Dolguog is located in the Parish of Penegoes about a mile and half from the market town of Machynlleth in Mid Wales. It is sited on a hill overlooking the beautiful Dyfi Valley and confluence of the Southern Dulas and the River Dyfi.
The present building consists mainly of a large, early seventeenth century manor house with Victorian extensions. The house probably exemplified the three-unit, submedieval plan consisting on the ground floor of a hall between an inner and outer unit. The hall was heated by a fireplace which still survives. The lateral chimney is uncommon in Montgomeryshire but a small group has already been noted at this western end of the county. The thick stone walls are probably original as are a number of ogee-stopped plain chamfered beams, the ogee-stopped fireplace bressummer, as well as three plain collar-beam roof trusses.
The present staircase is Victorian but a fragment of a pierced stair baluster, presumably from the original staircase, was found buried in a wall nearby and is now kept loose in the residents lounge.
The accepted meaning of Dolguog is "Cuog's Meadow". Cuawg was one of the sons of Cyndrwyn Prince of part-Powys. It is said that the well-known Welsh poet of the sixth century, Llywarch Hen, recieved the hospitality of Cuog and his brother Cynddylan who owned possessions in the neighbourhood. It would appear that the River Dulas was then called Cuog and one of Llywarch Hen's poems was an address of thirty two stanzas 'To the Cuckoo in Abercuawg'. Llywarch Hen wrote many poems on the battles and adventures of Cyndrwyn and his sons Cuog and Cynddylan. The names of both sons appear in the following verse from the poem 'Triplets of the Rooms'
Cynddylan's room it is deserted tonight
After the pleasures of the warriors Elvan, Cynddylan and Caeog.
It is fascinating that Cuawg's name should survive in the name Plas Dolguog.
The present building was built by the Herbert family and it seems likely that the plaque on the front wall above the main doorway, dated 1632, relates to a major buildng works. The 'H' refers to the name Herbert and 'FA' to the christian names of Francis and his second wife Abigail.
The Herberts of Montgomery were direct descendents from the Earls of Pembroke and the Lords of Raglan. It appears that Matthew Herbert was the first Herbert to live at Dolguog. His great uncle William, he first earl of Pembroke, was one of the influential members of the King's Council of State on the accession of Edward IV. William held numerous offices which, in effect, gave in supreme control over the south and parts of North Wales. He was eventually granted the stewardship of castles, lordships and manors in Carmarthen, Cardigan, Brecknock, Pembroke and Merioneth.
Matthew Herbert's brother was Richard Herbert of Mongomery Castle who was father to the famous poet George Herbert (1593-1633) and the famous philosopher, historian and diplomatist Edward. Lord of Chirbury (1583-1648). Matthew Herbert's father, Edward Herbert of Montgomery, was sheriff of Montgomeryshire in 1557 and 1568.
Richard Williams FRHS said of the Herberts in a lecture delivered at the Welsh National Society on November 26th 1889.
'Few,if any, of our Welsh families have produced so great a number of illustrious characters as the Herbert family. For five centuries or more its members have acted a conspicuous and important part in the history, not only of Wales, but also of the British Empire as warriors, diplomatists, poets, scholars and divines.'
Matthew Herbert was called to the bar as a member of the Inner Temple in 1582. According to his nephew, Lord Herbert of Chirbury:
'He went to the Low Country Wars and after sometime spent there came home and lived in the country at Dolguog upon a house and fair living which my Grandfather Edward Herbert bestowed upon him. He was a member of Parliament with George Herbert Esquire for the county of Monmouth in the fifth year of Queen Elizabeth fair living which my Grandfather Edward Herbert bestowed upon him. He was a member of Parliament with George Herbert Esquire for the county of Monmouth in the fifth year of Queen Elizabeth's reign and with his father's first cousin, Oliver Lloyd of Leighton, for Montgomery in the Parliament that met at Westminster 29th October 1586.'
Matthew was left Dolguog in his father Edward's will dated March 24th 1592 and proved on June 8th 1594 together with considerable property and lands in the area. he married Anne, daughter of Charles Fox of Bromfield in the County of Salop.
A copy of a letter survives from Matthew Herbert's period at Dolguog which reveals how important news was conveyed from one town to another. Matthew Herbert of Dolguog, Morris Owen of Rhiwsaeson and John Owen of Machynlleth signed a letter dated 25th February 1606 to James Price, Hughe Owen and Edneved Griffith of Towyn reporting that the Spaniards had allegedly landed at Chester.
'After our hartey commendations we thought good to signiffie unto you that huy (hue) and crye came this morning neere to the Towne of Mechenlleth by diu'se (divers) p'sons from the citye of Chester beinge sent in all haste from the said citye our cuntrey's hereabouts alledginge unto us that some of our enemies Spanieards or some other nations weare landed there;Therefor wee thought good to certifie you thereof wherby you might take such directions as you should think best in the same. And so we comite (commit) you to God in all haste. This wensdaie morning being the XXv of ffebruary 1606.'
The absence of good communications and the inability to verify quickly any rumours recieved may well have placed a community on the alert for several days.
The Herberts had considerable interest in the manor of Cyfeiliog which was an area of land extending from the Dyfi Estuary in the west and Talerddig in the East. Matthew Herbert's father, Edward, took a leading part in arrangements between Robert, Earl of Leicester, and his tenants in Cyfeiliog. His son Matthew and his grandson, Francis Herbert, both of whom resided on their estate at Dolguog became interested as lessees of the manor.
About 1609, Matthew Herbert, lessee of Penrhos Mill (also known as Y Felingerrig), bought a suit in the Exchequer against Rowland Owen and Hugh ap Ieuan Lloyd, being freeholders within the lordship of Cyfeiliog, owners of Melin Y Garth (Garth Mill) and Y Felin Newydd (New Mill on the Gwydol River), and who had withdrawn their own suit of mill called Penrhos Mill.
It was decreed in the suit that the Penrhos Mill was an ancient mill and was erected before the time of memory. The defendants and the freeholders were 'enjoined to grind their corn at his majesty's said mill'. The manor of Cyfeiliog was eventually sold to Rolawn Pugh of Mathafarn near Llanwrin by Sir Thomas Middleton. Francis Herbert of Dolguog and others took out a suit in the Exchequer Chamber against Sir Thomas Middleton (junior), Sir Edward Lloyd, the purchaser of the neighbouring manor of Arwystli, Dame Ann Middleton, the widow of Sir Thomas Middleton, and Rowland Pugh the purchaser of Cyfieliog, impreaching the purchasers of the manors. One of the grounds was that the Crown has allegedly recieved insufficient price for the manors.
The suit was probably never brought to a close as the lifetimes of the ordinary men were not sufficient to see the end of litigation of this kind in those days. The suit was also hindered by the Civil War of the time of Charles I. Rowland Pugh died in 1644 leaving an infant son John Pugh who inherited the manot after his father. After the death of Francis Herbert in 1656, his son Richard came to an amicable agreement with John Pugh of Mathafarn which conveyed to Richard Herbert his encroachments on wastes and commons in the manor of Cyfeiliog.
The present road to Dolguog was probably built in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century and coincided with the improvement of the Machynlleth - Newtown Road by the Turnpike Trust. The old road approached Dolguog from the Garth area and is still visible from the lawn overlooking the Dyfi Valley. This is confirmed by an act of Parliament (1769) which permitted the trustees of the second district (Montgomeryshire) to 'shut up and discontinue a way or lane leading under Pen-yr-Allt Hill by Pistyll Gwun into the road leading from Machynlleth to Dolguog.
Many of the roads of the county were little more than tracks in the seventeenth century. Among the correspondence of Francis Herbert of Dolguog and wife between 1640 and 1650, there is a letter which he alludes to an accident to his knee. This prevented him seeing a friend staying at Dolguog. He continued:
'.......... and truly could a coach come to my house I would have borrowed one rather than have failed him'.
Francis Herbert of Dolguog suffered greatly for his loyalty to Charles I during the Civil War. He appears in a catalogue dated 1655 of Lords, Knights and Gentlemen who compounded for their estates.
It was during Francis's time at Dolguog that the house was mentioned in the celebrated Gerard's Herbal of 1633. This was because a species of harebell call Wahenbergia Hederacea (ivy-leaved bellflower) was first discovered in the vicinity. The relevant extract from the book reads:
'This pretty plant was first discovered by Master John Bowles, anno 1632, who found it in Montgomeryshire as one rideth from Dolguog, a gentleman's house, unto a market town called Mahuntleth and is all the way from there to the seaside'.
The 'Dolguog' harebell is distinguished from all other British species by its minute size and special habit. Instead of standing upright it has a limp and sprawling life-style, its frail stems creeping weakly among the grasses and other low herbage. Its flowers are tiny, pale blue bells, its pale green leaves, likewise very small, are shaped rather like those of ivy. It is rare in the British Isles being virtually absent in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. It should be sought when in flower in July and August in damp, grassy places.
Through marriage and intermarriage, Francis Herbert's descendants became increasingly powerful. His grandson, also Francis, was the owner of Oakley Park, near Ludlow, Lymore, near Montgomery, Llyssin and Dolguog Estates. His son, Henry Arthur, born 1702 and successively created Lord Herbert of Chirbury and Earl of Powis, married Barbara Antonia and by his mariage the Powis Castle Estates became united to the Oakley Park, Lymore, Llyssin and Dolguog Estates.
During the early nineteenth century, Dolguog was in the ownership of Sir John Edwards of Plas Machynlleth. He was a wealthy landowner and owner of various mines in the district. Sir John was also the Member of Parliament for Montgomery Boroughs.
On August 1st 1846, Plas Dolguog was part of a settlement on the marriage of Henry Vane-Tempest, later the Fifth Marquess of Londonderry, and Mary Cornelia Edwards the daughter of Sir John Edwards. The property remained in the ownership of the Londonderry family until it was sold to Dr C V Lewis in 1951.
Several significant families leased the house from the Londonderrys, during that period, including David Howell who lived at Dolguog for much of the later half of the nineteenth century. He was a local solicitor who was Clerk to the County Court, Clerk to the Board of Guardians of Machynlleth Union, Superintendent Registrar and Steward of the Manor of Cyfieliog. In 1857, he promoted and successfully carried through Parliament a Bill for making a railway to Machynlleth from Llanidloes and Newtown Railway. He was secretary and solicitor to the company until its amalgamation under the name Cambrian Railway Company. David Howell was also involved with the railway contractor, the well-known David Davies 'Top Sawyer' of Llandinham, in several other important ventures in South Wales.
Dr LewisIn more recent years, Dolguog was the home of Dr Vernon Lewis (1879-1970) the well-known scholar, author and writer of hymns. He came here to live in retirement with his son, Dr C V Lewis, who was a local medical practitioner. In his later years Dr C V Lewis sold the house to Eileen and David Brown and shortly after that Dolguog came into the hands of the present owners.
Plas Dolguog boasts three ghosts, seen by many people even to this day. The first is the poet Llywarch Hen mentioned in the previous chapters;the second is 'Charles' who apparently, is a very happy chap with a bad leg who wanders up and down the stairs remembering his holiday visits to Dolguog in times gone by;the third, is Mary. She sits in the Resident's lounge, in the corner, in a rocking chair, at the side of a small inglenook fireplace. She was gifted the house, on her marriage, by her father on August 1st, 1846. She so loved the house that she permeates it with her love to this day and even those not sensitive to energy state that this room has a special quality. Indeed it is the heart of the house, perhaps because of Mary's love and her presence.
Historical research by David Wyn Davies