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Ystum Colwyn Farm, Meifod


Barn 2

Left: Barn 2 - Brewery, cheesery and dairy built in 1719. © CPAT 1682-16.

A programme of detailed building recording was undertaken by CPAT at Ystum Colwyn Farm, 5km to the north-east of Meifod, near Welshpool. The present-day farm complex is spread over a considerable area, with numerous outbuildings and modern barns in addition to the five structures which formed the subject of the survey. Originally, however, it appears that the farm developed around a fold yard on the south-east side of the complex, where Barns 3-5 are located. The present house was extensively renovated in 1825, but apparently retains elements of a much earlier timber-framed building now largely hidden within its structure. Barns 1 and 2, constructed in the early 18th century, lie to the north-west of the house, some distance from the main farm complex. The survey was undertaken using a digital laser theodolite which enables detailed recording both inside and outside the buildings without the need for ladders and scaffolding.

Barn 1

Right: Barn 1 - Cart shed and stables built in 1721, incorporating part of an earlier timber-framed building. © CPAT 1682-47.

The origins of Ystum Colwyn are not known. It was not only the name given to a gentry house, but also to a township in Meifod which would certainly suggest that the latter was known by that name in the Middle Ages. But whether there was a medieval farm and house here cannot be established on the basis of the documentary evidence alone. At present the earliest references come from the later 16th century.

In the Elizabethan period the house and its estate belonged to the Thomas family, and then sometime in the first quarter of the 17th century to Lumley Williams of Cochwillan near Bangor in Caernarvonshire, who acquired it through marriage. Williams established the family at Ystymcolwyn, as it was then termed, for six generations, until towards the end of the 18th century it passed to Sir Robert Howell Vaughan of Hengwrt and Nannau. In 1849 the estate was sold to James France France of Bostock Hall in Cheshire, who built Ystym Colwyn House, 600m or so to the west of the farm. In 1921 the whole of the estate changed hands again, the farm being purchased by the family of the present owner.

barn 3 cruck

Left: Barn 3 - two of the crucks formed from timber felled in 1559 to build the original three-bay barn. © CPAT 1682-84.

The survey provided significant new detail regarding the construction and phasing of each of the buildings. The earliest structure is a cruck and box-framed barn, which is an outstanding survival of post-medieval carpentry and vernacular architecture. The three surviving crucks are unusually large for an agricultural building and even more surprising is the survival of the original doorway in the framing on the north-west side. A number of timbers have been dated by the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory, providing a felling date in the summer of 1559 for two of the crucks. The barn was later extended in two phases, each with the addition of two bays, with the final addition of an aisle along the north-west side. The surviving trusses and framing possess good carpentry detail, including partial sets of assembly marks and two inscriptions, one of which is dated 1770. There is also a lateral extension, one of the trusses of which has given a felling date in the summer of 1669. This ties in with a doorhead carved with the initials IW and MW, and a date of 1670 (or possibly 1640). One of the initials may in fact be JW, referring to John Williams (1627-1706).

barn 3 box-frame

Right: Barn 3 - one of the later box-frame trusses added as the barn was extended. © CPAT 1682-103.

A pair of brick-built structures, now used only for storage, incorporate elements of earlier buildings. The earlier building was originally a brewhouse, later converted for use as a dairy and cheesery. The building, which bears a date stone of 1719, is of exceptional quality for an agricultural building, with fine hand-made bricks and excellent carpentry detail in the roof and king-post trusses.

The building also retains a number of important features such as the oven, boilers and cheese-press base, together with the later additional of a dovecote in the attic of the rear wing. The other building is dated 1721 and was erected as a cartshed and stables, but includes part of a stone and timber-framed building in the rear wing. The roof trusses are also of interest as they have largely been assembled from reused timber and do not possess a common construction technique.

Barn 3 roof

Left: Barn 2 - king post roof truss. © CPAT 1682-01.

The remaining two barns, although of lesser significance, are still of interest, particularly when considered as part of the group of farm buildings. One building was previously used as a threshing barn, although it is unlikely to have been originally built for that purpose. The surviving trusses suggest that it was formerly of timber-frame construction, although the walling has later been replaced with random stone. A polygonal horse engine house was added to the south-eastern side, probably in the early 19th century, to provide power for threshing and other machinery. Unfortunately, none of the internal detail survives. The adjacent barn is now used as a shelter shed although it was formerly a mixing barn. An external steam engine would have powered machinery for cutting roots and fodder and the drive shaft still survives, although the machinery has long since been removed.

The collection of buildings at Ystym Colwyn Farm presents what may be a unique group of agricultural buildings, demonstrating the importance of the farm from the early post-medieval period until the 19th century.

barn 4

Right: Barn 4 - horse engine house. © CPAT 1682-60.

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