Renovation (circa 2003-2009)

The Old Roundhouse - Yr Hen Garchar

Starting with a place little more than a glorified shed, filled with junk, roofed with corrugated iron and with no water, electricity, sewage or gas, Richard and Alison have laboured (sometimes literally!) to turn the Old Jail into a much-loved and comfortable dwelling. Below you will find snapshots of the transformation process before, during and after! Some of the original features and materials have been retained, others have been carefully replaced.


Outside the Old Jail, prior to renovation, 2003
Outside the Old Jail, prior to renovation, 2003.
View from the back, prior to renovation
View from the back, prior to renovation.

Ground floor, prior to renovation work (A place for stored junk!):

Bars of the jail visible in the back wall
Bars of the jail visible in the back wall.

Front and back bedrooms prior to renovation work starting:

Railway lines visible for lifting former tank filter lid.


Much discussion had to take place!
Scaffolding for the new roof and slates, 2005.

Digging revealed the pillars previously supporting the huge filter tank and the cast-iron pipe bringing in water from the reservoir. The filter tank occupied the space of the two former cells.

New double doors in gable end wall of cottage.
Archway outlining the former brick ceiling above one of the cells.
Restored original 1839 panelling and door under the stairs.
The grate space.
Installing the grate.
Original grate with fireside wooden settle from No. 4 Highgate Street.
First fire in the restored grate.
Modern underfloor heating laid beneath the pitching in the living room.
Slate surround with central space for inlay of pitching stones collected from river bed at the back of the house.
Building the pattern of pitching stones in the living room floor; slate surround originally from the tannery across the road.
Main A frame beam prior to shot blasting.
Timber partition walls upstairs and new lime-plastered walls in the front bedroom.


Driveway and new side entrance to cottage.
Railway lines in driveway taken from ceiling prior to renovation.

February 2005: external works completed.

Alison with architect Charles Cowan and builder Graham Jones.
The finished product with modern boards replaced with 'aged' replica blackshed gate panels.

Former cells have become kitchen and dining areas:

Slate cell floor under dining area

Jail bars visible above salvaged pew seating area and Meredith-made table.

The prisoner's view on a cold, frosty morning!
Front door and staircase.
Pitched floor and open fire in the lounge.
Completed bathroom with river view from the tub!
Back bedroom and bathroom.
Front bedroom.

What’s old, what’s new

The back and front windows and most of the beams upstairs and in the living room are original from 1839. During renovation, the wooden beams of the room were shot-blasted, lightly sanded and then painted with sloppy beeswax to give a fine smell and an appropriate surface texture. The ceiling added in 1894 has been taken away in the bedroom to expose the beams, but the partition dating from the same period remains. The door at the foot of the stairs in 1894 is now used partly for a cupboard door in the front bedroom and also for the electricity meter cupboard by the front door. The side of the stairs is original to 1839 and the planks and door added in 1894 have been removed. Bedroom doors had gone but Richard had the present doors made in the style of the 1830s with the hinges and latches also of that period. (Original door and hinges are under the stairs.)

The Cells

We also found the original slate floor of each cell, now approximately 23” under the present oak floor. A trapdoor provides access to these. In the dining area the curve above the cell window is the line of the brick-vaulted ceiling to the cell demolished when the filter tank was built. Floor to ceiling, each cell was approximately 9’2” tall, with the only light and ventilation coming through the open barred window. Doors from the living room led down steps onto the floor of each cell – the sandstone step remains were found in the cell which is now the dining area.


The grates in the living room and front bedroom had been removed years ago, probably in 1902. The present upstairs grate Richard found in a Tamworth scrap yard but the living room grate came from No. 4 Highgate Street, the house next door, when it was being modernised 25 years ago. Richard had kept it in the black lean-to shed next to the jail, repaired one or two parts and installed it in the fireplace space which was identical to that next door (and in the other three houses). The wooden settle, also from No. 4 Highgate Street, came between the fireplace and the outside door, blocking any draughts but it now sits adjacent to the fireplace.


The slate of the living room came originally from the demolished tannery across the road, where Dick’s brother Cyrus had been the Works Manager. In the 1870s it had been a flannel mill (Spring Mill) owned by Richard George, Richard’s great grandfather’s eldest brother. Richard had kept the slate as a path at the rear of the Jail after the tannery was demolished in the 1970s. The floor now has buried water pipes for under-floor heating and in the central space the cobbles (or pitching) echo those dug up in 1954. They were of a cruder nature in size, with no pattern. The present finer cobbles are similar to others found in farms in the Llanidloes area.

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