A History of Llanvihangel Court and its Owners
1559 - 1945
The following history is taken from an undated guide to the house; the author’s name is not given.
Llanvihangel Court in its early stages followed the pattern of all medieval houses which were the successors to the fortified castle providing increased comfort and amenities for its owners. The general pattern, which can still be seen in many Monmouthshire houses, consisted of the Main Hall with, at one end, the domestic offices and at the other, the private apartments of the family, with their bedrooms overhead.
The present house is basically Tudor in appearance, and the front of the East Wing is recorded as having been re-built in 1559 by Rhys Morgan. It is certain, however, that the house is a successor to a more ancient building, parts of which may be incorporated in the Hall and Drawingroom. In the East Wing in the King's Room there is a square-headed perpendicular window of three lights, while a fifteenth-century jamb-stone, chamfered and stopped has been used in the East Wall and a late fifteenth-century square window-head reused in the West Wing.
The name of Llanvihangel Crucorney is held by many to be a corruption from the Welsh for " the Church of St. Michael by the Rock on the Corner" and it was known in medieval times as Villa Michaelis. The first mention of Llanvihangel Court is in the reign of King Henry VI (1422-1471) when Thomas the second son of John ap Gwillim Jenkin of Wernddu was Lord of the Manor of Villa Michaelis. His son William ap Thomas' daughter Jenet married Philip Herbert son of the first Earl of Pembroke; William their son had a daughter and heiress Jenet who married William Morgan of Triley who succeeded to Llanvihangel Court, jure uxoris. It was their son Rhys Morgan who carried out the reconstruction of 1559.
In 1608, Anthony Morgan, son of Rhys, married Bridget daughter and heiress of Arthur Morgan of Heyford, Northamptonshire, and on the 18th June of that year sold Llanvihangel Court to Edward Somerset, 4th Earl of Worcester. The Somersets, however, only remained in possession of the Court for some 20 years, as in 1627 it was purchased by Nicholas Arnold, who was M.P. for Monmouthshire in 1626 and was grandson of Sir Nicholas Arnold who, on 18th of June 1546, obtained at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Llanthony Abbey and its extensive possessions.
Nicholas Arnold, the grandson, was Sheriff of Monmouthshire in 1638, but his chief claim to fame was as a breeder of horses which he imported from Flanders. The stables at the back of the house probably date from this period, and are traditionally ascribed to him.
During the lives of Nicholas Arnold and his son John, who succeeded him in 1665, several alterations and embellishments were carried out. Long mullioned windows with drip-stones replaced the square Tudor ones on the North Front and the Hall was given a central doorway in place of the side entry in the alcove, originally connecting with the passage behind the screens of the old medieval house. Thus the Hall ceased to be the communal living room, a social change normal to this period. But most important of the alterations was the building of the Southern Annexe in about 1673 which contains the magnificent staircase of yew wood.
John Arnold like his grandfather was a rabid Protestant and a Whig politician. He succeeded his father as Sheriff in 1669, but his ultra Protestant leanings brought him into conflict with the Catholic Herberts of Coldbrook and the moderate Tory party led by the Marquis of Worcester.
In 1678 Arnold sent a list of local Recusants to the Speaker of the House of Commons for which he was thanked at the Bar of the House, as a result of which the Jesuit College at the Cwm near Monmouth was dispersed and many Catholic priests arrested. Among these was Father David Lewis alias Charles Baker, a native of Abergavenny, who was taken at Llantarnam on 17 November 1678, conveyed to the Golden Lion, Abergavenny, and thence for fear of riot to Llanvihangel Court for safe custody. He spent the night there " in an upper room under John Arnold's roof" and next morning was taken to Monmouth gaol and later to Usk where he was tried and executed on 27 August 1679.
The feuds with the Herberts and Somersets continued and in April 1680 an alleged Catholic-inspired attempt was made on Arnold's life. A man called John Giles was accused of attempting to murder John Arnold by stabbing him in Bell Yard, London, which he would have succeeded in doing had not John Arnold been wearing armour. Giles was subsequently arrested, found guilty at his trial and fined £500, a large sum in those days. Although there was some suspicion that Mr. Herbert of Coldbrook was behind this attempt (for there was a Court case between him and Arnold due to be tried next day) nothing was proved but Herbert was bound to keep the peace.
Shortly after this there was a Tory reaction throughout the country and the Duke of Beaufort, who was the leader of the Tories in Monmouthshire, succeeded in 'bringing John Arnold and Sir Trevor Williams to trial in the King's Bench for Scandalum Magnatum [ libel against a peer; they had accused the Duke of Beaufort of garrisoning Chepstow with Papists] where he was fined £10,000, a vast sum of money. He apparently was unable to pay this fine for he was imprisoned for several years. However, in 1689 he succeeded in being returned to Parliament but failed to get his conviction set aside. In 1695-98 he was again M.P. for Monmouthshire but his extreme views gained him an unpopularity which he never lost until his death.
After the death of his son and heir Nicholas without issue, his two daughters Margaret Langley and Mary Button-Colt sold the Llanthony and Llanvihangel estates in 1726 to Edward Harley of Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire. Edward Harley's son succeeded to the Earldom of Oxford in 1741 and his great nephew the 5th Earl sold Llanvihangel Court in 1801 to Hugh Powell, treasurer of St. Bartholomew's Hospital. Hugh Powell on his death in 1821 left the estate to the Honble. William Powell Rodney, 8th son of George Lord Rodney by Ann daughter of Honble. Thomas Harley son of Edward 3rd Earl of Oxford.
Mr. Rodney lived at the Court for many years until his death in 1878 when he left the estate to his grandson Mr. Harley Rodney. Mr. Rodney never occupied the house and it was sold in 1903 to Mr. Atwood Matthews who died shortly afterwards. His widow died in 1924 when the estate was eventually bought by Mr. Bennett who did much to restore the House to its original condition. Mr. Bennett died in 1945 when the house was purchased by its present owners Colonel and Mrs H S P Hopkinson a direct descendant of the Edward Somerset 4th Earl of Worcester who owned it in 1608.
For details of the Sale of Llanvihangel Court Estate in1924 click here
For sale of previous possessions of Lanthony Priory by the Arnold family click here