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Bangor b&b, guesthouse and hotel accommodation

Bangor in Gwynedd

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Bangor, Gwynedd. The town faces Ang1esey across the Menai Straits, and is about 2 miles North East of the suspension bridge across them. Its present importance is largely that of a university town and centre of learning. Its earliest origin is suggested by its name. “Bangor” is explained as meaning either a great circle or a wattle enclosure; perhaps the two have a common source in a circular enclosure designed to surround a place of worship or of communal habitation. Its possibly religious significance is supported by the well-attested facts that the Mona (Anglesey) known to the Romans on their first serious invasion of Britain was the centre of the schools of learning called Druidic, and that the other Bangor, near Chester, named Bangor-Is-Coed (Bangor This Side of the Woodlands) was in the 5th and 6th centuries, a college of the Celtic Church, destroyed at the Battle of Chester in 615 by the victorious Aethelfrith, leader of Northumbria. it is possible that this Bangor by the Menai waters was founded as an offshoot of the Bangor on the Dee, since the first account of it is as a monastery created in the 5th century by St Deiniol, a son of the Abbot of Bangor-Is-Coed. The rules of the Celtic Church did not follow those of the later medieval Church; its saints were not necessarily clerics, but often laymen of standing who protected its foundations; its monasteries were independent bodies with considerable freedom of discipline, and their Abbots do not seem to have been bound by any requirement of celibacy.

The Cathedral of Bangor, an attractive building, gives an impression of decorous antiquity. The earlier structure was assailed in 1402 by Owain Glyndwr, in his assertion of Welsh independence as a separate kingdom: rebuilding was undertaken between 1496 and 1532. Its look now dates from a restoration by Gilbert Scott, 186670 and by Caroe, 196671. But it houses memorials to Owain of Gwynedd, King of North Wales, who died in 1169 and was buried in front of the high altar, and to a later celebrity, Goronwy Owen, poet and native of Anglesey, who died in 1769 in Virginia, U.S.A. In spite of its precedence among the churches of Wales, it keeps a pair of wooden tongs of the kind once used in remoter and smaller foundations for dealing with outbreaks of discord among the dogs who accompanied their masters into the place of worship.

The University College was one of the four constituents of the University of Wales in 1884; the present buildings spring from those opened in 1911 and are set in Upper Bangor, the newer part of the town. The older and lower part where the Cathedral stands much crowded upon, in medieval style, by shops and houses can still show the Archdeacon's dwelling in which Shakespeare set the scene of Glendower's declaration that he could “summon spirits from the vasty deep”. It now forms part of a bank; whether this institution can make the same claim is perhaps a matter of opinion.

Ecclesiastically, Bangor was once renowned for the activities of its Bishop, Benjamin Hoadly, who in 1717-20 by the publication of his pamphlets The Nature of the Kingdom or Church of Christ and A Preservative Against the Principles and Practices of Nonjurors aroused what is still referred to as the Bangorian Controversy.

Lower Bangor drops down to the straits at Garth, where a pier leads out for over 500 yds, two-thirds of the passage across the water. And Porth Penrhyn near at hand still serves as a place of dispatch for the slate quarries at Bethesda. But these places once played a part in history.

From Bangor, more than from any other place, the command of the Island of Anglesey and the seas around it can be established. The fate of the Royalist uprising in the Second Civil War against the Parliamentary forces, after the capture and imprisonment of Charles I in Carisbrooke, was decided between Bangor and Beaumaris. This Second Civil War was, in some respects, a more serious and delicate matter than the First; not only Wales but the Marches along the English border, and Scotland too, were implicated. Montgomeryshire and Merioneth saw the gathering of Royalist malcontents particularly in Machynlieth, Pennal, and Llanidloes; Pembroke, Chepstow, and Shrewsbury were involved, and the invading Scots marched as far S. as Preston. Denbigh, Flint, and Conway were in arms; and the Royalist Welsh forces, under the main command of Sir John Owen of Clenennau, were able to rely on support both in Beaumaris and Bangor. But Sir John could neither organize his campaign competently nor accommodate himself with the Archbishop Williams who held Conway for the King. Cromwell showed no such incompetence; he beat the Scots soundly and left the decision in North Wales to an equally effective commander, one of the Welsh family of Mytton.

On the 5th June 1647, the Parliamentary forces under Twistleton and the Royalists under Sir John Owen met at a place called Dalar Hir, between Bangor and Aber on level ground near the shore. Since neither side wore distinctive battle-dress, passwords were used to distinguish friend from foe. As might be expected, the Puritans cried “Religion!” and the Royalists “Resolution!” Unluckily the two words were often mistaken for each other. The first encounter, between the “forlorns” or outriders of both sides, gave advantage to the King's cause; but, the main body of the Parliamentary troops coming up, the result was a rout of Owen's forces and his own wounding, unhorsing, and capture. His captor, as a reward, was granted the rents from Owen's estates. The immediate result seems to have been a general retreat of the Cavalier regiments from Mallwyd and Llanrwst upon Beaumaris. The defence of Anglesey was in some dispute between Byron, whom the Royalist command approved, and Bulkeley, the son of the local chief family, who suggested that his own generalship would do more honour to Wales than that of the Scot, Byron. Byron was given little choice in the matter, and with native foresight he decided to wait for a favourable wind and betake himself to Man. Mytton, for Parliament, had ships sent from Conway to Bangor, and when they arrived he crossed to invade. On the outskirts of Beaumaris the two sides engaged, young Bulkeley having made no attempt to contest the passage of the ships. A Parliamentary cavalry charge scattered the defenders from the field; and the Second Civil War was over. Among those who that day smote mightily for the Lord (of course on the Puritan side) was Vavasor Powell, a man devoted to Puritan evangelism, which he pursued both in writing and in the work of his hands. Born in Radnorshire and a schoolmaster at Clun, he had Cromwell's licence to preach and oversee the faith in Wales, and in that service he opposed Cromwell's appointment as Lord Protector of the Realm and suffered imprisonment.

Beaumaris surrendered, and its castle did so shortly afterwards. The citizens of the town neither embroiled themselves in the affair nor received any particular penalty. They and many others of the population seem to have looked on the war with indifference. More than once, Cavalier and Roundhead in the Welsh march-lands agreed on the site of battle, only to be laid about by the farming community with pitchfork, flail, and other discouragements and told to take their war somewhere else.

In the Civil War, Welsh poets and literary men were engaged on both sides. Contrary to Vavasor Powell (161770), his near contemporary Huw Morus (16221709) took the Royalist side; so did George Herbert, the cleric who was one of the greatest poets of the Anglo-Welsh Metaphysical school. The Goronwy Owen commemorated in Bangor Cathedral belonged to the 18th century. He was born in Anglesey, and, through the encouragement of the antiquarian Morris brothers, this tinker's son had his education at the Friars' School in Bangor. He became a cleric in the Church of England, which at that time was the official Church in Wales; but he made no headway. Perhaps his great interest and skill in his native language obstructed him. Many people think him the greatest Welsh poet of modem times. Undoubtedly he began the revival of the country's literature, which was beginning to fall into the hands of the wandering harp-men, who retained an unaffected lyricism but never attempted the heights that Goronwy Owen reached. He considered his Cywydd y Farn Fawr (Ode on the Great Judgment at the End of the World) his best work; it has been ranked with Milton's best. Bangor has his memorial: Virginia has his bones.

Nearby towns: Bethesda, Caernarfon, Llanberis, Llanfairfechan, Menai Bridge

Nearby villages: Aber, Beaumaris, Benllech, wm-y-Glo, Dinorwic, Gaerwen, Llanbedrgoch, Llanddona, Llanddyfnan, Llandegai, Llandegfan, Llanedwen, Llanfaes, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Llangefni, Llangoed, Llanllechid, Llanrug, Marian-Glas, Penmon, Pentraeth, Tregarth, Waenfawr

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