Richard Suggett of the Commission and architect Liz Hernon investigate a remarkable sixteenth-century house owned by Mr and Mr Janes who intend to restore it.
Waun Farmhouse, Penrhos, (NPRN: 403167) is a building at risk. It was condemned after the war as uninhabitable. The farming family moved out leaving their old life behind them (including furniture and clothes). The house wasn’t demolished, as so often happened, but it was used as a store and became more and more dilapidated. The house was listed as a historic building but was placed on the ‘buildings at risk register’ by Monmouthshire County Council. By 2009 it was clear that action had to be taken to save the building.
The Waun is a complicated multi-period structure. Walking around the building is the best way to appreciate its complexity and different building phases. From the back the Waun looks a jumble. It is actually T-shaped with a very good cross-wing. Straight joints at the gable end show that it was originally timber-fronted, and this is confirmed by evidence at the wall tops. The splendid mid-seventeenth-century windows are therefore secondary. It is only from the yard side that one gets a real sense of the development of the house. The downward-sloping site immediately suggests that there is a good probability that this long range is medieval in origin. This rather odd projection is in fact a big lateral fireplace of the type that would have once heated the hall or principal room.
Both hall and cross-wing were originally timber-built but have been reconstructed in stone. There is some very good timber detail. The heavily moulded doorway into the hall is probably more or less contemporary with the seventeenth-century ovolo-moulded windows and domers with pendants that survive on the front elevation.
Inside the house there is more good detail. The cross-wing has deep-chamfered sixteenth-century beams and a post-and-panel partition. The stair alongside the fireplace is later and leads up to the first floor with steps of solid timber treads. Upstairs was a room with furniture and clothes left behind over fifty years ago, including pieces of original seventeenth-century window glass.
There is plenty of good detail but, in a sense, the best has yet to be fully revealed. Where the plaster had fallen away in the cross-wing there is evidence for wallpaintings. On the partition there are stylised flowers on a red background. Some of the ‘flowers’ are probably meant to be pineapples, a popular sixteenth-century motif. On the lateral wall more plaster has fallen away and a very different kind of painting has been exposed with a black ground and flowers picked out in white brush strokes.
Look up Waun Farm on Coflein.
Medwyn Parry from the Royal Commission meets with Major Barry Englis to find out more about the Penally practice trenches and discusses the site with colleagues Toby Driver and Louise Barker.
Although the trench warfare used during the First World War was not an entirely new concept, the elaborate interconnecting fortified systems constructed on the Western Front was on a massive scale, extending over a length of some 764 kilometres from the shores of the North Sea in Belgium to the Swiss border. All over Britain training camps were established and soldiers learned the basic skills needed on the Western Front, including techniques of construction, daily routines, observation, communication and supply, as well as offensive and defensive tactics. Some of the remains of these practice trenches can be seen in Wales.
The fully developed standardised system at Penally in Pembrokeshire is a good example, being well preserved because they were cut into rock.
The system consisted of three parallel lines of earthworks: the firing, command, and reserve or support trenches. The firing trench was a continuous, stepped line with earth buttresses at regular intervals to give some shelter against shell bursts and raking fire along the line. Each trench bay was manned by a small unit commanded by a junior officer. Often a ‘sap’ trench jutted from the firing trench into no-man’s land to serve as an observation position, a warning post or a staging point for raids into enemy trenches.
Behind the firing trench was the parallel command trench, linked to it at regular intervals by meandering communication trenches used for troop movements, supply of rations and ammunition and telephone cables to headquarters. The command trench could be used as a shelter to protect troops during heavy bombardment. The third line, the reserve or support trench, accommodating front-line support troops, was also often used as shelter during bombardment or for regrouping after an enemy attack.
Look up Penally practice trenches on Coflein
Visit the Imperial War Museum website
Find information and articles on the First World War and life in the trenches.
Royal Commission Investigators Susan Fielding and Louise Barker meet David Jenkins and Bryan Hope of Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust to record remains of Anglesey’s ‘Copper Kingdom’.
In the late eighteenth century the town of Amlwch on the Anglesey coast was for a while the second largest population centre in Wales. This was due to a thriving copper industry, with the nearby mines of Mynydd Parys dominating the world markets and producing at their peak over 3,000 tons of metal per year. The mine was managed by Anglesey-born lawyer Thomas Williams, the ‘Copper King’, who became one of the richest men in the world.
The legacy from this activity is clear to see. The old mine-workings on Mynydd Parys are visually stunning, producing a landscape of red, yellow and purple rocks. Crowning the summit of the mountain are the remains of a windmill that assisted in pumping the mine and was unique in Anglesey in having five sails. Moving off the mountain there are the remains of Dyffryn Adda, a recycling enterprise, where a series of ponds and a furnace removed valuable metals that were dissolved in the drainage water from the mine; and down in the town is Porth Amlwch, which became so busy and important that an Act of Parliament had to be passed to enlarge and regulate it.
Look up Parys Mountain Copper Mines on Coflein
Find out more about the Copper Kingdom and the Amlwch Industrial Heritage Trust