Site of Parlwr Mawr

link to french translationSite of Parlwr Mawr, Chapel Street, Conwy

Portrait of Bishop John WilliamsIn the late 16th century Parlwr Mawr (“Great Parlour”) was erected here. The large townhouse had a hall on the ground floor and a great chamber directly above. It was modified in the 17th century when it was the residence of John Williams, at times one of Britain’s most influential men. His coat of arms was modelled in plaster in one of the ground-floor rooms. The building fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1950.

John Williams’ father, Edmund, came from the important houses of Penrhyn and Cochwillan. His mother was from the Wynn family, owners of Plas Mawr and other properties. John Williams was born in Conwy in March 1582 and educated in Ruthin and St John’s, Cambridge (where he later funded construction of the college’s library building).

After ordination, he was favoured by King James. He became Dean of Westminster in 1620, and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and Bishop of Lincoln in 1621. The portrait shown here was probably made in the 1620s (the Latin caption refers to Lincoln) and is at Corpus Christi Church, Tremeirchion.

After King James died, Williams fell out of favour. He used his cunning to avoid prosecution by King Charles I’s notorious Star Chamber, but was imprisoned in the Tower of London 1637-40. In 1641 Williams became Archbishop of York, but his political views again landed him in the Tower in 1641. Released from prison six months later, he travelled to Yorkshire – only to flee back to Parlwr Mawr after his outspoken views incurred a death threat.

As Civil War loomed, he repaired the castle and town walls at Conwy at his own expense. He’d been promised he would remain custodian until the king had repaid his expenses, but his favour with the king was declining again and in May 1645 he was evicted. This snub pushed him to switch allegiance. His insider knowledge helped the Parliamentarians capture Conwy town and then, after a siege, the castle in 1646. Williams took part in the attack and was lightly injured.

He died in 1650 at Gloddaeth Hall, Llandudno, and was buried at Llandygai, Bangor.

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