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Bradshaw’s Guide

Chester to Holyhead

Chester and Holyhead Railway

To tourists the Chester and Holyhead line offers an admirable means of reaching easily the most interesting spots in North Wales. Conway, with its glorious old castle and bridges, and Carnarvon, are within easy distance, as is also Snowdon’s huge peak, with the Clwydian Vale, and many other vallies of great beauty and celebrity, with an infinity of picturesque hills, waterfalls, and rums. The Menai Bridge should not be forgotten by the traveller along this line of railway, nor its still more wondrous neighbours the Conway and Britannia Tubular Bridges. The latter, in particular, is a mighty construction, its proportions being gigantic in the extreme, and impressing the beholder with admiration at its surpassing grandeur and design.

Upon the opening of this railway Holyhead resumed its importance as a packet station for steamers plying to Dublin. The Chester and Holyhead Railway affords increased facilities of communication between London and Dublin, which were previously usurped by Liverpool. The Chester and Holyhead Railway shortened the time occupied in the journey from London to Dublin about five hours, the journey from London to Holyhead occupying eight hours, and the voyage by fast steam packets from thence to Dublin four hours. Thus the line is a very important one, in shortening the distance between the chief city in the British Isles and the important capital of Ireland, and adds another noble power to government in the facilities of communication.

That very noble pile of buildings, in the Italian style, the Chester station, is the longest of all the railway termini in England, and is the joint station for the following railways: — The London and North Western, the Chester and Holyhead, the Chester and Shrewsbury, and the Birkenhead companies. Each of these have a separate terminus there.

The station consists of a facade facing the city of Chester, 1,050 feet long, built of dark coloured bricks, relieved with stone facings and dressings. The centre, which is two stories in height, contains on the ground-floor the usual offices, waiting and refreshment rooms; and on the upper, the offices of the Chester and Holyhead, and Shrewsbury and Chester Companies, in which the business connected with the whole of their lines is conducted.

The wings formed by projecting arcades, with iron roofs, are appropriated to private and public vehicles waiting the arrival of trains.

On the inner side of the office buildings, a large platform extends, which is chiefly used for departing trains, and is 700 feet long by 20 feet wide; this, and three fines of rails, are all covered in with an iron roof, 60 feet span, which is one of the most elegant yet constructed.

In consequence of one of the public roads of the city crossing the rails close to the station, it was necessary to erect a bridge across the line.

Before pursuing his journey on the Main Line the tourist cannot do better than take a rapid survey of the line to Mold, for which purpose we here introduce a short sketch.

Chester to Rhyl. — Main Line

From Chester the line of railway skirts along the side of the river Dee; afterwards its course, till near Conway, is close by the sea shore, and again it winds its way by the seaside to Beaumaris Bay, near Penmaen Mawr. The line of the railway being along the sea, much of the beautiful scenery of North Wales is lost; but by this route the undertaking was rendered easier of construction than it otherwise would have been. Yet there are many beautiful landscapes on the line, glimpses of the huge piles of mountains towering high above the vallies whence they rise; and ruins also to be noticed by the way-side, telling of ages past, adding historical interest to the charms of nature.

Upon leaving Chester the whistle of the engine announces our approach to the tunnel under North Gate Street and the adjacent gardens, and we immediately pass through this and merge through deep cuttings of red rock. The train then proceeds over the girder bridge, crossing the Ellesmere and Chester Canal, passing thence through the west angle of the city walls, on to the high and long embankment across the Tower Fields. The line is carried over a viaduct of 47 arches, and passes, on the left, the well known plains of Roodee, where the Chester races take place in the spring and autumn of the year.

Proceeding onwards, we cross the river Dee on the largest cast iron girder bridge in the kingdom, immediately after passing which the line traverses some deep cuttings in Brewer’s Hall Hill, from the summit of which Oliver Cromwell bombarded the city. We then reach the Saltney station, where the Shrewsbury line diverges to the left, and our train proceeding over Saltney pasture lands, runs parallel for seven miles with the river Dee. The plain on the right beyond the river is called Sealand, from its having been enclosed from the sea by the River Dee Company. After passing a small bridge over a brook, we enter the Principality of Wales .

We are now approaching the Welsh Mountains; the Clwydian Hills are seen in the distance; the one in the centre called Moel Fammau, or the Mother of Hills, is the loftiest, on the top of which is a jubilee column, erected to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the reign of George III. The view from this elevation is most varied and extensive, comprising the Derbyshire Hills, the Wrekin in Shropshire, Snowdon, and Cader Idris in Wales, as well as the Cumberland Hills, and in clear weather even the Isle of Man.

Continuing our route, we pass, on the left, the branch railway to Mold, and shortly after reach Sandycroft, where there is a large foundry. Two miles to the left of this are seen the town and castle of Hawarden. There are several coal mines in the neighbourhood, and in the vicinity of Buckley are earthenware manufactories of considerable repute.

Proceeding onwards, we soon reach Queen’s Ferry station (Flintshire). On leaving this station the line passes through deep cuttings and a short tunnel, and immediately afterwards we have a fine view of the estuary of the Dee, which at high tide assumes the appearance of an arm of the sea, covered at times with innumerable vessels.

About a mile to the left is the mansion of Edward Bates, Esq., which commands a particularly fine view of the estuary and the Cheshire shore.

A little farther on is Leadbrook, so named from the profusion of lead ore obtained in the neighbourhood and the adjacent hills, particularly in the Halkin Mountain, the metallic productions of which have been immense; one spot alone having yielded, in the space of a few years, upwards of a million sterling in value. The porcelain clay at Halkin is also considered very fine.

Flintshire : Flint

This station is situated in the centre of the town, which is a sea port and market town, with a population of 3,428, who return one member, as well as the county itself.

On leaving the station at Flint, the line proceeds over Flint Marsh, to the left of which is Coles Hill, where a battle was fought, between Owen Gwyndwr and Henry II., in which the latter was defeated.

The next station we come to is

Flintshire : Bagillt

During the last twenty years this town has become of some importance, in consequence of several very extensive collieries and lead works which have been established here.

Flintshire : Holywell

The important town of Holywell is situated about a mile from the station.

Flintshire : Mostyn Quay

This place has become of considerable importance from the collieries in the neighbourhood, producing about 70,000 tons annually.

Leaving this station, the train passes over Gwespyr Marsh, which was enclosed from the sea in 1811. On the right, and nearly in the centre of the estuary of the Dee, is situated Hilbree Island, and in the same direction Hoylake, the extreme point of the peninsula of Wirral, in Cheshire.

The village of Gwespyr, celebrated for its quarries of freestone, is situated on the hill to the left. The Custom House of Liverpool is built of the stone from these quarries.

Talacre, the beautiful seat of Sir Pyers Mostyn, Bart, is situated on a gentle eminence. It is a very splendid mansion with two fronts, and commands magnificent views of the sea. The village on the hill is Gronant; above which is the Observatory. On the right, close to the shore, is the life boat house.

Proceeding onward we pass the village of Melidan with its rural Church, on the left; close to which, under a rock, are situated the Talargoch Lead Mines, celebrated as having produced more lead ore than any other mine in the country during the last century, the quantity raised averaging 3,000 tons annually The ruins of Dyserth Castle, built in Henry II.’s time, are in the vicinity; and a mile beyond which is Bodryddon, the ancient seat of the Conways, situated in a fine forest.

Flintshire : Rhyl

Rhyl is a fashionable watering place for the North Wallians and Liverpool people; it is reputed one of the best bathing places in Wales.

Rhyl to Conway

Upon leaving the Rhyl station the line proceeds on an embankment and drawbridge over the river Foryd. The extensive tract of land on the left is the celebrated spot where the battle of Rhuddlan Marsh took place in 785; this marsh was secured from the encroachments of the sea in 1799, enclosing about 27,000 acres of sandy loam land.

The village on the hill is called St. George, or Llan St. Sior.

Denbighshire : Abergele

This station is close to the sea side, and at little distance from the town. Its situation is very beautiful, the Clwydian range of hills forming a most picturesque and varied back ground to it.

From Abergele the railway keeps close to the sea side for some distance, and then winds round to Conway. On proceeding onward from the Abergele station, we observe some huge rocks on the right, some miles before us, which are called the Great Orme’s Head, a high promontory, projecting from the main land into the sea. We next pass the village of Llandulas, situated in a glen surrounded with lime-stone rocks.

Nearly 100,000 tons of stone are extracted from the quarries here, and shipped annually to all parts of the country.

On emerging from the Penmaen Rhos tunnel, we see the village of Colwyn on the left; and further on up the valley, that of Llanelian, celebrated for its Cursing Well or Ffynnon Eilian.

Further on towards the shore, is the village of Landrilio, formerly the residence of a British King.

Proceeding onwards on the left is seen the newly erected mansion of Sir Thomas Erskine, Bart. The line then passes through the small vale Mochtre, and winds round in the direction of Conway to Llandudno Junction, the point of deviation of the

Retracing our steps to Llandudno Junction, we take another turn along the

Holyhead Main Line continued

Returning once more to Llandudno Junction we again take our seats, and pursuing our course along the main line, suddenly approach the river, where a most magnificent landscape presents itself. The fine old town of Conway, with its ancient castles, walls, and towers, appears in front, and the vast range of the Carnarvonshire mountains forming a back ground, has a beautiful effect. The line runs on an embankment several hundred yards parallel with the turnpike road, and then crosses the broad expanse of the river, through the tubular bridge, that wonder of modern engineering skill, and after a few seconds of darkness we emerge into daylight, beneath the lofty shattered walls of Conway Castle. Sweeping round the base of the castle on a circle, the railway glides on and enters the town of Conway, under a pointed arch constructed in the old walls of the town. This arch gives great picturesqueness of effect to the station, which adjoins it; and the castellated character of the wall is preserved by the battlements upon it. The station is an extremely handsome and well-designed building, in the Elizabethan style, with gabled wings, rising in steps, and projecting from the main portion.

Carnarvonshire : Conway

The ancient town of Conway is within the wall that were erected at the same time as the castle. Although not a manufacturing town, it has always been a place of some importance.

Upon leaving Conway station, the line proceeds through a tunnel under one of the towers, and thence through some deep cuttings to Conway Marsh. We then cross the Holyhead road, and pass old Conway race course oh the right. Looking across the estuary the traveller will have a fine view of the nuns of Gannock Castle and Great Orme’s Head. The railway then skirts the sea shore again, until it enters Penmaen Bach Tunnel, on emerging from which we perceive Penmaen Mawr, the terminating point of the Carnarvonshire range of mountains. On the summit of this hill are the ruins of an extensive fortress. It is surrounded by strong treble walls, within each of which are the foundation sites of more than 100 round towers, with ample room for 20,000 men.

Penmaen Mawr station; the mountain is 1,540 feet high, and Penmaen Bach hill, 837 feet.

Proceeding onwards we pass in succession Penmaen Mawr tunnel, and Meini Herion, one of the most remarkable mountains in all Snowdon. On the right is Puffin Island, inhabited by vast numbers of birds called puffins. The railway continues for some time further along the sea shore.

From the village of Aber, celebrated as being the last place where Llewellyn contended against Edward I., is a most delightful spot; having on the right the view of the Irish Channel, in front, Beaumaris and its wooded environs, and to the left the turrets of Penrhyn Castle. From this village, a deep and romantic glen, nearly 3 miles in length, forms the avenue to Rhaiadr Mawr, a celebrated cataract. The prospects in the neighbourhood afford views of most picturesque beauty, comprising the Snowdon mountains on the one hand, the Menai straits and the coast of Anglesea on the other, all together forming a rich panoramic view of splendid scenery.

The railway is then carried over the Ogwen river and valley by two extensive viaducts, commanding beautiful views of the surrounding scenery.

The train shortly enters the Bangor tunnel, through Bangor mountain, and, on emerging from it, arrives at

Bangor to Holyhead

Upon quitting Bangor station we almost immediately enter the Egyptian arch of Belmont Tunnel, under the Carnarvon mountains, on emerging from which we have a beautiful view of the Menai Straits, with its accompaniments, Telford’s Suspension Bridge and the Britannia Tubular Bridge. In viewing the massive towers and lengthened tubes of the latter, its heavy and colossal proportions stand out in striking contrast with the slender and gossamer-like components of its older rival, the Menai Bridge, which is used for ordinary vehicles and foot passengers, both structures being situated within a mile of each other.

Carnarvonshire : Menai Bridge

Two miles from Bangor, across the narrow channel which cuts off Anglesea, is best seen from the water below, above which it rises 100 feet, at high tide.

Resuming our route from the Britannia Bridge the train enters thence into the Island of Anglesea, passing over an embankment, at the end of which is the Marquis of Anglesea’s column, erected to commemorate the eminent military services of the late venerable Marquis of Anglesea. This island is 24 miles long and 17 broad, containing 4 market towns and 74 parishes; square miles, 402: population, 49,000, who jointly return one member. The soil is fertile; the chief products are grain and cattle.

The railway, after passing the station of Llanfair, now runs parallel for some miles with the Holyhead road, passing Plas Pen Myndd, the ancient seat of the ancestors of the Royal House of Tudor.

Further on the line gradually curves in a south-western direction, near which is Tre’r Dryu, or the habitation, of the Arch Druid, abounding in rude memorials of the religious rites practised by our forefathers.


The Anglesea central railways turns off here to the right, at present eleven miles of it only is open, and runs through the Bern Coalfield across the Malldraeth Marsh, via Holland Arms Llangefni and Llangwillog to Llanerchymedd. It is ultimately intended to run through to Amlwch, a seaport on the north coast of the island, a distance of 18¾ miles.

Holyhead Main Line continued

The line from Gaerwen crosses the river Cefni, on a noble viaduct of 19 arches, and shortly after enters the Trefdraeth Tunnel, cut through some very hard rock, on emerging from which a fine view of Carnarvon Bay presents itself, across which are seen the Carnarvonshire hills, called the Rivals.

The line now traverses the parish of Llangadwaladr, and arrives at

Anglesea : Bodorgan

In the neighbourhood of the town there is a splendid lake, two miles in circumference, called Lhjn Coron, much frequented by anglers during the summer.

The line from Tŷ Croes runs parallel with the Stanley embankment, which crosses the sands and an arm of the sea. On the right is the mansion of the Hon. W. Owen Stanley, M.P., in Penrhos Park, and a quarter of a mile east of which is Penrhyn, a cliff projecting into the sea.

Beyond Valley station, to the right again, are some ancient forts and an obelisk monument, the latter erected to the memory of the late Captain Skinner, formerly master of one of the packets on this station, who lost his life in 1838. We shortly after arrive at

Anglesea : Holyhead

Holyhead, so called from a monastery founded by St. Gybi in the sixth century, is the chief packet station for Ireland, and stands on Holy Island, on a bay between it and the west side of Anglesea, 64 miles from Dublin.

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