Craig Y Nos

Craig Y Nos Castle is a magnificent building situated between Swansea and Brecon, within the Brecon Beacons National Park.


The castle’s name in English means, “Rock of the Night"

our story begins in 1840, when Captain Rice Davies Powell returned to Glyntawe and decided to build an early Victorian country house alongside the River Tawe in the upper reaches of the valley. He was the son of Dr William Powell, 'scion of the Powell family of Glyn Lech Isaf', where they had farmed the land at nearby Pen-y-cae for many generations.

Captain Powell was called to the Bar and later served with the army in India. His maternal grandfather had been a wealthy surgeon with the east India Company and his father had once practised in London before returning to his birthplace and acquiring Pentre Cribarth Farm.

The rugged limestone hills rising sheer above the Tawe valley created an Alpine scene that sought sympathetic architecture. Here it was that Captain Powell created his neo-gothic castle at Cae Bryn Melin bach on the site above the river and close to his father’s home.

He used local limestone for the original building but the cost ran away with him and he was unable to complete the north wing. Turrets and pyramids shaped the walls of the roof, and a recently completed road from Ystradgynlais to Brecon passed the door.

In 1843, the family moved in, and Captain Powell settled to the life of a country gentleman, becoming a county magistrate and a High Sheriff of Brecknock. Although both he and his father married well, misfortune began to fall upon the family when cholera took his younger son in 1851. He suffered the loss of his wife and his daughter before he died in 1862.

Two years later, the eldest son was killed in a hunting accident on the Isle of Wight. Sarah, the eldest daughter, had married a Captain Allaway and the couple remained at the castle after the death of her brother, until tragedy struck once more when Captain Allaway died a few years later. His widow moved to Tenby shortly before the property was sold in 1875-76.

The Dutch family, Overbeek, of Calcutta and Capetown, were connected by blood and it was thought that the hint of their curse overshadowed the Powell family.

The estate had been entered into Chancery and was finally brought by Morgan Morgan of Abercrave for £6000. Limestone quarries above Pentre Cibbarth were in full production and lime was burnt in the nearby kilns.

Deposits of rotten stone were exploited anew and the huge quantities were taken to the canal at Abercrave and supplied to the tin-plate industry as a polishing agent.

Mr Morgan and his family settled at the castle where his son, also Morgan Morgan, joined him soon afterwards. Both families lived together happily for several years, each with a kitchen in what was the basement. A massive pillar stood in the middle of the larger kitchen, where a bottle containing a current newspaper and freshly minted coins were said to have been buried.

At the time of the sale a large plantation of fir trees stood between the castle and the quarries above. The trees were about 80 years old, of fine girth and length, with squirrels leaping from branch to branch.

As the decade grew toward it’s close, the current owners decided to leave, and a remarkable chapter in the history of Craig-y-nos was about to unfold.

In 1878, the castle and its setting captivated the leading opera star of that day, who felt she had found the home of her dreams amid the calm isolation of this beautiful valley. It’s name alone strikes a romantic note and in rough translation means ‘Rock of the Night’.

This small estate in the mountains of Wales appealed to Madam Adelina Juana Maria Patti, who brought the castle and surrounding park land for £3500. The prima donna had reached the soaring heights of a spectacular career and was to spend the rest of her life at Craig-y-nos, leaving to sing in the premier opera house of Europe and elsewhere, captivating the world with her flawless soprano voice

The castle soon reflected the life of Patti and the glittering years to follow, when leading international figures including Prince Henry of Battenburg and the Crown Prince of Sweden came to stay.

Although unconfirmed, it is said that Edward VII visited Craig-y-nos when still the Prince of Wales.

One story relates to a time when his train was delayed and the party arrived late at night. The servants awoke to the sound of unknown visitors and Madam Patti shooed them back to bed before receiving her guests personally. On the following day, the staff saw the Prince and realised why their Lady was not abed on the previous night.

For twenty five years she sang for Queen Victoria by private invitation and would surely have known many members of the Royal family. Many honours were bestowed upon the Diva and the Tzar Alexander II awarded her the Russian Order of Merit in 1870

Madam Adelina Juana Maria Patti (1843-1919)

Madam Patti was born in Madrid on the 19th February 1843, of a Sicilian father and an Italian mother, both of whom were opera singers. She was the youngest of six children and her parents were relatively poor. Realising her potential, they launched their daughter in to an early musical career and at the age of eight she was singing in the concert halls of New York.

Adelina soon rose to international fame and performed at Covent Gardens in 1861. The doors of high society were opened to her, and in 1868 she married the Marquis de Caux, Equerry to Napoleon III of France, at a Roman Catholic Church in London.

It was not a happy marriage and in 1885 the Diva secured a divorce after settling half her current fortune upon her ex-husband. The agreed figure was said to be £64,000, a considerable amount in those days. She recovered financially and became the highest paid performer ever known.

The theatre at the mansion was a remarkable addition and could hold 150 people. It was designed as a private auditorium where an international Queen of Song could enthral with her remarkable voice, all those who came to listen. The opening ceremony took place on the 12th July 1891,

The Diva’s passion for dancing was catered for by mechanically lifting the auditorium floor to stage level, thus allowing Adelina to waltz with her friends far in to the night. She would sing to the high and the humble providing they loved music and understood it’s meaning.

Time passed and Nicholini’s health began to fail and sea air was prescribed. He stayed at Llangland Bay on Gower for a while and then travelled to Pau in South East France, where he died in January 1898. Her theatre remains a time capsule, and the stage is probably the only surviving example of original 19th century backstage equipment. The sound of her recordings within the auditorium can often affect the people who hear it

Craig-y-nos was the first private house to be wired for electricity, and evidence of this was found some years ago by Mr J. A. Lea, the last Hospital Secretary, and someone from an electrical company engaged in relevant research. Power at 110volts [dc] was generated by an ‘Otto’ gas engine which was fuelled from a small gas works situated in the grounds. (see map)

The wiring consisted of planks with two parallel grooves that took a bare copper wire and covered with a corresponding piece of wood. This supplied power for ‘Swan’ lamps and an electrically powered ‘Orchestra’ organ which was controlled by a punched paper roll and situated in the Billiard Room. It was the pride and joy of Nicholini, thus dating it prior to his death in 1898.

The story of Craig-y-nos changed once more with the death of Adelina Patti on the 27th September 1919, at her home in the Welsh hills. Her embalmed body lay in her private chapel until the 24th October

The castle and the grounds were sold to the Welsh National Memorial Trust for £11,000 in March 1921, and it was called the ‘Adelina Patti’ Hospital at the request of the Baron. It functioned as a chest hospital and many were nursed back to health during this period until the scourge of tuberculosis was conquered. In its latter years, the patients were mainly elderly and admitted its first patients in August 1922. In 1947, the children of Craig-y-nos were among the first in the UK to receive the first effective TB medicine. reports advise patients were wheeled out onto the balcony in winter and brought back in the moring if they were alive

The castle finally closed as a hospital on the 31st March 1986 after the transfer of remaining patients to the new Community Hospital at Ystradgynlais. The Welsh Office maintained Craig-y-nos Castle and its unique theatre until it was sold into private ownership. It remained open to the public for several years but is currently in private ownership.


The castle is said to be subject to strong paranormal phenomena and haunted by the ghosts of Patti, her second husband, French tenor Nicolini, and the object of her affection, the composer Rossini. Unexplained presences taking many different forms have been experienced by visitors all over the castle. Nurses who worked at Craig-y-nos while it was a hospital have reported many presences and frequent reports of having walked past somebody on the stairs or corridor but nobody being there, as well as many unexplained noises and sounds of footsteps. Visitors have also reported experiencing breathing difficulties and of feeling a lingering presence of patients who were hospitalized there while suffering from tuberculosis. On one occasion a film crew were recording an interview in the theatre, and while in the kitchen they were discussing the fact that Adelina Patti had never mastered the role of Carmen. Suddenly a heavy saucepan, which had been placed on a large cooker, far enough away from the edge, flew onto the floor.

The Top Children's Ward is the most active room in the castle. With the recovery rate of TB being so low, many children entered the castle at an extremely young age and never left. Many full apparitions have been seen in this room and have interacted on numerous occasions. Again, minor anomalies are regular occurrences, along with the sounds of children's footsteps, bouncing balls and giggles