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  • Writer's pictureGraham Watkins

The Smallest House

Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne when a rather unusual house was built in Conwy. To keep the cost down, the builder wanted a site where three outside walls already existed and found what he wanted on the quayside. Buildings had been erected along the medieval town walls but there was a small gap left and it was here that the house was built. Using existing outside walls may have been economic but since the gap the house was squeezed into was rather small the result was a very little house. The dwelling was so small that, following an advertising campaign by an enterprising local newspaperman, Robert Dawson, and extensive enquiries throughout the land, the house has been recognised by the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest house in Britain.

An old postcard of the smallest house
An old postcard of the smallest house in Britain at Conwy

Quay House, as it is known, is ten feet (3m) by six feet (1.8m) and despite having two storeys is just ten feet two inches tall. The last occupant of the house was a local fisherman by the name of Robert Jones who, being six feet three inches (1.9m) tall, must have found the living conditions rather cramped. There was nowhere he could stand up in the house. It might have been for this reason that Mr. Jones was said to have spent most of his time, when he wasn’t at sea, in the local taverns. On the 15th May 1900 Mr. Jones was forced to move out when the local authority condemned the house as unfit for human habitation. There was nothing structurally wrong with the house but its lack of a toilet gave the authority an excuse to remove the fisherman. Without the intervention of the local paper, anxious to promote the town and recognising a good story, the smallest house in Britain would have then been demolished.

The stories of 60 Welsh follies.

Because of the publicity the house received, visitors began to ask to have a look inside and were charged one old penny for the briefest of tours. To make more money Mr. Jones had postcards produced of himself and his wife, in welsh costume, standing outside the house. These he sold as souvenirs. Today, the house, which is still owned by descendants of Mr. Jones, is a popular tourist attraction, open to the public in the summer months. For a small fee, paid to a lady dressed in Welsh costume, visitors can peer inside, clamber up a ladder to look at the tiny bedroom and read about the house in 17 different languages.

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