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CONWAY;CONWY, MEDIEVAL AND LATER BOROUGH

Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 33013

Map Reference SH77NE

Grid Reference SH7805577527

Unitary (Local) Authority Conwy

Old County Caernarfonshire

Community Conwy

Type of Site TOWN

Broad Class CIVIL

Period General

Site Description Conway, now known as Conwy, is a town in Conwy Community on the north coast of Wales, facing Deganwy across the River Conwy. The town formerly lay in the county of Gwynedd and prior to that in Caernarvonshire. Conwy is a market town and one of the most popular tourist destinations on the north Wales coast.

Conwy Castle (NPRN 121) and the town walls (NPRN 95280) were built on the instructions of Edward I between 1283 and 1289 as part of his conquest of Wales. Conwy was the original site of Aberconwy Abbey (NPRN 43768), founded by Llywelyn the Great. Plas Mawr (NPRN 16754), a historic house which has been extensively refurbished to its original sixteenth century appearance is also located in Conwy. Across the estuary is Bodysgallen Hall, which incorporated a medieval watchtower that was later used as a signal place for Conwy Castle. In 1826, Thomas Telford built the Conwy Suspension Bridge (nprn 43083), which spans the River next to the castle and in 1848 Robert Stephenson built the Conwy Railway Bridge (nprn 43084), a tubular bridge, for the Chester and Holyhead Railway.

M. Lloyd Davies, RCAHMW, 07 January 2009.

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This popular medieval walled town was originally the site of the Cistercian abbey of Aberconwy founded by Llywelyn ap Iorweth in 1199. In 1284, following his conquest of Wales in the English king Edward I established Conwy Castle and its associated walled town and the abbey became the Church of St Mary, the monks moving into a new site at Maenan in the Conwy valley. Five centuries later, the German Prince Herman von Pückler-Muskau visited the church and was amused by the gravestone inscription for Nicholas Hookes who was his father’s forty-first child and had twenty-seven children himself. Under Edward I’s rule, the town was settled by English merchants and craftsmen largely from Cheshire and Lancashire.

Dating from the fifteenth century, Aberconwy House is the only surviving example of the typical merchant houses built within the city walls. In 1401, two of Owain Glyndŵr’s cousins infiltrated the town and held it under siege for four months. During the occupation, they managed to destroy the bridges and gates along the town walls.

During the Tudor period, more Welsh families settled inside the city walls. Among them were the rich merchant Robert Wynn and his family. Over the course of three construction periods between 1576 and 1585 he built his great townhouse, Plas Mawr. Although it ceased to be used as a family house by the late seventeenth century, the building remained largely intact. For a time, Plas Mawr served as sublet tenement, as a girls’ school and, by the 1880s, as the home of the Royal Academy of Art. When the adventuress and travel writer Sophie Döhner, from Hamburg, visited the exhibition rooms, she was full of praise for the quality of modern Welsh painting as well as the long history attached to the building.

Record updated as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Journey to the Past: Wales in historic travel writing from France and Germany'.
R. Singer (Bangor University) and S. Fielding (RCAHMW), 2017.

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