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History of the Manor

Llancaiach Fawr is situated in South East Wales in the small valley of the Nant Caiach, a stream from which it takes its name.

The house is mainly of the early 16th century, with early 17th-Century modifications. In some features, such as the placing of the main entrance and storeyed porch at one end of the building, it resembles Y Fan in Caerphilly.

Inside the Manor looking down on stairs

We believe that there was probably an earlier dwelling on the site, either underneath the present house or possibly incorporated within the eastern end of the building.

It was previously thought that Llancaiach Fawr Manor predates the Acts of Union between Wales and England of 1536 and was mentioned in John Leland’s Itinerary of 1537.

However, tree ring dating carried out by the Time Team suggests a felling date for the roof timbers ( those which have sufficient sap wood left to test) of between 1548-1565, later than was originally thought.

Leland’s Itinerary could therefore reference an earlier house on the site or a house belonging to the Prichard’s in the parish of Gelligaer- the parish formerly included Dowlais near Merthyr Tydfil, which is where this branch of the family came from originally as so Leland may be referring to their house in Dowlais.

The search for the origins of the house continue and the presence of medieval ridge and furrow plough marks and a huge  palisaded enclosure in the adjacent field give weight to the theory of an important  house being on the site from much earlier than the Tudor period.

The Manor House you see today was constructed for the Prichard (ap Richard) family when ‘gentle birth’ was no guarantee of security and was built to be defended.

The walls are 4’ (1.2 metres)  thick and access between floors was by stairs inside the walls. The entire house could be divided in two if attacked and only those in the secure east wing had access to the latrine (toilet) tower. Sturdy floors and small ground floor windows bear further testimony to the turbulence of 16th Century Glamorgan.

Dining table

As time went on the Prichard family began a series of improvements to their home to demonstrate their growing affluence and prosperity. In 1628 the Grand Staircase was added and two rooms were beautifully panelled and several of the intramural staircases were sealed off. At the same time a formal garden was laid out.

The existence of passages and stairways walled up over the years leads to the interesting situation where there are more windows visible from outside Llancaiach Fawr Manor than can be seen from the inside.