The old walled town of Conwy is home to a magnificent castle and the smallest house in Britain. It’s also linked by Thomas Telford and Robert Stephenson’s iconic bridges.Conwy (sometimes known by it’s older English spelling of Conway) is a walled market town and community in the county of Conwy on Wales’ north coast. It was named after the river it sits along side, with ‘cyn’ meaning ‘chief’ and ‘gwy’ meaning ‘water.’ The town was built on the original site of Aberconwy Abbey, which was founded by Llywelyn the Great. English King Edward I and his troops took over the site of the abbey and moved the monks down the valley to its current site at Maenan, now ‘Maenan Abbey’.
Conwy looks across the river to the town of Deganwy which used to lie in the old county town of Caernarfonshire, later renamed Gwynedd. The actual town has a population of just over 4,000 although the community of Conwy has a population of just under 15,000 if you include Deganwy and nearby Llandudno Junction. The county of Conwy has a population of around 116,200 people. People born within the town walls are nicknamed “Jackdaws,” after the birds that live on it’s walls.
The old town of Conwy sits in the castles town walls which were built under the instruction of Edward I between 1283 and 1289, as part of his conquest of Wales. Across the estuary is Bodysgallen Hall, which includes a medieval tower, possibly built as a watch tower for the castle.
The church is the oldest building in the town, built in the town walls in the fourteenth-century, however Conwy’s oldest structure is Llewellyn the Great’s thirteenth-century court house (or ‘Llys’) which pre-dates the castle. It includes a tower (built on a rocky outcrop) and part of its wall which were incorporated into the new castle walls.The National Trust also own Aberconwy House, which is Conwy’s only surviving fourteenth-century merchant’s house and one of the first buildings to be built inside the walls. Another fine house open to the public is Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan house built in 1576 by the Wynn family. This has been extensively refurbished to its original sixteenth-century appearance and is now in the care of Cadw.
The quayside at Conwy is also home to the smallest house in Britain (according to The Guinness Book of Records) at just 3.05 metres x 1.8 metres. It was in continuous occupation from the sixteenth-century until 1900 when the owner, a fisherman named Robert Jones, was forced to move out on the grounds of hygiene (he was six-feet tall and could not stand up in the rooms). The house is still owned by his descendants and is open to the public.The A55 road passes UNDER the river and was Britain’s first immersed tube tunnel, built between 1986 and 1991.
Another landmark is Thomas Telford’s Conwy Suspension Bridge, which was designed to replace the ferry. It was completed in 1826 and spans the River Conwy beside the castle. Telford designed the supporting towers of the bridge to match the turrets of the castle. The bridge is now pedestrian only and is in the care of The National Trust (along with the toll-keeper’s house). The other famous bridge is Robert Stephenson’s tubular Railway Bridge. This was built for the Chester and Holyhead Railway in 1848-49.
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Conwy Town & Castle
Conwy in 1935