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Plas Mawr, Conwy

elevation

A detailed drawing of Plas Mawr from the side in 1885

conway castle

view of Conway Castle from the tower of Plas Mawr.

Conwy is a borough, created as an English enclave in North Wales by Edward I and dominated by one the castles he built when conquering Wales in the 13th Century. The town walls still stand, as do several mediaeval houses.

Plas Mawr is a town house, built circa 1580 by Robert Wynn, a wealthy Elizabethan merchant. A gatehouse fronts onto the street, behind which a small courtyard gives access to the house proper. It was one of the grandest houses in town in its day, but declined in importance and was used for a while as appartments, before being restored to its original grandeur, with Elizabethan furniture and elaborate plasterwork.

Plas Mawr front

street front of Plas Mawr gatehouse

Click on any of the pictures for a larger image.

door

The front door. Oak planking, with added grandeur from th massive strap hinges and studs

screen

An entrance passage is separated from the hall by a massive oak screen

screen

The screen from the hall side. Such a partition was common in houses from the Middle Ages.

A simple plank coffer stands between the two doors. On it sits a bowl and leather bottle

gatehouse reception room

This hall is in the gatehouse but is designed to impress. Plas Mawr is well known for its plasterwork, which is shown here on the ceiling and the fireplace. As would have been common in Elizabethan times, the plasterwork on the fireplace has been brightly painted.

display cupboard

An elaborately carved canopied cupboard, stylistically halfway between a Medieval dressoir and an Elizabethan press cupboard. It combines useful storage space with a means to display plate.

linenfold

Linenfold panelling

courtyard

The courtyard between the house and the gatehouse is a sunny spot for potted herbs, essential to any Elizabethan kitchen

kitchen

Cooking was done on an open hearth. A firebasket supports a griddle and roasting was done on spits over a long drip pan. The side oven was a later addition.
The kitchen floor has been spread with rushes, which could be swept up with all the refuse

ark

A hanging cage allowed food to be stored safe from vermin but with a free flow of air.

kitchen

A wall larder with fretwork doors and a side table with scales and other cooking implements. A typical Welsh spoon rack is on the wall. Wooden spoons don't burn the mouth

cupboard

A kitchen cupboard contains an assortment of earthenware cooking pots.

game

In the cold larder, freah meat was stored and game was hung. The table has salt and spices used for preserving.

chopping block

A solid log made an ideal chopping board for butchery. The barrel is for salting meat.

hutch

A grain hutch was used for storing flour, as such households would have made their own bread, the staple diet.

plaster

Unpainted plasterwork on a ceiling, wall and fireplace.

drawing room

In the grand parlour, plasterwork is painted and the walls have textile hangings for extra warmth and colour. The floor is covered with woven rush matting.
Seating is provides by backstools and joint stools and by benches built agains the wall. A glass shelf hangs on the wall

fireplace

The plasterwork on the chimney breast has been painted, aiming at brightness rather than elegant tastefulness. The stonework of the fireplace has also been painted to resemble marble.

dining table

A trestle table laid out for dining, with seating at a bench against the wall.

low bed

a low trestle bed, without ornament, against a plank partition wall.

small chest

Small chest, or coffor bach.

tester bed

An elaborately carved and turned tester bed in the master bedroom, with a joint bench

bed head

The bedhead.

bedroom

A clothes press is built into the wall. The partition wall is panelled.

dressoir

dressoir or hutch cupboard, by the bed

chest

Chest, with carved panels.

chair

Frame chair. with simple incised carving. The cushion would have provided little comfort, but the footwarmer, containing hot coals, would have helped.

closet

A garderobe: a side closet with a indoor privy: a hole in a plank, aided by gravity. The prevailing smell of ammonia helped to keep moths off clothes.

closestool

A close stool, emptied by servants, often out of the window. Town streets were not a pleasant place to walk.

casement

Casement window. Glass, allowing light while keeping draughts out, made life vastly more comfortable. But large sheets were not possible, hence the tiny panes, in lead framing. The 'grain' of the old blown glass is visible in the distortions.

planks

A small cricket table, with plank partition walls and oak floor boards. Early boards were very wide.

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beams

The introduction of fireplaces into domestic homes in Tudor times allowed upper floors to be inserted into once open halls, but people upstairs still had to negotiate the low beams.

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tower beams

beams supporting the tower roof.

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