Building of the Month May 2020: Island House, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire

After many years of neglect and advancing decay, 16th century Island House, a rambling and romantic building standing next to the ruins of Laugharne Castle on the Taf Estuary, has been acquired by a company.  It has plans to restore it and convert it into a boutique hotel, restaurant and bar. 

The house is grade II* listed and dates from the 16th and 17th centuries, with 19th century additions. It has experienced many changes including being damaged by cannon fire by Cromwell's troops when they attacked the castle in 1644.  It retains a charming collection of features including two fine oriel windows and a crenellated gatehouse.  The layers of alteration and phases of development have left a fascinating mixture of styles and clues to its former life. 

Its great character and charm make its descent into dereliction over the last 15 or so years all the more tragic. We understand that the previous owner had bequeathed the house to a number of beneficiaries who never took up responsibility for it.  SAVE Britain's Heritage added it to the Buildings at Risk Register in 2011.

This historic house has played a part in some of the most important chapters of Laugharne's past and it is unsurprisingly treasured by the local community who have campaigned for to be saved. A number of community groups including the Community Council, the History Society and the community newsletter have publicised its plight and they have played a crucial role in calling for it to be rescued.  Carmarthenshire County Council and Cadw (the historic environment service in Wales) have been involved at various stages.  The SPAB have also supported calls for the house to be saved.

Island House Restoration Ltd acquired the house in March 2020, opening the way for them to progress their plans to restore the house and create a viable business.  Sadly, due to the extent of the dereliction of the house, with one of the ranges suffering a collapsed roof, their first task is carrying out emergency repairs to stabilise the structure.  They have established a website which will chart the work on the house and it has a range of photographs showing how much clearance and preparation work has already been carried out.  Click here to go to their website.  We wish them every success and will continue to follow their work.