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Llanrwst Almshouses at centre of history celebrations

Llanrwst Almshouses
Celebrations for the almshouses' 400th anniversary will take place on May 29

The 400-year-old Llanrwst Almshouses, now a museum, are at the centre of a celebration of the Conwy Valley market town's history.

There will be performing arts and music on Friday 28 May and the following day the town centre will be given over to old-fashioned fair rides, side shows and a Victorian market.

The museum will also be launching its 400th anniversary exhibition, including a time-line of those four centuries in the almshouses, Llanrwst and the UK.

Centre stage will be a re-enactment of the carriage journey John Wynne, the founder of the almshouses, would have taken from his home at Gwydir Castle to the middle of town.

He built the houses to provide shelter for 12 poor older men of the parish, but today those 12 rooms are used to show different periods of history.

Development officer Victoria Craig, speaking in the sparsely furnished 17th century room, said: "When I take people round, they say it's dismal, but in those days it was pretty good for one person because you would have had rooms this size for whole families in many places."

Ancaster Square, llanrwst
Ancaster Sqaure will be at the centre of Llanrwst's celebrations

Like today's Chelsea Pensioners, the residents would have been easy to identify in their long cloaks displaying their benefactor's crest.

"It might have been a bit of a stigma," said Victoria. "People would definitely have known where they had to live."

By the 19th century, women were allowed in, and another room shows the improvement in the conditions.

"The cooking facilities have changed from an open fire to a range," said Victoria. "It's just all a bit more dignified, and a matron was employed to look after everyone."

The almshouses have been home to a few characters over the years.

"Wil Comic thought he was Winston Churchill and would go round Llanrwst dressed as him, giving the victory sign," said Victoria.

"Another lady had so many cats, whatever provisions she was given, she would feed the cats and not herself."

Mary Delyn at the Almshouses
Last residents Mary and Reuben came from a local Romany family

The building remained the same until the 1970s, when the last resident left. Mary Delyn (Harp), was so-called because she was married to Reuben Roberts, a harpist who played for Queen Victoria.

"Mary was the only one left because people didn't need it anymore. Council housing had come in, with indoor bathrooms and kitchens."

After a period of disrepair, the almshouses were taken over by Sir John Wynn's Trust, renovated and given to the town to celebrate local history.

"We've had cinema nights here where we've shown films about the area," explained Victoria. "We hold exhibitions relevant to the area and local children created mosaics in our Victorian sensory garden."

Two of the rooms have been used to reflect Llanrwst's history and life during the two world wars.

Many visitors are interested know whether the building is haunted.

"All I can say is that there is a feeling of something, but it's a lovely feeling," said Victoria. "To me, it's a feeling of togetherness.

"Past officers have claimed to have seen spirits and some visitors have felt a presence, always in the same room. But I've been here for four years and I've never seen anything."

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