Turf Square, Caernarfon

Turf Square, Caernarfon

This open space is known as Turf Square because old women and children once sold peat (also known as turf) here, as heating for homes. Coal, delivered by railways, was more effective but peat was cheaper. Peat was still being cut in Snowdonia in the 1920s.

The square first became a trading place in medieval times, when Welsh people were banned from the walled town. A viaduct and drawbridge allowed inhabitants to walk from the East Gate, crossing the river Cadnant and its marshy banks, to buy Welsh goods at this convenient spot. A 1610 map names the area “Oatmeal Square”.

The square was eventually enclosed by buildings on all sides of the roads, but was opened up when the railway was extended southwards from Caernarfon station in the late 1860s. Look over the parapet of the old railway bridge to see where the trains ran (now a road).

Before Caernarfon had passenger trains, a daily horse-drawn omnibus departed for Menai Bridge from the Commercial Inn, at the corner of Bridge Street and Penrallt.

From c.1800 one of Caernarfon’s first printing presses produced books and pamphlets at Turf Square. It was set up by Thomas Roberts, who had grown up near Llandudno and came to Caernarfon in 1796. He married a wealthy Caernarfon widow, who continued the printing business after his death in 1811.

In 1788 Turf Square was described as “near the Pillory”.  A wrongdoer – such as a dishonest trader, forger or perjurer – would be pinned to the wooden pillory by the neck and wrists while standing up. The public jeered at them and were allowed to throw any unpleasant substance at their faces, provided it wouldn’t do lasting harm. Use of the pillory was abolished in 1837.

Postcode: LL55 1AN    View Location Map

With thanks to KF Banholzer, author of the guidebook ‘Within Old Caernarfon’s Town Walls’