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Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 29929

Map Reference SH70SW

Grid Reference SH7454300854

Unitary (Local) Authority Powys

Old County Montgomeryshire

Community Machynlleth

Type of Site HOUSE

Broad Class DOMESTIC

Period Post Medieval

Site Description Royal House is a rare example of a relatively unaltered mercer's dwelling and store-house and has some claim to be one of the oldest shops in Wales. Occupying a prime position in the town situated between the parish church and the market hall.
The long and low sub-medieval elevation contrasts with the adjacent tall 19th-century buildings. By the second half of the 19th century Royal House was so obviously different that some interesting historical claims were attached to the building. 19th century post-card views advertised Royal House as the oldest house in Wales. It was said that Owain Glyndwr imprisoned David Gam there, and it was also said that King Charles I stayed at the house when travelling to Chester - hence the origin of the name 'Royal House'.

Royal House certainly occupies an old 'burgage' site which probably dates back to the origin of the town. The range presents a narrow front to the street with a long range stretching down the burgage plot with an access lane now called Garsiwn. The Royal Commission surveyed the house in 1988. The long range has three parts with a house set between an upper shop and a lower store. The house is of the regional lobby-entry type with the main doorway opening into a lobby at the side of the fireplace. There is some excellent vernacular detail: an ovolo-moulded window, stop-chamfered beams, corbelled fireplace beam (concealed), double-ogee doorhead (first floor), and windbraces. The detail in combination suggests an early 17th-century date. However certain anomalies in the plan suggest that the building may be a reconstruction of an earlier house.

Straight joints show that the upper and lower units have been added to the house. The lower unit is a store and referred to in 1628 as 'Sgubor Newydd' or the new barn. The upper unit is a shop. The shop end seems to be relatively late, say c. 1850. However it is probable that the present hipped end replaces a shop that has existed in this position for a very long time. It was common practice to regard the street frontage of a building as a commercial extension of the house. Prints and drawings of towns frequently show lean-tos and lock-up shops in this position. Machynlleth presumably had many shops of this type but they were cleared away during the 19th century improvement of the town.

Royal House represents a direct link with the trading history of Machynlleth which has been carried on in the town since the grant of a weekly market in 1291.
It is not a 'great' piece of architecture but it typifies Machynlleth's trading history. The importance of Royal House lies in its continuous use on the same spot for the same purposes - shop, dwelling, store - for the last 400 or more years. In addition Royal House has a well documented history from the late 16th century. This is very unusual and possibly unique in a Welsh context.

Reference: Transcript of talk prepared
prepared for Machynlleth Civic Society.
Richard Suggett, 2003.

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