Llanrwst almshouses

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Llanrwst almshouses, 1-12 Church Street

The almshouses in Llanrwst were built in 1610. They line one side of the lane leading from Ancaster Square to the parish church. Initially the almshouses provided basic lodgings for 12 almsmen – people who were too poor to afford their own homes. They wore cloaks bearing the Wynn family’s emblem.

Who paid for the almshouses? This was the subject of protracted legal arguments. The attorney general determined in 1678 that the local charities had been funded and promoted by John Williams, who had been apprenticed to Queen Elizabeth I’s goldsmith. He later became goldsmith to King James I and amassed great wealth. The descendants of Sir John Wynn, the major local landowner in Llanrwst, argued that Sir John had funded the charities but never succeeded in overturning the attorney general’s decision. It is known that Sir John borrowed money from John Williams, who hailed from the area west of Betws-y-Coed.

By the 19th century women were also allowed to live at the almhouses. Living spaces were allocated to each local parish. In 1905, for example, there was a vacancy for someone from the Eglwysbach parish and Jane Evans, a 64-year-old widow who was popular with local farmhands for her pies, cakes and gossip, was recommended to Earl Carrington, patron of the almshouses. At the same time, a Jemima Owen was recommended from the Maenan parish.

One of the residents in the 1920s was retired butcher Samuel Jones, father of nine brothers who served in the First World War.

The building continued to provide shelter for those in need until 1976, long after council housing in Britain had taken over the role of almshouses. The last resident of Llanrwst’s almshouses was called Mary’r Delyn ("Telyn" = harp) because she had been married to harpist Reuben Roberts. Another resident in the last decades was Wil Comic, who believed he was Winston Churchill and dressed accordingly.

For about 25 years the almshouses lay empty and neglected. The Charity of Sir John Wynn of Gwydyr then began to raise funds to restore this Jacobean building. In 2000 the Llanrwst Almshouse Museum Trust (which had been formed in 1987) was offered the lease of the Almshouses for a peppercorn rent. This enabled the trust to establish a community museum in the building, opened by Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas in April 2002.

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Postcode: LL26 OLE

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