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“My Whole World, Penmaenmawr” by Anne Forrest
“It had all happened not too far off-shore where in the sixth century, prince helig, the wicked son of clannawg, lived in his palace among his people, for fun, he captured and tortured peasants from neighbouring hamlets, he murdered them in violent orgies for his entertainment.
Just as another massacre was about to take place, the prince’s wickedness was punished by the sea.
A gigantic wave thundered in from the north and engulfed the village in darkness, it claimed the lives of the inhabitants of the palace, and as the raging waters destroyed the buildings, it drowned the evil revellers, prince helyg and his henchmen were killed outright.
Mercifully, the intended victims and other survivors triumphed, they scrambled ashore when the sea calmed, climbed up on to trwyn-yr-wylfa and sat, watching and weeping as their homes disappeared.
At very low tide, rocks are seen which are said to be the remains of the buildings. At high tide we were told, a church bell can be heard ringing beneath the waters – the rough sea crashing against the belfry causing a mournful clanging.
Penmaenmawr Mysterious Beginnings by Alwyn S. Evans
The rise and fall
It has been there since the dawn of time. Long before humans walked upright, the great bulk of Penmaenmawr dominated the northern coast of Wales between Conwy and Bangor; a distinctive landmark, visible for many miles. The mountain has been home to and has cast its shadow over many generations: from the ice age to the computer age its slopes have been occupied and worked, from summit to sea’s edge.
Modern Times : A brief overview
The late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought unexpected prosperity to many rual areas, provided indirectly by the birth of the French republic. After 1789 the once popular ‘grand tours’ of Europe undertaken by the wealthy had been made too hazardous by the French revolution, the Napoleonic wars and the resultant military and social unrest on the continent: an alternative was urgently sought.
Wales and Scotland, until then considered rather boring and primitive backwaters, suddenly blossomed. Artists and poets had for years sought inspiration in their wild places and extolled their virtues to a largely apathetic public: now that public became the travelling classes and they clambered to see for themselves what had caused the artistic community to wax lyrical. The newly improved roads and developing railways brought previously remote areas of midlands and the northwest of England and even the sedate Home Counties were only hours rather than days away.
Dwygyfylchi, as Penmaenmawr was more usually referred to at the time, was one such ‘remote area’ and the ‘grand Tourists’ flooded in. The mountain, its name translates as ‘Great Rock Head’, with its summit intact overlooked all. Its high Moorland walks and the sea at its foot attracted the professional and the famous. Prime Minister Gladstone was a devotee and Elgar the composer, seeking escape from his clashing imperial music came to relax in its peace and rural isolation. Families fleeing the depressing and debilitating effects of smog and soot of urban life drank in curative and bracing mix of sea and mountain air.
In the nineteenth century sea bathing had become a ‘fad’ and the tiny hamlet with its grand sweep of safe sand became famous as a kind of mini spa: at first, almost exclusively for the higher echelons of Victorian and Edwardian society. In 1861 Dr Norton built his Penmaenmawr Hotel overlooking the beach. A designer built spa hotel, it was provided with salt water bathing facilities both hot and cold. The water was driven up from a steam driven pump on the high water line. In keeping with enthusiastic expansion of the time the name of the hotel was soon afterward changed to The Grand Hotel. Later, two world wars would prove to be great social levellers and the little resort with its modest apartments and solidly impressive boarding houses became a firm favourite with ordinary families who returned year after year.