History of Aberystwyth
1840-1860


1840

May: Stamps

1st postage stamps start to be used in May. Although popular, it soon became apparent that it was often difficult to notice if the 'penny black' had been cancelled or not. Within 10 months the same design was printed in red, and the 'penny red' remained in use for decades.

Foundry

2nd Foundry built in Northgate St

The Cambrian traveller's guide, and pocket companion - G. Nicholson[26]

ABERYSTWITH, a sea-port, borough, market-town, and chapelry, in the parish of Llanbadarn Vawr, Cardiganshire, is a delightful summer retreat, situated on the conflux of the rivers Ystwith and Rheidol. Of late, this watering-place has greatly improved, both in extent, convenience, and importance, forming at present the largest town in the county ; and the roads leading to it are equal to the best in England. The gentle inclination of the beach, situated in a noble bay, the clearness of the water, salubrity of the air and the neighbouring springs, have established its reputation as an excellent resort for invalids, who can here enjoy every luxury connected with sea-bathing. The houses are in general well built, many laige and handsome, and the streets regular, well-paved, and macadamised. Aberystwith is a borough by prescription. The government is vested in a mayor, recorder, chamberlain, and common burgesses, assisted by a town- clerk and subordinate officers. It is one of the contributary boroughs of Cardiganshire who return one member to parliament. The right of election is now in the resident burgesses, and all persons occupying a house or other premises of the clear annual value of ten pounds. The mayor of Cardigan is the returning officer. Aberystwith was once fortified with walls, a portion of which, stripped of its facings, still remaine on the shore. The Cattle, situated west of the town, on a bold eminence projecting into the sea,....

...On the N. w. is a tower about 40 feet high, in which an arched doorway still remains. This ruin is now the property of the Duke of Newcastle. The late proprietor, Mr. Jones, of Havod, granted a lease of it to Mr. Probert, an agent of Earl Powis, when an excellent promenade was formed, which commands a fine view of the whole of Cardigan Bay. This vast curve is formed by the projecting counties of Caernarvon to the north and Pembroke to the south; the coasts of Merioneth and Cardigan occupy the centre. No situation south of Caernarvon affords to advantageous a prospect of the Welsh Alps as this and the adjacent cliffs. The lofty hills which confine the estuary of the Dyfi, and elevate their broad ridges far above the Cardigan rocks are surmounted by Cader Idris and its subordinate eminences. These are overtopped by the gigantic mountains of Caernarvonshire, among which, in clear, weather, the sharp peak of Snowdon may be discerned, in sublime pre-eminence, towering above the adjacent crags. The boundary line becomes more uniform to the south. This magnificent bay is also agreeably diversified by the transit of numerous vessels in every direction. North of the castle is a level beach, to which succeeds a long range of lofty slate rocks, rendered cavernous by the action of the waves. At the base of these cliffs extends a reef of subordinate rocks, adorned with numerous beautiful corallines, fuci, and a variety of marine productions, valuable pebbles, agates, conglomerates, jaspers, moceos, trapstones, &c. These are set and mounted in gold, into brooches, bracelets, seals, &c., by working jewellers.

The Church is dedicated to St. Michael, and detached from the castle ruins by a stone wall. It was erected in 1786, but, being found too small for the convenience of a rapidly increasing population, it has been lately taken down, and superseded by a handsome new structure, in the modern Gothic style, after a plan by Mr. Haycock, at an expense of 3500l., affording accommodation for 1100 persons. The present incumbent is the Rev. John Hughes, a minister eminent for his talent, piety, and apostolical zeal. There are two full English services and one Welsh performed every sabbath, besides one in each language during the week. Mr. Hnghes is assisted in these arduous duties by a curate. It is in contemplation to build a new church here immediately, expressly for the Welsh service. A fine toned organ, by Robson, has recently been added to the church, at an expense of 350l., defrayed by voluntary subscription of the inhabitants. The new church now in progress at Llangorwen, in this vicinity, promises to be the best specimen of ecclesiastical architecture within that district.

The Harbour, notwithstanding considerable improvements, is still in so bad a state as to form a serious drawback to the commercial interests of the town. A new act of parliament was, however, obtained, enabling the trustees to borrow, on the credit of the dues, a larger sum of money than the old act empowered, in order to carry into effect the works recommended by the late Mr. Nimmo, and the present engineer, Mr. Bush. These works are now in progress, and are estimated to cost 14,000l. Part of these improvements, consisting of a substantial pier, has already been carried out to a considerable extent on the south side of the bar, and, when the whole shall be completed, an important increase in the trade of this port is confidently anticipated. A bridge, forming part of the harbour works has been thrown over the river Ystwith, which the visiters in the season avail themselves of to make excursions to the beach, rocks and heights on the south side of the town, abounding in attractions, but hitherto entirely inaccessible.

The Custom-house, erected in 1773, has been superseded by a new one, built conveniently for the shipping, and overlooking the harbour. A gateway at the south end of the terrace forms the entrance to the Castle-house, erected by the late Sir Uvedale Price, Bart., of Foxley, after designs by Mr. Nash. It is a singular structure, in the Gothic style and castellated form, consisting of three octagonal towers connected by ranges of apartments, having a light and elegant balcony facing the sea. It is now occasionally occupied by its present proprietor, Sir Robert Price.

The Assembly Rooms were erected in 1820, from designs by Mr. Repton, and comprise a ball and promenade room, which is used as a reading room, a card room, and billiard room. The season commences in July and ends in October, but many families come as early as April, at which period lodgings can he obtained remarkably cheap. From the great increase of buildings here of late years, lodgings have come down very much in price; entire twelve-room houses, furnished in the best manner, supplied with water-closets, and replete with every accommodation, can readily be had, from October to May as low as from 20s. to 40s. per week. Owing to this, and the well-known mildness of the winter months here, the 'number of permanent residents has been steadily on the increase. The recent introduction of a purer description of water, and the many other improvements lately effected and now in progress, have added considerably to its attractions as a place of winter residence. Concerts are frequently given during the season.

The Marine Parade, an elegant crescent, is situated on the margin of the sea. At the north end, is Craiglais, or Constitution Hill, and on the south are the castle ruins, both of which contain excellent walks. The Marine Terrace, which forms the east side of the parade, is a handsome range of modern buildings, affording every accommodation for private families. Most of these erections are let for lodgings during the summer. They command a fine marine view, including the sea and beach, from which pleasure-boats are constantly starting.

The Market-place. was erected in 1824, in the street leading to the castle, by a tontine subscription. The markets are held on Monday and Saturday, and are now entirely confined to butchers meat. Another general mart, upon a handsome plan, has been raised upon the site of the old Talbot inn, where an entire new street has arisen.

This attractive watering-place also contains a Town-hall and Theatre. The two Dispensaries have merged into one Infirmary, or general hospital, which is open to all the kingdom. Here are likewise a Grammar and a National School. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents and Wesleyan and Calvinistic Methodists. In 1834, an act of parliament was obtained for the general improvement of the town, under the authority of which several important improvements have been carried into effect, whilst others are in progress. Among the most prominent advantages derived may be mentioned a supply from springs in the neighbouring hills of the purest water, brought by means of pipes into every dwelling, house in the town. The works are constructed according to the plans of George Bush, Esq., civil engineer, at a cost of upwards of 6000l. In September, 1838, the town was lighted with gas by a company formed among the inhabitants. The gas-works were erected by the Messrs. Stears, of Stroud. The gas is of a very pure quality, and generally taken into the shops and dwelling-houses. The public lights are upwards of 100, and the lamp-posts, raised by public subscription, are after a most elegant design.

Aberystwith has for some time possessed the advantage of a daily mail from London via Cheltenham, -which arrives at half -past eight in the evening ; and, since the Birmingham Railway has been opened, an additional mail is about to be established via Shrewsbury, which will arrive some hours earlier.

Since the passing of the municipal reform act, there has been introduced a part of the London police force, which, under an active and efficient magistracy, preserves the town in the utmost good order.

The Bathing is well conducted : hot sea-water baths are provided, with every requisite accommodation, and bathing-machines are in attendance. From the convenient sloping of the beach, a facility of bathing is afforded at almost any state of the tide, within a very short distance from the shore. The beach being of pebbles, the water is always clear, and there is a good sandy bottom at all hours of the tide. The Marine Baths are at the north end of the Marine Parade, on an eminence projecting into the sea. Besides cold baths, there are a cold plunging-bath, a shower and vapour bath, with bedrooms for invalids. Near the centre of the terrace there is another warm bath, and others in different parts of the town. In addition to these advantages, Aberystwith possesses a chalybeate spring. It has lately been put in thorough repair, being supplied with a pump and other conveniences. It is situated a few hundred yards east of the town, almost at the commencement of a pleasant walk, leading by Plâc-crug to Llanbadern. It is not unlike the Tunbridge waters. It contains valuable medicinal properties, but should not be used without medical advice. It is simply chalybeate, neither acidulous nor saline to the taste, except when it has been mingled with the sea-water at high tides. It is generally taken at eight in the morning, and again between breakfast and dinner, gradually increasing the dose according to age and habit.

The Races held here occur about August, in a field near Gogerddan, 3 miles distant, and usually last two days. Archery and cricket clubs have been also established and conducted with spirit. As an angling station, the vicinity of Aberystwith presents to the votaries of that pursuit many attractions. The autumnal fishing for salmon and sewin is excellent, and within a day's excursion there is good sport on the lakes. A Fly-fishing Club has lately been established here ; and, owing to their praiseworthy exertions in preserving the river from poachers, the angling has become greatly improved. Fly-fishing in the sea for bass is also much practised, as many as from four to six fish of from 3 to 5 lb. each, being frequently taken in a morning in fine bright weather.


1844

Royal Drought

Severe Drought

The King of Saxony's Journey Through England and Scotland in the Year 1844 - Carl Gustav Carus[25]

It was, however, nearly dark when we reached this watering place, where unfortunately the inn was nearly all occupied by tourists, so that it was not till after some trouble we could obtain lodgings, which we did at last in one of the neighbouring houses. As a sort of compensation for this a serenade was given to the illustrious guest, who was soon recognised - spite of his incognita, and at a late hour of the night, 'God save the Queen' was sung.

As I went out of the hotel early in the morning, in Aberystwith, the splendid green sea lay before me, and its mighty waves beat on the shore; a great variety of brown and gay fuci were thrown out on the sandhills, which formed the strand, whilst to the left, on a bold promontory, stood a ruined castle, whose dark walls formed a good contrast to the colour of the sea, reflected from its broken waves. As I walked up and down in front of the hotel, I was soon accosted by a boatman, - who asked me if I was not disposed to enjoy a bath on this fine sunny morning? True it is, that I earnestly longed to plunge into the refreshing waves, but here too, time was too limited to suffer me to indulge my inclination.

When we were afterwards at breakfast, a multitude of boatmen and townspeople collected before the house with music and all sorts of flags; they erected their standards, among which the royal ensigns of England floated at the top, and with such music as the place could afford, they favoured his majesty with a serenade, and concluded by a hearty hurrah. The scenes had and extremely pretty appearance as viewed from the window. In the foreground, the assemble boatmen and people with their waving colours, behind them the yellow sand, and further in the distanced the splendid smaragdine sea.

When the carriages were brought to the door for departure, the people did not fail to accompany the exalted traveller with their colours and music, and salute him by a continued round of hurrahs. The multitude thronged around, the postilions could only go at a walking pace, and we thus proceeded till we reached the bounds of the town, when the people drew up on both sides, and suffered the carriages to proceeds amidst an unceasing volley of cheers. In short, this old town was not willing that a king should be allowed to pass, notwithstanding his incognito, without every testimony of respect and honour, which it was in the power of the people to bestow. It is probably long since it has been visited by a monarch.

The King of Saxony at this time was 'Frederick Augustus II' and Carl Gustav Carus was his physician.

Illustration of Aberystwyth from 1844
Illustration of Aberystwyth from 1844

1845

Famine

A very wet summer and Potato blight devastates crops in Ireland leading to famine between 1846-1851. Civil servant Charles Trevelyan, was put in charge of handling the famine from London. He turned away food aid, closed soup kitchens and continued the export of Irish grown grains leaving the remaining meagre resources to 'free market' forces. These measures significantly contributed to the 750,000-1,000,000 death toll during these years. In 1848 Trevelyan was knighted for his services in Ireland!

Castle

Castle excavated to reveal more about its structure and history.

1847

Deaf and Dumb

Opening of the Cambrian Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in Pier Street. (This was the 1st such institution in Wales.) It was moved to Swansea in 1850

1850

Ships registered in Aberystwyth


1701
1
1799
99
1815
157
1850
213

World Population


-6000
0.01
-4000
0.02
-2000
0.03
-1000
0.05
- 500
0.10
1
0.20
1000
0.31
1750
0.79
1800
0.98
1850
1.26
1900
1.65
1950
2.52
1955
2.76
1960
2.98
1965
3.33
1970
3.69
1975
4.07
1980
4.43
1985
4.83
1990
5.26
1995
5.67
2000
6.07
2005
6.45
2010
6.89
in Billions

1851

Census

1020 houses in Aberystwyth.
213 ships registered in the harbour employing 900 seaman and boys.

1853

Monument

A monument, in the shape of an upturned cannon, to the Duke of Wellington erected on Pendinas

1854

August: Cholera

A Cholera outbreak in a small part of London would kill 500 people in 10 days. Although the vector for Cholera would not be identified until 1883, physician John Snow was able to implicate a contaminated water supply for its spread, which many regard as the founding study of modern epidemiology.

Laws of Thought

Bringing together some of his earlier work, George Boole publishes An Investigation of the Laws of Thought on Which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities which will become the basis of 'logic' in computer design and programming.

April: University Campaign Starts

Meeting held in London between various eminent London Welshmen and dissenting Welsh ministers to debate how a non-sectarian national Welsh university could be formed. This is to eventually lead to the formation of Aberystwyth University in 1872.
(Given the rise of non-conformist religion in Wales it proved too difficult to base the proposed new national university around the Anglican St David's [theological] College in Lampeter - despite it already having a Royal Charter.) [9]

1855

Town Hall #2 pulled down

The Town hall was pulled down and replaced by a Town Clock (at the top of Greatdarkgate street)

1856

Colour

While washing out the lab-ware after a failed experiment W.H. Perkin noticed a rich violet solution. What he had created was the world's 1st synthetic dye. So profitable was this dye that the search for other colours of synthetic dye started the modern chemical industry.

1857

Town Hall #3

New Town Hall completed on the site of the 'Bella Vita' restaurant (formally the Talbot Hotel)

Town Clock
Town Clock

Clock

Town Clock was built for £1250 on the site of the old Town Hall. It was 63 feet high. [7]

1859

October 25-26: Storm

Considered to be the most severe storm to hit the Irish Sea in the 19th century.

The Aberystwith Observer, 29 October

DANGER OF WEARING HOOPS IN HIGH WINDS

During the wind on Tuesday evening last, and while the darkness was so thick that no one could see more than the length of an eye lash in front, a well dressed lady, in coming round one of the corners, was lifted off her feet by the force of the wind acting on the wide expanse of surface which she presented to it. The wind, unfortunately, did not send her down in the position in which she was before being taken up, but turning her gently on one side, it laid her endwise on the sidewalk, where she commenced a series of astonishing gyrations rolling over and over on the hoops of the skirts, and exhibiting a species of locomotion which is not yet generally appreciated, and which may come into fashion, with high winds, and large circuits of light material. Fortunately for the lady, the darkness and astonishment of the people out of doors permitted but a few to witness this new method of getting along in a stiff breeze, and keeping of full sail at the same time.

The Aberystwith Observer, 5 November

THE LATE STORMS

In common with the country in general, the Welsh Coast has suffered much during the recent gales, and our own part of the coast has had its share in the mishaps, as the tears and moans of the widows and orphans testify. Men well known, in the middle of their days, cut off suddenly from their families have left a void never to be replaced. Such disastrous losses have not been experienced at least for 20 years, and some of our older sailors say they never remember so many losses from one violation. A subscription for the sufferers has been suggested; & we hope it will be carried out.

On Tuesday, during the last gale, a large vessel was reported in sight off the Terrace, and considerable apprehensions were entertained as she approached the coast, between this place and Aberdovey, lest she should get ashore or be stranded on the reefs there. She came to anchor however in good holding ground, and weathered the night in safety. Next morning a boatful of hardy sailors put off from the Weeg rocks, and, after 2 or 3 hours' hard pulling, reached the ship, and stayed by her till next day, when the greater number returned, leaving 3 hands on board to assist the crew. The vessel proved to be the Nelson, from Nova Scotia, British America, with timber for Liverpool. Luckily the Plynlymon Steamer was in port for Liverpool, and look her in tow in the direction of Bardsey.


The Aberystwith Observer, 19 November

BODY WASHED ASHORE

The body of a man, apparently of middle age, was. washed ashore on Friday last at Borth, near this town. It was in a decomposed state, and minus a head. No clue could be obtained as to its identity. An inquest was held on the body before J. M. Davies, Esq., Coroner, and a respectable jury, when a verdict of-Found Dead was returned.

THE LATE SHIPWRECKS & LOSS OF LIFE

ON Tuesday last a meeting was held, at the Town Hall, pursuant to a requisition, for the purpose of sympathizing with and aiding the suffering widows and orphans left destitute in this townand neighbourhood by the late awful calamities at sea.
.....
The storm, or I should say the hurricane of the 25th of last month, was, I believe the severest within the memory of most of those now present; and it has told in its ravages with awful consequences along the whole coast of Great Britain, including this town and its neighbourhood. And we have to lament the loss of many valuable lives and property. This is patent to all of us, and makes it perfectly needless that I should occupy your time any further than to invite your earnest co-operation and pecuniary contributions in aid of the widowed mothers and orphan children residing in the town and neighbourhood.
.....
T. O. MORGAN, Esq., said,—the disastrous effects of the late gales that swept over the country, three weeks since, are too fresh in our memory to need being recalled. The loss of one of the finest liners out of Liverpool, at the entrance almost of her port of destination, has raised the sympathies of the whole country. Many vessels were driven ashore, and some wrecked in our harbours of refuge; and that vast pile of naval architecture, the Great Eastern, was for sometime in imminent peril at her moorings. Nor was the tempest that did so much damage amongst large shipping, likely to pass over with impunity more humble craft; for the storm which commenced from the North East blew for a considerable time right upon the Welsh coast, making that a lee shore; the consequence was that our coast has been lined with wrecks, from Beaumaris to Cardiff, in the Bristol Channel. So destructive a gale has not been witnessed within the memory of our oldest sailors. But while havoc has been so general, our own port in particular seems to have had more than its share in the mishaps that occurred on that fatal night and morning. Several vessels of this port, with their crews, are lost-many that were well known to us as our neighbours and fellow townsmen. Among the number some of the very smartest and most active sailors have perished, and are now the prey of that devouring element that spares none of its victims. The deep is now their grave, and the rolling tide their winding sheet. The character of the British sailor has ever been the pride of the country. There is so much of manly daring united with almost woman's tenderness in the character, that indulgence is given to the peculiarity of sailors that would not be passed over in others and therefore when trouble and losses come upon them, they are sure to meet with compassionate attention (Cheers). In this town considerable sums are invested in shipping, and, in a pecuniary point of view, the late losses are great.. We all know how anxious every captain is to have a ship of his own, or at least as many shares as possible in one; but there are constant drawbacks and losses, besides competition in freights, that make the apparent owner a captain less than nominal, though registered perhaps as owner. The very insurance money on loss would go often not to the family of the lost captain, but to those who are creditors in the ship. And now, in conclusion, I will ask those assembled here, When you think of that fearful storm, and of the mariner exposed to its fury, find in his last struggle for life when the gushing tide was overwhelming him, for whom do you think his last thoughts and prayers were directed but for those for whom your sympathy is asked - his wife, soon to become his widow, and his children, as seen to become orphans. Cheers.

Mr. MORGAN then proposed, and THOMAS JONES, Esq., seconded, That in the opinion of this meeting the great losses in lives and property in shipping connected with this port, which occurred from the gale of the 25th and 26th ultimo, call upon us for la declaration of warm sympathy with the suffering relatives and families of those that were lost on that occasion.

A. H. NOVELLI, Esq., in moving the second resolution said, - Sympathy alone will not alleviate the distresses of the suffering widows and orphans. You must give practical effect thereto, by aiding them with liberal subscriptions. And I now call upon all of you who have wives and children to cooperate in this benevolent object. Mr. Novelli then moved that subscription list be opened for the relief of the widows and orphans, whose husbands and fathers were lost in the late storms which H. O. HOLMES, Esq., seconded.

Several gentlemen here suggested that the subscriptions should be limited to the widows and orphans of the town, but it was eventually agreed that Borth should be included.

November 24: The Origin of Species

Charles Darwin publishes On the origin of Species