Hafod Elwy Hall

Local history

Although the essential spirit of Hafod Elwy has changed so little over the last 100 years an important feature was the damming of the River Alwen above Pentre-llyn cymmer and the making of the Alwen reservoir in 1912. This was built to provide a water supply for the people of Birkenhead.

During the Second World War the dam was used as a practice target for the bombing of the Moehne Dam in Germany, as the two dams and the lie of the surrounding countryside were very similar. The Hall holds evidence of this activity in the form of cork floats found in the old bake oven, left there by a member of the Stewart-Cox Family. These, we are reliably informed, were used as markers to judge the correct distances for the bouncing bombs.

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In the years 1824-7 the famous engineer, Thomas Telford, designed the new road across Mynydd Hiraethog. This was 16 miles long and about 8 yards wide. Prior to this the main route across the moors was the old Drovers road that came from Nantglyn. It crossed near the Brenig, ran straight through Hafod Elwy, past Tyn y Gors and over the River Alwen before climbing the shoulder of Moel Eithin and descending to Pentrefoelas. This road was built by the Romans to link their camp at Chester with their outposts at Caernarfon and Conway. The outcrop of rocks, known as Cerrig Caws was where local people sold their cheeses to travellers.

The owner of the Hafod Elwy Estate at the time when the new road was constructed, called Bryan Robin, built the Inn at Bryntrillyn (meaning hill of 3 lakes) which is now called the Sportsman's Arms and is said to be the highest pub in Wales.

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In the early 1890's a wooden shooting box was put up by Viscount Devonport. The house was called Gwylfa Hiraethog which means 'The Watch Tower of the Hiraethog Mountains.' The view from the house was generally considered to be the finest in the British Isles. The timber lodge which had been specially imported from Norway, fell down and was replaced by an imposing building, known locally as Plas Pren the ruins of which still form a prominent landmark visible across the area from several directions. These ruins are frequently referred to locally as "the haunted house".

The gamekeeper and last person to live in Plas Pren was Hugh Williams, who was also the Bailiff for the Hafod Elwy estate from 1955-1963. He was well known for his poems and wrote an autobiography called Fy Milltir Sqwar (my square mile).

The Hiraethog Moor has inspired many poets and artists alike; A.G. Bradley wrote "The purple table-land, the silent wilderness of the Hiraethog, where fairies dance beside the banks of the lonely lakes, and belated travellers see uncanny sights, and packs of white dogs with red ears go howling through the mist on the track of phantom deer, and relics of the prehistoric age lie strewn on every side."