Porth y Nant
Our next ghost town occupies a valley in Wales that has many ghostly tales told about it. The village Porth y Nant lay in a small valley, Nant Gwrtheyrn, that runs down the lower slopes of Yr Eifl mountain towards the sea.
It was a relatively modern village, for before the 1860s all that lay here were three farms. Then one day a plentiful supply of good quality granite caught the eye of a Liverpudlian quarry company and a new quarry opened in 1861 producing granite slabs for paving the streets of Lancashire towns. A jetty was built to transport the slabs and through the supply of accommodation for the workers at the quarry, the village of Porth y Nant was born, named after the quarry itself. It began with a terrace of houses for the workers and as the quarry expanded, further terraces were built. A larger house was built for the manager and a school and chapel were added.
The only access to the village was by a small winding path called ‘The Screw’. This made the village inaccessible and almost certainly contributed to the demise of the village after the quarry closed. There were many calls for a road to be built to the village but after much consultation, it was decided against on the basis of the cost for the benefit. The inaccessibility meant that shopping was difficult and a long walk was required to catch a bus into Pwllheli. Some even caught a steamer boat to take them into Liverpool. For those that couldn’t travel, part time shops operated with the goods being brought down the hillside on sledges. You could always tell it was time for the shops because of the noise the sledges made with their metal runners over the rocks. There was no gas, electricity or mains water so the village relied on a reservoir on the hill above the village.
Although the villagers might have felt cut off from the outside world they had access to newspapers and radio and by the 1930s there were two telephones in the village, one of them in the manager’s house.
Eventually demand for the paving slowed and the quarry changed to producing granite chippings for railway ballast but then early in World War II the owners of the quarry decided to close it. In the war there was less demand for crushed stone and in addition it appears that it was becoming increasingly difficult to book cargo ships small enough to use the jetty.
Some workers may have been sent to work at a neighbouring quarry at Carreg y Llam. They may have continued to live at Porth y Nant for some time but before long nearly everyone had left. In March 1954 a reporter noted there were just three residents, Mr William Owen and his sister Mrs Williams at No. 3 and Mr George Scott at No. 10. In addition there was a family with five children living in the farmhouse at Ty Canol but the postman still made daily deliveries and collected the mail from a box in a wall.
In the 1960s and early 1970s houses in the village were sometimes occupied, often by squatters, but all in all, the village was effectively now a ghost town comfortable in the valley that was home to other ghostly tales:
It is said that Vortigern, a fifth century British ruler whose attempts to negotiate with the invading Saxons went badly wrong was forced to flee and eventually found refuge in the valley that was given his name, Gwrtheyrn being the Welsh form of Vortigern.
Another tale tells of Rhys and Meinir, two cousins who fell in love and arranged to be married at the church in Clynnog Fawr. Meinir failed to turn up for the wedding. In a distressed state Rhys spent months searching for Meinir, until a lightning strike opened a hollow tree and inside it he saw the skeleton of Meinir, still clad in her
By 1970 it was decided that the quarry would never open again and the owners invited proposals for the regeneration of the village. Over the next few years the village was fully restored and the Nant Gwrtheyrn Welsh Language and Heritage Centre moved there. A new road down the hillside was built and the supply of water and electricity was laid on. The terraced houses were renovated and turned into accommodation for people attending courses or for holidaymakers.