by Menai Holidays
History & Heritage
You may not know this house by name, but I am sure you will recognise it when you see it. Perched on the banks of the Menai Strait, alongside the iconic Menai Suspension Bridge, Manadwyn> has to be one of the most photographed houses on Anglesey! Read on to learn more about this holiday cottage’s colourful history.
Thought to of began life as a smuggler’s den, Manadwyn is perfectly placed to act as such as it is hidden away, clinging to the cliff, conveniently where the Menai Strait is at its narrowest. The original stone part of the house is thought to even out date Thomas Telford’s suspension bridge which was completed in 1826!
Purchased from the Crown by the Rathbone family of Liverpool, Manadwyn has since remained in the family, being passed between different generations and family members. The current Rathbone family have owned the house since the late 1950’s and it has been and continues to be a much loved holiday home. Beautifully decorated in a rustic ‘New England’ style it is a wonderful place to stay.
Originally used as a base to transport contraband from the mainland to the Isle of Anglesey, the name of ‘Manadwyn’ seems very fitting indeed! Made up of a mixture of the two Welsh words – ‘man’ meaning place and ‘dwyn’ meaning to steal – this is where the name is believed to have originated from. After the building of the suspension bridge, which created an easier way to cross the Strait, the house became a fishing hut, before being purchased by The Rathbone family in the late 19th Century.
By the next century the house was owned by Richard Llewelyn Rathbone, a metalwork designer, who used the house as his workshop and studio (not forgetting he housed his mistress here too, tut tut!). A well regarded man in the Arts & Craft movement, a number of his displays are now featured in the V&A in London – who knows they may have been created right here at Manadwyn! Inside the house on the wall of the sitting room there is a picture that shows the house being used as a metal workshop. Richard’s brother, William Rathbone IV, was MP of Caernarfon and a founder of the University of Bangor and was a regular visitor to Manadwyn.
The house then passed to the family of Liverpool philanthropist William Rathbone VI. The man made famous for setting up District nursing, thought to have been inspired by the diagnosis of his first wife with a terminal illness and his friendship with Florence Nightingale. This link of Manadwyn to nursing led to the house being gifted to the nurses of Merseyside as a holiday home. A visitor book from the 1940s and 50s shows hundreds of entrants from Liverpool nurses who made the long trip by bus and train to Menai Bridge.
All over the house there are reminders of its part in many family holidays. For instance there are a pair of old wooden skis on the wall above the dining table. 14 grandchildren return each and every year to water ski the very same stretch of the Menai Strait, with much more modern skis of course!
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