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Description

The Machynlleth Borough Guide refers to two sets of gates along this part of the high street – one being the entrance to Llynlleoedd and the Plas grounds, and the other being the entrance to a warehouse that was used as the Maengwyn Methodist chapel, then a grammar school, Presbyterian chapel, British Board School, and afterwards a flannel manufactory.

It is difficult now to be sure now, even by crossing over and trying to gain a different view of this section of the street, which breaks in the street frontage the second of these gates might refer to. Possibly the widened entrance for the car park? The end wall of this house retains evidence for a chimney and a fireplace, confirming that some demolition to widen the access road to the car park has taken place since the guide was published.

David Wyn Davies' book, The Town of a Prince, notes that a report about the woollen and flannel industry in the town was featured in The Cambrian News in 1850. It stated that ‘the manufacture of flannels, principally of the coarser kind is carried on to a considerable extent and some webs are made. In the manufacture more that forty carding engines and seven fulling mills are employed in the town and vicinity. The weaving is done by workmen in their own homes and about two hundred pieces averaging one hundred and fifty yards each are sent to market at Newtown every alternative Thursday’.

An advertisement in The Cambrian News in 1887 does indeed refer to a William Pugh of Maengwyn Street as ‘a manufacturer of flannels, Welsh linseys, blankets, webs, tweeds, cloth, hosiery and yarn’.

From medieval times onwards, many townspeople combined farming activities with the woollen industry. Locally produced wool and cloth was carried by packhorse to the markets at Oswestry and Shrewsbury. By the 16th century, some of the town’s weavers had their own flocks grazing on Penyrallt Common, Wylfa Common and Parc Common. Woman undertook the carding and spinning in their own homes, with the yarn being sold to the town's weavers. Oswestry remained the most important distribution centre for Welsh cloth into the 19th century. There were three big fairs in May, August, and November attended by drapers from Coventry, Shrewsbury and Whitchurch. Some of the cloth purchased was subsequently despatched to London or Bristol for export.

In 1830, Machynlleth had 15 carding and spinning factories. But the last woollen factory in the immediate vicinity, at Felingerrig, out eastward along the Newtown Road, went into liquidation in December 1910.

A question remains... was this lovely old building with its outbuilding once the centre of such manufacturing activity?

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