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Dolgellau, Gwynedd

Dolgellau, Gwynedd

Dolgellau is a small Welsh market town in Gwynedd. It is situated on the A470 over the River Winion, about ten miles from Barmouth Harbour. Situated at the foot of the Cader Idris mountain range, it is an ideal starting point for touring Snowdonia. The main industry is tourism, but agriculture also plays a separate role.

The city has grown over the years from a serf town that was founded in the 12th century. Although some Roman coins were found on the site of the current Church of Santa Maria and despite the presence of three castros of uncertain origin, there is no evidence to suggest that it was ever colonized by the Romans who conquered the area in AD 77.

The wool industry initially played an important role in the development of the city followed by the printing industry. A mini gold rush in the 19th century also contributed to the growth of the city. The Clogau St. David gold mine supplied gold for many royal weddings. The tradition was started by the late Queen Mother and has continued until recent times with the wedding of her Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall (2005).

A church was built sometime in the 12th century and was rebuilt in 1716. George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), visited the town in 1657. Many inhabitants converted to Quakerism, leading to their persecution and some of them emigrated to Pennsylvania where they settled in Philadelphia, Bucks, and Chester counties.

The name of the city, Dolgellau, in Welsh means Meadow of Groves, but before that it was known by different names. By 1253 it was known as Dolkelew and by 1285 as “Dolgethley” (1285). Similarly, the name was not always spelled as it is today and shortly before the railway station closed the signs displayed there were Dolgelly, Dolgelley and Dolgella.

Dolgellau hosts an annual rock festival known as Sesiwn Fawr Dolgellau (the ‘power session’). It was first held in 1992 as a free festival, but became a ticketed one in 2002. Every summer, Dolgellau also hosts the Gwyl Cefn Gwlad (“Field Festival”), a mix of agricultural show and party. Dolgellau Cricket Club created in 1869 is perhaps the oldest club in Wales.

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