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Welsh Icons - Towns & Villages

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Ynys y Pandy mill near Tremadog, built in 1855 to serve the nearby Gorseddau quarry. Photograph © Eifion

Tremadog is a village on the outskirts of Porthmadog, Wales. It was a planned settlement, founded by William Madocks, who bought the land in 1798. The centre of Tremadog was complete by 1811 and remains substantially unaltered.

It hosted an unofficial National Eisteddfod event in 1872.

Tremadog provides a notable example of town planning. Its siting, layout, buildings and resulting spaces were all designed to create the impression of a borough. Lacking the wealth to build the town single-handedly, Madocks wished to attract people into Tremadog to build within his overall plan. The most important part of the town was the Market Square, with the backdrop of a sheer cliff giving a theatrical effect to this area. The High Street and Dublin Street form the crossed streets at the top of this square, and are lined by the most significant buildings: the Town Hall and Dancing Room (built in 1805), and the Coaching inn.

The Town Hall (now Siola shop) sits on a plinth of steps that initially extended across the whole facade. It has a simple beauty, with five round arched openings on the ground floor, the generously proportioned sash windows on the first, and the shallow pitched, wide-eaved hipped roof above. Dancers would enter the first floor dancing room via the Tap Room of the adjoining Madocks' Arms, avoiding the chaos of the Market Hall on the ground floor, and would dance to music from the minstrel's gallery facing the windows. The roof is typical of the Madocks' style � it is similar to that his other buildings such as the Manufactory and his house, Tan yr Allt. Featured on the facade are six medallions, and the five keystones depict theatrical figures, hinting at the building�s use as a theatre in the short summer season.

Church and chapel
Most Welsh chapels of the early 19th century were very simple, with a pulpit in the centre of a long wall, so that all could hear the preacher. However, Tremadog's chapel, Peniel, is in the style of a Greek temple. Its main facade is in stucco with a circular window in the pediment. The impressive portico was added in 1849, probably in accordance with the original design. The first gallery was inserted in 1840, and extended along both sides in 1880. The present ceiling dates from 1908�1910.

St Mary's Church was finished 18 months after the chapel's completion. It is one of the earliest Gothic revival churches in Wales, dating from 1811. Originally it had box pews, paintings at each side of the altar, and cast iron windows throughout. These have since gone, with the present diamond-leaded, sandstone-framed windows being a late Victorian era alteration, and the Greaves Family east window having been installed in 1899. A plain brass plaque commemorates Madocks, and the wedding of Mary Madocks to Martin Williams in the Church in 1811. A marble plaque commemorates John Williams, who died in 1850, his wife Anne and their only son, W T Massey Williams, all being buried in a vault in the church.

The church is romantically placed on an outcrop of rock. The entrance to the churchyard is a Coade Stone gate, shipped in kit form from London. The church's spire is brick, rendered in Parkers Roman Cement. Both Coade and Parkers Roman were early types of imitation stone. The bricks for the spire were probably made locally, the clay coming from the farmyard nearby.

The importance of both the Gothic Church and the Classical Chapel is a good reminder of Madocks' words: "In education and religion all ought to have fair play".

Madocks' vision for the town included industry, and in 1805 he built the Manufactory. It became the site for one of the first woollen mills in Wales where carding and spinning were powered. Beside the mill was the Loomery, where weaving took place. This building remains and was used from around 1835 as a tannery. There was also a fulling mill and a corn mill, all worked by water power. The water was drawn from Llyn Cwm Bach, created above the Manufactory to serve a series of catchponds and wheels.

As always, Madocks was aware of the look of his buildings. The Loomery was designed with a roof very similar to the Town Hall; with its rows of windows alternating with masonry, and two lower buildings flanking it, it was a handsome building. Madocks instructed that the mill should be "well yellowed" and the windows painted dark green. Its present roof is temporary.

The houses of Tremadog had robust plain detailing and a typical plan, with a central doorway and either a generous parlour or shop on each side, with two bedrooms above. At the back a lean-to scullery ran the width of the house. On the Square two of these plans were modified for Inns; half the scullery had a stone vaulted roof so that an even temperature could be kept in the dry cellar.

The first phase of building on Church Street (originally London Street) ended at Ty P�b. There was to have been a cross Street here, as the arches on the side of Ty P�b indicate.

In addition, many gentlemen's villas were built in the area. Ty Nanney in Tremadog is an example, though lacking a dramatic setting. Tan yr Allt was Madocks' own home, and has typically wide eaves, shallow pitched roofs and verandahs, with coved ceilings and a few Gothic details inside.

Tremadog is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. The area's long, quiet roads attract motorcyclists, Tremadog also has two good quality climbing "crags" (one of which has been closed due to rock instability) which attract climbers from all over the UK. Below these crags is Eric's Cafe, Campsite & Bunkhouse (owned by the Welsh climber Eric Jones, famous for his solo of the Eiger North face � Switzerland amongst numerous other things) which provides a useful base for climbers at Tremadog.

Famous residents
Tremadog was the birth place of T. E. Lawrence, also known as "Lawrence of Arabia".

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