The Little Orme

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The Little Orme

The Little Orme (Welsh: Rhiwledyn, or Trwyn y Fuwch) is the headland separating Llandudno from Penrhyn Bay. Quarrying took place on the Little Orme from the late Victorian era. A deep natural fissure was uncovered in 1891, in which were found the skeletal remains of a woman dating from c.5,570 years ago. There were also other finds dating from the Bronze Age, including a bronze spearhead and the bones of animals now extinct in Britain such as the rhinoceros and bear.

Above the cliffs of the Little Orme is a cave where the first book to be published in Wales was printed, during the Elizabethan persecution of Catholics in Britain. In 1585 Robert Pugh, assisted by a group of priests, produced a small volume entitled Y Drych Cristionogawl (The Christian Monitor). His house, now known as Penrhyn Old Hall, has a "priest hole" where Catholic priests could hide.

The cave is quite small, with a very low entrance. In 1587 a local man stumbled across the printing press in the cave and alerted local landowner Sir Thomas Mostyn, at Gloddaeth Hall. He organized a posse of 40 men to seek it out. The men decided that it was too dangerous to enter through the 60cm-high hole. They stood guard all night, but in the morning the people responsible for the press had gone. The guards discovered there was a chimney out of main chamber through which the priests had escaped. There have been many different stories about this cave, but in 1962 archaeologists examined it and found evidence which seems to authenticate the story.

The long straight slope clearly visible on the eastern side of the Little Orme is the remains of an inclined plane, down which wagons loaded with stone were once lowered. At the top of the plane stand the side walls of the winding house, which hauled empty wagons up and controlled the descent of the loaded ones. Quarrying began in 1889 and ceased in 1936. The Little Orme had its own pier for stone export. Eight locomotives were employed over the years. There was also a steam-driven plant to crush rock. At the time, quarrying was a major employer, with most the quarrymen living in nearby Penrhynside. The background of some of the quarrymen is explained here. An army gunnery school was located in the abandoned quarry during World War Two.

The Little Orme’s natural and man-made cliff faces provide ideal nesting areas for birds including fulmars, ravens and little owls. Rhiwledyn nature reserve, consisting mainly of limestone grassland, covers the south-western part of the Little Orme. This land was given to North Wales Wildlife Trust in a will in 1994.

With thanks to John Lawson-Reay, of the Llandudno & Colwyn Bay History Society

Where is this HiPoint?

Other PREHISTORIC HiPoints in this area:
Prehistoric view over Llandudno from Little Orme – no sea in sight
Coed y Gopa, Abergele

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