Born: May 3, 1907
Died: 1980, Kensington, London, United Kingdom
Lived: Vaynol, Pentir (LL57 4BP)
Find A Grave Memorial# 176499776
House: Vaynol or Y Faenol is a country estate dating from the Tudor period near Y Felinheli in Gwynedd, North Wales. It comprises 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of park, farmland, and gardens on the estate, with more than thirty listed buildings, surrounded by a wall which is 7 miles (11 km) long. "Y Faenol" means "the manor" and is a mutated form of the Welsh word maenol.
Address: Pentir, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 4BP, UK (53.2036, -4.19035)
Cadw Building ID: 4166 (Vaynol Old Hall, Grade I, 1952), 4173 (Vaynol Hall, Grade I, 1952)
Much of Faenol Old Hall dates from the Williams' period of ownership, while Vaynol Hall was built in 1793 and extended during the XIX century. Once Vaynol Hall was built, Faenol Old Hall became a farm house and subsequently deteriorated; in 2003 it appeared on the BBC's Restoration programme, championed by Robert Hardy. In 2009, the BBC revisited the project, and said that Faenol Hall was now "in private ownership and has been restored". The estate's origins are in the XVI century when the bishops of Bangor sold property belonging to their manor, Maenol Bangor. The estate was developed during that century by the Williams family. It passed to the Crown on the death without issue of Sir William Williams in 1696. In 1723 it was presented to John Smith of Tedworth, and passed to his nephew Thomas Assheton Smith I in 1762. Assheton Smith was the 3rd largest landowner in Gwynedd. This area of Wales is known for its slate production, and the Assheton Smiths profited from slate quarrying, and owned the Dinorwic Quarry, which made a profit of £30,000 in 1856. Even after farms were let on long leases to encourage good tenant behaviour, slate was the family's main economic interest. The Assheton Smiths extended their estate through enclosure, despite strong opposition from local farmers, including the enclosure of existing properties at Gallt-y-foel. The Assheton Smiths remained in possession of the estate until the XX century. In 1847, it passed to Mary Astley, niece of Thomas Assheton Smith of Vaynol, who married Robert George Duff, a distant cousin of the Earls of Fife. Vaynol passed in turn to their two eldest sons (the first of whom left no son) and they took the surname Assheton-Smith instead of Duff. The younger son, Sir Charles Garden Assheton-Smith, was created a baronet in 1911. His son and grandson the 2nd and 3rd baronets, reverted to the name of Duff. Sir Michael Duff, 3rd Baronet had an adopted son, Charles, but left the estate on his death in 1980 to a nephew who sold it. At the beginning of the XX century, the estate amounted to 36,000 acres (150 km2) of land and had 1,600 tenants. The Prince and Princess of Wales (later King George V and Queen Mary) stayed there as guests of the Assheton Smiths during a visit to North Wales in May 1902. Within a few years, however, it became necessary to sell parts, a pattern later repeated. The main core part of the estate was put up for auction in 1984, in addition to the public sale of various properties around the estate. Caernarfon-based Glan Gwna Estates Ltd now owns the bulk of what was the main estate. The National Trust also owns much of the land of the original estate, along with many private individuals owning various properties around the estate. In the second half of the XIX century the park had a zoo, but it was dismantled by 1900. The park has been the setting for Bryn Terfel's Faenol Festival since 2000 and in 2005 hosted the National Eisteddfod. BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend was held at the park in May 2010. The estate began breeding the rare Vaynol cattle, a type of White Park cattle, in the 1870s. A herd was kept there until the death of the owner Sir Michael Duff in 1980, when the estate was sold and the herd was moved to a series of locations in England.
Who: Sir Charles Michael Robert Vivian Duff, 3rd Baronet (May 3, 1907– March 3, 1980) and Caroline, Lady Duff (née Lady Caroline Paget) (June 15, 1913 - May 22, 1973)
Sir Michael Duff, 3rd Baronet, was a British socialite who was Lord Lieutenant first of Caernarvonshire and then of Gwynedd. Duff was the only son of Sir Robert George Vivian Duff, 2nd Baronet, of Vaynol (d. 1914), and his wife, Lady Juliet Lowther (1881-1965), only child of the 4th Earl of Lonsdale and his wife, Constance Robinson, Marchioness of Ripon. His maternal grandmother was a sister of the 13th and 14th Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, and a daughter of the Rt. Hon. Sidney Herbert, 1st Baron Herbert of Lea, the half-Russian younger son of the 10th Earl of Pembroke, and a good friend to Florence Nightingale. He had one sibling, Victoria Maud Veronica Duff (1904—1967, married John Edward Tennant). He was a godson of Mary of Teck (queen of King George V). Among his relatives was his maternal aunt, Lady Diana Cooper (née Manners). Exceedingly handsome and with the courteous manners of a true gentleman, he was famed as a host and raconteur. He inherited the 1,000 acre (4 km²) Welsh estate of Vaynol, the slate of which was the principal source of the family's wealth. Surrounded by the estate's seven-mile-long stone wall, the Duffs lived in Vaynol New Hall. On reaching his maturity in 1928, Sir Michael assumed the additional surname of Assheton-Smith, only to renounce it in 1945. He was a practical joker, one of his favourite pranks being to dress up as Queen Mary and pay surprise visits to friends - until he bumped into the Queen herself in a neighbour's hall. He also wrote a light novel, “The Power Of A Parasol.” Sir Michael Duff-Assheton-Smith married first, on 5 March 1935, Hon Millicent Joan Marjoribanks (born 1906), daughter of the 3rd and last Baron Tweedmouth. They divorced in July 1936, and the marriage was annulled 1937. He then married on 1July 4, 1949, Lady (Alexandra Mary Cecilia) Caroline Paget, the eldest daughter of Charles Paget, 6th Marquess of Anglesey, and his wife, Lady Marjorie Manners, the eldest daughter of the Henry Manners, 8th Duke of Rutland. They adopted a son, Charles David Duff (b. 1950), who became a theatre historian. A documentary screened on BBC Two Wales in 2005 (“Faenol: Secrets Behind the Wall”) featured Charles Duff discussing his childhood, the bisexuality of his adoptive parents, their marriage of convenience, and the details of his parentage. He did not inherit the estate, and when it was sold all the records were burnt, so compounding the mystery. In another interview for the BBC (“Wall Of Silence”) Charles said of Vaynol: "It was a place of great conviviality and energy and joy." However, by the time Charles was in his teens, Sir Michael had come to believe that his second marriage and the adoption of his son had been grave errors, and according to Charles Duff, "he started to demonise both my mother and myself." Although appearances were maintained, neither could then do much right in Sir Michael's opinion. By this time the house and estate were also in decline. During the thirties, Caroline, Lady Duff was a notable British socialite, and a minor actress. There are several references to her in the published journals of Edith Olivier and The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales has footage of short films featuring Caroline and her sister Elizabeth, as well as other material. She died at the age of 59.
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