Shelley Sites/Sights

Tan-yr-allt

In September 1812, the Shelley party left Lynmouth under a considerable cloud, pursued by debtors and authorities who wished to question the poet about his radical political activities. They fled into Northern Wales, where, in the middle of a rocky wilderness, they discovered the model town of Tre Madog (sounds like "dramatic"—or "traumatic") in which a tremendous engineering feat was taking place: the reinforcement of a massive embankment which would permit draining and clearing the land behind it. They rested at the Madock Arms hotel and learned that a local house was for rent, at Tan-yr-allt.
 

Although Girdlestone, the landlord, initially considered Shelley an unsuitable tenant—Shelley’s alienation from his family and horrendous history of debt rendered the young man rather a poor credit risk—he was eventually persuaded to lease the Shelleys his house. Shelley spent the winter of 1812-1813 there, and, thanks to his radical politics, made several enemies, including a solicitor named John Evans and quarry owner Robert Lesson.

On Friday, 26 February 1813, an intruder may have broken into Tan-yr-allt, possibly in search of incriminating radical pamphlets. Shelley claimed that he surprised the man and fired two pistols, hitting him in the shoulder with the second shot. Supposedly, after screaming threats against Shelley's wife and sister, the man fled, but returned later that night and fired a shot at Shelley. The bullet was embedded in the wainscoting. Shelley and his family fled the next day, terrified for their lives. As soon as they could, they borrowed money and traveled to Ireland, staying at Reen Point in the Lakes of Killarney area.

Today, the main buildings of Tan-yr-allt are occupied by a Rudolph Steiner primary school. It is an airy, bright building whose architectural style seems to owe more to Italy than Wales. The west and south facades are designed to admit light through the large windows.

Like many of the residences Shelley selected, it is a prospect, and features magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. In the picture below, taken from the meadows directly above the house, one can see all the way to the estuary.
Virtually all of the original stonework remains.
The interiors have of course undergone extensive remodeling over the years, but still give a clear sense of how bright and comfortable the place must have been for the Shelleys.
At the south entry, one can find a memorial plaque.

Needless to say, the children at the school have spent countless hours examining every square inch of the site in a search for bullet holes, but none have been discovered. It would seem that the damaged wainscoting was replaced after the Shelleys left.

Those wishing to research Shelley’s stay at Tan-yr-allt should contact the librarian/archivist, Miss Jennifer Jane Kenyon, at Ynys Dyffnalt, Garndolbenmaen, Gwynedd, Wales LL51 9PQ.

Published @ RC

January 2006

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