This week at Travel Words Jude wonders if we have any quirky red subjects. So I thought it was time to reprise ‘Great Britain’s smallest house’, a piece of opportunistic infill building in a space between a cottage row, and the gatehouse tower of Conwy Castle in North Wales. This squeezed-in dwelling is said to have been created in the 16th century. Inside are two rooms, sitting room with bench cum coal store and fire-place downstairs, single bed up.
The overall height is just over 3 metres (122”) and 3 metres deep; width 1.8 metres (72”). It was lived in until 1900 when the then occupant, fisherman, Robert Jones, at 1.9 metres tall (75”) had to do much bending and folding in order to inhabit the space.
The house was declared Britain’s smallest in the 1920s though these days I think its claim to fame might well have been overtaken by many London dwellings, likewise made from opportunistic infill structures – garages, corridors and the like. The guide in the photos is wearing a version of traditional Welsh dress from around the 18th century when red capes and gowns (as well as the distinctive high-rise hats) were also apparently very popular with Celtic womankind.
This week Paula’s Pick A Word challenge is giving me the chance to post more views from our March trip to the Conwy Valley in North Wales. Projecting, arresting, pastoral, convex and communal are the prompts, and this distant shot of snow-dusted mountains pretty much covers the first three. However, I won’t let that stop me.
Arresting is my word of choice for all the following images; Wales was at its magical, magnificent best – from the glittering waters of the River Conwy to the surreal towers and ramparts of Conwy Castle. It made you want to burst into song. Cue: Land of My Fathers, the Welsh National Anthem, which you can join in with at the end, and so definitely cover the communal. It doesn’t matter if you can’t speak Welsh; humming will do. Besides, there is nothing quite like the quality of Welsh singing voices.
Also look out for Thomas Telford’s amazing suspension bridge in the next shot of Conwy Castle. It was built between 1824-26 to improve access between Holyhead on Anglesey and Chester, and was also part of Telford’s larger road and bridge improvement scheme to enable swift and safer travel to London for Irish Members of Parliament. A triumph, then, in both function and form.
The castle was built between 1283 and 1289, and is another of Edward I’s overbearing edifices to oppress the Welsh. Not only did he invade, he also cleared out the monks who occupied the site and set about building both a fortress and a model town below it, the latter confined by massive defences. Today, these walls still surround the town, and you can walk around them, though I should issue a warning: the wall-top walk is not for the faint-hearted or those prone to vertigo. But if you don’t mind heights, they provide striking views in every quarter.
A few miles upstream from Conwy is the market town of Llanrwst. It is claimed that in 1947 its town council made an unsuccessful attempt to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council as an independent Welsh state. One has to admire this piece of Celtic chutzpah. I’m sorry they did not succeed.
Anyway, one of the present day arresting features of Llanrwst is this bridge, the Pont Fawr or Great Bridge. It was built in 1638 and still cars drive over it. There are other names too – the Shaking Bridge – because if you tap the central parapet the whole structure vibrates, and also Pont y Rhegi – bridge of swearing, explained by the fact that the carriageway is too narrow for vehicles to pass, and the height of the central arch too steep for forward visibility,meaning that everyone meets in the middle and this happens…!&?#!
The view through the central arch shows the ground on which the National Eisteddfod was held in 1989. The town is currently campaigning for a return of this annual extravaganza of Welsh culture in 2019. Which is a good point to bring on the choir. Croeso – welcome!