Dolgarrog is a village and community in
Conwy County Borough, in
Wales, situated between
Llanrwst and Conwy, very close to the Conwy
River. The village is well known for its industrial history since the
18th century and the Eigiau dam disaster, which occurred in 1925. The
population was 414 at the 2001 Census, increasing to 446 at the
The village is served by
Dolgarrog railway station, a halt on the
other side of the river Conwy.
Surf Snowdonia, the worlds first commercial artificial surfing lake is
located in Dolgarrog.
1.1 The legend of Y Garrog
1.2 The Black Death
1.3 The Gunpowder Plot
3 'Garden City'
4 Dam disaster
5 Garden Art
6 The Lord Newborough
8 External links
The legend of Y Garrog
Believed to have been established around 1200 AD,
Dolgarrog is said to
have got its name from a flying dragon called Y Garrog. This mythical
beast preyed on livestock and
Dolgarrog (The Garrog's meadow) was the
favourite meadow on which it swooped down from the heights above to
carry off sheep. So serious were the losses that the farmers went on a
dragon hunt armed with bows, arrows and spears.
One farmer, Nico Ifan, refused to go, claiming a dream had forewarned
him the Garrog would cause his death. His fellow farmers laid a
poisoned sheep's carcass on the heights above
Eglwysbach across the
river. The unsuspecting Garrog seized the bait, was caught and beaten
Nico Ifan then came along to gloat over the dead dragon and cursed and
kicked the corpse, whereupon the poisoned barbed wing of the Garrog
pierced his leg thus fulfilling the death warning in his dream.
The Black Death
In the 1350s the
Black Death took a heavy toll in the lower Conwy
Valley, particularly among the bond tenants regulated by the King's
officers from Aberconwy, Edward I's new English borough. Their visits
and contacts in effect spread the disease. Some townships of villeins,
or crown tenants, such as Dolgarrog, were swept away. People left
their lands or hid, unable to pay the taxes on their holdings.
The Gunpowder Plot
A man privy to Guy Fawkes'
Gunpowder Plot is said to have lived in the
house Ardda'r Myneich (Monks Hill), whose ruins lie in the fields
above the road between Porthlwyd and
Dolgarrog bridges. Dr Thomas
Williams (1550–1622), rector of St Peter's Church,
Llanbedr-y-Cennin, was charged with having papist sympathies. He had
warned Sir John Wynn of Gwydir to stay away from the Houses of
Parliament on that fateful day.
Dolgarrog's industrialisation began in the 18th century with a flour
mill on Porthlwyd river to crush corn for local farmers. There was
also a woollen mill at
Dolgarrog bridge and the Abbey mill.
The successful Porthlwyd mill was expanded by John Lloyd, son of
founder Richard Lloyd. As well as grinding flour, he bought machines
to make paper and flock for bedding.
Paper from Porthlwyd supplied
local printers, including John Jones, printer of
Trefriw and later
In 1885 the villagers wanted to start a school at Porthlwyd. The old
Dolgarrog appealed to Mr Robins, the then proprietor of the
paper-mill. He let them turn a large empty room at the mill into a
flourishing Sunday School, known locally as Ystafell y drws goch ("the
room with the red door") to make sure the children did not wander into
the mill workings.
Dolgarrog sawmill of John Williams also flourished. It exported
hundreds of tons of wooden railway sleepers for the new railways
between 1845 and 1865. When the first sod was cut for the Conway and
Llanrwst Railway track on 25 August 1860, on Lord Newborough's land at
Abbey, Dolgarrog, it was John Williams who supplied the sleepers.
The aluminium works (or "smelter") was originally planned in 1895.
Water from reservoirs in the
Snowdonia Mountains would provide the
hydro-electricity needed to run the mill.
In 1907, aluminium production began in the factory and in 1916 a
rolling mill was added. In 1924, the hydro-electric plant was built
next to the aluminium works to assist in the running of the mill.
Second World War
Second World War the aluminium works were under the control
Ministry of Aircraft Production and provided parts for
aircraft. It is rumoured that the
Luftwaffe tried to destroy the
works, but the bomber that was sent was shot down, and crash-landed in
the mountains above the village.
Under the management of Henry Joseph Jack, the
Dolgarrog acquired a controlling interest in the North
& Traction Company in 1918. This company had been established by
Act of Parliament in 1904, taking over powers awarded to the
Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway to build a
hydro-electric power station in Nant Gwynant for railway purposes, as
well as a 2 ft gauge electric railway serving the places named in
the 1901 Portmadoc, Beddgelert & South Snowdon Railway Act. With
the vision expanding to supply power to north
Wales industries, the
railway company was divested of its power-generating powers by another
1904 Act but remained under control of the power company; one of its
assets was the 2 ft gauge horse-worked Croesor Tramway. Working
with Pwllheli solicitor, and friend of the politician David Lloyd
George, Evan Robert Davies and Dundee distiller Sir John Henderson
Stewart Bt, Jack was a key player in the development of the Welsh
Highland Railway, taking over the North
Wales Narrow Gauge Railways,
reconstructing part of the
Croesor Tramway for steam working, linking
them with a new railway around Beddgelert and connecting the whole to
Festiniog Railway at Portmadoc. The trio also acquired control of
Festiniog Railway Company and the Snowdon Mountain Tramroad &
Hotels Company Ltd, running them all from
Dolgarrog for a
The factory is no longer operating, smelting having already ceased in
the 1940s. Alcoa bought out the company Luxfer in 2000 and announced
its closure in June 2002.
Aluminium Ltd formed in 2002 and
acquired the assets from Alcoa in 2002. The factory closed in late
2007, and was demolished in 2009. In 2015 an artificial wave pool,
Surf Snowdonia, opened on the site.
Prior to the construction of the
Dolgarrog had little
in the way of a population. Much of the housing seen today along the
main street in
Dolgarrog was built by the
Aluminium Corporation. In
May 1908 the Welsh Coast Pioneer and Review reported their intentions
The report that the
Aluminium Corporation, Ltd., contemplate erecting
numerous semi-detached houses for their employees, at Dolgarrog, of
the character of a "Garden City" is exciting considerable interest,
and the completion of the plans of the first portion of the scheme, by
Mr A. Morley Jonee, architect, Llanrwst, are looked forward to.
Included in the scheme is a commodious hotel and several shops. The
Corporation will employ from 400 to 500 men, and these, with their
families, will dwell in the "Garden City", giving a considerable
impetus to the local trades, which will naturally benefit by the
Whilst a limited number of houses was subsequently built, the Company
did also build a hotel and a church. The Works also prompted more
house building in neighbouring villages; three managers, for instance,
lived in Trefriw.
Officials, journalists and survivors mingle on the street in the
aftermath of the disaster. The man with the child in his arms, Edward
Holland Roberts, was a butcher whose shop was washed away in the
On 2 November 1925, the failure of two dams caused a flood that
swamped the village of Dolgarrog, killing 16 people. The disaster was
started by the failure of the Eigiau Dam, a gravity dam owned by the
Aluminium Corporation. The water released from the reservoir flooded
downstream, and overtopped the Coedty Dam, an embankment dam. This
dam also subsequently failed, releasing the huge volume of water that
Many more villagers could have been killed had they not been in the
local theatre watching a film that night.
The disaster at
Dolgarrog led the British parliament to pass the
Reservoirs (Safety Provisions) Act in 1930 that introduced laws on the
safety of reservoirs. This has since been updated, and the current one
is the Reservoirs Act, 1975.
In 2004 a £60,000 memorial trail was created, explaining the tragic
story to walkers. The trail takes visitors to where the boulders from
the damaged dam reside. The project was opened by the last survivor of
the dam disaster, Fred Brown, who on that night lost his mother and
his younger sister.
The construction of Eigiau dam had been facilitated by the
construction of the Eigiau Tramway, which largely followed the route
Cedryn Quarry Tramway from Dolgarrog. The incline was upgraded
(and the lower section re-aligned), enabling steam engines to reach
the starting point of the tramway, near Coedty reservoir. The tramway
was built to standard gauge, but was subsequently relaid in narrow
gauge (from about 1916) when the
Cowlyd Tramway was begun. This latter
tramway branched off from the Eigiau tramway at the top of the
The line of the railway incline has today been replaced by a second
pipeline, and the adjoining hillsides are wooded. However, there is a
public footpath which goes up the hillside to the left of the
pipeline, and in places the timberwork can still be seen. Today the
left pipeline (viewed from Dolgarrog) carries water from Llyn Cowlyd,
the right pipeline carries water from Coedty reservoir.
To the south of the Health Centre the remains of a lower incline (the
old route of the Cedryn Tramway) can still be seen. This incline,
which joined the upper section a little above the village, passed
through a short tunnel under the road at Tyddyn Isaf, visible from the
From here the original quarry tramway continued across the marshland
to the edge of the River
Conwy at Porth Llwyd wharf.
Commenced in 2001, Garden Art is a local business that brings
together both tasteful and unusual antique and contemporary garden
statuary, tubs, architectural antiques, and specimen plants, all of
which are displayed within a 10-acre (40,000 m2) site in the
natural beauty of the
Snowdonia National Park in Wales. As well as
selling all kinds of sculptures, it also claims to have the "World's
Largest Hedge Maze" covering over 2 acres (8,100 m2) of land.
The Lord Newborough
Built during the 1800s, the building in later years became a local pub
for the villagers of
Dolgarrog for many years[when?]. In the mid-1990s
it became the only restaurant in the village, mostly serving
traditional Welsh food, sourced locally from the
Conwy Valley. The pub
closed for business in September 2010, and is now a private
^ Neighbourhood Statistics (2004-04-28). "View or Download Data: view
full dataset". Neighbourhood Statistics. Retrieved 2012-02-11.
^ "Community population 2011". Retrieved 22 May 2015.
Wales - The killing fields of Dolgarrog".
Icnorthwales.icnetwork.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-02-11.
^ Johnson, Peter; An Illustrated History of the Welsh Highland
Railway; Oxford Publishing Co, 2nd edition 2009
^ Johnson, Peter; An Illustrated History of the Festiniog Railway;
Oxford Publishing Co, 2007, reprinted 2014
^ Johnson, Peter; An Illustrated History of the Snowdon Mountain
Railway; Oxford Publishing Co, 2010
^ Claire Marshall (31 July 2015). "
Wales surf wave generator starts
up". BBC News. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
^ "Havoc Death and Desolation (1925) [film of water escaping from
burst reservoir]". YouTube. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
Dolgarrog disaster area, North
Wales [general views of the area as
at June 2017]". YouTube. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
^ "'Nov. 2nd 1925. The
Dolgarrog Disaster' (1925) :: Gathering
the Jewels". Education.gtj.org.uk. 1925-11-02. Archived from the
original on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-02-11.
^ "Garden Art - Garden Statues and Ornaments (Japanese style a
Conwy Valley Maze". Gardenartdirect.co.uk. Retrieved
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dolgarrog.
A Vision of Britain Through Time
British Listed Buildings
Dolgarrog Railway Society
Gathering the Jewels: The
IC North Wales: The Killing Fields of Dolgarrog
Office for National Statistics
Conwy County Borough
Other towns and villages
Betws yn Rhos
Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr
Betws yn Rhos
Kinmel Bay and Towyn
Llanddoged and Maenan
Llanddulas and Rhyd-y-foel
Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr
Llansanffraid Glan Conwy
Rhos on Sea
Afon Ddu (Drum)
Castles and forts
Pen y Gaer
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings
Rivers & streams
Afon Gallt y Gwg
Nant y Goron
Afon Ddu (1)
Afon Ddu (2)
Grey Mare's Tail
Hills & mountains
Mynydd y Dref
Tal y Fan
Castles & forts
Pen y Gaer
Conwy Suspension Bridge
Pont Fawr (Llanrwst)
Waterloo Bridge (Betws-y-coed)
Cadair Ifan Goch
Conwy RSPB reserve
Snowdonia National Park
Trefriw Woollen Mills
Conwy Valley line
Betws-y-Coed railway station
Dolgarrog railway station
Conwy railway station
Llanrwst railway station
Llanrwst railway station
Tal-y-Cafn railway station
Energy in Wales
Energy in the United Kingdom
Companies and organisations
Western Power Distribution
Gwynt y Môr