Monday, 23 June 2008

U3A Group Visit 18th June

The Ludlow architecture group of the U3A came to Ty Mawr on Wednesday the 18th. Despite a very wet day, an enjoyable time was had by all. The group were extremely knowledgeable and were able to tell me loads of things about the area I did not know. One of the group was enquiring about spear trusses, which we searched for but didn't find any information about. If anyone has any information, it would be lovely to hear from you.

To round off a lively meeting and discussion about items in the exhibition room (currently undergoing renovation) a 3 course lunch was served.

A History of Ty Mawr

Once hidden within a tumbledown brick barn, the remarkable Ty Mawr medieval house was first discovered in 1971 by Dr Peter Smith of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. Subsequent recording, excavation, and tree-ring dating have allowed a detailed history of the house to be reconstructed.

Ty Mawr is a rare surviving example of an important late medieval house typical of the Welsh Marches. It stands on a platform, created by cutting into the hill slope and redepositing the spoil on the downhill site. However, this was not the first building on the site: excavation has revealed drainage gullies which outline an earlier building about half the size of the present structure. Built of timber felled in 1460, Ty Mawr measures 17.5m long by 8m wide. It was of five bays, with an unheated chamber at the upper end, a two-bay hall with an open end hearth at its centre, a cross-passage by which the site was entered, and a lower bay where animals were stalled. The timber-framed building was ailed, with the exception of the base cruck truss which spans the centre of the hall. The fined quality of the timberwork and the cusped decoration suggests that Ty Mawr was an important house although, as yet, it has proved impossible to identify who built it.

The most important feature at Ty Mawr is the spere truss which forms the entrance into the hall. The posts are carefully chamfered and stopped and the side panels have large quatrefoils as decoration. There may have been a moveable screen in the centre, matched by a canopy over the far, or dais end of the hall, where the head of the family would have sat.

The position of the hearth is marked by the brick paving in the floor. The smoke would have risen and percolated through what must have been, originally, a thatched roof; the original timbers are still smoke-blackened. On the opposite side of the cross passage is a staircase leading to a loft above the cow byre.

In about 1594, a floor was inserted in the upper chamber and the hall. Not only did this create two new rooms at first-floor level, it also expressed this period’s increased valuing of, and desire for, privacy. The work is of a good quality and the joists are neatly chamfered, yet these changes may also indicate a decline in status to a yeoman’s farmhouse. The hearth was moved to the upper end of the hall and the family would have gathered around it, rather than dined with their retinue and guests in the medieval open hall. In 1631, the existing fireplace with its wattle-and-daub hood was built. Miraculously, this has survived for over 350 years. Soon after the aisles were removed, and certainly by the middle of the eighteenth century, the house was partly encased in brick. A brick bread oven was contrived at the back of the fireplace. Ty Mawr then remained a farmhouse until the nineteenth century. Modern partitions now subdivide the upper and lower bays.

Ty Mawrs' extraordinary timber trusses – which have survived for over 530 years – form the centrepiece of the restoration work undertaken by the Powis Estate with grant aid from Cadw Welsh Historic Monuments. The building appears now much as it would have done in about 1635.

Copyright 1998 Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments (Crown Copyright).