CBHC / RCAHMW https://rcahmw.gov.uk On the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales Tue, 08 Jun 2021 10:14:52 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.2 Gwylfa Hiraethog – the Welsh Watchtower https://rcahmw.gov.uk/gwylfa-hiraethog-the-welsh-watchtower/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/gwylfa-hiraethog-the-welsh-watchtower/#comments Tue, 08 Jun 2021 09:28:00 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=21952 Bryn Trillyn (the hill of the three lakes) is located in the heart of the Hiraethog mountains in Denbighshire. It’s also the name of an old tavern built around 1829 on the turnpike road between Pentrefoelas and Bylchau near Denbigh made to link with Telford’s A5 running from London to Holyhead.

The tavern is best known as being the highest in Wales at around 495m above sea level and was often snowed-in during the winter. Its other name, The Sportsman’s Arms, is a clue to the huge popularity of the area in Victorian times and at the beginning of the twentieth century for hunting and grouse shooting.

Gwylfa Hiraethog in 1954, still dominating the landscape (Image: DI2009_0891)
Gwylfa Hiraethog in 1954, still dominating the landscape (Image: DI2009_0891)

This was what attracted a man called Hudson Ewbanke Kearley (1856-1934), later Viscount Devonport, to the area. Kearley was a businessman who had made his money by setting up the International Tea Company Stores, a chain with over 200 shops. He was also a successful politician and was appointed minister with responsibility for food supplies in Lloyd George’s Cabinet in 1916.

Viscount Devonport 1925 (Wikipedia commons)
Viscount Devonport 1925 (Wikipedia commons)

Gwylfa Hiraethog

In the 1890s, Kearley built a substantial wooden hunting lodge near the tavern and called it Gwylfa Hiraethog (the Hiraethog Watch Tower) which was called locally ‘Plas Pren’ (the Wooden Hall). The original building was imported from Norway and re-erected on a very bleak and exposed site with dramatic views across to Snowdonia. Lloyd George addressed a large crowd from the balcony in 1908 when it was re-built as a Jacobean style stone mansion with 11 bedrooms which was extended in 1913. It must have been a startling sight for travellers on the lonely mountainous road.

Home to gamekeepers by 1953 (Image: DI2009_0890)
Home to gamekeepers by 1953 (Image: DI2009_0890)

The family held shooting parties for their wealthy friends and the remains of the butts can still be traced in the heather. However, not surprisingly, Lord Devonport found it difficult to attract servants to work there and it also proved difficult to carry goods to the site. It was said locally, for example, that it took sixteen horses to haul coal to Gwylfa Hiraethog. As travelling to grouse moors became easier by car, Lord Devonport decided to sell the estate in 1925. The last person to live at the house was Huw Williams, gamekeeper and later bailiff for the Hafod Elwy estate.

Gwylfa Hiraethog in 2009 (Image DS2009_176_001)
Gwylfa Hiraethog in 2009 (Image DS2009_176_001)

The house was empty from the 1950s and unfortunately very little is now left of its former grandeur. As the poet Ieuan Brydydd Hir wrote in his poem to Ifor Hael’s hall,

‘Thorns and the blight of thistles own it,
Briers where there was once greatness.’

Gwylfa Hiraethog from the air in 2009 (Image AP_2009_4015)
Gwylfa Hiraethog from the air in 2009 (Image AP_2009_4015)

▶ Coflein site description and images: Gwylfa Hiraethog

By Dr Ywain Tomos, Enquiries & Library Assistant

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Welsh Nonconformist Chapels: A National Architecture https://rcahmw.gov.uk/welsh-nonconformist-chapels-a-national-architecture/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/welsh-nonconformist-chapels-a-national-architecture/#respond Sat, 29 May 2021 08:10:00 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=21978 Welsh chapels are arguably the most iconic buildings in Wales, but also one of the building types most at threat from closure, dereliction, and demolition. From the low-key vernacular chapels of the late 17th century to the confident urban chapels of industrial Wales, in this talk, Royal Commission Senior Investigator (Historic Buildings), Susan Fielding, will give an overview of chapel architecture and its place in Welsh society, as well as discussing the work of the Royal Commission in recording and understanding these important buildings. This illustrated talk will include explaining the layout of a nonconformist chapel, the development from simple, long-wall chapels of the 17th/18th centuries to the big show-front chapels of the late 19th century, and later developments in the 20th century. It will also discuss some of the major chapel architects, the social and educational uses of chapels, and some specific results from our recording project in terms of numbers, distributions, styles, names, and statistics on demolitions/conversions etc. This talk will be held online next Thursday, 3 June, at 5pm. For further information and booking please visit:

▶ Event: Welsh Nonconformist Chapels: A National Architecture


Soar Welsh Independent Chapel, Lampeter. A town chapel rebuilt in 1874; photograph showing the congregation leaving the chapel c.1910.
Soar Welsh Independent Chapel, Lampeter. A town chapel rebuilt in 1874; photograph showing the congregation leaving the chapel c.1910.

▶ Coflein site description and images: Soar Welsh Independent Chapel


The earliest surviving chapel in Wales, Maes-yr-onnen, Radnorshire, c.1697, converted from the cowhouse of a long-house and recorded for the Commission’s book, Houses and History in the March of Wales: Radnorshire 1400-1800. It was built after the Toleration Act, 1689.
The earliest surviving chapel in Wales, Maes-yr-onnen, Radnorshire, c.1697, converted from the cowhouse of a long-house and recorded for the Commission’s book, Houses and History in the March of Wales: Radnorshire 1400-1800. It was built after the Toleration Act, 1689.

▶ Coflein site description and images: Maes-yr-onnen Congregational Chapel


Soar-y-Mynydd, near Tregaron, a quintessentially rural chapel, built c. 1822, and perhaps the most photographed chapel in Wales
Soar-y-Mynydd, near Tregaron, a quintessentially rural chapel, built c. 1822, and perhaps the most photographed chapel in Wales.

▶ Coflein site description and images: Soar-y-mynydd Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel


Capel Als the iconic Llanelli chapel, was first built in the later 18th century, rebuilt and enlarged in 1852 by the architect Thomas Thomas, Landore, and partially rebuilt again in 1894 by architect Owen Morris Roberts of Porthmadog.
Capel Als the iconic Llanelli chapel, was first built in the later 18th century, rebuilt and enlarged in 1852 by the architect Thomas Thomas, Landore, and partially rebuilt again in 1894 by architect Owen Morris Roberts of Porthmadog.

▶ Coflein site description and images: Capel Als Independent Chapel


Peniel, Tremadog, is an outstanding example of a chapel in classical style and was built 1810 for William Madocks, the founder of Tremadog. It was influenced by Inigo Jones’ St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, of 1633.
Peniel, Tremadog, is an outstanding example of a chapel in classical style and was built 1810 for William Madocks, the founder of Tremadog. It was influenced by Inigo Jones’ St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, of 1633.

▶ Coflein site description and images: Peniel Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel

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PRESS RELEASE Two new Royal Commissioners appointed https://rcahmw.gov.uk/press-release-two-new-royal-commissioners-appointed/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/press-release-two-new-royal-commissioners-appointed/#respond Fri, 28 May 2021 13:10:16 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=21991

Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden has welcomed the appointment of two Commissioners to the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

HM The Queen has appointed Timothy Darvill, OBE, and Sarah Perons to serve as members of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) for an initial five-year term, with effect from 1 June 2021.

Professor Darvill and Ms Perons join seven existing Commissioners on the board that supervises the work of the RCAHMW, the body based at the National Library in Aberystwyth dedicated to the authoritative recording and interpretation of Wales’s archaeological and architectural heritage.

Each member of the board is appointed for their specialist expertise in an area of relevance to the Commission’s work.

Ms Perons, who works for the Diocese of Llandaff as Church Development Officer, will guide the Commission’s project to record places of worship in Wales, which are closing at an accelerating rate.

Professor Darvill, author of the recently published book on Historic Landscapes and Mental Well-being, will guide the Commission’s work to support Welsh Government policies on culture, health and learning. Well-known for his work in the Preseli Hills on the origins of the Stonehenge bluestones, he also brings extensive knowledge of Welsh archaeology.

Professor Nancy Edwards, who chairs the Commission, welcomed the appointments, saying that:

‘Sarah and Tim will bring invaluable experience to our vital work of helping people explore and enjoy the rich and varied historic environment of Wales. I look forward to their playing a full role in setting the strategic direction of the Commission and to the contributions they will make to our work as we face the challenges of the future.’

Christopher Catling, Chief Executive of the Royal Commission, said:

‘Professor Darvill and Sarah Perons join us at an exciting time for the Royal Commission as we await the outcome of the North Wales Slate Industry bid for World Heritage status, undertake innovative research into the impacts of climate change on Wales’s coastal archaeology, work with young people to explore contemporary ideas of heritage and continue with our project to record 20th-century schools, offices and places of worship in Wales.’

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said:

‘I’d like to congratulate Professor Darvill and Sarah Perons on their appointments as they join a specialist and committed group of Commissioners, and a dedicated, highly skilled team of staff. I wish them and the Royal Commission every success in the valuable work they undertake to safeguard the rich and varied historic environment of Wales.’

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My Favourite Site: Carreg Cennen Castle by Meilyr Powel, Data Enhancement Assistant at the Royal Commission https://rcahmw.gov.uk/my-favourite-site-carreg-cennen-castle-by-meilyr-powel-data-enhancement-assistant-at-the-royal-commission/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/my-favourite-site-carreg-cennen-castle-by-meilyr-powel-data-enhancement-assistant-at-the-royal-commission/#respond Tue, 25 May 2021 12:16:26 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=21933

I have chosen this aerial image as, in my opinion, it beautifully captures two key aspects of Welsh heritage.

The first is the natural environment which in this instance is an area of Carmarthenshire on the western fringes of the Brecon Beacons. A distinct limestone crag sits between two faults and overlooks a deep valley through which the river Cennen flows. From the top, the view of the surrounding countryside is quite breathtaking, and the local sheep, the pedigree longhorn cattle, and prowling red kites attribute a further layer of identity to the area. Whether it’s a cold winter’s day or in peak summer season, the smells, the sounds, and the sights atop this crag are truly wonderful. Although I was born and brought up in Morriston, and am more familiar with the busy urban environment of Swansea and its suburbs than the peacefulness and tranquillity of a rural landscape, it is the case that wherever in Wales you may be, there are so many places on our doorstep (or a short car or bike ride away) that showcase the rich and diverse natural landscape of our country. The area of Dyffryn Cennen in the western parts of the Brecon Beacons, where Carreg Cennen Castle lies, is one such place.

RCAHMW colour oblique photograph of Carreg Cennen Castle, Catalogue Number: C914911
RCAHMW colour oblique photograph of Carreg Cennen Castle, Catalogue Number: C914911

Carreg Cennen Castle

The second aspect in this image is the built environment; Carreg Cennen Castle itself. The castle has a long history, changing hands several times and becoming a target for Owain Glyndŵr’s rebellion in 1403, and it was later seized and partially demolished by Yorkist forces during the Wars of the Roses. Although most of what remains is usually ascribed to John Giffard, a nobleman in the service of King Edward I who acquired the castle following the war of 1282, the castle is very much Welsh in origin.  The site very likely had a  hall or llys from the mid-twelfth century, later fortified with masonry defences by Einion ap Anarawd or the Lord Rhys (d. 1197), Prince of Deheubarth. Later construction phases by descendants of Deheubarth’s royal lineage are probable. Two other nearby castles, the equally dramatic Dryslwyn and Dinefwr, attest to this area being the heartland of the realm of Deheubarth. As a southerner, I feel that Deheubarth and the House of Dinefwr do not get the attention they deserve, in contrast to Gwynedd and its long line of princes which seem to always steal the Welsh limelight!

In addition to these two aspects, I have chosen the image because of the personal memories Carreg Cennen holds for me. As a small boy, I can remember visiting the castle a few times, wearing my wellies and coat during wet Saturday afternoons and being amazed at the magnificent site of the castle from below in the valley. With my father and brothers, we would traverse the winding path up from the working farm, have a photo taken trapped in the wooden pillory (which, sadly, is no longer there), and then explore the castle grounds and all its nooks and crannies, sometimes waving a wooden makeshift sword pretending to storm the battlements! I would have butterflies in my stomach too when venturing down the vaulted passage that is cut into the cliff-face to enter the natural cave. A torch was a must, of course, and my imagination used to run wild when exploring the cave which runs 50 metres into the hill. Roman coins have been discovered there along with human remains dating to the Upper Palaeolithic. Sadly I’ve never made a discovery of my own yet, but I live in hope!

Visiting Carreg Cennen Castle always inspired and stirred my interest in Welsh history and heritage, and along with the stories that accompanied these visits, incorporating legend and landscape, I can say that this particular site is one of my favourite places in Wales.

▶ Coflein site description and images: Carreg Cennen Castle

By Meilyr Powel, Data Enhancement Assistant

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Dementia Action Week: Launching our new PCW Memory Archive teaching resource and free Memory Tree and Timeline posters https://rcahmw.gov.uk/dementia-action-week-launching-our-new-pcw-memory-archive-teaching-resource-and-free-memory-tree-and-timeline-posters/ https://rcahmw.gov.uk/dementia-action-week-launching-our-new-pcw-memory-archive-teaching-resource-and-free-memory-tree-and-timeline-posters/#respond Tue, 18 May 2021 13:59:32 +0000 https://rcahmw.gov.uk/?p=21890 Raising young people’s dementia awareness 
We are delighted to launch the new Memory Archive teaching resource we have created as part of the People’s Collection Wales (PCW) partnership. 

The resource is for Foundation Phase and Key Stage 2-4 pupils and: 

  • will introduce you to the Memory Archive on PCW, an archive of images that you can use in reminiscence work with people living with dementia; 
  • will introduce you to Alzheimer’s Society’s teaching resources for schools that make it easy to teach and learn about dementia; and  
  • offers two practical reminiscence activities that learners can practice in the classroom or remotely using the Memory Archive: create a Memory Tree or a Memory Timeline.  

Raising dementia awareness develops learners’ knowledge and understanding of this common life-changing condition. It can also provide them with valuable life skills allowing them to support people in their families and communities living with dementia. 

Try out our new posters

These activities are, of course, not only for young people. As part of the teaching resource, we have created a series of Memory Tree and Timeline posters free for anyone to use.  

Coeden Gof - Poster - Memory Tree
Coeden Gof – Poster – Memory Tree

Now you can select and print images from the Memory Archive Collections and add them to the poster of your choice. Where the Memory Tree is structured by theme, the Memory Timeline works chronologically. You add images to the branches or along the timeline that represent important memories from the person’s life. 

We hope that these resources will spark memories and stimulate discussion. We’d love to hear from you if they do – please leave a reply below! 

Teaching Resource - People's Collection Wales
Teaching Resource – People’s Collection Wales

Reina van der Wiel, Governance and Risk Manager 
Catalena Angele, People’s Collection Wales Learning Officer 

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