Historic Landscape Characterisation

Vale of Ffestiniog - Area 22 Parc

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, 100017916, 2005

Historic background

This extremely interesting site has a group of four successive houses, with two large barns and associated buildings. The first house, probably dating from the middle of the sixteenth century, has been demolished, but the small enclosed garden opposite its site, which may be contemporary, survives. The second and third houses may have been roughly contemporary, of the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century; one is now derelict but the other has been restored. The fourth house, dated 1671, but probably built earlier, faces the other three and is in good condition. There is also a sixteenth-century gatehouse. The houses were built by the Anwyl family and the estate remained in the family until it was sold in the eighteenth century. It was eventually acquired by Clough Williams-Ellis, who turned a drumhouse on a quarry incline in the park into a summer house and reversed the staircase in the derelict third house, so that it leads into a part which still exists, but made few other alterations.

In addition to the Anwyl family, particularly the cultured and well-educated William Lewis Anwyl, there are associations with Moses Kellow, the electrical engineer (see also Croesor, area 11).

Key historic landscape characteristics

Post-medieval unit houses; early gardens

The houses, which have distinctive tall stone chimneys, are grouped round a courtyard at the top of a steep valley side, with two large barns and other outbuildings nearby and a third barn, Beudy Newydd, dated 1666, on the south-western edge of the park. The gatehouse is a short distance to the north-east. The main group of buildings is near the centre of the park, which is roughly rectangular and mostly occupies a ridge between two streams (see photograph). It contains the remains of three probably medieval long huts, and it has been suggested that the mound on the viewpoint to the south-west of the houses is a round barrow, though it is more likely to be a deliberately constructed garden feature.

Apart from the small garden, steeply terraced out over the top of the slope, which probably belonged to the earliest house, the garden areas are now neglected. However, they remain extremely interesting, as there are three terraces retained by massively-built stone walls to the south of the old drive and further earthen terraces to the north of it. These appear very likely to be contemporary with the later houses and may be an attempt by William Lewis Anwyl to create something similar to the Italian renaissance gardens he knew of through his contacts and reading. There is also the site of a small, square kitchen garden, later in date, immediately to the south-west of the houses.

A cywydd (panegyric) on the death of William Lewis Anwyl in 1642, by the bard Huw Machno, mentions his ‘new house of immense construction’ (probably the fourth house) and also gardens, orchards, parks and ‘fair towers’. Even allowing for poetic licence, it is clear that a designed landscape of note, albeit on a small scale, existed at the time.

The area also includes part of the course of the non-statutory Croesor tramway. As well as a high stone revetted embankment which carried a level railway, it includes the upper Park (sic) incline and the top part of the lower Park incline, a rake of two counterbalanced planes which took the tramway down to the level of the Glaslyn estuary. The upper drumhouse, though constructed c. 1863 as a standard ‘through’ drumhouse, was rebuilt by Clough Williams Ellis as a banqueting house for Lady Aberconway on the lines of the Marchogion drumhouse on the Penrhyn Quarry Railway of 1798-1801.

The area further includes the unusually complete remains of Parc slab quarry (SH 626- 436-), managed by Moses Kellow. Pre-dating this quarry (it is overlain by the tramway and tips) but possibly utilised by it is a well-made, hard-surfaced track which climbs at an even gradient from the old coastline, up the Maesgwm valley, to the north eastern edge of the park, where it disappears.


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