Abergele shown within Wales
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||Clwyd West|
|Welsh Assembly||Clwyd West|
|List of places: UK • Wales • Conwy|
Abergele is a community and old Roman trading town, situated on the north coast of Wales between the holiday resorts of Colwyn Bay and Rhyl, in Conwy County Borough. Its northern suburb of Pensarn lies on the Irish Sea coast and is known for its beach, where it is claimed by some that a ghost ship has been sighted. Abergele and Pensarn railway station serves both resorts. Abergele is generally ignored due to the popularity of nearby Rhyl, Prestatyn, Colwyn Bay, Llandudno and Conwy.
The meaning of the name Abergele can be deduced by aber being the Welsh word for estuary and gele the name of the river which flows through the town. Gele is a dialectal form of gelau, which means spear, describing the action of the river cutting through the land. It has also been suggested this river is named because its waters flash brightly.
The town itself lies on the A55 road and is known for Gwrych Castle. The town is surrounded by woodland covered hillsides, which contain caves with rare lesser horseshoe bat. The highest hill is Moelfre Isaf (1038 ft) to the south of the town. There are also outstanding views from Cefn-yr-Ogof (669 ft), Tower Hill (587 ft) and Tan-y-Gopa.
Abergele (including Pensarn) has a population of around 10,000 and is part of the Abergele/Rhyl/Prestatyn urban area with a population of 64,026 (2001 Census). Approximately 29% of Abergele has a significant knowledge of Welsh. The town also has satellite villages such as Saint George, Betws yn Rhos, Rhyd-y-foel, Belgrano and Llanddulas.
Recent genetic studies as part of the Genetic history of Europe on the y-chromosomes of men in Abergele have revealed that there is a substantial percentage of E1b1b1a2DNA in Abergele. Membership in Y chromosome haplogroup E1b1b1a2 (E-V13) was found to average at 38.97% in male y-chromosomes in Abergele. This genetic marker is found at its highest concentrations in the Balkans at up to approximately 40% in areas, but at much lower percentages in Northern Europe at less than 5%. The reason for the high levels of E1b1b in Abergele is most likely due to the heavy Roman legionary presence in Abergele as most of the Romans that came to Britain did not come from Italy, rather from other parts of the Roman Empire such as North Africa and eastern Europe. Above average levels of genetic marker E-V13 have been found in other towns in Britain that were known to have had a heavy Roman presence nearly 2000 years ago.
A settlement of some kind continued to exist at Abergele into the thirteenth century; Edward I is known to have briefly stayed there in December 1294 during his invasion of Wales to suppress the revolt of Madog ap Llywelyn.
Sites of historical interest include two Iron Age hillforts; Castell Cawr at Tan-y-Gopa and Fort Dinorben (now virtually disappeared owing to limestone quarrying) at St George. On Gallt y Felin Wynt, a hill above the town popularly known as Tower Hill or Bryn Tŵr is a 17th century watchtower, partially restored in 1930. There is another Iron Age fort at Pen-y-Corddyn mawr hill above Rhyd-y-foel. There is also another watchtower, the Lady Emilys Tower which is located near Cefn-yr-Ogof.
Gwrych Castle was built between 1819-1825 at the behest of Lloyd Hesketh Bamford-Hesketh. From 1894 until 1946 it was the residence of the Dundonald family. Gwrych Castle's present owner, Californian businessman Nick Tavaglione, who bought the landmark in December 1989 put Gwrych up for auction on 2 June 2006, but it failed to sell. The condition of the property is being monitored by the Gwrych Castle Preservation Trust. It is undergoing renovation.
The boxers Bruce Woodcock (in the late 1940s) and Randolph Turpin (in 1952) trained at Gwrych Castle and the film Prince Valiant starring Edward Fox and Katherine Heigl, star of Knocked Up, was filmed there in 1996.
A curious undated inscription can be found on a tombstone in St Michael's parish church (built on the site of a 'clas' or Celtic monastery). It states "Here lieth in St Michael's churchyard a man who had his dwelling three miles to the north." As the sea is little more than half a mile away at this point, this suggests that the sea has made some considerable advance over the centuries.
Outside the church is a penitential stone where sinners had to do penance by standing, dressed in white, by the stone and bessech the congregation for mercy as they entered and left the church.
A sanatorium was built just outside Abergele in 1910. In 1914 this was acquired by Manchester City Council. A children's sanatorium was built on the same site. The sanatorium was taken over by the newly formed NHS in 1948 and was closed later, when the introduction of anti-biotics made the building redundant.
On 30 June 1969, the evening before the investiture of Prince Charles in Caernarfon, two members of Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (Welsh Defence Movement), Alwyn Jones and George Taylor, were killed when their bomb - intended for the railway line along which the British Royal Train would be passing - exploded prematurely.