L is for the Ladies of Llangollen

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.

Ladies of Llangollen If you’ve read my ABC posts before, you’ll know that I’m fond of eccentrics because people who kick against the system tend to lead more interesting lives.

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.

Plas Newydd

Plas Newydd

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.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Janis & David 2nd April 2014

    Well, I don’t think we’ll find anyone with more than 4 “L’s” in ONE word! Chapeau!

    • Mr Parrot 2nd April 2014

      Yes it’s a L of a word!

  • John 2nd April 2014

    I always admired them
    I would love to think that we could be the male equivalent

    • Mr Parrot 2nd April 2014

      You and Chris as the Laddies of Llangollen – yes I can see that 😉

  • tanya breese 2nd April 2014

    interesting post! i love anything historical!

  • Roger Green 2nd April 2014

    I LOVE the value of the intellectual pursuit.

  • Big Papa Pudding 2nd April 2014

    Do you think they might have been lesbians? Lesbianism wouldn’t have gone too well in County Kilkenny back then. They’d be okay in Wales though – it’s a very liberal country. I have even heard that some Welshmen don’t wear vests!

    • Mr Parrot 2nd April 2014

      They did share a bed I believe, although only in the somnolent sense as far as I know.

  • lisa 2nd April 2014

    Fascinating women. And you get bonus points for that many Ls in one word! That is one magnificent looking mansion!

  • Diane 4th April 2014

    How interesting I have seen Plas Newydd from a distance but wasn’t aware of the history surrounding it.
    Apart from having a small pension from the King their families must have supported them financially.
    What strange clothing they wore, Top hats were only worn by men at that time.
    As I live about one hour’s drive from Llangollen, I must visit the hall, my curiosity is stirred……
    Llangollen is a most interesting town so it should have all the necessary ingredients for an enjoyable day out.
    Thank you for sharing this, a most enjoyable read.
    Best Wishes,

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