4. STRATA FLORIDA A residence which can certainly claim to be one of the lesser country houses is Strata Florida, the old home of the Stedman family. The present building, adjacent to the Abbey ruins, is now rather a sad- looking two-storied farmhouse, but, thanks to the brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, we have a very fair idea of what it looked like in the eighteenth century. An engraving of 1741 shows a typical late seven- teenth century house, three storied, with four dormer windows and a porch, and a narrow front garden surrounded by handsome wrought iron railings. The effect is pleasing and comfortable in fact, very much the type and size of country house so much in demand today. This house must have followed an earlier building which had been constructed out of material taken from the ruins of the outbuildings belonging to the Abbey. Strata Florida, like so many other similar houses, contained on the ground floor a long and low dining room and a smaller parlour for the ladies. The life of the smaller Welsh squire- archy largely centred round their dining rooms, and the story is told of one Welsh squire giving curt instructions to his rather pretentious architect, I shall only need a dining room'. Documents surviving show that the Stedmans were living at Strata Florida as early as 1567. This family claimed a romantic ancestry from a duke of Arabia but their earlier pedigree is so involved and unreliable that no reliance can be placed upon it. It is, however, probable that John Stedman, who married Joan, daughter of John Lewis of Stafford, was the first of his family to settle in West Wales. His son, also John, married Ann, a daughter of William Phillips of Pentypark. From that time the Stedmans made good marriages with the Welsh gentry and they appeared to own land as far distant as the counties of Radnor and Montgomery as well as the demesne lands of the late monastery. The family in succeeding generations served as high sheriffs and magistrates but they do not figure much in the political life of the county. Though they were important landowners they were content to play second fiddle to their more powerful neighbours like the Vaughans of Crosswood and the Lloyds of Peterwell. The last of the line, Richard Stedman, married Anne, the second daughter of William Powell of Nanteos. Their two daughters died young and were buried in the church of Strata Florida. Richard himself died intestate and administration of his goods was granted to Thomas Powell, his principal creditor, in 1747. His widow later married Sir Herbert Lloyd of Peterwell but she continued to reside at Voelallt