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The History of Bangor

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The origins of the city of Bangor stretch back to the founding of a monastic establishment, on what is now the site of Bangor Cathedral , in the early 6th century AD. The Celtic saint Deiniol is credited with establishing what was to become a powerful mission in 525 AD. The name 'Bangor' itself is a Welsh word for a type of fenced-in enclosure, and describes what was was once on the site of the cathedral in the early days of the monastery. The present cathedral is not from the original buildings and has undergone extensive works throughout the centuries. The bishopric of Bangor that Saint Deniol set up in the early days of Christianity is now one of the oldest in Britain. As with so many small British towns and cities, the mission, and the subsequent cathedral, dominated the development of Bangor. For centuries the city remained a relatively modest settlement clustered around the monastery and, later in history, the cathedral.

Important buildings in Bangor tended to have an ecclesiastical association, such as the Friars School which was founded as a free grammar school in 1557. Bangor University , established in 1884 was different. The University was originally opened as the the ‘University College of North Wales’ on 18 October 1884. An inaugural address was given by the Earl of Powis in Penrhyn Hall, this was followed by a procession to the college with 3,000 quarryman. This remarkable parade took place because quarrymen from Penrhyn Quarry and other quarries had subscribed over £1200 to fund the foundation of the university. The university was a response to a campaign for better higher education in Wales. In 1911 the University expanded and moved to a new building designed by Henry Hare. Now the old part of the Main Arts Building, the new building was opened by King Edward VII . The University had previously been based in an old coaching inn once known as the Penrhyn Arms Hotel,

Improvements in the road network and the development of slate quarrying in nearby Bethesda heralded a change in Bangor from sleepy country town to a busy commercial city of the 20th century. In 1718 the postal authorities adopted a new route via Bangor and the Porthaethwy Ferry. As a result Bangor was now along the lucrative main route between London and Dublin . Meanwhile Richard Pennant, the first Baron Penrhyn, opened up the slate quarries of Bethesda. The Baron also built a quay at Port Penrhyn to take the shipments of slate to distant markets. He provided a railway link to the quarries to make sure the slate got from the ground to the sea as easily as possible. These moves attracted subsidiary industries such as writing slate manufacturing, a sawmill and a foundry. All these were established along the waterfront and helped to boost the local economy significantly. As with many ports of the time, shipbuilding flourished there. Improvements under the direction of Thomas Telford on both the coastal road and the Capel Curig road, along with the all-important opening of his suspension bridge across the Menai Strait in 1826, greatly improved the London to Holyhead route.

A steam packet service between Liverpool and Bangor began in 1822, bringing visitors by sea. The pier was opened in 1896 and the Liverpool pleasure steamers landed thousands of tourists there each summer. Good quality accommodation was made available at the likes of the Penrhyn Arms, the Castle Inn, the Albion , the George Hotel and the Liverpool Arms. The population of Bangor rose rapidly from 1,770 in 1801 to over 7,500 by 1841. The arrival of the railway in 1848 signalled another wave of expansion both for the industrialists and in tourism. New hotels were built such as the British, the Railway and the Belle Vue. Bangor established itself as the most important town in north Wales during the 19th century, it also claims to have the longest High Street in Wales.

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