Plas Mawr is an Elizabethan town house in the centre of Conwy. Welsh for “Great Hall” it was built around 1576. Maintained by Cadw, the historic environment service of the Welsh Government, it is free for Cadw members and due to reciprocal arrangements members of English Heritage (like myself), otherwise it is £8.50 for an adult ticket.
The entrance pictured above is actually the gatehouse. You enter and turn right into the shop where you organise your tickets then out into the lower courtyard and up the steps to enter the hall itself. This is the same entry way as guests to the hall would have made centuries ago. It was the creation of Robert Wynn whose initials can be found on plasterwork throughout and who was the third son of a wealthy family from Gwydir (I hadn’t realised the connection when planning my week but I’d already planned to go to Gwydir Castle before I came here; it will feature in a future post).
Robert Wynn worked in some capacity for important Tudor families in England and abroad before settling back in North Wales, renting out land and marrying extremely late for the time at the age of 50. It was for his new wife he principally bought the mansion that would become Plas Mawr though she would only get to live there for a year before dying. He would go on to marry again and in his 70s (!) fathered two sons and five daughters.
A self-guided audio tour (included in the price of admission and available in Welsh and English) leads you through the lower rooms and up to the attic in the very top of the house. Much of the original contents, though not all, have been sold or moved elsewhere but it is the original plasterwork that’s of most interest. The furniture that is in the rooms are displayed as they would have been roughly in the 16th century.
The guidebook calls these particular depictions of caryatids (sculpted female figures that traditionally serve as an architectural support – hence them looking like they’re holding up the columns) as cartoonish and it’s hard to disagree. They certainly make an impression. The other rooms with plasterwork, around five in total, are less colourful though no less detailed. These rooms would not have been for entertaining which is why they are plainer but display many of the emblems that the Wynn’s adopted as well as those of monarchs and prominent Elizabethan nobles who may have visited the hall.
Up in the tower of the house you can open the windows to see views of the town and surrounding area including of course Conwy Castle. [The first day I was there was the worst weather of the week, constant rain. After that it brightened up and was very sunny, if somewhat windy].
There is also a garden at the back of the house recreated by Cadw as it is believed to have looked in 1665.
It’s an interesting building and I’m glad I visited when I did as it unexpectedly linked up with other places I visited, as you’ll read about later. You can find more photos here.
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