Llanvair-Vechan (Llan-Fair-Fechan) - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
LLANVAIR-VECHAN (LLAN-FAIR-FECHAN), a parish, in the union of Bangor and Beaumaris, hundred of Ll�chwedd Uch�v, county of Carnarvon, North Wales, 7 miles (W. S. W.) from Conway, on the road to Holyhead; containing 747 inhabitants. It lies to the east of Traeth Lavan, or the Lavan Sands, which are dry at half ebb, a tract nearly twelve miles in length, and from seven to eight miles in breadth, overflowed by the sea in the sixth century. The parish comprehends the vast mountain of Penmaen Mawr, near the base of which the village is romantically situated. This mountain is 1549 feet in height above the level of the sea at high water, rising on one side almost perpendicularly from the bay of Beaumaris, in which it forms a lofty and boldly projecting promontory, and extending for some miles in a north-eastern direction towards Conway. It consists of one vast chain of precipitous and rugged rocks, of frightful aspect and dreary sterility, wildly and irregularly thrown together in loose and crumbling strata, from which huge masses frequently detaching themselves, with imminent danger to the traveller, threaten to overwhelm him in their descent, or intercept his progress with heaps of scattered fragments. Previously to the construction or improvement of the present road, nothing could be more terrific or more hazardous than the pass over this mountain, in which one false step was attended with certain destruction to the adventurous traveller: numerous fatal accidents occurred from the steepness of the ascent, the insecurity of the path, and the tremendous precipices on the brink of which the narrow road was continued without the slightest protection. In 1772 application was made to parliament; and certain sums were accordingly granted for the improvement of this dangerous road, which formed part of the line to Holyhead. A subscription was opened for the same purpose, to which the city of Dublin largely contributed; and under the superintendence of Mr. John Sylvester, an eminent engineer, the road was sufficiently widened for carriages to pass each other with safety, by cutting through the solid rock. On the side towards the sea the precipices are guarded by a strong wall, built upon a series of lofty arches nearly 100 yards in perpendicular height, over which also the road is carried on a level for several miles, avoiding the almost impracticable descent to Penmaen B�ch, and leading over the chasms formed by the crumbling strata of the mountain.
Upon the summit of the mountain are the remains of an ancient and very extensive British encampment, called Braich-y-Dinas, a station strongly fortified by nature and by art, and probably erected to defend the passage into Anglesey and the remoter parts of the principality. The ascent is steep and laborious, and near the top are three strong intrenchments of loose stones, of amazing strength, the walls of which are in many places in a very perfect state, having both the external and internal facings in good preservation, and the central wall on the south side in some parts nine feet high and eight feet in thickness. In the intervals between the walls are numerous foundations of circular buildings, varying in diameter from seven to twenty feet, and some remains of others of a square form. The central area on the summit contains the remains of a circular building, or tower, apparently of lofty elevation, but much reduced by the falling of stones, which are scattered in profusion round its base; and near this tower, which occupies the centre of the area, are other groups of circular buildings, now, by dilapidation, become little more than masses of undistinguishable ruins. Near them is a well, excavated in the solid rock; it supplied the garrison with water, and is constantly full, being fed by the condensed vapours of the mountain. On the north-west side of the mountain may be distinctly traced a narrow circuitous road, walled on both sides, evidently leading up to the fortress. This station, which was regarded as the strongest and the most extensive among the strongholds of Snowdon, was capable of accommodating 20,000 men. It was deemed impregnable, as well from the precipitous acclivity of the mountain, as from the extraordinary strength of the fortifications; and throughout the tortuous path by which alone it was accessible, were numerous passes of great difficulty, any of which might be defended by a very small body of men against a whole army of assailants. In this formidable post the remnant of the Welsh army is said to have been placed, as in a retreat of inviolable security, during the negotiations that were pending between Edward I. and Llewelyn, previously to the final submission of the principality to English authority. During the sixth century, the mountain was the solitary retreat of Seiriol, a British anchorite, who had his hermitage between the two summits, where his "bed" and his well are still to be seen; the hermitage being plundered, St. Seiriol retired to Ynys Seiriol, a small island on the coast of Anglesey, and there built a chapel and a cell, and ended his days.
Exclusively of the mountainous parts, the parish contains several large tracts of arable, meadow, and pasture land, in a good state of cultivation. Considerable agricultural improvements have taken place in this neighbourhood within the last few years. The principal fuel is peat, which is obtained in abundance: in some parts copper-ore has been found, but no mines have been established, nor has any sufficient trial been made to work the ore effectually. The Chester and Holyhead railway, opened in 1848, runs through the parish. The living is a discharged rectory, rated in the king's books at �6. 17. 6.; present net income, �305, with a glebe-house; patron, the Bishop of Bangor. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is pleasantly situated in the village, near the road to the pass over the mountain. There are places of worship for Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists; a day school, in connexion with the Established Church; and a Sunday school, held in the meeting-house of the Calvinistic body. A rentcharge of �1. 6. by Lewis Owen, of Twickenham, in 1623, and a bequest of �1 by Ellen Nicholas, are distributed in bread and money among the poor.