Site of Plas Mawr, Penmaenmawr
The foundations in what is now the public park called Parc Plas Mawr are the remains of the residence of the Darbishire family, which owned Penmaenmawr quarry.
The building was called Plas Mawr, which means large house or mansion. It was built by the Smiths of Pendyffryn in the first half of the 19th century. Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone stayed here at least seven times. This is where he and his wife came for the last time as a couple in 1896. The couple are seated in the photo on the right, with Charles Henry Darbishire and his eldest son Charles William Darbishire standing behind.
Part of the area was laid out as a miniature railway. The quarry foreman made a scale model of a De Winton quarry locomotive for the family to take rides around their grounds. The loco (pictured left) was restored to working order at the Brecon Mountain Railway in 2012 and is exhibited at the Steam Museum in Pontsticill.
De Winton locos, made in Caernarfon and much used at Penmaenmawr, were unusual in having vertical boilers. The water lay directly above the fire rather than being heated by flue tubes inside a horizontal boiler. One of the original Penmaenmawr quarry locomotives, built in 1895, is on display at Dinas station, near Caernarfon.
The house was demolished in 1960 but the area is now a public park with a small lake. In 2001 Conwy County Borough Council commissioned sculptures from several artists for Parc Plas Mawr. The works include “Sunset through clouds”, in granite and sandstone, by Timothy Leonard Shutter, and several works in wood by Dominic Clare including a kissing bench, a lion’s head and a spiral.
The photo on the right shows a Darbishire family wedding reception at Plas Mawr in 1901 or 1902.
With thanks to David Bathers and Dennis Roberts, of Penmaenmawr Historical Society, and to Janey Forster for the Plas Mawr photos