Historic Landscape Characterisation

Arfon - 12 Bethesda and Llanllechid


© Crown copyright. All rights reserved, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, 100017916, 2005

Historic background

A slate quarry community established from 1820 onwards along the newly-constructed Telford road on a pocket on non-Penrhyn land, around the Independent chapel which gave its name to the town.

By the 1850s development was beginning to spill over onto Penrhyn land. As at Deiniolen/Clwt y Bont, community infrastructure is on the margins of the earlier town. An application was made for a building grant for Glanogwen (Church) School in 1851, and the following year Col. Douglas Pennant demised Pen y Bryn farm to a local grocer for building, who leased the land to a building society which in turn sold it on. The housing development on Pen y Bryn is more spacious development than the earlier ones, with wider streets and more substantial houses. Gerlan, built after the Bethesda Improvement Act of 1854, is far more regular and well laid-out, though John Street, which dates from the same period, is a crammed network of tiny lanes.

The satellite village of Caellwyngrydd, appears to be a speculative builder’s development of c. 1838-9. The tithe map of 1841 shows a ribbon development along the main road, entirely on Cefnfaes land, and a few scattered dwellings elsewhere, including the attractive row of crog-lofftydd at Braich Melyn.

The development of the community is reflected in the appointment of Improvement Commissioners in 1854, and the establishment of an Urban District Council in 1894. Bethesda’s three surviving chapels, Bethesda itself (Independent - exterior only), Bethania (Baptist) and Jerusalem (Calvinistic Methodist), recently restored with grant-aid from Cadw, are built on a substantial scale.

There is comparatively little evidence of house-building after 1900 other than a suburban row along Bangor road to the north of the village.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Industrial settlement (slate quarry)

Bethesda and its outliers reflect the changes on working-class housing from the 1830s onwards. There are no known examples of buildings from the very earliest period (1820-1838), but the distinctive settlement at Caellwyngrydd, with its narrow spinal road up the hillside and radiating contour lanes, preserves many of the features of the late 1830s. John Street, though constructed as late as the 1860s, nevertheless exemplifies the unplanned and apparently chaotic way in which workers’ accommodation was put up in a hurry in the early phases of industrialisation. Later buildings are substantial, often ornamented with cast-iron work.

Remarkably for a community in which slate was the dominant vernacular idiom, Bethania, the substantial Baptist chapel and the houses next to it are built of brick.

Bethesda’s places of worship are prominent landscape features, and include Glanogwen church as well as the chapels.

Back to Arfon Landscape Character Map



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