Aberduna Hall - Looking Back


Aberduna Hall is the home of Outside Lives Ltd, however, before the current property was built, there was an older house on the site, dating back to as far back as 1587 - this date having been inscribed on a beam carrying the initials E.D (Evan Davies). The house was home to the Davies family for generations, a branch of the Davies-Cooke family who own the Gwysaney estate.


It is said that Oliver Cromwell was entertained here when he ransacked Mold Church, and that there was previously a Settle in the old house which was made from the very same bed that Cromwell slept in. There was apparently a daring rescue near Aberduna which is recounted in the history of Gwernymynydd booklet, detailing an incident where the son of Lieutenant James R. Davies Cooke fell into a mine shaft whilst out walking and was rescued by Zacariah Bellis of Gwernymynydd. Indebted to Mr Bellis, Lieutenant Davies Cooke provided brand new clothing for his son Wil, and also paid for the young boy to attend school in London where he learnt to sign and to read, having been born Deaf. Wil then went on to work in the pottery industry in Staffordshire, and led sermons in a BSL church in the area. 


Around 1860, the older house was dismantled to make way for the property that stands now, and it was around this time that Aberduna became home to the Grayson family. Headed by Sir Henry Grayson, a shipbuilder and also MP for Birkenhead, the family spent a number of years at Aberduna. Sir Rupert Grayson, the son of Henry, tells of his years growing up at Aberduna in a number of his books. Bob Schofield owned the rights to his works, and created ‘Moving On’, which was based on the memoirs of the late Sir Rupert Grayson’ and in which the following passage appears:


The boy Rupert is in a winter setting of snow and bare trees at the lodge-gate that bears the name of the house beyond: Aberduna Hall. Although it is daytime, lights come from many of its windows. Rupert saunters up the drive, kicking snow as he goes, and turns back once to wave to the Lodge-Keeper, who waves back. At the house he approaches the biggest and brightest window and looks into a large room where his Brothers and Sisters are chattering and joking around a Christmas tree, which almost touches the ceiling and is elaborately decorated and heavy with presents. Excitement, laughter, teasing. A uniformed Nanny tries to keep control, pulling apart two boys who squabble over a parcel, turning to shush others. A Butler glances into the room, looks pained, shakes his head and retreats.


A festival named Gwyl Mab-Sant was also celebrated yearly at the Hall, with people from the surrounding villages gathering to celebrate the life of the Parish Saint (St Berres).  Food would be prepared for the district’s poor and the festival itself could often last up to a week!


The Hall then became home to Gwendoline Davies Cooke O.B.E and a selection of her records and papers can be viewed at Flintshire’s Record Office. Aberduna Hall is now the proud home of Lucy Powell and family and is also home to Outside Lives. 


Aberduna Hall - Outside Lives 


Outside Lives’ Founding Director, Lucy Powell, launched the organisation in 2018 after taking a sabbatical from her long career as a social worker. Lucy packed up her motorbike and headed off to Spain, following her need for inspiration and a passion for change.


“I travelled to Spain, alone, in search of a more meaningful way to live. As part of this journey, I was introduced to the concept of Permaculture - an ecological approach to providing for our needs; including food, shelter and social structures and based on cooperating with nature and caring for the Earth and its people. The creative way in which it was taught demonstrated clearly that permaculture had so much more to offer than just an interesting way of gardening. 


I realised the link between what I was learning and my background as a social worker. I could see that the principles and values that nature demonstrates can also be reflected in our society and communities and the way that relationships work and interact is integral to sustainability and resilience. This common-sense approach became the north star. 


Visiting the centre in Spain I saw the beauty, complexity, productivity, abundance, growth, health, and vibrancy that a permaculture way of life supported. I came to understand however, that this just didn’t ‘happen into existence’, it involved the use of certain principles and design,  and so I began to imagine how I could create these qualities in myself, my home, my work, and crucially, within my community. The realisation that people’s habitats and lifestyles were often the barrier to sustainability, teamed with my newfound enthusiasm for permaculture, led me to start thinking of how something could be created locally - by the people, for the people – and that is how Outside Lives was born.


We started small to begin with, but it soon became clear that this new way of thinking had many roots in society and in nature, and from there the idea and the motivation grew. It may seem like a complicated notion, but in reality, it’s very simple, it comes down to a focus on three key things: Earth Care – People Care – Future Care as the basis for creating harmony and resilience for all living things”


Today, Outside Lives runs multiple projects both within the local area and online and are always looking for new faces to join the ever-growing number of people involved. As we start to emerge from the pandemic, community activity and the potential it holds for real, sustainable change has never been more important to us all. Indeed, in the grounds of Aberduna Hall, the branches of community life are thriving once more.