This year, for Baby Loss Awareness Week (9th-15th October), Bangor City Council have partnered with baby loss charity, Our Sam, to raise awareness for baby loss, by turning Bangor Pier pink and blue with night time illumination and ribbons.
North Wales based baby loss charity, Our Sam, and local volunteers, gathered on Bangor pier on Friday 8th October to decorate Bangor pier with hundreds of pink and blue ribbons, as part of the annual pink and blue, baby loss awareness campaign, led by the UK Baby Loss Alliance.
The beautiful Grade II listed, 470m Bangor Garth Pier, is the second longest pier in Wales, and this year celebrates its 125th year anniversary.
Philippa Davies, Founder of baby loss charity, Our Sam said "We were absolutely delighted when we approached Bangor City Director, Iwan Williams, asking if he would consider showing support for Baby Loss Awareness Week, by joining the pink and blue campaign, and turn any of the wonderful local buildings or landmarks in Bangor, pink and blue, and he suggested Bangor Garth Pier. As such a beautiful and visible landmark, this is a tremendous show of support for bereaved parents and families, and to raise awareness for the more than a quarter of a million people affected by baby loss following miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death and SIDS in the UK each year. We would like to thank Bangor City Council and Iwan Williams for their support, and all the volunteers who have supported us to decorate the pier with hundreds of pink and blue ribbons. Baby loss remains an incredibly taboo and difficult subject for many to talk about, but it is important that we do, to reduce isolation for all those having to face this heart -breaking trauma."
Iwan Williams, Bangor City Director, said "We were very pleased to be asked, and proud to be able to show our support, and help to raise awareness of baby loss for baby loss awareness week here in Bangor. Baby loss is so incredibly difficult for those who have had to go through this sad loss, but there are still many who have no idea of the extent of the number of people affected, and the significant effects, this often-hidden loss has on the lives of many parents and families."
Bangor Garth Pier will be lit and decorated from the 9th – 15th October. If you are a bereaved parent affected by baby loss, and need support, you can contact Our Sam, member organisation of the UK Baby Loss Alliance, through the Our Sam website oursam.org.uk .If you would to know more about baby loss awareness week you can go to babyloss-awareness.org
A series of interviews celebrating Bangor Garth Pier's 125th year anniversary:
Prof Nancy Edwards Bangor Pier 125: Discussion with September 2021 - YouTube
Dr Marian Gwyn PierBangor125: Interview with Dr Marian Gwyn - YouTube
Dr Anya Chapman (Bournemouth University) Pier into the future: What the future holds for seaside piers - YouTube
Nia Powell (historian) PierBangor125: Interview with Nia Powell, historian - YouTube
Gareth Roberts interview
PierBangor125: Interview with Nia Powell, historian (English Transcript, December 2021)
Iwan: Hello good morning, I’m Iwan Williams, City Director with Bangor City Council. This is the last in the series of interviews and presentations to note the Pier’s special birthday this year, 125 years of course. And it’s a pleasure to have the company of the historian Nia Powell this morning. Nia, good morning to you.
Nia: Good morning.
Iwan: And we’re going to talk about the history of Garth before the days of the Pier, a long and rich history I understand.
Nia: Yes centuries before then. I think one thing that’s not acknowledged enough is, that a location very close to the Pier is a very interesting place, and an important place in the events of 1282. It is an example of one of Wales’ successes – one usually thinks that the conquest of Edward I, and the failure of the Prince of Wales at the time, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, was somehow inevitable. In reality, it wasn’t. The conflict between the Welsh and Edward I began on Flowering Sunday in 1282, when Llywelyn’s brother, Dafydd, attacked Hawarden Castle. The King’s reaction was fierce. He decided to teach the Welsh a lesson. He had three bases, one in the south, one in the central parts and he intended to come into north Wales from Chester. From the beginning they planned ahead and worked out how to enter into Snowdonia, the fortress of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. It was decided that an approach from Anglesey would be the best and simplest way. The approach was therefore an attack on Llywelyn ap Gruffudd from the west and east. Carpenters were hired to build bridges, or build boats to help with the construction of bridges from Anglesey to the mainland. This was the plan for the invading army, and this took several months, which is interesting. It wasn’t done overnight! Edward had previously invaded and captured Anglesey, and what’s interesting is that according to the chronicles it was a Welshman that led on this, Hywel ap Gruffudd ap Ednyfed, a grandson of one of the officers of the Welsh Princes in the thirteenth century. There were plenty on discussions on when to launch the invasion from Anglesey to the mainland. The King was in Rhuddlan, preparing to come from the east, preparing for a pincer movement on Llywelyn, with his court in Abergwyngregyn it appears and in Snowdonia. This didn’t happen immediately. In the first week of November 1282, discussions took place in Abergwyngregyn. The King’s representative was no less than Archbishop Peckham himself, discussing with Llywelyn. At the same time, one of the
King’s main generals, someone who had been governing on his behalf in Gascony, was Luke de Tany. De Tany led the army in Anglesey, waiting on the Menai Straits for the order to cross over the bridge. But where was the bridge? By now we associate the bridge with Moel-y-Don. And Moel-y-Don of course is near Y Felinheli. An odd place, truthfully. But what’s more interesting is that the chronicles mention a location close to Bangor. The chronicles describe clearly the events that took place and suggest a location close to Aberogwen and Abercegin, in other words the Penrhyn and where Penrhyn Castle is these days. It was 6th November 1282 with discussions between Llywelyn and Peckham continuing. Llywelyn unwilling to give into Edward, and Edward expecting nothing but submission, with Peckham treating the Welsh as some kind of wild, uncivilised people. That was his attitude towards the Welsh. Amidst all of this and towards the end of the discussions – and no one knows why – Luke de Tany, supported by a few generals and a 300 strong army, decided to cross the bridge. And to come into Snowdonia in order to attack Llywelyn. And they crossed the bridge. And there’s a description of them having to cross mud before reaching land. But from the mountains and the woods the Welsh came for them. And they thought ‘We’ll have to turn around now’. But in those minutes the tide came in suddenly, and the vast majority of Edward I’s army were drowned. Luke de Tany himself drowned, as did the Burnell brothers, relatives of a high ranking officer for Edward, and also a Welshman who led the charge, Hywel ap Gruffudd ap Ednyfed, he drowned too.
So what was the result of all of this? The result was a huge shock to Edward, who didn’t think that his military plans and conquests could fail. The tide had helped the Welsh, and the Welsh thought that this was a sign that God was on their side, and not for Edward, and this gave them huge confidence. And because of this new-found confidence it appears that Edward was affected, that he failed in the north and failed to attack from Rhuddlan. Within a month, Llywelyn was leading his army down into mid Wales, in order to settle things there. There had previously been a victory in south Wales. In a word, losing in 1282, and in November, wasn’t inevitable. But as we know, down went Llywelyn, and by 11th December 1282 he was killed in Cilmeri. Due to the confidence of Moel-y-Don – by the historian Dafydd Powell from the 16th century identified Moel-y-Don as the location – the descriptions say this was in Bangor. And we know from later history that cattle for example would cross over from Anglesey and arrive at what is Penrhyn these days, there are places such as ‘Calchen’ and ‘Man Pedoli’ where cattle would go, and we think about ‘The Antelope’, the pub next to
the water up from the Pier, it’s possible that it acknowledges the crossing place. And all of this is important for us. If the events of Cilmeri hadn’t taken place, it’s possible that the battle in Bangor would have been of crucial importance. But we have to remember at the same time that some were splitting Bangor, plotting against Llywelyn at the time. But what happened in the Menai straits delayed any such plans from taking place.
Iwan: Very interesting. And – we’re talking about events centuries ago of course - but I understand that the jetty next door to the Pier has been used in the Garth area for centuries.
Nia: Yes and it’s a very important crossing place. The historian Beverley Smith mentions the location of the bridge, around Lafan but yes, the pontoon connected Bangor with the island. There’s still a part of the Menai that remains a river at all times. The effect of crossing over in a location where the tide came in led to the events of 6th November 1282. A psychological victory for the Welsh without question, and a huge psychological defeat for Edward. All the English chronicles mentions the event, they acknowledged its significance.
Iwan: Very interesting. And if we leave 1282 and hurtle forward in time, I understand that there’s some interesting and colourful history around some of the pirates who used the Menai.
Nia: Yes there were pirates who very clearly used the Menai. The Buckley family of Beaumaris would bring goods from the Menai, and they essentially ruled Beaumaris. And they were connected with pirates who would operate from north west England. But one of the more colourful characters was someone called Pyrs Gruffudd, from the Penrhyn family. He was born in 1568, a very colourful character. It’s clear that he was interested in the sea and that there was adventure in his blood. Some historians recently have suggested that he wasn’t that much of an adventurer, but for me what’s interesting is that Welsh poetry – Mawddwy, Tomos Prys Plas Iolyn – described his activities, including his activities in the Caribbean. Describing for example his role in Francis Drake’s last sea expedition. People regard Drake as a hero, but Drake and his colleagues were involved with the initial stages of the slavery trade. They were very cruel, asking for payments from people on the Caribbean islands, and threatening to burn their villages and towns if they didn’t pay. As much as people talk about Drake and his involvement in the Armada in 1588, they weren’t likeable people. Drake was a cold character as a pirate. But there are descriptions in Welsh poetry of Pyrs Gruffudd as part of Drake’s fleet. And The Grace, Pyrs’ ship, is
mentioned in this poetry. I don’t know if he built the ship, but there’s a description of a ship called The Grace being built in Lancashire, in 1572 – it was hired out at the time – and in that same area were the pirates connected with the Buckley family. There are accounts of Pyrs Gruffudd attacking ships as part of Drake’s fleet, and accounts of him as a pirate. But in reality this was characteristic of that ‘crew’ – Hawkins and others – they were referred to as ‘sea dogs’ in England. Most had Royal permission to attack any enemy ships, and at the end of Elizabeth’s period, Spain was an enemy. Therefore attacking ships at sea was considered something legal, in reality. There’s no evidence of letters being sent to Pyrs Gruffudd, but his actions suggested he was part of this. He was part of this crew – Humphrey Gilbert etc – and others. They were involved with Pyrs Gruffudd himself. Another one who was famous for attacking ships was Thomas Myddelton, and he made a huge profit in Elizabeth’s period, enough for him to buy Chirk Castle. He made a 30% profit on his investment, billions in today’s figures. They’d make a profit of around £30,000 from an incoming ship. It was very interesting that they attacked sugar ships, Thomas Myddelton did this and we have evidence that Pyrs Gruffudd did the same. He brought a ship that he captured at sea, the Esperanza. And there are descriptions in poetry of Pyrs jumping from ship to ship and putting ships on fire, all sorts of activities. But he brought the ship in, and to where? To Abercegin. In other words, the port of Bangor. A very interesting ship that came from Andalucia, from a town on the Portugal/Spain border. There’s a description of the ship in the Penrhyn documents in Bangor University, describing its contents. There was a commission by the admiralty to find out what was on the ship – olive oil, olives, spices and that type of thing. The commission took place in Caernarfon, in order to share the profit between the Queen and Pyrs Gruffudd. This suggests that he had received ‘marked correspondence’, as they were sharing like this. Unlike Thomas Myddelton, who made a huge trade profit from these activities, part of the seafaring adventures in the Elizabethan period, Pyrs Gruffudd didn’t make a huge profit. He was constantly in debt, and of course after Elizabeth’s death in 1604 peace was secured with Spain, and therefore any sea-based activities by then was considered the work of pirates, rather than the quasi-formal activities of the sea dogs. He was accused of piracy in 1616 by political opponents, and Pyrs Gruffudd died in debt in London, he was buried in Westminster Abbey as it happens! He was in a poor state by the end and he had to sell Penrhyn to his relative, the Archbishop of York, John Williams of Conwy. But that’s the history of Pyrs Gruffudd, the man who brought the Esperanza. But they
describe in the accounts of his ship The Grace, with Drake in the Caribbean, making it somehow after the fiasco of Drake’s last sea journey, and somehow Pyrs Gruffudd and The Grace managed to come home. And the investigation into the ship that The Grace brought into Abercegin took place in 1603.
Iwan: Fantastic. And of course this links into the Pier as Pyrs Gruffudd was part of the Penrhyn family, and go forward in time and it was Lord Penrhyn of course who opened the Pier in 1896.
Nia: Very interesting. Abercegin of course is a very interesting port. I think the sea around there belongs to the Penrhyn family. Usually the Crown owns the seas. But in this case the Penrhyn family own that part of the sea. In reality Pyrs brought the ship home to his own personal port.
Iwan: Exactly. What’s interesting is that when you look at the first days of the Pier and the centuries before then, we’ve talked about 1282 and the adventures of Pyrs Gruffudd, is the importance of Bangor and the world, people coming to Bangor, people leaving Bangor, the importance of course of the connections between Anglesey and Bangor, that’s seen throughout the centuries, and we’re still talking about it nowadays, possibly a third bridge over the Menai. It shows that nothing much has changed over the years.
Nia: Yes, and Bangor itself. There was a Cathedral of course. Not enough is made about these connections. You mentioned the jetty, and I mentioned The Antelope further up. That crossing has largely been forgotten about because of the Pier. People’s memories tend to focus on the most recent. There were several crossing locations – the Bishop’s crossing place further west, and then onwards to Menai Bridge, although the flow was strong there. The crossing place at Bangor was different from the one on Lafan beach. But it was an interesting crossing point. And I’m certain that this is the location for what we refer to as the battle of Moel-y-Don. There’s a spirit of adventure in us Welsh people. Pyrs Gruffudd was one of many on the seas. Another one who was like him was Tomos Prys of Plas Iolyn. They were rogues, but interesting rogues! I mentioned Thomas Myddelton, and another one was his cousin, who was also a poet. And one of the Caribbean beaches he converted the psalms into poetry. That achievement was quite something. There’s a description of him coming back on a ship to Thomas Myddelton, and I think the cargo was worth £35,000, an enormous sum. Thomas Myddelton of course had a sugar producing factory in London. He was considered one of the great London merchants, going on to purchase
Chirk Castle. That’s the ‘league’ Pyrs Gruffudd found himself in, thinking more about the adventures than the business, and that’s why he found himself in real debt, resulting in him mortgaging and selling off his land, in order to pay for the fun and adventures. People still do of course to this day.
Iwan: Exactly. Excellent, thank you very much Nia, it’s obvious there’s a long, rich and colourful history on our doorstep in Bangor, and it’s great to share this with everyone. The history of the Pier is interesting and so too the centuries before then. Thank you very much for your contribution this morning. Goodbye.
PierBangor125: Interview with Gareth Roberts, Menter Fachwen (English Transcript, August 2021)
Hello, Iwan Williams here, City Director with Bangor City Council. We continue with our series of interviews and conversations involving the Pier and recognising the Pier’s special birthday at 125 years old. It’s a pleasure to be with Gareth Roberts from Menter Fachwen today, and I’ll pass over to Gareth now. Good morning.
Good morning, and it’s a pleasure to be with you today. Now you want to know about the Pier’s history? Now we know we’re celebrating 125 years this year, and it was therefore opened in 1896. It’s very unique, as the ‘fad’ of building Piers was earlier, in places like Llandudno and Aberystwyth in the 1860s/1870s, so Bangor was slightly late to the party! Not everyone wanted it. There were plenty of complaints, the idea wasn’t proposed until the late 1880s, the Bangor Corporation, your predecessors as the City Council, were pressing to have it, but a number of Bangor residents were against it as there were problems and other, better things to spend money on. So they had a referendum amongst Bangor residents, and Bangor Corporation were worried they would lose the referendum. They won, some 1500 votes for the Pier and around 500 against. So it was won, and it took 6-7 years to build the Pier. It’s unique for a different reason too, as it’s a Pier that doesn’t face the sea. The Pier faces Anglesey and the Menai. I’ll come back to that. Lord Penrhyn came over to open the Pier, and it cost around £17,000. It was built by the Webster company from Westminster, London, and Bangor didn’t hold back on the spending. So opened by Lord Penrhyn in ceremony full of pomp, and the Pier gates nowadays are the original ones, and they’re beautiful. Remarkable there was so much opposition to it. It was an important place too, as you had steamers going to Liverpool. It was built to bring in the old, grand steamers, and as it goes my Grandmother’s brother went on one to Liverpool, and onwards to Seattle in 1911, and never came back. So there’s a family connection! And you had end of the Pier shows. The Pavilion, which these days has a grand roof on top, used to be open, so the Corporation would organise entertainment every summer. If you visit the newspaper archives with the National Library of Wales, such as the North Wales Chronicle, you’ll see all the adverts, with people coming from afar to be entertained. My favourite was a girl called Mabel Roberts, who played the harmonium, and there’s a description here of her, which says “she can suck as well as blow”…What people don’t realise as well there was a rail line going down the middle of the Pier, transporting people’s bags to the steamers going to Liverpool. Some distance, the Pier is after all the second longest in Wales, Llandudno being the longest.
Where you measure the Pier from is a controversial debate, I’ll just add that in!
Well that’s good to know. And another thing, I’ll refer here to a newspaper article from the Chronicle on 1st March 1901 which says “A misadventure on Bangor Pier: On Thursday a man under the impression that he was crossing the Menai Suspension Bridge walked the whole length of Bangor Pier, crossed the pontoon at the end of the Pier, and stepped into the Menai Straits. Fortunately, the man is an excellent swimmer and he kept himself afloat for around 10 minutes, battling in the racing tide. He ultimately reached the side of the pontoon where he hung on until a young solicitor’s clerk named Griffin Jones descended and assisted him to mount the pontoon, none the worse for his immersion”. That’s excellent, and makes you think: didn’t he see the Menai coming?!
An uncompleted bridge!
Exactly. But there was a huge accident at the start of the Great War, the SS Christina. It broke free from its moorings and the power of the Menai turned the ship around and broke the Pier in two more or less. There are photographs-
A large part of the Pier went missing
Yes we know where it took place, you can stand there today but you can’t see the extent of the damage, and there’s a photo by the Anglesey Royal Engineers, they came to the rescue by building a temporary bridge to bring two parts of the Pier together, allowing passengers to catch the boats to Liverpool. I think it took around 7 years to repair the damage, several years. People wanted it to be done quickly, but of course it was during the war –
And there were other priorities
Exactly, and it’s incredible that people didn’t realise this. There were several letters in the Chronicle complaining that the Pier wasn’t being repaired, there was one man who wrote to the Chronicle almost every week. He called himself all sorts of things, including ‘Angry of Penrhosgarnedd’. He complained almost every week! After the war, and after they repaired the Pier – I didn’t know this until I did some research – there was a man called Philip White, a scientist in the Zoology department of Bangor University, and he tried to get the University to open an ocean sciences department. The department began in one of the Pier kiosks, isn’t that incredible?
Not much room there!
Indeed! I’m not sure which one, I think it’s the first kiosk on the right as you walk onto the Pier. But the University rejected the department within its buildings, unfortunately he passed away suddenly after establishing the department in the kiosk. He was succeeded by William Bramble, and within four years he managed to persuade the University to support the department, and by today it’s a world-renowned department, and an enormous department. The Pier was also a temporary home for the HMS Conway during the war, where so many young men received their maritime education, and the flying boat Saunders-Roe was also moored close to the Pier during the Second World War. There are interesting photos of that aircraft. One young man was someone called Tecwyn Roberts from Llanddaniel Fab, he worked in the Saunders-Roe and later NASA, he was part of all of this. He was one of six people that established Mission Control in Houston
And all the Apollo adventures
Apollo, exactly. It’s some story. He was in school with my Father, as it happens.
And raised without electricity
Exactly, in a poor cottage. You can apply the word ‘genius’ to him. So by the 1970s the Pier had fallen into a state of disrepair, and there was the possibility of pulling it down, but there was a preservation order on it. And if I’ve got this right, one of your predecessors purchased the Pier for a penny! Around 1975? And then there was a large-scale effort to raise money and repair it, and it was reopened in 1988, and in the mid-1990s a young photographer was in one of the Pier kiosks, for a year, some Gareth Roberts, I don’t know who he was?! So I have a connection with the Pier, and you have all these names, when you walk up and down the Pier you see these names on the benches, a who’s who of Bangor. And I’ll finish by noting one of them, Nathan Pollecoff. He’s on one of the benches on the right of the Pier as you walk on. The Pollecoff family were very famous in Bangor, Holyhead, Pwllheli, with their large, grand department stores, and we in Menter Fachwen worked with the University to create a Jewish history map of Bangor some two years ago, and of course the Pollecoff family were very prominent in Bangor. Nathan was one of Phillip’s sons, he was born in 1901, and died in 1962. He was a musician born in Holyhead, but very active in Bangor. He was very supportive of the civic society here, as were the entire family, and he married a woman called Charlotte Davies – I don’t think she was Welsh – from Manchester I believe. He was very active in Bangor synagogue for a number of years. He was very fond of walking along the Pier with his wife, sitting down and watching the seagulls fly by and the world pass by – there’s no better place.
Many thanks for that Gareth, it’s been a pleasure to go over 125 years of the Pier’s history in around 10 minutes. There are a wealth of stories, so many colourful individuals and proper characters over the decades. So many specific events as well, good and bad, a real mix. And the Pier is still there, and still welcoming the people of Bangor and beyond. May that continue for years to come, and more history to come from the Pier
I’m sure that there’s more to come!
Thank you Gareth, and we’ll back with you soon for further interviews and conversations on the history of the Pier. Thank you.