Talacre

Gwespyr, Flintshire
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Overview

Lancelot 'Capability' Brown built a banqueting house in the 1750s in the walled garden at Westbury Castle near Prestatyn.

The charming Palladian-style banqueting house at Westbury Castle, formerly known as Talacre Abbey, is set into the wall of the walled garden, now in separate ownership to the main house. It is very like the Owl House in the walled garden of Wallington in Northumberland, near Brown's birthplace of Kirkharle, which is thought to be by him. The Owl House dates from around 1766 and is named after the stone carving of an owl on its pediment. There are drawings of a similar building held at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute. Brown is said to have enlarged and improved the previous Jacobean house at Talacre. However, no documentary evidence has been found for Brown's work there.

Improvements to the house

Talacre Abbey, the seat of the Roman Catholic branch of the Mostyn family is a few miles west of Mostyn Hall. The parkland is laid out on the site of an earlier post-medieval estate. In 1634, in the reign of James I, a new house was built and, according to J Poole, was later enlarged and improved by Capability Brown. 

Lady Mostyn's commissions

In 1748 Sir Edward Mostyn, 5th Baronet, married Barbara Browne, daughter of Sir George Browne, 2nd Baronet of Kiddington, Oxfordshire. Lady Mostyn was the sole heiress of Kiddington where she had commissioned Capability Brown to create the serpentine lake in 1740. Kiddington was Brown’s first independent commission and the first piece of water that he created. It is likely that this work at Kiddington attracted the attention of Lord Cobham who appointed Brown as head gardener at Stowe in 1741.

It is thought that Lady Mostyn introduced Brown to Talacre; commissioning the banqueting house after she was widowed and before her second marriage to Charles Gore of Barrington Court, Somerset. The banqueting house is the only surviving building associated with Brown at Talacre.

Talacre after Brown

The 7th Baronet, Sir Edward Mostyn, was responsible for levelling the old house. He laid the first stone for a new Tudor Gothic mansion in 1824 with a large private chapel designed by the Chester architect Thomas Jones. In spite of a fire in 1827, the house was completed by 1829. The 1839 tithe map shows the plan of the house almost as it remains today, with but with minor additions to the end of the service wing.

In 1921 Talacre was sold to a closed order of Benedictine nuns who built a church to the front of the house in 1931-2, and the campanile in 1952. In 1990 the few remaining nuns left and the building reverted back to a private house. Early 19th century pleasure grounds surround the mansion but the house is now cut off from both the walled garden and a rock grotto, while caravan sites interrupt the views over Liverpool Bay. The banqueting house has recently been restored.

Sources

Glynis Shaw, Welsh Historic Gardens Trust: www.whgt.org.uk

J Poole (of Holywell), Gleanings of the Histories of Holywell, Flint, Saint Asaph, and Rhuddlan, 1831, page 67