Llanfairpwll, Longest Named Village in the World!
Llanfairpwll on Anglesey is known by many as "that place in Wales with the long name". And so you may ask, what does this name mean? Well it goes something like this:
"Saint Mary's Church by the white hazel pool, near the fierce whirlpool with the church of Saint Tysilio by the red cave!"
The true story behind this name is that it was dreamed up by a local businessman during the Victorian period to attract visitors from England.
At this time the railways were a new invention like the iPod and MP3 today. So when they reached Anglesey, a station was built at Llanfairpwll, the first stop after crossing the Menai Straits.
Apparently, visitors would flock to this gentleman's shop to discover the secret cure for lockjaw, said to be sealed in an envelope.
And what was the remedy? A piece of paper printed with the full name of the village!
You can still visit the station today. Now owned by a co-operative of villagers, it has been fully restored and includes the full name plate in its original style.
So come along and see for yourself! You may drive here as part of your holiday. There again, you may want to take the train and recapture the full experience. Make sure you catch the stopping train between Holyhead and Bangor otherwise your view will be a fleeting one!
You may be surprised to know that many people consider Llanfairpwll to be really famous for other reasons not connected with the long place name.
Founding of Britain's First Women's Institute (WI) Branch
Believe it or not, Llanfairpwll is the site of the first branch of the WI in Britain. Founded in a corrugated tin hut next to Thomas Telford's Tollhouse, the same building still stands there today.
How did this now famous instituition come to be established in this quiet village on our island.
Two figures were the driving force and inspiration behind the whole venture. Firstly, there was a Mrs Watt, from Ontario, Canada. She was very keen to set up a WI in Britain along the lines of a succesful model in her home country. While she had tried and failed to establish a branch in England, her enthusiasm was undiminished.
The second figure was Colonel Cotton, a relative of the Marquis of Anglesey, who had come to convalesce on the Plas Newydd estate, following a serious injury sustained while fighting in Southern Africa.
Cotton was very resourceful for someone recovering from war wounds. While he was in Llanfair he set up an egg-processing plant and a bulb factory.
By some amazing co-incidence Mrs Watt was speaking at a meeting of the Agricultural Organisation Society in London, of which Cotton was a member.
He attended the meeting and was no doubt inspired by Mrs Watt's vision. As a result Cotton invited Mrs Watt to speak at a conference at University College Wales, Bangor.
With gathering momentum, and the enthusiasm generated by these two "social" entrepreneurs, the first WI branch in the UK was about to be born. On 15 June 1915, the first meeting of the WI was held in "Graig", Llanfairpwll.
Who could have predicted that this "mini-joint venture" between two active individuals would seed the growth of the large organisation we know today.
First Marquess of Anglesey Commemorative Column
Llanfairpwll is also the site of a very visible landmark for all travellers onto the island. This stone column (about 27 m in height)was erected in honour of the First Marquess, who lost his leg as a cavalry commander under Wellington at Waterloo. It is in the Doric classical style, and was designed by Thomas Harrison of Chester.
Though the column was completed in 1817, it was not until 1860 that the bronze statue of the First Marquess was raised onto the column. This latter project was supervised by Admiral Lord Clarence Paget in memory of his famous ancestor.
You will find the column just outside the village of Llanfairpwll, on the left as you leave on the A5 for Bangor. In fact, it is only about 100 m from the WI hut and Telford tollhouse, though on the opposite side of the road.
I have climbed the wooden steps inside this tower and can promise you a magnificent view when you emerge through the little door at the top, just below the bronze statue.
To the east are the beautiful mountains of the Snowdon range, while the south east you can see Caernarfon Bar and the Lleyn peninsula.
Note for parents with young children: If you are going up the column, please note that the staircase has no lighting and so care is needed.
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