Records show that there was originally a farm on the site, known as ‘Blaen y Ddol’ (roughly translated ‘front of the meadow’). 1729 is the first recorded occupation by Gruffudd Roberts and his family, though it is likely that the estate was in use earlier than this.
In 1800, William Turner bought ‘Blaen y Ddol’. At the same time he also bought Diffwys Quarry in Blaenau Ffestiniog, forming Williams Turner & Co (later named Diphwys Casson Quarry Co). Joining him in this venture were the brothers William and Thomas Casson from Cumberland, and Hugh Jones, a banker from Dolgellau.
Both Casson brothers died around 1839, but were recorded as living at ‘Blaen y Ddol’. Therefore, at some point between 1809 and 1839, the property must have changed hands from the Turners to the Cassons. Output from the slate mines peaked around this time, benefitting from transport offered by the Ffestiniog Railway.
From an 1861 census it is recorded that descendants George and John Casson lived at the property (John would later go on to found Casson’s bank). George followed his father, Thomas, as a partner in the quarry. He was probably responsible for the substantial enlargement of the property in the 1850’s, from a single storey farmhouse to the 3 storey manor house residence that can be seen today.
George Casson died in 1867, John in 1873, after which the estate was administered by the Court of Chancery. The family continued to live at Blaen y Ddol until 1881.
In 1893 Evan Parry Jones, a Superintendent at the Diffwys Quarry, bought it out of Chancery, looking for a home for retirement. He was married to Jane Vaughan and they and their descendants lived at Blaenddol for over 100 years!
In 1892, the Diphwys Casson Slate Quarry Co Ltd went into liquidation (working at the mine restarted in 1920, but was again abandoned. Diphwys Casson mine closed in 1955, after almost two centuries of operation).
During the late 19th or early 20th century, the property ‘Blaen y Ddol’ was changed to ‘Plas Blaenddol’.
One of the residents during the 20th century was Mary Vaughan, granddaughter of Evan Parry Jones and Jane Vaughan. Mary bred greyhounds on the estate and was known as ‘Bunty’.
The house was bought in 1994 and, in need of some repairs, a significant project was undertaken over several years to restore the estate, manor house and gatehouse to their former glory.
Further renovations occurred in spring 2016 to highlight more of the traditional features whilst adding modern kitchens, bathrooms and amenities. Visible today are the old mill race, dairy cooling ponds, and Victorian estate design including mature trees and gardens. Inside one can find the original large sash windows with slate surrounds, window seats and wooden panelled shutters and slate fireplaces (some now with wood-burners installed). In some rooms there are even the original Victorian architrave, servants calling bells and slate slab flooring.
Update, June 2019: We were contacted by Diana Devlin, a descendent of the Casson family and author of The Cassons in North Wales: A Story of Slate and More, and we have since made a few corrections to this page. It’s a fascinating book, and includes a lot of information about the family’s time at Blaen y ddol as it was called then.
Most of this content is from a history file, photos and census data that has been handed down from previous owners. We would be delighted to hear from anyone who has any stories or old photographs of the estate, house or the families that lived here.