Llanberis - Gazetteers


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

National Gazetteer (1868)

"LLANBERIS, (or Llanperis), a parish in the hundred of Is-Gorfai, county Carnarvon, 10 miles S.E. of Carnarvon, its post town, and 8 from Bangor. It is situated in the mountainous district of Snowdon, the village being at the entrance of the gloomy valley of the Pass of Llanberis, surrounded on all sides by lofty heights. It was visited by the queen in 1832, then the Princess Victoria, and is considered the starting-point for making the ascent of the different peaks. A new village has sprung up, principally supported by the tourists. The parish includes the mountains of Glyder Vawr, Llyder Vawr, Moel Eilio, Carnedd Igyn, and others, varying in height from 2,300 to 3,300 feet, also a part of Snowdon, which bounds the pass on the W. In the bosom of the valley are two small lakes, one of which, fed by the river Afon-Hwch, has a cataract, 60 feet in height.

The inhabitants, for the most part, are employed in the copper mines and slate quarries, which are numerous in this parish. The products are conveyed in flats along the lakes to the terminus of the railway which has been constructed from the neighbourhood of the mines to port Denorwig. The river Seiont flows through the parish. In the middle' of the Pass is the ancient castle of Dolbadarn, which was for upwards of twenty years the prison of Owen Goich, brother of Llewellyn, the last prince of Wales. The tithes were commuted in 1839. The living is a rectory in the diocese- of Bangor, value £182, in the patronage of the bishop. The church, dedicated to St. Peris, is a singular looking building. It has a curious timber roof, which some compare to the keel of a ship turned upside down, and is supposed to have been built about the 15th century. It has lately been restored. There are remains of a fortress and of a Roman camp. Many plants of the alpine species, crystals, and fossils, are constantly met with in the mountains." DOL-BA-DARN, a hamlet in the parish of Llanberis, hundred of Is-Gorfai, in the county of Carnarvon, North Wales, 7½ miles from Carnarvon. The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in the slate-quarries and copper-mines. The principal houses are Dol-ba-darn Inn and the Victoria Hotel, both largely frequented by visitors in the summer months. In the vicinity are the lakes of Llyn-Padara and Llyn-Peris. At the lower end of the latter is the round tower of Del-ba-darn, built on the site of a more ancient fort possessed by Maelgwyn Gwynedd in the 6th century. From its position at the mouth of the pass, it played an important part in defending the mountainous districts, and was besieged by the Earl of Pembroke in the reign of Edward I., having been garrisoned by Davydd, father of Llewelyn the Great. It is famed as having been for 23 years the prison of Owen Goch. It has long been in ruins, the keep only being left in Leland's time. This is 75 feet high, of rude masonry, built in a cylindrical form, of three stories, entered by a stair against the wall outside of the second stage."

[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

LLANBERIS (LLAN - BERIS), a parish in the hundred of ISGORYAI, county of CARNARVON, NORTH WALES, 9 1/2 miles (E. S. E.) from Carnarvon, on the road to Capel Curig, containing 725 inhabitants. This place derives its name from the dedication of its church to St. Peris, a British, or, according to some accounts, a Roman saint, who is said to have been a cardinal of Rome, and to have resided in this sequestered spot with Padarn, an anchorite who had a cell, or small chapel, in a meadow between the site of Dolbadarn castle and that of the present Dolbadarn Inn. Dr. Pughe, in his well-known Cambrian Biography, states that St. Peris was a native of Wales, and calls him the son of Helig ab Glanog, and also says that he was both a saint and a cardinal, and lived about the sixth century. In this parish is situated Dolbadarn castle, anciently the principal defence of this part of Wales. It is supposed to be one of the oldest mural fortresses in the principality, and to have been originally founded by Padarn Beisrydd, son of Idwal, to defend the passage through the Snowdonian mountains. This castle appears also to have been used as a state prison ; Owain Goch, brother of Llewelyn, the last native prince of Wales, who had conspired with his brother Davydd to dethrone this prince, having been confined in it for more than twenty-three years. It is supposed to be the fortress anciently called the "castle of Bere," which was provided by Davydd ab Grufydd, after the unfortunate death of his brother Llewelyn, with a strong garrison for its defence against the English forces, commanded by Edward I. in person ; and which is described by historians as being situated in Snowdon, in a morass, through which a single causeway formed the only access to it, and which could be approached only through narrow and rugged defiles. But so sunk in despair were the Welsh by the death of their late prince, that even this castle was surrendered to the king, after it had been for some time closely invested ; the weak defence of its garrison being the last opposition made to the victorious Edward in his conquest of Wales.

The parish, which is of very great extent, is situated in the heart of a wildly romantic district, comprehending several of the loftiest mountains in the principality, and abounding with mineral treasures, and with scenery of the boldest character. Among the mountains of this district, and within the parish, are the Elidyrs, the Gluders, Moel Eilio, Carnedd Igyn, and, towering above all, the gigantic Snowdon, of which, however, only one-half is within this parish. Moel Eilio is two thousand three hundred and seventy-seven feet in height ; Carnedd Igyn, so called from a carnedd of loose stones placed on its summit by a person of that name, rises to a height of two thousand nine hundred and seventy-five feet above the level of the sea; and the highest summit of Snowdon has an elevation of three thousand five hundred and seventy-one feet above the same level. The village, which consists only of three or four houses and a spacious and comfortable inn, called the Dolbadarn Inn, for the accommodation of the visitors who in the summer season resort to this place, in their excursions to Snowdon, is beautifully situated on the river Seiont, which flows into the lake of Llyn Peris, a little below the church, and, after traversing both this and the lower lake, falls into the Menai below the ancient Segontium, at the present town of Carnarvon. Through it is brought the new and important line of road from Carnarvon, through the romantic pass and valley of Dyfryn Membyr, to join the great Irish road at Capel-Curig. The narrow Vale of Llanberis, extending five miles in length, and bounded on each side by lofty mountains, whose summits are commonly enveloped in clouds, comprehends a rich variety of picturesque and romantic scenery, and contains within its narrow limits a striking combination of features unrivalled in grandeur and sublimity. Though obscured by the over-shadowing mountains which form its boundaries on either side, it abounds with luxuriant meadows affording rich pasturage, and comprises a small proportion of arable land, adapted to the cultivation of oats, which is the only grain raised in the parish. It is intersected by the new line of road above-mentioned, and its surface is agreeably diversified by the two beautiful lakes of Llyn Peris and Llyn Padarn : the former, which is called the upper lake, is one mile in length and about a quarter of a mile broad, and, though by much the smaller of the two, is greatly superior in the beauty of its form and the scenery which immediately surrounds it : the latter, which is called the lower lake, in Welsh Llyn Isav, is nearly three miles in length, and about half a mile broad, and is separated from the former by a narrow isthmus two hundred yards in breadth. On the summit of a high rock rising from the isthmus and overlooking Llyn Peris, are the remains of Dolbadarn castle, consisting of some portions of walls, and one solitary tower, and forming a prominent and interesting feature in the scenery of the vale. About a quarter of a mile south-east of the Dolbadarn Inn, and not far from the public road, is the noble cataract called Ceunant Mawr, formed by an impetuous mountain torrent precipitated with violence over two vast masses of rock, and falling into two tremendous chasms beneath. Within this parish, besides Llyn Peris and Llyn Padarn, already noticed, are four other lakes, viz., Llyn y Cwm, Llyn-Cwm-Dwythwch, Llyn Du yr Arddu, and Llyn-Cwm-Fynnon, which, however, are of much smaller size, and some of them are situated high up the sides of the mountains. In Fynnon Vrech, a smaller pool, about a mile east of the village, in the hollow of Cwm Glas, is found, as in Llyn y Cwm, a great variety of aquatic plants, among which are the Lobelia Dortmanna, Subularia Aquatica, Isoetis-Lacustris, and Juncus-Triglumis : the Hieracium Alpinum, Rubus Saxatilis, Solidago Cambrica, and other rare plants, are also to be found in this alpine region, which is a favourite resort of botanists. Llyn-Cwm-Dwythwch abounds with trout of very superior quality, resembling salmon both in colour and flavour.

Since the opening of the new line of road from Carnarvon to Capel-Curig, Llanberis has become the principal resort of parties visiting Snowdon, to which mountain the ascent is easier from this village than from any other place in the district, and may be accomplished on horseback, almost to the summit. For this purpose, guides are constantly in attendance during the summer season; and ponies may be obtained, which are accustomed to these arduous and precipitous roads, on which they travel with perfect ease and security. In addition to the spacious and comfortable inn of Dolbadarn, a new and more capacious house of entertainment is now being erected in a more splendid style, for the accommodation of the increased number of visitors whom the new line of road has induced to select this as the principal place from which to make their mountainous excursions, and commence their ascent to Snowdon. The approach to this mountain from the pass of Llanberis is singularly striking : its higher summits become gradually concealed by intervening heights, consisting of lofty and rugged masses of rock, which, like secondary mountains, rise from its base, forming a grand series of natural outworks and majestic barriers, to defend its steep acclivities, and of precipitous ridges of sharp pointed rocks, opposing a succession of formidable ramparts to guard the ascent to its summit. By these the mountain is concealed from the view of persons approaching it, till, on their arrival at Bwlch yr Eisteddva, it bursts at once upon the sight, in all the fulness of overwhelming grandeur. Just above this point is the Gorphwysva, or " resting-place," at the extremity of the pass, which is the highest ascent on the new line of road, and from it is seen the pass of Llanberis beneath, called Bwlch y Gwyddil. On the left is Crib Coch, " the red ridge," or third summit of Snowdon, beyond which appears part of the second summit, called Crib y Distyll : on the same side, but lower down, is a succession of rocks of inferior height, forming the grand western buttress by which the mountain appears to be supported; and below these are seen the two lakes of Llanberis, and the tower of Dolbadarn castle, occupying the rocky summit of the narrow isthmus by which they are divided. On the right are the precipitous acclivities of Gluder-Vawr, skirted in many places with vast ranges of columnar rocks of basaltic formation, thrown together in the greatest confusion, and some having a slight degree of curvature : one cluster of these basaltic columns is detached from the rest, and occupies an isolated part of the mountain, in which it maintains a perfectly up-right position. The lower ground in this pass is thickly strewed with vast fragments of rock, of various forms and sizes, which add materially to the grandeur of the scene : some of them are sixty feet in length, and of proportionate bulk, and the great number of huge masses which lie scattered in all directions, and in the wildest irregularity and disorder, give a high degree of beauty to the view, by their forcible display of light and shade. From this point, no higher ground intervening between Snowdon and the Menai, the view in that direction is perfectly open, and the Isle of Anglesey becomes conspicuous in the horizon. At a small distance along this path, which winds under some very lofty and awfully impending rocks, the whole of Crib Coch appears in view : its summit, which seems to be almost inaccessible, is covered with the Festuca Vivipara, a viviparous alpine grass, which bears clusters of seedlings on very slender stems, and which, waving in the wind, apparently without any support, gives a singular appearance to the rocks, which seem to be in motion.

The highest summit of Snowdon is called yr Wyddva, or "the conspicuous," and rises almost to a point, affording space only for a small enclosure of loose stones, where the traveller may take refreshment, while resting from the toil of his arduous ascent, and within which a pole, consisting of four thick planks inserted in a mound of stone, was erected by order of Governrment, in the year 1827. From this point Snowdon appears to be supported by four distinct and immense piles of rocks, forming vast buttresses, with four tremendous chasms between them, in all of which, except one, are lakes to which various names have been given from the apparent colour of their waters : of these, the most conspicuous from this point is Fynnon Las, or "the green well." Beyond is a continued succession of chasms, of which the sides are nearly perpendicular, forming one of the most magnificent amphitheatres in nature. On Gluder-Vawr is a quarry, from which are dug hones of a very superior quality, great quantities being annually sent to London. This mountain is noted for rare plants, among which are the Saxifraga Nivalis, the Bulbocodium of Ray, or the Anthericum Serotinum of later botanists, and the Lichen Islandicus. The view from this mountain is truly sublime, comprehending the most extensive and magnificent range of mountain scenery perhaps to be found in the island. On the right of Cwm Idwal, noted for the murder of a young prince of that name, son of Owain Gwynedd, by Dunawt, son of Nevydd Hardd, to whom his father had entrusted him to be brought up according to the custom of the country, is a vast split rock, called Twll-Du; or "the Devil's Kitchen :" the fissure forms a frightful chasm, about one hundred and fifty yards in length, one hundred in depth, and only six in width; and opening perpendicularly to the mountain, the waters of the lake of Llyn y Cwm are seen rushing through it with impetuosity. Fossils and minerals of various descriptions are found in abundance in this mountainous tract : among these the most valuable are the beautiful Snowdon crystals, transparent as the diamond ; and on Glydr-Vawr are found some of brilliant colours, like the ruby and the amethyst : they are a species of the marcasite, and in the latter mountain there are evident indications of a large deposite of copper-ore. These mountains scarcely produce any grain, but they afford good pasturage in some parts for cattle and sheep during the summer. Goats, of which large flocks were formerly kept upon them for the purposes of the dairy, and for the sake of their long hair, which was manufactured into wigs, are now seldom seen. Foxes are found here in considerable numbers, and in the time of Leland there were large herds of wild red deer. The royal forest of Snowdon, erected by Edward I., on his entire subjugation of the Welsh, was, in the reign of Elizabeth, under the superintendence of Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who was appointed chief ranger, and who endeavoured to extend its boundaries, which were very indefinitely marked, into the counties of Anglesey and Merioneth, in which he was prevented solely by the firmness and perseverance of Sir Richard Bulkeley : it was finally disafforested about the year 1624, in the latter part of the reign of James I., to the great satisfaction of the neighbouring farmers, whose crops suffered greatly from the deer, and to that of the inhabitants of this part of the principality, who were grievously oppressed by the vexatious laws which were enacted for its government.

Copper-ore abounds in the parish, and two copper-mines are at present worked in it : the principal of these is situated on the southern margin of the upper lake, near its higher extremity, and the other in Clogwyn Coch, or "the red rock," about half-way up Snowdon, at the upper extremity of the hollow called Waun Cwm Brwynog, and near the small lake Llyn Du yr Arddu. The former of these mines, commonly called Llyn Peris mine, has been regularly worked for nearly a century, and the original vein of ore may be considered as almost exhausted : attached to it is a stamping-mill for pulverizing the fragments of rock in which the ore is imbedded, preparatory to its being separated by washing : the ore is sent down the lakes in boats, and conveyed by land from their lower extremity to Carnarvon, where it is shipped coastwise. The mine at Clogwyn Coch is comparatively of modern date, having been worked only for a few years. The ore of these mines is a sulphate, and is found in a matrix of quartz, imbedded in hard rocks of whinstone and hornstone schistus. Llanberis has also extensive quarries of slate, of a beautiful light blue colour, which is very much esteemed, and is in great demand for various purposes : these quarries were formerly worked only on a very limited scale, but in 1824 they were very much enlarged, and several new ones opened, and at present they afford employment to more than three hundred men. The quantity of slates quarried in them, and in those of the adjoining parish of Llandeiniolen, exceeds twenty thousand tons annually, upon the average, and are of all the various sizes described in the article on the county of CARNARVON. The produce of the mines is conveyed to the small port of Dinorwic, by means of a rail-road, constructed in 1824, from the mines in this parish to that place, a distance of seven miles, at the expense of the mining companies ; and by means of this, and also of the sledge road to the copper mines, the heights of Snowdon, have been rendered more easily accessible than they formerly were. Fairs are held on September 18th and 27th.

The living is a discharged rectory, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Bangor, rated in the king's books at £4. 18.9., endowed with £800 royal bounty, and in the patronage of the Bishop of Bangor. The church, dedicated to St. Peris, and situated in a deeply sequestered glen, about a quarter of a mile above Llyn Peris, is a small, low, cruciform structnre, principally in the later style of English architecture, with some portions of a much earlier date, probably of the seventh century, which are parts of the original edifice : the more modern part is supposed to have been erected in the reign of Henry VI: the whole forms a neat and venerable structure in perfect harmony with the retirement of its situation and the picturesque scenery by which it is surrounded : two small chapels open into the chancel, one on each side, in each of which and also in the chancel is a good east window. In Nant Isav, or the "lower vale," there is a place of worship for Calvinistic Methodists. There are no charitable institutions in the parish :  a farm called Ty Du, which was bequeathed by Dean Goodman as part of the endowment of Christ's Hospital, at Ruthin, is situated here ; and a slate quarry has recently been opened upon it, which promises a very considerable addition to the funds of that useful establishment. Remains of camps and other defensive works are numerous in the mountainous region of Snowdon, and vestiges of several are seen within the limits of the parish. In Cwm Glas is a cromlech. Near the church is the well of St. Peris, enclosed with a wall, formerly famed for its miraculous efficacy in the cure of diseases, and which, in Mr. Pennant's time, was still celebrated for the divination of a sybil, according to the appearance or non-appearance of a fish lurking in some of its holes. Moel y Cynghorion, or "the Hill of Council," on the southern confines of this parish, is supposed to derive its name from a council held upon it by the Welsh chieftains, when about to surrender to the victorious Edward. The average annual expenditure for the maintenance of the poor is £152. 11.

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