21st century industry finds a home on ancient estate

Reporter:

Rob Bellis

TO SAY that Brynkinalt is impressive is a gross understatement.

The sprawling 1,700 acre estate near Chirk has been the seat of the Trevor family for more than 1,000 years.

The family home is a magnificent pile and, dating from the 1600s, is one of the area’s most important historic houses.

The gardens are fabulous, being the subject of an ongoing restoration project, and the land surrounding the hall is remarkably well-kept.

But what is most impressive is the way current custodians Iain Hill-Trevor and his wife, Kate, have managed to maintain this great estate.

Unlike many properties of this nature which have suffered because of changing times and as a result of inheritance tax, Brynkinalt is thriving.

Over the past decade a pioneering diversification project has not only created a new source of revenue for Brynkinalt but has also created a unique community on the estate.

Iain’s background is in chartered surveying and, when the estate passed into his charge following his father’s death in 1997, he saw an opportunity to improve its fortunes, not through traditional rural and agricultural practices one might associate with such an estate – although these still play a major part – but by bringing in something completely different.

Making your way down the long drive towards the hall the evidence of the activities that have supported the estate for centuries are plain to see.

The rolling pastoral fields and abundant livestock show that agriculture still plays a big part. The numerous pheasants that scurry out of the way of the car reveal that country sports are still very active here.

But there is a big clue that something completely different is happening at Brynkinalt, something you might not expect to find on a historic property such as this. It is a directional sign pointing the way to a “business centre”.

In Victorian and Edwardian times estates like Brynkinalt were some of the country’s biggest employers.

In the laundry house alone, the estate employed 50 or 60 people, but times changed and, over the course of the 20th century, employment within country houses declined as it did on the land due to increased mechanisation.

The laundry house, a huge building which had once been one of the busiest on the estate, fell into disuse and remained empty for decades.

But as a new millennium dawned the laundry house and the many outbuildings that surround the hall would be given a new lease of life.

Iain’s vision was to turn these defunct buildings into a thriving business community – modern office space in a spectacular historic setting – and in 2008 he saw his vision come to fruition as the last of the work on the buildings was completed.

But would it work?

How would a business community in a rural location such as this compete with town centre office space in nearby Wrexham and Oswestry?

The answer is that every one of the 12 business units is now occupied bringing a new source of employment and revenue to the region.

The companies housed in the old laundry rooms alone employ more than 20 people and, while the work may be very different, the building is once again a hive of activity as it was in the past.

The range of companies operating from the centre is diverse. They include The Deer Initiative which manages the population of the species in England and Wales; food marketing; a company that makes ceramic teeth for the dental industry; and another that operates the UK’s first veterinary tissue bank.

There are several reasons why this alternative location is attractive.

The setting is one of course – business tenants also have access to some of the gardens making it a very pleasant place to work.

It is easily accessible from the main A483 trunk road but there are no issues with parking.

It’s not hard to get hold of the landlord if there is a problem either – he lives about 100 yards away.

As Iain himself put it: “It has fulfilled a need that people weren’t necessarily aware existed.”

Because of the success of this diversification Iain has been able to invest in the history of the estate, including much-needed renovations to the great house itself.

He is keen to point out, however, that the estate’s future is not solely reliant on the income from the business centre alone.

They have also invested in two sizable industrial and retail estates on the fringes of Brynkinalt – at Gledrid and Bank Top, near St Martins.

Brynkinalt is also available for weddings, conferences and functions.

Iain is also making good use of the estate’s 350 acres of forestry and has installed an eco-friendly bio-mass heating system which heats the house and business centre using wood chippings harvested from the woodland.

Iain is passionate about his family history, the future of the estate and about the area.

He is conscious that individuals’ stories are interwoven with that of Brynkinalt itself – the man who has worked on the estate for 45 years, the couple who have lived in one of the estate cottages for almost half a century, all those who have lived or worked here over many hundreds of years.

Through a bold and forward-thinking programme of diversification they have created a thriving rural community which will continue for generations to come.

See full story in the Leader

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