Craig y Nos Castle  

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The Paranormal World

Craig Y Nos Castle was built in 1843 by a Captain Rice Powell. The family of the Captain moved in, and Captain Powell settled to the life of a country gentleman, becoming a County Magistrate and a High Sheriff of Brecknock. Although both he and his father married well, misfortune began to fall upon the family when cholera took his younger son in 1851. He suffered the loss of his wife and his daughter before he died in 1862.

Two years later, the eldest son was killed in a hunting accident on the Isle of Wight. Sarah, the eldest daughter, had married a Captain Allaway and the couple remained at the castle after the death of her brother, until tragedy struck once more when Captain Allaway died a few years later. His widow moved to Tenby shortly before the property was sold in 1875-76. 

The Dutch family, Overbeek, of Calcutta and Capetown, were connected by blood and it was thought that the hint of their curse overshadowed the Powell family.

The estate then entered into Chancery and was finally brought by Morgan Morgan of Abercrave for £6000. Mr Morgan and his family settled at the castle where his son, also Morgan Morgan, joined him soon afterwards. Both families lived together happily for several years, each with a kitchen in what was the basement. A massive pillar stood in the middle of the larger kitchen, where a bottle containing a current newspaper and freshly minted coins were said to have been buried. 

At the time of the sale a large plantation of fir trees stood between the castle and the quarries above. The trees were about 80 years old, of fine girth and length, with squirrels leaping from branch to branch.

As the decade grew toward it’s close, the current owners decided to leave, and a remarkable chapter in the history of Craig-y-nos was about to unfold.

In 1878, the castle and its setting captivated the leading opera star of that day, who felt she had found the home of her dreams amid the calm isolation of this beautiful valley. It’s name alone strikes a romantic note and in rough translation means ‘Rock of the Night’.

This small estate in the mountains of Wales appealed to Madam Adelina Juana Maria Patti, who brought the castle and surrounding park land for £3500. The prima donna had reached the soaring heights of a spectacular career and was to spend the rest of her life at Craig-y-nos, leaving to sing in the premier opera house of Europe and elsewhere, captivating the world with her flawless soprano voice. 

For twenty five years she sang for Queen Victoria by private invitation and would surely have known many members of the Royal family. Many honours were bestowed upon the Diva and the Tzar Alexander II awarded her the Russian Order of Merit in 1870.

Other sovereigns of state, including Franz Josef of Austria and Emperor Maximillian of Mexico, showed their appreciation in a similar manner.

The theatre at the mansion was a remarkable addition and could hold 150 people. It was designed as a private auditorium where an international Queen of Song could enthral with her remarkable voice, all those who came to listen.

The opening ceremony took place on the 12th July 1891, when the list of guests included the Spanish Ambassador and Baron Julius Reuter, founder of the Foreign News Agency. Sir Henry Irving was to have given the opening address but was unable to attend and a leading actor, William Terris, deputised for him. This unfortunate man was assassinated by a ‘madman’ outside the Adelphi Theatre in London, some six years later. 

The Diva made her last public appearance in October 1914 when she sang for the Red Cross and, once again, filled the Albert Hall with an adoring public that loved her still. Her life of travel was almost through, and she came to spend the greater part of the year at Craig-y-nos with her husband and a devoted staff.

Her theatre remains a time capsule, and the stage is probably the only surviving example of original 19th century backstage equipment. The sound of her recordings within the auditorium can often affect the people who hear it. 

The winter garden was another architectural feature to be built for the Baroness at the end of the 19th century. A spacious building with a soaring roof and made mainly from glass, this was where the Diva would promenade with her guests among tropical plants whilst exotic birds flew within. A pair of iron fountains fashioned as cranes with multi-coloured plumage shed rainbow light from their falling waters and captivated all who saw them. 

Once again, time and the war brought change to the castle, and in 1918 the Prima Donna presented her winter garden to the people of Swansea where it became the Patti Pavilion and has been restored. One of the fountains stands in the forecourt of the castle and the other is said to exist in the grounds of Swansea University. When the contractors arrived to dismantle the winter garden they were told that all able bodied men had gone to war and they would have to find an alternative labour force.

Craig-y-nos was the first private house to be wired for electricity, and evidence of this was found some years ago by Mr J. A. Lea, the last Hospital Secretary, and someone from an electrical company engaged in relevant research. Power at 110volts [dc] was generated by an ‘Otto’ gas engine which was fuelled from a small gas works situated in the grounds.

The wiring consisted of planks with two parallel grooves that took a bare copper wire and covered with a corresponding piece of wood. This supplied power for ‘Swan’ lamps and an electrically powered ‘Orchestra’ organ which was controlled by a punched paper roll and situated in the Billiard Room. It was the pride and joy of Nicholini, thus dating it prior to his death in 1898.

Craig-y-nos was the first private house to be wired for electricity, and evidence of this was found some years ago by Mr J. A. Lea, the last Hospital Secretary, and someone from an electrical company engaged in relevant research. Power at 110volts [dc] was generated by an ‘Otto’ gas engine which was fuelled from a small gas works situated in the grounds. 

The wiring consisted of planks with two parallel grooves that took a bare copper wire and covered with a corresponding piece of wood. This supplied power for ‘Swan’ lamps and an electrically powered ‘Orchestra’ organ which was controlled by a punched paper roll and situated in the Billiard Room. It was the pride and joy of Nicholini, thus dating it prior to his death in 1898. 

The castle and the grounds were sold to the Welsh National Memorial Trust for £11,000 in March 1921, and it was called the ‘Adelina Patti’ Hospital at the request of the Baron. It functioned as a chest hospital and many were nursed back to health during this period until the scourge of tuberculosis was conquered. In its latter years, the patients were mainly elderly and infirm. 

During the Second World War an RAF pilot was brought to the hospital for treatment and met a young woman who was almost confined to her bed. They decided to wed but she was too ill to travel so the church granted them a special dispensation. They were married in the theatre and returned to the outside world after recovering their health. 

The castle finally closed as a hospital on the 31st March 1986 after the transfer of remaining patients to the new Community Hospital at Ystradgynlais. The Welsh Office maintained Craig-y-nos Castle and its unique theatre until it was sold into private ownership. It remained open to the public for several years but is currently in private ownership