Category Archives: Architecture

Aberdovey Twiddly Bits #1

Aberdovey has tons of character, most of it in plain sight, but there are also some rather nice smaller details, from old to modern, which give Aberdovey an extra layer of personality.  Some of these were integrated into the original design of buildings and gardens in the village, whereas others are later additions by local residents and businesses, small flourishes that provide Aberdovey with addition charm.  I have been collecting these small details in the form of photographs for the last year, and thought that they would provide an interesting contrast to the more holistic views of the village shown in the vintage postcards that I have been posting recently.    All photographs are my own.

In completely random order, and in batches of seven, I have divided them into a series of 10 posts entitled Aberdovey Twiddly Bits.  See if you can figure out where they are.  Some are well known, like the wonderful character above, and many are easy to find, but others are less obvious, in hidden corners or out of the normal line of sight.  Some are high up, others are  camouflaged by surrounding features.  Some of them I saw out of the corner of my eye, completely unexpected.  None of the photographs involved intruding on people’s private space.  All were taken from roads and public footpaths, and none of them show interiors.

Several of the features shown in the photographs are something of a mystery.  The gorgeous and beautifully crafted dragon roof filial at the top of this post, for example, is a puzzle to everyone including Hugh M. Lewis who lived here all his life.  And if anyone can tell me the story behind the super dalmation dog in the first photo below, and the corresponding  meaning of DMM I would be most grateful!

 

Vintage Postcards #24: The 1894 school on Pen Y Bryn

The school on Pen Y Bryn prior to the posting date of 1909

The former school in around 1977, minus many original features

I was puzzled when I saw this building in other photographs of the village, because it looked to me like a Nonconformist chapel, but I had no recollection of seeing it.  Local residents Dai and Helen Williams told me that it was once a school and has now been converted to apartments.  I vaguely recalled that in my general reading about chapels, there had been a small chapel on the side of Pen Y Bryn, the small hill with the folly on top, and that this was converted to or replaced by a school.

Aberdovey in the late 1880s/early 1890s, from the book Round The Coast

Sure enough, Hugh M. Lewis (who attended the school) says that the school replaced a small Congregational Chapel called Capel Bach (Low Chapel) that had been built on the site in 1845. In the photograph to the right it is shown overlooking the sea at the very far right of the scene.  The photograph, from the book Round the Coast, is described on an earlier post.  The chapel was abandoned when the Congregationalists built a bigger chapel on the seafront, on Glandyfi Terrace, opposite today’s Information Centre, where it still stands (you can read about the Congregationalist buildings in Aberdovey on an earlier post).

Lewis says that the old chapel was knocked down in order to erect a purpose-built school that cost £600.00 and opened in January 1894 with 102 pupils.  The building is rendered today, but was presumably built of local stone, and has brick features around the windows.  The bell at the front of the school was used to call children to attend, in the same way that church bells call congregations to worship.  Playgrounds were segregated, one for girls and one for boys.  This was not the first school in the village, and I’ll talk about education, which was influenced by religious interests, on a future post.  I love the washing hanging on the line in the foreground – not a usual feature of picture postcards these day, unless you happen to be in Venice.

Other buildings of note are also shown in the photograph, all covered on earlier posts.  At the far left is the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, and in the middle of the photograph, now Dovey Marine, the roof of Calvinistic Methodist Chapel in the middle of Chapel Square is just visible.  In the background, the tower of St Peter’s Church is clearly visible, and just beyond and set above it, the Calvinist Tabernacl dominates.

I realized that it had to be somewhere near the footpath from Chapel Square up to Pen-Y-Bryn, and when I walked up there, it turns out that one side sits along the footpath.  The photographs above were taken from the footpath and from Pen-Y-Bryn.

The card is by Sir Evelyn Wrench’s early postcard company (about whom more on an earlier post).  Wrench had been out of business for five years when this postcard was posted in 1909 from Aberdovey to an address in the village of Bawdeswell near East Dereham, Norfolk.  This says a lot about the dangers of using postmarks to date photographs on postcards!

Main Source:

Hugh M. Lewis.  Aberdyfi Portrait of a Village.

Vintage Postcard #21: Rolling stock on the tracks, Aberdovey beach

Where the big 1970 car park is now located, railway tracks used to cross the beach in front of Glandyfi Terrace.  There is more about the rails and the jetty in an earlier post, and there isn’t much else to say about this postcard here, but I like it very much.  The row of freight trucks with their big wheels divides the tourist beach from the houses, and tell their own story about the various economic imperatives of Aberdovey in the earlier 20th Century.  As ever, the 1897 shelter on Pen Y Bryn looks out over the scene, the village’s most conspicuous landmark and one of it’s most visited tourist attractions.  The photograph was taken from the jetty and I have tried to reproduce the same viewpoint.

Typically for such an everyday scene, this was a “Gwilym Williams, Aberdovey” postcard.  It was posted from Llandderfel, near Bala, in July 1912 to an address in Nelson, Lancashire.

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)

Vintage postcards #14 – Penhelig from a boat or Ynyslas

Penhelig, possibly 1923

Penhelig seen from Ynyslas in February 2019

It is almost peculiar how little has changed between these two dates, 1923 and 2019.  Immediately in front of the houses on the left the memorial park has been developed, a small shelter has been added, and there is now a sea wall in front of it, and the trees behind the houses seem to have grown and spread, but little else has changed.  The postcard was unsent.  It is another produced by “Gwilym Williams, Aberdovey” about whom I have been unable to find anything, but there is an additional piece of information on the picture side of the card – a series number:  88213 JV.  The initials JV usually stand for James Valentine, so perhaps Gwilym Williams occasionally worked as a local agent of Valentine’s.  According to the Valentine’s postcard dating page, this number falls in a series that date to 1923.