While cataloguing the main Brogyntyn Estate and Family Records, I encountered a small number of documents which showed evidence of fire damage. Now, over ten years later, I have discovered the reason why. Letters and documents in the Longueville solicitors’ collection have revealed that Brogyntyn Hall was extensively damaged by a blaze on 14 March 1874.
The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard of 20 March gave a dramatic report of the events:
….the present mansion contains valuable manuscripts, books, and works of art, whose loss would he irreparable. When, therefore, the news was spread that the mansion was in flames, considerable excitement prevailed in Oswestry and the neighbourhood, and before the night was over large numbers of people from places as far off as Chirk, and even from Wrexham it is said, had made their way to Brogyntyn. The fire was discovered about a quarter past four by Mr Shingler, the head gardener, who was in the garden and saw smoke issuing from the roof, round the kitchen chimney stack. Of course the alarm was given at once, and preparations were made to deal with the flames in the most effective way. A mounted messenger was despatched for the Oswestry engines, and a staff of men belonging to the house and estate was at once collected on the roof…….
Once the fire was extinguished, steps were taken to repair the devastation and insurance claims were submitted via the solicitors. The reconstruction, plastering and interior decoration were estimated at £1800. Alterations and additions to Brogyntyn Hall had already been ongoing prior to the fire. An architect’s bill from 1873-1874 showed payments to Mr Carrington on account of plumbers’ work, J. Vaughan for masonry and W.N. Lacon for ironmongery. Naturally the fire damage to the house must have caused further headaches to its owners. A letter by Benjamin Ferrey, the architect, dated 26 February 1875, reflected his exasperation with his aristocratic clients:
I have not seen either Mr or Mrs Gore yet and I hear of so many changes in what they propose to do at Brogyntyn this year that I am puzzled. About a month since, I was desired to prepare drawings for the smoking room, gun room, conservatory and basement offices. Now Pryce writes to me that he hears nothing more is to be done about them but the work is to be confined to the internal fitting…..I have desired Pryce to get in every bill connected with the works as I find orders are given without my knowledge….
From 1875 to the present day, it seems to be a universal experience that nothing ever goes smoothly when you get the builders in!