Porth-y-Nant, Gwynedd (1979)

Porth-y-Nant, Gwynedd (1979)

Way back in 1980 I had a holiday in North Wales with a bunch of mates and someone mentioned a lost village on the coast of the Llŷn Peninsula.

With no more information than an Ordnance Survey map we located the unbelievably steep valley of Nant Gwrtheyrn and trekked in the afternoon sun down the precipitous road to the abandoned terraces of the quarry village of Porth-y-Nant.

The granite quarry which overlooks the wide bay was opened in 1861 by a Liverpool company, Kneeshaw & Lupton. In its heyday the place provided granite setts for roadways; latterly it produced larger blocks for civil engineering works and ballast for railways.   All of the output and many of the supplies were transported by sea; the roadway was unfit anything but pedestrians and horse-drawn sledges.

The initial small group of quarrymen’s houses was supplemented in 1878 by two larger terraces, Sea View and Mountain View, which housed families. The chapel, which bears the same date, accommodated a school which in the 1930s consisted of around twenty pupils and one teacher.

The quarry closed early in the Second World War and by 1954 only three inhabitants remained.

Thereafter the village buildings fell derelict, and this is what we stumbled on in 1980. The walk back, up one-in-three gradients and round hairpin bends in the gathering dusk, was not pleasant.

At the time only a notice on a ruined building told us that the place had been purchased by a trust, pioneered by a local GP, Dr Carl Clowes, which transformed the ruins into a thriving Welsh-language teaching centre, Nant Gwrtheyrn: http://www.nantgwrtheyrn.org/default.aspx.

There is an outline of the gestation of this enterprise at http://www.forachange.net/browse/article/1950.html.

There is remarkable film footage of the first motor-car ever to traverse successfully the steep access road (now, thankfully, much improved) in 1934: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/climbing-the-unclimbable/query/wales+hill.

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