A half a million pound appeal to save Corwen’s iconic Owain Glyndwr Hotel could be a springboard for the rejuvenation of the south Denbighshire town, according to an influential politician.
Former Senedd Economy Minister and Clwyd South AM Ken Skates paid a visit to the historic former coaching inn on the A5 which locals are hoping to buy and turn into one of the largest community pubs in the country.
The Owain Glyndwr, named after the last Welsh Prince of Wales, who lived just five miles up the road in Glyndyfrdwy, dates back to the 14th century and staged the first public Eisteddfod in 1789.
Now a consortium of locals has formed the Corwen Partnership to raise £500,000 from a share issue to buy the Grade Two-listed building in the town centre and update the property on Corwen’s London Road, the historic A5 from London to Holyhead.
The share issue was launched on St David’s Day, March 1, at a special open day in the hotel with total of 2,500 £200 shares and so far over £80,000 have sold.
There’s been strong support for the scheme including a message of support from Wales and Fulham footballer Harry Wilson, a local boy whose family live in the town.
Ken Skates was invited to visit the hotel by the Corwen Partnership and was impressed by the building, one of just eight remaining coaching inns on the A5, which is owned by local man Ifor Sion who has run it for the past 25 years and who has set a knockdown price of £300,000 for it.
Mr Skates said: “The Owain Glyndwr is a really great Welsh icon and one that deserves to be saved. It is such a magnificent asset not just for Corwen but for the whole of Wales.
“It is a historically important building which needs to remain the centrepiece of the town for many years to come.
“The likely alternative if this bid fails is that it would become a House of Multiple Accommodation and partitioned into flats which would be a disaster.
“Corwen really needs this bid by local people to succeed so that this magnificent building in the centre of the town can continue to serve the local population and the very many tourists travelling along the A5.
“It also comes at a time when the Llangollen Railway is due to resume its service to Corwen with a new station built here in the town and Corwen with its ample parking could become a favourite starting point for steam railway enthusiasts.
“There really is so much cultural history woven through the fabric of the Owain Glyndwr and for it to be owned by the community would be a wonderful achievement.
“The precedent has been set for community ownership and similar schemes have been successful locally and this would take it to another level in terms not just of the size and scale of the Owain Glyndwr but also its historical significance.
“Hopefully once the community have acquired the building it will open up more opportunities for financial help and support with grants available for upgrading it to a three-star hotel which could be a springboard for the regeneration of the town.
“Ifor Sion is a true patriot for maintaining the building for so long and there must be a huge number of life stories attached to a place like this.”
One of them belongs to local historian and Partnership member Dylan Jones, an electrician whose great-great-great grandmother, Harriet Price, was a dairy maid at the Owain Glyndwr in the 1850s.
He said: “There is a fantastic history attached to the hotel with the oldest part, the cellar, dated back to 1329, 25 years before Owain Glyndwr was born.
“The building backs onto churchyard of the parish church of Saint Mael and Saint Sulien, first mentioned in chronicles 800 years ago, and by the 18th century the building was referred to as the New Inn and the frontage dates from the early 1700s but by 1824 it was advertised as the Owen Glendower Hotel and owned by Francis Clarke.
“In 1789 the inn was the site of the first public eisteddfod, the brainchild of local man Thomas Jones with the approval of the Gwyneddigion Society, a cultural group of Welsh exiles living in London.
“It was very controversial with the organiser tipping off one of the competing poets, Gwallter Mechain, by giving him the subject of the poem prior to the competition.
“When he won, all the other competitors, including the celebrated Twm o’r Nant, made accusations of cheating and Twm’s sponsor, Captain Cook’s surgeon, David Samwell, from Nantglyn, offered to fight a duel over the matter.”
Partnership Chair and local resident David Counsell said: “The big driver for us is seeing what’s happened to similar hotels which have ended up boarded up and derelict.
“It would be an absolute disaster for the town if that happened to the OG as it is affectionately known.
“We need to underline to everyone the importance of buying shares now to ensure the success of the venture and how this can be achieved by visiting our website for details and payment options.
“Corwen has suffered badly in recent years with local pubs and businesses closing and we hope that by buying the hotel as a community, we can reverse this trend, turn it into a popular destination again and put Corwen back on the map.”
For more information on the Owain Glyndwr Hotel and the campaign to save it go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/597758811573323 or to www.owainglyndwr.cymru where you can register for shares on-line.