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Penmaenmawr Historical Society Booklet 1978

GUIDE TO PENMAENMAWR, NORTH WALES 1858

An extract

The following is an extract from the first guide book for Penmaenmawr. It was written by Mrs. Cramm who lived with her husband, a retired teacher, at Cae Main (now Plas Gwyn). The guide, printed by H. Humphreys, Caernarfon, contains within its twenty-eight pages a flattering description of our Parish plus five drawings of mountains, rocks, ancient monuments and church. For the botanist there is a “List of Flowering Plants and Ferns found in the neighbourhood of Penmaenmawr”. There are three pages of advertisements — one grocer one butcher and three places — probably the only places — where tourists could find accommodation; Glandwr, Victoria Hotel and Sea View Cottage. Editorial notes are enclosed in brackets []

Penmaenmawr 1858

Travellers by rail from Chester to Holyhead, will remark (on emerging from the tunnel through Penmaenbach) a fertile wooded valley, apparently closed in by mountains, dotted here and there with dwellings — a bold hill dividing it nearly half way; and in the centre of the second division a modest station, at which all (but express or mail trains) stop for a few minutes.

The valley is ‘Dwygyfylchi’ and the station ‘Penmaenmawr’, so called from the lofty headland, which (rising in front of the traveller) forms the western boundary of the valleys. Penmaenbach is the eastern one.

The combined advantages of the sea and mountain air, with the repose of rural life, attract many visitors during the summer months, — the number of strangers having increased so rapidly, as to render further accommodation needful.

The amusements of artificial life form no part of the charm that draws from many a distant country, young and old, grave and gay; but nature has been bountiful in supplying others, nor are historical associations wanting to invest with interest the numerous vestiges of antiquity in the vicinity.

There are some very pleasant, comfortably furnished houses, to let during the summer, and many snug lodgings where the want of space within doors is amply compensated by the pure breeze without.

The supply of excellent bread, and good (but small sized) meat, with other provisions is much the same as in most places of resort in the county; but, as the prosperity of the district advances, doubtless the accommodations will keep pace with it, and meanwhile no fear of the absence of comfort need deter parties from visiting this pleasant locality.

The Church (dedicated to St. Gwynan) is situated in the eastern end of the valley, and is very plain unpretending structure, having been rebuilt about the middle of the last century (1760); but standing amidst some fine old trees, and with the rocky heights of Penmaenbach towering above them, is a picturesque and interesting object. Service (in Welsh) is performed morning and evening and in English at three p.m. The incumbent is the Rev. David Thomas, A.M. [Later became an H.M. Inspector of Schools and is buried in St. Gwynan’s.] There are boys’ and girls’ schools, on the National System, between the new Conway Road and the beach, which are well attended. [Gasworks site.]

There are Dissenting Chapels in connection with the Wesleyans, Welsh Methodists and Independents. [Pencae — now Catholic Church of Penmaenniawr and Horeb.]

As yet there is little accommodation of a public character, the chief inn, the ‘Victoria’; [now Victoria Terrace, Penmaenan] is nearly at the western end of the Parish, kept by Mrs. Davies and though small is clean and comfortable. There are some of less note near the above and in the village a well known little hostel, “The Bedol” (anglise, the horse-shoe) [Dwygyfylchi.] There are a few small shops where articles in common use are sold, and each summer develops new endeavours to meet the wants and wishes of visitors.

The chief support of the lower classes is derived from agriculture, and large quarries which are worked by two companies, — the agent for Craig Llwyd (Kneeshaw-Lupton) being Mr Templeton — for the Penmaenmawr (Brunditt and Whiteway), Mr. Wright. 

Pendyffryn, the seat of S.D. Darbishire, Esq, with its park and woods forms a beautiful object from most walks of the eastern valley. Great improvements are being made in many parts of the parish by that gentleman to whom a great proportion of it belongs.*

Original footnote: * “Lord Newborough, Sir H. Goring, Col. MacDonald, Mr. Jones, Mr. T. Roberts and Mrs. Hughes are other proprietors of this beautiful district.”

Walks and Drives

The Beach varies with every tide, sometimes sand, gravel or small stones may prevail, but it always presents a safe and easy bathing place, and a most delightful promenade of more than three miles length.

Stationary bathing houses belong to many of the Lodgings and furnished Residences.

The ‘new road’ (so called when superseding the old mail route) was completed about 1827, the time of opening the Conway and Menai Suspension bridges, a runs parallel with the railway nearly the whole distance, with the exception of going around the face of the two headlands, instead of through their tunnelled bases.

The old road diverges from the new, near the Post Office (shop newydd) [probably Evans, Butchers] ,climbs a short steep hill, then traverses a sort of terrace, “Penycae” to Trwyn-yr-Wylfa thence round the craggy base of ‘Foel Llys’ and, turning to the right leads past Caemain (Mr. Cramm’s) [Plas Gwyn] to the “village” as the eastern end of the parish is called.

Not with much cleanliness or symmetry will it greet the eye, yet it is most picturesque, with its one-arched bridge and mountain stream, white-washed dwellings and woody garniture . . . . This old road is a very pleasant way to Conway, and is a mile nearer than the new one, which, skirting the coast, has less undulation, but is more circuitous.

In selecting the new road, a good clean way is secured for walking, and a pleasant and safer route for riding and driving. Taking the left hand road at the Post Office, passing below Mr. Harrison’s marine villa [now called ‘Bryn Hedd’ and the old farmstead of Pwll-y-Mochrion [Morllon — Church Road), the extremely direct line of the route would render it tame, did not the mountains on the right, and the sea view on the left, make each step traversed one of varied beauty and interest. On the left the Schools are passed, the Pendyffryn on the right, with the church and distant village; after leaving the lodge and gate of Pendyffryn, the road diverges to the left, with a gentle ascent; and on reaching this, a pause, to take a retrospective view of the whole valley, will amply repay the fatigue of the walk.

Having thus followed the two lines to Conway, the route westward, after their junction at Shop Newydd (the Post Office) next claims attention. Ascending a gentle acclivity, then passing Brynmor (Wm. Jones Esq.) on the right, and the road which leads to the station — Plas Celyn (R. Kneeshaw Esq.) on the left, it crosses the tram-way from the Craig Llwyd Quarries, which is tunnelled under the high-road. Ty-mawr, an old farm house is seen pleasantly situated above a paddock, with a neat gate; beyond this again (in a boskey recess) a new mansion is rising on the old foundations of Plas Ty Mawr, now in course of erection by S.D. Darbishire, Esq. A populous district is next entered, — cottages, shops, and better dwellings following in charming confusion, and the numbers of beautiful children, and the healthy prosperous aspect of the inhabitants speaks much for the solubrity of the air. Passing Mr. Wright’s residence on the left, the “Queen Victoria” (the inn before alluded to), the Goat and a few cottages, — ascending the sea front of the bold headland Two long jetties, for the shipment of stones, stretch far into the water, and at each are generally anchored vessels, which add to the picturesque animation of the scene

The road to the Church from the Post Office branches from the old road soon after reaching Trwyn-yr-Wylfa, turning to the left, having a sharp descent for a short distance, passes several cottages. The valley assumes a new aspect from this lane, hedges and trees giving it a rural character. This also applies to the land from the Church to the village, past the mill, that; after going through a gate, follows the margin of the mountain stream (Gyrach) which careers with musical tide to its ocean bed; a footpath leads through the fields adjoining ‘Glyn’ a pretty cottage of Mr. Winstanley, and again joins the old road in the village. A beautiful walk is obtained by going through a gate (on the opposite side of the road) to the ‘Nant’; the river here looks more considerable and turbulent than lower down, and turns the wheel of a woollen factory (not a huge mill but a modest structure). The narrow glen is peopled with many a lovely dwelling, but above the last of these the banks are steep and clothed with trees; and at the upper end, a small but picturesque cascade completes the scene