'Wales' oldest shop' still going strong after nearly 500 years

Siop Clwyd in Denbigh
Siop Clwyd in Denbigh -Credit:Plaid Cymru

A shop that’s believed to be the oldest in Wales is still going strong nearly 500 years after it was built. Over time the timber-framed building on the high street in Denbigh has been used for a variety of purposes and more recently been home to the Welsh book shop, Siop Clwyd.

The family-owned business is run by Gwawr Cordiner, her husband Andrew, and her daughter Martha. They also run the popular Te yn y Grug café and deli, which is located on Back Row behind the shop.

It’s been established by heritage experts using dendrochronology tests that the timber in the one-and-a-half-storey premises dates back to 1533.

According to Plaid Cymru members on Denbighshire County Council, the shop is still a “beacon” of culture and commerce and is one of the “wonders of Wales”.

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The Grade II Tudor-era timber-framed building is also the oldest surviving building in Denbigh, which has a total of 255 listed buildings, (more than any other town in Wales) that isn’t connected to the castle and town walls.

It was built using wattle and daub which is a building method that has been used for over 6,000 years. The technique involves taking a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle, which are then daubed with a sticky material. This material is usually made of a combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw.

Originally the central unit of the building was a hall with no ceiling or first floor. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales has suggested that the first floor was probably installed there in the 17th century when a central fireplace was added. The date 1665 has been inscribed on the ceiling on the first floor.

According to Cadw, the historic monuments authority for Wales, this building looks like it has been built to function as a shop as well as a dwelling, which would make it one of the oldest shops in Wales. During the 1890s the building was home to the veterinary surgery of JH Wynne, who was formerly a tutor at the Royal Veterinary College in London.

Today the building is home to Siop Clwyd, which sells Welsh language books, Anglo-Welsh books, as well as cards and Welsh crafts. Siop Clwyd is over 50 years old and was opened by Gwawr’s aunt Rhianwen Williams, and her friend Edith Jones. It was originally on Vale Street before it was moved to its present location.

Gwawr said: “Cadw has been here to take samples of the wooden beams. It’s believed to be the oldest shop in Wales.

“It’s the oldest building in Denbigh that isn’t connected to the castle. The building has been expanded upwards. So the first floor is more recent.

“The timber beams are all original. So it’s timber framed and the structure is wattle and daub.

Siop Clwyd owner Gwawr Cordiner with Plaid Cllr Rhys Thomas
Siop Clwyd owner Gwawr Cordiner with Plaid Cllr Rhys Thomas -Credit:Plaid Cymru

“There wasn’t anything like this in Denbigh that sold Welsh language books at the time my aunt Rhianwen and her friend Edith opened Siop Clwyd. The original shop wasn’t here. It was on the top of Vale Street, and then they relocated here. It used to be a Chinese restaurant.

“My oldest sister and I Gwerfyl then took it over as a partnership in 2006 and then she retired around seven years ago.

“Since then, my husband, Andrew, my daughter Martha and I have been running it. My son Morgan has also worked here.

“The fact that we’re a family-run business has been key from the start. That’s what makes this shop viable and has enabled us to ensure we can continue to offer a unique service to our customers in Denbigh and the surrounding communities who support us.

Siop Clwyd in Denbigh
Siop Clwyd in Denbigh -Credit:Plaid Cymru

“We want to have a welcoming atmosphere and I’ve had several people tell me that they feel at home here.”

Plaid Cllr Rhys Thomas said: "The building is hugely important historically and very striking to look at. I remember the first time I came in and I thought it was great that I could come to such a building.

“Then you learn that it’s one of many buildings in Denbigh that have been listed.

“Siop Clwyd does stand out as a special shop not only from the outside but when you come in and see the old wooden beams you realise that you’re in a building that has quite a bit of history to it.

“It’s one of the historical wonders of Wales and it’s also important to the future of the town”

He added: “It’s important to Plaid Cymru that we support shops like this. Siop Clwyd products from Wales, so this is part of the local economy. They support producers from Wales.”

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