History of Nant Gwrtheyrn

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The History of Nant Gwrtheyrn

People have inhabited Nant Gwrtheyrn for millennia. Through periods of agriculture, quarrying, and mining, the land has sustained life and provided an income for its inhabitants. The isolated location of The Nant meant that life was sometimes a struggle for the families who lived there

150BC to 400AD

Pre-history until the 5th century

The earliest archaeological evidence of inhabitation in the area are the two well-known Iron Age hillforts which dominate the high ground above Nant Gwrtheyrn. Tre’r Ceiri and Yr Eifl were both inhabited between 150 BC and 400 AD. Little is known about these early inhabitants, other than they depended heavily on the local iron which was exported and sold.

4th Century

A road network was built by the Roman’s to connect Caernarfon, Meirionydd, Brecon and Ceredigion to transport Iron.

5th Century

King Gwrtheyrn fled from his enemies to Nant Gwrtheyrn. Not long after Gwrtheyrn’s death, three monks arrived in the Nant on their way to the monastery on Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island). The local people, who were fishermen, took an instant dislike to the Christian newcomers, and rejected the monks’ idea of building a church in the Nant. As a result, the monks were forced to flee for their lives.

1770s

Thomas Pennant

In the 1770s, Thomas Pennant wrote about a cairn or a tumulus situated by the sea at Nant Gwrtheyrn. It is believed that this was in fact a stone grave covered with turf, locally referred to as King Gwrtheyrn’s Grave (Bedd Gwrtheyrn). Pennant also wrote that the Nant’s inhabitants opened the grave and found a coffin containing the bones of a tall man.

Thomas Pennant
Thomas Gainsborough
With thanks to The National Museum of Wales

1750

Rhys and Meinir

The tragic love story of Rhys Maredudd and Meinir, who both lived on farms in Nant Gwrtheyrn

1770

Thomas Pennant travelled through Wales and wrote his ‘Tours of Wales’ describing Gwrtheyrn’s Grave and the three farming families who lived in the area.

1794

Elis Bach Y Nant, of Ty Ucha farm (the dwarf) was born

The quarry workers, c.1870

1850s

The Industrial Era

In the 1850s, cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Birkenhead were rapidly expanding in size and they required vast quantities of building materials. Hard and solid road surfaces were needed and “granite setts” were in high demand.

What is a sett?

A sett is a slab of granite, shaped into square or rectangular blocks. These setts were used as cobblestones on streets throughout Britain.

1851

The first sett quarry was opened in Nant Gwrtheyrn under Hugh Owen from Anglesey

1861

Kneeshaw and Lupton, a company from Liverpool took control of Nant Gwrtheyrn and opened a quarry on the southern side of the bay.

1875

Capel Seilo was built for the Calvinistic Methodists

1878

26 new houses were built as two terraced blocks (Mountain and Sea View) for the quarry workers which were called Port Nant.

1886

The census return showed that the number of people living in Nant Gwrtheyrn had increased to 200.

1890s

Granite quarrying was a great success and within a few years, three quarries had opened in The Nant:

Cae’r Nant
Porth y Nant
Carreg y Llam

As a result, 150 – 200 ton ships were regularly loaded and transported to the industrial cities before returning with all kinds of products for the quarrymen, which weren’t available locally.

1900

Capel Seilo had 40 people on their books and around 60 went to Sunday School.

1908

Caernarfonshire County Council took control of education in Nant Gwrtheyrn in an attempt to improve the standard of education- the standard was inadequate before then.

1910

Lewis Jones Roberts, an Inspector of Education for the HMI suggested changing the name from the hybrid Port Nant to Nant Gwrtheyrn.

1914

The last preacher, Parch GW Jones, Parc, Anglesey finished preaching at Seilo

1925

Landslide took place in Nant Gwrtheyrn and the barracks were destroyed forever.

1930s

End of an Era...

The demand for granite for roads reduced dramatically.

Soon after Second World War- The owners of Porth y Nant quarry amalgamated, Roadstone Corporation decided to close the quarry for the final time.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, Nant Quarry closed for the final time, and one by one the families left the village.

1934

Climbing The Unclimbable!

Watch the first car climb the hill out of the village.

A German Spy

1943

The German Spy or Mrs Margaret Gladys Fisher (from Beddgelert) died in a house fire in a wooden hut called ‘The Four Winds’ above Carreg y Llam quarry.

1948

Nant Gwrtheyrn school closed its doors for the last time.

1959

The last family leave the Nant, leaving the village empty.

The Early 1970s

New Atlantis Commune

During the early 1970s, the village was occupied by the New Atlantis Commune of hippies. They lived there without any water supply, electricity or a sewerage system. They caused a lot of damage to the Nant by burning floors and doors as firewood and covered the walls with graffiti. For anyone with special memories of the close-knit community and of the busy quarries at the Nant – this was a very sad sight! When the commune members left the Nant, the buildings were left in ruins.

A dream that became a reality

In 1970, Dr Carl Clowes moved from his specialised job at Christie Hospital, Manchester to run a single-handed doctor’s surgery at Llanaelhaearn. He and his wife Dorothi were determined to raise their children as Welsh speakers. But, what he discovered was a community facing an uncertain future, and he felt that something had to be done. The local granite quarry at Trefor was facing closure and the local school at Llanaelhaearn was also threatened. If the area was to survive, employment would have to come from somewhere.

Since the first Welsh language act came into force in 1967 there was a growing demand for Welsh speaking staff at many public organisations across Wales. The doctor considered it necessary that a residential centre offering Welsh courses throughout the year should be opened if this was to be ensured.

As the two ideas blended together, and although the buildings were in ruins by the 70s, it was decided that a dedicated Centre would be established at Nant which would generate employment for local people and give a necessary boost to the language.

June 1972

Having questioned her a year earlier, Mrs Knox the wife to ex-manager of the Nant quarry, notifies Dr Carl Clowes of the 'ARC's willingness to sell the Village.

1972 - 1978

An arduous publicity campaign of lobbying, attracting support from local councils, petitioning and letters in the press.

Nant Gwrtheyrn will live

July 1978

Negotiations to buy the village with AMEY Roadstone Corporation (ARC) come to an end and the property of Porth y Nant is transfered to Ymddiriedolaeth Nant Gwrtheyrn for the sum of £25,000. There had been fundraising on a massive scale throughout Wales in order to get support for the project and Nant Gwrtheyrn will be forever indebted to the people of Wales for their faith, determination and generosity.

Nant Timeline 80s

1978 - 1982

A successful appeal to raise money to make initial improvements to the cottages was established with the help of the MSC scheme (labour force Services Commission) to sponsor some of the amendments.

Nant Timeline 1982

1982

The first Welsh lessons were held at Canolfan Iaith a Threftadaeth Nant Gwrtheyrn by volunteer tutors Merfyn Morgan and Gwenno Hywyn to the sound of a diesel generator.

1982 – 1990s

Work continues to make improvements to the Cottages, the Plas and Caffi Meinir with the help of a variety of generous volunteers and contributors across Wales. The names of the houses today represent the nature of these generous sponsors. By the 90s, the primary improvements had been made and the 'services' were in their place.

1987

Mike Raymant appointed as the Nant’s first head tutor.

1990s

A period of stabilisation, making minor improvements to the cottages and experimenting with the market.

1994

Pobl Y Chyff visit the Nant

2000s

Modern Era

The Heritage Centre was opened at Capel Seilo in 2003 which led to an increasing number of daily visitors visiting the Nant in the years to come. Nant Gwrtheyrn contributed over £0.7 million to the economy of the Llŷn peninsula in 2003.

2003

Capel Seilo opened as a heritage centre with a opening concert with the Super Furry Animals and Rhys Ifans.

2008

Major work to upgrade the road completed allowing 70 seater coaches to access the village

2011

First Minister Carwyn Jones officially opened the £5m redevelopment.

2015

Cafe

Café makeover and extended seating area completed

2016

Tŷ Canol Opened

Brand new Welsh language centre facility with additional accommodation for up to 38 people opened by Welsh Government Minister Alun Davies