Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for CARNARVONSHIRE

CARNARVONSHIRE, a maritime county of North Wales; bounded, on the north, by Beaumaris bay and the Irish sea; on the north-east, by Denbigh; on the south-east and the south, by Merioneth and by Cardigan bay; on the south-west, by Carnarvon bay; and on the north-west, by the Menai strait, dividing it from Anglesey. Its length, south-westward, is 55 miles; its greatest breadth, 23½ miles; its circuit, about 150 miles; its area, 370,273 acres. The part between Cardigan bay and Carnarvon bay, 28 miles long, and diminishing in breadth from 13 miles to a point, is the peninsula of Lleyn; and the other parts are mainly filled with the vales and mountains of Snowdonia. Much of the Lleyn peninsula is low country; parts of the other seaboards also are low; yet these tracts abound in bold picturesque diversities; while the mountains of Snowdonia, regarded either in the group or in detail, are the richest for grandeur, force, and beauty, in the British Isles. The Conway river goes along the north-eastern boundary to the sea; the Machno, the Lleder, and the Llugwy go into the Conway; the Glas-Llyn, a romantic stream, goes to Cardigan bay; and the Seiont and the Gwrfai descend from Snowdon to the Menai strait. Numerous lakes lie among the mountains; and innumerable rivulets run around their bases. Cambrian and silurian rocks, with vast and manifold protrusions of erupted rocks, fill nearly all the area. The cambrian form considerable belts in the north-west and the south-west; the lower silurian spread from the middle west, through all the centre, to the south and the east; and the upper silurian form a small tract in the northeast. The erupted rocks range from granite, through all the traps, to the simply volcanic; and include great uplifted masses of clay slate and other schists. Old red sandstone appears on the coast from Conway to Bangor,-also in Braich-y-Pwll; and carboniferous limestone appears in Orme's Head, and in a strip along part of the Menai strait. Copper, lead, and zinc, are worked; roofing slates, in vast quantities, are quarried; and mill-stone and ochre are found.

Not more than 8,000 acres are in tillage; rather more than half the entire area is enclosed pasture; and the rest is either waste, or can be depastured only in the summer months. Wheat is grown in a few fertile spots on the sea-boards; but oats, barley, and potatoes are the chief crops, and sometimes very precarious. Husbandry, in general, is rude; yet has been much improved. The black cattle are smaller than those of Anglesey; the sheep are a very diminutive breed, with long legs and slender bodies; and the hogs are unshapely creatures, tall and meagre, like those of Ireland. Butter, wool, and lambs are sent to the market; and stockings, flannel, and coarse woollen cloth are manufactured. The Chester and Holyhead railway goes along the northern seaboard; the Llanrwst railway serves for the tracts on the Conway; and the Carnarvon railways go along the Menai strait, and traverse the interior. Tram railways also connect the great quarries with the ports; and good roads traverse the most populous tracts.

The county contains 68 parishes, parts of 5 other parishes, and 2 extra-parochial places; and is divided into the boroughs of Carnarvon and Pwllheli, and the hundreds of Commitmaen, Creyddyn, Dinllaen, Eifionydd, Gafflagion, Isaf, Isgorfai, Nant-Conway, Uchaf, and Uchgorfai. The registration county includes 68,817 acres of Denbigh and Anglesey; excludes 78,527 acres to Denbigh and Merioneth; and is divided into the districts of Carnarvon, Bangor, Conway, and Pwllheli. The towns are Carnarvon, Bangor, Pwllheli, Conway, Criccieth, Nevin, and Tremadoc. The chief seats are Glynllifon Park, Glynllifon Hall, Gloddaeth, Nant Hall, Penrhyn Castle, Nanthoran, Llanvair, Madryn, Cefn-Amwlch, Tanyr-allt, Maenan, and Coed-Helen. Real property in 1815, £131,213; in 1843, £251,044; in 1851, £288,893; in 1860, £379,623, of which £119,092 are in quarries, £1,127 in mines, and £2,000 in canals. The county is governed by a lord lieutenant, a high sheriff, and about thirty magistrates. It is in the Home Military district, and in the North Wales judicial circuit. The assizes and the quarter sessions are held at Carnarvon. The police force, in 1864, comprised 51 men, at a cost of £3,825; the crimes committed were 114; the depredators and suspected persons at large were 269; the houses of bad character, 76. One member is sent to parliament by the county at large; and one by the boroughs. County electors in 1868, 2,190. Pop. in 1801, 41,521; in 1821, 58,099; in 1841, 81,093; in 1861, 95,694. Inhabited houses, 20,256; uninhabited, 593; building, 171. The county is in the diocese of Bangor.

The territory now forming Carnarvonshire belonged anciently to the Cangi and the Ordovices; was included by the Romans in their Britannia Secunda; and formed part of Venedotia or Gwynedd. It was the chief theatre of the successive and protracted struggles of Romans, Saxons, Normans, and English for the subjugation of Wales; and it possessed the stoutest means for offering resistance. Its natural defences, themselves of the highest order, were so strengthened by artificial strongholds as to make the parts of it around Snowdon one vast mountain fortress. The passage of the Conway was guarded by Castell-Diganwy; the pass of Bwlch-y-ddanfaen, by a fort at Caerhun; the northern seaboard by the great hill camp of Penmaen-Mawr, and by forts at Aber and in Nant-Francon; the pass of Llanberis, by Dolbadarn Castle; the pass under Mynydd-Mawr, by a fort overlooking it; and the passage over the Traeth-Mawr, or great sands, by the castle of Harlech in Merioneth on the one side, and by that of Criccieth on the other, with a watch-tower at Castell-Gwyvarch, and a fort at Dolbenmaen. Snowdonia thus could not be entered without a siege, or penetrated without encountering the double resistance of artificial defences and stupendous natural fastnesses; and it, in consequence, was the scene of continued and desperate warfare, because the last retreat of unconquered freedom,-

"The Briton's last resource his mountains hoar

Where weeping Freedom from the contest fled,

And Cambria saw her dearest heroes dead."

Cromlechs occur at Bacheren, Cefn-Amlwch, YstymCegid, Ymeinauhirion, and Penmorfa; and other Celtic antiquities exist; while many more have been destroyed since the latter part of last century. Several large ancient British camps or forts, especially at Diganwy, Dolbenmaen, Dinas-Dinorwig, Dinas-Ddinlle, Braich-y-Dinas, and Trer-Caeri, still exist. Roman stations stood at Caerhun and Carnarvon; a branch of the northern Watling-street joined the main Roman road at Caerhun; the Sarn-Helen way went from Carnarvon to Herira-Mons in Merioneth; and many Roman antiquities have been found. The castles of Carnarvon and Conway are two of the finest extant specimens of their class in the kingdom; and those of Dolbadarn and Criccieth still present features of interest. Vestiges of monastic houses are at Bangor, Beddgelert, Clynnog-Vawr, Maenan, and Bardsey; and a large ancient church is at Clynnog.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a maritime county of North Wales"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Caernarvonshire AncC
Place: Caernarvonshire

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