18th & 19th century Snowdonia


This view of the Snowdon range from Capel Curig, entitled ‘The Summit of Snowdon from Capel Cerig’ shows the locals at work in the fields, with Llynnau Mymbwyr visible in the distance. The peaks are rather like what we see today, with Lliwedd being faithfully represented. The picture is an an engraving based on an original by M. Griffith. Compare with the later one below engraved in 1850.

The picture was used in Thomas Pennant’s book Journey to Snowdon. Colour examples from the book can be seen at the Gathering the Jewels archives. Although there is no view from Capel Curig at GTJ, many of the other Journey to Snowdon pictures can be seen on the GTJ site in full colour. Pennant’s book went through several editions and this explains the differences in the selection of plates for the pictures.


This quite attractive engraving of Snowdon, depicting a man and his dog enjoying the views over the lake to the mountain, was created in 1812 from an earlier drawing by J.P. Neale.

John Preston Neale (1780-1847) was a British artist who started out as a post office clerk. Much of his work was drawn, although an occasional watercolour or oil painting was done. His works were engraved on a regular basis by other artists. A major work, the ‘Views of the seats, Mansions, Castles, etc. of Nobelmen and Gentlemen in England, Wales Scotland and Ireland’ was published in 6 volumes between 1819-23. The Tate Collection holds three of Neale’s works, two of which are copies of his work and one that is attributed to him. His ‘Snowdon’ work is not catalogued or recorded in the annals of the art world.

The text at the bottom of the picture is as follows (spelling of surname not 100%) Engraved by William Serish (sp?) from a drawing by J.P.Neale for The Beauties of England and Wales 1812 – link to pic


Llanberis Pass showing Llyn Padarn and Snowdon with Dolbadarn castle visible in distance. This painting is said to have been by Turner, although it doesnt match the style of his other paintings of the locale – link to pic


Snowdon and Llanberis from the road to Caernarvon (Published 1823 and 1825.) Drawn by Captain Batty of the Grenadier Guards, F.R.S and a Member of the Imperial Russian Order of St Anne. Captain Batty was a profilic illustrator and many of his works were of places and battles abroad. His books ‘Welsh Scenery from drawings’ was published in 1823 and 1825, both editions were identical. His books had a dedication to his aunt as follows: “To Mrs Ellizabeth Braithwaite, this work on Welsh Scenery is gratefully dedicated by her affectionate nephew, Robert Batty.” Other than that very little else is known about the captain – link to pic


This drawing of Llyn Padarn and Snowdon (artist unknown) shows us an early view of what would become an iconic view that is seen on many of today’s postcards and photographs. The drawing was done around 1844, if not before. From the scene it is clear that the road along the side of Llyn Padarn and up onto the Llanberis Pass (the ‘Blue Valley’) has already been rebuilt as a substantial thoroughway giving tourists easier access to the mountains.

One of the recommended routes to Snowdon until around this time was to take a horse, or cart, to Cwm y Glo, then a boat up a short length of the Afon Rhythallt into Llyn Padarn and across to its far end, where mountain guides with their study Snowdon ponies would be waiting to take people up the mountain. Apparently if anyone so much as tried to avoid taking a guide at a cost of seven shillings and sixpence a time, gates placed across the commencement of the paths up the mountain were guarded by locals expecting a substantial tip of some kind to permit a passage – link to pic


The Llanberis Pass in the early 19th Century, probably just after the route had been improved considerably. Most views (and pictures) looking down the pass do not show Dolbadarn Castle, so this one is unusual in that respect –link to pic


Snowdon from Capel Curig in 1850. Compared to the much earlier example from 1781, this scene is not as splendidly portrayed, however the peaks are well represented again. One subtle difference between the 1781 view and the 1850 view is that the summit of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) is not quite as high as the other two peaks nearby, which is what is actually seen from this particular direction. The artist has reallised that the perspective tricks the viewer and has represented it here faithfully, leaving it to the viewer to decide for themselves which is the higest peak. LLynnau Mymbwyr forms the focal point towards the mountains. – link to pic


Beddgelert before it became a popular location, probably the late 1790’s. In those days it was more likely to have been known as Bed-kill-hart – link to pic


Betws y Coed in the days well before Thomas Telford built his Holyhead Road. The coach in the picture could be the Irish Mail on the new shorter route via Nant Ffrancon sometime after Lord Penrhyn improved the road. Moel Siabod forms a splendid background – link to pic


Nant Ffrancon looking towards Pont y Benelog. This view clearly depicts the point at which the old road climbed up to cross the Ogwen Falls. This road was built by Lord Penrhyn in the late 18th Century. Its course can still be seen today as can part of the old bridge underneath the present A5 crossing. Glyder Fawr, Tryfan, Y Garn and Twll Du (Devils Kitchen) are depicted, though somewhat differently. The soldiers may be out on exercise, but their general is clearly having the time of his life commanding them from the relative comfort of his horse! Note the couple enjoying a quiet moment in the mountains. – link to pic


Tryfan (spelt as Trifaen) in the days before any proper road was built through the Ogwen Valley. Note the rough terrain. At that time, around the third half of the 18th century, this route was said to be one of the worst in Snowdonia for horses. The name Tryfan is said to have come from three stones upon its summit (one since vanished) or perhaps the three fairly distinct peaks upon its summit – link to pic


The north western outlet for the waters from the Snowdon massif is where the Seoint meets the Menai. At the conjuncture of the two waterways lies Caernarfon castle, one of the best known in Wales. This early view of the castle drawn in 1791 but representing an earlier period shows what the area looked before the quays were built and it is quite possible that the trees that stand where the town now lies were once part of the Forest of Snowdonia – a reminder that trees once grew on the mountainsides up to around 2000ft. There will never be a picture seen that was drawn at the time the Forest of Snowdonia existed so this is the next best thing – link to pic

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