Pont Twr, Bethesda

Pont Twr, Bethesda

bethesda_pont_twrThis picturesque bridge, a subject of artists, was a scene of conflict during the Penrhyn Quarry strike (1900-1903).

In the 1770s travel writer Thomas Pennant noted that this valley “was once defended by a fort ... called Ty’n y Twr, close to a bridge called Pont y Twr”. Twr is Welsh for tower. In 1805 Pont Twr was enlarged to carry the road to Llanllechid.

The postcard of the bridge shown on the right (copyright: Gwynedd Archives Service) was posted in 1906. Among the artists who painted the bridge was Bristol-based painter and watercolourist James Jackson Curnock. In 1890 he exhibited “Pont-twr, Bethesda” at the Bristol Fine Arts Academy.

The body of Elizabeth Williams, of 40 Pen y Bryn, was found on 9 August 1890 in shallow water near the bridge. Her husband William had died three months earlier, aged 53, leaving her with their six children, the eldest being 14 years old. William’s death “preyed upon her mind” but her inquest returned a verdict of “Found drowned”, not suicide. Elizabeth, aged 46, was buried in Glanogwen Churchyard, where William was interred three months earlier.

This tranquil spot became a flashpoint during the long quarry strike, as the bridge lay on strike-breakers’ route between work and home. Strikers gathered here to protest, resulting in noisy and sometimes violent clashes. In May 1901 women “beat tin cans in derision”, and in January 1903 three men were accused of assaulting a worker on the quarry hospital steps (the path which leaves the road a little west of Pont Twr).

Controversial local businessman William J Parry (who had supported the strike) was involved in a different kind of clash here in 1919. One of his vehicles, “heavily laden, coming from Penrhyn Quarry over Pont Twr Bridge”, collided with a motor car. One of the passengers was Lady Anne Lewis, wife of Sir Henry Lewis of Belmont, Bangor (a key figure in Bangor University’s establishment). She was “cut by pieces of broken glass”. After attention from Dr Pritchard of Bethesda, she was sent home in a “closed car” and confined to bed while she recovered.

With thanks to Dr Hazel Pierce, of The History House, and to Gwynedd Archives Service for the image

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