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Pen-y-bryn, Aber

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Twr Llewelyn; Llewelyn's Tower; Aberguynne Gregin; Garth Celyn

In the community of Aber.
In the historic county of Caernarfonshire.
Modern authority of Gwynedd.
Preserved county of Gwynedd.

OS Map Grid Reference: SH65827273
Latitude 53.23464° Longitude -4.01192°

Pen-y-bryn, Aber has been described as a probable Pele Tower, and also as a probable Palace.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


Pen y Bryn, a defensive structure, partially of the sixteenth century, part of which consists of a small square tower of semi defensive character. (Arch. Camb.)

Pen-y-Bryn is a multi period house. The central block and the northwestern porch are thought to date from around 1600. The tower may be a slightly later addition, and there were further additions in the early eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It has two storeys, is rubble-built with roughly dressed quoins, and has a slate roof.
There is a tradition that the house was once the home of Prince Llewelyn (J.Wiles, RCAHMW, 24 June 2004).
2. Additional. Main range tree-ring dated 1619-24.
Tree-ring dating commissioned by the North-west Wales Dendrochronological Project in association with RCAHMW, and reported in Vernacular Architecture 41 (2010), p. 114:
A gentry house associated with a medieval site of considerable interest. The core of the present range is a two-storeyed house of Snowdonian type flanked by a kitchen to the east and a four-storey tower of earlier origin to the west. The tower was converted into a plaisance in the earlier seventeenth century, and is broadly contemporary with the construction of the main house (built not later than 1624). Both house and tower have ovolo-moulded mullioned windows. See RCAHMW, Caernarvonshire Inventory I (1956), 3–4, with plan; detailed survey (2010) available in NMRW. (R.F. Suggett/RCAHMW/October 2010). (Coflein)

The manor at Abergwyngregyn was purchased outright by Sir William Thomas in 1616 and he constructed the house at Pen-y-Bryn. In 1678 the Thomas family due to financial difficulties, entered into negotiations with the Bulkeley family of Baron Mill for the purchase of the manor and associated land. The Bulkeley family remained the main proprietors of the manor until 1863 when they sold off their Caernarvonshire lands and Abergwyngregyn holdings to the Penrhyn estate in whose holding it remained until 1925 when Henfaes Farm was sold together with the upland holdings of Merun Uchaf and Nant. (Evans, P., 2003 , Abergwyngregyn-Llanfairfechan Pipeline)
The core of the range is a two-storeyed house of Snowdonian type flanked by a kitchen to the east and a four-storey tower of earlier origin to the west. The tower was converted into a plaisance in the earlier C17th, and is broadly contemporary with the construction of the main house (built no later than 1624). Both house and tower have ovolo-moulded mullioned windows. (Bridge et al, 2010)
Pen-y-bryn clearly has a long and complex history which is not entirely clear. It is likely that the lower floors of the tower and the cellar are the earliest features of the house; however, any physical relationship between the north eastern wing and the tower has been lost by the insertion of the central range. It is clear, however that the central range is later than both the tower and the north eastern range. The north eastern range would appear to have had a cross passage and it was immediately to the south west of this feature that the central range was inserted. It is also possible that the fireplace and chimney in the north eastern range was added to an existing hall house.
It is likely that the south wing is later than the central range, although the first floor doorway between these two elements leaves some grounds for doubt as does the presence of the niche and the possibly re-used pointed window. The North Wing is clearly a late addition and is probably nineteenth century in date.
The main staircase appears to be a relatively late insertion as the access to the cellar also occupied the same space. It is possible that the current porch was originally an oriel or stair tower which has been modified. (Brooks, 2010) (Gwynedd Archaeological Trust HER)

Situated on rising ground above the A 55 on the north-east side of the Afon Aber to the east of the village.
Pen-y-bryn was crown property until 1553 when it was purchased by the Thomas family, initially through the Earl of Pembroke, in an arrangement which was not regularised until 1610. Although the building has been the subject of varying interpretations, it appears that the substantial, roughly circular tower at the west end of the house is mostly medieval and the east wing is mid-C16. The main range of 3 regular bays was built c1600, probably to mark the formalisation of the Thomas family's ownership, and the top stage of the tower added in the late C17. Rear (south) range added in early C18 and small C19 block at back of east wing. Re-slating of the tower roof in 1993 showed that the structure may have been designed for a lead roof but that this was never put in place; the existing slates date from 1875 (date scratched on one slate and on the plaster torching).
Inspection not permitted at time of Survey, but said to retain much of its early plan-form and several features of interest. Dog-leg oak staircase in north-east corner of main range has massive moulded and swept handrail, turned balusters to lower flight, and double-square newels with capping. The walls of the tower are square internally, probably as a result of the original walls having been cut back and refaced. First floor of early C18 extension has bolection moulded panelling with cornice.
Gentry house. Main 2-storey range, aligned roughly east-west and facing north, with a 4-storey circular tower on west and has flush, very slightly lower wing to east; cellars. Very roughly coursed rubblestone with buttered pointing to main and east ranges, rendered to tower, comprising 2 layers, the original a plain clay and plaster render laid directly onto the stonework, overlain by a later roughcast render, which begins above present ground-floor level; slate roofs, graded to main range and tower, with coped verges to gable ends and pendant finial to conical roof of tower. Main range in 3 symmetrical bays has central 2-storey gabled porch (probably formed after 1810 from a former oriel or stair turret) approached by shallow straight flight of steps with low retaining walls; pilastered round-headed entrance arch with keystone and double nail-studded plank doors surmounted by 2-light mullion window with dripstone; narrow rectangular windows with transoms to returns. Gabled dormers with cross-windows breaking eaves on either side of porch with 3-light mullioned and transomed window on lower left and 12-paned sash in moulded stone surround to lower right; square integral end stack on left. Tower has ovolo-moulded cross-window in cavetto-moulded surround on ground floor, a smaller timber cross-window on first floor, a 3-light ovolo-moulded mullioned and transomed window on the second floor and on the fourth floor a large canted window made up of 3 cross-window units; all save the outer lights of the canted window with leaded latticed lights as in the main range; integral end stacks terminate in stone shafts on east and west of tower. East range has two 12-paned sashes on first floor and 12-paned sashes of considerably reduced proportions directly below; substantial integral end stack to left. South range has a small probably C16 arch-headed window and a blocked first-floor doorway in gable end. (Listed Building Report)

The current remains within and under the house now called Pen y Bryn suggest a stone phase beginning in the early twelfth century with numerous additions continuing until perhaps the late thirteenth century. Numerous repairs followed and documentary evidence suggests that the buildings were kept in some form of repair right up to the reign of Henry VI (1422-71). By 1530 it was in ruins, but was repaired and rebuilt by the Thomas family between 1553 and 1586. (Remfry 2012)

Contrary to the impression given in earlier comments by me made on this page Paul Remfry is suggesting this was the site of a llys from the early C12 rather than the early C14.
There is contention about this site and its interpretation and care should be taken to look at all the available evidence and opinion.
Gatehouse is of the opinion, for what little that is worth, that the failure to find any background pottery earlier than the C16 means this was NOT the site of a residence of any status before the C16. I also have concerns about the manner in which the lobby in favour of this being the site of house of Llewelyn have presented their case, which seems to use a considerable amount of ad hominem logical fallacies to dismiss the reasonable alternative that Llewelyn was based at the site beside the motte at Aber.
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This record last updated 02/07/2016 09:25:48