Maentwrog's origin is probably due to the fact that it lies at the highest navigable point on the Dwyryd, and the point where the river is crossed by a several routes, including probably the Roman road which comes down from Tomen y Mur at the place known as Felinrhyd (see below). For this reason, from the early 18th-century if not earlier, the immediate area became the entrepôt for the valley, with the export of timber, attested from 1739, but particularly after the development of the slate industry from the 1760s onwards. The present village is largely a creation of the Oakeley family, and bears many of the classic features of a gentry-sponsored estate village. The village itself is visible from the Oakeley family’s Plas Tan y Bwlch home and was developed by them in the nineteenth century on the back of profits from the slate industry. The church (SH 6641 4055) and the vicarage (SH 6647 4067) date from around 1800, and the village itself seems to have been constructed in its present form in the early and mid-19th century.
As with Plas Tan y Bwlch itself and its immediate environs, it is emphatically an exercise in creating a visually attractive settlement that reflected well on its owners, and its buildings preserve many decorative features and details. Its several chapels are all built in locations which make them invisible from the Plas. The older part of the village largely comprises a terraced row of houses, shops and a public house along one side of the road only (the other side being formed by a steep hill slope, with some buildings above the level of the road). The buildings are in the same style, massive grand structures in local stone with large windows and Georgian doors. The small housing estate to the south, built up the hill slope, is more modern.
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