Pen-y-Dyffryn (The Old Rectory) in 1884 with Reverend Jones in the foreground

History

Pen-y-Dyffryn is a former rectory built in 1840 (which you can see in the image above with Reverend Jones in the foreground) from the local stone for £1260.00, which sum included constructing the church and village school into the bargain. The church is in Wales, the Rectory (the hotel) is in England, the only such instance we believe.

The first Rector was the Reverend Robert Williams, reliably described as "ponderous and pedantic, big and burly, waddling as he walked with three or four pupils at his heels". The 1861 census gives details of his household. He had two sisters, a dairymaid, a housemaid and two farm servants living in. One of his favourite sayings was that "a goose is a very awkward bird, being a little too much for one, but not enough for two". Oh how our current clergymen must look back with envy!

He was a dull preacher, using the same sermons over and over, reading them in a monotone. He was not much liked by his parishioners, and maintained a congregation of as many as a dozen worshippers. He was, however, a Celtic scholar, and amongst other publications is responsible for the first dictionary of the Cornish language.

Two more vicars followed; the Reverend Jones until 1908, and the Reverend Morris until 1949. We have photographs of them on the hotel walls. Both were rather more popular figures, and congregations regularly reached 100 or more.

In 1920 the Church in Wales was disestablished and a referendum was held in the village to decide if the Church should go to Church of England or Church of Wales. The vote was in favour of the Church of England, and so it is to this day, one of the only Churches of England actually situated in Wales.

In 1951 the Rectory was sold by the Church into private hands, and bought by a dentist and his family. First hand accounts (we’ve met them) tell us that the house was always cold and almost totally without carpets. Water was pumped from a well and up to five fires had to be laid and lit each morning to provide any warmth at all. The place was, at times, in a state of near collapse.

It was not until 1981 that the then owners opened the Rectory's doors to the public, first as a restaurant and subsequently by Miles and Audrey Hunter as a hotel. Pen-y-Dyffryn means “Head of the Valley” in Welsh, which fairly accurately describes our situation.

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