Travelling out of Cardiff in a westerly direction you might miss a turning that takes you to one of the capital’s most sought-after areas, a leafy location that’s home to a select collection of pretty period homes nestled amongst the semi-rural greenery.
St Fagans still feels like a village, a currently semi-rural zone on the outskirts of the capital which is worlds away from the noisy city centre streets. It’s lined with mainly large and impressive period properties peppered with treetops and glimpses of the open countryside beyond. No wonder the whole village is a designated conservation area.
With St Mary’s church as a centrally positioned feature within the village, and The Plymouth Arms pub just down the road, as well as a village hall and village green, the area has all the main hallmarks of a typical village.
St Fagans is seen by most people as an affluent place to call home and just looking at the collection of Cadw listed buildings in the village marks it out as one with a special history too. Currently just two fields away from being absorbed into the sprawling capital city, the village is dominated by the popular heritage attraction, St Fagans National Museum of History.
The museum stands in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans Castle and gardens, a late 16th-century manor house donated to the people of Wales by the Earl of Plymouth in 1948. Since 1948, over forty original buildings from different historical periods have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland, among them houses, a farm, a school, a chapel and a splendid Workmen’s Institute, exploring the story of Wales through heritage and culture.
Beyond the museum gates there are some incredible, historic buildings too, and one of them shines arguably just a little brighter than its neighbours; The Old Rectory. Along one of the quiet and narrow residential lanes there’s a small, gated driveway that you might not even notice, flanked by a stone wall and mature trees and shrubs, behind which hides this amazing Victorian creation. Read here about some of the most extreme renovation projects in Wales.
The four-storey medieval Gothic-style masterpiece is a Grade II* listed property and stated to be ‘highly graded as an important Victorian house designed by Prichard and Seddon, possibly the finest of their many rectories’.
The listing states the house dates back to around 1858 and remained a rectory until about 1975, and has an attic and basement as well as two storeys of accommodation hiding behind the elaborate medieval-style facade.
Tucked away within its acre of beautiful gardens, hidden amongst the houses and away from any roads, once you get to the end of the private drive it feels like you’ve arrived at a tranquil and historic spot that could be in a remote rural village not on the edge of Wales’ largest city.
Through the impressive porch that offers an arched, double front door as the first character feature to note, but not before the noticeably extra tall chimneys with their unusual stone carved tops and the Gothic-style facade has captivated you; but there’s plenty more to see inside.
The hall is a grand space, flooded with light that ensures the glorious floor tiles and unusually carved staircase can be fully appreciated, at least in daylight. The room is marked as a reception hall and it is certainly a space impressive enough in size, shape and style that this grand house demands in order to make the best first impression.
The reception hall provides access to two reception rooms before flowing into an inner hallway that leads to a drawing room, kitchen diner, study and utility room. The dining room is the first space to explore and it’s certainly one that can easily welcome many dinner guests to a room that oozes character, including fancy cornicing, picture rails, stripped wood floorboards and a pretty period fireplace.
It’s an inviting space, conducive to fine dining and even finer socialising, bathed in light from the two massive windows that can still boast wood panelling and that offer an alternative of garden views for your attention if the chat at the table gets a little boring. Next to the formal dining room is the first of the lounge spaces, a more cosy space that can also boast a proportionately large window that frames its own unique vista of the special grounds that cocoon this special home.
Into the inner hallway and the second lounge space, the drawing room is more of a surprise. Yes, it has a huge window to rival its room neighbours and it has the added bonus of a direct connection to the garden via a door in the corner, but it also has a large brick fireplace and chimney, now painted white, that rises to the high ceiling.
It’s not a fancy, Victorian classic design but as with some of the other features in the house, past owners have brought their own style and updates to the spaces, and the new owner can too, once they have checked any changes with the local conservation officer of course. The room is spacious and light and can seat the whole family and a multitude of friends and is clearly the relaxing hub of the home.
The cooking and socialising hub can be found opposite the drawing room and is a very attractive space, offering marble and lime tiles flooring, granite worktops and a sandstone fireplace as the tactile and natural materials to complement the classic Shaker-style units. The breakfast bar is surely the main draw for visitors to this space, the high chairs tempting you to sit and stay. You will give into temptation as the breakfast bar is well placed for chatting with and observing the activities of the cook, whether they want both or not. And if the bar is full, there’s space for sofas or a table and chairs in this room too.
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At the end of the inner hall is the home office study and it’s perfectly positioned away from the potential noise of the main socialising spaces but close enough to the kitchen to do a dash to the fridge when the 11 o’clock munchies kick-in or when the need for a strong coffee is overwhelming as the only solution to work stress. Next to the office there’s a set of stairs, tucked away in the corner, that leads down to the basement – every good period property should be able to boast a basement.
But this is not a spooky, dark and damp zone where the resident ghost likes to reside, this basement is a very usable space with white-washed stone walls, flagstone floors and lighting that offers four spaces. There is a wine store of course, but also three other rooms that could be used for a variety of functions, from a workshop to the obvious cinema room where light is definitely not invited to attend. The ground floor also offers two cloakrooms and a utility room, as well as a rear door out to the garden.
Up the very fancy staircase to explore the eight bedrooms spread across two storeys and the potential to create more. But before diving into the master bedroom for a nose around, it’s worth lingering on the central landing and noticing the round window framed within an arch carved out of the stone wall as an unusual and delightful addition to the space.
This house has a plethora of added extras that are worth spotting and stopping for, to take a closer look as bonus designs that make this house so unique. This landing area at the top of the stairs is so spacious it is being used as a mini library and reading nook, but there are plenty of spaces to expand the book collection too. There are eight bedrooms and a loft room to choose from that include the option to change the function of any space to a library, study, media room or even artist studio as even the rooms in the attic are light and spacious.
The master bedroom is dual aspect that can offer someone waking up a fabulous double view of the garden’s treetops as their morning inspiration to set up the day ahead perfectly. No doubt the trees, as well as the garden, is teeming with birds and wildlife, so the dawn chorus might be your perfect natural alarm clock.
The master has a dressing room bigger than some people’s main bedroom, that includes built-in wardrobes. But as this house likes to surprise you with a quirky addition occasionally, there’s actually a separate walk-in wardrobe as a stand alone room, accessed off the landing. This extra wardrobe room frees up a lot of space within the bedrooms, eliminating the need for bulky wardrobes, depending on how many clothes and shoes you have.
Each bedroom is spacious and each has its own perspective of the view across the acre of garden to the village and countryside beyond, and some have additional features to boast, such as a period fireplace. The first floor has five bedrooms and two bathrooms on offer, both of which are four piece bathrooms with modern interior design that is based on calm, natural tones and materials; perfect for a relaxing soak in the bubbles.
Up to the final floor in the attic space and if you’d had a good look at the roof and the top of the house from the outside when you first arrived, you’d have known that this top floor was not going to be worried by low ceiling height or lack of light.
The pitch of the roof is high and the multiple windows are large and decorative, giving this top level equal design thought and status as the ones below it, as well as light and space. The top floor houses three further bedrooms and a loft room that is currently, and understandably, being used as a games room. Again, take a moment to stop and admire the windows that each room can show you, designed with Gothic-style, arched tops to each panel that remind you of the grandeur of this amazing abode.
The exceptional gardens eventually call you out with the urge to impress you, and they will. The acre of outdoor space has been designed to offer areas of intimate socialising on patios and terraces that look out over the landscaped vista of mature trees that have seen the story of The Old Rectory unfold over the many decades.
There’s a private and secluded courtyard as well as maybe the most characterful spot to sit and enjoy alfresco dining; the quarry-tiled veranda that runs the width of the main house and can welcome you in any weather, tucked below the overhanging first floor. The veranda leads to maybe the sunniest terrace of them all, and both of these charming and social areas have sensational views of the gorgeous garden.
Wander around the shrubs and flower beds to be greeted by an ornamental pond and many shady, quiet spots under the trees to quietly read or revive your senses surrounded by nature’s beauty.
The main lawn is vast so, happy days, a ride-on mower is a must and can be stored in one of the outbuildings or the double garage, passing the surprise roofed wishing well on the way; the house can surprise you with delightful extra features at every turn, inside and out.
The Old Rectory is on the market for £1.6m with estate agent MGY, call their Radyr branch on 029 2084 2124 to find out more. And don’t miss the best dream homes in Wales, renovation stories and interiors, join the Amazing Welsh Homes newsletter which is sent to your inbox twice a week.