This is the third of the country houses which Sir George Gilbert Scott built in the wake of the publication of the Remarks, and is in North Wales, near the village of Llangernyw, eight miles south of Colwyn Bay.
In 1832, Henry Robertson Sandbach (1807-95) married Margaret, daughter of William Roscoe, who had been a generous benefactor to Liverpool, but he became bankrupt in 1820. Roscoe had helped John Gibson in his early days as a struggling sculptor in Liverpool, and as a consequence of this help, Margaret Sandbach had acquired a large collection of Gibson’s sculpture after her father’s death in 1831.
Henry Sandbach inherited Hafodunos after his father died in 1851, but his wife died in the following year. So Sandbach also inherited the Gibson collection and three years after Margaret’s death he remarried. The second Mrs Sandbach produced two sons. Perhaps she wanted something more up-to-date to serve the needs of her growing family and Sandbach needed a better setting for his Gibson collection, so they commissioned Scott to rebuild the house in 1860. Building work started on Hafodunos in 1861 and the house was completed by 1866. After Scott’s death, John Oldrid added a large conservatory to the west side of the house.
Perhaps Sandbach had read about Kelham in The Building News of November 1858, as Hafodunos derives directly from it rather than Walton. It has a lively skyline of chimneys, dormers, and gables, but it lacks the grand scale and height of Kelham. Built from brick with a multi-coloured diaper pattern predominantly in pink, it had stone dressings, slate roofs and pink granite shafts. It is built on a steeply sloping south-facing site, with a symmetrical south front overlooking the terrace and gardens beyond.
The north side is much more irregular with two towers, one of which closely resembles the clock tower at Kelham. The entrance is under this tower, and just to the south of it is the windowless octagon of the billiard room with its own steep-pitched roof capped by a lantern. This seems to have been designed to accommodate Gibson’s marble reliefs which have since been removed to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
Scott also designed the entrance lodge and gates in the same style as the mansion and, in the end, the cost of £30,000 was as much as Walton but cheaper than Kelham. Sandbach died in 1895, and the house eventually stood derelict for many years until it was gutted in 2004. It is now in the process of being restored.
Scott was clearly proud of Kelham, Walton and Hafodunos, and mentions them all twice in the portion of his Recollections written in 1864, even though Hafodunos was not complete at the time. He felt that they were a practical demonstration of the type of secular architecture that he was trying to promote.
Scott, G. G., Personal and Professional Recollections, Stamp, G. (ed.), (Paul Watkins, Stamford, 1995), p. 520.
Curtis, P. (ed.), Patronage and Practice, Sculpture on Merseyside (Tate Gallery Publications, Liverpool, 1989), p. 52.
The Building News, IV, 26 November 1858, p. 1176.