Dunraven – a Welsh/Irish Estate in Glamorgan

Dunraven Castle formerly stood on its prominent headland overlooking the beautiful Dunraven Bay, looking towards the village of Southerndown, on the Glamorganshire coast of South Wales. It was a very well-known landmark and since the demolition of the house in 1963, the gap left has been a great source of sadness to many local residents and visitors from all over the United Kingdom, many of whom spent successive holidays in the area between the two world wars and earlier. Nestling in the slight depression at the northern edge of the headland, away from the seaward promontory of Trwyn y Wrach – the Witch’s Point, it was a site of great beauty.
Nowadays, the site is in the care of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast Project. The walled gardens, once so immaculate, have been partly restored, but only to a limited extent, but the Bothi and the clock tower over the entrance to the courtyard have passed into oblivion with the house, leaving only memories, tradition and legends behind. Stories of Dunraven have been recounted and handed down over the years, especially among local people, and have featured ‘The Blue Lady of Dunraven’ about whom a musical item was composed for a tenor voice together with an unsuccessful film, which was not generally released, in the 1930s. The Dunraven Show was, in the 1920s and ‘30s, an important event in the agricultural calendar. Guests at the castle included royalty and many prominent people of their day.
Dunraven or Dyndryfan – the three-sided fortress – is a very ancient site, now unoccupied for probably the first time in nearly 3,000 years! It was the site of a substantial Iron Age fort whose post-hole dimensions can still be traced with the help of an archaeological map. It was later an important seat of the Silures and of the Catuvellauni in the first century A.D., under their chief Caractacus (Caradog), the son of Cunobelinus (Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline’ perhaps?). In the years following the Claudian conquest Caractacus conducted a gallant but unsuccessful guerrilla operation in Wales against the Romans until, betrayed by the Brigantine queen, Cartimandua, he was taken captive to Rome in A.D. 51 where he was exhibited in triumph and so impressed Claudius that he pardoned him and allowed him to live freely in Rome until he died.
Following the Norman conquest of Glamorgan from 1093 A.D. the Lordship of Ogmore was granted to William de Londres who established his castle on the bank of the Ewenni river which ran into the Ogmore river a short distance below the site. William’s son, Maurice de Londres, succeeded at Ogmore and had also acquired a new castle, at Kidweli, which was in process of being built by Bishop Roger and which Maurice had to complete. Tradition has it that Maurice, when away visiting his new castle, left Ogmore Castle in the charge of his chief steward, Arnold le Boteler. The castle was attacked by the Welsh but Arnold organised the defence so well that the attack was repulsed and the castle saved. When Maurice de Londres returned to Ogmore, in appreciation of Arnold’s loyalty and competence, he granted to him the Manor of Dyndryfan, within the lordship. This probably occurred about 1140 and, in time, the family at Dyndryfan founded by Arnold became the Butler family of Dunraven and they held the manor until the death of the last Arnold Butler in 1541. The large canopied tomb of Sir John Butler and his wife can be seen today in the parish church of St. Brides Major (St. Bride = Naomh Bríd = St. Bridget of Kildare – Ed.). The last Arnold Butler was succeeded by a nephew, Walter Vaughan of Bradwardine, Hereford.
In 1642 Dunraven was sold by Sir George Vaughan to Sir Humphrey Wyndham and his son John. These Wyndhams were directly descended from a Saxon nobleman, Ailwardus, who in the early 11th century, after the Norman Conquest, assumed the name ‘de Wymondham’ after his property in Norfolk which is popularly pronounced ‘Wyndham’ – thus Wyndham henceforth.
In the 16th century Sir Humphrey Wyndham was the 3rd son of Sir John Wyndham of Orchard, Somerset, and he married Joan, daughter of Sir John Carne, of Ewenny Priory, Glamorgan. Their eldest son was John Wyndham of Dunraven whose two sons died without issue, leaving their sister, Jane Wyndham, as heiress of Dunraven. She married her relative, Thomas Wyndham of Clearwell Court in the Forest of Dean. On Jane’s death Thomas married Anne, daughter and eventual heiress of Samuel Edwin of Llanfihangel, near Cowbridge, Glamorgan. Anne’s mother was Catherine, daughter of Robert, the Earl of Manchester. Thomas died in 1751 and Anne in 1758. Their son Charles Wyndham of Dunraven and Clearwell (M.P. for Glamorgan 1780 - 89) assumed the name of Edwin according to his uncle’s will but soon reverted to Wyndham. He married Eleanor Rooke of Bigswear, Gloucestershire and had one son, Thomas, who succeeded to Dunraven and Clearwell on his father’s death in 1801.
This Thomas Wyndham is the best-known name in the Dunraven story. He was MP for Glamorgan from 1789 - 1814 and married Anne Ashby, granddaughter of Robert Jones of Fonmon Castle, Glamorgan. As founder and prime mover of the Glamorgan Agricultural Society in 1772 he was anxious to promote ideas which would benefit Glamorgan and in particular the central Glamorgan and Bridgend area. He was the promoter of the great new woollen mill in Bridgend in the 1790s and was instrumental in bringing Robert Dare from Devon to manage the mill. He introduced the deer herd to Dunraven and built the kennels for the Dunraven pack of fox-hounds at Seamouth which is now the Heritage Coast visitors’ centre. When he died in 1814 his funeral at St. Brides Major Church was said to have been the largest ever known in the district. His widow, Anne, later married John Wick Bennett, Esquire, of Laleston, Bridgend. Thomas Wyndham’s two sons died young and his heiress was his only daughter, Caroline.
In 1810 Caroline Wyndham, the Dunraven and Clearwell heiress, brought a new name to to the Dunraven line when she married the Hon. Wyndham Quin, MP for County Limerick, eldest son of Lord Adare of Adare who afterwards became the 2nd Earl of Dunraven as we shall find in the following account of the Quin lineage, which leads to the resultant use of of the family name of Wyndham-Quin in relation to Dunraven.

Quin and Wyndham-Quin

The Quins were one of the few families of Celtic origin in the Irish peerage. Their ancestors were chiefs of the clan of Hy-Ifearnan in an early barony of the county of Clare which derived its name of Inchiquin from them. The lineal pedigree of the O’Quins of Munster, etc., is given in O’Ferrall’s Linea Antiqua. The pedigree continues to Donogh Quin, nephew of Dr. John Coyn, or Quin, preferred at the time of Henry VIII to the See of Limerick but resigned in 1551. Donogh’s grandson, the second Donogh Quin, married the heiress of the O’Riordan family who had been settled in Limerick for about 500 years. He died in 1671, leaving a son, Thady Quin of Adare, who died in 1726. Thady Quin was succeeded by Valentine Quin of Adare, who in 1707 had married Mary, daughter and co- heir of Henry Widenham of The Court, Adare. Valentine died in 1754 and was succeeded by his son Valentine Richard Quin, MP for Killmallock 1799 - 1800, who was created a Baronet of Great Britain in 1781 and was raised to the peerage in 1800 as Baron Adare of Adare. He was advanced to a Viscountcy in 1816 as Viscount Mount Earl and became Viscount Adare and the first Earl of Dunraven and Mountearl on 5 February, 1822. He had presumably chosen the title of ‘Dunraven’ in honour of his daughter-in-law, Caroline Wyndham, who had married his eldest son in 1810. His earldom lasted only two years and in 1824 his son, Windham Henry Quin, became the 2nd Earl of Dunraven and Mountearl. The family name had officially become Wyndham-Quin in 1815.
Prior to 1803 Dunraven House was a rather nondescript low-built structure with nothing of beauty to commend it, as we can see in an engraving of 1776 by Samuel Hooper. Mrs. Thomas Wyndham, having come to the old house in 1801, had a good idea of the house she wished to have and set about the project with her husband’s full approval. She employed no professional architect and designed and drew the plans herself while her husband arranged for the work to be carried out by a Mr. Willis of Bridgend, using as much materials from within the extensive Dunraven estate as possible.
This, then, was the re-built ‘Dunraven Castle’ acquired by the 2nd Earl and his wife Caroline in 1824. A note here concerning that remarkable lady is worthy of attention. She was a great benefactress of the town and people of Bridgend. Shocked by the Report to the General Board of Health by G.T. Clark in 1849 on the Sanitation and Water Supply of Bridgend, Caroline eventually provided the town’s first piped water supply in 1857 – paying for it herself as the Local Board were unable to do so. In honour of this tremendous boon, she was presented with an illuminated address and Eastgate was renamed Caroline Street. She later preferred to live in Clearwell Court of which she was very fond and died there in 1870. In the village of Clearwell she had a new church built, near to the Castle entrance, and appointed a young curate from St. Brides Major to take charge. About the same time, in the 1860s, she00 built a new village school opposite the church and brought a William Draper (the writer’s great-grandfather) from Halstead, Essex as the Master.
The 3rd Earl, Edwin Richard Windham Wyndham-Quin, Knight of St. Patrick, MP for Glamorgan, 1836-1850, and Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum for County Limerick (born 1812), married in 1836 Augusta, granddaughter of Valentine Quin of Rosbrien. Their son, Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, became the 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mountearl in 1871. He had a distinguished military and political career and was Under Secretary of State for the Colonies 1885-1887. He was a K.P., P.C., C.M.G., O.B.E., Lieutenant of County Limerick, J.P. of Glamorgan, Hon. Colonel of the 5th Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers, of the 23rd Armoured Car Company, T.A. and served in Abyssinia and South Africa. He was a leading figure in ocean yacht racing – his yacht ‘Valkyrie’ was a well-known rival to such as the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. In 1869 he married Florence Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Charles Lennox Kerr but died in 1926 leaving two daughters and no heir. Thus the title passed to his cousin, Windham Henry Wyndham-Quin, 5th Earl of Dunraven and Mountearl, C.B., D.S.O., D.L. County of Glamorgan, Military Secretary to the Governor of Madras 1886-89, MP for south Glamorgan 1895-1906 (including the ‘Khaki Election’ of 1901 while he was serving in South Africa), and High Sheriff of County Kilkenny, 1914.
In 1885 he married Lady Eva Bourke, daughter of the 6th Earl of Mayo, and they had two sons and three daughters. The 5th Earl, still remembered with considerable affection by several now elderly people in the area for his active involvement in village affairs, including being an active President of the Southerndown Cricket Club, and his rapport with tenant families on the estate, died in October 1952 in his 96th year and was succeeded by his eldest son, Richard Southwell Windham Wyndham-Quin, as 6th Earl. He in turn died in August 1965 followed by the 7th Earl, Thady Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin. The 5th Earl’s second son was Captain Valentine Maurice Wyndham-Quin, R.N., father of the 6th Marchioness of Salisbury.
In the two world wars, Dunraven Castle was a military hospital and having deteriorated was not used as a residence again by the Earls of Dunraven. With only a caretaker staff it was unused except for a short period as a holiday hostel in the early 1950s by the Workers’ Travel Association and in 1962 its contents and fittings were subject to a great auction sale after which the castle was demolished in 1963.
For the many stories and and legends surrounding the history of Dunraven it is worth obtaining a copy of ‘Dunraven Castle, Glamorganshire’ by the 4th Earl of Dunraven (John Murray, 1926). A full lineage of the Wyndhams, Quins and associated families is worth examining in ‘Burke’s Peerage, 1970’, pages 877-878, with a good lineage of the Orchard- Wyndham family in ‘Burke’s Landed Gentry’.

©: David J. Pearce, a former RAF member, retired librarian and President of the Bridgend Local History Society, who now devotes much of his time to aviation history.

Published in The Green Dragon No 7, Summer 1998