|To the mountain and secluded places...||
Llanfrothen is named after Sant Brothen who established a church here in the 6th century.
In 1910 spearheads (possibly dating back to 800BC), flint arrowheads and deer bones were found near Garreghylldrem rocks. The site is described as having once been a hunting ground that was in regular use. Limpets were discovered in the same area and are believed to have been there for about 8,500 years.
Remains of hill-forts can be seen at Moel Dinas and Ynysfor and remains of circular huts and enclosed abodes such as Ogof Llechwyn are dotted around on the hillsides. Documents confirm that a nucleus of abodes existed in Llanfrothen in the middle ages.
It’s believed that lead seams at Bwlch y Plwm and copper seams at Pant-y-Wrach date back to the Roman era.
Until 1811 the tide reached Llanfrothen from Traeth Mawr (also called Morfa Gwyllt). Men earned their living as ‘guides’, escorting those who travelled over the treacherous waters from Merioneth to Caernarfon. There is written evidence that Captain William Sion sailed to Garreg in 1774, and an iron link to secure boats can still be seen at the old smithy. Discussions regarding the possibility of building sea defences across Traeth Mawr and Traeth Bach were held as far back as 1625. Petitions were sent to Parliament in 1718 and 1770 but to no avail. However in 1807 Parliament allowed a petition and the building work began in 1809 led by engineer William Madocks. Over 400 men were involved in building the Cob and altogether it cost about £100,000. Over 3,000 acres were reclaimed from the sea and the mile-long Cob made it much easier to travel between the counties of Merioneth and Caernarfon. A new port was built and called Porthmadog. Many place names in the village come from its connection with the sea e.g. Ynysfor, Traeth, and Morfa.
Llanfrothen was an important stopping point for drovers travelling from Llŷn to London. They stayed at local hostelries and used the services of the smithy.
The history of Llanfrothen would not be complete without the mention of Portmeirion architect, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and the Earl of Dwyfor, David Lloyd George. Clough lived at Plas Brondanw in Llanfrothen for 70 years. The gardens at Plas are perhaps his most spectacular creation and are open to the public. Click here for local attractions. His hallmark turquoise colour can be seen on village buildings and features.
As a newly qualified solicitor, David Lloyd George (later to become British Prime Minister) represented a local family in a court case. The family wanted to bury their Nonconformist father next to their sister at St Brothen’s Church cemetery. The vicar refused permission and put a lock on the graveyard’s gate to prevent the funeral from taking place. Lloyd George advised the family to cut the lock from the gate and go ahead with the funeral. The case went to the Court of Appeal and was won. Lloyd George’s brilliant performance at the Court was the beginning of his political career.
Poet R. S. Thomas lived ar Tŷ Main in Llanfrothen for a short while in 1998.
Jeremy Brooks lived in Llanfrothen with his wife Eleanor Brooks, who is an artist. Click here for information about local artists. He was a prolific author who wrote the novels Jampot Smith and Henry’s War. He is buried at the local cemetery.
Poet John Jones (1868-1940), whose bardic name was Ioan Brothen, worked in the slate mine and practised the craft of writing the englyn – a four-line verse that is unique to the Welsh language. He was also a keen naturalist.
Two ministers worthy of note are Rev. J. R. Jones Ramoth (1765-1822) and Rev. Richard Jones (1772-1833). The former established the Scottish Baptist movement in Llanfrothen and was a hymn writer, poet and musician. The latter, who was also a hymn writer and poet had an interesting bardic name – Cymro Gwyllt (Wild Welshman) and lived at the Wern.
Thomas Richards (1883-1958) also lived at the Wern after returning from America. He was a well-known writer of the englynand won many literature prizes at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
In the same year as Thomas Richards died, Robin Llywelyn was born. Robin won the Prose Medal at the National Eisteddfod in 1992 and 1994. He is the grandson of Clough Williams-Ellis and attended Ysgol y Garreg in Llanfrothen. Robin is the Managing Director of Portmeirion.
Croesor is a small slate mining village 2-3 miles north of Llanfrothen. Its landscape is dominated by the mountains that surround it – Moelwyn Mawr, Moelwyn Bach and the Cnicht which is known as the “Welsh Matterhorn”.
The village grew at the end of the 19th century as it became home to workers employed at Croesor and Rhosydd slate quarries.
Croesor quarry opened in 1856 but didn’t flourish until 1895, when Moses Kellow was appointed manager. The slate was used for roofs, chimneys, slabs, floors, snooker tables and decorative purposes. At one time 5,000-6,000 tons of slate was produced every year.
The quarry closed in 1930. The path of the narrow gauge railway, built across the valley in 1864, can still be traced. The longest horse and cart tunnel in the history of slate mining and the two longest inclines in North Wales can be found there.
Moses Kellow was a man before his time. He was an innovative engineer who made an invaluable contribution to slate mining technology: he was the first person to use electricity to drive quarry machinery. In 1904 he opened a hydroelectric power station in Croesor with water supply from Cwm-y-Foel dam. Electricity was used at the quarry and in the village. He also devised a drill powered by water to bore holes in the rock face, which became known worldwide.
Another important figure linked with Croesor was Bob Owen, who made an invaluable contribution to Welsh culture. This is how he was described by Geraint H. Jenkins in the ‘Ceredigion’ magazine in 2010 - “Words almost fail to describe this fiery wonder, small in stature, but strongly built, he was untidy with a bushy moustache and untidy hair which looked as if a comb had never touched it. He was a restless whirlwind, noisy and troublesome, he would continually shout out loud...and swore like a trooper.” Bob Owen was born in Llanfrothen but had close connections with Croesor. He worked in the quarry as a clerk for 30 years and moved to live in Ael y Bryn after marrying in 1923. He died in 1962 at 77 years of age by which time he’d received an Honorary MA and an OBE. He was a writer, historian and avid bookworm and without doubt an eccentric and unique character.
Croesor has inspired other writers too. One was Showel Styles, a mountaineer, climber and prolific author who wrote over 160 books. Another was Patrick O’Brian, author, naturalist, birdwatcher and angler who lived in Croesor from 1945 to 1949. His novel Testimonies is set in Croesor. Philip O’Connor also lived in Croesor for a short time and wrote a memoir of his stay there, called Living in Croesor.
One of Croesor’s most famous families are the Anwyl family, who were influential in Merioneth in the Tudor and Stuart period. They lived at Parc which is now a listed building. Two other buildings worthy of note are Cae Glas and Garreg Fawr, once owned by the Wynn of Gwydir family.
Rhyd is a small village that has about twenty houses. It’s on the B4410 from Llanfrothen to Tan y Bwlch, at the foot of the Moelwyn Bach. The village’s original name was ‘Rhyd y Cyffiniau’.
A century ago the village had a chapel, post office, shop and school. The school was closed in 1944 when there were only four pupils. During the 1980s most of the houses were holiday homes. Today however there is a small community living in Rhyd permanently.
Above the village is the Roman road that ran from Caernarfon to Tomen y Mur and below it is the old road from Caernarfon to Dolgellau, built in the 16th century.
Dotted around the village are the remains of circular huts, known as Irish huts. Legend has it that a witch called Mari’r Fantell Wen (Mary of the White Cloak) lived in one of them. She tricked people into working for her for a pittance, and eventually she was banished.
There was a brickworks at Gors Goch for a while but it soon closed. When lead mining was thriving at Penrallt, around the middle of the 19th century, a channel was made to carry water from Rhyd to drive the machinery. Attempts to mine copper proved to be unsuccessful.
One industry that has changed the village’s landscape is Bwlch y Plwm lead mine. It is believed that the lead seams were first discovered by the Romans, however the first record dates from 1577. From 1875 to 1922 when the mine closed, several different companies mined there. The shafts and caves now attract cavers.
Centuries ago there was a shortage of young women in Llŷn due to several battles, so men had to look elsewhere for wives. They reached Llanfrothen and the men of the village were furious that local women were being lured away. A battle ensued. The men of Llŷn lost and many women from Llanfrothen were killed. The site was named Maes Gwŷr Llŷn (which means the field of the men of Llŷn). There was another battle at Maes Gwŷr Llŷn at the end of the 12th century. This battle was between two tribes of Gwynedd – the sons of Owen Gwynedd, and Cadwaladr, their uncle. Cadwaladr lost the battle and many of the men of Merioneth were exiled to Llŷn.
The tale of Ogof Llechwyn tells of treachery and betrayal and was originally documented in History of the Gwydir Family by Sir John Wyn. The sister of Hywel ap Rhys had married Ieuan ap Robert. After she died Hywel conspired to kill his brother-in-law. Ieuan however was aware of Hywel’s plan and tried to stay ahead of the game. He sent his daughter to Ogof Llechwyn, where the rector lived, for her to be kept safe. Hywel heard about this and sent a female accomplice to the rectory to seek overnight accommodation. The woman screamed in the middle of the night and accused the rector of attacking her. Her brothers were outside the house and when the rector appeared in the morning he was killed for providing shelter for Ieuan’s daughter.