Now and then VII: Penmaenmawr

Penmaenmawr - Now and Then

Penmaenmawr – Now and Then


13 December 2014


SH 71822 76773; 53.27239°N, 3.92358°W
SH 70356 76205; 53.26693°N, 3.94532°W


Penmaenmawr lies in the bay between the headlands of Penmaen Mawr and Penmaenbach. The igneous rock in the hills behind the town have been exploited since Neolithic times when there was an axe factory on Graiglwyd. Industrial quarrying of granite started in the 1830s. Two separate, rival concerns operated there before merging in 1911 and the site is now owned by Hanson. Granite from the quarries has been used for blocks for surfacing roads, railway ballast, and aggregate for concrete. The local community expanded as the quarries were developed, with over 1,000 workers being employed there at their peak. The coming of the railway to Penmaenmawr – its station on the Chester and Holyhead Railway opened in 1849 – led to the town also developing as a Victorian seaside resort. Nowadays the town’s population is about 4,300 (including Dwygyfylchi and Capelulo). Penmaenmawr’s local economy saw a decline in the latter half of the 20th century with the reduction in the size of the quarry workforce, the fall in its tourist trade, and the re-routing of the main road to bypass the town centre. As part of a regeneration strategy the then Aberconwy Borough Council designated the town centre a Conservation Area in 1994.

'Holyhead Road, Penmaenmawr'. Library of Congress collection of Views of landscape and architecture in Wales c. 1890-1900, photochrom prints (a lithographic process producing colorised images from black and white photographic negatives).

‘Holyhead Road, Penmaenmawr’. Library of Congress collection of Views of landscape and architecture in Wales c. 1890-1900, photochrom prints (a lithographic process producing colorised images from black and white photographic negatives).

There were two jetties in Penmaenmawr serving its two granite quarry complexes – Penmaenmawr Quarry Jetty can be seen in the middle distance with Graiglwyd Jetty further off in the distance.


The remains of two rows of timber supports for the jetty can just be made out on the pebbly beach. Just beyond and to the right is the 230m-long, six-span Goat Inn Viaduct, carrying the A55 Expressway over the North Wales Coast Line railway.


Remains of the jetty timbers. This was the site of Brundrit’s Wharf, from where product from the Penmaenmawr Granite Quarries was transported by sea and rail. The first jetty was first built in 1832 and was improved in 1872 and again in 1888. A replacement 200m-long structure was built in 1913. Concrete hoppers for crushed stone were built next to the jetty in 1914 and 1923. The jetty was demolished in 1960 and the storage hoppers were knocked down when the Penmaenmawr Bypass was constructed in 1987-89.


Penmaenmawr Bypass section of the A55. Crossing the dual carriageway in the middle distance is the 145m-long, seven-span Red Gables Viaduct providing the road link between the town and the Promenade.

'Penmaenmawr from the sands'

‘Penmaenmawr from the sands’ c. 1890-1900. Dominating the skyline behind the town is the 363m-high hill Foel Lus. The horizontal track on the hillside is the Jubilee Path, which opened as a leisure attraction in 1888 commemorating Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.


The 19th century Promenade was in the path of the Penmaenmawr Bypass and was demolished. A replacement was built on reclaimed land and opened in 1989. The 1200m-long concrete retaining wall separates the new Promenade from the A55 Expressway. The stone abutment of the former Graiglwyd Jetty was renovated and incorporated as a feature into the new Promenade when it was built.

10 thoughts on “Now and then VII: Penmaenmawr

  1. Very difficult to get these photos to match up, when so much has changed- but you have done a great job. I can just remember a time before the expressway, how it dominates the north coast now…but rising traffic levels would have made these little towns nightmarish places. At least the railway still runs along the coast. Great set of interesting photos, Graham.

    • Many thanks, Iain. I’m finding with some of the ‘now’ shots it is difficult (and sometimes impossible) to get to the same vantage point as the original. As for the traffic, you are right – I can remember having to drive through Conwy town before the tunnel was built 😮

Share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.