Alltwen, Tanybwlch, Aberystwyth

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From Tanybwlch beach, the Wales Coast Path climbs up Alltwen, whose jagged peak (over 130 metres above sea level) and high cliff are a landmark in the view south from Aberystwyth harbour and Pendinas. The watercolour painting, courtesy of the National Library of Wales, dates from 1868 and shows Alltwen beyond Tanybwlch beach.

Painting of Tanybwlch and Alltwen in 1868Stone was quarried at Alltwen for improvements to the harbour, including construction of the Ystwyth Pier in the 1830s. The stone was carried on a tramway (basic form of railway) which ran along the top of the beach.

On the opposite side of the river there was once a main-line railway, opened in 1867 by the Manchester & Milford Railway Co. Leaving Aberystwyth, it climbed along the Ystwyth Valley to Trawscoed before continuing to Lampeter and Carmarthen. It closed in 1964. Part of its route between Aberystwyth and Rhydyfelin is now a path for cyclists and walkers.

The old painting shows the house named Tanybwlch as built c1827 on the site of an earlier farmhouse. It was briefly the home of General Lewis Davies, who had retired after a distinguished army career but died soon after the house was built. His descendant Matthew Lewis Vaughan Davies, once MP for Cardiganshire, extended Tanybwlch in the 1890s.

During the Second World War and later, the house was the Tanybwlch Emergency Fever Hospital. Thousands of children were evacuated to the area from Liverpool and other cities to escape Luftwaffe air raids, and in 1940 alone the hospital treated 339 “evacuee cases”. Four children had died of whooping cough and one of diphtheria.

Evacuees also brought skin diseases (impetigo and scabies) which were rarely seen in the area, prompting creation of two emergency skin hospitals in Cardiganshire in 1941.

In 1979 more than 30 former evacuees returned to Aberystwyth for a reunion with their wartime hosts. Some came to Tanybwlch to see where they had been patients during an outbreak of diphtheria.

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