To the untrained eye Yr Ysgwrn may appear to be a simple 19th century farmstead but it was once home to one of Wales’ most famous poets. Hedd Wyn called the farmhouse at the centre of the site home until he was killed during the First World War. He was posthumously awarded the prestigious Bard’s Chair at the National Eisteddfod of Wales and Yr Ysgwrn has since become an important cultural symbol for the Welsh people.
Yr Ysgwrn was acquired by the Snowdonia National Park Authority in 2012, who set in motion a long programme of works to enhance the site as a visitor destination. The development project was carried out in two phases and included a programme of sensitive conservation repairs and upgrading of the farmhouse itself and the conversion of a dilapidated barn into a visitor centre.
Work to develop the site was led by architectural design practice Purcell. Premier Construction recently caught up with Senior Architect Elgan Jones to find out more about the project:
“As a practice we specialise in works in a historic context so conservation and new builds in that context. It was that expertise that got us involved in the project from the outset. One exciting aspect was how to present and introduce interpretation within the farmhouse itself without losing the quality or spirt of the spaces. A key challenge was the display the bardic chairs. The chairs, which previously occupied and filled the parlour, were moved to the first floor and allowed the black chair to stand alone, taking pride of place and allowing the intricately carved detail to be fully admired.
“At Beudy Llwyd, a barn set away from the historic core where the farmhouse and other structures are located, there was an exciting opportunity to adapt and extend the barn with a contemporary extension to create an arrival building for the site. We are very pleased with the juxtaposition and transition between the old and new.”
“The biggest challenge though was not to erode or lose the essence and special quality of the site. It has a timeless feel and we wanted to maintain that throughout the design. It was important to retain all the layers of history and minimise interventions where possible.”
Key to the project was involving and integrating the community from the offset as the story of Hedd Wyn forms such an important part of the local community.
“We held a number of consultations throughout the design process and gave guided tours while work was underway. It’s had a fantastic, positive impact on the local community and school groups. Within the new extension is a large mural by an artist who worked with local school children.”
Flintshire Fabrications worked on the project, manufacturing and installing more than 20 estate-style iron gates for Yr Ysgwrn, utilising traditional forging techniques. Commenting on the project, Clare Jones, Flintshire Fabrications, said: “It is always a delight to be involved in projects of this nature where blacksmithing skills are required to produce gates using traditional forging techniques, such as swaging and riveting with handmade rivets. Our blacksmith and apprentice blacksmith took several weeks to complete all the gates but the result is spectacular. The modest estate style design combined with traditional forging methods allow the gates to reflect the magnificent landscape of the Snowdonia National Park in which they are situated.”
Since the site reopened to the public in June 2017, the work has been widely praised and an overwhelming number of people have visited Yr Ysgwrn. The site has also received significant industry recognition including a shortlist for the 2018 RICS Building Conservation Awards, the RSAW Welsh Architecture 2018 and other regional awards.
To find out more about Yr Ysgwrn, please visit www.yrysgwrn.com/home.