Builth Wells Town Walk: The Groe
Distance: 1.5 Miles
Duration: 30 minutes
Wheelchair, pushchair friendly.
Start your walk at the Groe noting “Abram’s Folly” the fine avenue of trees running alongside the river. Walk towards the bridge which was built in 1779 and widened in 1925, you will pass a large bronze sculpture of a Bull (Pic1).
Cross the road towards Wyeside Arts Centre. This was built in 1877 by the Builth Public Hall and Market Company. It first housed the weekly market, upstairs was used for Count Court offices and public meetings. Later it was used as a cinema and in 1976/7 it was converted into Wyeside Arts Centre. On the outer wall you will see the Builth Coat of Arms and the three terracotta heads – Shakespeare, Mozart and Haydn.
Cross the road into the main shopping street to the Lion Hotel. Lady Hester Stanhope, niece of William Pitt the younger, stayed here in 1808. The glass case to the left of the entrance, contains a plaque presented to Builth to mark its adoption of H.M.S. Cordelia during the Second World War. Turn left up the narrow lane and left again if you want to visit the Castle Mound, alternatively continue along the main street noticing particularly the Croeso site commemorating the Investiture of the current Prince of Wales at Caernarvon Castle in 1969. On the right is the White Horse Inn, the only house built with funds raised by public subscription after the 1690/1 Great Fire of Builth. Next door is Roy Brown’s Coaches, believed to be the site of a bookshop kept by T. Llewelyn Pritchard, author of the first Welsh Novel, “Twm Shon Catti”. The lane on the right going down to the Groe is called Duck Lane now Groe Street which was used by the towns people to take their ducks to the river during the 18th and 19th Centuries. On the left is Crystal House, Berry George the local artist was born here in 1869. The Drovers Tea Rooms (the name is a reminder of livestock markets held in the town), is also on the left.
Turn right down Strand Street to the Strand Hall built in 1876/7 for training and public gatherings. Today it is used for concerts and dances while the ground floor houses the Powys County Council and the Town Council Chamber. Continue down Strand Street past the former post office – the only one in England and Wales to be built during the reign of Edward VIII who later abdicated. Note especially the crest above the door.
Turn left at the bottom of Strand Street and walk around the corner to Alpha Chapel, so called because it was the first Presbyterian Chapel to be built in Wales in 1747. Continue around the corner and enter Builth Churchyard. St. Mary’s Church, - the first Church was built during 13th Century, the present one was rebuilt at a different angle to the Medieval Tower and was opened in 1875. Note that there is a non-conformist Chapel at each corner of the Churchyard. Horeb United Reform Church built in 1869 replacing a much smaller building which was built in 1808. Wesley, Methodist which was built in the semi-gothic style in 1895.
Exit the Churchyard to the south near the Baptist Chapel which is called Memorial in memory of Queen Victoria. The road opposite is known as Smithfield Road and leads to the weekly livestock market.
On the left is the National Westminster Bank, the 19th Century home of Dr. Trevor James, the first Medical Officer of Builth.
Turn left and proceed up West Street. Note particularly, Peterwell, one of the oldest houses in Builth and the stables at the back of the Barley Mow Inn, the only remaining stables in Builth, and Cosy Corner built late 18th early 19th century, the building has timber studded partitions.
Pass the Rugby Club and walk up the hill towards the former Plough Hotel. One of Builth’s Toll Houses was on the road opposite the Plough and you can see a niche in the wall of the Plough where the Toll Gate crossed the road.
From the Plough walk towards Bank Square which is probably the oldest part of town. There once was as many as 28 houses on this square, each cottage holding a tradesman and his family; sheep were also sold here until the Smithfield Market was opened in 1910. From here the Cobbled Lane/Ruth Lane leads down to High Street.
Proceed along Market Street and Castle Road and walk around the Castle and down the hill to Castle Street. Opposite is the “White House Farm” which is said to be built with materials taken from the Castle.
Turn left from White House Farm and continue along Castle Street passing the former Police Station on the right. Continue walking until you arrive back at the Wyeside Arts Centre.