The co-operative was formed in 1992 by 6 families to purchase Dol-llys Hall, then empty and owned by Powys County Council. In appearance the Hall bore the marks of several decades of use as a residential care home for the older members of society. Dol-llys Housing Limited is a housing co-operative originally registered as an industrial and provident society under the Industrial & Provident Societies Act of 1965 but now as a registered society under the Co-operative & Community Benefit Societies Act of 2014.
The earliest record of anyone living at Dol-llys is of Gruffydd, or Griffith, the fifth son of Owen Gwynn of Llanidloes. It is likely he acquired the property through his marriage to Angharrad, daughter and heiress of Evan ab Jenkyn Glyn ab Evan Lloyd, but leaving behind him only 3 daughters as co-heiresses, the name of Gwynn soon ceased to be connected with Dol-llys.
The estate descended through the female line with the family name changing to Owen around 1660 and was passed onto the Mears family in 1750. This was a very influential family who moved to the locality from Brecon and increased the size of the estate. George Mears was sheriff in 1759 and his son, Hugh, was sheriff in 1781.
Maurice Mears, who died on 23rd August 1807 aged 73 years, made a very peculiar will which was prepared by Mr. Stephens a local solicitor. In it Mr. Mears named eleven individuals, who upon certain conditions were entitled to inherit the property. His lawyer suggested that he should add an additional name to ‘make it a complete dozen’. Mr. Mears decided to take up the suggestion and told the solicitor to add either his own name or that of his son. The son’s name was added, and strange as it may seem, the other eleven died prematurely and Stephens junior, a young lawyer, inherited the property and without delay changed his name to Mears. He had already been mayor of Llanidloes at the age of 25.
Shortly after inheriting the estate, George Mears (previously George Stephens) built the hall at Dol -llys between 1808 and 1813. In 1812 he was a J.P. and sheriff.
George Mears died on 25th April 1836 at the age of 66 and the property was divided between his brother the Rev. John Stephens, vicar of Llandinam and his son George, who succeeded at Dol-llys but died at the early age of 34.
The property was left to George Brookes Mears. He and his heirs were financially crippled by the Welspool Bank crash and so sold the estate to Edward Morris of Oxon near Shrewsbury in 1865. Some of the money from the sale went to fund the building of Welshpool town hall.
During the 2nd World War, Dol-llys Hall became the home for St Wilfrid’s Boys School which was re-located from Seaford in Sussex and housed between 50 and 60 boys under their headmaster ‘Pip’ George Pearson. We were pleased to hear from former pupils who have sent us interesting information about these years. Their information is shown at the end of this page. Thank you also to Greg Randall for sending copies of the St Wilfrid’s Magazine from 1940 and 1945 and to Omar Malik for proving the archive material and funds for the display over our fireplace. This is shown at the top of this page.
At the beginning of 1940, with 98 persons in residence at the Hall, the school made an agreement with the hospital in Llanidloes that it would provide hospital facilities for St Wilfrid’s on payment of 2d per pupil per week. Private wards would be used for any admissions from the school and £2. 2. 0d per week charged.
Later the Hall became a Council run residential home for older people for several decades.
According to Cadw’s listed building report, produced in 1953 and amended in 1989, Dol -llys Hall is a picturesque Gothic country house in the style of John Nash; roughly T-plan. It has 2 storey scribed render elevations and a hipped slate roof with very wide boarded eaves and slate hung chimney stacks. The inside reveals some fine and unusual Gothic detail including 6-panel Gothic doors, a cantilevered staircase with wrought iron balustrade of ogee arches and concave sided diamonds; fluted newel post and carved tread ends. The L-shaped dining room has a 17th century style paneled ceiling with pendants; a deep corniche at 3/4 height with carved fruit and flowers that were originally coloured; and an Arts and Crafts inglenook fully paneled with a bracketed plate rack over a carved chimney piece. One of the upstairs rooms has an unusual chimney piece enriched with detached fluted columns and swags and winged lions.
Information from Censuses
George Meares, 25, independent; his wife, Louisa, 20, female servants, Martha Dowton, 35; Esther Jones, 20; Mary Ann Williams, 20; Mary Jones, 20, & male servant, Daniel Jones, 35, were living at ‘Dollys’. George & Louisa Meares & Martha Dowton were not born in Montgomeryshire; the others were.
Henry Crockford, 33, fund holder, annuitant & mine proprietor, born in Newmarket, Cambridgeshire; his wife, Emma Sarah Louisa, 25, born in Matlock, Derbyshire; their son, Henry James, 5 months, born in Llanidloes; & house servants, Mary Douglas, 42, born in Wrexham; Hannah Messham, 20, born in Buckley, Flintshire; & Hannah Jones, 17, born in Llanidloes, were living at ‘Dollys House’.
(In 1841, Henry Crockford, 25, independent, was staying at an inn on the High St in Holywell, Flintshire.)
Henry Crockford was a son of William Crockford, the founder of Crockford’s. Crockford’s was a London gentlemen’s club, now dissolved, which was established in 1793 and which closed in 1845. It was one of London’s older clubs, was centred around gambling, and maintained a somewhat raffish and raucous reputation. From 1823, the club leased 50 St. James’s Street. After the club’s closure, this continued to be used as a clubhouse, at first briefly by the short-lived Naval, Military and Civil Service Club, and then between 1874 and 1976 it was home to the Devonshire Club.
William Crockford was born in 1775, the son of William & Mary Ann Crockford and was baptised at St Clement Dane on 12 February 1776. He began life working in his father’s fish shop adjoining Temple Bar (at the original site of that landmark gate – now to be found aside St Paul’s Cathedral). His ability at calculation was to stand him in good stead for he quickly took to gambling and after a number of long sessions amassed a tidy sum – enough to launch himself into Regency clubland. He acquired a site in St James’s Street and opened a building that was to become the most famous gaming house in Europe – “Crockford’s”. He fleeced the aristocracy and in the process amassed one of the greatest fortunes imaginable, certainly enough to establish homes at 11 Carlton House Terrace (later to become Prime Minister William Gladstone’s home) and at Panton House, Newmarket.
He married Sarah Frances Douglas on 20 May 1812 in St George’s Hanover Square; fathered 14 children and died on 24 May 1844. He lies buried in a family vault underneath the Chapel of Kensal Green Cemetery, London.