarvie was always able to apply his engineering talent when working on the property - there wasn't anything that he couldn't fix and make better.
Sadly, Mr. Jarvie passed away on 20th February 2020, aged 92. Mr. Jarvie will always be missed by his family. He was a top U.K. Civil Engineer, mathematician and artist. In the 1950s he worked for the local Usk River Board and helped augment 30 miles of sea wall near Cardiff, preventing flooding and protecting wildlife. In the 1960s he lived with his family in Chiswick, London - during his time as Chief Engineer with Maunsells overseeing the construction of the Westway. He also was Chief Engineer when he and family later moved to Chester, in charge of the construction of a bridge. Mr. Jarvie took early retirement from his successful civil engineering career to look after his wife Ann who had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Following Mr. Jarvie’s passing, Ann went to live with her daughter Sarah and her family. Mrs Jarvie sadly passed away on 21st March 2022.