Wednesday 10 October 2012
Plas Mawr, a Cadw site which stands as a symbol of a prosperous and buoyant age in the heart of Conwy, is currently a hub for a community project which is attracting locals from all walks of life. Local schools, church groups and sewing groups, as well as passers-by, have been taking part in the development of two large Tudor style wall-hangings, which will eventually be displayed at Plas Mawr as a legacy of the local community.
The project has been an opportunity for local groups and people to get involved with their heritage site, and learn some new skills along the way. Rachel Skelly, Cadw’s head custodian at Plas Mawr explains how the project is being run, and the benefits it’s having on the local community, as well as leaving something of historical significance behind for future generations: ‘My colleague Sarah Naylor and I have always had an interest in sewing and spent a lot of time making costumes at Plas Mawr. We decided that we wanted to make something that involved the local community, and would be left behind for years to come, and came up with the idea of making some large wall hangings that could be hung for all to see on the parlour walls.
‘Initially we started by carrying out research into which sorts of materials, colours and styles of stitching would have been used in Tudor times. We then started inviting different groups to get involved. After a visit to Ysgol Porth Y Felin, where the children created some picture designs which would later be incorporated onto the hanging, people from the wider community started popping into Plas Mawr to discuss how they’re going to contribute to the wall hanging. We talked through the different options, and what they needed to do to ensure it was in-keeping with the Tudor design, and then they went off to work on their piece of material, which later will be stitched onto the over-all piece of fabric.’
'The project has been a fantastic way of engaging the local community. There has been a whole range of people involved, all bringing their different knowledge. For example how to do certain types of embroidery stitch, or which vegetables should be used to get certain colours to dye the material with. Some have had no experience at all, but have benefited from getting involved in a project where they’ve learnt new skills and met new people.’
Denise Fisher from Dwygyfylchi near Conwy says how much she’s enjoyed being part of the Plas Mawr wall-hanging project so far: ‘Despite it being on my doorstep, I’d never been to Plas Mawr before. I got to hear of the project through a friend whose church is involved, so I called in to Plas Mawr to see how I could take part. We talked about my different embroidery skills, and decided that I would make two sections for the wall hanging. I’ve already done one section – an embroidery of the front of Plas Mawr house, and I’m now working on one of a Tudor rose and some herbs.
‘It’s been a great experience and I’ve even made some fantastic new friends. I can’t wait to see the finished hangings and have something that I’ve contributed to on display for future generations to see. I’ve also started volunteering every Tuesday morning as a steward at Plas Mawr. My favourite room to work in is the kitchen – the way it is set up it feels as if the cook has just popped out. I really enjoy meeting the public and helping them understand more about the house.’
Plas Mawr plans to complete the wall-hangings over the next few months, so they’re ready to go on display when the house opens back up after the winter. Plas Mawr has extended its opening hours this year, and will remain open until the end of December. Opening hours are 9.30am to 4.00pm, Tuesday – Sunday in October and Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays in November and December. Entry costs £5.20 for adults and £4.80 for concessions. People taking part in the Plas Mawr wall-hanging project receive a free visit to the house!
For more information about how to get involved, or about Plas Mawr call 01492 580 167. Find Cadw on Facebook or follow @CadwWales on Twitter.
Plas Mawr is currently developing its Lifelong Learning Programme, which will not only include the current self-guided school visits for Key Stage 2 &3, but also a programme of further educational activities coinciding with Foundation Phase, Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification, Further Education, Higher Education and Adult Learning syllabuses. For more information contact Erin Robinson, Cadw’s north Wales Lifelong Learning Manager on 03000 625843 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Plas Mawr - an Elizabethan gem, and one of the finest town houses of its period in Britain:
• Its owner, Robert Wynn, was an influential merchant of great repute, and was particularly fond of grandeur and colour.
• Plas Mawr was built between 1576 and 1585 in the heart of medieval Conwy’s narrow cobbles streets, which more than matched his grandiose ambitions.
• Particularly exquisite is the ornamental plasterwork in the hall, now repainted in vivid original colours. There’s not an inch that doesn’t impress, from plasterwork ceilings to friezes and skilful carpentry.
• Visitors can look out for the initials ‘RW’ on various crests and coats of arms.
• Robert Wynn was a well-travelled Welsh gentleman, and was also extremely wealthy.
• There are a series of hands-on multi-sensory displays on site which help visitors delve deeper into Plas Mawr’s history.
• It’s hoped the new wall hangings will give even further insight into the times of Robert Wynn.