Between two Ormes

Glan y Mor Parade, Llandudno,

Glan y Mor Parade, Llandudno,

Llandudno is a beautifully unspoilt Victorian holiday resort because the freeholds are still largely owned by the Mostyn Estate, which dictated the layout, the width of the streets and the height of the buildings, and has never allowed razzmatazz on the seafront (or anywhere else, for that matter):

In the 1830s, before anyone even thought of building a holiday resort, it could have been a replacement for Holyhead.

At the beginning of the age of steam railways, there was a problem in speeding up the Irish mails that went by horse-drawn stage-coach along Thomas Telford’s road across Anglesey because the Admiralty insisted on a high-level bridge over the Menai Strait. 

George Stephenson seriously suggested drawing railway carriages by cable across Telford’s suspension road-bridge of 1826, which couldn’t cope with the weight of even the earliest locomotives.

The St George’s Harbour & Railway Company proposed a rail-served new port, to be called St George, beside the Great Orme.  This would bring the journey-time from London to Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) in good weather to 19½ hours, and avoid the need for a high-level railway bridge to cross the Menai Straits.

A rival scheme to avoid Anglesey was proposed between London, Worcester, Bala, Ffestiniog, Tremadog and Pwllheli to a port at Porthdinllaen, the only safe haven on the north-west coast of the Lleyn peninsula.  The Porthdinllaen Harbour Company, originally established in 1804-8, apparently still exists:  its premises on what would have been the harbour-front now belong to the National Trust:

Neither scheme gained much favour:  the Railway Magazine of October 1838 argued that if Irish ferries had to pass Holyhead they might as well also pass Ormes Bay and sail directly into Liverpool.

Both schemes were rejected by a Treasury Commission in 1839-40, which accepted the Admiralty’s uncompromising view that Ormes Bay and Porthdinllaen were alike “mere roadsteads”.

So instead, the Mostyn estate developed the flat land between the Great and Little Orme promontories from 1849 onwards as a holiday resort which became known, after the church of St Tudno on the headland, as Llandudno.

It’s perhaps as well:  the idea of carrying the Irish mails through Wales via a harbour named after the English patron saint was, at the very least, tactless.

For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lectures on seaside architecture, Away from it all:  the heritage of holiday resorts, Beside the Seaside:  the architecture of British coastal resorts, Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage and Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage, please click here.


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