Llanidloes is a small historic town in Cambrian Mountains. Its central position within Wales makes it the first town along the River Severn. While it was given a charter to hold a market in 1289, its history stretches back at least 400 years before that.
An ancient half-timbered market hall still stands at the crossroads of the four medieval streets of the town. Built around 1600, it is the only surviving building of this type in Wales. In addition to housing markets, the hall also held Assize courts around 1605, and in 1748 John Wesley preached from a pulpit stone on the open ground floor. Other traces of the town's medieval history can be seen in the many notable timber framed buildings as well as the fifteenth century parish church with its hammerbeam roof. The Church of St Idloes in the town centre incorporates some of the pure early English archways from the nearby Abbey Cwmhir which was dissolved in 1547.
The hills and mountains around Llanidloes were once very important centres of lead and silver mining, and remains from this industry can still be seen on the landscape, particularly on the scenic mountain road connecting Llanidloes to Machynlleth. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the town also developed a thriving flannel industry, but this went into decline in the first half of the nineteenth century. The collapse in the local textile industry led to a campaign for democratic rights and the town became notorious as a crucible of industrial unrest during the Chartist revolt in 1839.
Amongst the town's more curious attributes is a famous two-headed sheep, on display at the local museum, and its population to pub ratio. In 2007, Llanidloes had a population of 2,314. At that time, the town had 17 licensed drinking establishments. This seems a very high ratio for a small town steeped in strong Methodist and Baptist traditions, and for which almost a half of the population would likely be too old to regularly go to the pub or too young to drink!
Another puzzle was uncovered during some statistical analysis of Y chromosome (genetic genealogy) of locals in 2003. Residents whose paternal grandfather was born within a thirty kilometre radius of the town were tested, and the results suggest that there must have been a significant (and unique) Anglo-Saxon (German/Danish) presence in the area over 1500 years ago. Interestingly, no historical documents, nor local folklore record this in any way.
Today's visitors to the area enjoy the stunning mountain scenery that surrounds the town, and it has become a haven for bird watchers interested in spotting red kites in the nearby Hafren forest, and for wildlife enthusiasts alike. Hikers enjoy the scenic footpaths in the hills, including Glyndwr's Way which linked to Offa's Dyke path forms a 160-mile circuit around Mid Wales.
The town is closely linked with Laura Ashley the fabric and dress designer. It was in Llanidloes that she began her first business, in a small shop on the main street. Perhaps fittingly therefore, the Quilt Association of Great Britain has its headquarters at the Minerva Arts Centre, and the town hosts - and is famous for - an annual fancy dress festival