Hidden Houses in the Historic Kingdom of Gwynedd

The group met at Peniel Chapel to hear a talk on Hidden Houses in the Historic Kingdom of Gwynedd. Our speaker Simon Simcox is presently principal partner at Bob Parry, surveyors, valuers, auctioneers and estate agents. He is a surveyor with over 40 years’ experience and has a passionate interest in historic buildings and their occupiers. He has studied thousands of buildings in North Wales in his role as surveyor and found many interesting facts about their construction and location.

As the title explains, many of these houses will not normally be in plain sight to the general public. Simon has published an illustrated book titled; “Hidden Houses of Gwynedd 1100-1800” and is currently writing books on; ‘Hidden Caernarfon’, and ‘Hidden Llanrwst’, which follow a similar investigation of interesting buildings in North Wales.

We were shown photos from many areas of North Wales which, in previous times, comprised the kingdom of Gwynedd. Simon began his presentation by discussing a historic house near the Gwynedd border with England, a house so old that it contains symbols and images of a pre-Christian religion. He then took us on a tour of hidden houses throughout ancient Gwynedd including structures at Mold, Mostyn, the Conwy Valley, Dolwydellen, Conwy, Deganwy, Pennal, Llanrwst , Ynys Mon, Beddgelert  and the Vale of Ffestiniog.

Of particular interest were Simon’s observations on the construction methods used in many of these buildings. We learnt about establishing the age of a building through examining whether soil or lime was used as a mortar to bond the stone material together. Many buildings appear to be bonded with lime, for example Deganwy Castle, but there is a soil bond underneath the lime. Some buildings, such as Dolwyddelan Castle, were constructed with the lower part bonded with soil but later alterations such as the crenelations are bonded with lime.

Our speaker gave us his evidence regarding the thorny question of the location of Llywelyn Fawr’s Llys (Royal Court) at Aber. His investigations have given rise to more doubt on the proposition that Llewelyn had his palace in the village. Simon’s view is that much of it remains standing on higher ground at Garth Celyn in a highly defensive landscape.

The section of the talk on houses in the Conwy Valley was particularly interesting to a largely local audience. It included observations on the remains of a motte and bailey castle at Tal y Cafn were damaged when materials were taken from it to build flood defences.

Simon ended his talk by looking at humble dwellings in Gwynedd – a slant on the subject of hidden houses which is often overlooked.

An interesting talk by a speaker who obviously is an expert in his subject

Diane Williams

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