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Friends Meeting House (Cwrt Plas-yn-dre)

A Grade II* Listed Building in Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn (Y Drenewydd a Llanllwchaearn), Powys

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.5163 / 52°30'58"N

Longitude: -3.3231 / 3°19'23"W

OS Eastings: 310315

OS Northings: 291756

OS Grid: SO103917

Mapcode National: GBR 9S.GDJD

Mapcode Global: VH689.C02V

Entry Name: Friends Meeting House (Cwrt Plas-yn-dre)

Listing Date: 9 May 1988

Last Amended: 20 March 2012

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 8207

Building Class: Religious, Ritual and Funerary

Location: On the roadside half a mile West from Penygloddfa in Dolerw Park.

County: Powys

Community: Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn (Y Drenewydd a Llanllwchaearn)

Community: Newtown and Llanllwchaiarn

Built-Up Area: Newtown

Traditional County: Montgomeryshire

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History

A house of late medieval origins known as Cwrt Plas-yn-dre, originally located in the centre of Dolgellau, but dismantled and partially reconstructed on its present site in 1885. In Dolgellau, the obvious age of the house, and its picturesque character, ensured that it attracted growing interest during the nineteenth century, and by the 1860s, an association with Owain Glyndwr was claimed. The claim that Glyndwr had held a parliament in Dolgellau appears to have originated in the early nineteenth century (referred to in the second edition of Nicholson's Cambrian Tours in 1813, but not in the first edition of 1808), though letters appointing ambassadors signed in Dolgellau are better attested. Although there can be no specific evidence linking this house with Owain Glyndwr (it was almost certainly not built before the late fifteenth century), its age and former status made it a plausible focus of this tradition. More reliably, the building is thought to have been the home of Lewis Owen, the Baron of the Exchequer of North Wales murdered in 1555 on the Dolgellau to Welshpool road by the Gwylliaid Cochion Mawddwy (the Red Bandits of Mawddwy).

In 1875 a public meeting was held to discuss how the building 'so interesting to all Welshmen as a memorial to the patriotic struggles of their ancestors' could be saved. An architect (A.B.Phipson of Birmingham) was commissioned to survey it, but plans to convert it into a museum were dropped when a rival call on public funds was made for the establishment of a new school for girls. Eventually, the building, threatened by redevelopment, was acquired by Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones and dismantled. Pryce-Jones was a prominent local businessman responsible for the development of a mail order based shop in Newtown and the construction of the Royal Welsh Warehouse. He served as MP for Montgomery from 1885-86 and 1892-95 and later as the High Sheriff for Montgomeryshire.

Although it has long been claimed that the building was faithfully re-erected for use as a summer house in the grounds of Pryce-Jones' home in Newtown, comparison of the existing structure with the various illustrations made of it in its original setting, together with the description in Phipson's report, make it clear that the reconstruction was more fanciful than historical, and that relatively little of the original fabric survived the move from Dolgellau. What was built in Newtown appears to be loosely based on the kitchen wing of the original house, to which the lateral chimney of the original hall range was added. In his report of 1875, Phipson had suggested that the kitchen wing was the most interesting portion of the building architecturally, but had also commended the 'curious brickwork' in the chimney, the timberwork of the gallery in the hall, and the timber-framed hall gable. It has been assumed that Phipson was also responsible for supervising the removal and re-erection of the building: as re-erected, it certainly incorporated all the elements he had most admired, converting the storeyed kitchen range into an open hall with a gallery (and with a timber-framed gable end modelled on that of the original hall range), retaining the external staircase, and reproducing the decorative detail in the great chimney stack.

Cwrt Plas-yn-dre was given to the Society of Friends in 1966, and was used as a meeting house until 2010.

Exterior

2 storey 3 bay house. Largely timber framed with stone end walls (timber framed to apex on right gable). Roof of small slates with deep verges and exposed purlins. Square-panelled framing to ground floor, unusual interlocking herring-bone decorative framing to jettied 1st floor, which has some moulded jetty beams and distinctive brackets. Ground floor has central entrance with plank door, flanked by 2-light timber mullioned windows with leaded lights on vine-scroll brackets. One of these may be original, and have served as the template for others. Similar brackets are clearly shown in images of the original building. Stone right-hand bay, incorporating reused masonry from the original building, with stone mullioned window. External stone staircase to first floor to left, leading to plank door at extreme left. The projecting mullioned windows of the first floor are late nineteenth century reproductions of the windows recorded in the original building. Rear elevation is similar to front, but has large lateral chimney to left, stepped, and with gablet linking it to main roof. Re-used masonry from original building, including arcaded stone-work decoration. Masonry fragments from the original building reset in E (right hand) gable including the head to a fire window at right. Modern lean-to extension at west end.

Interior

3 bays, open to the roof, and divided by two C19 trusses. Aisle truss to left of entrance has post morticed into principles, braces to centre rise to tie forming semicircular arch. This is probably an imaginative reconstruction of the spere truss of the original hall, whose timber arch was considered to be particularly interesting by Phipson. Simpler second truss is collared with angle struts. Plain chamfered purlins, possibly reused from the original building. C19 boarded roof divided into panels by roll moulded beams and with decorative bosses. Dentilled wall plates, partly original to S. Gallery, possibly incorporating late C17 timberwork along S wall, including turned balusters on dentilled bressumer. Stone fireplace to rear right with blocked fire window to gable. Entrance lobby and much introduced panelling of various dates, some possibly based on the 'linen panelled framing' noted as a feature of the hall in 1875.

Reasons for Listing

Listed grade II* for its exceptional historical interest as the relic of an early timber-framed Dolgellau house (an important example of the timber-framing tradition in a town dominated by stone from at least the seventeenth century), and for its remarkable nineteenth century history: the building plays a significant role in the history of a preservation movement in Wales, valued as an ancient building with traditional associations, and an early instance of dismantling and re-erection. Although there is no direct link with Owain Glyndwr, the strength of an assumed association in the nineteenth century almost certainly contributed to the survival of this building.

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