Dolgarrog is a small village in the Conwy County Borough in North 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.[1]

The village is served by Dolgarrog railway station.

The shops at Dolgarrog



Dolgarrog Halt, on the Conwy Valley line, located across the river

The legend of Y Carrog

Believed to have been established around 1200 AD, Dolgarrog is said to have got its name from a flying dragon called Y Carrog. This mythical beast preyed on livestock and Dol-y-carrog 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 Carrog would cause his death. His fellow farmers laid a poisoned sheep's carcass on the heights above Eglwysbach across the river. The unsuspecting Carrog seized the bait, was caught and beaten to death.

Nico Ifan then came along to gloat over the dead dragon and cursed and kicked the corpse, whereupon the poisoned barbed wing of the Carrog 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. [1]


Dolgarrog power station, located next to the Aluminium Works

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 woolen 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 Llanrwst.

In 1885 the villagers wanted to start a school at Porthlwyd. The old village of 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.

The 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

The incline up to the Eigiau Tramway, adjacent to the pipeline
An engine being taken up the Dolgarrog incline to the Eigiau Tramway. Some of this timberwork still exists today.

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.

During the Second World War the aluminium works were under the control of the 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.

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. Dolgarrog Aluminium Ltd formed in 2002 and acquired the assets from Alcoa in 2002. The factory closed in late 2007.

In 1918 the Aluminium Corporation of Dolgarrog acquired a controlling interest in the North Wales Power & Traction Company. Dolgarrog consequently became the administrative centre of this company, and its chairman was Henry Joseph Jack. The company intended to supply electricity to the railways of north Wales, was the company behind the proposed Portmadoc, Beddgelert and South Snowdon Railway. Jack subsequently purchased majority shares in the Ffestiniog Railway, the Welsh Highland Railway and the Snowdon Mountain Railway, meaning that he was in control of all the passenger-carrying narrow gauge railways of that part of North Wales. The end of Dolgarrog's control on the railways came in 1924 when Jack resigned from the WHR, accepting blame for its lack of success, and the final nail in the coffin came in the form of the following year's dam disaster.

Dam Disaster

A slate plaque marking the beginning of the memorial walk
The breach in Llyn Eigiau dam, showing the gully cut by the flood water. (A second, different breach was later deliberately made in the main wall to prevent it happening again.)

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 flooded Dolgarrog.

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. Black and white silent films of the incidents can be seen here

The construction of Eigiau dam had been facilitated by the construction of the Eigiau Tramway, which largely followed the route of the 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 Dolgarrog incline.

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 main road.

From here the original quarry tramway continued across the marshland to the edge of the River Conwy at Porth Llwyd wharf.

Garden Art

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 1800's, the building sustained heavy damage when the dam burst in 1925r, but was quickly repaired. It was the only restaurant in the village, The Lord Newborough was unpopular with locals. Mostly serves traditional welsh food, sourced locally from the Conwy Valley. No longer open.


External links

Coordinates: 53°11′N 3°50′W / 53.183°N 3.833°W / 53.183; -3.833

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