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Llanfair Fechan


National Gazetteer (1868)

"LLANFAIR-FECHAN, a parish in the hundred of Uchaf, county Carnarvon, 6 miles E. of Bangor, and 7 W. of Conway, its post town. It is situated on the coast of Beaumaris Bay, and is a station on the Chester and Holyhead line of railway. On the E. is Penmaen Mawr, 1,640 feet in height, with the remains of an old camp on its summit. The land is mostly used for pasture. Adjoining this parish are the Lavan Sands, comprising 96 square miles, which have apparently been inundated by the sea. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of Bangor, value 305, in the patronage of the bishop. The church is dedicated to St. Mary. There are charities amounting to about 2 per annum."

"PENMAEN, (or Penmaen-mawr), a mountain and hamlet in the parish of Llanfair-fechan, hundred of Uchaf, county Carnarvon, 5 miles E. of Bangor, and the same from Conway. It is a station on the Chester and Holyhead railway, which here passes through the Penmaen-Mawr tunnel of 660 feet, and is protected in part of its course by a sea-wall, and afterwards enters another tunnel of 1,215 feet, called the Penmaen-rhos tunnel. The mountain, which rises to the height of 1,540 feet above the level of the sea, is a huge mass of rugged limestone rock projecting into the sea, and has on its summit the Braich-y-Dinas British camp, and its slopes are covered with a variety of rare plants. Previous to 1772, it was only traversed by a narrow zigzag pathway, which formed an impediment in former journeyings between Chester and Ireland, but in that year a coach-road was constructed by Sylvester, which was subsequently improved by Telford in 1827."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson 2003]

A Topographical Dictionary of Wales
Samuel Lewis, 1833

LLANVAIR VECHAN (LLAN-VAIR-VECHAN), a parish in the hundred of LLECHWEDD UCHAV, county of CARNARVON, NORTH WALES, 7 miles (W. S. W.) from Aberconway, on the road to Holyhead, containing 653 inhabitants. This parish, which lies to the east of Traeth Lavan, or the Lavan Sands, which are dry at half ebb, a tract nearly twelve miles in length, and from seven to eight miles in breadth, overflowed by the sea in the sixth century, comprehends the vast mountain of Penmaen-Mawr, near the base of which the village is romantically situated. This mountain, of which the height is one thousand five hundred and forty-nine feet above the level of the sea at high water, rises on one side almost perpendicularly from the bay of Beaumaris, in which it forms a lofty and boldly projecting promontory, and extends for some miles in a north-easterly direction towards Aberconway. It consists of one vast chain of precipitous and rugged rocks of frightful aspect and dreary sterility, wildly and irregularly thrown together in loose and crumbling strata, from which huge masses, frequently detaching themselves with imminent danger to the traveller, threaten to overwhelm him in their descent, or intercept his progress with heaps of scattered fragments. Previously to the construction or improvement of the present road, nothing could be more terrific or more hazardous than the pass over this mountain, in which one false step was attended with certain destruction to the adventurous traveller : numerous fatal accidents have occurred from the steepness of the ascent, the insecurity of the path, and the tremendous precipices on the brink of which the narrow road was continued without the slightest protection. In 1772, application was made to parliament, pursuant to which certain sums were granted for the improvement of this dangerous road, which formed part of the line to Holyhead : a subscription was also opened for the same purpose, to which the city of Dublin largely contributed ; and under the superintendence of Mr. John Sylvester, an eminent engineer, the road was sufficiently widened for carriages to pass each other with safety, by cutting through the solid rock, and on the side towards the sea the precipices are guarded by a strong wall, built upon a series of lofty arches of nearly one hundred yards in perpendicular height, over which also the road is carried on a level for several miles, avoiding the almost impracticable descent to Penmaen Bach, and leading over the chasms formed by the crumbling strata of the mountain. On the summit of the mountain are the remains of an ancient and very extensive British encampment, called Braich y Dinas, a station strongly fortified by nature and by art, and probably erected to defend the passage into Anglesey and the remoter parts of the principality. The ascent is steep and laborious, and near the summit are three strong intrenchments of loose stones of amazing strength, the walls of which are in many places in a very perfect state, having both the external and internal facings in good preservation, and the central wall on the south side in some parts nine feet high and eight feet in thickness ; in the intervals between the walls are numerous remains and foundations of circular towers, varying in diameter from seven to twenty feet, and some remains of others of a square form. The central area on the summit contains also the remains of a circular tower, apparently of lofty elevation, but much reduced by the falling of stones, which are scattered in profusion round its base; and near this tower, which occupies the centre of the area, are other groups of circular buildings, which by dilapidation have become little more than masses of undistinguishable ruins. Near them is a well, excavated in the solid rock, which supplied the garrison with water, and which is constantly full, being fed by the condensed vapours of the mountain. On the north-west side of the mountain may be distinctly traced a narrow circuitous road, walled on both sides, evidently leading up to the fortress : this station, which was regarded as the strongest and the most extensive among the strong holds of Snowdon, was capable of accommodating twenty thousand men, and was deemed impregnable as well from the precipitous acclivity of the mountain, as from the extraordinary strength of the fortifications ; and through-out the tortuous path by which alone it was accessible were numerous passes of great difficulty, any of which might be defended by a very small body of men against a whole army of assailants. In this formidable post was placed the remnant of the Welsh army, as in a retreat of inviolable security, during the negociations which were pending between Edward I. and Llewelyn, previously to the final submission of the principality to the authority of that monarch. This mountain, during the sixth century, was the solitary retreat of Seiriol, a British anchorite, who had his hermitage between the two summits, where his bed and his well are still to be seen ; but the hermitage being plundered, St. Seiriol retired to Ynys Seiriol, a small island on the coast of Anglesey, where he built a chapel and a cell, and ended his days. The parish, exclusively of the mountainous parts, contains several large tracts of arable, meadow, and pasture land, in a good state of cultivation : the principal fuel is peat, which is obtained in abundance : in some parts copper-ore has been found, but no mines have hitherto been opened, nor has any sufficient trial been made to work the ore effectually. The living is a discharged rectory, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Bangor, rated in the king's books at 6. 17. 6., and in the patronage of the Bishop. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is pleasantly situated in the village, near the road to the pass over the mountain. There are places of worship for Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists. The interest of several charitable donations and bequests, amounting in the aggregate to 126. 4., is annually distributed in clothing among the poor, in the winter, according to the intentions of the several benefactors. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor is 158.17.

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