Gwrych Castle, Abergele, North Wales

The Dundonald Avenue Affair

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On the Friday evening the Countess sent an ultimatum. It stated that if the Council discarded their application for provisional order of compulsory purchase and the full scheme of creating an avenue, then Winifred would give up ten plots of land for the straightening of the corners. On receipt of the letter it was decided that a meeting should be held so that the ratepayers could decide whether to accept the Countess’ offer or to go ahead with the scheme. Winifred then gave the Council an extension to 6.00 pm the next day-Saturday to decide. If the Countess’ ultimatum were rejected then all of the trees would fall on the Monday.

A public meeting was called at the Town Hall at 3.00 pm, and around 80 ratepayers trudged through six or seven inches of snow to attend. Detailed accounts of the recent incidents were conveyed to the audience and two letters of support from Mr J Herbert Roberts M.P were read out. He fully supported the Council’s plans. The attendees of the meeting decided to fight and this was confirmed at a later Council meeting, where there were ten to two in favour of fighting. The Countess kept true to her word and felled each tree along the length of the road. Winifred was spurned into such action because there was going to be a Government Board Enquiry on the following Tuesday.

Opposition to the scheme came from the fact that the cost of building would considerably increase the rates. The Council did not want a pavement but rather a boulevard, and the value of the properties along the road would be significantly decreased. Furthermore, the Countess was defending her tenants who lived along the road and would be greatly affected by the widening. It was felt that the Council had treated the Castle tenants unfairly as they were not taken into consideration. Since it was the Countess’ land, she had every right to what she wanted to do with it. She did not like being dictated to by the Council who had latterly refused consent for her father’s preceding plans for improvement along the road.

Two weeks after the inquiry came the news that Ladysmith had been relieved and accordingly the Countess was very much pleased. She sanctioned the scheme a month later. Winifred informed the Council that her husband would be coming home on November 28th on the 3.10 pm train

©Mark Baker 2003