Betws y Coed
Betws y Coed is one of the villages that has seen the most change in Snowdonia since the area was designated a National Park in 1951. Betws y Coed is also a ‘Conservation Area’ to ensure that any change there is in keeping with the surrounding built environment.
We are extremely grateful to the Tomos family who have kindly donated a library of interesting old photographs to the Authority. This collection was the main inspiration of the Snowdonia Past & Present project.
In addition, Robat and Dilys Tomos, who have lived in Betws y Coed for over 60 years, took time to give us a valuable insight into the photos and some of the stories behind them.
Betws y Coed
In the 1950s, Betws y Coed was primarily a Welsh speaking, Chapel attending community. There were two chapels in the village, and a smaller one at Pentre Du up the road.
Betws had experienced tourism since the 18th century being on the A5 post road. The local area used to attract numerous artists because of its beautiful views and romantic feel. New names appeared such as the ‘Swallow Falls’ rather than Rhaeadr Ewynnol and Ffos Noddun instead of ‘Fairy Glen’ as hotels and guests houses were built. Tourism was something that happened in the summer months with Betws reverting back to the locals in Winter. Then it all changed. With the A55 in the 1970’s came a new type of tourist. Daytrippers and weekend visitors.
Houses became shops and B&Bs and Chapels changed use from being places of worship to selling outdoor equipment. Existing shops became more specialised, selling crafts and mountain equipment quite different from the Ironmongers and grocers of the past.
Betws y Coed
This change also had an effect on the Welsh language. In 1901, 79% of the population spoke only Welsh. By 1961 65% were bilingual. By 2011, the figure for bilingual citizens in the community area fell to 49%.
Tourism has had a huge effect on Betws y Coed, but one might wonder how the place would look and feel like today without it.
The Royal Oak
An old coaching Inn stood here when the Post coach travelled the A5 from London to Dublin. The current building was built in the 1860s and is a popular destination for overnight visitors. Although this picture was taken in the 1960s, the hotel has had a colourful history. It was a hub for 19th century artists visiting the area and housed 240 students of the Dulwich Preparatory School during the Blitz.
Pont y Pair
Pont y Pair in the 1930s. There is hardly any change here between the two photographs. A mill was based at the far right on Trefriw road, with a channel from the river Llugwy running behind to turn the wheel. During the Second World War, it was used for storing food and goods. In the Autumn, salmon return upstream to their spawning grounds and must leap the rocks here; quite a spectacle if you’re here after heavy rain. The bridge itself dates from the 1500's and has five arches. You can walk underneath it to admire the old architecture, and it's 'new' extension.
The Railway Station
The Station was built in the 1868 to carry slate from Dolwyddelan and Blaenau Ffestiniog to the quays at Deganwy. The station and railway promoted tourism by enabling visitors from Chester, Manchester and Liverpool to reach Betws y Coed. This picture was taken in the 1960s. Some change has occured, but the theme of the cafes and shops remains the same.
The Old Stables
A 1930s photograph. The stables used to be owned by the Royal Oak Hotel, and have been used by a vast array of different businesses over the years. Amongst other things, it has been used as blacksmiths, a carpenter’s workshop, as a garage and a fire station. Today, numerous businesses are present at the Stables and it is also the home of the National Park Authority’s Information Centre in the village.
Climber & Rambler
A 1970s picture of the ‘Climber & Rambler’. The hustle and bustle of the first mainstream tourism decade in the area is clear to see. Although closed today, this pre-1970 building used to be the Betws y Coed Urban Disctrict Council building with public toilets.
Upstairs Downstairs / Trespass
Here are pictures illustrating controlled development permitted in the National Park. Originally this was a grocer's store before it became a cafe. Although the building has been modified slightly, the main features have all been kept. Today’s image reflects the growing trend of mountaineering and activity holidays, which Betws y Coed has become accustomed to for quite some time.