~ Cefn Ila ~
“If environment really affected development, then babies born at Cefn Ila should have a prosperous start in life” - Dr.J.P.Jenkins.
Welcome to my website about the house, grounds and people of Cefn Ila. Most people know of Cefn Ila due to it being a maternity hospital but the history of Cefn Ila goes way back to the 1600's. I have concentrated on the period from the mid-1860's, which was the time when much of the house was re-built, up to the modern day. Read on and enjoy a trip back in time to discover the history of Cefn Ila.
If you need any more information about Cefn Ila or you would like to know where it was....or, on the other hand, if you have any photos of Cefn Ila, information or memories just get in touch, click email@example.com to email me.
~ In loving memory of my brother Andrew (1960-2019), born at Cefn Ila. ~
Please note. This website is for historical research only and is strictly non-commercial. All visual and audio material remains the property of the respective copyright owner, and no implication of ownership by me is intended or should be inferred. Any copyright owner who wants something removed should contact me and I will do so immediately. Alternatively, I would be pleased to provide a credit. The writing is by me and unless otherwise stated must not be used in any way without prior permission.
1925 - Photo by Phil.T.Clift
Cefn Ila has had a long and colourful history, the earliest references to Cefn Ila go back to the early 1600's when it was owned by the Williams family. Most famously, between the years 1846 to 1857, Cefn Ila belonged to Edward John Trelawney who was a close friend of Shelly and Byron. Much has been written about Trelawney so there is no need for me to write about him here, needless to say, he was an extraordinary character. One enduring myth is that Trelawney had Cefn Ila built for himself whilst living at nearby Twyn Bell, this is obviously not correct because Cefn Ila was more than 200 years old when Trelawney came to the Usk area, he did however add a wing to the building and laid out the grounds with ornamental shrubs and trees, the great trees that are still there today.
Trelawney sold Cefn Ila to Michael Parker Smith who, around 1862, sold it to Edward Lister who was from the Everton area of Liverpool. Edward Lister was a well respected member of the community and a good employer on the three farms that he owned (Home farm which was adjacent to Cefn Ila itself, Little Cefn Ila just under a mile away to the west but now long gone and Pant-y-Cwcw, a few hundred yards away on the road towards Usk). It was Edward Lister who had Cefn Ila rebuilt on the site of the earlier Cefn Ila house in the mid -1860's, he also made many improvements to the estate, this work was carried 'to the designs of the eminent architect Alfred Waterhouse'.
Unfortunately, Edward Lister died in 1885 in a riding accident near LLanvair Discoed whilst out hunting with the LLangibby and Chepstow hounds, the Colonels horse swerved on the approach to a low fence throwing him over the horse's shoulder, the Colonel sustained a head injury on landing. Doctor Lawrence of Chepstow and his assistant, Doctor David of Portskewett, were called but there was nothing they could do except to transport Colonel Lister's body back to Cefn Ila. The colonel's son, Edward Longworth, was also out riding with the hunt that day. Mr. E.D.Batt, Coroner, held an inquest held at Cefn Ila on Jan 6th,1885, and after hearing the accounts of several witnesses, a verdict of ‘accidentally killed' was recorded. The Colonel was interred at Llanbadoc Church on Thursday, Jan 8th,1885 during torrential rain. The service was read by the Reverend G.M. William, the vicar of Llanbadoc.
Edward Lister was succeeded by his son, Edward Longworth Lister who was a major in the Monmouthshire militia and also served as the chief steward to the estates of the Duke of Beaufort. Edward Longworth Lister died at Cefn Ila after a short illness in July 1896 aged only 40. Following the death of her husband Elizabeth Margaret Lister resolved to selling Cefn Ila and the estate was put up for auction (see sale catalogue here) in May 1897 comprising of a 'Modern family mansion, three compact farms, woodlands and plantations'. The Estate was split up and sold to various purchasers, however the reserve price of the Mansion wasn't met so it was withdrawn from sale and Mrs Lister decided to let the property instead. At the time Mrs.Lister was living at Twyn Bell.
In March 1898 Cefn Ila was leased to Henry William Hartmann, a well-known Cardiff merchant of the time. The lease was to run for seven years, terminable at five years if needed but during this time Mr.Hartmann and Mrs.Lister entered into a bitter dispute over the condition of the house and grounds and the lease was in fact terminated at the earlier instance. Acrimonious accusations were thrown back and forth by both parties and eventually the case went to arbitration with Mrs. Lister being awarded 'substantial damages'. Usk photographer Henry Dunning was commissioned to produce a set of photographs for the inquiry, presumably for Mrs Lister, but unfortunately there is no record of any of the photographs having survived to the present day, if they had they would have given us a unique glimpse of what Cefn Ila was like during the time it was a private house. Update see here.On September 29th, 30th and 1st October Hartmann held a three-day sale of the contents of Cefn Ila to include ‘the furnishings of ten bed and dressing rooms' including all of the furniture, paintings, pianos, a billiard table etc. carriages, 'garden requisites and other outdoor effects' right down to the bedding plants in the greenhouse. It appears that Hartmann then left the area for good.
1925 - Photo by Phil.T.Clift
By 1903 Cefn Ila was owned by Compte Gerard Gustavus Ducarel, the 4th Marquis de la Pasture, whose aristocrat family had left France during the French revolution and came to live in England........More on this subject to follow ....... Gerard Gustavus's brother, Count Henri de la Pasture was already living at The Priory in Llandogo in the Wye Valley and being only about fifteen miles away from Cefn Ila this may have influenced Gerard Gustavus and his family's decision to move to the area. The Marquis de la Pasture died at Cefn Ila on January 28th, 1916. The Marquis's funeral took place in two parts, the first part of the service, which was private, was held in the chapel at Cefn Ila, the coffin was then conveyed to Llanbadoc churchyard in the marquis's favourite wagon, which had been lined with moss, evergreens and flowers, under the direction of his gardener. The services, both at Cefn Ila and at the graveside, were conducted the Rev.Charles Edward de la Pasture, the Marquis's brother.
See the Memorial to the De la Pasture family at the Church of St. Madoc, Llanbadoc here
Eventually the Marquise de la Pasture (Georgiana de la Pasture) put the estate up for sale in September 1918 and thus began the end of Cefn Ila for use as a private house. Two months after the sale of Cefn Ila a grand auction took place there to dispose of the remainder of the furniture and other contents of the house, the auction had an obvious French theme and on sale that day, along with other items, were some valuable oil paintings, a Burr Walnut grand piano and some antique Louis XV1 furniture.
Interestingly, around the time that the De la Pasture family took up residence at Cefn Ila, Gerard Gustavus' eldest daughter, Monica Lilly, married one of the richest men in the country, the Lancashire industrialist Sir George Bullough. Sir George and Lady Bullough went on to live an extraordinarily extravagant lifestyle where money was no object and any desire obtainable. It is quite likely that Monica Lilly (Lady Bullough) would have visited her father at Cefn Ila, possibly with her husband, Sir George and their daughter Hermione. Read also about Dorothea Charrington, Monica Lilly's elder daughter by her first husband, Charles Edward Nicholas Charrington.
It is not known for certain who bought the Cefn Ila estate at the 1918 auction for certain (see sale catalogue here) but most probably it was Walter Stafford Gustard.
Walter Stafford Gustard was a native of Usk and a solicitor practicing in Newport. Known as a good all-round sportsman, he played cricket and football for Usk but his favourite recreation was shooting on his Usk estate 'The Mayfield', so it is possible he may have bought the Cefn lla estate simply to increase the size of his own estate which bordered Cefn Ila on one of it's sides. 'Kelly's Directory of Monmouthshire 1920' mentions that Cefn Ila was unoccupied as of 1919, coupled with the fact that it is known that the mansion was in a poor state of repair when Pontypool and District Hospital took possession of the building in 1925, suggests that whoever owned the mansion and surrounding land during that time never actually lived there. Walter Stafford Gustard may have had plans for the old house but the death of his beloved wife, Kate Ayres, had a serious effect on his mental health and this may have put paid to any plans he may, or may not, have had for Cefn Ila. In any event it was Walter Stafford Gustard who, in January 1925, made the surprise offer, free of any charge, the gift of Cefn Ila to the Pontypool and District Hospital for use as a convalescent home. The Executive Board now had to consider if it would be safe for them to accept the offer and whether they could undertake the cost of running it as a convalescent home. The decision was made to accept the offer even though it would cost a substantial sum of money to convert the house for the use that it was intended.
1925 - Photo by Phil.T.Clift
'The Kate Ayres Gustard Convalescent Home' opened on 3rd October 1925 in glorious autumnal sunshine. The whole building had been re-decorated and put in a 'clean and hygienic' condition. A new electric lighting plant was installed in the stables and electric fittings installed in every room. Up until then the water supply had been provided by two hydraulic ram pumps but there was a problem of getting sufficient water to supply the Home, this was overcome by sinking a well with a chamber of reinforced concrete (still there to be seen), the water then being pumped by engine to the top of the building (see photos here). Central heating was installed in every room with Mr.Charles F.Cox, of Pontypool, being in charge of the engineering work. It had cost nearly £2,500.00 (approximately £150,000 in today's money) to convert the house for it's future use and as such it would provide a convalescent home for 24 women and children.
Mr. Benjamin Nicholas J.P.,President of the Pontypool and District Hospital and the Chairman of the Executive Board, presided over the short opening and dedication ceremony from the veranda of the Home overlooking the lawn on which some 200 to 300 people were gathered, most of whom arrived by car or by 'charabanc', with seating provided for as many as possible. Mr.Benjamin went on to say that they regretted the absence of Walter Stafford Gustard 'their friend and the donor of the Home' who would have been the appropriate person to take the prominent part in the gathering that day, in spite of all endeavors, however, they had 'failed to persuade him to be present, and in the circumstances they must all excuse him'. Mr.Benjamin then invited The Rev.Martin A. Hasluck, Vicar of LLanbadoc, to talk about the Walter Stafford Gustard and of Kate Ayes Gustard whom the Reverend knew personally. The Reverend had brought with him a message from Walter Stafford Gustard which he read out. “The house and grounds are given thankfully by me in memory of a beautiful character who always considered the sufferings of others before her own sufferings. I am giving it not only as a memorial to that character, but to the glory of God, who has put it in my heart to do what little I can to help the sick and alleviate suffering.”
The Rev. Edward Morgan, Vicar of Usk, was then called upon to give dedicatory prayers, it is interesting to note that Rev.Morgan also gave dedicatory prayers when the foundation stone of Cefn Ila's parent institution, the Pontypool and District Hospital, was laid some 23 years earlier. Further speeches were given by Mr.Godfrey E.Jones, J.P., and Sir A.Garrod Thomas (Chairman of the directors of the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport) who spoke on behalf of the Royal Gwent Hospital wishing the Home well and proclaiming “Happy is the institution that is launched on a day like this - with the green fields around and the sun shining”. The mansion was then formally entered by Mr.Benjamin Nicholas through the main door, and the visitors followed for an inspection of the rooms. Local photographer Phil.T.Clift had been commissioned to produced a set of photographs for a book to commemorate the opening of Home, scans of which are below.
Walter Stafford Gustard himself went on to find happiness again when he married a former Sister of the Pontypool and District Hospital and Matron of Cefn Ila, Myra (Maria) Davies in 1931. Walter passed away the Rothbury Nursing Home, Newport, in March 1940 and is buried with his beloved Kate Ayres at Llanbadoc church - see here
1925 - Photo by Phil.T.Clift
The War Years
By December 1939, due to the 2nd world war, Cefn Ila was taken over by Monmouthshire County Council on behalf of the Welsh Board of Health and used as a sick bay for children evacuated to the area from London and other cities, when it was returned to Pontypool and District Hospital in May 1945 plans were made for its conversion to a maternity home.
Having already been in use a short time before, Cefn Ila was formally opened as a maternity home on Saturday 31st May 1947 by Captain Geoffrey Crawshay, Chairman of the Welsh Board of Health. The Welsh Board of Health had been very helpful in the re-opening with Cefn Ila being lucky to get medical equipment which was in short supply. At this time Cefn Ila was still an annexe of the Pontypool and District Hospital which was funded by voluntary subscription with the impending formation of the National Health Service not far away. Interestingly, on the same day, Anurin Bevan, the Minister for Health and founder of the National health Service, was opening another maternity home in North Wales
In his opening speech Captain Crawshay told the gathering that during the post-war period it became apparent that there was an urgent need for maternity beds, this shortage had been partly been brought about by the rise in the birth-rate after the war, publicity and information by the maternity and child welfare clinics, and housing shortages. The importance of opening Cefn Ila as a maternity home was illustrated by the fact that only 27% of mothers in Monmouthshire had the opportunity to use a maternity home as opposed to the Welsh national average of 46.2%. Captain Crawshay thanked the Pontypool and District Hospital for providing a much needed facility and went on to say that soon another 39 beds would be provided at the County Hospital in Panteg and at a later date it was planned to provide another 44 beds at the old American hospital in Govilon.
Presiding over the opening Mr.C.H. Newman, Chairman of the Cefn Ila Committee, gave a brief history of Cefn Ila's use from when it was used as a convalescent home in 1925 and went on to say that they had been very fortunate in getting medical equipment which was in very short supply. Mr Newman paid tribute to the work of Mr. Norman Ball, the late Dr .D.Rocyn Jones, Matron H. Lyons and Dr.J.P. Jenkins and the staff for their efforts in getting Cefn Ila ready for opening, Dr.Jenkins being the driving force to get Cefn Ila opened with the right medical equipment and without whose efforts the Home may not have re-opened.
Amongst the dignitary's present on the day was Mrs. Myra Gustard who herself was once matron of Cefn Ila and whose husband, Walter Stafford Gustard, had originally bequeathed Cefn Ila to the Hospital Pontypool and District Hospital.
In 1948 Cefn Ila was taken over by the National Health Service, continuing as a Maternity Unit. Cefn Ila Maternity Hospital closed (supposedly as a temporary measure) on 3rd September 1973 and its patients transferred to the County Hospital in Griffithstown, near Pontypool.
During the early hours of Friday 14th September 1973, less than two weeks after it had closed, fire broke out at Cefn Ila. The time of outbreak and the remote location of the house ensured that the fire had a good hold before the arrival of the fire brigade, there was also restricted access for the fire engines a lack of water for firefighting which made things worse. The fire consumed everything except the shell of the house. Today, all that remains of this once grand house is a pile of moss-covered bricks and stone. The coach house and stable block remained in relatively good condition until 2010 when they were demolished and replaced with a bat roost (see here), the walled garden is still there to be seen and has been renovated a certain amount by the Woodland Trust.
A new chapter in Cefn Ila's long history started in 2007 when most of what was left of the estate was sold by auction to the Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw).
1925 - Photo by Phil.T.Clift
Click the photos to see larger versions!
Coming soon - Cefn Ila's hydraulic ram pumps.
The People of Cefn Ila (work in progress)