Our History

People have lived in the area we now know as Llanfairfechan for at least 7000 years, probably beginning in the Neolithic period. Their safe places of Dinas, Carreg Fawr and Craiglwyd formed one of the most important stone axe factories in Great Britain, with the axes having been found traded or given as gifts as far as Ireland and Belgium. From 3000 BC there was a huge complex of huts, potentially hosting a gathering of up to 20,000 people. It was also around this time that the stone circle, misleadingly known as Druid’s circle, was raised on Cefn Coch.

  • Druids Circle taken at night with the Milky Way, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter

From 1800 BC Bronze Age culture spread to the area, bringing the knowledge needed to create implements and pottery, as well as metal vessels and jewellery. Previously food would have been cooked using stones heated in a fire to warm water. The remains of these stones form burnt mounds which mark the old cooking sites. Burial cists from this period containing clacined bones and pottery were found near Ty’n Llwyfan farm in 1885, and cairns are also evident up in the Carneddau.

  • Credit: Chris Bickerton. Cerrig Gwynion cist near Cefn Coch.

Another technological milestone would arrive with Celtic culture from 600 BC, namely the ability to smelt metal at high temperatures using coke. Later during this Iron Age, in 30 BC, the Romans invaded and defeated the Celts, later making peace and leaving their influence on the local settlements. One such place was Braich y Dinas on Graiglwyd, once one of the most extensive hillforts in Wales, now entirely destroyed by quarrying. A Roman milestone was found at Rhiwiau and is now in the British museum. Above the village can be found the remains of the old Roman road from Canovium (Caerhun) to Segontium (Caernarfon) and Ynys Môn. Further Roman evidence can also be found in Ffridd Camarnaint in the form of an arrow stone, and a stone incised with the ancient Nine Man’s Morris game.

  • Looking west at Braich y Dinas hillfort before destruction. Note summit of mountain behind hillfort had already been eliminated by quarrying.

Following the fall of the Roman empire, Llanfairfechan continued to be occupied by Romano-Celtic tribes. Later in these Dark Ages, around 250 AD, Christianity arrived from Ireland and spread among the population. Construction of a church on an old pagan site at Pen-y-Bryn marked integration of the old beliefs into the new.

Early in the Mediaeval period, Welsh tribes had consolidated into a series of princedoms. The invention of a more efficient plough after 900 AD fostered the growth of the community, leading to a mill being established in Nant y Berllan. Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native prince of Wales, had a royal seat at Aber Garth Celyn (Abergwyngregyn) until his murder in 1282 at the behest of the English king Edward I. In 1340 Llanfairfechan was registered as having 8 Gavael, or heads of households. Village activity was centered on the church at Pentre Uchaf and the mill at Nant y Berllan.

Towards the end of the mediaeval period, English and Norman traders moved beyond the fortified castles and bought up land and estates. By the 1500s the Roberts family had acquired Bryn y Neuadd, the Bukeleys had Plas Estate, and a newer church was built in the village. During the Civil War in the 1640s this church was sacked by a Parliamentary force which had come over the old road to battle the Cavaliers at Wîg (near Tan-y-lôn).

  • Old mansion at Bryn y Neuadd, built 1667, rebuilt 1858, demolished 1967.

Llanfairfechan continued to grow slowly in the eighteenth century. In 1772 the Turnpike Road was built, which brought new workers and changes to the community, but by 1800 there were still only 450 village inhabitants. However commencement of quarrying at Graiglwyd in the early nineteenth century marked a turning point in the village history.

  • Workers at Graiglwyd in the early days of the modern quarry

Construction of the railway in 1845 brought huge changes to Llanfairfechan and led to the present layout of the village. Development was mainly led by John Platt and Richard Luck, who owned Bryn y Neuadd and Plas estates respectively. The village bridge, a station, a school and Christ Church had all been built by 1865, and building work only accelerated from there. A cholera outbreak in 1868 didn’t stop construction of Station Road, Village Road and Valley Road in the following decade.

  • Railway station, completed 1960. Note all the full time staff!

Heavy rainfall led to the river bursting its banks in 1873, wiping out a terrace of houses in Nant y Felin and leading to work on full channelization by 1879. A gas lighting system was also installed around this time, making Llanfairfechan the first village in Britain to have one. However work on a harbor and possible further development of West Shore were halted after the death of John Platt.

  • Newly built Christ Church. The mountain summit in the background is another perspective on the then Braich y Dinas remnant

By the early twentieth century Llanfairfechan had gained a town hall, cinema, fire station, police station and town council. Herbert North designed and built the Close, a number of shops opened on Station Road, and by the 1920s tourism was at its height in Llanfairfechan. Immigration due to the quarry and tourist industry had meant the population at the time was similar to today, over 3500 people. The village received electricity in 1927 and its first sea defences in 1933, as well as a piped water supply to houses.

  • Promenade at tourism boom, just before sea defences were built.

During the World Wars a number of the buildings in the village were used to house wounded soldiers, and there was an army camp in the Cob. A war memorial was raised to remember the village dead, originally opposite the Castle Hotel. In 1944 an American aircraft, Bachelor’s Baby, became lost in cloud and drizzle, flying low over Plas Heulog before crashing into the Moelfre ridge. A memorial stands there to the five crewmen and dog who died.

  • Original position of war memorial, opposite Castle Hotel.

Post-war, a number of social housing estates were built in Llanfairfechan, including Nant y Berllan, Pen y Bryn, Bryn Rhedyn, Pendalar, and Llwyn Gwgan. In the 1950s the village had an incredible number of shops, including 7 public houses and 5 off licences, 8 butchers, 16 grocers, 4 bakers, 2 newsagents, 5 cafés, 5 chip shops, 12 drapers and tailors, 3 chemists, 4 banks, 7 shoe shops and cobblers, 4 post offices and 3 ironmongers.

  • Station Road, including Hinchliff’s newsagents

Since then most of those shops have gone, with new outlets such as fitness providers and beauty salons tailored to our current lifestyles. A recent major development was the construction of the A55 in 1996, assisting freedom of movement and reducing to an extent our dependence on the local area. Will the next generation have less connection again with their immediate locality? Which industry, after granite and tourism, can make Llanfairfechan boom again? Finally, how do you think the Llanfairfechan of today will be remembered in years to come?

  • Future - Alan Jones

Written by Iolo Jones, with thanks to Andrew Hinchliff for information and Ian Davies for most historical pictures. If you have an interest in Llanfairfechan’s past, the historical society meet every month, with talks in winter and guided walks in summer. Phone 01248 680109 for information. Historical photographs can be found online courtesy of Llanfairfechan history in pictures. There are also a number of QR points around the village which correspond to history points. For information on local archaeology and more, visit here and here.

Additionally, a project entitled "The Llanfairfechan Family Photo Album, 2019" is due to commence in the new year. The project's aim is simply to create a photographic record of the people of Llanfairfechan in 2019. The organizers hope to record as many people in as many aspects of village life as possible - families, individuals, community groups, activities, events, businesses, administration - there's no limit. The album will be online from the outset, but other media are anticipated, including an exhibition at the end of the year. Conwy County Borough Council's Archives Service has expressed interest in the project as a valuable long-term social document.

If you wish to take part in the project, either as a photographer or subject (or both!), please let the organizers know by e-mail at: llanphotoalbum@gmail.com, but please note that the project is a big one, and they may not be able to photograph you immediately. Only people who wish to be part of the album will be included.

Newsletter Sign Up

To hear the latest of goings on in Llanfairfechan, please complete the form below...