Ancestral Houses: The Lost Mansions of Wales - a new book unveiling a bygone era

PUBLISHED: 12:32 19 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:54 20 February 2013

Plas Gwynfryn

Plas Gwynfryn

A striking new photographic book reveals the decaying glory of once proud and grand Welsh mansions and shines a light on a bygone era

A new book entitled Ancestral Houses: The Lost Mansions of Wales /Tai Mawr a Mieri has just been published which contains a remarkable portfolio of black and white photographs of ruined mansions across Wales.

Paul White has been photographing the derelict mansions and farmhouses of Wales for over 20 years. The images capture the ruins in dramatic light and advanced states of decay and his first book is a wonderfully creative interpretation of the built heritage of Wales.

These mansions were the visible representations of power and privilege at the core of ancestral lands. Now they are quietly decaying, the social order that sustained them fragmented into something more equitable yet also more alienating. But they still have the power to compel our gaze and to stir the imagination with thoughts of belonging.

Paul Whites photographs represent a significant cultural and historical document, and it is with these images that Damian Walford Daviess English text and Sin Melangell Dafydds Welsh text continue a keen and intriguing dialogue.

In their introduction Damian and Sin reflect that: Casualties of the scourge of fire, bad management, the death of heirs in both World Wars and the pitilessness of market forces, the houses in this book, through the interplay of word and image, confront us with a teasing question: at what point should history become heritage?

Ancestral Houses: The Lost Mansions of Wales / Tai Mawr a Mieri: Plastai Coll Cymru by Paul White, Damian Walford Davies & Sin Melangell Dafydd. Published by Gomer Press, Llandysul, Ceredigion. 19.99.

About the authors

Damian Walford Davies was born in Aberystwyth in 1971. Head of the Department of English and Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University, he is the author of three collections of poetry Whiteout (2006), Suit of Lights (2009) and the forthcoming Witch (2012) and a number of books and articles on Romanticism and the two literatures of Wales. Both his academic work and creative writing are characterised by an interest in the dialogue between poetry, the visual arts and architecture.

Sin Melangell Dafydd is an author, poet, translator and co-editor of Taliesin. Originally from Llwyneinion, Merioneth, she studied History of Art at St Andrews University and worked in galleries in London and Europe before completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her novel, Y Trydydd Peth (The Third Thing), won the 2009 National Eisteddfod Literature Medal. She is published in many anthologies in Wales and abroad. In 2010 she won a Translators House WalesHALMA award and held residencies in Finland and Germany.

About the photographer

Paul White has lived in the Tregaron area since 1983 when his parents moved to Wales from Leicestershire. He was immediately drawn to the landscape of the Cambrian Mountains and has spent the last 20 years recording the ruined houses of Wales. He works solely in black and white, using a Japanese-made Wista 5x4-inch wooden field camera and traditional photographic methods. He has exhibited widely throughout Wales, and his work is held in private and public collections. Paul Whites portfolio can be seen on his website:

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