Ystwyth Pier, Aberystwyth

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The breakwater at the southern end of Aberystwyth harbour was built in the 1830s and reinforced later.

View upriver from Ystwyth Pier c1850The picture by James William Giles records the view from the Ystwyth Pier c1850 and is shown here courtesy of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – the National Library of Wales. In the distance are the ruins of the castle and, on the right, Pont Trefechan crossing the river Rheidol. Compare the picture with the view today to understand how the harbour was developed after 1850.

Ystwyth Pier, built with stone from nearby Alltwen, protected vessels in the harbour from the full force of south-westerly gales. The pier also made entering the harbour less hazardous by reducing the natural fluctuations in the course of the river Ystwyth, which flows under the nearby bridge. In 1824 seven fishermen lost their lives as their smack Unity was caught in a storm while returning to port. The vessel was wrecked on the bar (bank of sediment) near the harbour entrance.

Drawing of Aberystwyth steamship Express from 1866On the right of the old picture you can see the stone walls of St David’s Wharf. Another wharf and jetty were built on the opposite side of the harbour as Aberystwyth adapted to the growing size of ships, and steamers began to provide passenger transport to and from Aberystwyth. In 1866 the Aberystwyth & Cardigan Bay Steam Packet Company advertised that its “powerful screw steamer Express” (pictured) would sail on alternate weeks to Liverpool and Bristol and back.

The opening of two railways into Aberystwyth in the 1860s changed the nature of harbour operations, replacing coastal shipping as the main method of transport for bulk goods. Cargoes landed at Aberystwyth could be loaded directly onto railway wagons at the wharves on both sides. The railway access to St David’s Wharf was from the Manchester & Milford Railway, which entered Aberystwyth from the south. There was a spur railway across the Ystwyth bridge to the landward end of Ystwyth Pier.

During the Second World War, defences were built around Aberystwyth ahead of a feared German invasion. These included the concrete pillbox which tops the hillock just across the river bridge. Soldiers would have fired at an attacking force through small openings (embrasures), now sealed. Two further strongpoints, now demolished, stood on the pier on the opposite side of the harbour mouth.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes. Sources include the National Library of Wales and 'Ceredigion Shipwrecks', by William Troughton, Ystwyth Press 2006

Postcode: SY23 1BJ    View Location Map

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