Steam Packet Lane, Llanrwst

Link to French translationSteam Packet Lane, off Ancaster Square, Llanrwst

If you’ve just scanned the QR codes in the window of the Barnardo’s shop, look to your left to see a door between this building and the one occupied by La Barrica. The door closes off a narrow alley which is now considered private property. If the door’s open, please enjoy looking along the passage but don’t walk along it.

This alley is Steam Packet Lane. It once led to a small dock. Steamships could never come this far up the river Conwy but flat-bottomed boats provided a passenger service a short distance from Llanrwst to Trefriw, the estuary’s upper tidal limit. From there passengers or goods from Llanrwst transferred to larger vessels, which were steam-powered from the 1840s.

Locally produced goods – including wool, hides and furniture – would be taken down the lane for loading into boats at the dock. The boats would bring in coal, fine clothes and other goods to the prospering market town. It’s said that one of the surviving house windows facing the lane was where passengers bought tickets for their voyages.

“Smuggler’s Lane” was a vernacular name for the alley. It’s easy to imagine contraband goods being brought into the town along this shadowy passage at night!

The shop now occupied by Barnardo’s was a draper’s shop called London House. In the early 20th century it was owned by local businessman WS Williams. As trade flourished, he opened shops in Llandudno (one of which preceded Clare’s Department Store), Rhyl and Colwyn Bay. In 1904 the business proclaimed itself “The pioneers of Parisian fashions in correct and stylish millinery” and stocked the “latest outfits for driving and motoring”.

London House also stocked lace curtains, carpets and linoleums. Older residents of Llanrwst remember it for its cash conveyor, a device which moved money from the sales floor to the office along special trackways.

With thanks to Pat Rowley of Llanrwst & District Historical Society

Postcode: LL26 0LD    View Location Map

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