History - The Dyers (1700's)
Robert Dyer, a successful Carmarthen lawyer with family connections in the area, purchased the heavily mortgaged Aberglasney in 1710. The Dyers may already have been renting the place at the time, and legend has it that a 'bloody contest' attended the final transfer of the property, with bullets flying.
According to his son, poet John, his father 'rebuilt' the house; at the very least, he gave it an up-to-the-minute formal façade in the latest Queen Anne style. He died in 1720 before the refurbishment was complete and was succeeded by his eldest son, also Robert, who married Frances Croft of Croft Castle, descended from Owain Glyn Dwr.
Portraits of husband and wife in Croft Castle are thought to be the work of John Dyer; a later description depicts Frances as beautiful, but 'very flighty, almost insane'.
Their son Robert Archer Dyer inherited in 1752: through his commonplace book we get a glimpse of the fruit trees in his garden and of his passion for fishing in the Towy! He and his brother Francis both married Herbert sisters, heiresses of nearby Court Henry, but already Aberglasney was once again, it seems, draining the family coffers. As early as the 1740s parts of the property were being mortgaged; Robert Archer Dyer and his son William Herbert Dyer - the last of the male line - both struggled under insuperable debts, and finally Aberglasney was put up for sale in 1798.
"Dr Foy told me the distemper is brought on by fishing and a sedentary
John Dyer (1699-1757) is Aberglasney's most famous son. Rejecting his father's practice at law, he studied painting in London and Rome and worked for a time as an itinerant artist. But it's for the painterly vision expressed in his poetry that he is remembered.
Two poems published in 1726 are of particular interest: in 'The Country Walk' Dyer wrote affectionately of Aberglasney; in 'Grongar Hill' his depiction of the scenery of the Towy valley appealed to a wider audience. It became a sort of touchstone of the picturesque movement, and made a cultural landmark of the eponymous hill, attracting flocks of tourists and aesthetes through the nineteenth century. Even the Rev. Eli Jenkins in Under Milk Wood makes an allusion to 'Golden Grove, 'near Grongar'.
Dyer's youthful connection with Aberglasney was not maintained beyond about 1730. After that he farmed in Herefordshire and the Midlands and later became a parson in East Anglia, meanwhile publishing 'The Ruins of Rome' and 'The Fleece', a Georgic that earned him Wordsworth's praise.