Restoration Progress at Gelli Aur Park
The West Wing of the stable yard at Gelli Air mansion, Golden Grove near Llandeilo, has been saved from dereliction and is now in “fine condition”, according to the Golden Grove Trust.
The trustees’ annual report and accounts, released in June, show that the restoration of the West Wing cost £106,000, of which £36,000 came from Carmarthenshire County Council.
Three sides of the stable yard remain to be renovated, before the buildings can be used as an art centre and gallery. The trustees, London art gallery owner Richard Salmon and Jane, Lady Birt, need to raise hundreds of thousands of £s more if the work is to carry on to completion. Mr Salmon has already lent the Trust £1,450,756, interest-free and unsecured, for the purchase of the mansion and grounds, which had been unused since the agricultural department of Coleg Sir Gâr moved out in 2003, and was in a woefully dilapidated state.
The 60-acre grounds at Gelli Aur, with nature trails, arboretum and play area, used to be a popular country park, but became overgrown with neglect. Although restoration is under way, the work is far from completion. A new visitor centre and playground are coming, a Himalayan Garden is being planted, the boating pond restored, and the café is on the list for reopening.
During the year to August 31st 2015 the roofs of the main building were made weather-proof, and the grounds were cut back to reveal the original 19th century design. From 2016 on the priorities will be full reroofing, and restoration of the main ground floor rooms and five upstairs bedroom suites. Later, the second floor, the kitchens and basement will be tackled. The basement has a ventilation system designed by the architect, Sir Jeffrey Wyattville in the 1820s, which requires repair.
Everything is being done piecemeal as money is raised. A small proportion will come from letting the East and West Lodges for holidays, but without future large grants the repairs will struggle to proceed much faster than new dilapidation. The Trust had little cash or other current assets at August 31st 2015, only £9,424. Immediately after that, in September, the Welsh Government offered almost £1 million over three years, so that restoration work could continue.
Major Francis Jones, in his book Historic Carmarthenshire Homes and their Families, calls Gelli Aur “one of the most important of Carms residences, its families amongst the most distinguished”. The present mansion was begun in 1826 and finished in 1834.
Also in the Carmarthenshire Herald, July 1st 2016, p.7