Postern Gate and tower, Conwy

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Postern Gate and tower, Castle Square, Conwy

If you’ve just scanned the QR codes outside Tower Coffee House, to the right you’ll see a pedestrian route down to Conwy quay which passes through a former postern gate in the 13th-century town walls.

There were two postern gates in Conwy. This one became known as Porth Bach (“Small Gate”) and was almost certainly fitted only with doors originally. The other postern gate, at the far end of the quay, had a small portcullis as well as doors. That one was called Porth yr Aden (“Wing Gate”) and today provides vehicular access through the wing wall which juts out into the shore.

When new, Porth Bach was probably even narrower than the aperture we see today. The stonework on your right as you descend is not in its original form. On the opposite side you can see most of the original door jamb – protruding stone blocks against which the door would have been fastened.

The postern gate was overlooked by the tower which is now home to Tower Coffee House. Most of the 20 other towers along Conwy’s town walls are smaller than this one. The section of the town walls alongside the estuary was designed with four large towers (not counting those at Porth Isaf, the original main gate to the quay). These are spaced further apart than the towers elsewhere.

This tower hosted a Roman Catholic church before St Michael’s Church, in Rosemary Lane, was opened in 1915. Later it was used by the solicitor’s practice based in next-door Vardre Hall (now the Knight Shop). Conwy historian Betty Pattinson, who worked at the practice, recalls that after the Second World War people used to walk up the stone steps to pay child maintenance in the tower. Amid the social upheaval of wartime, marriages had broken down or children had been born out of wedlock. A Mrs Stewart collected the maintenance payments.

The tower is said to be haunted by a mischievous but friendly ghost who likes to play tricks with locks and keys. Lindsey Baines, proprietor of the Tower Coffee House, says that in July 2009 she photographed a wave-like form floating in the room after closing time, recorded as a milky orb by the camera. A family had previously captured a similar image on their digital camera while visiting the downstairs area inside the tower.

With thanks to Betty Pattinson and Llew Groom of Aberconwy Historical Society

Postcode: LL32 8AY    View Location Map

Website of the Tower Coffee House

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