A Short History of Old Llandudno – Llandudno Advertiser 22 December 1899
It is not our purpose, in the following brief history of Llandudno, to deal in detail with its modern development, with which the majority of us are familiar, but rather to present to our readers a sketch of the little village in its primitive days, when mining and fishing were the staple industries, and its inhabitants but rarely made the acquaintance of the out-side world.
For most of the particulars related we are indebted to Mr. Thomas Rowlands, of Bodnant and his excellent sketch, Llandudno as it was
ORIGIN OF THE NAME
First, let us get the origin of the name of Llandudno. Llan means church or enclosure; therefore, the proper meaning of the name is the enclosure of St. Tudno, and the town has derived its name from the patron saint of the church on the mountain. The ancient village was undoubtedly in close proximity to the church, as there are indications of the round huts which were inhabited by the original Llandudnoites. On the top of the hill, on the western side of the church, traces can be seen of the boundaries of Llety Fadog (or Madog’s Kale), which are close by the Roman Well, and there are also furrow marks, which indicate that at some period the whole area on the summit of the Orme was under cultivation. About fifty years ago, before the place was thought of as a health resort, there was a prospect of the Bay being made into a “harbour of refuge,” and plans were drawn and a book published on the advantages of the position. The harbour was to be called St. George’s Harbour, and reference to the Parliamentary Bill will show that the present railway between the town and Llandudno Junction was described as the St. George’s Harbour Railway.
A SMALL VILLAGE
Between fifty and sixty years ago Llandudno was a very small village made up mostly of little two-storey houses, built on the same plan and almost identical in size, running parallel with each other- along the foot of the mountain from south-west to north-west. Two only of these houses have kept their originality, viz., The Ship” and Ty Gwyrdd (Green House), both of them being opposite St. George’s Church, and those two are very fair specimens of what all the houses were along that street, known then and now as Cwlach Street, which was the only street the place could boast of. In addition to those there were few houses on each side of the Old Road, which was leading down from the mines on the top as far as the bottom end of Morfa Isaf (Lower Marsh). On the Marsh there were several smaller huts or cottages, only one storey, containing two rooms and a loft, some of them built with sods, the reason for the short accommodation being that they had to be built -in great haste. The miners had been informed that if any man could fix upon a piece of land on the common, fence it out, build a cottage on it, remove his furniture and family into it, light a fire, and provide and eat a meal in it, and all in one night, he could claim that place as a freehold property against all law. Consequently, the miners used to help each other to get up those places, and in this way many a poor man had become the possessor of a freehold cottage and a nice plot of land. This accounts for so many places in Wales being called “Hafodunos” (One Night Huts). All the houses and cottages were inhabited by miners, and some of the agents and officers connected with the mines. So insignificant and unknown was the place to the world outside, that if a letter was sent to any of the inhabitants, great care would have to be taken to have it addressed to LLANDUDNO NEAR CONWAY, or it would stand but a poor chance of ever reaching its destination, Conway at that time being a very important, market town-the central city of commerce-for Colwyn, Colwyn Bay, Penmaenmawr, the Vale of Conway, and Llandudno.
The only approaches to Llandudno were along the sand on the western or southern side, or through Llanrhos, along the road below Fferm Farm, past Fferm Bach, Tanybryn, down Nantygamar Road, along the beach in front of Craigydon, to Morfa Isa. All the goods traffic was conveyed to the place by one cart longing to a common carrier, viz., John Davies, Old Ferry, an old man, lame of both leg who used to come from Conway twice and sometimes three times a week. The goods from England were brought to Conway by sea, by means of two small flats of about 50 tons burthen, called “The Abbey” and “Conovium” the nearest railway depot being Chester. Therefore, all the shops in this part of North Wales had to depend for their Supply on those vessels, and often, especially during the winter months, they would be detained on the Mersey or the Dee by stress of weather, being wind-bound for a month or six weeks, causing the greatest inconvenience for everybody. Groceries, especially tea and sugar, were considered LUXURIES.
Eight shillings per pound had to be paid for very poor tea, and common sugar cost from 5d to 6d. per pound, only very few of the well- to-do classes being able to speculate on more than two ounces of the one and quarter of a pound of the other at a time. There was no danger of anyone dying through drinking strong tea in those days On account of the delay, the miner often bad to go without his weed, and his wife deprived of her small com fort, great demands being made on the shops at Llanrhos and Conway for small quantities of those commodities while the supply would last. Another cart used to come from Conway twice a week—on Wednesdays and Saturdays-bringing in flour from Gyffin Mills. Before its arrival about noon, small bags of corn could be seen on the low walls each side of the Old Road, with the proprietors’ addresses on each, which were picked up by Thomas Owen, the carrier, and laid in the waggon to be taken to the mill, while in their stead small bags at flour would be placed that had been taken to the mill the previous week, most of the miners purchasing their corn from the neighbouring farmhouses.
In addition to the flour supplied in this way, there were two small shops in the place, one being the little cottage, which stands by the side of Warrington House, kept by Ellen Pritchard, sister of el the late William Pritchard, and Dr Pritchard, of Llangollen. The other shop was in King William Street, which was kept by her sister, Ann Smith, King William Street being the name given to a row of small houses belonging to the late Joseph Hughes, of Malvern House, running in front of the present Tanyrogof, or Mount Pleasant Street. The other access to the town was along Conway Shore, turning to the left at Tywyn, following along the Beach, passing Deganwy (which was then a gentleman’s mansion), turning down to the sands, passing through Cerrig Duon (Black Stones), and turning up to Morfa Uchaf (Higher Marsh), just opposite the present west entrance to Gloddaeth Street. On that point there was a gate which was very properly called the Llidiart Gam (Crooked Gate). Standing by that gate. facing the village, and looking a little to your left, you would see, where Gogarth Abbey now stands, a small thatch-roofed cottage, belonging to Griffith Evans also six neat little cottages facing the east, with long strips of well-ordered and well- kept gardens in front of them. They were inhabited by miners, and were, and are still, known as Min-y-don (Edge of the Wave). Close to the cottages, facing south, there is a well-built square house known as Glan-y- don (Border of the Wave). This house was inhabited by a very highly-respected old pair, viz., David and Ellen Williams, better known as Nain Glanydon (Grandmother of Glanydon). She was looked upon as a general grandmother all the natives, old and young, claimed her as such, and she was well worthy of the title. While they were building the St. George’s Church (the St. Tudno at that time being in a very dilapidated state), the Parish Vestry decided that the St. George’s Churchyard was to be the future burial place, at which decision the old dame was very indignant, and meeting the Rector one day, she gave vent to her feelings in the following manner :—” I am surprised at you, Mr. Williams, proposing a resolution in the Vestry that this new churchyard was to be the burial place, and I tell you now, sir, that you shall never bury me there if I see you; no, never!
A little further north-east there was a respectable-looking farmhouse, viz. “Ty Draw (House Beyond), a very small portion of which is still left, a little to the west of the present Eithinog. All the then open space, reaching from Conway Shore on the west side as far as the present National Schools on the north-east side, and down as far as the L. & N. W. Railway on the south side, were fenced out in large fields, all belonging to the said farm, and were very carefully kept and well cultivated. The tenants -David and Margaret Jones-were honest to the “T.” the very impersonation of kindness and benevolence, and for that reason they “had the poor always with them.” They supplied a great part of the village with sweet milk, butter milk, butter, and any other farm produce, while their splendid teams and men were always ready when their assistance was required by the poor miners. In one of the Minydon cottages there lived a poor and eccentric old man named Owen Williams, of whom the following tale is told. One very hard winter the fodder for the cattle was very scarce, and consequently the milk was very thin. Owen Williams, however, did not know the reason why the milk was thin, but was under the impression that the milk pail and pump were getting too friendly and one day, after complaining, he told his wife – “I shall go for the milk to day, Betty.” So he took two jugs. The farmlady, thinking he wanted an extra supply, asked him what he wanted with the two jugs, whereupon he replied—” I want you, if you please, to put the water in one and the milk in the other, and if I think best, I will mix them after returning home.” Mrs. Jones knew the old man, and so took no notice of his jocular way.
Leaving the CROOKED GATE,” we walk along a very narrow country road, until we come opposite to where Bronmeillion now stands. Coming through another gate we join another road running from Conway Shore to Llandudno Shore, known as “Ffordd Isa (Lower Road), and just at the corner of Plas Gogarth garden there was a sharp turning to the left, which led us up past “Shaft yr Odyn (Kiln Shaft), about 10yds. deep, and once connected with the mines but eventually abandoned. Here was a good spring of water, and at all hours of the day small groups of men, women, and children, could be seen with their pitchers, and by means of Iong ropes were drawing water from the well, this being the only source of supply for the western part of the village. A little higher up by the side of the road, was a lime kiln from which the shaft derived its name. The shaft is still there, only covered over in Craigle garden. Soon after leaving the kiln we enter the village behind a very neat and well-built row of cottages- Tai Newyddion (New Houses)—which stood at the back of present Plas Brith; in front of them were splendid gardens, full of fruit trees flowers and vegetables. Next to Tai Newyddion came Catherine Barry’s shop where West End now stands. The front window would be about 3ft. square , and contained a grand display of differently-coloured sweets, cakes made of flour, sugar, and water, representing all manner of creatures—cats, dogs, cocks, donkeys, horses, cows, and sheep- with eyes made of currants the great difficulty was to decide which was which, as they bore very near resemblance to each other.
Of that, many a poor child could be seen gazing with intense anxiety on the cakes and sweets, and long in his heart for the 1st of March or the 22nd of September-to them the TWO GREAT EVENTS of the year,—the former on account of the procession of the sick club at Conway, the only time they had a chance of hearing a band, and a very inferior brass band it was the other occasion being the sheep fair, when small standings used to be erected to sell mint- cakes, Indian rock, and a few penny toys and on those rare occasions, if the children had been good and obedient, they would have a halfpenny, and some even a penny to spend. What an anxious time that was and how hard to decide what to purchase with their fortune. The small shop invariably patronised used to be at the back of West End Cottage. Following the road in the same direction, we would pass on the left a few cottages known as Queen Street an4 Tanyfron Cottages, with very neat gardens at the front and sides. At the end of the cottages, standing by itself on a nice piece of land, stood Valley View, then the residence of T. Parry, afterwards of Ty Gwyn, one of the first to speculate on large buildings. After selling Valley View to a Mr. W. Green (an old retired Custom House officer), he began to build Anglesea House, in Church Walks, which was one of the first houses for visitors that were built. He came to Llandudno from Newmarket, Flintshire, to build Frondeg for Mr. T. Jones, the agent of the new mine and as there was no building going on after finishing this house he took to mining. On the right hand side of the said road were Tanyfron, Frondeg Bach, Frondeg, Ship, Ty Gwyrdd, Tynymaes, &c., all of them having southern aspects, and nice green fields in front of them. At the back of Tynymaes there were two narrow roads, one leading ø CwIach, an old-fashioned house which stood where Cwlach House is now; the other road was in the same direction as Cwlach Road, leading to a small white cottage, which was taken down quite recently to make room for the fine house known as Tan’rallt. By the side of the road, on the spot where” Y Graig” stands, there was an old lime kiln belonging to a farm house and on the top of the big wall at the foot of Cwlach Road, there is still a small portion of a public bakehouse, kept by an old couple well known in the place as “John a Margaret Jones, Ty Popty.” They used to bake once a day, and on special occasions twice a day. The oven. which was considered a good size, would bake twelve or thirteen loaves at a time. A notice was required to be given the night before, so as to secure room in the oven and at 11 a.m. each day you could see the old dame standing on top of the wall, blowing hard into a large shell, which would cause a terrible noise, this being a notice to all the inhabitants that the oven was ready, and immediately women would be seen rushing from the cottages with their bundles of dough. A similar bakehouse was kept lower down, where Chapel Street is now, by Owen and Kitty Jones, and when both were blowing together, it was enough to make a stranger believe that the last day had dawned.
Right in front of the bakehouse stood Pendyffryn, where Methven is now situate, and here Owen Owens lived-a stern-looking man. He was the constable of the place, and the only person responsible for the peace of the village. In his house the FIRST SALE BY AUCTION took place, he and others having made up their minds to emigrate to America. The time of their departure will never be forgotten. Hundreds of people congregated on the beach to wish them farewell, and by all appearance to have the last look at them in this world. The sight was most heartrending when the little boat launched out with its precious freight of human beings, taking them on board the steamer Prince of Wales for Liverpool. Next to Pendyffryn was Ty Glas (now Plas Madoc), then the residence of Capt. Davey, the agent of the Old Mines, where all the miners belonging to those mines were paid each quarter, and bargains re-let for the following three months. At the back stood Bodnant, where Roger Lester resided, the hill now known as Bodlondeb Hill being then a garden belonging to Bodnant, and running down to Church Walks, the same as Ty’nymaes Hill belonged to Tynymaes House.
Opposite Bodnant stood the old Wesleyan Methodist Chapel (now Caersalem Mission Hall, belonging to the same body), and it was here, many years ago, that the FIRST ENGLISH SERVICES were held by the Nonconformists. Captains Vivian and Trevethick, successors to Captain Davey as agents on the old mines, being local preachers, used to have occasional special services for the benefit of the few English inhabitants in the place, among others Messrs. Cornahy, Dean, Tomkinson, &c. Later, powerful sermons were preached by the late Revs. Morley Punshow, Gervase Smith, and also Richard Roberts. The original church was made up of a few true earnest Christians, who worked hard under many difficulties. A few steps further, and we arrive at Tanyberllan (Under the Orchard), being a small square at the junction of Cwlach Street and Old Road. It is here where the miners used to meet, and each day, after one o’clock, dozens of them could be seen well-dressed after their stem of six hours, discussing the topics of the times, or rather local news, such as the state of the markets, prices of copper ore, and repeating old tales. Their knowledge of politics, or anything going on a few miles outside the immediate neighbourhood, was very limited, the only newspaper read by them being Yr Amserau (Times), published in Liverpool at 3d. per week, but very few had sufficient interest in outside news to purchase it. The agents used to take in the Mining Journal so as to see the state of the market and price of ore. Turning to the left from Tanyberllan, going up the Old Road, you would see a long and very old-fashioned public house called “The Miners’ Arms,” where many of the miners used to meet to share their earnings at the end of each quarter, and to discuss the new bargains. &c. On the other side of the road stood Green Hill, which is there still.
In a small shed by the side of this house the POST OFFICE BUSINESS of the place was transacted by Ann Jones and her daughters, the shed being about 9ft. long and 5ft. wide. Writing letters was considered a luxury then. No envelopes being obtainable, quarto paper was universally used, which was folded in quite an artistic way, and the corners fastened with thin wafers of all colours, which were sold in sixpenny boxes, gum being unknown. All the letters, papers, parcels, &c were carried to and from Llandudno by a stout, hardy, strong man-John Hughes by name, who always used to carry the bags to and from Conway by the sands. He would arrive here each day about 8 a.m., then walk up to Penygwaith, do a hard day’s work, and return to Conway about [?] p.m. this he did for many years. The Old Road being the only access to Penygwaith or the top of the Great Orme, all the copper ore was carried down by David Jones’ (Ty Draw) farm teams, and to answer the purpose of breaks they used to attach some heavy sledges by means of chains to each cart, the sledges being heavily loaded with bags of ore.
At the top of the Orme the Old Mines can be seen, and between the New Mine Co., the Old Mine Co., and Tygwyn Mine Co., the INTERIOR OF THE GREAT ORME has been pretty well worked. There are three shafts sunk right through the mountain to the level of the sea, and one considerably below the level of the sea. The water being a very great hindrance to the working of the mines, an engine was erected on the top for the pumping of the water, and in addition to this there was a kind of self-acting pump known as “Tom and Derry,” which was worked right across the mountain by means of long joists fastened together, and working on pivots. On the Gogarth side there was a large tank attached to the end of it, and by means of strong iron pipes water was conveyed to it from a reservoir on the top, and when the tank was full it would pull up the pump in the mine, and on touching the ground the tank would empty itself, the weight of the pump pulling it down again. In addition to this, the New Mine Co. drove a tunnel half-a- mile long, the entrance of which is to be seen at Penmorfa. Many hundreds of thousands pounds’ worth of ore was taken out of those mines, which, after being washed and separated from the stones, was sent by means of flats and schooners by sea to Amlwch and Woodend. (To be continued.)