The Harp Hotel, Corwen

Link to French translation

The oldest parts of this inn, once known as Werglodd, may date from the early 17th century, or earlier. The earliest records of it date from 1629. At the time Werglodd was a collection of buildings and was part of the estate of ardent royalist William Salusbury.

Drovers would drink here while moving livestock from Welsh pastures to English markets. In 1896 a pig drover called Samuel Davies, from Bryneglwys, called at the Harp for dinner on fair day. He choked on a piece of meat and was dead within minutes. Doctors couldn’t revive him.

Photo of Corwen square in 1896The inn may have been renamed the Harp after a pioneering eisteddfod was held in Corwen in 1789. Eisteddfodau, where poets and other artists competed, had been held in medieval times but the tradition had degenerated into little more than an excuse for drinking sessions in pubs. The 1789 eisteddfod in Corwen began the process of making it a more sober event. Harpists were among those who took part.

The inn hosted many subsequent eisteddfodau. The poet Gwallter Mechain (1761-1849) won his first prize here in the late 18th century. He went on to be an influential figure in London Welsh activities, such as those of the Gwyneddigion Society.

Corwen’s first Methodist services were held upstairs at the Harp c.1800. Corwen was hostile to early Nonconformists including the renowned Thomas Charles from Bala, who lost a tooth when a stone was thrown at him during a visit. Richard White was forced out of Bodheulog, Cynwyd, for switching from Anglicanism to Methodism. It’s thought he ran the Harp from 1798 and established worship here, before giving land for the town’s first Methodist chapel.

The Harp, with its stabling and yard, was sold to a Mr J Roberts for £1,300 in 1895. In the early 20th century it was acquired by the Ind Coope brewery. In 1914 the local council paid the landlord £1 10s rent for storage of the local water cart.

Photo of Orpheus wall painting in the Harp, CorwenPart of the Harp was later bought by the National Provincial Bank and demolished to make way for its enlarged Corwen branch building, completed in 1927. The photo of the square in 1896 shows the Harp as it was then, at the far end. Today there are three steps inside the Harp leading up to a former doorway, now a blank wall.

On a chimney breast inside the Harp is a painting (pictured here) of Orpheus playing his harp. It’s reputedly by the renowned Welsh painter Augustus John, who travelled to the area in 1931 for the funeral of his friend Dr John Sampson, an academic who studied Romany gypsies. It’s thought that gypsies once frequented the Harp.

With thanks to Philip Yaxley

Postcode: LL21 0DE    View Location Map

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