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The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust News - old stories

CPAT cited in ‘Building of the Year Award'

Ty Mawr

To the delight and surprise of everyone involved in the project, it was announced on 4 October that the restoration the remote and dilapidated medieval house at Ty Mawr in mid Wales had won the prestigious Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors ‘Building of the Year Award 2000’. The surprise of the winners was both genuine and understandable: the list of runners-up for the award included the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, The Royal Opera House, London Eye, Tate Modern, and even the Sydney Olympic site!

Ty Mawr

The medieval aisled hall was first discovered in the 1970s by the building historian Peter Smith. Then in use as a barn, it is one of only a relatively small number of known aisle-truss houses in Wales, and lies perched on the side of the hill, like a ship waiting to be launched into the valley below. Detailed building recording and small-scale archaeological excavation was undertaken by Philip Dixon and the late Patricia Borne of Nottingham University in the late 1970s, but it was only after many years of uncertainty about the best course of action that it was finally decided to restore the building in situ. The team involved in the project included architect Mike Garner, owners Powis Castle Estate, historic building advisers Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments, builders Frank Galliers Ltd, together with archaeologists from the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust who were responsible for undertaking further archaeological excavation and recording during the course of the project. The citation for the award notes that ‘Considerable credit is due to the team involved for their sheer determination to rescue this gem from imminent danger’.

Ty Mawr

Dendro-dating by Dan Miles has shown that the hall was built of wood felled in 1460. Its size and elements of its construction such as the spere truss next to the cross passage, arch-braced crucks, and cusped roof struts, indicate that the house was built by someone to whom the Welsh term uchelwyr or ‘man of high standing’ can be justly applied. The name Ty Mawr simply means ‘large house’ in Welsh, and was often given to the largest house within a community. Excavation has shown that it was probably not the first building on the site, however. A series of curving gullies found beneath the substantial platform on which the house was sited suggest that it superseded a smaller thirteenth-century house. Excavations inside the hall revealed the position of the original hearth at the centre of the hall which was open from floor to roof. Perhaps the most intriguing discovery is that cattle were housed in the bay at the lower end of the hall, in full view of the high table. Ty Mawr was clearly one of the most prestigious of known longhouses, recalling the description of another early Welsh farmhouse where both humans and animals shared the same roof - yn lle tebyca i arch Noah y gellid meddwl amdano - ‘a place as like Noah’s Ark as any one could think of’.

Bill Britnell, 13th October 2000

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