Craig-y-Nos castle was built on parkland beside the River Tawe, the southern edge of forest Fawr in the upper Swansea Valley. The castle has a country park and is now part of Brecon Beacons National Park.
Craig-y-Nos a neo-gothic castle was built at Cae Bryn Melin Bach above the river from 1840 when Captain Rice Davies Powell returned to Glyntawe. He was the son of a farmer that had land at Pen-y-Cae for many generations. Captain Powell served in India and his maternal grandfather was a surgeon, wealthy with the east India Company, his father practiced in London before acquiring Pentre Cribarth Farm.
Local Limestone was used for the original building but he could not complete the north wing due to high costs. Pyramids and Turrets shaped the walls of the roof. A road that passed by the door. During 1843, the family moved into the castle and Captain Powell became High Sheriff of Brecknock and a county magistrate.
Captain Powell thought his family was cursed as he had bloodline to the Dutch family of Calcutta and Capetown. His youngest son died of Cholera in 1851 and he lost his daughter and wife before he died in 1862. Two years after he died, his eldest son was killed on the Isle of Wight in a hunting accident. The eldest daughter Sarah remained at the castle, married to Captain Allaway, but he died a few years later. Sarah moved to Tenby and the property was sold in 1875-76.
Morgan Morgan of Abercrave finally bought the estate for £6000. Mr Morgan’s family and his son’s family, also known as Morgan settled at the castle. Each family had a kitchen in the basement. It is thought that a current newspaper and freshly minted coins were buried in the massive pillar, which was in the middle of the kitchen.
Madam Adelina Juana Maria Patti purchased the castle and surrounding parkland for £3500 in 1878-1919. She was born in Madrid on the 19th February 1843, of a Sicilian father and an Italian mother, both of whom was opera singers and was relatively poor. She was the youngest of six children. They launched her into a musical career very early, she was singing in the concert halls of New York at the age of eight. She gained international fame and performed at Convent Gardens in 1861 and in 1868; she married the Marquis de Caux, equerry to Napoleon III of France, in London at a Roman Catholic Church but secured a divorce in 1885.
Adelina married Ernest Nicholini a French Tenor on the 9th February 1886 and she spend over £100, 00 adding the south and north wings, conservatory, clock tower, a theatre and winter gardens.
Adelina earn over £1000 for each appearance, and a tour of the Americas in 1889 brought in over £100,000. She travelled the world from her castle by horse and carriage along a privately built road to a railway station at Penwyllt, where a small waiting room richly furnished at her disposal and a locomotive provided her with a private carriage to where ever she wanted to go.
The theatre could hold 150 people. It was designed as a private auditorium. The stage incorporated a mechanical auditorium floor, which could be raised for use as a ballroom or sloped towards the stage, when in use as a theatre. The theatre had an organ, given to Patti in the United States after one of her tours. The opening ceremony was the 12th July 1891.
The winter gardens were built with a soaring roof, mainly glass, with tropical plants and exotic birds flew around. A pair of iron fountains, which looked like cranes shed rainbow light from the falling water. During 1918, Patti gave her winter garden to the Swansea people. One of the fountains is in the forecourt of the castle and the other is thought to be in Swansea University.
When Nicholini’s health began to fail, sea air was prescribed. He stayed at Llangland Bay on Gower for a while and then travelled to Pau in south east France, where he died in January 1898. The death had big changes in her life. However, at 56 years old, she meets Baron Rolf Cederstrom whom was 26 years younger and they married on the 25th January 1899.
Her last professional appearance was in 1900 at Covent Garden in a charitable performance of Romeo and Juliet. Nevertheless, she continued to sing in her own theatre at the castle. Patti made her last public appearance in October 1914 when she sang for the Red Cross once again, filled the Albert Hall. She remained at the castle and practiced her scales daily with her three parrots. Pianos were in many of the rooms along with Opera scores and manuscripts.
In Patti’s later years aged 63, she could hear her own singing voice as an early gramophone record was recorded at the castle in 1906.
Adelina Patti died on the 27th September 1919 at her home, her body lay in the private chapel until the 24th October. Patti’s body was taken to the Roman Catholic Church in Kensal Green in London so the world could pay their respects. She was taken to France and buried according to her wishes in the Cemetery at Pere le Chaise near Paris. Her grave is marked on a plain black stone with her name. Baron Rolf Von Cederstrom left Wales, remarried 4 years later, had a daughter and he died in Newmarket in 1947.
Patti created a lot of employment in the area and at one time, she had 70 house servants with outside staff. She was kind and generous to the local community by raising money for local hospitals at Neath, Brecon and Swansea. She paid for doctors for her staff, their families and she would arrange a hamper of food for the house, and often she would take the hamper herself. Anyone that served her long and faithfully were given a room at the castle if they had no alternative accommodation and a pension upon retirement.
Craig-y-Nos were the first private house to have electricity dating before 1898.
The Castle and ground were sold to the Welsh National Memorial Trust in March 1921 for £11,000 and was re-named the Adelina Patti Hospital. The hospital was mainly a chest hospital until tuberculosis was conquered, an organization founded at the hosptial to combat tuberculosis in Wales. The hospital admitted patients from 1922. The children of Craig-y-Nos were the first to receive effective TB medicine in 1947. During 1959, it became a hospital for the elderly and infirm but closed on 31 March 1986.
During the Second World War an RAF pilot was treated at the hospital and meets a young patient confined to her bed, they got married and the church married them in the theatre, once they both gained good health they left.
The hospital closed on the 31st march and it was sold to private ownership. All sanatorium records have been destroyed from the mid 60‘s. The castle does have ex-patients turn up from time, to look around.
I have found some quotes from former patients:
‘I was a patient at Craig-y-Nos Castle when I was 6 years old and my memories were not happy ones. It was only when I was looking at the old photos I realised what a traumatic time it had been for me We had to accept what happened to us without question and I do not remember being shown any concern for the fact that I had been taken from my family and sent to this place which seemed like a prison. I do not think I would be able to re-visit it‘.
‘It was called a hospital but in reality it had all the hallmarks of a prison – for sick children. Isolated from the rest of Wales it had all the appearances of an impenetrable fortress. Once inside children were not allowed out. Average length of stay was around 2 to 3 years. On arrival, you were stripped of all possessions, clothes and toys apart from the absolute minimum. (I remember my dolls being taken away from me and the nurse laughing because I still had dolls at 9 years of age). Visitors were allowed one weekend between 2-4pm once a month. All parcels were opened and searched for food. All parents’ bags were searched before being allowed into the building. Uneaten hospital food was returned for the next meal‘.
‘As a very young child I remember asking her (grandmother) about the Triangular scars that were on the side of her chest, she explained that it was her treatment, a large triangular needle was passed through the space in between her ribs, and air was then paste into the space between the rib cage and lungs, which deflated her lung to rest it. This was before antibiotics were used to treat TB. The most moving story was told to me when I was a lot older, she would weep when she remembered how her friend died, sometime violently and distressingly by haemorrhaging and respiratory distress’
‘I was often tied to my bed I can remember once I was on bed rest I called a nurse who was in the ward to say I wanted to go to the toilet she ignored me so I got out of bed ran to the toilet for this the nurse caught me and gave me a good shaking and I had restrainers put on to stop me getting out of bed’
The Paranormal history of Craig-y-Nos obviously does contain sightings of Patti. The small figure of a lady dressed in black has been seen in different rooms of the castle and the courtyard. A lady pianist, in an ante-room of the theatre, while playing ‘home sweet home’ (which was Patti’s song), she felt a presence behind her but when she looked behind her, no one was there.
Patti’s second husband, Nicholini has been felt and/or seen.
While the castle was a hospital, Nurses reported walking past someone on the stairs or corridor but no one was there, presences being felt, noises, sounds and footsteps were also heard.
Visitors have reported a lingering of the presence of patients and breathing difficulties. The top children’s ward is thought to be the most active area of the castle, Full apparitions have been seen and interacted with people, footsteps and giggles heard and a bouncing ball. Some think this is due to so many children never left the hospital due to TB. Reports of children’s crying are heard coming from the conservatory.
It was discovered that the dark semi-transparent woman that is seen on the stairs is actually a statuette on the roof and it casts a shadow onto the stairs.
I have been lucky enough to take part in an investigation at Craig-y-Nos and below is a brief outline of what happened. Felt attracted but to the old staircase. Top area, in the room with the step, felt calf of leg being grabbed and felt like could not move my leg. Original staircase, the feeling of being pushed down but no-one dying, this was confirmed.
In the Ant Block, female died in room, in the bath. Bridal suite, people smelt Tuna. Cellar/Pit area, pain in the right side of head and someone else had pain in the left hand side of head. Tickles felt, possible a male spirit of the name of Fredrick Brown. Temperature differences of 10°C around the bed area. Upper level, the smell of TCP and a breeze felt. Sue’s rods broke and the piece broken off, appeared around the corner, quite a distance away. Breakfast room, Thomas and girls were sensed, Thomas was an upset and an angry person and he had a bad leg. Wind sound heard from the wall. We felt most spirits were on the top level. This was an interesting night and I would go back, but you have to book through an in-house paranormal group.
Copyrigthed Tracy Monger 2013.