For an explanation of the Twiddly Bits series, see 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!
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.
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!
Hugh M. Lewis. Aberdyfi Portrait of a Village.
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.
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.
The tennis courts were located in front of the approach to Aberdovey railway station. Now, it’s a bowling green, with a small section fenced off to the left that still has a tennis court. The little tennis pavilion has now been replaced by two slightly larger structures. It is possible that the blue X marks the house where the visitors were staying. My excellent uncle occasionally does the same thing in the postcards he sends. The houses in the postcard and my photographs below shows how foliage can change aspects of a scene. The house at top left now has a tree in front of its central gable, and the one immediately above the tennis pavilion previously had Virginia creeper or similar clinging to the walls, which has now been stripped off. There are a couple of new buildings in the picture below, but on the whole that stretch of Aberdovey retains most of its character.
The bowling club was established in 1921. The postcard was sent to Solihull in 1934, with an Aberdovey Merioneth postmark. The stamp is a George V 1d red that was issued between January 1st 1912 and 1934. I’ve seen an identical postcard with the postmark dated 1926, so this postcard had obviously been in circulation for some time.