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Pencei and the Harbour.

The castle rock provided shelter from the prevailing winds. The big boulders were dragged to one side to form a rough breakwater where fishing boats and small coastal ships would beach at high tide. In 1890 the foundation stone was laid for a new harbour which was part of a grandiose plan by Sir Hugh Ellis Nanney to build a major port. The main breakwater would have extended from the end of the castle rock. The Criccieth Pier and Harbour Company failed to raise enough finance and ran out of money with only half the smaller inner pier built. That’s how it remains today despite many efforts by the boatmen, David Lloyd George the local MP, and the town council to get it completed, right up to recent times. The breakwater or “Cob” gave some protection to the area known as the “Pencei” (Pierhead). This was a very busy place. At least a dozen small ships were built here at the beginning of the 19th century. The locally owned trading smacks and schooners would take slates from Traeth Mawr and later Porthmadog all around the coast and would return with limestone, coal and other goods and beach at high tide to be unloaded. Fishing boats landed their catches; the herring and mackerel would be smoked or pickled in barrels of brine and taken by horse and cart as far as Bala. Women would buy

fish and carry them around the town and district to sell. In the 1850s the first lifeboat arrived and was kept in a hut on Pencei. The crew of the lifeboat were the fishermen, boatmen and mariners home on leave. Everyone would help to launch the boat including the women. In quiet times, on nice days, folk would congregate here to discuss local news and the sailors would yarn about the ships that they sailed on and places they had been. This painting of Pencei by William Cadwalader (1879-1962) records an incident at the start of the 20th C where herring are being unloaded from the boats and pickled in barrels. The original painting hangs in Ysgol Treferthyr, Criccieth.

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