A fine example of a 16th-century manor house
Dolbelydr is to be treasured on two main counts. It is a fine example of a 16th-century, stone-built manor house, which has survived remarkably unaltered. It was also where Henry Salesbury (1561-c 1605), physician and humanist scholar, wrote his Grammatica Britannica, published in 1593. The Grammatica was one of the first attempts to impose formal grammar on the Welsh language.
Little is known of Henry Salesbury’s life, although it seems likely that he was related to the Salesbury family, one of the most powerful and wealthy in 16th-century Denbighshire.
Dolbelydr, in the parish of Cefn Meiriadog, would originally have been a house of considerable status, built of well-dressed limestone and with tall chimneys. Analysis of the timbers dates its construction to c.1578 and for this date its plan is transitional. The end chimneys and primary spiral staircase would have been considered innovatory, as would the rectangular entrance hall with its plank and muntin screen (rather than the more usual cross passage arrangement). Dolbelydr gradually declined in status through the years and underwent various alterations. It stood empty from around 1912.
Landmark first visited Dolbelydr in 1982. Its significance as one of Wales’s ‘lost houses’ had long been recognised but the main obstacle to acquiring it was lack of access – during the latter part of its history the house was often approached on stilts from the opposite side of the River Elwy! We were grateful to Mr. Roberts, the farmer on whose land it stands, to agreeing finally to sell us the building and an access track to it in 1999. This acquisition was directly enabled by a generous bequest by Dorothy Stroud. By the time we acquired the house the roof had fallen in. A later bread oven and external staircase were reduced to rubble and the solar screen on the first floor had been removed to a house in Chester, where it remains today. We installed emergency scaffolding at once, although it was another two years before we had raised the necessary money for its restoration.
A short history of Dolbelydr:
Read the full history album for Dolbelydr:
Download the children's Explorer pack for Dolbelydr
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Monday 13th February 2014