About Caer Llan: From the 19th century to the 1960s
The area immediately surrounding Caer Llan has links to one of the most charismatic characters in the history of Wales, Welsh Prince Owain Glyndwr who, at the Battle of Craig-y-dorth in 1404, drove English king Henry IVth's men back to the town walls of nearby Monmouth (...although details of the battle are hard to come by). Craig-y-dorth translates from the Welsh as 'Hill of the Loaf' and is a short walk away. To the best of our knowledge there was almost certainly a settlement on the site long before Owain Glyndwr's time and the ridge on which the house is built is believed to have been occupied as far back as the Neolithic period. We are however able to trace the history of the house known as Caer Llan back with much more accuracy to first construction at the turn of the 18/19th centuries.
By the middle of the 19th century, although much smaller than it is now, Caer Llan belonged to the Probert/Morgan family who also owned the ‘Argoed' designed by the famous architect Inigo Jones and the most prestigious house in the neighbouring village of Penallt. Both properties were in a run-down condition and in 1865 were sold to Richard Potter, briefly chairman of the Great Western Railway Company and a great local benefactor. The ‘Argoed' was restored as Potter's summer home and it has been suggested that Caer Llan was a speculative acquisition as he owned the property for less than a year before selling to William Francis Price in 1866. Price, a Monmouth doctor who introduced anaesthetics to Wales, converted the house into an L-shape adding a cellar, a scullery, a new kitchen and larder, bathrooms, two bedrooms and what was probably a maid's room at the top of the house accessed from the hillside above by a wooden bridge. He also added domestic drainage and constructed at least one water tank in the bank behind the house.
Caer Llan's next owner was aristocratic Royal Naval Officer Captain Henry Walters who acquired the property in 1890 and was responsible for its further enlargement adding much of the Victorian ornamentation in the process. Under his ownership the house took on the dimensions, shape and style we see today with the addition of a large ground-floor reception room and lounge/hallway. Above this he created two large bedrooms (one with a small balcony from which to admire the magnificent views) and to the rear he added two castellated towers increasing the sizes of the rooms there. He also extended the third floor. In the grounds Price constructed the drive linking the house to the nearby road and the formal ‘Lodge' house at its entrance. He added terraced walls to the garden, constructed a heated glass house (complete with underground boiler-room) and converted the existing garden buildings into a substantial stable block with attractive stone arches. The water supply was also improved again at this time by the addition of a wind-driven pump which lifted water from a stream below the house to a new tank in the hillside above it. It is the Walters' family crest which can be seen on the front of the house, although the stonemason who carved it misspelt the motto which should read "SIT DUX SAPIENTIA – Let wisdom be (your) leader".
Whilst he became both a respected charitable benefactor within the local community and a major landowner in the neighbourhood (acquiring large areas of the surrounding countryside including the 800 acre Cwmcarvan Court estate), Walters and his wife produced no heirs resulting in the estate passing to his nephew Robnett in 1937 who sold a considerable proportion of his inheritance retaining only the house and about 25 acres of fields and woodland, the Lodge and Cae Jack woods. Robnett Walters and his wife, the widow Violet Barclay lived at Caer Llan together with Violet's family from her first marriage. Her son, John Barclay joined the Fleet Air Arm and was killed when the aircraft in which he was flying crashed in 1954. His body was never recovered but a memorial tablet was placed in the garden and now can be seen built into the dining room wall.
Maintaining a property like Caer Llan has always been a challenge and in the latter years of their ownership the Walters family found it increasingly difficult to prevent the house falling into a state of disrepair. In an attempt to generate additional income they opened a small boarding-school for about 12 boys, some of whom have returned in recent years to discover how much Caer Llan has changed. The boys learned all their lessons from Robnett whilst Violet ran the household. They were allocated the back stairs and two small bedrooms with showers in the cellars. Letters home may have been censored as some un-posted mail was found under a floorboard during more recent repair work. In 1969 the Walters decided that they could no longer afford to stay at Caer Llan selling to Peter Carpenter in the August of that year, the date at which the current era of the Caer Llan story starts..