Penmaen Head, Old Colwyn

button-theme-crimelink to welsh translationlink_to_french_translationSite of Richard II's ambush, Penmaen Head, Old Colwyn

The name of this headland is an Anglo-Welsh tautology, since Penmaen means “stone head”.

colwyn_bay_richard_ii_ambushIn 1399 the unpopular King Richard II (1367-1400) was ambushed here, as he returned to England from Ireland, by supporters of Henry Bolingbroke. After his capture, he was taken to Flint Castle and forced to surrender the crown to Bolingbroke, who became King Henry IV.

The picture of the ambush (courtesy of the National Library of Wales) was included in Thomas Pennant’s books about his Welsh travels in the 1770s. Pennant wrote that Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, had met the king in Conwy, where Percy had accompanied the monarch to mass and taken an oath of fidelity at the altar. When Richard was near “the precipice of Penmaen Rhôs” he perceived “a large band of soldiers with the Percy banners”. The earl seized the bridle of the king, who reproached him for his perjury and said God “would do him justice at the day of judgment”.

Owain Glynd┼Ár (whose statue you can see in Corwen, Denbighshire) began his revolt against English authority soon afterwards, but nobody knows whether the change of monarch was one of his grievances.

Since then the headland has been transformed by limestone quarrying. Some of the stone was used in local buildings. Its light grey colour is a distinctive feature of many Victorian buildings in Old Colwyn and Colwyn Bay.

In the 1960s a laboratory was established at Penmaen Head for a new non-profit organisation called the Robertson Research Company. Geological samples were analysed on behalf of various disciplines, including civil engineering and quarrying. The company grew rapidly after discovery of North Sea oil. Now based near Llandudno, it remains a locally important provider of highly skilled work.

The Chester & Holyhead Railway tunnelled beneath Penmaen Head in the 1840s. By the time the A55 Expressway was constructed in the 1980s, quarrying had so reduced the headland’s height, north of the railway tunnel, that the road could be constructed across the headland without a significant change in elevation.

The large concrete anchor shapes were placed along the coast to protect the new road from coastal erosion. The A55 is crossed at Penmaen Head by a concrete arch footbridge, known locally as the “rainbow bridge”.

In 2017 a granite “postcard” depicting Richard II was installed on Colwyn Bay prom.

View Location Map

See more of Thomas Pennant’s A Tour in Wales – National Library of Wales website

Wales Coastal Path Tour Label Navigation anticlockwise buttonNavigation clockwise button
National Cycle Network Label Navigation previous buttonNavigation next button