I was not suddenly transplanted to Cadiz, taking pictures of one of their torres, where they watched out for returning ships. This lookalike was built by Robert Wynne, who had travelled widely in the train of one of Henry VIII’s ambassadors, and brought a lot of his ideas home. Late in life he married again and sired seven children. And he built his dream home, the delightful Plas Mawr (or ‘great hall’) in Conwy.
The Wynnes had no need of social climbing: Robert was a third son but he had grown up in Castle Gwydir and both he and Dorothy were descendants of the old Princes of Gwynedd. They were fervent supporters of the Tudor regime and took conspicuous consumption to its outermost limits. Elaborate plastering, much of it done with Continental pattern books and painted in garish colours: huge windows in all the family rooms: a big hall decorated with the most modern wall hangings; rush carpets and wicker fans in front of a faux marble fireplace: dinner served on real silver. Nothing was too much trouble if it went to consolidate their status.
By the standards of the late sixteenth century their staff had a large kitchen and pantry, and also this lovely room in which to brew beer and bake bread. Water of course was unsafe and Robert had a penchant for wine, but beer was the everyday staple for family and servants alike. There was a distinct social stratification. Robert’s ‘man’ had his own room. The rest bunked on straw palettes in the attic. .And the family got posh beer and white bread instead of ale and rye.
They also made a delightful garden, set across three courtyards and including a formal parterre of herbs and vegetables, many potted plants and trained trees and space enough to walk and talk. All this was enclosed within the walls of the mansion, making the whole house a ‘fine and private place’ obviously full of life and energy when it was built. I didn’t know the Plas existed before I went to Conwy and it was a wonderful surprise.