The Miscellany described Llananant as “situated in a sort of secret valley at right angles to the road from the Old Church”, up to Pen-y-Garn and beyond, that is. And indeed the setting of so attractive and intriguing a house is such that admiration is almost inevitably followed by questions – not a few of which are answered (or subjects of intelligent guesses) by the assiduous researches of the present occupiers, Trish and Peter Hayward. Most of what follows here reflects their work which not uncommonly points to scope for more research. We hope that when we are not directly quoting them, we are not guilty of misrepresentation.
“The main part of the dwelling house called Llananant Farm has the layout of a late 16th century “long house”, when it had the residential quarters at one end and the animal quarters, leading out to a cobbled yard, at the other. It retains a flagstone floor, ceiling, several mullion windows and a fireplace from this period. However, the construction of the external stone walls, which are over 800mm (2’9”) thick, suggests they be considerably earlier.” – perhaps as early as the 12th century.
“The house and grounds received extensive renovation in the early 18th century. The springs were dammed to create the existing ornamental lake, and the walled garden with its ornamental alcove and one-time summer house by the lake was constructed on the steep slope behind the house. This is a bizarre location as walled gardens are normally flat, but Llananant has no flat land and perhaps the then owner, Roberts Addams, was desperate to “keep up with the Jones’s” by mimicking the one that had been constructed at the Argoed. At the same time a stone-arched tunnel, now partially collapsed, was built to take the stream that runs past the back of the house after heavy rain. This tunnel is almost certainly the origin of the legend that there is a secret passage from the house to the church. As the church is 700m (½ mile) away and the ground rocky, this would have been a major feat of engineering!” It was the ubiquitous Rushton England who undertook to clear out the tunnel and who narrowly escaped destruction when it collapsed.
The name itself has often been argued over. The Rev. Rhys, one time vicar of Trellech/Penallt maintained that it is a corruption of Glan-y-nant (the bank of the stream) but documentary evidence (and reasonable deduction) does not favour this view. Llananant (or, in correct Welsh spelling, Llan-y-nant) means a meeting place – and, more often than not, one with recognised religious connections – on the bank of a stream. (The Llanynant at Trelleck Grange, one of a number of places so named – was one of the grange farms of Tintern Abbey.) It has been suggested that the walled garden of Penallt’s Llananant was the vineyard for Tintern Abbey but this seems unlikely and Prof. Rees, who was the authority on monastic holdings in Wales, makes no mention of monastic holdings in Penallt. Even so, there are two reasons why “Llan” is more likely to be the correct spelling (and carry with it some special status implying connection with the church) than the Rev Rhys’s missing “G.”
“First, if the ‘G’ got lost, it got lost a surprisingly long time age ago. There is a number of references to the house going back to the 1840’s tithe apportionment map all of which omit the ‘G’, and there are others. There are two gravestones in the churchyard – ‘Llanynant’ in 1881 and ‘Llananant in 1898. More important, we have a will of 1754 which refers of ‘Lanynant’, a will of 1730 that refers to ‘Llanynant’ and a will of 1727 which refers to ‘Llananant’. In short over a period of 280 years we have numerous references without a ‘G’ and not a single reference that includes a ‘G’. Second, we have a will of 1716 that intriguingly suggests there may indeed have been something special about Llananant. Adam Addams was a wealthy mercer in Monmouth. He lived at Ancre Hill, owned at least one shop/pub and six houses in Monmouth and was mayor three times. He also happened to own Llananant. It wasn’t an inherited home – he had bought it from John Jones of Tre-Owen (the grand house in Dingestow), John Williams of ‘Lone’ and Thomas Rosser – and he didn’t live here. Nevertheless, the first asset mentioned in his will is Llananant, which he left to his eldest son but subject to annual payments in perpetuity of 50 shillings to the vicar of Llangattock-vibon-Avel and 50 shillings to the poor of that parish.”
The reason for this arrangement might never be known but it certainly suggests that there was something special about the house – and one connected with the Church. Perhaps the land was originally donated to the Church and its income later diverted to Llangattock. What is known is that one of the annual payments is still being paid!
[from: Penallt Revisited]