Dolwyddelan (Welsh pronunciation) (in Victorian times, often spelled Dolyddelen) is a village and community in Conwy county borough, north Wales, on the main A470 road between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Betws-y-Coed. As a community, the population of Dolwyddelan was recorded in the 2001 Census as 427, and 55.8% of those residents could speak Welsh. A slight population increase to 474 was recorded in the 2011 census with the proportion of Welsh speakers falling to 50.8%.
Part of the village of Dolwyddelan
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The spelling of the village's name has varied over the years, though there appear to be two primary spellings with two primary meanings. The common modern spelling "Dolwyddelan" is translated as "Gwyddelan's meadow", referring to Saint Gwyddelan after whom the parish church is named. However, Saint Gwyddelan is believed to have lived about two hundred years after Dolwyddelan Castle was built, so may not be the origin of the town's name. A variant of this spelling is Dolwyddelen, which was particularly used by the railway between 1880 and 1980.
Before the First World War the alternate spelling "Dolyddelen" was in common use; it is translated as "Elen's meadow", named after Elen Luyddog. Elen's Castle Hotel, which is on the east of the village, is also named after Elen Llyddog.
For many years, Dolwyddelan was part of the Gwydir Estate. The estate was founded in the 16th century and was owned by the Wynn family. The estate was centered on Gwydir Castle and it dominated north Wales. More than 36,000 acres (150 km2) of the country, stretching almost from Blaenau Ffestiniog in the south to the edge of Conwy in the north was part of the estate. In 1678 it passed to the Barons Willoughby de Eresby, based in Lincolnshire, and in 1892 it became the property of Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 1st Earl of Ancaster. By the early 19th century the estate largely comprised the parishes of Dolwyddelan (where the Wynns also had an ancestral home), Llanrhychwyn, Trefriw, and Gwydir, totalling some 55 square miles (140 km2).
Much of the estate was under mortgage, and in 1894 Dolwyddelan was sold off.
Buildings of noteEdit
The village is particularly noted for Dolwyddelan Castle, the reputed birthplace of Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth (Llywelyn the Great), although doubt has been cast on this as the stone keep was not built until around 1220. It has better transport links than most villages, with the small Dolwyddelan railway station on the Conwy Valley Line still in operation.
There are two historic hotels in the village:
- Elen's Castle Hotel dates back over three hundred years and at one time belonged to Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 1st Earl of Ancaster. In the 1870s he sold it to his game-keeper, who opened it as a coaching inn which specialised in hunting parties.
- Gwydir Arms Hotel (now called Y Gwydir) named for the estate that contained the village.
Nearby mountains include Moel Siabod to the north, Moel Penamnen and Y Ro Wen to the south and, further afield, Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) lies approximately 10 miles to the west. Carreg Alltrem, a crag used by many rock climbers, can be found about a mile south of the village.
During the Victorian period Dolwyddelan was surrounded by slate quarries. These quarries worked the Nod Glas Formation, which extended across Mid and North Wales. It was primarily a bed of soft, black shale, but in the area of the Dolwyddelan syncline it was partially metamorphisised into slate. The principle quarries were:
- Angharad James, poet, lived in Cwm Penamnen, to the south of the village, most of her life and is buried in Saint Gwyddelan's church.
- John Jones, Talysarn, Welsh preacher was born in Dolwyddelan.
- Paul Griffiths, playwright, writer, and theatre critic lived and worked in the village.
- Rachel Johncock, sprinter lives in the village; she represented Great Britain in the 2012 World Junior Championships in Athletics for the 100m and 4 × 100 m relay.
- Baron Gwydyr, the Earl of Ancaster, lived in the house which is now Elen's Castle Hotel.
- Eigra Lewis Roberts, writer, won two Prose Medals, National Eisteddfod Drama Crown and Medal. She was born in Blaenau Ffestiniog, and now lives in Dolwyddelan.
- Ellis Pierce, also known as Elis o'r Nant, was from Dolwyddelan.
In 1980 Walt Disney used Dolwyddelan Castle and surrounding grounds to film all the external castle scenes in the film Dragonslayer. During the making of Dragonslayer (starring Peter MacNicol) many other scenes were shot in North Wales.
- "Dolyddelen quarries". North Wales Journal. 21 March 1873.
- Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel; Menna, Baines; Lynch, Peredur I., eds. (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 221. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
- "Report on the Welsh language" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 12 May 2012.
- "Community population and percent of Welsh speakers 2011". Retrieved 21 May 2015.
- Bye-gones, Relating to Wales and the Border Counties. Caxton Works. 1878.
These were men inhabiting this place before the grandfather of Sir John [Wynne] migrated here from Merioneth. The castle was built in the fifth century — very nearly a thousand years before his grandfather moved here, and two hundred years before Saint Gwyddelan was born.
- Bala to Llandudno, Mitchell & Smith, Middleton Press 2010
- Roberts, Askew (1879). The gossiping guide to Wales: illustrated with six maps, and Snowdon panorama. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
- "Dolyddelen". Cambrian News. 3 December 1875.
I do not want you to spell the name of my birthplace with the w. Tne name of the place is not derived from St. Gwyddelan... There are many old roads called "Ffyrdd Elen" and a well called "Ffynnon Elen" here, but no place called after St. Gwyddelan. It is evident this place was named Dolyddelen to commemorate Elen Llueddog
- The Gentleman's Magazine. Bradbury, Evans. 1890. pp. 90–.
- Richards, Alun John (1999). The Slate Regions of North and Mid Wales and Their Railways. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch. ISBN 978-0-86381-552-2.
- Owen Thomas, D.D., Cofiant Y Parchedig John Jones, Talsarn (Wrexham 1874)
- The Western Mail, Monday 29 May 2000 : 'Playwright at 12 now film writer' : Karen Price Arts & Media Correspondent
- Jones, Dave (19 July 2012). "Athletics: Rachel Johncock does us proud in World Junior Athletics Championships". Daily Post. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- Evan David Jones, "Ellis Pierce" in Dictionary of Welsh Biography (National Library of Wales 2009).
- "Dolwyddelan Castle". North Wales Daily Post. 18 September 2007. Retrieved 2 September 2013.