Deeply embedded in the history and culture of Radnorshire, the Thomas Shop is a unique blend of the old and the new. The shop dates back to 1805 when it was a social and economic centre in Mid Wales long before Llandrindod Wells rose to fame.
When I first stepped foot in The Thomas Shop (over 6 years ago now), I was amazed by this little shop that time had forgotten, the old fashioned tins, linens, beautiful old shelving units, and till all pretty much un-touched. It really is a magical place to see, like stepping straight into a forgotten era.
Liz & Derek the owners moved from Gloucester in 2000 after purchasing some woodland in the area a few years previously (and transporting a 1900’s flat pack cabin with them, but that’s a story for another time perhaps)..!
After seeing the Thomas Shop for sale down the road they decided to purchase it, they had fallen in love with the area, the scenery and the slower pace of life.
The house was pretty much in tact when they bought it but the museum and cafe were semi derelict, so they embarked upon a new adventure in Wales, the restoration and refurbishment of the buildings was a real labour of love which was to take them 10 years to complete. The counters, shelving and safe are original but the floor, which had rotted away in places, had to be redone, salviging what they could and replacing, where necessary, with local timber. The problem was that Penybont, before 1960 was regularly affected by flooding when the River Ithon burst its banks, cut the corner, and went under the floor of the shop, silting it up. When they dug the floor out to remove the silt they sifted it and found lots of treasure: thimbles, clay pipes, china, scissors, etc, all these items now hold a place in the museum today.
The shop itself is/was, as you will find it, a grocery store on one side and a drapery on the other. In days gone by the Thomas family as grocers were known for their blends of tea - the Meeting House had been a tea and grain warehouse, while on the drapery side they were renowned for silks and tailoring - they had eight tailors working in the house. People were known to have travelled from as far away as Newtown for the tailoring - hence the kitchen was originally built on to the house as a 'tea-room'. "Until it was completed we had not anticipated that it would become a museum and central to all our activities. The builder who helped us, Marc Swan, and who did such a magnificent job, encouraged us to open it over a week-end to celebrate the restoration. That was in September 2002. Well, over 200 people came to see it and we finally knew that this would be an attraction". - Liz & Derek
The transformation in shopping that began in the mid to late fifties was largely complete before the start of the eighties. The few exceptions, mainly hardware shops, hung on to a past that looked after customers in a way that has now become alien. Shopping changed very little, if at all, in the period between 1805 and 1958, the years when the Thomas Shop flourished. The museum aims to re-capture that period.
When Liz & Derek opened the shop & museum as a permanent attraction in March 2003 they were overwhelmed by the interest but more particularly by the donations people start to make to the shop. It is the Thomas Shop and its diverse collection of artefacts that makes the experience that so many people seem to enjoy.
"Unlike many of the folk museums we encourage visitors: to enjoy being on both sides of the counter; to handle, and even try on, some of the items. Integrated into the shop are some items for sale, it is sometimes hard to distiguish which is which. We do not however sell anything 'old' as we need to feel that our many donators are confident that we value and respect their 'gifts’. - Liz & Derek.
The Engine Room Café (also on site), is so called because it once housed a steam engine that powered the industrial Laundry for the new town of Llandrindod Wells, between 1905 and 1917, has been refurbished to create a cosy and traditional atmosphere on a sunny day you can sit outside in the garden right by the river and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and one of the delicious cakes, all hand made of course. The cakes are fantastic, if they have the salted caramel brownie it’s a must for me! The Thomas Shop is a perfect stop off for guests visiting the Red Kite Feeding Centre in Rhayader, or the Elan Valley. It's about 15 minutes drive from us toward Llandrindod Wells.
Open 10am - 5pm everyday between April & the end of October. Open 10am -5pm Friday through Monday between November & the end of December.
Open 10am - 5pm Friday through Monday between February and April. Closed January.