Gelli Aur (Golden Grove) offers 60 acres of a peaceful park and woodland on the southern side of the Towy opposite Aberglasney. Originally the home of the Vaughan family, Golden Grove passed to the Cawdors in 1804 and they built the present mansion.
Probably the largest house in the valley, it is closed to the public but the parkland is open (no entry charge but pay and display parking in operation). Golden Grove mansion was rebuilt by the Earl of Cawdor between 1827 and 1832, replacing the Tudor mansion of the Vaughan family.
It presented superb views over the valley.
The Vaughan family was Welsh named Fychan. Gruffydd Fychan was married to Katherine, daughter of Maredudd ap Tudor. Their son Hugh Fychan moved to Carmarthenshire in 1485 and married Jane, daughter of Morris ab Owain, Steward of the Lordship of Kidwelly and Receiver of the Commotes of Iscennen and Carnwyllion.
Hugh Fychan was appointed Forester of Kidwelly and by 1492 was Gentleman Usher at the court of Henry VII his cousin. In 1532 Hugh Fychan or Vaughan as he was now known, was appointed Keeper and Receiver of lands in Kidwelly confiscated by Henry VIII from Rhys ap Gruffydd of Dynevor.
The family home was Cwrt Bryn y Beirdd a 14th-century unfortified mansion opposite Carreg Cennen Castle in the Commote of Iscennen. Hugh and Jane had one son, John Vaughan.
John Vaughan of Kidwelly moved to Gelli Aur in the 16th century. His son Walter married twice, first into the Dinevor family and then to Letitia, daughter of Sir John Perrot of Laugharne. Walter’s eldest son John (1572-1634) was twice Member of Parliament for Carmarthen Borough.
He served under the Earl of Essex in Ireland and subsequently was appointed to the household of Prince Charles. He was created Baron Mullingar in 1621 and Earl of Carbery in 1628.
His son Richard succeeded him as 2nd Earl of Carbery and became Lord President of the Marches of Wales and was created Baron Vaughan of Emlyn (a British rather than an Irish peerage) A royalist in the early years of the Civil War he took no part in hostilities after 1644.
A refugee at Golden Grove Carmarthenshire during that war was Jeremy Taylor whose religious writings include “Golden Grove; or a Manual of daily prayers and letanies”. At the time of his death, Richard Vaughan owned 50,000 acres as well as land in Ireland.
The 3rd and last Earl of Carbery was Richard’s son John (1640-1713).
Like his father and grandfather, he was a Member of Parliament for Carmarthen Borough but was also appointed Governor of Jamaica 1674-78 where his deputy was the notorious Sir Henry Morgan. He returned to London and became President of the Royal Society 1686-89.
He was described by Samuel Pepys as “one of the lewdest fellows of the age”. His only daughter married Lord Bolton but died without issue and the estate passed to a cousin, yet another John Vaughan (1693-1765). He built a new Golden Grove mansion alongside the original that had been destroyed by fire in 1729.
His grandson, John Vaughan (1757-1804) died without issue and left the estate to his friend John Campbell, Lord Cawdor. The Campbell family already owned land in Pembrokeshire as well as Cawdor Castle in Scotland. John Campbell’s son, John Frederick Campbell, second Baron Cawdor was created Earl of Cawdor in 1827.
It was he who built the present Golden Grove house. John Duncan Vaughan Campbell, 5th Earl of Cawdor (1900-1970) spent most of his time in Scotland and leased Golden Grove mansion and the surrounding land to Carmarthenshire County Council. The bulk of the estate is used as an agricultural college.
First broadcast: 27th February 2010
A self confessed super fan of Most Haunted and editor of GhostMag.com. Matt’s passion for ghost hunting began when he moved into a haunted house in his second year of university in Leicester! His favourite location is the Niddry Street Vaults in Edinburgh.