Penrhyndeudraeth from the estuary
Penrhyndeudraeth is a village in north-eastern Merionethshire. It stands by the Caernarfonshire border, between Traeth Mawr, the reclaimed estuary of the River Glaslyn, and Traeth Bach, the estuary of the River Dwyryd.
The village is close to the mouth of the Dwyryd, on the A487 from Porthmadog (across the Glaslyn, in Caernarfonshire). Penrhyndeudraeth is also one of the early halts on the Ffestiniog Railway, from Porthmadog up to Blaenau Ffestiniog, the station named "Penrhyn".
The name "Penrhyndeudraeth" means "Headland of two beaches"
The Italianate model village of Portmeirion stands nearby and within the parish. Portmerion is best known for its eponymous pottery and as the filming location for the 1960s television series The Prisoner.
The present village was laid out in the second half of the 19th century by the local landowner David Williams of Castell Deudraeth at Minffordd on land reclaimed by the drainage of stagnant marshes. The older settlement at Upper Penrhyn was originally called Cefn Coch ('Red Ridge') and that name is perpetuated by the Penrhyndeudraeth primary school, which is known as Ysgol Cefn Coch.
The lower half of Penrhyndeudraeth used to be a lake, which was then drained to create the area where the village's High Street is today. The names of terraces in Penrhyndeudraeth, such as Glanllyn ('lakeside') or Penllyn ('the furthest side of the lake'), hearken back to a time when the space they occupy was underwater. There is also an area named Penlan ('the end of the tide'), which may point to the reason why the lower half of Penrhyndeudraeth is flat. It is believed that the lower half of Penrhyndeudraeth was founded on a spot behind the Royal Oak pub where the old Pierce & Sons garage is located.
Alexander Maddocks, the creator of Porthmadog, built the Cob, drained the Glaslyn Estuary and built the Festiniog Railway in 19th century. Before then, Penrhydeudraeth was a small farming village, with some small scale copper mining. Some men worked boats on the River Dwyryd, carrying slate from Maentwrog to the sea for export. Local women at that time gathered cockles in the estuary for sale in local markets, Penrhyndeudraeth is still known locally, especially by the people of Blaenau Ffestiniog and Porthmadog, as 'Cockletown'.
In 1648, at "Hendre Hall" (located next to the Snowdonia National Park Headquarters) Humphrey Humphreys was born, Bishop of Bangor and then Hereford. According to Edward Llwyd he was the most patriotic Welshman of his time. His parents Richard Humphreys and Margaret Wynn are buried at St Brothen's Church, Llanfrothen. He died in 1712. One of the family carvings at the Holy Trinity Church Penrhyndeudraeth is of him and there is also an oak chest which Richard Humphreys gave to Llanfrothen Church whilst working as its warden in 1690.
A few old cottages were erected on Upper Penrhyn or Cefn Coch as it was called; but the village proper is comparatively modern. The ground on which it stands was a malarial swamp encirciling a huge stagnant pool. Maddocks and his projects allowed economic growth here. The village owes its existence as a commercial centre to the farsighted-ness and business acumen of a munificent squire, David Williams of Castell Deudraeth, who drained the swamp and dried the pool and constructed many roads. Wisely adopting a scheme of town planning evolved by the builder of Tremadog and his Italian craftsmen, Squire Williams gave Penrhyndeudraeth broad streets and wide open spaces. There was also a dream of a garden of rest on Market Square (outside Osmond Terrace which now has parked cars), with ornamental trees and clumps of shrubs in front of what was Victoria Hotel which is now a dwelling and previously a shop owned by Mr & Mrs. Rimmer, and nearby to the Victoria Inn at the time which later became Midland Bank / HSBC, but unfortunately this was never fulfilled. The village square is a road junction. A traveller has choice of four roads - one leading to the station, one to Porthmadog, one to Maentwrog and the other to Llanfrothen and the Pass of Aberglaslyn.
Halfway between Penrhyndeudraeth and Minffordd standing aloof is Hendre Hall, the home of Humphrey Humphries, Bishop of Bangor from 1689 to 1701. A notable Welshman, well versed in history and antiquities of his native land, he was the inspirer of a revival in Welsh literature and the patron of such eminent writers as Ellis Wynne, Samuel Williams, Edward Llwyd and Edward Samuel.
A property between Penrhyndeudraeth and Minffordd named Cae Ednyfed also has historical interest. This was once the property of Ednyfed Fychan, commander-in-chief to Llywelyn ap Iorwerth.
The main manufacturing industry in Penrhyndeudraeth was established in 1872 to make guncotton. Cookes Explosives Ltd - part of the Imperial Chemical Industries (I.C.I.) dealing with increased demand for munitions during First World War set up a new explosives manufacturing facility at Penrhyndeudraeth, bringing an economic boom to the town. The plant produced thousands of tons of munitions for the war and explosives for quarrying and mining. In 1949, R. T. Cooke applied for a licence to store explosives at Croesor Quarry, in Penrhyndeudraeth. Many lost their lives during accidents at the works, where there is a slate plaque to remember them and everyone who worked there. The prolonged miners' strike of 1983 and the competition from foreign coal imports resulted in wholesale pit closures which, in turn, reduced the demand for mining explosives to the point where production was no longer economic and the site was finally cleared in 1997. It is now a nature reserve notable for the presence in summer of nightjars.
Another 19th century industry in the district is Garth Quarry at Minffordd, established in 1870 to make granite setts for road building in Victorian towns and cities. Like the explosives industry, the quarry relied heavily on the coming of the Cambrian Railways in 1872. The quarry is still working and now produces roadstone and railway ballast.
The village is at the junction of the A487 with the A4085 which connects with Beddgelert and Caernarfon. The first section of this road is very narrow and rises steeply through Upper Penrhyn. In places it is so narrow that only a single vehicle can pass.
To the south is the Pont Briwet toll road leading over a wooden bridge providing a short-cut to the Harlech road. This toll bridge provides stunning views of the Dwyryd estuary, spoiled only by the electricity pylons crossing immediately downstream. The bridge is also shared with the Cambrian Coast railway mainline. A new £20m road and rail bridge will be built to replace Pont Briwet, and work on the new crossing will start in autumn 2011.
For generations, the Grade II listed Pont Briwet has carried the Cambrian Coast Railway and allowed people to cross Afon Dwyryd from Penrhyndeudraeth to Llandecwyn along a narrow road suitable for cars only. Lorries, buses, fire engines and ambulances, which now have to go through Maentwrog, will be able to cross the new bridge.
The village has two stations, Penrhyndeudraeth railway station on the southern side of the village on the Cambrian Coast Railway from Pwllheli to Shrewsbury and to the north, Penrhyn railway station on the Ffestiniog Railway.
Culture and heritage
Penrhyndeudraeth is a thriving Welsh-speaking village, where the language is used everyday. In 2001 76% of the population spoke Welsh. Even so, in June 2011, a new monoglot immigrant English landlord of a public house in Penrhyndeudraeth pointed an airgun at local patrons of his pub, threatening to shoot his customers if they continued to speak Welsh.
The Penrhyndeudraeth Children and Young People's Chaired Eisteddfod is held annually at the Memorial Hall. The village is home to the Snowdonia National Park Authority headquarters.
There are many language traces of Old Welsh to be found in the place names in the Penrhyndeudraeth area, such as Pont Briwet ("Briwet Bridge"); Briwet is cognate with the Breton word "Brued" meaning bridge. Remains of old huts can be found near Ty'n y Berllan, which date back to the Bronze Age.
- Football: CPD Penrhyndeudraeth FC