Y Garreg Fawr from Waunfawr in Gwynedd was built in 1544, and is a fine example of a Snowdonian house. At the time, these homes were some of Wales’s finest and represented the beginnings of the modern home we know today. Prior to this date, the wealthy Welsh lived in timber-framed hall-houses. These were often single-story buildings comprised of three bays in a linear arrangement: a ‘service’ bay of a dairy and larder, a ‘solar’ – which was the bedroom - and in-between was a large hall with a central hearth, and was open to the rafters. Although Y Garreg Fawr has a hall, service end and solar, it represents a radical departure from the previous medieval plan by introducing some key developments. Choosing to build in stone allowed the creation of a pair of effective chimneys - one on each gable. These in turn allowed the creation of a first-floor featuring heated, smoke-free rooms.
Y Garreg Fawr (The Great Rock) was named after the large exposed rock outcrop behind the house. Two other Snowdonian type houses share a similar important-sounding name. Both are called ‘The Great House’ – Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant and Tŷ Mawr Nantlle – names that highlight their physical grandeur as well as the high social standing of their owners. Y Garreg Fawr was is a rare survival of national significance, but by 1976 (432 years later) it was barely recognisable and in a serious state of disrepair. At the time, the only way to ensure its survival was to move it stone by stone, some 165 miles, to St. Fagans National History Museum where it could be rebuilt. 40 years later it is undergoing a programme of restoration.
A recent inspection of Y Garreg Fawr revealed that the inner surface of its walls had been rendered with cement. This is an out-dated practice that is not in keeping with current methodologies. Work is now underway to remove the cement and re-place it with lime mortar, which should allow the building to breathe better, and allow it to stand for several more centuries. Y Garreg Fawr is now closed for a number of months to allow this work to continue.