OLD­EST HOUSE HAS ITS SE­CRETS

Mys­tery still sur­rounds who 600-year-house was built for

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - THOMAS DEA­CON Re­porter thomas.dea­con@waleson­line.co.uk

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.

PIC­TURES: CROWN COPY­RIGHT: ROYAL COM­MIS­SION ON THE AN­CIENT AND HIS­TOR­I­CAL MON­U­MENTS OF WALES

The old­est house in Wales, Hafod y Gar­reg in Powys and, left, the wooden cruck that dated it to sum­mer, 1402

HAFOD Y GAR­REG

In­side the house

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