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The History of Aberaeron

The Town Trail

Llanerchaeron - National Trust Country House near Aberaeron

Local Walks

Locally produced Food and Drink

Places to visit from Aberaeron

Cardigan Bay

Fishing in the area - Sea and Freshwater

Dolphins in Cardigan Bay

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The History of Aberaeron
Click here for more old photos of Aberaeron

Aberaeron does not appear on the earliest maps, although it has several references in 'The itinerary in Wales' of John Leland from 1536 -1539 . In 1566 records show "there was a small creek or landing place at Aberaeron". Shown below is Speed's map of Cardiganshire published in 1676. The location of Aberaeron is circled in red. The Admiralty Chart of 1740 did not record any landing place between the ports of New Quay and Aberarth. Aberaeron was thought to be of less importance than nearby Aberarth, which throughout the middle ages, was a point of supply for the Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida twenty miles to the east. Aberaeron is seen however on the William Morris chart of 1801. The name 'Aberaeron' appears on a road chart, drawn by John Owen and Emanuel Bowen in 1720, showing the route between Cardigan and Talybont, Cardiganshire. It is recorded on this chart as 'Aberaeron Bridge' 
 
Speed 1676

Morris 1801


Speed's Map 1676

Morris' Chart of  1801

The Morris chart shows a a number of historical features, most notably Castell Cadwgan. Samuel Lewis describes it in 1833 as: "On the sea-shore, near the town, there is a small circular encampment, designated Castell Cadwgan, and supposed to have been constructed by Cadwgan ab Bleddyn, about the year 1148". The Ordnance Survey first 25" edition (1862-1872) shows only a 60 m part section of the fortification, the rest having already been lost to coastal erosion at the time. Today, there are no remains to be seen.

There are also lime kilns shown on both sides of the river mouth. Today only those on the south side of the river remain as grassy humps.

In the eighteenth century, Aberaeron was little more than a cluster of houses around the (upper) bridge over the Aeron. Transport links were poor, the harbour was small and difficult to navigate and the roads were undeveloped.
 
 

Aberayron Bont

Pentwr Cottage

Aberaeron as we know it today came about as the result of the good fortune of Alban Thomas-Jones, firstly by marriage and secondly by inheritance.

In 1797, the Rev Alban Thomas-Jones, formerly a country rector in Hampshire returned to Wales to marry his cousin, Susannah Jones of Tyglyn. Seven years later, in 1805, the Mynachty estate was left to Thomas-Jones by his cousin. He  and his wife moved into Mynachty, where, as the new Lord of the Manor of Aberaeron he took the name Thomas-Jones Gwynne.

Realising the potential for Aberaeron, now being at an important turnpike intersection,  the Rev Alban Thomas-Jones Gwynne in 1807 obtained a private Act of Parliament to rebuild the harbour at Aberaeron. A section of this bill stated that Alban Thomas Gwynne, "Clerk, Lord of Llyswen otherwise Aberayron, is willing and desirous, at his own expense, to rebuild, enlarge, improve and maintain the said Quay or Pier, and also improve the said harbour" (J.Geraint Jenkins).

The building of the new piers and removal of shingle banks began in 1808 supervised by William Green from Aberystwyth and Edward Ellis of Chancery at a cost of about 6000. The piers were completed by 1809 and the inner harbour was excavated after 1811.The harbour was fully completed in 1816.


 
 

Probably one of the oldest illustrations of Aberaeron is this engraving by
Henry Gastineau in his 1831 volume 'Wales Illustrated'.

The piers were completed by 1809 and the inner harbour was excavated after 1811.The harbour was fully completed in 1816 just a few years before this engraving.

The architect William Haycock was employed by Colonel Alban Gwynne, son of the Rev Alban Thomas Jones Gwynne to design the layout of the town around Alban Square.

Close to Aberaeron is Llanerchaeron. The 500 acre Llanaeron (Llanerchaeron) estate was formerly owned by the Gwynne family of Mynachty, and was sold in 1634 to Llewelyn Parry, for 140. It later passed into the hands of the Lewes family. Colonel William Lewes employed John Nash to build a mansion on the site in 1794-1795 which replaced the former Llanlas and was  bequeathed to the National Trust in 1989. There is still a farm on the estate called Lanlas - click here for information.
 
 

Llanaeron - Residence of Mrs Lewes

Ty-Glyn, Vale of Aeron

Shipbuilding: Ships were being built along the coast at Aberarth at the end of the eighteenth century by the families of John Harries and Evan Jones. In 1846 a flood washed away the road bridge and the shipyards, and the families relocated to Aberaeron where they established shipyards. The Harries' 'Dolphin' shipyard was situated in Vulcan Place on the south side of the new harbour. In 1844, the shipyard was handed over to the two sons Henry and John after whom, the 'John and Henry' built in 1844 was named. The sons partnership of J & H Harries built 9 ships here between 1846 and1849. The last ship to be built at the Dolphin yard was the brigantine Oronsa in 1864. The 'Cadwgan', shown below was a 120 ton ketch built in Aberaeron in 1883 by D. Jones. It wrecked in the Thames Estuary in July 1917
 
 

The John and Henry built in 1844

 

The Cadwgan at Aberaeron 1883 

Turnpikes: The Cardiganshire turnpikes were created as part of a general South Wales Act in 1770 linking Cardigan with Aberystwyth. A turnpike from Lampeter to Aberayron was built after 1791 to give easier access from the Teifi Valley. Now Aberaeron was at the junction of two turnpikes.
 
The Rebecca riots: In the early 19th century many toll-gates on the roads in Wales  - including those passing through Aberaeron, were operated by trusts which were supposed to maintain and even improve the roads, funding this from tolls. However, many trusts charged extortionate tolls and diverted the money raised to other uses. Even where this was not the case, the toll-gate laws imposed an additional financial burden on poor farming communities and people decided that enough was enough.

The Rebecca Riots - from the Illustrated London News 1843

They took the law into their own hands and gangs were formed to destroy the toll-gates. These gangs became known as Merched Beca (Welsh for Rebecca's Daughters) or merely the Rebeccas.

Henry Tobit Evans described in 1910 what happened in Aberayron: 'The same day (August 3rd 1843)  Rebecca visited Aberayron, with about a hundred of her followers, and destroyed two gates ; five only of the Rebeccaites were on horseback. They made the toll-keepers begin the work of destruction, and in a short
time the gates, posts, and boards on the walls were smashed to atoms.'
 
 

Aberayron - Aberystwyth Post Office wagon

Horse drawn Bus

Aeron Express: In 1880, a hand-powered cable car 'The Aeron Express' was built to ferry workers across the harbour when the bridge was demolished by floods. It was built to ferry labourers from the Liverpool quay on Quay Parade, to the Birkenhead quay on Lon Yr Hafen , in the absence of a bridge across the river Aeron.
 

The 'Aeron Express'

The 'Aeron Express' showing the winding gear

The earliest motorised bus system was set up by Great Western Railways who established a line from Aberystwyth to Carmarthen in 1860. The buses served to connect various communities to the railways.

 

Charabanc

GWR Buses at the Feathers Inn

The Railway - The station was officially opened on May 12th, 1911.  As a result seagoing passenger trade declined very quickly. In 1951 the railway was closed for passengers and carried freight trains only until it closed in 1965. Click here for more photos of the station
 

The opening of the railway on May 12th, 1911
 



Railway opening day May 12th, 1911
 

The Chalybeate Spring: The chalybeate spring in Aberaeron was discovered in 1872 when it was known as Ffynnon Goch (red well). The water was presumably red from the presence of iron salts. Chalybeate waters, also known as ferruginous waters, are mineral spring waters containing salts of iron. The word "chalybeate" is derived from the Latin word for steel.

Early in the 17th century, chalybeate water was said to have health-giving properties and many people have promoted its qualities. In the early 1600's, one doctor stated that the waters would cure: 'the colic, the melancholy, and the vapours; it made the lean fat, the fat lean; it killed flat worms in the belly, loosened the clammy humours of the body, and dried the over-moist brain.' The shelter was built in 1881. A 1911 travel book 'The South Wales Coast from Chepstow to Aberystwyth' quotes Dr Burghardt of Manchester on the Chalybeate Spring in Aberaeron as being one of the best in the kingdom. Sadly the spring has now been filled in!
 
 

London House, Alban Square

The Feathers Inn and the Post Office

We welcome any further  information that could add local colour to this page. Please email us if you have something important that we have missed.
 

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