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A Topographical Dictionary of Wales

Samuel Lewis  4th Edition 1849 - Pwllheli

PWLLHELI, a borough, sea-port, and market town, and the head of a union, in the parish of DENIO, hundred of GAFLOGION, county of CARNARVON, NORTH WALES, 20 miles (s. s. w.) from Carnarvon, and, through that town, 271 (w.n.w.) from London. This town derives its name, signifying literally the " salt pool," from the small bay (on the eastern side of the great promontory of Lleyn) on the shore of which it is situated, and which forms the estuary of several streams, that pour their waters through it into the northern part of the wide and stormy bay of Cardigan. Edward the Black Prince granted the place, together with Nevin, to Nigel de Lohareyn, in consideration of his numerous services, particularly as a reward for his fidelity and valour at the battle of Poictiers; and by charter dated at Carnarvon, in the fifteenth year after his accession to the principality of Wales, he incorporated the inhabitants. He conferred upon them all the privileges of a free borough, with exemption from toll in England and Wales, and the right of a mercatorial guild, a market, and two annual fairs, stipulating that they should pay to Nigel not less than £14 per annum; all which immunities were confirmed by Edward III., in the 33rd year of his reign.

The TOWN is well built, amply supplied with water, paved, and lighted; it is the largest town in this part of the county, and one of the principal seaports in North Wales. The surrounding scenery comprehends many features of grandeur and of beauty; and the view from the town, embracing the whole extent of the Snowdon mountains, the Merionethshire hills, and Cardigan bay, is truly magnificent. The waste lands in this and the adjoining parishes were inclosed pursuant to an act of parliament obtained for that purpose in the 48th of George III., under the authority of which two embankments were constructed, one on each side of the town, at an expense of £10,000, by which means 3000 acres have been recovered from the sea, and are now under cultivation. The situation of the town is well adapted for carrying on an extensive commerce with Liverpool, South Wales, and Dublin; but its trade is comparatively small. The harbour, which is entered by a high round rock, called Carreg-yr-Imbill, or "the rock of the Gimlet," is accessible to vessels of one hundred tons' burthen at all states of the tide, but has been in some degree injured by the embankments above noticed, and from neglect is nearly choked up. The commerce consists entirely in the importation of coal, and of shop-goods from Liverpool; for the supply of these to the surrounding country Pwllheli forms a great depot, and thus, though small, it is rendered a flourishing place. The market, held on Wednesday, is well supplied with fish, poultry, eggs, butchers' meat, and all other kinds of provisions, which are cheaper here than in any town elsewhere on the coast of North Wales; and, there being no other market near, it is resorted to even by persons living at the furthest extremity of the promontory of Lleyn, a distance of twenty miles. Fairs are held on March 5th, May 13th, June 28th, Aug. 19th, Sept. 24th, and Nov. 11th.

The GOVERNMENT, by the charter of Edward the Black Prince, confirmed by Edward III., Henry IV., V., and VI., Edward IV., Richard III., Henry VII. and VIII., Edward VI., and by Mary, and Elizabeth, was vested in a mayor, recorder, two bailiffs, and an indefinite number of burgesses, assisted by a town steward, a serjeant-at-mace, and other officers. The mayor, who held his office for life, and the senior bailiff, who was chosen annually on the 29th of September, were appointed by the burgesses at large, who also nominated the junior bailiff, and elected annually to all the other offices; but the nomination of the junior bailiff was subject to the approval of the mayor, who also chose the recorder. By the act 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the corporation is now styled the " Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses," and consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, forming the council of the borough, of which the municipal and parliamentary boundaries are the same. The council elect the mayor annually on November 9th, from among the aldermen or councillors; and the aldermen sexennially out of the councillors, or persons qualified as such, one-half going out of office every three years, but being re-eligible: the councillors are chosen, on November 1st, by and out of the enrolled burgesses, one-third retiring every year. Aldermen and councillors must each have a property qualification of £500. The burgesses consist of the occupiers of houses and shops who have been rated for three years to the relief of the poor. Two auditors and two assessors are elected annually on March 1st by and from among the burgesses; and the council appoint a town-clerk, treasurer, and other officers on November 9th. Previously to the passing of the inclosure act already noticed, the corporation possessed a very valuable tract of land, their private property, which, however, being waste, was under that act taken by the commissioners and sold, the borough receiving in lieu only a trifling allotment called the Gimlet rock. The land thus inclosed, designated the Great Marsh, was used by the inhabitants for pasturing sheep, cows, horses, &c., and was of much advantage to the poorer classes; and that it was the legitimate possession of the corporation, is evident from the fact that leases have been granted by them of parts of it at various periods, as the old books of the town clearly show.

This is one of the contributory boroughs which, with Carnarvon, return a member to parliament; the elective franchise was conferred in the 27th of Henry VIII. The right of election was formerly in the burgesses at large of the borough, but is now vested in the old resident burgesses only, if duly registered according to the provisions of the Reform act; and in every person of full age occupying, either as owner, or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of at least ten pounds, provided he be capable of registering as the act directs. The number of tenements of this value, within the limits of the borough, which were altered by the late act, and are minutely detailed in the Appendix to the work, is about eighty. A court is ( or until lately was) held every alternate Saturday. for the determination of all pleas and recovery of debts under 40s.; and petty-sessions are held here by the county magistrates. The powers of the county debt court of Pwllheli, established in 1847, extend over the registration district of Pwllheli. The town is a polling-place for the election of the knight of the shire. The town-hall, erected in 1818, is a neat substantial edifice, the lower part appropriated on the market days as shambles, and the upper part containing an excellent assembly-room, and a room in which the petty-sessions are held. The borough and county prison, with two cells, was built at an expense of about £240, of which £200 were contributed by the shire, and. £40 by the corporation, on whose ground the house stands.

The parochial church, situated about half a mile to the north of the town, being very small and much dilapidated, a new edifice has been erected in the town, at an expense of £1800; but funerals nevertheless continue to be solemnized at the old church of Denio. There are places of worship for Independents, Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists, and Baptists. The Rev. Hugh Jones, in the year 1695, bequeathed to Griffith Vaughan £1000 in trust, to appropriate £200 of that sum to the erection of a house in such place in anyone of the counties of Anglesey, Carnarvon, or Merioneth, as he should think fit, and to vest the remaining £800 in the purchase of land for the endowment of a school for the gratuitous instruction of poor boys of those counties. The school-house was built at Pwllheli; but the money, never having been applied to the purchase of land, still remains in the hands of his descendant, the Hon. Edward Mostyn Lloyd Mostyn, who appoints the master, and pays the interest of the sum as a salary. Other schools are supported, and several Sunday schools are held. The rent of some land in the parish, which was bequeathed to the poor, is annually distributed among them at Christmas. The poor-law union of which this town is the head, was formed June 3rd, 1837, and comprises the following thirty-two parishes and townships; namely, Aberdaron, Abereirch, Bodvaen, Bodverin, Bottwnog, Bryncroes, Carngiwch, Ceidio, Criccieth, Denio, Edern, Llanarmon, Llanbedrog, Llandegwining, Llandudwen, Llanelhaiarn, Llanengan, Llangian, Llangwnadl, Llangybi, Llaniestyn, Llannor, Llanvaelrhys, Llanvihangel-Bachelleth, Llanystyndwy, Meylltyrn, Nevin, Penllech, Penrhos, Pistill, Rhiw, and Tydweiliog. It is under the superintendence of forty-one guardians, and contains a population of 21,609.


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