A Weekend in Wales: Plas Mawr

Last summer, twelve students and one professor shared an unforgettable experience called English Gothic Live, a course on medieval and medievalist architecture which we studied on site while based at the University of Warwick. One of the course requirements was for each student to write a blog entry, and we will be posting all of those here over the coming weeks.

While the course is very well structured and keeps you busy and engaged the entire week, it also allows for travels to wherever you want to go, as long as you catch the class tour bus at 9am Monday morning. For myself and four others, we decided to go to Conwy Castle and Plas Mawr in Wales. The trip started on Friday with a train ride up to Conwy. Normally train rides are uneventful, which is a good thing. But when we got on the train up to Conwy, there were only 10 people total on the train car including two guys who were celebrating a 51st birthday. One way that the guys were celebrating was bringing a fresh pack of cider and giving out a can to everyone. So there the five of us are getting onto a train to Wales being handed a cider as we get on by a guy with a thick accent who had clearly had a few himself. With a start like this, you know the rest of the trip has to be good. Once we arrive at our hotel which is actually in the next town over, we are on the main strip that is right across from the beach. Next morning everyone wakes up and we are greeted by this outside the hotel window.

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Upon seeing this and having discussed it last night we decide to walk to Conwy along the more picturesque route. And it was.

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The walk was beside a golf course, then the side of the river mouth overlooking the mountains on three sides.

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We started the day at Conwy Castle, but this blog will be about Plas Mawr which is an Elizabethan manor house that I actually find more interesting than a castle. The reason for my excitement about going there rather than a castle are two things. One is I have studied it in class and fell in love with it then, and two, the restoration of the decoration is incredible for a 16th C. house.

This is the outside of the house:

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 And this is the inside:

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 Let’s start with who built this house. The house was built by Robert Wynn, thus the R W in white and blue. Robert was the son of a local landowner and was a member of parliament for Queen Elizabeth. The connection with the Queen is the reason for the Tudor roses. The crest in the middle is the family crest. The painted Caryatids are to showcase the knowledge and prestige of Robert by him knowing about the classical world. There are the other parts of the house, such as the kitchen, sitting rooms, gardens, bedrooms, but they are more or less typical style of the age. The other parts of the house follow suit and it was incredible to walk through. In Conwy with the castle and Plas Mawr you are transported back in time and it is a great feeling. This is a very quick insight into an incredible weekend, but it can give you a sense of the things we were able to see and how unexpected experiences make the whole course even more enjoyable.

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