Cwm Elan & Nantgwillt

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Shelley Sites/Sights

Cwm Elan & Nantgwillt

The Elan Valley, set in the exquisite Cambrian mountains, was once the site of three buildings of interest to Shelley scholars: Cwm Elan (pronounced "Coomellen"), the residence of Shelley's uncle, where Shelley often stayed;
Nantgwillt, the estate Shelley and Harriet wished to purchase;
and Capel Nantgwillt, the local church.
Unfortunately, all three buildings were demolished and the sites are now underwater, victims of late-Victorian construction. In the late nineteenth century, the rapidly growing Birmingham population required new sources of water, and a series of reservoirs were constructed in the valley. The rising waters engulfed a number of houses in the area, including the three Shelley sites (in these views, taken during the construction, Cwm Elan can be seen at the rear of the reservoir, precariously balanced at water's edge).
Today, a patch of rhododendrons is the only marker of the former Cwm Elan site.
Nantgwillt is also submerged, although a few of the foundations and garden walls can be seen during times of drought (a history of the area can be found in Francis Brett Young's "The House Under the Waters" and in Vale of Nantgwillt: Submerged Valley (London: J.S. Virtue, 1894).
The Rhayader and District History Archives maintains an impressive collection of early photographs and artwork depicting the houses—including all of the images seen here. Stephen "Charlie" Collard, a remarkable young man who maintains a cutting-edge computer facility in his home, has brought together material picked up at local jumble sales and used bookshops. His booklet "Touring the Elan Valley" (S. Collard, 1999) is an invaluable tool for any researchers working on the history of the area. He can be reached through the website.

Published @ RC

January 2006