Ghosts and Legends in Wales – Brynafon Country House Hotel in Rhyader or The Old Workhouse
The intriguing history attached to this haunted old workhouse brought to mind a story from my genealogical research.Via Magic Carpet Journals. Story and Photos by M. Maxine George.
Visiting a rather different hotel, for an especially tasty luncheon, brought an old family story to mind. Brynafon Country House Hotel in Rhyader had once been what was known as The Old Workhouse. Built in 1877-78 it originally cost around £4,000 to build. It has now been completely restored and tastefully decorated. In a country setting, I could imagine staying here for a restful get-a-way although that might not have been the case for the original residents of the Brynafon Country House. Workhouses were places meant to solve many social ills of the time. They were to house the poor and destitute, vagrants, mentally ill, the aged, infirm and children – anyone without the means or family to care for them. Institutions; they did not sound like they were pleasant places to live. As we sat listening to the manager, Gerard Wilkinson tell us the history of the building, adding some of the ghost stories from The Old Workhouse, a memory suddenly popped into my mind.
As a child I loved listening to stories of old family history. As an adult genealogy became a passion of mine. My Grandmother often mentioned a lady by the name of Miss Matthews. The lady, seemed to have been warmly regarded by the family. Although not a relative, she was loosely connected with my grandfather’s family. During my visits with the extended family in Britain, I learned that Miss Matthews had been a teacher. She was without family and had fallen on hard times for some reason. The story went that “to save her from the Poor house” she was taken in by my Great-grandfather. His wife had passed away and he still had a daughter at home. Miss Matthews was brought into the home to care for the daughter and remained part of the family for the rest of her life. When the old man died on a snowy December day in 1907, Miss Matthews was there along with his daughter, Elsie, and a visiting granddaughter Kathleen, then about ten years old. As was the custom in those days, the old man’s body was still in the house. After dark they were sitting around by candlelight, somewhat emotional, also unnerved by the events of the day and the eerie feeling of being alone in the house with the corpse. Suddenly they heard a loud whoosh and huge thump! Frightened out of their wits, the three of them ran off to a bedroom, all climbed into one bed, covered their heads and stayed hidden under the covers until daylight. In the morning they awoke to discover that the noise they heard in the dark was the large snow pack sliding off the roof above the front door. They were stuck in the house alone, with the old man’s body, until some of the family came by and dug them out later in the day.
As ghost hunters, we did not do too badly. In retrospect, I realize that as a result of our three day tour, besides the historic sightings that I anticipated, I am able to pass on accounts of modern-day ghost sightings and a few memories of my own. Yes, I found the spooky stories. I was totally amazed!
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Story and pictures by M. Maxine George
Last Updated January 15, 2021 by Matthew George – Webmaster