Llanfairfechan in the mid 1850s was small, poor and insignificant it had a population of about 800, in the early nineteenth century the writers of tourist guide books usually wrote at length about the mountains of Penmaenmawr or about Aber with its water falls and its historical association with the medieval welsh princes. People living in Llanfairfechan at the beginning of 1856 probably never dreamt that soon great changes would be taking place in their parish. Within a few years of 1856, Llanfairfechan was to be almost completely transformed. The transformation began when in August 1856 considerable portions of the Baron Hill estate were sold, amongst the lands in Llanfairfechan which the Bulkeleys had held for over two and a half centuries. The Bulkeley sale of 1856 was an important landmark in the history of Llanfairfechan; the developments initiated by the local people were far outshone by those undertaken by the principal purchaser at the Llanfairfechan Bulkeley sale. He was Mr. Richard Luck, a wealthy Leicestershire solicitor. Mr. Luck had bought most of the land adjoining the old plas in which Thomas Bulkeley had once lived but which by that time had lost almost all traces of its former importance. This land Mr. Luck proceeded to transform into a neat little estate with carriage drives, plantations and coverts. He built a new mansion which he called Plas Llan-fair to replace the old plas. Plas Llanfair today, by the way, is owned by St. Winifred's School. But no sooner had Mr. Luck settled in Llanfairfechan than an event occurred which brought about far greater changes. This event was the arrival into the parish of John Platt of Oldham. It was, at all events, in 1857 that John Platt turned his attention to North Wales and decided upon making Llanfairfechan his country seat. This was a turning point in the history of Llanfairfechan. As it happened John Platt just missed the Bulkeley sale of 1856. If he had been able to purchase the Bulkeley lands sold that year, there is no saying what Llanfairfechan would be like today. Certainly very different from what it is. As it was, John Platt purchased the partially built and derelict mansion of Bryn-y-Neuadd and the 150 acres of land belonging to it. Soon things began to hum. The inhabitants of Llanfairfechan were astounded at the building activities and developments that began to take place with rapidity and on a scale of such magnitude as had never been known before or even dreamt of in the parish. What impressed the poor people most of all, of course, was what they regarded as the unbounded wealth and riches which this great Mr. John Platt from Manchester must have possessed. Until quite recently some old people in Llanfairfechan would tell you how trains arrived in Llanfairfechan in those days loaded with gold belonging to Mr. John Platt. It is certainly not at all surprising that they should have been astounded. We cannot help being impressed ourselves by the tremendous drive and energy and the attention to detail in the work, carried out within three years, of transforming Bryn-y-Neuadd into the house and well planned estate which we know today. Work began on the partially built and derelict mansion. It was enlarged to four times its original size. A home farm was built as early as 1858. An extensive kitchen garden was laid out, surrounded by high stone walls. Small farms such as Cambwll and cottages were bought up and pulled down in order to make way for a great extension of the Bryn-y-Neuadd demesne which was enlarged to 330 acres. The old turnpike road from Bangor to Conway passed uncomfortably close to the mansion—it used to be a straight road all the way from the bridge at Llanfairfechan to the ridge just above Aber. John Platt obtained permission from the Turnpike Trust to move the road back from his house and those who pass along the main road through Llanfairfechan will be sufficiently familiar with the long, sweeping bend which makes such a lovely approach to the village from the Aber direction. Trees and coverts were planted to hide the mansion and the park from both the road and the railway and to beautify the estate. Drives and walks were laid out and lodges built: the Farm Lodge, the Front Lodge and the Grand Lodge, the latter facing towards the a newly rebuilt Aber. By 1860 the mansion was completed. The date 1861 is on the Front Lodge, adorned with the Platt coat of arms and the family motto, " Virtute et Lahore ". The " Annals of the County Families of Wales ", published in 1872, described Bryn-y-Neuadd, the seat of John Platt, Esquire, as a " structure which with its appurtenances, tastefully planted grounds and magnificent surrounding scenery, is one of the most pleasing residences in the Principality". John Platt had bought not only the estate of Bryn-y-Neuadd but also the old mansion and estate of Gorddinog just across the parish boundary in Aber. Gorddinog had once been the home of an old Welsh county family which had died out. Its last occupant was Mrs. Crawley, who had married Mr. Vincent, former rector of Llanfairfechan and subsequently dean of Bangor. In 1868 John Platt decided to pull down the old house and build, close behind its site, a new mansion for his eldest son. The new Gorddinog, a mansion, as one writer described it at the time, " of Elizabethan architecture ", was completed in 1869, The Grand Lodge was built just across the road from the Bryn y Neuadd Main Lodge. Captain Platt and his young wife made their home in it for the rest of their lives. They were clearly much attached to the house and were to make substantial additions to the original building. John and Alice Platt had a large family. There were seven sons and six daughters. It is interesting to note that of the seven sons only one took any real interest in their father's great business at Oldham. One of them, James Edward, the sixth son, became an eminent figure in the sporting world. Once, when out fox-hunting in Cheshire, he took a fence when the field was in full cry which no other member of the party, who knew the lie of the land, would have dared to take. They all thought he would surely be killed but after an interval he reappeared, badly shaken but unhurt. Thereafter that fence was known as “Platt’s Grave ". John Platt died suddenly at Paris, in Maurice's Hotel in the Rue de Rivoli, on May 12th, 1872. He was only 54. He had been on a tour of Italy with his wife and daughter and niece and had been taken ill at Turin. His death was certainly a most grievous loss to the town of Oldham. The loss to Llanfairfechan was no less grievous. At the time of his death, Bryn-y-Neuadd was undergoing extensive alterations and additions and was one of the main reasons for the Italian tour was that Mr. Platt and his family would not, on this account, have been able to reside at Bryn-y-Neuadd during the summer and autumn. Furthermore, by his death Llanfairfechan was deprived of a dock and piers. In 1872 John Platt was already well advanced with a scheme for the construction of a dock at Llanfairfechan, doubtless for the accommodation of his sons' yachts. A house which was apparently connected with this scheme had been built and is standing today. The scheme had to have the approval of Parliament. The Board of Trade had already granted a provisional order and plans of the dock and piers had been deposited with the clerk of the peace of this county. They are still preserved with the County Archives. But following John Platt's death the scheme was abandoned. Bryn-y-Neuadd had obviously been intended by John Platt as his principal seat and one might have expected that, after his father's death. But in 1884, twelve years after his father's death, Sydney Platt, then a young man of 23, got married and brought his bride home to Bryn-y-Neuadd. The Bryn-y-Neuadd Estate was, in fact, unsuccessfully offered for sale in June, 1876, within only four years of John Platt's death. But Mrs. Sydney Platt, it appears, never really settled at Bryn-y-Neuadd. Nevertheless, the Sydney Platt’s lived there for thirteen years and during that period were generous benefactors of the people of Llanfairfechan. The property some two years later was bought by the St. Andrew's Hospital, Northampton, who still owns it.
W. Ogwen Williams.