The History of Llandudno
In the Bronze Age, long before there was anything like a town in Llandudno, the area was of importance thanks to the rich copper mines on the limestone headland known as Great Orme .
The mines were worked by early Britons from about 2000BC until roughly 600BC. They were revived by the Romans , their occupation demonstrated by a well there still called Ffynnon Rufeinig or Roman Well, and by finds of coins. The mines were reopened in 1692 and operated until the mid-19th century when Llandudno metamorphosed into a tourist resort: the two worlds combine now as some of the mines are open to visitors.
Llandudno takes its name from the 6th century saint, Tudno or Dudno, who brought Christianity to the area: his cell on Great Orme, a hidden cave, still exists; Llan means parish, or church of. A church on Great Orme – Orme incidentally is a Viking word meaning serpent - dedicated to Tudno was built in the 12th century, and extended in the 15th, and remains in use today.
In 1284 Edward I granted the Bishop of Bangor the Manor of Gogarth, encompassing several settlements in the district where Llandudno eventually developed; the gift was out of gratitude for the bishop’s support in making Edward’s son the first English Prince of Wales.
Through medieval times the district was of little note, the various villages carrying on fishing and agricultural activities, a state of affairs that continued indeed until the 19th century, though with the reopened mines giving the place some renewed significance in the Industrial Revolution . This all changed in the middle of the 19th century.
In 1848 the local landowner, Lord Mostyn, was presented with visionary plans for a resort on the site by Liverpool architect Owen Williams. The 1849 Act of Enclosure gave the Mostyn family the authority required to change the area with the Great Orme at one end and Little Orme at the other. The layout of the new town was settled in that same year. In 1857 another architect, George Felton, took on the project, his hand particularly seen in the architecture in Llandudno’s centre.
The work in building the resort, and catering for its visitors, came at the right time, as in 1850 the copper mines were closed, no longer economically viable.
Llandudno is a creation of the Railway Age. In 1848 the Chester – Holyhead line opened, passing near the town that was coalescing out of three older settlements. Visitors from North West England could thus reach the place with ease; in 1858 communications were further improved by the branch from that line directly into the town.
The subsequent history of Llandudno is the story of its development as a seaside resort. A pier opened in 1858, though it was soon destroyed in a huge storm. Another replaced it in 1875, and is still to be seen today. In 1878 Marine Drive opened; nine years later the Mostyn family gifted the town a disused quarry transformed into gardens known as Happy Valley; in 1902 the Grand Hotel opened, another sign of the vision the Mostyns had of Llandudno as an elegant and refined destination.
Llandudno’s transport infrastructure was added to through the 20th century. In 1902 the Great Orme Tramway was opened, making it almost effortless to reach the 678’ summit. The Llandudno and Colwyn Bay Electric Railway, a tram service through the town, followed in 1936, though sadly it closed in 1963; 1972 saw the opening of a cabin lift to the summit of the mighty headland.
The town today is one of the biggest resorts in Wales, still with an elegant air. That elegance was enhanced with the construction of the North Wales Theatre in the 21st century. This building on the promenade provides a venue for musicals, concerts and plays, and is a frequent port of call for the Welsh National Opera.