Conwy town buildings

A frosty morning in Conwy

Conwy is most famous today for its 13th-century castle and town walls, which almost completely encircle the old town even today. But Conwy's history pre-dates the castle's construction – an abbey was founded here in the 12th century – and the town is packed with interesting buildings from the centuries following the castle’s construction.

Conwy became a prosperous port. A reminder of this is the Liverpool Arms, believed to have been so named by a captain whose ship sailed between Liverpool and Conwy. Conwy was a fashionable place to live by Tudor times, which explains the grandeur of Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan merchant’s town house.

The walled town started off as a little corner of England grafted onto Wales - see the National Trust's Aberconwy House for an example of English architecture. It was quietly transformed as Welsh people moved in and built their trademark terraces of cottages wherever they found enough space - or not enough space in the case of Britain's Smallest House.

In the era of horse-drawn coaches, Conwy was an important break of journey on the bumpy ride to Holyhead for the ferry to Dublin. All manner of entertainment was provided, not least by almost 50 hostelries. Gentlemen could watch cockerels fight in a specially constructed cockpit, which still exists but is hidden from public view.

The railway put paid to the coaching trade when it arrived in the 1840s. The buildings of the later 19th century are characterised by the fashion for Gothic, as demonstrated by the Guildhall, and various attempts to emulate aspects of the town’s Tudor architecture - see the stepped gables on the police station at Lancaster Square and at Llys Llywelyn and Castle Bank, for example.