Historic Landscape Characterisation

Dolgellau - Area 2 Dolgellau (north) (PRN 19181)



Historic background

Most people enter Dolgellau (as they have done for centuries) via the seven-arched bridge Y Bont Fawr (The Big Bridge), which spans the river Wnion. This was originally built in 1638, although it has had various modifications over the years: originally it had a span of ten arches but three were lost with the building of the railway in the 19th century, and it has been largely reconstructed since (there are several photographs in the Dolgellau Town File in the DRO).

Parts of the complex at Llwyn (towards the eastern end of the area) date back to the 1600s. There is a mansion, farm cottage and associated buildings such as a Dutch barn, cart shed and granary. It was the home of the prominent family of Baron Owen, sheriff of Meirionnydd in the 1540s and 1550, and the the arch rival of the Nanneys of Nannau for control of Dolgellau and the former lands of Cymer before he was murdered (J Gwynfor Jones, 2001, has fuller details).

The 1838 tithe map shows this area as still mainly fields with a few scattered buildings alongside the complex of roads (all still visible today) running through it. The 1901 OS map shows the town of Dolgellau as having expanded considerably since 1898, particularly to the north of the Afon Wnion. Amongst the earliest (and still finest buildings) here is a long line of huge, sometimes elegant, late 19th-century villas, set out on the south-facing slopes, many of them including the ‘coed’ element in their names. Later, in the 20th century, this northern part of the town was developed further to include buildings which house the county council offices, the county archives, the police station, the school (built 1889) and the college as well as a number of modern service buildings and rows of terraced council houses. Photographs showing the start of the development of this area can be found in the NLW (JTH/NLW, and GHC/NL) and DRO ZS/36K/93, 96. The former even includes a steam train in the foreground!

Dr Williams’ Girls' School was established here in 1878 and closed in 1975 (when it was taken over by Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor). The famous footbridge over the road was opened by Dame Margaret Lloyd George (an Old Girl of the school) in the 1930s.

The 1901 OS map shows the route of the Cambrian Railway (Dolgellau branch) coming in from Arthog/Fairbourne along the southern edge of the Mawddach estuary, crossing the Wnion and running alongside the northern bank of the river to the station which lay just to the east of Bont Fawr, where there was a junction with the Great Western Railway (Bala and Dolgellau branch). This then ran eastwards alongside the river through area 15. The railway passed through the town from 1868 to 1964, and much of its route is preserved in the modern road layout.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Twentieth-century municipal buildings, housing

Particularly characteristic of the part of Dolgellau north of the river are the huge and imposing 19th-century mansions, set within large, landscaped grounds. The building complex surrounding Llwyn still survives, now marooned amidst a sea of 20th-century constructions. The early 20th-century municipal buildings which form the core of the current Gwynedd Council offices have some finer features, as does the college. There are several rows and informal terraces of later 20th-century houses, stretching back up the hill towards the golf course. All traces of the former railway have long since been removed.


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