OLDEST HOUSE HAS ITS SECRETS
Mystery still surrounds who 600-year-house was built for
IN 1402 Owain Glyndwr was in the midst of a revolt against English rule. But during the bloody fighting another piece of Welsh history was being forged.
That same year, in the midst of an ancient hunting forest, a house was being built that to this day remains Wales’ oldest house.
Now, more than 600 years later, the house still stands and is a popular bed and breakfast.
Hafod y Garreg, near Hay-on-Wye, is described as the oldest house in Wales by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW), who used a wooden beam to accurately date when it was built.
There are various theories on its history, one being that it was built to be used by King Henry IV himself.
RCAHMW investigator Richard Suggett said the house is “a documentary blank” as little is known about it.
In his book about houses in Wales between 1400 and 1800, Richard writes: “Hafod y Garreg’s location in the ‘lower forest’ near the lord’s lands of Llangoed strongly suggests that it may have had special status as a hunting lodge or belonged to a lordship official.”
It was being built in the Owain [Glyndwr] revolt but before it had reached this part of Wales.
Annie McKay, who runs the bed and breakfast with her partner John Marchant, said: “On the deeds it says it was built in 1633, but living in the house we both thought it was older. We just had a feeling.
“And then one day someone came around during a routine listing for CADW and they said they didn’t understand the architecture.
“They brought in some dendrochronologists (tree-dating experts) who dated the house.”
Annie said it is believed the house was built in July 1402, as the battle of Bryn Glas (sometimes referred to in English accounts as the Battle of Pilleth) took place nearby in June.
It is believed that the house builders would have waited until after the battle and before winter, meaning July was when the house was likely built.
The RCAHMW said Hafod y Garreg is the earliest precisely-dated house in Wales, after wood samples were taken from a frame that supports the roof.
Traditionally, Aberconwy House in Conwy has held the title, but it has been dated to 1420. A surviving long house in Hay-on-Wye is thought to have been built in 1418.
The tree-ring dating was carried out by the RCAHMW in 2005, and dated the wood to summer of 1402.
Hafod y Garreg was originally an open-hall house, later developing into a two-storey 16th-century stone-walled farmhouse. Further tree-ring dating showed the hall ceiling and fireplace were later additions, inserted in the mid-1570s, with a precise felling date of winter 1574/5.
The oldest house in Wales, Hafod y Garreg in Powys and, left, the wooden cruck that dated it to summer, 1402
Inside the house