Nantlle Valley History

Nebo & Nasareth


A Brief history of Nebo & Nasareth before 1821

It is clear that the old road through Nasareth pre-dates the arrival of the Romans. Between Nasareth and Cwm Brân there are at least 10 prehistoric or Roman sites - a busy place in its time. There are also a number of interesting prehistoric sites to the north of Rhos Las in the direction of Cwm Silyn.

The turnpike which leads from the Caernarfon - Pwllheli post road near Dolydd through Nasareth to Llidiart Ysbyty was opened in 1810. The construction of the Cob at Porthmadog was completed in 1811. Between 1769 and 1882, the road was owned by the old Caernarvonshire Turnpike Company. With the development of the slate industry at the beginning of this period, the turnpike was very profitable but it lost some importance after the coming of the railway between Nantlle and Caernarfon Harbour in 1828.

Around Nebo, the majority of ancient sites belong to the Post-Mediaeval period. There is an obvious connection between them and agriculture particularly the practice of driving the animals to the uplands after May Day and residing there in a hafod (summer dwelling). They would return to the lowland farmhouse (hendre) before All Saints Day (1st November).

The land here is not so fertile as the lowland, and when the population began to increase they would build cottages on the wasteland. Small crofts like these are still to be seen, but hardly anyone could earn a good living from such land alone. For example, the children of the area would never wear shoes in the summer, even at Sunday school. Usually, the men and boys would work in the quarries and cultivate the land (even digging by lantern light). The women would look after the animals, the crops and just about everything else on the holding.

Parts of Llanllyfni Common were enclosed by Act of Parliament such as the land to the west of Cwm Dulyn, especially Rhos Las. The parishioners had the right to cut peat for fuel, and to graze their animals on the common. Were the common to be made smaller, everyone would lose. But to the poor who lived on the common, having no title deeds, this was disastrous. So great was the opposition to the plan and so frequently were the surveyors threatened, that in 1817 soldiers were sent to restore order and a number of residents were arrested. The Act of Enclosure of Common Land (Nefyn, Pistyll, Carnguwch, Llanaelhaearn, Clynnog and Llanllyfni) passed through Parliament on 8 March 1821.

Part of this act confirmed those holdings which existed under the Law of England, and also those crofts which had come into existence without anyone's permission. It is likely that some of these were built according to the old Welsh Laws of Hywel Dda - that is to say that a group of local people would assist a relative or friend to build a turf cottage during the night and claim it, together with a plot of land, as an ancient right. (Needless to say, the Laws of King George dismissed such claims, but those who had occupied their 'Hafod Unnos' for more than 20 years were frequently allowed to stay.) Usually, those who farmed close to the common would 'encroach' by creating additional fields, as did a certain Henry Parry, who was given the opportunity to buy them.

Also, public paths and roads were appointed which are still to be seen today. These include the 'Public Turbary Road' (from its junction with the old road through Talgarnedd, passing Talymaes and heading towards Cors y Brithdir and Cors y Llyn) which would guarantee access to the 'Llanllyfni Fuel Grounds' where the parishioners had the right to cut peat. Firewood was also carried along the road between Lôn Dŵr and Pont Lloc. Sometimes peat cutting would be the cause of serious disputes, and the Reverend Robert Jones mentioned his role as referee especially in Garn!

Through the County Councils Act 1888, road maintenance work became part of the duties of the first elected Caernarfonshire County Council, and the new water supply for all of Dyffryn Nantlle also became part of their responsibilities.

The last remaining part of our common land on Cors y Llyn has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and is now the responsibility of Llanllyfni Community Council.

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