Why Not Join our Forum
Historical Society Publication 1982-1983
OLD HOUSES IN DWYGYFYLCHI PARISH
There is much interest in the old houses and in those that have disappeared within one’s parish, developments since the end of the first world-war have swallowed up so many landmarks of the past and changed the character of many localities and succeeding generations do not know what has disappeared. This is an essay to bring back some knowledge of what has been lost and to be aware, in part at least, of what is worth knowing about the older surviving houses.
There can hardly be a parish where more traces of early man can be found, in 1919 stone chipping floors were discovered on the summit of the Graigiwyd Mountain where stone axes had been shaped from the flint-like rock, so profuse were the .flakings -- the spoil of the workings and the rejects that it could only be regarded as an Axe Factory - the very first ever discovered in Britain. Later, implements undoubtedly from this Graiglwyd Axe Factory have been found in many parts of Britain especially along the coasts of Wales and bordering the English Channel - and even as far North as Stirling.
Mr. Dennis Roberts has outlined an extraordinary number of these relics of early man scattered over the same elevated moor land in a leaflet describing a ‘History Trail’, including the most complete so-called “Druid’s Circle” in Wales with adjoining circles - explored in 1958/9; here only matters of comparatively recent times will be noted. They will commence at the Eastern end of the parish - which has been regarded as DWYGYFYLCHI
Under the Alltwen Mountain is the Georgian mansion Pendyffryn half hidden in the trees. It was built in the late eighteenth century by George Thomas Smith one of a notable family from Burn-Hall Durham; his young sister Elizabeth Smith (1777 - 1806) a remarkable scholar, was fascinated by the grandeur of Snowdonia which she eagerly explored; failing health induced her to live in Coniston where she died. De Quincey devotes a chapter to her remarkable achievements in his book “The Lake Poets.”
In 1854 Pendyffryn was taken over by S. Dunkinfield Darbishire a retired Manchester solicitor who greatly enlarged the house for his large family. His eldest son Robert followed his father as a solicitor in Manchester and came to be a Freeman of that city, honoured for his social benefactions and for his sole Trusteeship of the Whitworth estate of over a million pounds - benefiting Higher Education.
William Arthur another son, took over the Penyrorsedd Slate Quarry at Nantle over a long and prosperous period. Charles Henry another son, became the proprietor in 1878 of the local granite quarry, later to be head of an amalgamation of the two quarries at Penmaenmawr and of the Trevor quarry in South Caernarfonshire. His liberal and enlightened services to the public made him one of The foremost citizens of the principality for over 50 years. Other members of the Darbishire family gained distinctions too numerous to relate here.
The only cottage within the parish described by Hughes and North in their valuable book “The Old Cottages of Snowdonia” is “Ty’n-y.Wern”, off the Old Mill Road. The authors say, “The roof supports were composed of pairs of great curved pieces of oak, each piece starting from the floor against the sidewalls, and meeting at the ridge. Here only the two great rafters of the principals remaining. The Design of the roof supports first appeared in the fourteenth century or early Fifteenth century, but, of course, this surviving example would not go back to that early period, but it could well date several centuries.”
Since their visit most of the timbers have disappeared; all that is left of a pile of stones covered with brambles, they lie where a footpath coming down from the upper road follows a hedge and where it turns to join the Old Mill Road by Glyn terrace.
“Cac-glas” (Greenfield) was a small-holding near the top of the golf course a short distance West of the “White House.” The will of Gaynor Jones of Cae Glas dated 1755 survives, it was ultimately sold (15¼ acres) to Sir George Edward Paget, Physician to Queen Victoria who built “Plas-tan-yr-Allt’ as his summer residence - a noted family with many connections, who were long associated with Penmaenmawr. A Miss Violet Paget was the last of the Pagets, she was a keen musician and was in the habit of entertaining at Plas-tan-yr-allt some of the most noted musicians of Edwardian days, including Elgar, a biography has a photograph of him sitting in a garden house in the grounds of Plas Tan yr Allt.
In the vicinity of “The Old Village,” of “Capelulo” (Lulo’s Chapel) at the foot of the Sychnant Pass, no really ancient dwellings remain. Lulo is said to have been a hermit of the seventh century or earlier with his cell somewhere in the hiding of trees near the Afon Gyrach and above the present road bridge.
On the site of the house “Riverstone” stood a carding or combing mill - the empty mill-pool can be seen near the entrance to the Fairy Glen, the mill would be in much demand by the many cottage weavers in the parish during the seventeenth and earlier centuries.
Up to about a century ago parents would send their children wool-gathering from the gorse of the hillsides to be washed and combed at the mill and to be spun into yarn on the spinning wheel then in many homes; the yarn to be knitted into stockings etc. A story is told of Hugh Jones of “Penpenmaen” cottage (referred to later) making a great harvest of fleeces from many sheep lost in a great snowstorm in 1881.
There are reasons for believing that the Parish Church was the centre around which the growth of villages took place; there is some evidence of this in our parish. Off the Old Mill Road on the West side the land was divided into several strips, a few of them survive; each was of separate and intermixed ownership, they were known as “Lleiniau’r Llan” (Church strips). Over the way to the church on the North were similar inter-mixed strips.
Butting against the boundary of the graveyard on the South was a Tithe-barn, it was thatched and last used to house a day-school run by the Darbishire family before they built a British School - the old building at the foot of the cemetery. By the Tithe-barn stood a cottage ‘Tan-y-Fynwent,” a later cottage of that name was built alongside the footpath giving access to the cemetery, these have now disappeared.
Mr. Dennis Roberts has researched the manuscripts once belonging to the incumbent of the parish at the National Library, they mention a “Parsonage or Glebe House,” a terrier of 1821 mentions - “A house with a barn with a good yard both made of tolerable materials.” A terrier of 1749 states “There is also a small house adjoining the churchyard said to be built by the Vicar.” These were most probably in the vicinity of the church and are no more.
“Cae-mawr Cottage” of which there is no trace was alongside the footpath which starts by the Church Clubhouse and leads down to the Iron Bridge. It was tenanted in the 1850’s by a John Jones, “Jack Bell,” who was in charge of a lime-kiln on the edge of the greensward bordering high-water mark. Sea erosion destroyed all traces of it about 40 years ago, it stood a short distance east of the gasometers and until recently gates allowed vehicles access to it across the railway. From files of the “North Wales Chronicle” one can read two accounts of passing tramps being suffocated when sleeping on the old kiln. The church manuscripts, mentioned earlier, show that “Cae-mawr Cottage” was tenanted in 1771 by Hugh Jones a labourer, and in 1773 by two families - this tells of the poverty of their period. The cottage was thatched.
At the top of Treforris Road where today is the house “Cartref Melus” there was a Day School belonging to the Parish Vestry said to date from about 1760; it was held in what later were known as the “The Turnpike Cottages” a row of four squat cottages, the two upper ones originally formed a single room - the schoolroom, the next was master’s cottage, and next to it was occupied by the keeper of the turnpike
A detailed report of the school was given by one of the Commissioners appointed under an Act calling for an “Inquiry into the state of Education in Wales’’ who visited the school 1847, it is most revealing.
Eighty Scholars were on the books but only 57 were present. Judged by the standards of today the report would cause many a smile, but when compared with the state of things in the great majority of schools in Wales, it is an exceedingly creditable report. The school was replaced by a then modern National School opened in 1848 on the site of today’s gasometers, and the old schoolroom converted into two cottages. The writer can trace nine residents of Penmaenmawr who had attended this early Turnpike School.
From the Turnpike Cottage a chain set across the road served instead of a gate; its purpose was to toll anyone seeking to dodge passing through the gates on the Upper Conwy Road - this was before the Penmaenbach Loop road was made in
1826. Some travellers were prone to go or come from Conwy by rounding the Penmaenbach on the sands when the tide was out, the early route.
A more detailed account of the Turnpike School is given in the Transactions of the Llandudno Field Club for 1930- 1931, and some of the local vanished cottages are described in later numbers.
Descending Treforris Road - on the west side was an old cottage “Tregarnedd” now absorbed into a recent dwelling of the same name. Still on this west side stood “Picill” (approximately on the site of to-day’s house “Rhoslan”) a whitewashed cottage with its gable bounding the road. There lived the last of the local weavers who had his loom in a lean-to against the other gable. Where this road joins the “Ysguborwen” road (White Barn Road) and over the way there was a low thatched cottage “Groesffordd - Isaf” (Lower Crossroad) - the “Lower” to distinguish it from “Groesffordd Goch” where the Mountain Lane crosses the Graiglwyd Road (described later).
The writer can account for three corn-mills in the parish, but only one remains and in a ruined state. An estate map of the 1840’s shows the stream now culverted by “Plasmaelgwyn,” denoted as “Afon-yr-Hen-Felin” - the old mill stream. There are other evidences of it in near-by names. The other vanished mill was at the Northern End of Glyn Terrace, the presence of a mill here is given in the name Pentre Felin - mill village - the last trace of it was a row of cottages demolished 60 years ago. Census returns for the early part of the last century confirm that a small community lived at “Pentre Felin.” There, back in the 1760’s, lived a cooper who besides being a maker of casks made churns, pails, dairy and kitchen utensils of wood.
The surviving mill is in the Glyn woods and referred to as “Yr Hen Felin” - the old mill - while that by Glyn Terrace was the “New Mill.” There was an understanding that both mills set their wheels going at the same time when the Afon Gyrach water was low in dry weather.
A wagon belonging to the Glynperkin farm took bags of flour from both mills to Bethesda periodically; it had broad tyres about 9 inches width -- they did not rut the roads as much as tyres of normal width - an indication of the state of the roads of the period. The story is told of an Elias Jones the driver of the wagon, that on the return journey he usually lay dead-drunk on the floor of his wagon while the horses trotted - sometimes running at a dangerous pace - knowing their way home.
TRYW-Y-WYLFA PEN—CAE DISTRICT
The picturesque farmhouse Trwyn-y-Wylfa on the Upper Conwy Road seems to be an ancient house but it dates only from the last years of the eighteenth century; it replaced an earlier house sited where the farm buildings are now across the road - probably the present house was built on the making of the Upper Road in 1772. It takes the name from that of the prominent crag under which it shelters - a name meaning “The watching Point” - no doubt watching for the dreaded Viking raiders who worried these coasts in the 9th and later centuries.
In line with the small lawn in front of Trwyn-y-Wylfa, up to about 60 years ago, there was a Gorse bruising and chopping mill -- one of several in the district, indeed probably common through out Britain when shortage of winter fodder limited the number of stock the farm could carry before the introduction of swedes, turnips, kale etc. as winter fodder. The bank on which the trough carrying water to the little mill-wheel lay can still be seen.
About 50 yards westwards on this top side of the road by a gate, fragments of walling are all that remain of a pink washed cottage “Bryn-pink.” Inside the road hedge is a row of stunted beech trees; on one of these was once bracketed an arm projecting into the road, on it hung a wooden model of a loaf intended to catch the eye of passengers on the state coach as bread could be bought at the cottage.
Retracing one’s direction on this road a short distance East of Trwyn y wylfa and below the road, the picturesque farmhouse Tyddyn Du is seen; The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments attributes it to date early in the eighteenth century.
Itinerant non-conformist preachers were welcomed to preach at Trwyn y wylfa, this is supposed to have commenced about 1794. Soon the occupants of Tyddyn Du -- Evan Thomas and his wife Sarah Morris also welcomed them at their house; this led to the erection of Horeb Chapel in 1813 by the Congregational denomination - the first non-conformist chapel in the parish. The present building is the third on the site.
The founding of the Calvanistic Methodist cause is said to be due to William Jones of Trwyn-y-Wylfa and a John Hughes of Bryn Pinc. Preaching had been taking place as mentioned at Trwyn-y-Wylfa - soon followed by the renting of a cottage “Ychysfa” - demolished when its site was absorbed in the grounds of the present mansion Tan-y-foel. A licence permitting preaching at “Ychysfa” was obtained in 1814 to be followed by the building of their first chapel known as Pencae Chapel - again the present building is the third on the site; this third now having been taken over by the Roman Catholic Church.
The first Roman Catholic service in Penmaenmawr was held at the Co-operative Hall (now the upper floor of Gladstone House) on October: 1st 1905, and continued for a short time. Thereafter services were held at Groesffordd, Graiglwyd Road, from 1905 to 1906. This was the private residence of Mrs. Alicia Cubitt.
In early 1905 the Calvanistic Methodist Church at Pencae became vacant. The Francisian Order entered into negotiations for its purchase and this was concluded for the sum of £850. The first Roman Catholic service was held opening with a solemn blessing on June 20th 1906 and all services have continued there since that date.
Tan-y-Foel was built in the 1860’s for Murray Gladstone a cousin of “The Grand Old Man” who died and was buried here. Penmaenmawr was in great favour with the Gladstones. The first visit by W.E. Gladstone with his family was in 1855 when they occupied Plas mariandir (now Bryn Hedd) the Italian style villa loaned to them by Dr. Harrison of the Chester Infirmary; he spent several of his long parliamentary vacations at Penmaenmawr. So admired was he that on one occasion his carriage was hauled by a group of quarrymen up to his lodgings.
In the Chapel House attached to the Methodist Church that preceded to-day’s structure there lived a Mary Williams who had for sale an unfailing remedy for colds and all kinds of chest troubles known locally as the “Physic Brynmor,” she had inherited the recipe from her former mistress - the wife of William Jones the gentleman farmer of Brynmor (referred to later), for whom she had long been parlour maid. The concoction was said to be made up of Spirits of Nitre, Paragoric, Tincture of Rhubarb and Asafetida. Afterwards the Physic could be got at Hughes the chemist (the Midland Bank premises to-day).
Before leaving this region of the parish, mention should be made of the original “Tan-y-Foel,” it was a smallholding in the second field above the entrance to the present Tan-y-Foel; no trace of it remains. Grace Wynne of this cottage became the second wife of William Jones of Trwyn-y-Wylfa.
The field over the way to this entrance to Tan-y-Foel is called “Cae Sling”, it reaches down to the lower Conwy Road - a long narrow field, not an uncommon name for a field of this shape. Near the top of this field was a cottage “Sling,” it was last occupied by a Thomas Jones, a miner who came here on the closing of the last of the copper mines on the Gt. Orme to work on the tunnel for the railway piercing the Penmaenbach. One of his sons Henry Jones (1831 -- 1907) deserves mention which will be done when describing the
“Groesffordd Isaf” a cottage on Yscuber-Wen road had been mentioned, another “Groesffordd” . “Groesffordd Goch” was a smallholding on the site of to-day’s house “Groesffordd” at the head of the Lower Mountain Lane where it crosses the Graigiwyd Road. “Goch” in the name means red -- for the floor level was built of rough boulders and divided between a cow-house and a barn, while above this was a red brick dwelling -- hence the distinction from the first mentioned Groesffordd isaf -- lower crossroads.
Grace, a daughter of Thomas Jones of ‘Sling’ with her husband were the last occupiers of Groesffordd Goch. Soon after leaving there she became widowed with many children and indication of the hardship of the poor of her day was that she gathered stones off the fields for a pittance of 8 pence per day.
Ascending Mountain Lane from the house “Groesffordd,” on the left is the villa “Lonfa,” it is on the site of an ancient holding “Bicht” a name of obscure meaning. It was demolished by an Edward Roberts after the death of his parents whose home it was - their respective ages 89 and 91; he died in 1871 and she in the following year. Two sons of Edward Roberts emigrated to New Zealand where their numerous descendants have prospered.
Proceeding Westwards on the Graigiwyd Road one comes to a drive leading to Graigiwyd Hall - a stone built house built in the 1890’s. “Cym” was a smallholding long vanished and probably standing where the coach house is to-day that belonged to Graiglwyd Hall. The Church property transcripts tell us that in 1767 Owen Jones, a farmer, lived at Cwm. In 1770 John Edwards, farmer, was its occupant and in 1773 William Griffith, weaver, was there.
A short distance further on this Graigiwyd Road the whitewashed farm Graigiwyd is in view. One would not judge it to be ancient, but the R.C.O.H.M. state it shows evidences of three developments dating from the 16th century.
“Pwllmolrhos” (Seal’s Pool) was the name of a small farm house where Church Terrace in Church Road by St. Seiriol’s Church is today. Perhaps the name was chosen from that of a field of the same name belonging to the farm -. it occupied ground East of Station Road East and overlooks the shore where there may have been a pool frequented by a seal. Owen Williams was its last tenant and H. R. Williams who had a butcher’s business in Pant-yr-Afon was one of his sons. About 60 years ago a Miss McClement told the writer that when a girl she used to play with a daughter of Owen Williams and well remembered hearing from the kitchen of the farm repeated thuds coming from the barn attached as this Owen Williams was thrashing corn with a flail; he also did much carting and sold coal. The squire of Brynmor enters in his diary of the 1860’s “Received 6 tons of coal from Owen Williams at 6/- a ton delivered.” It was he who carted stone for the building of the National School of 1848, and for the conversion of the Turnpike School.
“Hwyfryn,” the large house by the bowling green is on the site of a smallholding of the same name; its tenant was an Owen Williams -- father to the Owen Williams of
Henry Jones, son of Thomas Jones of “Sling,” should be referred to here; he can be regarded as the principal pioneer in the development of Pant.yr-Afon, the
shopping centre. Pant-yr-Afon stands for “the hollow of the stream”; three streams that once flowed across the road, now culverted, and meet to form the Dingle
stream. It was Henry Jones who built the terrace Paradise Crescent and other developments.
He was however often at war with the District Council. He built without their consent a bathing machine office on the promenade and the Council made him pull it down. He had the monopoly of a score or so of bathing machines on the front east of the quarry jetty (Joseph Jones, Medina Villa, had his machines on the west side). Penmaenmawr was then very popular as a bathing and boating resort. Henry Jones showed his resentment by building a tall unbecoming structure over the way to the station and facing Paradise Road and occupying what to-day is the entrance to the parking ground - naming it “Collgwynfa” - Paradise Lost.
Schoolboys were then versed in the names of horses especially if of a peculiar name. “Catewayo” - brave Zulu warrior, and “Garibaldy” the heroic Italian patriot,
were horses Henry Jones had to haul his machines to and from the water in keeping with the tide.
The quarry jetty with its end portion removed is a reminder of the years when the output of the quarry was greater than latterly and when a second jetty, since removed, existed further westward -. when the quarry gave employment to eleven hundred men, whereas the number to-day barely reaches one hundred.
For many years hundreds of vessels left the two jetties taking Penmaenmawr granite to many ports around Britain and some to Hamburgh.
“Brynmor” is a former farmhouse with its gable bordering the Bangor Road opposite the English Reformed Church. The R.C.O.H.M. say it dates from the 16th century or early 17th; like Pendyffryn it was added to in the 1850’s. It was once part of the most extensive holdings of Archibald John Williams Archbishop of York, a native of Conwy, who rose to eminence but his last years were fraught with great troubles and disappointments.
The last occupier and owner of “Brynmor” when it was a farm was William Jones (1786 - 1870) with his wife Gaynor, a grandson of William Jones of Trwyn- y-Wylfa. She it was who had the recipe for the wonderful medicine which was passed on to her parlourmaid Mary Williams -- both mentioned earlier. This couple are ancestors of the Cemlyn Jones family.
“Tyddyn-y-Gwinwr” (Tyddyn - a small farm and Gwinwr is a wine maker or wine seller) is on the Tithe Schedule of 1842 and probably stood near the lower of the Bell cottages at the top of Gilfach Road. The deeds of Elm Villa define the northern boundary of the plot on which it is built as “the trackway leading to Tyddyn.y-Gwinwr” -- now Gilfach Road. Gwinwr comes in the name of the field where the house “Nescliff” stands on the Graiglwyd Road. Home-brewed wines were once in demand.
Further west of “Brynmor” on the Bangor Road, the white house “Ty Mawr” (Big House) is seen at the top of a field on the north side of the road and is on the
site of a much older house, where in 1590 Ellin Coetmor made her will appointing her son George Coetmor to be her executor. The name derives from the name of the home of the family near Llanllechid -- a land owning stock closely linked to similar neighbouring families. This George Coetmor came to be Secretary to Cromwell’s victorious navy.
The railway came through with a ‘regular’ service to Bangor in May 1848 - its coming was a great stimulus to the development of Penmaenmawr -- leading in the early 1960’s if not earlier, to the first stage in the building of the very ambitious Grand Hotel. Its successive extensions tell of the growing popularity of the district by wealthy English families in Victorian days. A Dr. Norton is associated with its establishment - his name is preserved in the “Norton Villas” in Gilfach Road; he could be the Dr. Norton who built the Hydro Hotel at Llandudno in 1860.
An astounding belief in the medical virtues of sea water - a cult going back to the seventeenth century led to the coming of what were termed Hydropathic Hotels of which the Grand Hotel was typical. A steam pump led sea water into a large bath in the hotel basement - the pipe going under the railway to within reach of high water. A reservoir at the top of the field where Greystone Park is today, provided the hotel with its water supply before a town supply came. Gas for lighting came before Mr. Dempster’s gasworks supplied the town -- from a gas plant of its own.
A humbler showing of the belief in the virtues of sea water was the sight of a lidded cask placed just within the iron hurdle fence bounding the field now occupied by Sambrook’s cafe and tea gardens. It belonged to Anne Davies and she used to fill the cask when the tide was in and earned six pence for a bucketful delivered to the lodgings of ‘visitors’ when needed.
THE WESTERN END
At the western end of the Parish the tithe assessment tells of three farms which have vanished, “Erwfaeshir” (long acre field), “Penmaenan” (Maenan end) and “Penmaenisaf” (Lower Penmaen). The latter stood where today two large concrete storage hoppers are seen between the railway and the shore, it was demolished when quarrying started in the 1830’s.
Before the present Bangor road was made in 1772, travellers came along the sands or shore travelling chiefly on horseback. Those coming from Conwy and beyond on reaching Penmaenisaf could choose to turn inland and proceed by a trackway rounding the headland, this they would have to do if the tide was coming in (old coaching maps show this) or travellers could break their journey by putting up at Penmaenisaf. On the trackway - and somewhere about the level of the present road there stood two taverns - the “Jolly Herring” and the “Pickle Herring” - echoes of the days when herring fishing was customary. The name of the vicinity remains “The Jolly.”
At an altitude of 1,200 feet on the south of the mountain’s summit cone there was a sturdy cottage - “Penpenmaen” (Penmaenhead); the rock on which it stood was quarried away 60 years ago. There was a dwelling of some sort on its site as far back as 1472 - it is mentioned in a deed of that date which describes it as “Hafoty” Penpenmaen “- Hafoty” is a summer dwelling - it tells of the ancient custom when the lowland farmer with his family and his flock of sheep or herd of cattle moved to a shelter of some kind to mountain grazing over the summer months. A hint of another “Hafoty,” long vanished, is contained in the name of the rocky bluff capping a hill overlooking Plas-uchaf - “Craig-hafod-wen” (the white rock of the summer dwelling). The location of “Hafoty-gwyn” is not known.
Two comparatively large houses should be mentioned - “Plas Celyn” and “Plas Mawr” -. the former is now hidden from sight by the modern office block of Edward Jones Ltd. and “Plas Mawr” which was just beyond the house “Ty Mawr” was demolished some years back when the last of the Darbishire family left. Both are on land that went with the original Ty Mawr farm and became the property of the Smith family when they acquired the Pendyffryn estate on which they built the residence of that name. The last of the Smith family advertised “Plas Celyn” and “Plas Mawr” for sale in the “North Wales Chronicle” of the 1840’s, possibly it was they who built both. When they came to Penmaenmawr they were greatly enamoured with the romantic beauty of the district, however, it could be that they wished in time for neighbours of their own kind, as few of the inhabitants spoke English. W.E. Gladstone had put up at both “Plas Celyn” and at “Plas Mawr.”
Finally, may I, in submitting these notes quote Gilbert White’s words.
“These observations are, I trust, true in the whole, though I do not pretend to show that they are perfectly void of mistake, or that a more nice observer might not make many additions since subjects of this kind are inexhaustible.”
Ivor E. Davies
(copy as published)