Friday 16 March 2018

154 Rhossili Rectory

154 Rhossili Rectory
Anyone who envisages a seaside break in Britain’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty could hardly improve on a remote property with a superb view of the sea, bordered on the left by Worm’s Head and on the right by Burry Holms, with no neighbours.  Available for hire from the National Trust, this is the former Rhossili Rectory, built on the site of an old farmhouse in the early part of the 19th century midway between Rhossili and Llangennith.  It became the home of Reverend John Ponsonby Lucas and his family when he was Rector of Rhossili and Vicar of Llangennith, from 1855 until he died in 1898.  He belonged to a notable Gower family which included John Lucas, who built the mansion of Stouthall near Reynoldston in 1793, and another John Lucas, allegedly engaged in smuggling at the Salt House at Port Eynon, and possibly also using Culver Hole.
The Rectory, which the website states now has four bedrooms to sleep seven people, was in the nineteenth century home to nine people - the Rector and his wife, their six children (three boys and three girls), and their maid Ann.  Downstairs the two front rooms were the drawing room and the dining room, with the kitchen behind the dining room on the south side.  The Rector farmed the glebe fields, and kept a horse, cow, flock of sheep and some pigs - the horse being his transport around the parish.  After the Rector had taken a church service, he would not greet each worshipper by the church door, for the congregation would respectfully wait inside the Church until he had ridden away!
At that time it was not just the Rectory that was in a remote position, for the same applied to Rhossili itself, then more of a hamlet than a village.  It was separated from Middleton and Pitton by a narrow lane, for only at Pitton Cross was there a road along which a two-horse omnibus could transport passengers and packages to Swansea.  Also at Pitton Cross a horse “break” – an open wagon with bench seats drawn by one horse – could be hired.
The Rector’s children all received good education, though it entailed their lodging away from home: the three girls went to Carmarthen High School, the eldest boy Charles went to Cowbridge Grammar school, while his two brothers Loftus and Tottenham went to Llandovery College.  Loftus was the only one of the six children who married and had children.  All the Lucas children were musical, participating in musical evenings at the Rectory, and playing and singing at occasional concerts and entertainments in the villages for church funds.  Their mother trained the church choir. 
During the Second World War, the former Rectory was a base for workers engaged at Rhossili Down’s radar station, and it acquired a reputation for being haunted.  Wynford Vaughan Thomas relates that an overnight visitor to the Rectory had felt a sudden bone-numbing chill, and heard footsteps following him down a dark passageway, before a mocking voice challenged: “Why don’t you turn around and look at me?”  More recently the house was featured in an episode of the science fiction TV series “Torchwood”.         
Rhossili Rectory’s website contains fine photographs of the renovated interior, and extols the pleasures of a summer alfresco dinner in the garden watching the sun set over the beach.  It also mentions that wi-fi is available, though with intermittent connection problems, and an outhouse is suitable for storing surfboards and body boards for surfers in the bay.  Of course this isolated property can encounter stormy wintry conditions, such as when the paddle steamer “City of Bristol” fatally ran aground nearby in 1840.  However, potential users do face a lengthy waiting list for the opportunity of staying at this historic house. 

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