|This is my contribution to Round Fourteen of ABC Wednesday. For the fifth time I am focusing on people – some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten, but all with a tale to tell.|
But two who considered themselves ‘unexciting’ were Eleanor Charlotte Butler and Sarah Ponsonby who became known as the Ladies of Llangollen.
Both were born in Ireland, Eleanor in 1739 to the Butler family who were the Earls and later Dukes of Ormond and Sarah in 1755 and lived in Woodstock, County Kilkenny, a couple of miles away from the Butlers.
The two met in 1768 and quickly became firm friends and neither was interested in following the predictable path of arranged marriage that their families had planned for them, preferring instead their own company and their books.
They formulated a plan to escape the confines of County Kilkenny to find their own intellectual retreat and left for England in 1778, ending up in Wales where they set up home at set up home at Plas Newydd near the town of Llangollen.
Their families tracked them down, cajoling the women to give up their plans, but they resisted and settled down to rebuild Plas Newydd in the Gothic style with draperies, arches and glass windows.
They did not actively socialise, devoting themselves to their studies, but if they intended to forget about the world, then the world was not about to forget about them.
Word of their unusual lifestyle spread and their home attracted the most distinguished visitors, mostly writers such as William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott, but also the the Duke of Wellington and the industrialist Josiah Wedgwood.
Eleanor and Sarah even came to the notice of Queen Charlotte who persuaded King George III to grant them a small pension.
The Ladies of Llangollen lived together for over fifty years until Eleanor died in 1829 and Sarah two years later. Both are buried at St Collen’s church in Llangollen and their house at Plas Newydd is now a museum.