History of Porthmadog

Porthmadog Harbour Today

Porthmadog Harbour Today. Photography by Sian Davies

History of Porthmadog –

Porthmadog was originally known as Port Madoc up until 1974 when it was renamed into it’s Welsh form “Porthmadog”.

Port Maodc was named after W.A. Maddocks whom built the sea wall known as the “Cob” in 1810 which was used to reclaim land to build Tremadoc now known as Tremadog. The cob was part of a failed bid for the London to Dublin route. The bid failed because William Telford built the Telford bridge connecting Anglesea and more importantly the natural port of Holyhead with mainland Wales. The embankment was used as a toll road for almost 2 centuries until 3pm on Saturday March 2003 when the last 5 pence toll was collected by the Rebecca trust whom bought Cob on the 28th of April 1978. The Welsh assembly government subsequently bought the Cob and ceased any charges.

The construction of the 1mile long cob created a natural port that was sufficient to allow ocean going ships to dock in the town. Port Madoc became a busy shipping port with its main export being slate  brought down on the then horse drawn Ffestiniog railway from Blaenau Ffestiniog.In 1863 the first freight steam locomotives were introduced to the Ffestiniog line. it would be another 2 years before the passenger locomotives began running on this line. By 1873 over 116,000 tons of slate were exported from Port Madoc and its population had grown from some 800 to almost 4400.Slate was shipped out of Port Madoc and sent to many English cities which were expanding and in need of good quality roofing slate.

The development of Aberystwyth’s superior rail links slowed Port Madoc’s trade however with Germany purchasing a considerable amount of slate out of the harbour it was the outbreak of world war one which really seen an end to the slate exports.

There were many wooden ship builders in the town and they were well known for building the three masted ships known as schooners, the last of these ships was completed in 1913 it was called Y Gestina and was wrecked on its maiden voyage. Its said that this was not only the last wooden ship of its kind to be built in the Porthmaodg area but the last in Wales.