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Welsh History Review


Vol. 16, nos. 1-4 1992-93

The role of landowners, entrepreneurs and railways in the urban development of the North Wales coast during the Nineteenth Century

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FROM Stuart times it was fashionable to 'take the waters' at the spa towns of
Bath and Tunbridge Wells, and later others. In Wales, after it was linked to
the railways, Llandrindod Wells also benefitted from this aspect of the tourist
trade.2 Along the coasts, houses which were built by the seashore 'turned
their backs resolutely upon the ocean: the sea was part of their backyard, a
kind of infinitely enlarged cesspit'.3 The development of the seaside resort
received a significant boost when, in 1783, the Prince Regent was advised
to try sea bathing at Brighton to cure his swollen glands. The success of
the treatment resulted in the Prince having a great affection for the resort and
this created a fashionable demand for sea-side holiday resorts generally
throughout Britain.5 The demand for land by the sea, for purposes other
than agriculture, caused stresses in a hierarchial society which had
maintained the status quo for generations. The requirements of a newly
created property owning middle class produced challenges to the authority of
the local landowning elites.
During the nineteenth century, the hamlets along the north Wales coast
were transformed from small mining, fishing and rural communities into
thriving, urbanized resorts, dependent upon the tourist trade. Comparisons
with similar changes elsewhere in Britain could be made, and it is particularly
relevant to study those taking place on the Lancashire coast, across Liverpool
Bay. These resorts were in direct competition with towns on the north Wales
coast for the tourist market created by the employees of the developing
cotton, wollen and engineering industries of Lancashire and west Yorkshire.
I wish to acknowledge the help I have received from Neil Evans, Coleg Harlech, in reading the initial
draft of this article and suggesting an examination of further sources, and from Dr. W. P. Griffith and D.
W. Williams for their comments. I am grateful also to the staff of Clwyd Record Offices at Hawarden and
Ruthin, the archives department at University College, Bangor, and the reference libraries at Ruthin and
2 I. E. Jones, 'The Swydd Neithon Enclosure and the Development of Llandrindod Wells', The
Radnorshire Society Transactions, 1973, p. 24.
3 James Laver, Taste and Fashion (London, 1937), p. 216.
4 J. B. Priestley, The Prince of Pleasure (London, 1969), p. 249.
A H. Dodd, "The Rise of the North Wales Coastal Resorts' Transactions of the N.U.T. Conference
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