History of Coleg-y-Groes
Coleg y Groes stands now as a pair of holiday cottages. However, these quaint cottages have a varied and interesting history. They began as an almshouse with six dwellings, built to house widows of clergymen. In more recent years the almshouses were converted into two houses in 1938, then into one large house in the 1960's, before becoming a Christian Retreat Centre in 1985. Now in 2018, the site has been sympathetically renovated into two luxury holiday cottages, showcasing some of the many original features of the property.
The Welsh name 'Coleg y Groes' translates into English as 'College of the Cross', and the buildings have held a close relationship with the church throughout its conception and history. Situated behind St Mael and St Sulien's Church, the cottages were built originally to house widows of clergymen. The origin of the term 'college' is a little more uncertain. Reputedly, the site has earlier origins as an ecclesiastical collegiate foundation, although this is not documented.
The almshouses were comissioned in 1709 upon the death of William Eyton of Plas Warren, Shropshire. The first part of his will reads:
"William Eyton of Plas-warren, pa.[rish] Ellesmere, co. Salop. Bequeathes £300 to his wife Elizabeth according to their marriage agreement; messuage, tenement and lands called Plas-warren, township Ruddleston, pa.[rish] Ellesmere, after his wife’s death, to the Bishop, & Dean and Chapter of St.Asaph, to be sold to provide a house in Corwen for the widows of Church of England clergymen who died having cure of souls in co. Merioneth [Meirionnydd] only, and to maintain the same, the remainder to purchase lands for the benefit of the said widows. If his brother-in-law Philip Jennings of the Inner Temple shall pay £1200 for the property within one year of his wife’s death it is to be sold to him..."
The almshouses were completed in 1750. There is an inscription above the archway entrance to the almshouses that reads:
For six widows of clergymen of the Church of England who died possesed of cure of souls, in the county of Merioneth.
Built and endowed A.D. MDCCL by the legacy of William Eyton, Esq of Plas Warren, Shropshire.
The almshouses were certificated as grade II* listed buildings on the 20th October 1966. Listed because of their significant link to the church, Coleg y Groes represents an excellent example of a 18th century almshouse building, retaining much of its early character. The original 18th century internal layout survives mostly intact with small modifications consistent with changing use; each of the original dwellings had a single room on each floor, chamfered spine beams in lower rooms, deep fireplaces, and stairs winding around the angles of the chimney breasts.