Poet’s Cottage takes its name from its famous former owner, the 18th Century poet and printer, Dafydd Jones.
Parts of the cottage date back to the 1600’s, when Poet’s Cottage was originally a two room dwelling occupying mere eighth of what is now the four up and two down room property. It has been extended in various stages over the centuries to become the substantial property it is now.
Poet’s Cottage has been in the Bird family since 1972 when it was purchased as ‘The old Chip Shop’. During the fifties and sixties a coal fired chip range was where the fireplace now nestles. People travelled from Llanrwst, Betws-y-Coed and as even far as Colwyn Bay for Chips, queueing out of the door and down the street! The coal was stored in a cupboard by the range and as the coal was delivered extra coal dust was also on the menu. New Environmental health regulations brought in during the late sixties forced the proprietor Owain Hughes to retire and close the shop due to the cost of refurbishment.
It was converted to a family home in 1973 and was extensively renovated in 2002.
Dafydd Jones (1703 – 85)
Dafydd Jones was a poet who wrote most of his works between 1750 and 1780 and sometimes wrote under the name of Dewi Fardd.
He progressed from publishing his own work to setting up on his own as a printer – some say that this was the first printing press in Wales. Some sources refer to Dafydd Jones as the Anglicised form “David Jones”.
The very first Welsh language publication of a purely political nature was a translation by him of a pamphlet on the American dispute.
There is a slate plaque inset in to the wall at the front of Poet’s Cottage that commemorates his time living at Poet’s Cottage.
A major Roman road (Sarn Helen) ran southwards through Trefriw from the fort at Caerhun (between Trefriw and Conwy) to the fort at Tomen-y-mur (near Trawsfynydd), and beyond, ultimately reaching Moridunum at Carmarthen.
It is likely that there were in fact two roads passing through the Trefriw area, a valley route, and a higher mountain route which went on to link to the smaller forts at Caer Llugwy (near Capel Curig) and Pen-y-Gwryd, near Snowdon.
The Red Book of Hergest (1375–1425) refers to “Kymwt Treffryw”, the Commote (Cwmwd in Welsh) of Trefriw. This is possibly the earliest written reference to the village.
It seems probable that Trefriw has links with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Thomas Wiliems, who was probably born in the village, and a nephew of Sir John Wynn of Gwydir, went to Brasenose College, Oxford, and returned to work as a physician. He was an authority on vegetarianism, and also published a Welsh/Latin dictionary. In 1573 he became Curate of Trefriw.
He is reputed to have been a papist (he was certainly charged on that score at Bangor in 1607) and as such would probably have known of the plot to blow up Parliament. According to some sources it was he who, in warning his relative John Wynn not to go to the State Opening, was responsible to either a smaller or greater extent for the suspicions which ultimately caught Guy Fawkes.
In the 19th century Trefriw was Wales’ largest inland port, the river Conwy being tidal up to neighbouring Llanrwst. Given the fact that, at one time, Llanrwst was one of the ten largest towns in Wales, it can be seen that the Conwy Valley had great historical significance.
The latter 19th century saw a number of artists living in Trefriw. The art movement, which had started in Betws-y-coed in the 1850s, popularised by David Cox, saw a movement down the valley following the arrival of the railway in Betws-y-coed. In 1871 William Barker lived in the village, and the 1881 census recorded another 8 artists living in the village, namely John Davies, Ben Fowler, Robert Goody, Julius Hare, Henry Hilton, John Johnson, James Morland and Henry Boberts.
In 1833 the old Roman mineral water caves (believed to have been discovered by soldiers of the XXth Roman Legion) were excavated in an attempt to attract people to them. In 1863 Lord Willoughby de Eresby built a small bath-house, replaced a decade later by the current building. Large numbers of people came, no doubt aided by national advertising, and the declaration by Dr. Hayward, a fashionable medical specialist from Liverpool, that this was “Probably the best spa in the United Kingdom”. Baddeley’s guidebook notes contains the quote – “inconceivably nasty and correspondingly efficaceous”. In more recent times clinical trials have proven that the Spa water is a medically effective iron supplement.
In 2003, Nelsons purchased the Spa and the rights to the Spatone mineral water produced there. Today Spatone is sold around the world, with all packaging and manufacture on site in Trefriw. For over a century the Spa was open as a tourist attraction, but in 2011 it was closed to the public, and serves today only as a commercial business.