On June 15th 2017, about 30 members and friends of the Deganwy History Group were lucky enough to have the expert guidance of committee member and local historian Elan Rivers on a very interesting walk around the Bodafon area. The group met at Ffynnon Sadwrn Lane, where Elan vanquished the wind and traffic with the aid of the new megaphone, and gave us an overview of the history of the area.
Craig-y-Don is not part of the Mostyn Estate, but was originally part of the land owned by Marl Hall and Penrhyn Old Hall. It was sold by them in 1884, and most of the current buildings date from after then. In 1894, Mostyn Estates drew up plans to build on what are now known as Bodafon Fields – they have not (yet) come to fruition but the water pipes have been laid ready underneath for over a century! Further up Colwyn Road towards the Little Orme, Elan pointed out the Villa Marina, built in the 1930s for a biscuit manufacturer from the Midlands, and the Craigside Hydro – once one of the largest hotels in Wales, with Turkish baths.
Looking at the Little Orme, Elan explained that the quarry was leased by Mostyn Estates to Joseph Storey in about 1890, on condition that he only quarried on the far side so as not to spoil the view of the headland from Llandudno. Boats used to come to the quay on the Penrhyn Bay side, and collect crushed limestone which was taken as far away as Glasgow. During quarrying, the skeleton of Blodwen, dating from c.3000 BC was found – she can now be seen in the Llandudno Museum. About 50 people worked at the quarry at its peak, and it closed in about 1931. The Coastal Artillery School took over some of the disused quarry buildings during World War II, after running out of space on the Great Orme.
There is a cave on the Little Orme where the first Welsh religious tract – Y Drych Cristnogol (The Christian Mirror) – was printed in c.1585; it is now in the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth. The printing press was supported by the Pughs of Penrhyn Old Hall, who were a Catholic family – but it was a dangerous business. Sir Thomas Mostyn, who was an agent for Queen Elizabeth I, was sent to shut the press down. A priest called William Dai Davies escaped from the scene with the help of the Pughs but was captured on Anglesey, and hung, drawn and quartered at Beaumaris.
Several Roman coin hoards have been found in the area, including opposite Craigside Manor in 1873. A second hoard was found in 1907 when the tramline was laid – this used to run up the hill towards Penrhynside, and the trackbed can still be seen in places. Local oral tradition has it that the Roman army came this way along the coast from Chester in AD 55, to tackle hillforts including the one at Bryn Euryn. However apart from the coins, the only evidence for this is local names such as Bryn y Bia – Hill of Arrows, Adwy Rudd – the Bloody Pass, and Pant yr Ellyll – Hollow of the Fiend.
There was an old house called Castell Gwylfryn on top of Nant-y-Gamar, above Bodafon, which may have originally been a fortified lookout. There are also hut circles and a quarry with sandpits, from which a woman called Margaret Owen used to get fireclay in the 1850s, which she sold in the area – it was used for firebricks and ceramics. Notable houses on the hill include Eryl Fryn, home of Sir William Letts, co-founder of the Automobile Association and managing director of Crossley Motors, and Pant y Wennol Cottages, where Thomas Kendrick was born in 1821. Further down, human and animal bones, dating from Mesolithic and Neolithic times, have been found in caves behind Ysgol Bodafon.
Moving up Ffynnon Sadwrn Lane, we saw the old stone on the verge, which is perhaps connected with the inscribed (but undeciphered) stone in Llanrhos Church, said to have been found near Tyddyn Holland which was further up near Ysgol Bodafon. The stone dates from about AD 600, and was mentioned by the 18th century cartographer Lewis Morris. The well, which gives its name to the road, is pre-Roman, proving that this was a very ancient pathway. It is similar to St Mary’s Well in Llanrhos in that the water comes from below, but its origins are more mysterious, including the name – probably after Saturn, but possibly after St Sannan, or just conceivably because of a tradition of drawing water on a Saturday.
Crossing the fields, Elan pointed out the path of the tramlines running along the edge, and buildings of interest including Arne Hall, a mock Tudor replica of the previous house, run as a private school and later Dr Barnardo’s. Bodafon Hall then came into view: this dates from before the farm, and has an ancient well in the garden. It was the home of John Williams, who was the first agent to Mostyn Estates and a very important figure in the development of Llandudno. One of the outbuildings was later converted into the farm house, where the Tudno Jones family lived and farmed on behalf of the estate for most of the 19th century.
The walk ended with refreshments provided by Bodafon Farm Park in their very pleasant courtyard – well worth a return visit to see the owls and other attractions there. Many thanks to them and to Elan for a most enjoyable and informative evening.
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