Gwydir Castle

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Coordinates: 53°07′58″N3°48′04″W / 53.1328°N 3.8010°W / 53.1328; -3.8010

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Gwydir Castle Gwydir Castle.jpg
Gwydir Castle

Gwydir Castle is situated in the Conwy valley, Wales, a mile to the west of the ancient market town of Llanrwst and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the south of the large village of Trefriw. An example of a fortified manor house dating back to c1500, it is located on the edge of the floodplain of the river Conwy, and overlooked from the west by the now-forested slopes of Gwydir Forest.

Etymology

The name 'Gwydir' likely derives from a contraction of Gwy-dir, "water land," the site long being subject to flooding from the nearby river Conwy. Another suggestion is that it might derive from Gwaed-dir, "the bloody land,", this having been the scene of some battles as detailed below. [1] [2] Any similarity with the Welsh word gwydr (glass) is coincidental.

History

There have been fortifications associated with this site since AD 600. In the Early Middle Ages numerous skirmishes were fought in the area between the post-Roman kingdoms of Wales. Two significant encounters were in AD 610,when Llywarch Hen, a bardic prince of Rheged, fought a bloody battle nearby [3] and later when the Kingdoms of Gwynedd and Deheubarth fought a major battle near Llanrwst in AD 954 . [4]

The entrance Gwydir Castle entrance.jpg
The entrance

By the 14th century, the Welsh knight Howell ap Coetmor, who had fought in the Hundred Years' War as a commander of longbowmen under Edward, the Black Prince at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 is recorded as the first owner of a manor house on the site. He would later go onto support the rising led by Owain Glyndŵr.

By the 16th century, Gwydir had become the seat of the powerful Wynn family who were descendants of the Kings of Gwynedd. The Wynns were one of the most significant families of north Wales during the Tudor and Stuart periods.

Following the Wars of the Roses, the castle was rebuilt by Meredith ap Ieuan ap Robert, the founder of the Wynn dynasty. The house incorporated re-used mediaeval material from the dissolved Abbey of Maenan. The square turret at the rear of the Solar Tower contains a spiral staircase taken from the Abbey and many elaborately carved stones can also be seen. The turret was added around 1540 and Sir John Wynn's initials can be seen above the main entrance in the courtyard gatehouse along with the date of 1555. The surviving buildings date from around the year 1500, and there were alterations and additions in c1540, c1600 and c1828, the latter after Lord Willoughby had done a fair bit of demolishing in c1819.

Although called a castle, it is an example of a Tudor architecture courtyard house or fortified manor house, rather than a traditional castle, such as those built in North Wales by Llywelyn the Great and Edward I.

Gwydir was home to Katheryn of Berain. King Charles is said to have visited Gwydir in 1645 as the guest of Sir Richard Wynn, 2nd Baronet, Treasurer to Queen Henrietta Maria, and Groom of the Royal Bed Chamber.

More recently King George V and Queen Mary stayed here as the Duke and Duchess of York, in April 1899.

The Gwydir Estate

The yew walk Peacock at Gwydir - geograph.org.uk - 134910.jpg
The yew walk

During the 16th and 17th centuries the Gwydir Estate under the Wynn family dominated north Wales, and at the centre of this huge estate, Gwydir itself stood in a deer park of some 36,000 acres (150 km2). In 1678 it passed by marriage to the Barons Willoughby de Eresby, based in Lincolnshire (and from 1892 also to the Earls of Ancaster). The 18th century consequently saw a period of some neglect, and by the early 19th century the estate largely comprised the parishes of Dolwyddelan (where the Wynns also had an ancestral home), Llanrhychwyn, Trefriw, and Gwydir, totalling some 55 square miles (140 km2). This land, however, was mostly mountainous and of poor quality, and although there were some 30 slate mines on the land, of varying sizes, this slate was not of a particularly good standard, much of it more suited to slabs than roofing slate. Nor was production high, and the output of all the quarries over the 150 years of their existence totalled, for instance, just two years' worth of output from the Blaenau Ffestiniog quarries. Prior to the arrival of the railway in the 1860s, most slate was carried by cart to the quays at Trefriw. The estate also owned a number of mineral mines, mostly in the area of today's Gwydir Forest.

The principle quarries on the Estate were located around Dolwyddelan where a syncline compressed the Nod Glas mudstones into slate veins. These were the Prince Llewellyn, Chwarel Ddu, Ty'n-y-bryn and Rhiw-goch quarries. [5]

Much of the estate was, however, under continuous mortgage, and in 1894 Dolwyddelan was sold off, followed in the next two years by most of Llanrhychwyn and Trefriw. The sale of the house in 1921 by the Earl Carrington saw it passing out of inherited ownership for the first time in over 400 years, and virtually all other lands were subsequently sold off. Today the estate comprises just the 10 acres (40,000 m2) in which Gwydir Castle sits.

The 20th century

In 1921, the panelled main dining room from the 1640s was stripped, the carved and gilded panelling being bought at auction by William Randolph Hearst, the American press baron. On his death, the panels were inherited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and until recently were kept in storage at the museum. The new owners of Gwydir, Peter Welford and Judy Corbett, traced these panels and negotiated with the museum, which sold the panels back to the Corbetts. [6] They have been carefully replaced in their original setting, and the restored dining room was re-opened in 1998 at a ceremony attended by the Prince of Wales.

In 1922 a fire broke out and gutted the Solar Tower, [7] leaving it roofless. A subsequent fire in the West Wing made the place untenable, and it was abandoned, remaining unoccupied until 1944. In this year it was bought by Arthur Clegg, a retired bank manager, who, together with his wife and son, started a 20-year programme of renovation.

The castle is now privately owned by Peter Welford and his wife, Judy Corbett. They purchased the castle in 1994. They then began a programme of conservation with authenticity as the main consideration.[ citation needed ] The story of the restoration is told in Judy Corbett's book Castles in the Air. [8]

The Gardens

Gwydir Castle viewed from the Dutch garden Gwydir Castle, viewed from the Dutch Garden.JPG
Gwydir Castle viewed from the Dutch garden

The castle is set within a Grade 1 listed, 10-acre (40,000 m2) garden, which contains some ancient cedars — one of which was planted in 1625 to commemorate the wedding of King Charles I to Queen Henrietta Maria. One yew tree, known as the "Lovers Tree" or "Giant Yew", is estimated to be between 600 and 1000 years old, and therefore pre-dates the castle itself.[ citation needed ]

The raised terrace contains an imposing Renaissance arch, probably dating from the 1590s. The Old Dutch garden contains ancient yew topiary and an octagonal fountain. The Royal and Statesman's gardens contain Welsh Oaks planted during the royal visit of 1899, and in 1911. An Elizabethan causeway called the Chinese Walk runs across the fields to the River Conwy, where the remains of the Gwydir Quay can be seen. The River Conwy was tidal up to this point, but silting has limited most tides to below Gowers Bridge.

Gwydir Uchaf Chapel

Gwydir Uchaf Chapel, in the woods above Gwydir Castle, was built in 1673 by Sir Richard Wynn as a family memorial chapel for the Wynns of Gwydir. The simple exterior provides a direct contrast with its beautifully painted ceiling, depicting the Creation, the Trinity and the Last Judgement.

This chapel should not be confused with the one adjoining Llanrwst Church, called Gwydir Chapel. (This was built in 1633 by an earlier Sir Richard Wynn, and is said to have been designed by Inigo Jones. It has elaborate wood panelling, several family tombs and a stone coffin said to be that of Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, moved from Maenan Abbey at the Dissolution.) The chapel is still owned by the Willoughby family who were the hereditary owners of Gwydir Castle. It is now managed by Cadw.

See also

Related Research Articles

Llanrwst Human settlement in Wales

Llanrwst is a small market town and community on the A470 road and the River Conwy, in Conwy County Borough, Wales. It developed around the wool trade and became known also for the making of harps and clocks. Today, less than a mile from the edge of Snowdonia, its main industry is tourism. Notable buildings include almshouses, two 17th-century chapels, and the Parish Church of St Grwst, which holds a stone coffin of Llywelyn the Great. The 2011 census gave the town a population of 3,323.

Trefriw Human settlement in Wales

Trefriw is a village and community in Conwy County Borough, Wales. It lies on the river Crafnant in North Wales, a few miles south of the site of the Roman fort of Canovium, sited at Caerhun. At the last three censuses the population of the community has been recorded as 842 in 1999, 915 in 2001, and 783 in 2011.

River Conwy

The River Conwy is a river in north Wales. From its source to its discharge in Conwy Bay it is a little over 27 miles (43 km) long. "Conwy" was formerly Anglicised as "Conway."

Dolwyddelan Village in Wales

Dolwyddelan – in Victorian times, often spelled Dolyddelen – is a village and community in Conwy county borough, north Wales, on the main A470 road between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Betws-y-Coed. As a community, the population of Dolwyddelan was recorded in the 2001 Census as 427, and 55.8% of those residents could speak Welsh. The population increased to 474 in the 2011 census with the proportion of Welsh speakers falling to 50.8%.

Sir John Wynn, 1st Baronet

Sir John Wynn, 1st Baronet, was a Welsh baronet, Member of Parliament and antiquary.

Gwydir Forest

Gwydir Forest, also spelled Gwydyr, is located in Conwy county borough and the Snowdonia National Park in Wales. It takes its name from the ancient Gwydir Estate, established by the John Wynn family of Gwydir Castle, which owned this area.

Llanrhychwyn Hamlet in Wales

Llanrhychwyn is a hamlet in Conwy county borough, Wales. It lies in the Conwy valley, less than a mile south of Trefriw, and a mile north-west of Llanrwst. Today neighbouring Trefriw is a village with a population of nearly 800, but in the time of Llywelyn Fawr, and up to the early 19th century, Llanrhychwyn was larger than Trefriw, which consisted simply of "a few houses here and there". Indeed, even today both Trefriw and Llanrhychwyn lie within the parish of Llanrhychwyn.

Llyn Geirionydd

Llyn Geirionydd lies in a valley in North Wales where the northern edge of the Gwydyr Forest meets the lower slopes of the Carneddau mountains. The lake is almost a mile long and covers an area of 45 acres (180,000 m2), but is never any deeper than 50 ft (15 m) according to Jehu’s survey. The lake can be reached by car from Trefriw or Llanrwst in the Conwy valley, the lane passing through the hamlet of Llanrhychwyn, or from the road through the Gwydir Forest. Access is not particularly easy by either route, but this has not stopped the lake being the only one designated in Snowdonia to permit power boats and water skiing. Many visitors also walk to the lake from the village of Trefriw or from the neighbouring lake of Llyn Crafnant, which runs parallel to it, but a mile distant, the two being separated by Mynydd Deulyn, “mountain of the two lakes”.

Geirionydd was a rural district in the administrative county of Caernarvonshire, North Wales from 1894 to 1934.

Cefn Cyfarwydd

Cefn Cyfarwydd is a ridge in Conwy county borough, north Wales. It is located above the village of Trefriw on the western side of the Conwy valley, and dramatically separates Cwm Cowlyd and the rugged mountains of the Carneddau from the greener, lusher Conwy valley.

John Williams was a Welsh cleric and schoolteacher.

Grey Mares Tail, Conwy

The Grey Mare's Tail is a waterfall on the very edge of the Snowdonia National Park near Gwydir Castle in the county of Conwy, north Wales. It lies just off the B5106 road between the town of Llanrwst and the large village of Trefriw. The Welsh name, Rhaeadr y Parc Mawr, derives from the fact that the falls are fed by a large stream that has its source in the Gwydir Forest, and flows through the old Parc Mine, about a mile to the southeast. The name 'Grey Mare's Tail' was given to it by Lady Willoughby of Gwydir Castle, possibly "in compliment to Lord Byron and the Staubbach"

Maenan Abbey

Maenan Abbey was a monastic religious house located in Maenan, Conwy, Wales. It is situated near Llanrwst.

St Grwsts Church, Llanrwst Church in Conwy, Wales

St Grwst's Church, Llanrwst, is located in Church Street, Llanrwst, Conwy, Wales. It is an active Church in Wales parish church and is part of the Aberconwy Mission Area in the archdeaconry of St Asaph, and the diocese of St Asaph. Its benefice is united with those of Llanddoged with Capel Garmon, Llansanffraid Glan Conwy, and Eglwysbach. The church is designated by Cadw as a Grade I listed building.

Rhiwbach quarry Disused slate quarry in North Wales

Rhiwbach quarry was a slate quarry located to the east of Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales. The quarry was a remote site; it was nearly 4 miles (6.4 km) to north-east of Duffws, the Festiniog Railway's terminus in Blaenau Ffestiniog. It was the connected to the Ffestiniog Railway by the Rhiwbach Tramway. Commercial operation began around 1812, and it finally closed in 1952. It was the last Welsh slate quarry where workers lived in barracks on the site. 'Rhiwbach' is Welsh for 'Little Hill'

Grade I listed buildings in Conwy County Borough

In the United Kingdom, the term listed building refers to a building or other structure officially designated as being of special architectural, historical, or cultural significance; Grade I structures are those considered to be "buildings of exceptional interest". Listing was begun by a provision in the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. Once listed, strict limitations are imposed on the modifications allowed to a building's structure or fittings. In Wales, the authority for listing under the Planning Act 1990 rests with Cadw.

Maenan Hall is a Grade I-listed hall house located north west of the village of Llanddoged, Conwy, Wales. This late medieval country mansion has fine decorative plasterwork and was the home of the Kyffin family. It is currently in private ownership but the extensive gardens are open to the public on a few occasions each year.

Prince Llewellyn quarry

The Prince Llewellyn quarry was a slate quarry that was worked from around 1820 to 1934. It stands on the west side of the Lledr Valley, ENE of Dolwyddelan.

Chwarel Ddu quarry

Chwarel Ddu quarry was the earliest slate quarry in the Lledr Valley. It was working before 1810, and continued in sporadic operation until the late 1920s. It is about 0.5 miles (0.80 km) west of Dolwyddelan, just beneath Dolwyddelan Castle.

Penmachno quarry

The Penmachno quarry was a slate quarry near Cwm Penmachno, Conwy, North Wales. It was directly below the Rhiwbach Quarry. It was worked between 1818 and 1962.

References

  1. "Gwiller - Gyfin | British History Online". www.british-history.ac.uk.
  2. ""gwy" "tir" gwydir - Google Search". www.google.com.
  3. Nicholson, George (1813). The Cambrian Traveller's Guide: In Every Direction; Containing Remarks Made During Many Excursions, in the Principality of Wales, and Bordering Districts, Augmented by Extracts from the Best Writers. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown. p.  804.
  4. "LLANRWST;BATTLE NEAR LLANRWST". www.coflein.gov.uk. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  5. Richards, Alun John (1999). The Slate Regions of North and Mid Wales and Their Railways. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch. ISBN   978-0-86381-552-2.
  6. "Daily Telegraph – Racked by a ruin".
  7. "Gwydir Castle-One couple's dream come true". www.magiccarpetjournals.com.
  8. Corbett, Judy. "Castles In The Air: The Restoration Adventures of Two Young Optimists and a Crumbling Old Mansion" via Amazon.