Ffestiniog - Gazetteers

National Gazetteer (1868)

"FFESTINIOG, a parish and town in the hundred of Ardudwy, county Merioneth, North Wales, 19 miles N. W. of Bala. Its post town is Carnarvon. It stands on an eminence at the head of a beautiful vale called by its name-the Festiniog Vale. This picturesque vale, which gives celebrity to the village, has been eulogised by many distinguished travellers. Mr. Pennant calls it "the Tempe of the country." Mr. Warner observes, that "it comprehends every object that can enrich or diversify a landscape." Mr. Wyndham affirms, that "it affords as rich studies for the painter as the neighbourhood of Tivoli or Frescati;" and Lord Lyttelton, who visited the place about the year 1756, is still more lavish of his encomiums: "With the woman one loves, with the friend of one's heart, and a study of books," said his lordship to the notorious Archibald Bower, "one might pass an age in this vale, and think it a day."

The church is a modern Norman erection, situated at the edge of a cliff overlooking the vale. Here, and at Tan-y-Bwlch, Hall, one gets the best view of it. The river Dwyryd meanders through the vale, on each side of which are meadows, and along the sides of the hills corn-fields interspersed with wood of various descriptions. Higher up these hills the scenery varies to the wild and romantic, where the beauties of nature are found in their rudest and most fantastic forms. There are two good inns at the village, called the Pengwern Arms and the Newborough Arms, with several boarding houses to accommodate the numerous visitors that resort here during the summer and autumn in each year.

About half a mile from the village are two beautiful waterfalls on the river Cynfal. The upper one consists of three steep rocks, over which the water foams into a dark basin, overshadowed by the adjoining rocks. To see this to perfection one must cross a bridge thrown over the river between the two cataracts. The lower fall consists of a broad sheet of water precipitated down a rock 40 feet high, and darkened by the luxuriant foliage around it, almost to the margin of the stream. Close by is a columnar rock in the shape of a pulpit, called by the peasantry, "Pulpit Hugh Llwyd" (Hugh Lloyd's pulpit), where a magician of that name used to deliver his nightly incantations. To those who are fond of angling, Festiniog will afford much amusement. The river Dwyryd and its streams are preserved from poachers, and the various lakes in the neighbourhood, viz: Cwmorthin Lake, Llynmorwynion, Llyn-y-pysgod, Llynmannod, and Llyndecwyn, abound in fish, especially trout and salmon.

Higher up in the parish are numerous slate quarries, that yield enormous profits: some of these have been in operation for sixty years. One of these quarries, after being worked upwards of sixty-five years, was disposed of last year (1863) to a new company for £120,000. The population in the neighbourhood of the quarries is about 4,500. Mrs. Oakeley, of Tan-y-Bwlch, who is the chief proprietor of the land where the principal quarries have been opened, and who is also in receipt annually of from £8,000 to £10,000 royalty from the quarries, has built a fine hospital contiguous to them, and also a beautiful church, which she has endowed to the amount of £180 per annum, with a comfortable parsonage house, offices, &c. There is a rail-road from the quarries to Portmadoc, a distance of 13 miles. A remarkable fact connected with this railway is, that it is worked by a locomotive upon only a 2 feet gauge, an engineering accomplishment peculiar to this railway, there not being another of the kind, so far as is known, in the world. The gradient being 1 in 120, the carriages are propelled by their own impetus the whole distance (13 miles) on their downward journey in about one hour and a quarter, whilst this unique engine draws them up on the return in about the same space of time; the rail traverses some of the most picturesque scenery that it is possible to imagine."

[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

FESTINIOG, a parish in the hundred of ARDUDWY, county of MERIONETH, NORTH WALES, 2 1/2 miles (E. N. E.) from Tan y Bwlch, containing 1648 inhabitants. The village is pleasantly situated on an eminence between the rivers Dwyryd and Cynvael, on the road from the western coast to Yspytty-Ivan and Bala, and commands a delightful prospect down the Vale of Festiniog towards Maentwrog, Tan y Bwlch, and Traeth Bach. This beautiful vale, which is partly included in this parish, and partly in that of Maentwrog, was first celebrated by Lord Lyttelton, about the year 1756, since which time it has been visited by numerous tourists, who have described its pictorial beauties in terms of merited eulogy. It is encompassed by lofty hills, the slopes of which, are, in many places, well clothed with wood, finely varied with projecting rocks and verdant sward, and contrasted with the rich corn-fields and meadows skirting the margin of the Dwyryd, which winds pleasingly through the centre of the vale, at the lower extremity of which it meets the tide, and expands into a broad aestuary, called Traeth Bychan, which opens to the sea in the northern part of Cardigan bay : this river here separates the parishes of Festiniog and Maentwrog, and receives in its course in the vicinity the tributary streams of the Cymmerau, Cynvael, Llychryd, and Felenrhyd.

Tan y Bwlch Hall, a handsome mansion, is charmingly situated on the declivity of a mountain, at the north-western extremity of the vale, embosomed in full-grown plantations, the luxuriant foliage of which fringes verdantly the steep rocky side of the mountain above it.

The summits of the Moelwyn mountains, which are in this parish, not only command a pleasing home view of the interesting beauties of the vale, but embrace a wide and varied prospect of the surrounding country. There are various small alpine lakes in the vicinity, the principal of which are Llyn Morwynion, Llyn Gammell, and Llyn Mannod, all much frequented by anglers, particularly the first, the trout caught in them possessing the most delicious flavour. Near the village are two interesting cataracts, called the Falls of the Cynvael: the upper is composed of three steep rocky precipices, over which the waters of the Cynvael are impelled into a deep dark basin, overshadowed by flanking rocks.: About three hundred yards below this the river is crossed by a rustic stone bridge, and at an equal distance lower occurs the other cataract, consisting of a broad sheet of water sweeping over a slightly shelving rock, about forty feet high, from the bottom of which it rushes with murmuring impetuosity through a narrow chasm, glistening among the loose fragments of rock which oppose its progress, and, falling from slope to slope, at length gains a smoother channel, and winds placidly through the vale to its junction with the Dwyryd. Between this and the bridge, a tall columnar rock, called Pulpit Hugh Llwyd Cynvael, or "Hugh Lloyd of Cynvael's Pulpit," resting upon a broad base, rises from the bed of the river, detached from those which form its wood-fringed sides. The Hugh Lloyd from whom it takes its name was a reputed sorcerer in the time of James I., and is said to have delivered his incantations from the summit of this isolated rocky pillar, for which dark purpose its situation in a deep umbrageous glen was well calculated. There is a great variety of picturesque and romantic scenery in the vicinity of a spot called Cwm Cymmorthau, near which there are four small lakes, named Llyn Cymmorthau, Llyn Du Bach, Llyn Trwstyllon, and Llyn Conglog. On the road to Bala is a place where, after heavy rains, the waters descend from the mountains with tumultuous rapidity, and form a stupendous waterfall.

The extreme length of this parish is about ten miles, and its breadth nearly six : the hilly parts are stony, and have a thin sterile soil; the lower are light and gravelly, but fertile : the vale is liable to frequent inundations, which, when the land floods and tide meet, overspread a considerable portion of its surface ; but their injurious effects have been partially obviated by the construction of embankments.

Four slate quarries are profitably and actively worked here; and their produce, in beauty and goodness, is equal to that of any in the principality. The slate rock lies in strata like coal, and its precipitous escarpments form vast walls, extending from north to south, or from north-east to south-west : when the superincumbent earth is removed, it is split into portable blocks by means of wedges and levers, or, when these instruments are insufficient, by the application of gunpowder : these pieces are then conveyed to an open space, and divided with a hammer and wedge into thin laminae, or plates of various sizes. The largest and best shaped are called " queens," the next in size " duchesses," the next " countesses and "ladies," and the smaller " doubles : " all these are generally sold by the thousand, and the rough heavy ones, called " ton slates," by weight. The labourers in these quarries, called " blasters," " borers," &c., are several hundred in number, and often work in very dangerous situations, standing on ledges projecting over immense precipices, and descending to their stations with the aid of a rope tied round the waist. When a blast, or explosion of gunpowder, takes place, timely notice is given, by loudly calling out "War ; " and the echo of these explosions, which are sometimes heard to the distance of five or six miles, reverberating from cliff to cliff, is indescribably grand and appalling. The splitting and dressing of slates, which is performed by men exclusively called " quarry-men," is an operation requiring great skill and much practice.

A copper mine is worked at Cwm Cynvael ; and a lead mine at Gam-allt : copper-ore is also found at Bwlch y Plwm, near the Traeth Mawr, and peat is obtained within the limits of the parish.

Festiniog is a place much resorted to during the summer months by tourists, on account of the beauty of the surrounding scenery ; and for their accommodation it has a good inn, with a boarding-house attached. Fairs are held on March 7th, May 24th, the first Friday after Trinity, June 30th, August 21st, September 26th, October 23rd, and November 13th. Petty sessions for the district are held at the inn at Tan y Bwlch, on the first Monday in every month.

The living is a rectory, with that of Maentwrog annexed, in the archdeaconry of Merioneth, and diocese of Bangor, rated in the king's books at £10. 4. 2., and in the patronage of the Bishop of Bangor. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, is in the ancient style of English architecture : in 1829, a gallery was erected at the west end, containing seventy-two free sittings, towards defraying the expense of which the Incorporated Society for building and enlarging churches and chapels granted £13. There are places of worship for Independents and Calvinistic Methodists, with Sunday schools attached.

A National school for both boys and girls was established in 1830, for the parishes of Festiniog and Maentwrog, for which a neat building of English architecture has been erected near the village, by subscription among the inhabitants, aided by a grant of £ 62 from the parent society in London.

In this parish, near a tumulus called Tommen y Mur, is the site of the Roman station Heriri Mons. Two Roman roads are said to have intersected each other within its limits, one leading from Segontium, near the present Carnarvon, to Mediolanum, in Montgomeryshire ; and the other from Conovium, at Caerhen, near Aberconway, to Loventium, at Llanio, in Cardiganshire. Within the parish one of these roads, now called Rhyd yr Halen, more properly Rhyd Helen, or Fordd Helen, signifying " Helen's Way, " may yet be distinctly traced, though for the most part covered with turf : it is said to have been constructed by Helena, daughter of Octavius, and consort of the emperor Maximus ; but this presumption is founded only on its present appellation, which is most probably a corruption from Fordd Lleon, signifying the " Legionary Way."

Near it are the remains of Beddau Gwyr Ardudwy, "the graves of the men of Ardudwy," which are about six feet long, and were formerly marked at each end by two upright stones, from two to three feet high, and one broad, long since removed.. These graves, and some Druidical circles adjacent, denote this to have been the scene of some unrecorded conflict : the tradition connected with them is, that the men of Ardudwy, in order to people their territory, entered the Vale of Clwyd, and forcibly bore off several of its fair inhabitants ; but they were pursued by the men of Clwyd, and overtaken at this place, where a sharp conflict ensued, in which the former were defeated and slain : they nevertheless appear to have secured the affections of the females, who, rather than return home, are said to have rushed into an adjacent piece of water, called from this circumstance Llyn y Morwynion, or " the Maidens' Lake," and there to have perished. A silver seal, now in the possession of W. Oakeley, Esq.; of Glan William, was found near the mountain of Moelwyn, in 1831 : it bears the inscription "S. LODOWICI EPI. BANGOREN. AD CAUSAS," having been the seal of Lewis, Bishop of Bangor, whose identity, prior to this discovery, had not been satisfactorily ascertained; he lived in the reign of Henry IV., and, having taken part in the insurrection of Owain Glyndwr, was apprehended in Yorkshire, and deprived of his bishoprick : in old chronicles he is simply called " the Bishop of Bangor." The average annual expenditure for the maintenance of the poor amounts to £309. 10.

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