Site of anti-Irish protest, Stanley Crescent, Holyhead

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A row of houses and shops once stood where you now see Stanley Crescent car park. In 1851 a mob threatened to destroy the house of an Irish merchant here, but he stood his ground. The photo from c.1889, courtesy of Anglesey Archives, shows the South Stack Welcome, a sailors’ hostel which opened in Stanley Crescent in 1893.

Photo of South Stack Welcome, Stanley Crescent, HolyheadMany people emigrated from Ireland to Great Britain through Holyhead during the Great Famine (or Great Hunger). Several years of potato blight had deprived Ireland of its staple food, and around a million Irish people are thought to have died of starvation and disease between 1846 and 1851.

Irish immigrants weren’t always welcomed in Welsh towns. In May 1851 there was a strike by c.1,200 men who were building Holyhead breakwater. They demanded removal of the Irish labourers employed on the project. The 25 Irishmen were “dragged about in a violent manner” and some fled on a steamer to Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire).

The “infuriated mob” then scoured the town, breaking into houses where Irish people boarded. Many of the Irish residents escaped the violence by hiding in places such as cupboards and boxes.

Some of the men entered 1 Stanley Crescent, where Irishman James Nugent, 62, lived and kept a shop. Some of his children and a baby grandson lived with him. James was a wholesale spirits merchant and grocer. The intruders demanded immediate discharge of two Irishmen who had worked for him for many years. When he refused, he was told his house would be demolished.

He locked the shop, but the men didn’t carry out their threat. They moved on to softer targets: the mob was said to have beaten and ill-treated the wives and children of Irishmen and turned them out into the street.

James had moved to Holyhead c.1849 from Kingstown, where he was one of the commissioners who oversaw town improvements. He argued for similar improvements in Holyhead, including better gas and water supplies. He died in March 1853.

Postcode: LL65 1UL    View Location Map

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