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One of the most intriguing buildings in the historic seaside town of Barmouth has to be the Barmouth Round House locally known as Ty Crwn.
It was originally built in 1833 as a lock-up for drunkards, slatterns, and ne’er-do-wells who were disturbing the peace on the harbour.
According to sources, it was built round so that the Devil could find no corner to hide in!
Today, it’s a fantastic example of this chapter in prison reform history and provides a step back in time to Barmouth’s maritime past.
Here’s a complete guide for the Barmouth Round House and secrets of this hidden gaol on Snowdonia’s coast!
An introduction to Barmouth
Barmouth lies on the estuary of Afon Mawddach and Cardigan Bay (Bae Ceredigion) in Gywnedd. It’s a scenic place where mountains meet the sea.
Even William Wordsworth commented on his visit that this town could “hold its own against any rival”.
Although nowadays its Snowdonia’s most popular seaside resort, for centuries it was a hub of sailors and sea trade.
The area started to develop around the 18th century when shipbuilding was established here and a port was developed to trade wool.
The economic growth transformed this relatively sleepy fishing settlement into a thriving dock where ships would leave and return daily. In 1770, 132 ships were recorded here.
By 1802, the harbour was deepened to cater to British ships as well as those from overseas. This rise in vessels brought along with it sailors who would visit Barmouth on their trade rounds.
The sailors would often visit the inn’s in the town and were frequently causing trouble for the local constabulary.
A solution was needed to house the drunk and disorderly nearer to the harbour. So, Ty Crwn or the Barmouth Round House was born!
The history of Barmouth Round House or Ty Crwn
According to records of a council meeting held at the Corsygedol Arms, drunken riots and ‘wanton mischief’ took place in Barmouth frequently in the 1830s.
The council believed that evil was on the rise as the local constabulary could not act effectively due to disturbances happening all over town.
They were concerned about the great injuries done to the morality of this place. They also took into account the growing list of complaints from residents about the lewd behaviour disturbing their peace.
It was on this basis that the local magistrates ordered for the Barmouth Round House to be built in 1833 to lock up drunkards, slatterns, and ne’er-do-wells.
The contract was given to Thomas Rees, Jones James, and Rees Owen of Dolgellau. They made the roundhouse 15 feet in diameter (6 metres) out of course stone.
According to records, the house was requested to be made round so that the Devil could find no corner to hide in!
As well as drunken sailors causing trouble, there was apparently a group of women who would frequently cause offense here.
Ty Crwn was then split into two halves so that the constabulary could lock up disorderly women and men separately. The two rooms were divided by a small curtain.
Many petty offenders were kept here until the constable could find a time where they could be put before the magistrates of Dolgellau.
News articles of the day reported that it was not just criminals who were locked up here. Many people were put in jail if they didn’t have a room for the night for their safety!
Although it was an effective solution, it would only remain in use for around 30 years. It ceased its role as a lock-up when Barmouth Police Station was established in 1861.
Ty Crwn today
Although it has been out of use for over a century now, this quirky lock-up has been preserved by the town.
You’ll instantly notice it as you’re walking along the seafront. It’s made of grey stone with walls that are 2 feet thick!
On top is a domed slate roof that looks like it has a chimney on top despite there being no need for ventilation. There is no fireplace or kitchen inside the jail.
You’ll notice that there is a large front door and two narrow windows on either side of the prison, one for each cell.
These were placed high up so there was no way that the prisoners could escape or fraternise. To make doubly sure, an iron bar was placed in the middle of these tiny windows.
This roundhouse is a great example of Barmouth’s maritime history and so the town has renovated the jail to ensure that it doesn’t fall into disrepair.
It’s now a museum owned by The Sailors’ Institute and the Tŷ Gwyn Museum. It’s a popular tourist attraction that intrigues every visitor who happens to pass by it!
What to see on your visit here
I was definitely one of those intrigued by the Barmouth Round House. This curious lock-up stands out as it sits alone on the seafront.
As you approach, you cannot help but be drawn in and investigate what’s inside.
I cannot tell you how much I jumped out of my skin when I looked through the barred door! It was quite dark inside and I wasn’t expecting to see anything. Then, I saw a person in rags sitting in there.
It was pretty creepy but then I quickly realised that (quite obviously) it was a model to show what life was like back then. Just a heads up…
You cannot go inside the roundhouse but you can peek in through the window and take a look at what prison conditions were like in the 1830s.
It would have been pretty uncomfortable as the prisoners were made to sit on a stone floor. The windows are narrow but not completely covered up so it would have been quite cold.
There are a few information boards to read more about Ty Crwn and what people were jailed for. This place will definitely be something that you remember after your visit.
Where is the Barmouth Round House in Barmouth?
Although it is located near to the seafront, this house is quite hidden away in the town.
You’ll find it nearest to Barmouth Harbour (Harbwr Abermaw), the historic Harbourmaster’s House, and opposite to the Bath House Café.
You’ll need to keep a lookout for it as it’s tucked away on the grassland a little further out from the promenade.
It’s situated on a small plateau with a wooden archway and seating around it. The archway has a cycle on top as it’s a popular stopping point on the Mawddach Trail. There are places to lock up your bike.
It’s also just a short walk from the Promenade Car Park.
Ty Crwn Opening times and prices
The Barmouth Roundhouse is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to take a peek inside.
You cannot walk into the building itself but you can take a look through the barred cell door at what lies within.
It’s completely FREE to visit and it’s a great way to learn about prison history and Barmouth’s maritime past!
Looking for more things to do in Barmouth?
Barmouth is a gorgeous seaside town where mountains meet the sea! It’s a great stop on any Snowdonia road trip where you can enjoy views over Cardigan Bay.
The sandy Barmouth Beach stretches for miles here and you’ll find plenty of seaside arcades and pubs lined up on the seafront.
From Barmouth Harbour, you can get a great view of the famous Barmouth Bridge where you’ll see trains pulling in over the Mawddach estuary.
As Barmouth’s tourism developed during the Victorian era, you’ll find plenty of historic buildings all over town. Old Barmouth is definitely worth exploring with its old churches, harbour houses, and inns.
If you were into your maritime history, a visit to the Tŷ Gwyn Museum is a must.
Barmouth is also famous for independent shopping, so you’ll find lots of antique shops and boutiques on its High Street.
From here, you can also enjoy many walks and cycle paths along the Mawddach Trail. A popular route is a 3-mile hike from Barmouth to Dolgellau.