Belfast Telegraph

Owner of house that inspired hymn 'All Things Bright And Beautiful' fined for renovation work that included using children’s gravestones as decoration

By Colin O'Carroll

A property developer has been found guilty of illegal alterations to a mansion that inspired Londonderry poet Cecil Frances Alexander to write the hymn All Things Bright And Beautiful.

The 16th century mansion in Wales had wall plaques that appeared to be made from children's gravestones taken from the grounds, a court has been told.

In a ghoulish twist, Newport Crown Court heard a number of broken grave headstones were found in the garden in 2010.

"Very similar" wall plaques were found inside the house.

Developer Kim Gregory Davies admitted illegally modifying Llanwenarth House in Abergavenny.

He's been ordered to pay £300,000 - £60,000 in fines and £240,000 towards prosecution costs - or go to jail for 20 months.

Alexander was a guest at the house when she wrote her famous hymn, which is still sung today.

She was married to clergyman William Alexander in Strabane in 1850.

He later became the Bishop of Derry and Archbishop of Armagh. She was renowned for the work she did for the poor.

Alexander also wrote There Is A Green Hill Far Away and the Christmas carol Once In Royal David's City.

The court heard that Davies carried out dozens of unlawful alterations - including the installation of a "mosaic-clad Jacuzzi", ripping up parquet flooring and laying down modern tiles in their place, as well as removing old timber windows.

Prosecutors said Davies also wrecked several of Llanwenarth House's Regency , opting for a "mock Tudor" designs instead.

Davies (60) originally insisted he had done nothing wrong and claimed planning officers had given him verbal permission to carry out the work.

He also said he had "saved" the seven-bedroom property from ruin as it was "falling down" when he bought it.

Prosecutor Nicholas Haggan QC told the court of how a listed building specialist, Michael Davies, described the alterations as being the "worst example" he had seen in his 25-year career.

He said: "The works carried out by this defendant were extensive and affected every part of the exterior and interior of the property.

"No application for any listed building consent was made - either before, during or after the works had been carried out.

"Most of what was originally in that property had been stripped out and dumped.

"Layers of history were ripped out and discarded.

"The impact of the works has been immensely damaging."

The broken headstones related to three children - David (4), Rosie (3) and Thomas (11 months).

The house was built in 1532 on six acres of land and has a detached coach house along with an orchard.

Davies bought the mansion in 2007 for £675,000 and spent more than £1m on it, which included changing the original timber windows to "modern" ones as well as replacing doors and a fireplace.

He stripped the property without the approval of Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.

Alexander was involved in charitable work for much of her life and was writing poetry from an early age.

Money from her first publications helped build the Derry and Raphoe Diocesan Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, which was founded in 1846 in Strabane.

The profits from her book Hymns For Little Children were also donated to the school.

She was involved with the Derry Home For Fallen Women, and worked to develop a district nurses service.

Alexander was described as an "indefatigable visitor to poor and sick".

She passed away in 1895 at the age of 77.

Belfast Telegraph


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