Author Archives: Andie

Vintage Postcard #19: The Battery, Aberdovey

An unused postcard showing a row of cannons facing the slipway and the wharf beyond.  I had never seen a photograph of these before.  It took me a minute to realize exactly where they were located, but it was obviously the Literary Institute, which was established in 1882.  There is a photo on a stock library website taken in 1901 and showing a similar view from the Francis Frith collection.

In 1900 an article in the Welsh Gazette stated that the ultimate origins of the cannons was unknown but they had been presented to the Institute by the Urban District Council who had presented them to the Institute, and the letters G.R. on the barrels showed that they had once belonged to the Crown.

Henry Birch’s 1982 booklet about the Literary Institute (A Brief History of The Aberdovey Literary Institute 1882-1982) makes reference to the cannons in connection with celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897, when they were rusty and badly neglected after standing outside the Institute “for some years” and it was proposed that they should be restored and mounted.  There was an unverified local story amongst older residents that the cannons were fired to celebrate the end of the siege Mafeking, and that a ship at anchor in the estuary was dismasted in the process.  The booklet says that in later years the cannons were used by boats alongside the wall as mooring posts.  By 1940 the Institute’s committee had decided that they should be scrapped to help the war effort but they were unable to find a scrap dealer who was interested.  In 1941 a letter to the Committee indicates that two were to be retained and restored “for sentimental reasons” and the others were to be “sold to the local salvage depot for 6d each.”  There is no mention of what happened to the final two.

This is a Wrench postcard, number 73082.  Evelyn Wrench, who set up Wrench Postcards in 1902 when he was in his early 20s, was celebrated as a business success story, a model for other young entrepreneurs, and several newspaper articles were written about him.  There is more about him at the end of an earlier post.

Aberdovey Vintage Postcard #18: Christmas Greetings!

 

This is the colourized version of the second vintage postcard that I posted, showing sheep being driven down the Machynlleth-Aberdovey road towards Aberdovey village. The sepia one was dated  to 1903 but according to the Tuck’s database, the colour version was issued later, appearing in the 1908/1909 and 1911/1912 Tuck’s Postcard Catalogue.  All the information about the scene, together with some details about what Aberdovey was like at that time, information about Frederick William Hayes, the artist who painted it, and Raphael Tuck and Sons, the company that produced it, are on that post.

The description on the reverse of this postcard says “Aberdovey is a pleasantly situated watering place at the mouth of the Dovey, and is noted for its trim and extensive sands and pretty cliff top shelters, from which magnificent views can be obtained.  During the summer months there is a service of passenger boats to the South of Ireland.”

This card, registration number 6233, was in the Oilette series, which came in during 1903, was one of a series of postcards of which each image was either designed to look like an oil painting or was a reproduction of an actual oil painting.  Most of Tuck’s chromographic (colour) printing was done in Germany, but this one was printed in England.  The red letters “Christmas Greetings” stand proud from the surface of the card.

I hope that everyone has a very Happy Christmas!

 

Vintage postcards #17: A special train on the Cambrian Coast Line

This must have been a wonderful sight – a steam-hauled special train on the way into Aberdovey along the side of the estuary on the Cambrian Coast Line.  The reverse of the postcard says that it was sold in aid of the Talyllyn Railway in Tywyn.  The Aberdovey stretch of the railway was established in 1864, connecting via Machynlleth to the south in 1867 (the subject of an earlier post) and the last steam engine run along the route was in 2017, marking the 150th anniversary of the Grade 2 listed Pont Y Bermo (Barmouth Bridge), that carries the line over the Mawwdach estuary.

I naively thought that it would be easy to find a date for what I thought must be an unusual event, but my assumption was wrong.   Thanks, therefore, to Sierd Jan Tuistra, via RMWeb member Martin McCowgill, who provided the information that this is one of the annual AGM weekend specials from Paddington to Towyn, 24th September 1960.  It was a double-headed special, with two engines pulling the carriages from Shrewsbury to Towyn, each pulling a coal truck before the passenger carriages. The engine at the front is 9017, otherwise known as the Dukedog class, which was the nickname for the Great Western Railway Earl Class.  Behind it is engine 7330 in the Mogul (GWR 4300) class.

Steam was not an uncommon sight on the Cambrian coast, a lot of regular services were steam hauled until 1966. Double headed train were less common, but quite a number of Cambrian Coast express summer Saturday specials were double headed because of the number of passengers & carriages.

Apparently there also used to be occasional summer steam trips on a Sunday from Aberystwyth to Pwllheli, so although this was a fabulous sight, it was not actually as rare as one might have expected.  Halliday, the photographer, specialized in vintage train photographs in the 1950s, mainly black and white.

Produced by Judges, about whom more on an earlier post.

Video: The Dyfi Estuary at Aberdovey

This was a very windy late afternoon in mid December 2019, and I have been messing around in my software to figure out how to eliminate the intense sound distortion that ruins the sound tracks of many of my videos.  It is clear that I need a dead cat mic (charming name!) but it is impressive how well the software can compensate once the damage is done, leaving the gentle sounds of water on the seashore and the bright birdsong in tact.

 

Vintage Postcards #16 – View over the jetty towards Penhelig

I couldn’t find out much about this tinted postcard because it is not listed in the Frith database.  However, it is the old 1885 jetty (the new one was installed in 1970) and retains the railway tracks that were used to move cargo to and from ships (there is more about the jetty and wharf in a previous post).  The colours aim to be realistic, but do not disguise that this was originally a black and white photograph.  The card is unused and I haven’t found a date for this postcard yet.

Thanks to Sierd Jan Tuinstra for the information that the ship moored up to the jetty is the 45ft Outward Bound boat Golden Valley (LH37), ordered by George Jarron of Port SetonShe was built by James Martin and Son, a Granton shipyard, launched in 1949 and registered in Aberystwyth.  Granton, at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, on the south bank at the far north of Edinburgh, was a major fishing base, and had two principal boat builders during the 1940s, of which James Martin and Son was one.  The company, originally specializing in joinery, until asked by the Admiralty to built a Motor Fishing Vessel for use during the Second World War.  Subsequently they built eleven wooden Motor Fishing Vessels (M.F.V.s) for the Admiralty between 1941 and 1945, designed initially for harbour and coastal work but ultimately intended to be converted to fishing boats after the war.  After the war, during which large numbers of fishing vessels had ben lost, the company continued to build fishing boats for the herring industry.  Golden Valley was one of the last vessels to be built by the company.  It was originally fitted with a 120 h.p. Crossley engine, but triplex chain breakages caused a series of gearbox problems. This was sorted when another vessel, Mizpah, was provided with a new engine and its old tooth and pinion gearbox was fitted to Golden Valley. (Information about Golden Valley sourced from the Granton Built Fishing Boat website). From accounts on the Alumni section of the Outward Bound website, Golden Valley seems to have been acquired by Outward Bound in the early 1950s.

There is information about the Frith Series postcards and the fascinating history of the company on my post about a previous vintage postcard at https://aberdoveylondoner.com/2019/12/01/vintage-postcards-9-dysynni-valley-and-bird-rock/.

Vintage Postcards #15: Five Points, Smugglers Cove, Frongoch

 

Five points in December 2019 on a very murky, rainy day, resulting in a soggy photographer and a damp camera. I’ll try for a better photo on a sunnier day!

This postcard shows the River Dyfi at Frongoch where it widens into the estuary, with the five small promontories known as Five Points.  The viewpoint is on the road from Machynlleth to Aberdovey just above the Frongoch boatyard, and just around a particularly nasty bend. In the postcard, there’s a lovely vehicle in the foreground, and the railway is ever-present.  The wall between the road and the modern boatyard at Smuggler’s Cove below doesn’t seem to have changed much since the postcard photograph was taken, but the foreshore in the first cove has expanded out into the estuary.  Dated 5th August 1950, the card was sent to an address in Greenford in Middlesex, and has an Aberdovey-Merioneth postmark.

Published by Valentine and Sons of Dundee in their “sepiatype” series, it is numbered W340.  The Jisc archives hub has this to say about Valentine’s:

The company Valentine & Sons was established in 1851 by Mr James Valentine (1814-1879), the son of Mr John Valentine, engineer of wood blocks for linen printing, Dundee. The firm began as early exponents of photography, became pioneers in the postcard industry and later developed the production of greetings cards, novelties, calendars and illustrated children’s books.

James Valentine began in business aged 17 as an engraver. He began to practice Daguerrotype photography, first as an amateur, as an aid to engraving. He was soon proficient and began to take views and portraits in c.1850. He went to Paris to train under M. Bulow, one of the most skilful photographers in that city. On his return to Dundee he set up a studio in the High Street. He received a commission from the Queen to photograph a set of 40 views of Highland scenery and in 1868 was appointed as the Royal Photographer.

James Valentine’s sons were both early to develop skills in photography and by 1879 they were in great demand, having grown into one of the largest establishments in the country. In 1897 the government allowed correspondence to be written on the reverse of a postcard. This coincided with Valentine’s success in collotype printing, a lithographic technique which mechanically reproduced images for printing as postcards. By the end of the century, Valentines had established the perfect method for cheap reproduction of postcards. They were also able to use their immense collection of topographical negatives to issue series after series of scenes from throughout Britain.

By the early 1900s they also had a growing trade in Christmas cards and children’s books and had begun to publish fancy cards. In 1908 they became the official postcard publishers for the international Franco-British exhibition at the White City, and began to publish exhibition cards which are noted for their high quality of design. By the time of the First World War they had become a world-wide name with office branches in Canada, South Africa, Australia, America and Norway. In the 1920s they expanded their trade in Christmas cards and calendars and then in greetings cards which forms the basis of their business today. In 1963 the company became a subsidiary of John Waddington Ltd.

It was during the 1950s that the postcard business began to go into decline, and Valentine’s focused on the more profitable greeting card side of their enterprise.

The Aberdovey flour mill: Melin Ardudwy

Melin Ardudwy.  Source:  Hugh M. Lewis’s book Aberdyfi, Portrait of a Village

From the moment I saw a photograph of Melin Ardudwy in Hugh M. Lewis’s book Aberdyfi, Portrait of a Village, I wanted to know all about it.  To my immense frustration, there is remarkably little information to be found.  Melin Ardudwy is only mentioned in passing in local history accounts, almost forgotten by most histories of the village.  It is not even mentioned on the Coflein website, which is usually a reliable starting place, often providing a few helpful references to chase. However, a bit of pottering around in my books and files turned up some information.  The photograph in Hugh M. Lewis’s book is shown above right.  In the process of my searches online, I was excited to find, on the People’s Collection website, a superb sepia picture of the mill (below left) showing it behind a train pulled by the locomotive Seaham, ready to depart.  Next, I found that the mill was listed in Gwynedd Archaeological Trust’s document Ports and Harbours of Gwynedd: Aberdyfi under their “Buried Sites With Poor Archaeological Potential” category as follows:

25065 Melin Ardudwy.  Assessment of Importance: D Site Status Reference: The site of a multi-storey steam flour roller mill of late 19th century date. No above-ground remains are evident and the site has become a housing estate. Easting: 260183 Northing: 296159.

This short piece pointed me in the direction of steam flour roller mills.  By the 1870s roller milling was becoming widespread, and conventional wind-powered flour mills were being abandoned.  Roller mills enabled the mass-production of much greater volumes of flour, which could be consistently graded and were used to make newly fashionable white bread. The Gwynedd Archaeological Trust’s Conservation Area Appraisal for Aberdovey says that the mill was erected in 1881.  Apparently this area beyond the village was known as Ardudwy, hence the mill’s name.

Splendid view of Melin Ardudwy, c.1896.  Source: People’s Collection.

The mill used to stand where the little housing development just outside the village on the road to Tywyn, near the golf course.  The mill was four storeys high, stone-built, with five bays on the main frontage, three on the side, and had a protruding extension one bay in width.  The brick-built chimney sits in the corner where the two parts of the building meet.  It is a substantial edifice.  A large shed-like structure stands at its side.  Both photographs show a railway locomotive pulling trucks past the mill.  The one in Hugh M. Lewis’s book shows clearly that a siding also ran into the mill itself, under the large white shelter visible in both photographs.  This meant that flour could be taken further afield by rail, or taken down to the port for loading on to vessels for transhipment along the coast to south Wales.

The traditional approach to flour production was to crush wheat grain between two circular millstones, an upper runner stone that rotated and a lower bed stone that was fixed into a stationary position.  The runner stone was powered either by wind or water.  In the 1850s the repeal of the Corn Laws meant that imported grain was affordable and Britain’s dependence on imported grain grew from 2% in the 1830s to  45% (and 65% for wheat alone) during the 1880s.  The arrival of the railway in Aberdovey seventeen years previously had resulted in an expansion of the deep water sea trade with imported cargoes from Ireland, South Wales, Newfoundland, the Baltic, South America and elsewhere, which in turn led to the expansion of the coastal and rail transport from the port.  Cargoes were trans-shipped, via rail or coastal vessels, to other parts of Wales and England.  Hugh M. Lewis says that wheat and barley were imported from the Mediterranean, Australia and Canada.  At a time when white bread was increasingly in demand, mill technology was changing and rollers began to replace millstones all over Britain  Rollers were cheaper to make than the skilled but arduous and time-consuming dressing of millstones.  The website From Quern to Computer has a useful overview of the reasons that steam-powered mills became so popular, and why they were often located, like Melin Ardudwy, at ports:

Henry Simon was one of the main manufacturers of roller machines for flour milling. Source: From Quern to Computer (full reference at end of post)

In 1878 The National Association of British and Irish Millers (nabim) was formed for ‘mutual advancement and protection’ in the light of the ‘great changes which are now in progress in the manufacture of flour, and in the machinery used for that purpose’.  These ‘great changes’ . . . were driven by two related factors:  the growing demand for white bread and the increased importation of hard wheats from North America, Russia and also Australia and India, to meet demand.  These hard wheats gave good quality flours, naturally higher in gluten than native soft wheats, which enabled the production of well-risen white bread.  The gradual reduction method employed by the new roller mills was not only better suited to milling hard wheats than traditional millstones, but also to extracting a greater proportion of fine white flour.  In addition, changes were taking place in the location of the milling industry, as large new mills were built at ports and on navigable rivers and canals, well-placed to receive deliveries of imported wheat.  Such changes were also facilitated by the use of steam power.

Melin Ardudwy was an outcome of this industrialization of flour production.  I can find no mention anywhere of exactly what internal machinery was installed or how many rollers it drove.  However, the basic operation can be cobbled together from general accounts of steam-driven roller mills.

Excerpt from a contemporary postcard showing the mill, taken from the beach.

Roller milling, as the name implies, replaced circular stones with rollers, c12 inches in diameter, not unlike a big mangle, through which the grain was gradually broken down through successive pairs of rollers.  These were set at a specific distance from each other, fixed by a technician, spinning towards each other at different speeds in incremental stages until the grain was sufficiently reduced.  Grain was fed in to the rollers and extracted via pneumatic pipes.  Flour was extracted at all stages of the process.

I have been unable to find out when the mill was demolished but a postcard that shows it in the distance (above) shows women in fashions that date to the 1910s/early 20s, so it was certainly still standing at that time.

 

Main sources for this post:

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust 2007.  Ports and Harbours of Gwynedd: Aberdyfi. A Threat Related Assessment.  GAT Project  No.1824, Report No.671.1, April 2007

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust 2011. Conservation Area Appraisal: Aberdyfi, Gwynedd.  GAT Project No. 2155. Report No. 956, June, 2011

Aberdyfi, Portrait of a Village by Hugh M. Lewis.

Aberdyfi, A Chronicle Through the Centuries by Hugh M. Lewis

From Quern to Computer: the history of flour milling. Roller Milling: A Gradual Takeover. September 06th 2016 by Martin and Sue Watts
https://millsarchive.org/explore/features-and-articles/entry/171161/from-quern-to-computer-the-history-of-flour-milling/11669

England 1870–1914. The Oxford history of England by R.C.K. Ensor.  (1936). Clarendon Press

Technology and Transformation: The Diffusion of the Roller Mill in the British Flour Milling Industry, 1870-1907.  Jennifer Tann and R. Glyn Jones. Technology and Culture
Vol. 37, No. 1 (Jan., 1996), p. 36-69 (Available to read on JSTOR)