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
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
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
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
Probably one of the oldest
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
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
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
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.
GWR Buses at the Feathers Inn
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
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