History of Aberystwyth


Piston Engine

Piston Engine Invented in France by Etienne Lenoir


Prototype telephone constructed by Johann Philipp Reis in Germany


At Aberystwith the Revival seemed to be dying out fast but within the last week or two it has derived fresh strength from quite an unexpected source. A party of melitia men are stationed in the town, and they have come to the determination to hald daily prayer meetings. Not satisfied with these "spiritual exercises," as they are termed, once a day, the men assemble every morning before parade and every evening after parade.

Daily Southern Cross, 6 January 1860

Aberystwyth Prom 1860's
Prom around 1860. Bath house of 1810 to the right.
The plot to the left of where the prom extension terminates
would be used for the Queen's Hotel in 1866.


March 17: Italy

Unification of Italy


Aberystwyth has its first RNLI Lifeboat.[7]


Population 7,000


American Civil War

American Civil War

July Tracks

'Aberystwith and Welch Coast Railway Company' is incorporated to construct several railway lines into Aberystwyth


Final Track

Work begins on the stretch of railway between Machynlleth and Aberystwyth.



Railway opened allowing travel to Shrewsbury. This starts the decline of local trade based on shipping.
The London architect JP Seddon is summoned by the railway entrepreneur Thomas Savin (of Llwyn-y-Maen nr Oswestry) to Aberystwyth to design a luxury hotel (Castle Hotel) around an earlier small mansion (Castle House built by John Nash). [9]


Antiseptic Surgery

Joseph Lister Starts the use of modern sterile techniques during surgery in Scotland

Tracks and Trains

'Aberystwith and Welch Coast Railway Company' merges with the 'Cambrian Railway Company'

April 14: Pier Opened

The pier cost the Aberystwyth Pier Promenade Company £13,600. Designed by Eugenius Birch, who designed many piers around Britain around this time, it started out about 690 feet in length. At the end of this year a storm carried away the final 100 feet of the pier. The great storm of 1938 shortenned the pier again.

Plans for Castle Hotel
Aberystwyth Pier
Here shown in the late 1860's


National Eisteddfod at Aberystwyth


Start of building work on a Neo-Gothic 'Castle Hotel' by the castle ruins. Building work was driven at a pace faster than architectural drawings could be made up. The building was made from a yellow sandstone not found in this area. [9]

Plans for Castle Hotel
Plans for 'Castle Hotel' incorporating the 1795 'Castle House' (shown in Blue)

Castle Hotel incorporating Castle House
Castle Hotel incorporating Castle House
(The bit in the centre with the low domed roof)
This photo must have been taken some time
between 1866 and the 1885 fire.

December 31: Pierless

Pier wrecked by storm


The tempest which visited our shores on Saturday and Sunday last has left its ravishing marks in many places around us. The most remarkable and desperate features in this ocean raid are the damage which it has done to the Promenade and Harbour piers. On Sunday morning, about six o clock, the whole town was shocked from its propriety by the sounds seaward of an awful crash. On repairing towards the spot whence the sounds proceeded, it was discovered that the entire square at the end of the new pier had been swept away by the irresistible force of the tumultuous waters. It was truly a fearful sight to behold the jagged ends of the broken timber torn asunder like rags, and the strong iron rods and pillars snapped across like so many reeds. The calamity has been accounted for in various ways. Some say that the refreshment room on the top, which had lately been erected, offered a resistance to the wind, which made the structure topple over others account for it by the supposition that each successive sea striking the pillars and the landing stages, loosened the foundation. Whilst the first theory is simply absurd, as to a fragile building of glass and thin planks overturning a structure of such immense weight and consequent stability as the pier itself, the second is much more reasonable as a theory. But that this theory is also false, it is only necessary to state the fact, that the cast iron pillars now resting in the rock below high water mark are as stubbornly founded as the rock in which they are imbedded. Our own idea is, that the landing stages were the entire cause of the disaster. Thousands of tons of water rolling every moment from the south west and meeting the immense resistance offered by those landing stages, had the effect of loosening the screws and bolts; which done, the upper pillars on the south side of the pier were lifted out of their sockets in the lower pillars, by the swelling of the waves beneath the landing stages, and then the whole body swung round to the wind and tore itself asunder, from the force of its own tremendous weight. The repetition of such a disaster can however be provided against. Experientia docet in this as as in all other great scientific efforts; and we are convinced that the well known ability of Mr. Dowson, and the other professional gentlemen with whom he is associated in this very great and beautiful work, he will take a fruitful lesson from the past, and that we shall see the pier, once more, before many weeks have passed, again raise its graceful head, and bid defiance to all future tempests.

Surely it is quite as feasible to the contractors of the promenade pier to rectify whatever error they many have committed in their first essay, as it will to the contractors for the Atlantic cable to redeem the credit of their failure, so inperilled last year. The force of the water which swept the pier away may well be imagined from the fact that a solid piece of the iron, a ton weight, was thrown by the sheer strength of the water on the sands at Penbryn House - some five five hundred yards from the place it was broken.

Another proof of, the power of this tremendous sea lives in the fact that not only was part of the harbour pier ????? down, and swept away, that a stone between five and six tons in weight, was ???? bodily from a depth of twelve feet, by this condensed body of water, and landed on the roadway of the pier. Hundreds of tons of earth was carried away close by the promenade pier; and a like fate befel the debris of David Jenkin Jones's quarry. Fragments of the shattered pier were thrown upon the sands at Craiglais, by the target,- at Clarach, and even at Borth.

At Borth the sands were torn up and carried away by the turbulent waters; and at one time, we believe that serious apprehensions were entertained as to the safety of the gigantic hotel itself.

The Aberystwith Observer
(cf Storms in 1703, 1887, 1896, 1910, 1927, 1938, 1987, 2002 and 2014)


Transatlantic cable

1st Permanent transatlantic telegraph cable laid

Controlling Bangs

Swedish chemist, Alfred Nobel found that the powerful but unstable explosive nitroglycerin could be stabilised by being absorbed into a ground up chalkish rock. The result was a high explosive that could be safely transported called Dynamite.

New Hotel

In anticipation of the new railway line the 'Queen's Hotel' built at the (then) end of the prom. With 104 rooms (83 bedrooms) it was the largest hotel on the promenade. (This building was most recently council offices)[7]

Aberystwyth Queens Hotel in 1880
Queen's Hotel by Francis Bedford
Here shown in 1880
By kind permission of the National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Reform Act

Representation of the People Act
Parliamentary Reform Act gave the vote to every male householder in the boroughs and to every male householder in the counties with premises rated at 12 pounds or more.

Hotel for University

Following a stock market crash in 1866 liquidators offered the incomplete 'Castle Hotel' to the 'Welsh National University Committee' for £15,000 (building work had cost £80,000) Eventually they got the incomplete building for £10,000[9]

Railway #2

Aberystwyth's 2nd railway line: from Carmarthen -via- Lampeter to Aberystwyth opened (Closed in 1964)


Aberystwyth Map 1868
Aberystwyth Map from 1868

Aberystwyth Map 1868 Aberystwyth Map 1868
Marine Terrace ~1868TimeMachine


January 30-31: Gale & Very High Tide


The highest tide that have been known here for over a quarter of a century visited our coast on Saturday and Sunday last, leaving memorable marks behind. The south pier was almost eaten away, and the timber bridge spanning the Ystwyth, but which had been for some weeks in a very dilapidated state, was swept bodily away, and cast high upon the banks of the harbour. Sunday morning's was the highest of the tides, and then the waters washed clean over the Ro-fawr embankment into the harbour, where thousands of pounds worth of timber belonging to Mr. Thomas Jones was lying in imminent danger of being swept away. The windows of the Welsh University bear the marks of the violence of the sea. About ten o'clock, when the the tide was at its highest, the striking of the seas was awful to hear and behold. The rolling swells striking the sea wall by the promenade pier, and rolling its fearful weight along the line of protection to the Terrace, resembled to the hearing so many ceaseless salvos of artillery against the walls of a city. The wall stood its ground gallantly against a test which places its durability beyond all question. Great fears were entertained for the promenade pier, around which the resisted waters sprang forty feet into the air. The manager of the pier, however, very judiciously removed a large portion of the planking, and so enabled to reduce the amount of resistance which otherwise would have been offered. The new boat slip was half torn away, and huge coping stones, weighing four and five cwt., were lifted from the beach and cast scores of yards in upon the Terrace, which, when the tide had fallen, was covered with pieces of rock and sand ankle deep. The water rolled into the area of the Belle-vue Hotel, and broke two windows in the basement storey of the Queen's Hotel. Several houses on the Terrace suffered severely, one so much that not only were the windows broken, but the furniture also. The Rheidol river was so swollen that its banks were overflowed, and the fields in the vicinity were impassable. On the whole it may be said that one such sight is sufficient for a lifetime.

At Borth two houses were completely swept away, and the village presents the appearance of a land wreck. The railway line was so damaged that for several hours the traffic between Borth and Aberystwyth was stopped.

The Aberystwith Observer


The effects of the gales on the west coast of Wales on the nights of Saturday and Sunday, seem to have been very serious. At Aberystwith the Queen's Hotel was almost a total wreck from the effects of the storm of wind and rain, all the windows being shattered and the contents of many of the rooms on the ground and cellar floors being much damaged. A great portion of the pier was washed away, and much injury was received by many of the houses on the Marine Terrace. The watering place of Borth, a few miles distant from Aberystwith, was also heavily visited by the storm, and the high tide which prevailed on Sunday evening completely washed away three cottages on the beach, the Inmates having barely time to escape with their lives. The village has been completely inundated, and many families have been compelled to quit their houses owing to the water. The Welsh Coast Railway, which skirts both sides of Cardigan Bay, has also been greatly damaged.

Sacramento Daily Union quoting the LONDON GLOBE

March 6: Periodic Table

Dmitri Mendeleev presented a tabulated arrangement of the known elements. The table arranged the elements by increasing molecular weight but also in columns of similar chemical properties.

1870's & 1880's


Depression in the UK


Town Hall #3

A Town Hall built on its current site

Town Hall
Town Hall #3, shown here in 1903, burnt down in 1957[8]
Thanks to Will for allowing me to use the image

North Prom

Promenade extended towards Constitution Hill


....The town is in the parish of Llanbadarn-Fawr; stands on both banks of the river Rheidol, ....

.... and on the Welsh coast railway system, 39 miles NE of Cardigan; and is a fashionable watering-place, a head-seaport, and a borough. The part of it on the right bank of the Rheidol sometimes bears the name of Aberrheidol; and the part on the left bank is called Trefechan. The Rheidol is crossed by a five-arched bridge, forms a sort of inner harbour, is joined there by the Ystwith, and then scours the outer harbour to the sea. ....

.... The streets are uneven and steep; but some are broad and well-edificed; and the Marine -terrace forms a fine crescent, with about 60 elegant dwellings. ....

.... The present church stands near the castle ruins; and is a plain, quasi-cruciform edifice, built in 1830, at a cost of nearly £4,000. There are chapels for Independents, Baptists, Calvinistic-Methodists, Wesleyans, and Roman Catholics. The court-house, built in 1860, is a handsome edifice with a tetrastyle Ionic portico. The assembly-rooms, built in 1820, have Grecian features, and contain a ball-room 45 feet by 20, card, billiard, and reading rooms. Other public buildings are the grammar school, the market houses, the infirmary, the poor-house, and the prison.

.... The port has jurisdiction northward to the Diswyning river, and southward to Llan-St. Fraid. The vessels registered at it in 1867 were 86 small ones of aggregately 2,984 tons, and 296 large ones of aggregately 37,995 tons. The vessels which entered from British colonies or foreign countries were 23, of aggregately 4,633 tons; and those which entered coastwise were 409 sailing vessels of 17,225 tons, and 71 steam vessels of 6,675 tons. The amount of customs, in that year, was £87. The exports include lead ore and other minerals, timber, bark, and corn; and the imports include all kinds of goods from Liverpool, Bristol, and London. The harbour was much obstructed by a bar, but has been greatly improved by artificial cuttings of the river, by a new pier 260 yards long, and by other works. The town has a head post office,and a station with telegraph, two banking offices, three hotels, markets on Monday and Saturday, and fairs on the Monday before 5 Jan., Palm-Monday, Whit Monday, and the Monday after 13 Nov. About two thousand temporary residents, and several thousands of casual visitors frequent the town as a watering-place in antumn. The bathing beaches are excellent; bathing machines are plentiful; hot saltwater baths are at hand: a chalybeate spring, of similar qualities to the water of Tunbridge, is on a neighbouring common; recreations in variety, are abundant; and the walks and drives in the vicinity are charming. Races are held on two days in September at Gogerddan, 3 miles distant. Cornelians, jaspers, agates, moccos, and other precious pebbles are often picked up by loungers on the beach. Public coaches used to run to distant towns, east, south, and north; railway trains have now superseded them; and steamers ply to Bristol and Liverpool.

Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales[22]
Aberystwyth Prom from around 1870
Aberystwyth Prom from around 1870



After working on the idea since 1849, Italian-American Antonio Meucci files caveat for the 'teletrophone'. 5 years later it was not renewed which freed Alexander Graham Bell to file for a patent.

Bank Holidays

Bank Holidays Act formalized 4 1-day holidays into the Calendar



After the 1865 storm washed away the end of the pier, what remained was restrengthened and in 1872 a refreshment pavilion with balcony and orchestra was added.

October 16: University

University opened with 26 students and Thomas Charles Edwards as the 1st principal. For the 1st decade the university is maintained by voluntary contributions. On the day before there was a general holiday in Aberystwyth with the all the shops closed and much of the town festooned with decorations. [9]

On Wednesday, October 9, a University College was formally opened for the reception of students at Aberystwith, being the first "national and unsectarian" college established in the Principality. The object of tho institution is to provide for the sons of the middle classes in Wales a sound and high-class education at a moderate cost. The building about to bo used as the college was originally built for a hotel, and is known as the Castle. It is pleasantly situated at the extreme end of the parade, overlooking tho bountiful bay. Some idea may be, formed of its extent when we state, that it contains 150 bedrooms in addition to about 60 other rooms of various dimensions. It is altogether admirably adapted to tho purpose to which it is about to bo devoted. Tho cost of its erection was £80,000, and it has been purchased by the executive committee of tho college for £10,000. The institution is intended to bo a corporation of the status of the Queen's Colleges in Ireland, and University and King's Colleges in London, tho course of study being adapted for the different liberal professions, and embracing special preparation for commercial, scientific, and engineering pursuits, as well as for academic degrees. The Government is vested in a Senate, consisting of thirty governors, four of whom are elected by each of the great religious bodies of Wales Episcopalian, Calvinistic, Methodist, Congregational, Baptist, and Wesleyan, two of each being selected from North Wales, and two from South. In addition to these two are elected by Unitarians, two are nominated by the Lord President of the Privy Council, two by tho President of the College, two by the Welsh residents in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Bristol; and two by "those distinguished Alumni who shall be called, Associates of tho College." The election of principal and professors is vested in the Senate. All other colleges and schools in Wales within convenient distances, and whose course of study shall be so framed as to come up to the recognised standard, are to bo entitled to tho privilege of "affiliation" with the University. The first President is the Rev. Thomas Charles Edwards, M.A., for upwards of five years the much-esteemed pastor off the Anglo-Welsh Calvanistic Chapel, Windsor street, Liverpool. The first session commenced yesterday, when ten exhibitions of £20 each were offered, and the examination of the candidates, for tho purpose of testing their relative merits, will bo continued to-day and to-morrow, About twenty offered themselves for these examinations, but it is expected that forty students will at once enter the college.

The Brisbane Courier

Aberystwyth Prom ~1872
View of Aber' Prom from about 1872



Promenade in front of Marine Terrace completed - started in 1822[19]

Queens Hotel and Prob 1874
Queen's Hotel, Prom with Railings but no buildings on Victoria Terrace

Aberystwyth Prom 1874
View of Aber' from Consti' in 1874

The Parade, Beach and Rowing Boats
The Parade, Beach and Rowing Boats by Francis Bedford
Here shown around 1874
From the National Media Museum / Science & Society Picture Library



University adopted the motto 'A world without knowledge is no world' ('Nid Byd, Byd Heb Wybodaeth').[17]


A new boathouse was built for the RNLI Lifeboat on Queens Road.


Incandescent Electric Light

Joseph Swan gets a UK patent for the incandescent lightbulb


Aberystwyth is a fashionable sea-side resort, containing a population of 6664, and capable of accommodating 7000 visitors.

....Pure water us obtained from Llyn Llygad Rheidol, a like situated 17m distant on the Plinlimmon mountain.

....South of the parade a light iron pier extends into the sea for 300 feet. It is a favourite resort, and is enlivened during the summer by a band of music, and a promenade concert every evening. The charges for admission to the pier are 2d. in the morning and 6d. to the concert.

....The castle ground is a pleasant spot on which to loiter; the ruins are picturesque, and command a good view of the Crescent, .... ....Portions of the moat remain; heaps of debris are strewn in every direction, and part of two high, round towers, and other stripe of walls are standing.

....The castle was surrendered to the parliamentary forces in 1646, and was then dismantled.

Till the year 1861 Aberystwyth was in the parish of Llanbadarn Fawr, the church and village of which are situated on the N.E. side of the valley, 1¼m. from the town, but now it is a legally assigned parish.

The hill is named Pen Dinas ..... The column which stands on the hill, like a tall factory chimney, is in commemoration of the battle of Waterloo.

Jenkinson's Smaller Practical Guide to North Wales


More Electric Light

Thomas Alva Edison files a US patent for the incandescent lightbulb