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The way we communicate, shop, buy goods and find information has gone through many changes during recent years. Before the arrival of first, the turnpike road and then railway during the 19th century Criccieth was an isolated community in a remote part of the country. News from the outside world was slow reaching the district and was mostly brought back by returning sailors and animal drovers. People had to be self sufficient and most food, produce and goods was bought or bartered in fairs and markets. Hawkers, tinkers and pedlars would roam the countryside selling small items.
The improvement in road and rail communication brought great changes. The development of nearby Porthmadog increased the maritime trade particularly the weekly service back and forth to Liverpool by the little steam ship SS Rebecca. Before the railway arrived stage coaches provided transport between main towns and England and carriers delivered goods around town and between towns and villages. During Victorian times Criccieth developed as a seaside resort and shops were built along the High Street. Life was improving but there was still poverty. At the beginning of the 20th century there were no social benefits or old age pensions and some had to depend on relatives, charity or worse of all, the workhouse. People found ways of earning a penny or two by selling small items to survive. A. Evelyn James describes some of these characters in the little book “Lle Treigla’r Dwyfor” (Where the Dwyfor flows) published by the Women’s Institute. The most unusual was Wil “Wialen Wedw” who wandered the streets selling bundles of birch twigs. These were familiar at one time and were used to beat naughty children though often the threat was sufficient! His call of “WALW WEDW” would terrify the children. Another was an old tramp who sold small bunches of water cress. Women, often widows, would buy fish from the fishermen on the beach and sell them door to door or in the street and the cockle women from Penrhyndeudraeth with a sack of cockles on their back would sell them by the jam pot full and would wander as far as Criccieth especially on fair days. The clamour of these sellers shouting out their wares was drowned out by Guto Pritchard the town crier. He was a familiar figure on Pont Cwrt, ringing his bell and bellowing out announcements from the Town Council, upcoming events and advertisements. There would be entertainers and musicians, even a German “Oompah Band on one occasion, performing on the Maes or down at the promenade but these were not welcomed by the Town Council and were chased away! Most of the shops had ponies and traps for delivering their orders, later replaced by boys on bicycles. The last of these was Griff Owen, the butcher’s boy in the 1980s. Builders, painters, carpenters and other tradesmen had hand carts to carry their tools and material. The smells, noise and activities of the High Street were completely different to today. Except for the heavy traffic passing through the town the High Street and Y Maes are much quieter though it is still pleasant to sit or stand at Pont y Cwrt chatting to acquaintances and watching the world go by.

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