The Cob, Porthmadog

Following the interesting story of building the Cob at Porthmadog

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The Cob, Porthmadog

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Traeth Mawr Causeway, Porthmadog

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The Cob, Porthmadog

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Cob, Porthmadog 1961

Cob Porthmadog

Building the Cob in Porthmadog was William Alexander Madocks' (1773-1828) idea. The Madocks family came from Denbighshire originally, though William Alexander Madocks was brought up in London. He built the towns of Porthmadog (Port Madoc originally) and Tremadog.

Crossing from Penrhyndeudraeth and Minffordd to the Penmorfa side in Caernarfonshire was very dangerous. People had to employ experienced guides to cross the sands safely, and a boat had to be used at high tide.

When the Act of Union was signed in 1800, traffic to North Wales was likely to rise. Madocks tried to build a port for ships to Dublin from the area outside Tremadog. Madocks built Tremadog; he bought the land in 1798 and began building a modern town, but then he saw an opportunity to increase his property holdings by building the Cob along the River Glaslyn estuary.

The first sea-wall


When he had bought the land, he built an earth sea-wall from Trwynygraig, Prenteg to Clogyberth, now Porthmadog. This semicircle was around two miles in length. By doing this he succeeded in reclaiming around 2000 acres of good land, and as the tides sometimes caused significant damage, there was plenty of continuous repair work to be done.

But Madocks was not content with the success of his small sea-wall. He decided to build a stone sea-wall across the Traeth Mawr, from Ynys Towyn in Caernarfonshire to Penrhyn Point in Meirionethshire, with the intention of reclaiming thousands of acres of land. He went to Parliament and got the government's seal of approval to build a sea-wall to shut out the sea from Traeth Mawr.

The measure was presented to Parliament by Thomas Parry Jones-Parry, Madryn, in 1807, and to prepare for the work Madocks bought Penrhyn Isaf farm for building stone.

Building the Cob

Work began properly in March 1805, and within a few months nearly 400 people from all over Wales and Britain were working on it. Some cut stone and others loaded and unloaded. There was plenty of work for carpenters and masons. To begin with, smithies, carpenters' workshops and stables were built at Boston Lodge. This was where the workers lodged. There were difficulties whilst building from the Caernarfonshire side as the water was deeper and the tide was rough against Cae Iago Point.

The Cob was opened officially on 17 September 1811. A four day feast and an Eisteddfod were held to celebrate.

On 14 February, only five months after opening, a storm ripped a hole in the sea-wall. Local people raised a substantial sum of money to repair it, and the Cob was opened for a second time in 1814.

Changes to the Cob

The sea-wall was repaired, and Madocks began building a port. By 1824 ships were regularly sailing in and out. But by now Holyhead had been chosen as the best place to cross to Dublin, and the Menai Bridge was being built. The Madocks family nearly lost all its money as a result, but was saved by the growing slate industry in Blaenau Ffestiniog. A railway line connecting the two places was built, and Porthmadog grew to be one of the world's biggest slate exporting ports.

There was a tollgate on the Cob from the beginning, and it remained until 2003 when the Welsh Assembly Government bought the site. The last five pence toll was paid at 3pm on Saturday 29 March 2003.

The Cob is an important junction between South and North-west Wales. In 2002 it was widened enough for buses and lorries to pass eachother, and a footpath and cycle lane was added to the inner side of the Cob, which now forms part of the Lôn Las Cymru national cycle route.

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