Cyfartha Castle


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I will forever associate the musty smell of creepy stuffed birds with Cyfartha Castle, a result of one too many educational trips as a schoolboy to the museum buried within its walls. I recently discovered that the name Cyfartha translates as “Place of the Barking (dog)”. Combine this with the lingering odour and eery ambience of the interior together with the brooding sombre facades and it would be the perfect setting for a tale of Victorian taxidermic terror….but I digress. Completed in 1824 to the designs of Robert Lugar the building was a house for William (II) Crawshay to emphatically cement his status as lord and master of the Cyfartha Ironworks. Built on a hill overlooking the River Taff and indeed the ironworks, this castellated mansion followed the picturesque leanings of Robert Lugar. The picturesque was an aesthetic ideal of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that sought to combine the pictorial values of landscape and architecture including irregularity, asymmetry and interesting tectures. The Reverend Gilpin (1724 -1804), artist and travel writer believed that the landscape, whether depicted or realised should unite a ‘foreground’ with ‘side screens’, a brighter middle ‘distance’ and a far reaching prospect. Finally, a castellated ruin or other gothic building should punctuate the skyline to add ‘consequence’. This could have been a description of the Cyfartha house set within its 158 acred of landscaped grounds surround by the encircling valley hills. From a distance the building appears picturesque; one can discern the rough hewn pennant stone, crenelated parapets, machicolation and a strong horizontal composition offset by asymmetrical turrets. Entering through the estate gates and lodge houses (now lost) at the base of the slope and slowly ascending to reach the castle it would have been an impressive journey. Although, upon reaching the castle, up close it seems a bit too austere, too grim, false even – it is definitely not a ruined castle. Perhaps it was more to be gazed at from a distance and looked out of as in the words of Robert Lugar:

“On the foreground , the terrace, park, and River
Taff, beyond which the great ironworks become conspicuous;
these, at night, offer a truly magnificent
scene, resembling the fabled Pandemonium, but
upon which the eye must gaze with pleasure, and the
mind derive high satisfaction, knowing that several
thousand persons are there constantly employed
and fed by the active spirit, powerful enterprise,
and noble feeling, of the highly respected owner.”

Additional information

Accent colour

None, Grey, Red

Illustration Size

A3, A4