OWAIN GLYNDWR'S OLD DOLGELLAU PARLIAMENT HOUSE, ANOTHER CYMRIC NATIONAL TREASURE ABOUT TO BE LOST FOREVER IF WE ALL LET IT HAPPEN!
Most of those interested in the history of our nation and, especially, in the history of our greatest of national heroes,
Owain Glyndŵr and his great war for Cymric Independence are well aware of the role that the town of Machynlleth had played in regards to that history but, I wonder how many are as aware of the fact that the town of Dolgellau had also played a similarly important role in the war?
It is well documented that the Prince and his Consul had dispatched at least one letter from Dolgellau to Charles V1 of France on the 10th May 1404 seeking a treaty with that King so where exactly in Dolgellau was this letter and, possibly, others (such as one that was dispatched to Henry Dwn of Cydweli at around the same time) composed?
The letter/s would have been composed at a consul gathering in a building important enough for such gatherings and according to local tradition, the building is question is one which bears the name Plas Cwrt yn Dre but which has been known locally, down through the centuries, as “The Old Parliament House of
Plas Cwrt yn Dre or “
Owain Glyndwr’s Parliament House” was a substantial property of high status in its day, It housed a hall and a balcony which was accessed by steps placed on the outside of the building so could have been a very appropriate site for Prince Owain Glyndŵr to hold assemblies with his Consul and other allies. Granted, local tradition, in itself, cannot be taken as evidence of the property’s authenticity as Owain Glyndŵr’s Parliament House but if the surviving documented proof that the letter composed and dispatched to Charles V1 on the 10th May 1404 was composed in Dolgellau is taken into consideration alongside the local tradition – which has survived centuries, then I would suggest that there is a strong enough case for acceptance of the authenticity of this property as being, at the least, one of the Assemblies of Prince Owain Glyndŵr where important political strategies such as treaties with France and other allies were debated and acted on.
The case for the property’s authenticity as an Assembly/Parliament House used by the Glyndŵr regime is strengthened further in a report compiled by the architect A.B. Phipson who carried out a survey on the property in 1885. Interestingly, he refers to the building as “Old Parliament House Dolgelley” (and not Plas Cwrt yn Dre) in both the plans he drafted of the property and his accompanying report. It was also revealed in the report that substantial parts of the property dated from the 14th century. If that indeed was the case, and I’m sure that a professional architect such as Mr Phipson knew how to do his job and can be believed, the property was in existence well before the
Owain Glyndŵr War of had started so it was available to be made use of by the Prince. Independence
In my view, the accumulating evidence in regards to the property in question should have been more than enough to ensure that it was treasured as a national treasure should be but to strengthen the case for such even further, it transpires that the property had continued to play a role in Welsh history well over a century after the mysterious disappearance of Prince
Owain Glyndŵr. By the middle of the 16th century, it had become the home of Baron Lewis Owen who was an important figure in the English Parliament during this period. He was also Chancellor to the Treasury covering North Wales and represented Merionethshire in Parliament but was dramatically killed in an ambush by the Red Bandits of Mawddwy in 1555.
By the mid 18th century, the Old Parliament House, along with a number of other buildings that formed the property Plas Cwrt yn Dre was fast deteriorating from neglect and the whole lot was sold at auction to a Mr Edward Jones who also owned the Ship Hotel located directly opposite the property. Even in those days, it seems that this historical old building had become the main tourist attraction in Dolgellau and some influential local townspeople who had begun to realise its importance - and potential, set up a committee with as its aim, to raise money to purchase and renovate the old Parliament as a museum for the town.
This committee commissioned A.B. Phipson to carry out a survey on the property and as well as confirm in his report that substantial parts of the property dated from the 14th century (as noted earlier) he also drew attention to certain fittings from that period that should be carefully preserved during restoration and quoted that the overall cost of the restoration would be between £150 - £200 – which was a small sum to raise to save such an important building, even in those days.
Had this committee achieved its aim, no doubt the Old Parliament House would have been saved in its wholeness and renovated to its former glory and would still be standing on its site in Dolgellau today as a magnificent memorial to the achievements of
Owain Glyndŵr and as a strong symbol of his ambition for Cymru but, alas, that was not to be.
On the 5th November 1875, a public meeting was held to discuss the possibility of buying the property for the town. According to the local paper (Y Dydd) Mr Edward Jones came to this meeting and offered the property to the town for the price that he had paid for it at the auction or, he was prepared to rent the property to the town for five years for the reasonable sum of £21 per annum which would allow the town enough time to consider the purchase but, unbelievably, it was decided not to launch an appeal for funding to buy Plas Cwrt yn Dre because the then M.P. of Merioneth, Samuel Holland, had already launched another appeal in the town, to raise £1,000 towards the cost of establishing a private school for girls, Ysgol Dr Williams.
Dr Daniel Williams, a theologian from Wrecsam, had no association whatsoever with Dolgellau but on his death in 1716, he had left a substantial sum of money to be used for educational charity purposes in Cymru and, at this time, the Charity Trust involved was offering funding for the establishment and upkeep of a school in North Wales - on the condition that the town awarded the funding, could guarantee the sum of £1,000 towards the cost of building, along with 2 acres of land on a site that would be suitable for the school.
In all honesty, it would have made more sense to establish the school in Dr Williams’ home town Wrecsam but Samuel Holland was hell bent on getting the school for Dolgellau. As a result of this and due to the fact that the other committee had not even taken up Mr Edward Jones’s offer to have the property on a rental basis for five years, the opportunity to buy Plas Cwrt yn Dre for the town was lost forever and in the following year, the property was sold to a Mr Pryce-Jones (later to become Sir Pryce-Jones) of Newtown.
Plas Cwrt yn Dre was dismantled stone by stone and the hall, balcony and outside steps of the “Old Parliament House” were loaded into thirty two trucks and taken by rail to Newtown and restored in Dolerw Park on the Pryce-Jones Estate but. Apparently – and unfortunately, much of the character of this important historical treasure was lost in the restoration process but nevertheless, what’s left of this important part of our history still remains standing and is crying out to the nation to save it for the nation.
During the last century, it has been occupied for use by the army in the 2nd world war and then by the Girl Guides in the 1950’s and then, incredibly, it was given to the Quakers as a gift by Lady Sara Pryce-Jones in 1968. The Quakers have held meetings in the property regularly since 1986 but have now come to the decision that they can no longer afford its maintenance. During the last few years they have offered the property (for free!) to St Fagan’s (in the first instance) and then to Cadw. Unbelievably, both these establishments (that are meant to be custodians of our national heritage) declined the offer! St Fagan’s claim they cannot find the letter of offer and feel now that it’s best to leave the property where it is and Cadw declined the offer on the grounds that there is no definite proof in regards to its historical associations! Indeed, when Cadw registered the building as a Grade11 listed building in 1988, they stated haughtily on the registration document “Incorrectly termed
Owain Glyndŵr’s Dolgellau Parliament House” and this without taking any notice whatsoever of the expertly carried out survey and associated report produced by the architect A.B. Phipson and without carrying out any tests of their own on the property and what about the historical association with Baron Lewis Owen? There’s plenty of evidence in regards to him having resided in the property.
The truth is that Cadw (Conquer And Destroy Wales) would rather not give any credence to any site or building in Cymru that has got ‘real’ associations with
Owain Glyndŵr if they can get away without doing so. Admitting that the history of our greatest of national heroes is a ‘real’ history (and not a folk tale or myth) by authenticating battle sites or other historical sites and buildings that have played a definite role in Prince Owain Glyndŵr’s Great War for Welsh Independence would not please their English masters, those that planted them as an official body in Cymru, and for that reason, they will gladly capitalise on any chance to bury any concrete evidence that has any association with this important national history wherever it may surface. That, I would suggest, is the true reason why Cadw has never expressed any interest in carrying out a thorough examination of what’s left of the Old Parliament House, and that is why they would not accept the building as a gift and save it for the nation.
Following refusals by both St Fagan’s and Cadw to take the property off their hands, the Quakers have now placed it for sale on the open market and are in the process of selling it for £55,000 to an English Quaker who lives in England. I do not know what this gentleman’s intentions are for the property but whatever his plans, I still feel strongly that it should be bought for the nation. I have spoken to the Welsh Quakers and they understand and sympathise with this sentiment and have expressed that they would still consider selling it to the Nation if a body such as the
Welsh Assembly or Cadw comes forward with a definite commitment to buy – and there still is a slim chance - as the buyer has asked Cadw to carry out a new assessment of the property as a listed building and the sale will not go through until Cadw has done so. This means that there’s still a chance to save the old Dolgellau Parliament House for the nation so, I will appeal to all out there who cares about this important part of our history and who cares about the prospect of losing another of our national treasures to immediately write to all your MP’s, AM’s and MEP’s drawing their attention to this issue and demanding that this property be purchased for the nation. £55,000 is not a great deal of money and if the property is purchased for the nation, it can be renovated to its former glory and can be opened to the public as a museum that would display the history of the building from the days of Owain Glyndŵr to the present.
I therefore appeal to one and all to immediately write to those aforementioned and others such as your local councillors that may be in a position to assist to save this unique part of our history. Remember, nobody campaigned to save
Owain Glyndŵr’s Prison House in Corwen and it has been lost for ever. Let’s make sure history is not repeated and that the chance to save and renovate this historic treasure is lost for ever this time. Let’s ensure Owain Glyndwr’s Old Parliament House as a worthy Calennig to give to our nation at the launch of 2012.
Are we going to save this most important part of our national heritage for the nation?...sign the petition in the link below: