Ellen Edwards memorial, Caernarfon

button-theme-womenEllen Edwards memorial, Caernarfon

The slate plaque on this former mortuary commemorates Ellen Edwards (1810-1889), who taught more than 1,000 mariners how to navigate the seas.

Ellen was born in Amlwch, Anglesey. Her father, Captain William Francis, left the sea in 1814 and opened a school of navigation in Amlwch. Ellen gained much of her knowledge of navigation under his guidance.

She moved to the fast-growing port of Caernarfon in 1830 and soon opened a school at 34 New Street, where she taught sailors the essential subjects for their careers. In 1833 she married Captain Owen Edwards, who died at sea in 1860.

Her students came from a wide area, including Caernarfon, Anglesey and the Llŷn Peninsula. Each year in the 1850s, 60s and 70s about 30 of her students passed the examinations of the Marine Boards of England, Scotland and Ireland. There wasn’t a board for Wales! The nearest examination centre was Dublin. Her daughter, Ellen Francis Edwards, who herself married a sea captain, assisted at the school.

Ellen Edwards was recognised in her lifetime as “a clever woman, highly accomplished in the art of navigation, who had taught some of the best seamen to command large vessels”. When she reached the age of 70 the Caernarfon Harbour Trust lobbied the Government for her to receive an honorary pension. However, she received only £75 from the Royal Bounty Fund.

Ellen died, aged 79, at her home, 13 Tithebarn Street. A newspaper commented: “She was the most successful seamen’s teacher in North Wales for the long period of 60 years.”

Ellen’s memorial plaque is on the building that once housed the town’s mortuary. It was built around the time the Victoria Dock was opened in the 1860s. It was home to the Seiont II Maritime Museum from the mid-1980s to the 2000s, and was later adapted for users of the adjacent marina.

With thanks to Clive James, of Caernarfon Civic Society

Postcode: LL55 1SR    View Location Map