Built in 1795 by Sir Benjamin Hammet, Hammet House has a rich & varied history. Parts of the building date back to 1450, the house has been known by various names over the last 500 years including, Plas, Ty Mawr Y Gwaith, Castell Malgwyn & now Hammet House in honour of the knight who had the vision to create the magnificent building, grounds & estate.
Sir Benjamin Hammet was born a humble barber’s son in Taunton, Somerset, & rose to become the Sheriff of London. Sir Benjamin moved to our corner of West Wales in 1791 to purchase & manage the Penygored tin works which were situated just downstream from Hammet House.
Hammett street in the City of London & Hammet Street in Taunton both still bear Sir Benjamin’s name after he improved & redeveloped them & the surrounding areas in the eighteenth century. He also enabled the restoration of much of Taunton castle in the 1780s. In 1781 Sir Benjamin founded & co-owned the bank of Esdaile, Hammet & co. of 21 Lombard Street, London, & was made MP for his home town of Taunton in 1782. He was knighted by King George III in 1786. In 1790 Sir Benjamin was the instrumental force behind the abolishment of the penalty of death by burning with the enforcement of The Treason Act of 1790. In 1797, by which time he was in resident in West Wales, he was elected the Lord Mayor of London, an honour which he refused as he wished to remain near to his estate & business at the tin works. The town crier was dispatched to bring Sir Benjamin back to London to fulfil his role, & upon his refusal he was fined £1,000.
In the time he was here Sir Benjamin made enormous changes to the land surrounding Hammet House. He built his magnificent mansion & created extensive pleasure grounds on the surrounding estate, constructed a new road & 2 bridges between the villages of Llechryd & Cilgerran. Both of these bridges still stand today, & both have commemorative plaques which bear Sir Benjamin’s name. ‘Castle Malgwyn’ Bridge is immediately to the right of the hotel gates & bears plaques on both sides, & the Hammet bridge is en route to Cilgerran from the hotel & bears a plaque on the west wall.
Sir Benjamin died in 1800 leaving his wife Louisa & son John at the estate. John Hammet died at the age of 44 in 1811, the estate remained in the Hammet family until Louisa’s death in 1824, at which point it was purchased by Abel Anthony Gower.
The Gower family already owned the neighbouring Glandovan estate, Abel Lewis Gower who inherited Hammet House in 1837 developed the estate significantly, including building the courtyard stable block that still stands at the end of the drive today, currently a privately owned holiday cottage complex. The house passed through several generations of the Gower family, including being the home of Lily Gower, a highly skilled & famed croquet player who in 1899 became ‘Lady Champion of England’, a title which she retained for the next 3 years. She also regained this title nearly 30 years later in 1928. Hammet House has many photographs of the Gower family including Lily Gower at leisure within the house & grounds dating back to 1898.
The last Gower to own the estate split up & sold the land in 1948. Part of the original estate is now home to Llechryd cricket club, which is perhaps fitting as famous former England cricket captain David Gower is a descendant of James Gower, brother to Abel Anthony Gower who bought the estate from the Hammets way back in 1824.
The house was converted in to a hotel in 1960 & has been functioning as a country house hotel ever since. In 2012 the estate is rechristened Hammet House in honour of Sir Benjamin Hammet, & given a rebirth as luxury destination country house accommodation with contemporary furnishings & facilities, all housed within the magnificent Georgian building which retains many beautiful original features.
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