Senedd-dy Owain Glyndwr

Senedd-dy Owain Glyndwr

Parliament Building

Parliament Building

 

Owain Glyndŵr's Parliament House was traditionally the building where Owain Glyndŵr held a parliament after being crowned Prince of Wales in 1404. The origins of this structure are probably later. The existing building may be 15th century in origin, but has been extensively rebuilt particularly by David Davies of Llandinam who purchased it in 1906. In about 1813 the artist Edward Pugh visited Machynlleth and in 1816 he published a fine coloured lithograph of Parliament House. He provides the following description of the building Owen Glyndwr held his parliament here: and the house is still in being in which he and his adherents assembled. Its exterior appearance is barn like, and it is now used as a granary, etc, with the exception of one end, which is occupied as a miserable dwelling-house. Its interior exhibits great age: at the back is a flight of stone stairs in ruins, leading into the great room, in which there are carved ribs etc, in timber.

 

The Parliament House, Machynlleth, is a substantial and remarkably complete hall-house sited parallel to the main road which approaches the town from the east. The hall-house has a four-unit plan: storeyed outer room of two bays, open passage (2 bays between partition trusses), open hall (3 bays with dais-end partition), and a storeyed inner-room of two bays . The carpentry is refined: purlins and ridge are tenoned into the trusses. The principal rafters of each truss are unusually shaped ('extruded') to receive the tenoned collar. In the hall the purlins are moulded with two tiers of windbraces (replaced), and the truses have shaped feet. The upper-end truss is set forward from the dais partition to form a shallow canopy. The site is traditionally associated with Owain Glyndwr's Parliaments of 1402 and 1404, and was restored and extended in 1911 as a library and institute commemorating Glynd'r. Tree-ring dating from timber in the building shows that it was felled in 1470 which is two generations later than the parliaments, but the origins of this substantial and important house may be considerably older. The interior is now an exhibition centre.

 

Owain Glyndŵr lived over 600 years ago and yet today remains one of the most heroic figures in Welsh history. Owain was a natural leader and an astute statesman who united and led the Welsh against English rule. However, in some senses Owain was the spark that ignited the Welsh discontent about specific issues in Wales, many dating from the death of Llywelyn the Last, who was killed in 1282. Iolo Goch, in many respects Glyndŵr’s household poet, provides us with an indication of Glyndŵr’s respect for the labouring class in his poem to the ploughman. Iolo praises his fundamental role in society – ‘Nid bywyd, nid byd heb ef’ / ‘there is no life, no world without him.’ The fact that Welsh labourers left their livings and returned from England to support Owain Glyndŵr is evidence both of his charismatic influence as the leader of a Wales free from the yoke of English rule. It is not certain when or where Owain Glyndŵr was born - possible dates are 1349, 1354 or 1359 and the two most likely places are the family home at Sycharth, near Oswestry, or in Trefgarn, Pembrokeshire where one story says that his mother was visiting at the time of his birth. Owain’s family had estates at Sycharth, Iscoed in the Teifi Valley, and Glyndyfrdwy, in the Dee Valley. Iscoed was inherited by his mother, Elen, whilst Glyndyfrdwy was described as a ‘fine lodge in the park.’ He probably spent much of his childhood at the family home of Sycharth.

 

His lineage, a vitally important factor to Welsh people in the fourteenth century, was impeccable. When Owain Lawgoch was killed by an English assassin in 1378, the male line of the Gwynedd dynasty, which had led the resistance against the Anglo Norman invaders since the 11th century, ended. Owain claimed direct descent from the two other major Welsh dynasties, the princes of Powys in Mid Wales and Deheubarth in South-West Wales. On his father’s side, he could trace his ancestry back to Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, ruler of Powys in the eleventh century, while his mother’s lineage stretched back to Rhys ap Tewdwr, Prince of Deheubarth in the late eleventh century. Owain Glyndŵr’s military career began in 1384, when he served under the renowned military leader, Sir Gregory Sais, on garrison duty on the English-Scottish border. Following this, in 1385 he fought in Richard II's Scottish War, probably under Richard Fitzalan the Earl of Arundel. He also took part in Battle of Cadzand of 1387 when a Franco-Flemish fleet was routed. Following the battle, a number of Arundel's squires were knighted; noticeably Glyndwr was not one of them.

 

In the 1380s and 1390s Glyndŵr studied law at the Inns of Court in London. This decision was almost certainly prompted by his father in law, Sir David Hanmer, an English judge who settled in Wales following his marriage to Angharad, the daughter of Llywelyn Ddu ap Gruffudd ab Iorwerth Foel, one of the most prominent Welshmen in nearby Chirkland. One of their holdings was the village of Hanmer, which they took as the family name, and Owain was married in the village church to David's daughter Marred. In September 1400, Owain Glyndŵr embarked on a course of action that would become one of the most dramatic episodes in Welsh history. His longstanding quarrel with Reginald de Grey of Ruthin over some common land took a surprising turn when, after being proclaimed Prince of Wales by his followers, Owain marched on Ruthin.

 

After destroying the town, Owain went on to attack towns all over north-east Wales as the revolt turned into a full scale war with the English crown. Welshmen from all walks of life flocked to join Owain's cause, and by 1403 nearly the whole of Wales was united behind Glyndŵr. For a while, it seemed that the vision of an independent Wales had not died with Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282 after all. However, despite these astounding early victories and the formal coronation of Glyndŵr as Prince of Wales at the parliament of 1404, the rebellion would ultimately fail. By 1408, the revolt was dwindling as swiftly as it had swept into being; by 1410, its inspirational leader had become a fugitive, his career and his reputation shattered, his home and his family destroyed. He is believed to have spent his last years in Herefordshire near the manor of his son-in-law, Sir John Scudamore, possibly dying around 1416. The location of his grave is unknown.

 

The revolt of Owain Glyndŵr began as a local dispute with his powerful neighbour, Sir Reginald de Grey, during 1399 and 1400. The cause of this dispute was a piece of common land that Glyndŵr asserted had been stolen by Grey and he appealed to the new king, Henry IV, for justice. None was offered and after repeated appeals, all ignored, Glyndŵr raised his standard outside Ruthin on 16 September 1400, effectively proclaiming himself a rebel. To the men of Wales who followed him, however, Owain Glyndŵr was the symbolic leader of a resistance movement that turned into a widespread national uprising. Glyndŵr wasn't the only one with grievances against acquisitive and arrogant Marcher lords like Grey; many Welshman had long harboured a similar sense of frustration at unjust and oppressive English rule. Such men flocked in droves to Owain's banner and by 1401, the revolt had spread like wildfire the length and breadth of Wales.

 

The Owain Glyndwr exhibition, house in the Centre, has been completely redesigned with many new attractions which include a specially commissioned video of the proceedings of the parliament held on this site by Glyndwr in 1404. Powerful men from within Wales and notable dignitaries from France, Scotland and Spain, were invited to witness his coronation as Prince of Wales. An interactive timeline provides detailed, chronological information about the uprising and attractively illustrated, bilingual panels show more information about Glyndwr and his time. There are descriptive bilingual display panels depicting life in the late medieval period and the background to the Owain Glyndwr uprising. They show Owain's links to previous Welsh princes, which supported his claim to the title Prince of Wales, and his battles for independence after 1400. The attempts at alliances with Scotland and France to this end are clearly displayed.

The interactive computer system provides a chronological timeline of the history of Glyndwr - from his early life and his career as soldier and lawyer, the causes of unrest in Wales, the resort to rebellion, and the subsequent war against English rule. A mural by Scottish artist Murray Urquhart (1880-1972) portraying, in particular, Glyndwr's decisive victory over the King's forces at the Battle of Hyddgen in 1402. The mural is unique in that it is the only mural of this size to adorn a public building before 1914. There is a reproduction of the Pennal Letter, sent by Glyndwr to King Charles VI of France in 1406, in which he refers to himself as Prince of Wales. There are authentic replicas of medieval costume and artefacts, including a broadsword and colourful banners of the sort Glyndwr's men would have carried into battle. Plus Brass-rubbing - an opportunity to try your hand at this ancient art. The building is wheelchair accessible and special provision has been made for disabled visitors. Staff will be happy to provide assistance. Please not that parts of the Parliament building may be inaccessible. Assistance dogs are welcome.

 

Location : Heol Maengwyn, Machynlleth, Powys SY20 8EE

Transport : Machynlleth (National Rail) 11 minutes or bus. Bus Routes : 34, TrawsCymruT2, X1 and X27 stop nearby.

Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 16:00.

Tickets : Free (Donations gratefully accepted)

Tel. : 01654 702932