Mawddach Crescent, Arthog

Along the southern flank of the area above the floodplain, Arthog (the name is supposed to be derived from a personal name, although there is no evidence for this) is a small, ribbon settlement alongside the main A493, originating in the mid-19th-century. In 1894, Solomon Andrews (the Cardiff businessman who was also responsible for the development of Pwllheli amongst other holiday resorts at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries) purchased several farms and land at Arthog, including Tyddyn Siefre with its now defunct quarry and tips (see area 15). In 1899 he built a network of tramways to carry quarry waste from the tips to build a sea-wall facing the estuary, where Mawddach Crescent was built over the next three to four years. He had hoped that this would also, in tandem with Fairbourne, develop into a holiday resort but it never really took off, with the Crescent being the only completed part of the development.

The Crescent is situated on a private road, near Arthog, 9 miles from Dolgellau.

Early in August 1899 two tramcars arrived and were placed on the lines. Although building at Mawddach Crescent was not completed until late 1902, visitors could take the tramcar to reach the sands at that place, Andrews doubtless also having in mind the eventual letting of the new Crescent houses when finished. Mawwdach Crescent was the top of the range, hidden by the wooded hills of Fegla Fawr. The middle of the range was St. Mary's Terrace sheltered from the prevailing southwesterly winds by the 20m. high mound of Ynysgyffylog.

At the Mawddach Crescent site a series of cuttings had to be blasted through a headland and a rocky promontory at the eastern end of the bay to allow the tramway access. A small promenade was constructed by erecting a slate slab sea wall, which acted as a defence against erosion. The bay behind the wall was infilled with tramloads of quarry waste. Ifor Higgon estimated that forty-two wagonloads were dumped each day at a cost of 11d. (£0.05) per load. The first edition 25 inch Ordnance Survey map and early postcards dated 1901, 1902 and 1903 show that there were originally nine double-fronted houses “substantial buildings, three storeys with bay windows and balconies and being of excellent workmanship and quality present a pleasing appearance.“ The balconies were probably the upper floor gable windows. Only No. 1 has glass doors opening onto the top of the bays. These were not shown in the postcard photographs which shows that they were added later.

The last house to be built, No. 9. It was later to collapse as the result of subsidence. It is thought that the seawall stopped the groundwater flowing into the sea and the build up behind it eventually led to the eastern end being unsafe. The right hand downstairs rooms were incorporated into No. 8 and a bungalow was constructed on the site. This must have happened after 1903 as the earliest postcards of the Crescent show ten chimneys. Once knowledge of the structural problems on these sites became public knowledge, potential occupants would have been deterred and house values must have dropped. It has also been suggested as being a factor in Mr. Andrews curtailing his plans for Arthog, discouraging him from further investment in the remaining part of the estate which was dominated by low-lying bog.

As long ago as 1906 Mawddach Crescent was an an artists' quarter. Mark Bourne's work 'On the Left bank of the Mawddach' was written in 1967, when there was much student unrest in France. In it he referred to Artists' Row. "Artists' quarters, like Topsy, just grow. And, when, last year Paris started building a ready-made colony for her artists, questions were asked. Would the idea work out? Well, one answer can be found beside the sea in Merioneth. For here, as long ago as 1906, an artists' colony was constructed. Like all authentic artists' quarters The Crescent, Arthog stands on the left bank - the River Gauche, this time of the Mawddach estuary.

Over the years the course of the main channel in the river changed coming ever closer to Mawddach Crescent. This was another reason for the Andrews to sell the development. Each sale included a responsibility of maintaining the sea wall. As the sandy bay was eroded, cartloads of slate slabs from a local quarry were dumped below the sea wall to prevent further erosion. During the 1950s and 60s a change in the currents moved the channel further north. This resulted in the build up of a more sandy shore in front of the sea wall. In the 1980s the River Authority made much needed repairs to the sea wall. Instead of a worn and rounded top it was replaced with a flat, concrete top and the front wall was improved with concrete cladding. Over recent years the main channel has migrated to the south side again and in the 1990s a seaweed covered rocky foreshore with some muddy flats is exposed at low tide.

 

Jane Evans (nee Thomas) b1835