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Extract from the Historical Society Booklet
Pant Y Afon
The following article is a compilation of four articles: ‘Penmaenmawr - before the shops came’, ‘Beginnings of Penmaenmawr Shopping Centre’, ‘Penmaenmawr, eight-five years ago’ and Villadom at Penmaenmawr a century ago,’ written by Mr. Ivor Davies and which appeared in the North Wales Weekly News. Further information has been included from the Census Return of 1871 and a number of Trade Directories published between 1868 and 1895.
Up to the middle of the last century Pantyrafon as we know it, did not exist; the only dwellings in the neighborhood were ‘Siop Newydd’ (now Brynhyfryd) and the original cottage ‘Pantyrafon’ (Now Post Office) which, like the majority of Welsh names correctly describes the natural features of the place - the hollow of the stream. Before the surroundings were built over, the hollow and the stream were more in evidence. Small farms and crofts were scattered amongst the cultivated fields that lay between Trwyn-yr-Wylfa and Penmane Mawr - Hwyrfiyn, Pwllmorllon, Penyrallt, Chwysfa Sling, Groesffordd, Tyddyn Bifan, Tyddyn Bach, while Brynmor would be the nearest of these to Pantyrafon.
At both extremities of the Parish there was a grouping of cottages at Capelulo and at Penmaenan. The former occupied mainly land workers and a few quarrymen (the local quarries began operation in 1830), while the latter were occupied by mainly quarrymen and fishermen. Prior to 1866 when the affairs of the locality were in the hands of the Dwygyfylchi Local Board, the parish was divided into five divisions known as townships and in those divisions it can be read that Pantyrafon was of no significance for the boundaries of these townships had been planned with no regard whatsoever to it. Insignificant as it might seem, the home ‘Pantyrafon’ and Siop Newydd constituted “the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand” which was destined to spread and to overcast all other divisions of the parish, now known as wards. During the time when the town was governed by the Penmaenmawr Urban Council, Pant-yr-Afon Ward returned more councillors than the other wards and it was soon to become the “Oxford Street” of Penmaenmawr, eclipsing the older establishments of Capelulo and Penmaenan.
Siop Newydd (Brynhyfryd), opened about 1840, was the first shop in Pantyrafon. Two spinsters, Elizabeth Williams and Jane Jones, were first owners of the shop. There was a small lean-to building at the gable end and here they kept the Post Office for many years, letters being “delivered before ten a.m. and leave at five p.m.” (Guide to Penmaenmawr see Vol. 1 Penmaenmawr Historical Society Transactions). It was Brynhyfryd that the Rev. Thomas Stephen, Tanymarian, lodged while he was minister at Horeb. Later this shop was kept by a Mr. Edwards who later moved to new premises across the road at Bryn Derwen.
In 1869 the Mountain View Hotel was built on the corner between the Old and New Conwy Roads. The first proprietor is thought to have been Edward Pritchard who came from Llangelynin via Amlwch and Liverpool! Early photographs show its main entrance facing west, that is, towards the town centre.
On the site of the present Post Office stood the aforementioned Pantyrafon. It had a small walled garden in front and one wonders how the four-in-hand coaches coming from the Sychnant Pass could round the narrow V-turning there. The cottage was built by Robert Thomas who died in 1878. He had four sons, all joiners, although father had started life as a millwright. They had a saw pit on the side of the Mountain View and a cottage building remembered by many as Wrights shop, this is now the site of D & G Williams, DIY Shop, and was used by them as there workshop. The Thomas family built the National School (1848) later
Converted into gas works, Bryn Hedd for Dr. Harrison of Chester; the large house Tremynfa (now called Norbrit) and Salem Chapel (1862).
Another early house was ‘Llwynonn’ today hidden behind Lloyd’s Bank. It was built and occupied in the 1850’s by John Jones who had farmed Panybryn and who blossomed as mason builder. He built Bryn Eglwys, Bryn Dinarth, Hafod and many cottages in High Street for the squire of Brynmor. Llwynonn served later as a telephone exchange for many years. The block of shops was built in the front garden of Llwynon in the 1890’s and a similar fate happened to the house ‘Glandwr’ built by Robert Thomas (one of the sons of the Robert Thomas mentioned). Built in the 1850’s it is regarded as the first house erected in the Parish as a lodging-house to receive visitors. A lean-to against the east gable was a tap-room for a short period. But the house is best remembered as the residence of Dr. Robert Hughes who went there from Conwy; the lean-to became his surgery. Set in the wall of his front garden was a barometer - it is now by the National Westminster Bank. It is one of the three memorials marking Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Year - 1887. The author well remembers seeing Dr. Hughes resetting the barometer each morning when on his way the Pencae School. Dr. Hughes served the district nobly over a long period; he was uncle to the late Drs. Clifton Hughes and J.R. Williams of Ardre and great uncle of Dr. Ivor H. Lloyd. Gladnwr is easily passed unnoticed today masked as it is by the shop of J. Owen, Gents Outfitters.
The second shop to be built at Pantyrafon was Patrick’s Bazaar which stood next to Glandwr and on the site of the present Westminster House. Thomas Patrick, a Lincolnshire man, opened his little wooden shop in 1869, selling toys, baskets, alpine sticks, paints and so on. It was truly a bazaar. Later he added another small shop, this time built of brick and with a slate roof. In 1877 Patrick built on the site of the two small shops what today comprises the Health Food Shop, the Hairdressers and the Fishmonger, (until recently Dunphy’s and the Co-op butchers). He named the shop Gladstone House and the wing behind was the Gladstone Hall - the first public hail in the parish. A large room over the shop was a public reading room and it is said the Mr. Gladstone, then a regular visitor to Penmaenmawr, would on occasion call to chat with Patrick on the burning topics of the day. Mrs. Patrick was a daughter of Mr. Buckland, head gardener at Penrhyn Castle; the Bucklands, a Berkshire family, came to be prominent in the Bangor district. After the death of his wife fortune went against Patrick. He lost the shops and spent his few remaining years in the care of his niece, Martha Buckland, who looked after a shop, the kiosks in Station Road East - another Library and Bazaar. Patrick’s new shop was taken over by Mr. T.T. Roberts in 1880, but more of him later.
The shop now occupied by Mr. D. Jones was kept by an old lady, a Miss Williams, as a pastry and cake shop. Her stay was remembered by the association with ‘Penny Ducks’ and the fooling of rustically minded youths by sending them to enquire the price of these savouries; the old lady would walk unconcernedly round the counter to the luckless youth to land him a clout on the cheek before he knew where he stood.
In 1871 the shops next to the Bazaar, namely Cambrian Buildings, had been built by Edward Roberts of Lonfa, but were soon replaced by the present Camrian Buildings, Canton House and Medical Hall (also known as Conway House). Hugh Williams was the first tenant of Cambrian buildings with a tailoring and drapery business. He was a gifted musician and collaborated with the Rev. Stephens, Tanymarian, when he was composing the first Welsh oratorio ‘The Storm of Tiberias’. He was succeeded by S.H. Roberts who continued the same business for many years Mr H.D. Hughes who succeeded him, again had earlier served under S.H. Roberts and he told the author that as many as thirteen hands were employed at that time - including milliners and mantle-makers. The premises were altered to their present state after a serious fire in the 1890s.
Another part of the Cambrian Buildings was at first separately held as a boot and shoe shop by a Mr. Pritchard, brother to the proprietor of the Mountain View. At Medical Hall there was originally a couple of old ladies, the Misses Mole, who sold cakes and sweets while next door at Canton House there was a grocery business, a branch of Mrs. Margaret Evans of Bee Hive, Penmaenan, and kept by John Jones Bach, father of Shem Jones who, in turn, was to be assistant to T.T. Roberts at Westminster House.
We now cross Fernbrook Road made by a Mr. Ayres for Elias Jones of Brynmor. In the 1880s John Davies conducted a greengrocery and china business from his Corner Shop (now the site of the National Westminster Bank). He is best remembered as John Davies Gilfach a deacon and founder member at Salem. Previous to his taking this shop he was at the little shop that once stood on the garden space opposite the entrance to Eden Hall. Mr. Davies, a native of Penmachno, had previously worked in the local quarries. He used a donkey and cart to hawk his wares and was not above exchanging his pots for a bundle of rags. Poor Mr. Davies and several of his fellow enterprising retailers had the misfortune of being guarantors for a certain tradesman in Pantyrafon who failed in business and Mr. Davies had to see his donkey and cart taken away from him.
In the late 1880s the English Wesleyans erected their first church, a corrugated iron structure on a site to the left of John Davies’ shop, but it was blown down in a great gale soon after it was built. The ambitions of a few zealous founders, foremost of whom as Mr. Owen ‘The Gas’ (manager of the Gas Works), were however soon to be fulfilled, for on December 10th, 1890, the foundation stone was laid of the present St. Paul’s Church.
To the right of John Davies’ shop was a corrugated iron lock-up shop facing Bangor Road, once occupied by a fishmonger, O’Leary, from Bangor. There were frequent changes in the tenancies of these little shops. Perhaps the first of their occupiers was Robert Williams, son of Benjamin Williams of Turnpike Cottage, a gifted writer, poet and preacher. He emigrated to the States where he was a frequent contributor to ‘Y Drych’. He wrote under the literary title ‘Syllog’ and when here kept a bookshop. A Mrs. Williams ‘Bazaar’ first started her toy business here before moving to a shop in the Arcade (next door to Shield’s Shoe Shop).
The imposing block, Clarendon Buildings, which includes the National Westminster Bank now occupying the site of these little shops, was built in 1894 jointly by David Evans of Plas Arfon (later renamed Ardre), the two sons of Robert Jones of Vron and E.O. Jones the printer. Many will remember E.O. Jones, the Library. He was printer, stationer, bookseller and bookbinder and publisher of postcards and booklets on the neighbourhood. M.H. Parry followed as printer at the beginning of this century. His shop was later to be a branch of W.H. Smith.
Stanley House was built about 1870. It was to this shop that T.T. Roberts came, transferring his business from Manchester House in Penmaenan. This was the first stage of his moving the business into Pantyrafon for soon he was to take over Patrick’s Bazaar. Stanley House at this time was also the Post Office and when T.T. moved he took the Post Office with him.
On the opposite side of Gilfach Road is Bank House (Hempstead’s) which was built by Richard Williams, Fern Bank, about 1870. In 1871 it was known as ‘Siop Gilfach Lane’ and was kept as a drapers by a Jonah Andrew, a Cheshire man. His wife, who hailed from Bangor, kept two apartment houses at Manor House, Conwy
Road, and Bodlondeb Villa. It was later known as ‘Bank House’ since it was here that the National Provincial Bank first established a branch of their Conwy bank in 1873. The branch only opened on Fridays to suit the fortnightly pay days at the quarries; there were then two separate undertakings whose pay days fell on succeeding Saturdays and the bank therefore opened every Friday. John Jones, Glasgow House (reference is made to him later) used to claim that it was he who persuaded the bank to open a branch here. Hitherto Police Superintendent John Evans, father of R.C. Evans. on his periodical visits used to oblige John Jones by doing his banking for him at Conwy.
Across the road we have ‘Stafford House’ or ‘Siop ben Ion’ and its building affords perhaps the earliest instance of the migration eastwards of businesses out of the Penmaenan area to the Pantyrafon region. Stafford House was built in the l860s for John Jones, Glasgow House, who some years earlier had built Penmaen House, later known as Bradford House but since demolished. Earlier still he had plied his calling of boot-maker at Everton House. He was certainly one of the pioneer shopkeepers and was not lacking in foresight. He built Stafford House as an outpost to his boot business at Penmaen House. His daughter, Mrs. Robinson, managed it for him for upwards of fifteen to twenty years and she was followed by her sister, Mrs. Jones Bryn Arfon. A Miss Roberts, later Mrs. Arfon Davies, Castle Buildings, Llanfairfechan, succeeded the boot business at Stafford House with a drapery store.
At about the time Stafford House was built, David Roberts, a miner from Trefriw, built Bron Eryri, but not as a public house.. When the old ladies of Shop Newydd (Bronhyfryd) gave up the Post Office, David Roberts took the office to his house at Tre Castell, Penmaenan, but the authorities wanted the office to be nearer the centre and Roberts built Bron Eryri as a Post Office! There is something superior in the name Bron Eryri and I believe it was this David Roberts who gave it the name, for he was a man of rather unusual qualities and was also an itinerant bookseller - selling some of the old Welsh classics and ‘esponiadau’ in monthly and quarterly parts. In 1866 an Owen Williams built, and I believe that it was when Stella House was completed, that Bron Eryri became a licensed house for this Owen Williams is described in Slater’s Directory 1868 as “Postmaster - letters from all parts arrive (by Conwy) at 7 morning and 5 evening and are despatched at 6.40 evening. “Money Order Office and Post Office Savings Bank.” It was he who built Tan’rallt Terrace and like his neighbour David Roberts he did not succeed in his ventures and soon emigrated to America. The Post Office then moved across the road the Stanley House and Mr. T.T. Roberts.
The not uninspiring angle block of buildings on the north with the shops on one side and Brynmor Terrace on the other, was built in 1877. The original parties for whom the shops were built were as follows.
Derby House originally, was for William Phillips - grocer and baker. Paris House (Midland Bank) was occupied by Rowland Roberts - milliner and fancy dress draper, who many years later built and lived at Maen Gwyn. The next house and shop was built for Mr. Evans, once Master of the National School (Gasworks site) and the National School (New York site). The shop was first kept by Moses Jones, Vron and Mr. Edward Owen Jones succeeded him.
Regal House, Glasgow House (Richmond House) and Bryn Arfon were built for John Jones, Glasgow House. His son R.D. Jones occupied Regal House for many years. John Jones transferred his boot business here from Penmaenan (see above), another instance of the growing importance of Pantyrafon and of the lessening importance of Penmaenan.
Mathias Evans - draper - and his wife Sarah were the first tenants of Regent House. They again, moved from Lewis House, Penmaenan.
About 1865 a young man, John Jamblin, came to Penmaenmawr with his wife Martha and built Oxford House with a photographic studio and shop. At first this son of an Oxford clergyman seemed to have thrived in his business of Photographic artist. Many of his early photographs of Penmaenmawr have survived. In a few years he built Oxford Hall with the shops underneath. However, the shops remained tenantless for a number of years Mr. R.C. Evans (Roberts & Mellor Shop) being the first to take one of them.
Many will remember him and his son at the shop in the 195Os and he could have claimed to have the record for the keeping of a business over the longest unbroken period.
Number One. Oxford Arcade was first held by a John Williams Clarke, Confectioner and baker. Here also were ‘refreshment rooms’. He then took on at the same time the tenancy of Tyddyn Bach House, a small farm, and had horses there, but ultimately he went out of business. Henry George Brown of London, fishmonger, poulterer and game dealer was the first tenant of 4 Oxford Arcade. Later it became the premises of W.L. Thomas, Ironmonger. This shop and the Oxford Hall were occupied in 1882 by the boys of Friar’s School, Bangor at the time when a serious typhoid epidemic was raging in Bangor. The boys were lodged at Mona View, Merton House, Preswylfa and Cefn Gwyn.
W. Owen Thomas, ‘stationery, fancy goods, circulating library’, kept the shop now occupied by Mr. Shields. He became Postmaster in the mid-l880s when the honour was relinquished by T.T. Roberts (Westminster House). The shop next door was at first kept by S.H. Roberts for a short time and he was followed by Mrs. Williams, the mother of W.O. Thomas. The shop, named ‘The Bazaar’ sold toys, alpine sticks, Valentines etc.
In plaster on the front of the Central Building is the date I884, the year when John and Henry Jones built that imposing block of shops and dwellings. They were sons of Henry and Grace Jones of Sling, a small cottage opposite Tanyfoel and were popularly known as the ‘Australians’ as they had been in that very distant land for a period. This development was built on the site of a ‘carriage office’ belonging to the Jones brothers. This chapel-like building was situated approximately where ‘Trade Winds’ is today. The livery business of the brothers was later taken over by their nephew Philip McClement.
The Jones brothers occupied part of the new block - they ran a printing and stationery business as well as a ‘ladies and gents’ outfitters, (Bartles and Sunnybank). Another shop was occupied by R. Lloyd Jones, butcher. Gordon House (Jewellers) towards the end of the century served as the Post Office before its final move to its present site. Other early occupiers of the block were Fern Valley E.O. Jones; bookseller, printer and publisher of an early guide on Penmaenmawr; Malvern House. John Roberts, grocer and provision dealer; Oakland House, Francis H. Myers, grocer and baker, who also boasted of having the finest ‘dining rooms’.
‘Brynderwen’ (garage) was built in 1864 by a Mr. Edwards who, as stated, had kept ‘Brynhyfryd’ for a short while. Here he had a Chemist and Off-license business. He was followed by Mr. E.R. Wilson - grocer and wine and spirit merchant. The shop was later associated with Francis D. Chantrey, grocer, ironmonger and wine-merchant.
Pant yr Afon 1870s. On the left the stables of H & A Jones: Centre: Mountain View Hotel. Right: Pant yr Afon Cottage.
Oxford Arcade pre 1914. Note Council Offices extreme right. On the extreme left is Richard House, formerly Glasgow House, where John Jones Shoemaker kept his business.
Photo kindly donated by Mr Freeman