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Welsh History Review


Vol. 14, nos. 1-4 1988-89

Bangor : Port of Beaumaris, the nineteenth-century shipbuilders and shipowners of Bangor. Book review.

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significant: 'for years I had spoken to the same people and they remained the same
people; nothing in their life was really altered'. It was rarely said, but the laity did
not really want 'their' ministers to exercise a 'cure of souls'.
This is an excellent, painstaking study which works wonders with the available
material. Despite its title, however, it is not a book about Wales. A few references
to Wales do occur, but Dr. Brown does not take on the problem of what nonconformist
ministers did for (or to) Wales. In a passing reference he says that Welsh
nonconformists had exceptional influence because nonconformity was intimately tied
up with nationalism. Here was the opening for a quite different social history. Was
it true, as has sometimes been suggested, that what Welsh nonconformist ministers
really did was to impose on the principality an alien, even destructive concept of
Welshness? And were there particularly Welsh reasons for the twentieth-century
collapse of the Welsh Free Churches? On England, however, this is a very useful
SHIPOWNERS OF BANGOR. By M. Elis-Williams. Gwynedd Archives and Museums
Service, 1988. Pp. 208. £ 8.95.
The sub-title of this book could easily have been 'The North Wales Slate Trade',
since it traces the development of the port of Bangor and of the slate quarries on the
Penrhyn estate to the late-nineteenth century, with concluding reflections on the total
disappearance of Bangor's maritime past and raison d'etre in the twentieth. It was
Richard Pennant, later Lord Penrhyn, and his agent, Benjamin Wyatt, a member of
the famous family of architects, who developed the area and built Port Penrhyn on
the outskirts of the cathedral city, to provide an outlet for the slate quarried on his
estate. The author has drawn together much fragmentary evidence-crew agreement
lists, articles in the local press, family papers, with his personal observations of the
port and the now vanished maritime communities of Hirael and Garth which served
it-to write a history of Bangor's coastal trade. This was not as extensive or as fast
developing as that of other ports in the area, nor were Bangor-built ships as famous
as those, for example, of Porthmadog, but the trade of the port was considerable for
a small community. Between 1775 and 1879, 62 ships were built in its numerous small
yards, 20 of them between 1854 and 1866. They ranged from the diminutive 11-ton
Victoria, a steam paddle vessel for use in the River Mawddach, to the 275-ton trader,
Heather Bell.
Until 1840 Beaumaris shipping registers covered the north Wales coast between the
estuaries of the Clwyd and the Dysynni. Eighteenth-century Bangor ships, small
sloops, usually under 50 tons, were employed in the coasting trade, chiefly carrying
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