Tudors and Stuarts
There is evidence of a medieval, wooden, ‘cruck-framed’ building on the site before the construction of the stone building that we see today and this may have served as food storage for the nearby Llantarnam Abbey. The remains of this building can still be seen behind the lift on the ground floor of the Manor today.
Once the monasteries were dissolved by King Henry VIII however, the land was sold on and the first evidence of an owner dates to 1616 when a gentleman named Walter Griffiths purchased the ‘great mansion’ with 1000 acres. At this time, only the far left side of the current building existed, forming a stone ‘two-up, tow-down’ building. While this seems a small building to us today, in the Tudor period most people lived in single roomed wooden houses with up to 10 other people. This ‘great mansion house’ was truly the height of luxury, perfectly symbolising Walter Griffiths’ wealth.
Walter worked as an attorney, gaining wealth and reputation in the area and this explains his ability to purchase and expand Llanyrafon Manor. Like many other Welsh gentry, Walter followed a career in the Inns of Court, acquiring land and rents in Newport and in the Cwmbran area.
While the family was clearly prominent in the neighbourhood, being both wealthy and well-connected through marriage to prominent families, they do not appear to have been very popular. Walter Griffith ‘gentleman, let deceased’, his widow Margaret and their son Charles were mentioned in the Survey of Magna Porta of 1634, after Walter’s death, as having erected two weirs on the River Lwyd causing “annoyance committed upon the Lord’s lands called Gelly Lase Farm by overflowing of the water”. There are also tales of Griffith accusing one Giles Morgan of raising an armed band to lie in wait for him and destroying his bridge over the Afon Llwyd.
However, Walter can’t have been wholly unpopular. In his will, he left many lands and his estate to Charles and other local landowners including the Morgan family. In it, he also gave the generous sum of £10 to be distributed amongst the poor of Llanfrechfa parish.
The next section of the Manor was added around the mid 17th century and this now forms the central bulk of the House. It was most likely built between 1590 and 1673 although it is the proportions of the rooms which suggest that it was constructed during the later years of this period. The ‘Renaissance’ section now includes what is now the Entrance Hall, the café, the Great Chamber and the attics.
Following Walter’s death in 1629, the Griffiths family appear to have continued to climb and around 1670, a grand Porch was added to the front of the Manor.