It was once a beautiful Georgian building but was facing a crumbling demise.

Jamie Bowman hears about the resurrection of Plas Kynaston Hall...

IN the 18th century nowhere epitomised the prosperity of North East Wales quite like Plas Kynaston Hall.

Home to the Kynaston family whose industrial activities led to the development of the Plas Kynaston foundry which cast the ironwork for the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, it once belonged to Sir John Kynaston Powell (1753-1822), MP for Shropshire for 38 years and one of the originators of the planned canal between the Dee and Severn, for which the spectacular aqueduct was constructed.

To supply the structure’s iron spans, innovative ironmaster William Hazledine leased the estate and set up a foundry there.

A branch canal carried castings from the foundry to the aqueduct site.

Later the foundry cast the parts for many bridges, including Thomas Telford’s Waterloo Bridge in Betws-y-coed and by the 1870s the Plas Kynaston estate also had a colliery, a chemical factory and a pottery.

The Leader:

Plas Kynaston Hall before its restoration, with members of the Welsh Georgian Trust

Since its heyday, the handsome house has led a chequered existence.

Partly rebuilt in the early 19th century, it was home to members of the Jones family and Humphrey Jones, a corn merchant, was only 32 years old when he died at the hall in 1888.

In 1897 the newly formed Deva Orchestral Society, comprising 27 musicians, began to rehearse at the hall. Years later it served as the local library for a number of years until a new library was built adjacent to it in the 1970s.

In recent years the house has remained empty although maintained and secured.

A scheme to convert it for use as a kindergarten was abandoned approximately 10 years ago and a plan to re-house the library in the building, involving the construction of a new extension was put forward in 2009, but later rejected due to the significant Council funding required.

As a result it was put on the Buildings at Risk Register which is when the Welsh Georgian Trust stepped in.

"The Welsh Georgian Trust approached Wrexham County Borough Council to work together to secure the future of the house," says Andrew Beckett, chair of the trust.

"We produced an Options Appraisal Report with the help of the Architectural Heritage Fund following an extended programme of consultation and research.

"The most important issue of the appraisal was that of finding a long-term, economically viable use for the house. A further consideration was the community benefit that may or may not be derived from the conservation, refurbishment and re-use of the house."

Community use was thoroughly researched especially the possibility of using the house as a library or a heritage centre, but it quickly became apparent that high costs were going to be very restrictive along with the cost implications of sustaining such a centre and the extant availability of community space in the locality.

Other avenues were explored including the potential offered by conversion to tourist accommodation and use as offices or light industrial use. These were ultimately rejected because of the high capital cost and the present lack of a substantial tourism infrastructure in Cefn Mawr.

"It was really in a miserable state," continues Andrew. "There were all sorts of restrictions, it was being vandalised and there was not much land to work with: if ever there was a 'no-hope' building project it was this one."

Residential accommodation was identified as presenting a possible way forward including the reversion of the house to single occupancy, the conversion to social housing or for private multiple occupancy. In considering this the WGT was cognisant of the need to keep the conservation deficit as low as possible and this has been an important factor in the decision.

It was concluded that the most viable way forward was to repair the house, convert it into single bedroom apartments and place them for sale on the open market.

Planning permission and Listed Building Consent were obtained and an extensive public consultation undertaken with many ideas from local residents incorporated into the final plans. The tendering process for the building works was won by Grosvenor Construction.

Work started on site on February 8, 2016 and lasted until November with six flats created in the building. Almost two years later, four of the flats are occupied and Andrew is confident about the building's future.

"It was really important that the flats were made affordable for local people," he says. "They really offer unique places to live within the area and combine the beautiful historic spaces with modern and luxurious touches as well a benefiting from amazing views.

"We held an open day for the public to see the restored building and the new flats in back in November 2016 and it attracted over 120 people who were delighted to see the transformation and we're really pleased with what we've achieved."

To put the icing on the cake, Plas Kynaston Hall has now been shortlisted in the Heritage Angel Awards Wales - a new Welsh awards scheme sponsored by the Andrew Lloyd-Webber Foundation which recognises 15 outstanding examples of heritage achievement selected by a panel of judges headed by Baroness Kay Andrews.

The awards celebrate the work of volunteers, trainees, apprentices, young people and heritage professionals in repairing or rescuing historic buildings or making new discoveries with Plas Kynaston Hall shortlisted in the Best Rescue of an Historic Building or Place (for projects under £5m) category.

The winners in each category will be announced at the awards ceremony in Caerphilly Castle on Thursday November 8 with the five winners in each category then invited to the London awards ceremony on November 27 where an overall winner will be chosen from all the Angel Award winners in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said: "I applaud everyone who enters the Angel Awards and showcases the marvellous work they are doing to rescue and sustain our heritage", while Baroness Andrews added: "The judges had a very difficult task picking just three in each category because of the passion, skill and commitment shown by all of the people and projects nominated for an award".

For information on the new flats please contact Silas Rains at Reeds Rains on 01978 368000