the early days New Quay was a fishing and smuggling port. Later a
burgeoning shipbuilding industry developed, reaching its peak in the
middle of the nineteenth century. Towards the end of that century
shipbuilding died out and tourism gradually filled the void. Today New
Quay has little industry - just a little fishing and a shellfish
processing plant. By far the majority of residents now are associated
with Tourism and its associated services.
Quay is not a very old settlement in its present form although there
has been a church dedicated to the obscure Sixth Century Saint
Llwchaiarn (son of Caranfoel, and Grand son of Cyndrin, Prince of
Powis) on the outskirts of New Quay from the sixteenth century. W. J.
Lewis notes in his little book 'New Quay and Llanarth' that:' There has
probably been a church on the site for over 1,300 years. It was first
dedicated to Non, the Mother of Saint David.'
There is no mention of New Quay
on Christopher Saxton's map of Cardiganshire dated 1610 (see left).
However Llanllwchaiarn is shown, as are Llanarth and the church at
Llanina - although it is not named. Similarly Seller's map of 1701 and
Owen Bowen's map of 1753 has no mention of New Quay, although both show
New Quay was not recognised as a separate settlement at this time, with
whatever residents it might have had divided between the two parishes
of Llanllwchaiarn and Llanina. These parishes still exist today.
The first reference to 'New Key' is said to
be on the Lewis Morris' survey of the coast of Wales - published
privately and dated 1748. Above it is shown on his son William's chart
Initially New Quay was just a
cluster of thatched houses on and above the beach at Tangeulan and
Penguelan (Glanmor Terrace). Although there is no record of who lived
there at that time, they were almost certainly fishermen using the
relatively sheltered cove to bring in their boats and build their
houses. The land upon which New Quay now stands was part of the three
farms of Penwig, Neuadd and Penrhiwpistiyll. There is mention in a
Royal Commission appointed to suppress piracy of 1566, that most boats
in Cardiganshire at the time were small fishing boats of 4 or 5 tons.
In the eighteenth century,
smuggling was a viable alternative to agriculture on this part of the
coast. One unattributed source notes that: 'Salt smuggling was
rife on this part of the coast, in particular at New Quay, the little
bay of Cwmtydu, and at Fishguard. Smugglers importing salt at Newquay
clashed with customs officers from Aberdovey in 1704. The eight
officers met with stout opposition from 150-200 locals who were
unloading salt from 3 barques on the beach. In self defense, they fired
over the heads of the crowd, who then redoubled their attacks. The
customs officers then fired into the crowd, severely injuring one of
them. At daybreak, the 'Rabble' returned with the police, and had two
of the customs men arrested and charged with injuring the local
Shipbuilding started in New
Quay in the eighteenth century although exactly when is unclear as
registration had not always been a legal requirement. The first
recorded vessel built at New Quay was the 24 ton sloop 'Thomas and
Mary' which was launched in 1779. Between 1800 and 1820, 31 ships were
built at New Quay, most of which were sloops.
New Quay was becoming more
popular as a port at the start of the nineteenth century, there being
an increase in tonnage shipped from 500 to 3,500 tons between 1823 and
1833. It became evident that the harbour needed to be increased in size
by the addition of a new pier. The old pier, called Penpolion (see
photo on right) was just a haphazard assembly of poles driven into the
sand with loose boulders. It protected a small area below the present
lifeboat station and the Sandy Slip . Today Penpolion is a concrete
Rev. Alban Thomas Jones Gwynne of Aberaeron had obtained a Harbour Act
for Aberaeron in 1806, and in 1820 he approached the engineer J. Rennie
to draw up plans for a new pier for New Quay. However, the estimates of
£72,000 for a pier with cut stone on the inside wall and the jetty, and
£50,000 for a pier without cut stone were too high so nothing was done
until 1833 when John Maslam was asked to draw up further plans. He
suggested a pier some 520 feet long at a cost of £2,741 and 15
shillings. This plan too was discarded as the plan was judged to be
inadequate, and so in 1834 Daniel Beynon was invited to submit a plan
which was carried out after the formation of the New Quay Harbour
is the only remaining portion of the original track that carried the
quarried stone to the new pier (in background). It is preserved close
to the Tourist information Centre
Street is named after the track used to bring the rock to the new quay
quarry at the end of Rock Street is now the site of the fish factory.
This is located on the level area to the right of this slope.
pier was built with stone from a quarry which can now be seen above
'New Quay Fresh and Frozen Foods' at the end of Rock Street. A railway
was built to carry the stones from the quarry to the end of the pier.
The track of this railway is now reflected in the name given to Rock
The small stone lighthouse, 30
feet high, was not built until 1839 and was placed at the end of the
pier. It was known locally as the 'Pepper Pot' - an item that it
The lighthouse had a
window light which showed a
fixed bright light 40 feet above high water level and visible for 6 to
10 miles. It had a small access door in the base.
severe storm in 1859 damaged the pier and washed the lighthouse away.
It was rebuilt but destroyed a second time almost 80 years later during
another severe storm on 28th February 1937.
In 1833, Samuel Lewis published
his 'Topographical Dictionary of Wales', in which referred to New Quay
as follows: 'This place is advantageously situated on the
shore of Cardigan bay, and affords good anchorage to vessels of small
tonnage. The haven is securely sheltered from the westerly winds, and,
if improved to the extent of which it is susceptible, might easily be
made a safe retreat for ships of considerable burden. The pier might be
enlarged, for which purpose a subscription has been opened with success
; but the attempt has been hitherto frustrated by the want of a
sufficient title to the land, which would be requisite to carry that
object into effect. There are at present from sixty to seventy vessels
belonging to this port, averaging from forty to fifty tons' burden
each, and employing from one hundred and fifty to two hundred men. Fish
of very superior quality is found in abundance on this part of the
coast, soles, turbots, and oysters, being taken in great numbers during
the season ; a good herring fishery may also be established with
advantage. The village is of considerable size, and is inhabited
chiefly by persons connected with the business of the port'.
With the completion of the new
pier, New Quay started to grow with the building of new streets
including Rock Street, Mason Street and the upper part of Church
Street. The New Quay Harbour Company were now able to charge a fee for
the importation - and export of almost all supplies. The tariffs were
posted on enamel signs on view to all. These included five shillings
for every marble tombstone or monument, one shilling for every
hundredweight of gunpowder, one shilling and six pence for every ton of
salt, five shillings for a pianoforte, one shilling for a bath chair,
two pence for a ton of culm, and one shilling for a hundred 'cocoanuts'.
photo on the right shows the original enamel tariff boards
before they were removed and restored in recent years. They can now be
seen on the wall of the Sailing Club on the pier preserved in cases
under glass. My thanks to Toby Clempson for the
By 1851, New Quay had a population of 1236 which
included 8 Blacksmiths, 6 Masons, 3 Weavers, 9 shoemakers, 1 painter
and 1 doctor. There were very few family names in New Quay at this time
with three names making up more than half the population. These were
Davies (68 Heads of household), Evans (50), and Jones (46). Most of the
others were Thomas, Williams and Phillips.
right: Wool spinning
in New Quay
this time, the majority of houses in New Quay were built of clom with
thatched roofs. Often twisted ropes were used under the thatch
reflecting the maritime tradition of the area. Such a 'Bwthyn Clom' had
walls which may have been stone up to breast height, but which were
topped with clom (cob in England). Clom is a mixture of straw, sand,
clay and water which may have included cow manure, horse hair and
houses made of stone and with slate roofs started to appear in New Quay
after the construction of the new pier, many thatched properties in the
area survived for at least the next fifty years. for A.G. Bradley wrote
in 1903 in 'Highways and Byways of South Wales' that the cottages of
Ceredigion were "The quaintest and most picturesque in the
world - the roof is a thing of joy and a work of art which throws the
best of their kind known to me in England hopelessly in the
shade." Very few examples of these primitive
cottages survive today. Most of those surviving can be seen on local
farms, the thatch covered by corrugated iron. The cottage was the
original farmhouse - usually replaced as the residence by a stone and
slate house in the nineteenth century. A few also remain along the A487
between Llanarth and Aberystwyth
New Quay thatched cottage in
Park Street 1905 - now long gone.
This cottage from the same period has been
restored in Llanon in the little street called 'Heol Non'. It has
intricate rope work under the thatch and a reconstructed split hazel
canopy above an open fire to carry the smoke through the roof. The
larger window here may have been a later addition. The cottage is open
to the public at certain times in the summer.
This is a similar cottage owned by this
writer in Gilfachreda - just a mile and a half from New Quay. 'Doldeg'
has been repaired with lime mortar and then lime washed. The thatched
roof made of Gorse and Wheat straw remains under the tin
roof. This cottage also has one larger window which may not be part of
the original structure but which dates back to at least the
early 19th century.
By 1848 shipbuilding had become
a major industry in New Quay and in this year it is recorded that there
were 10 vessels on the stocks at one time that required the skills of
some three hundred workmen. They were summoned to work each morning by
a bell hung from the branch of a big chestnut tree.
the next decade there were fewer launches, but a study of registration
details shows that they were larger. One of the largest was the 301 ton
'Lettice Catherine' built at Traethgwyn in 1859. The range of boats
built included schooners, sloops, smacks, brigantines and brigs. The
shipbuilding industry had grown not only in size, but in complexity
with a host of other tradesmen in and around New Quay providing
were a number of Blacksmiths, the largest of which was on the site of
the present New Quay hotel, Sail makers, Rope makers and a foundry.
There were three rope-walks, one behind Water Street, another behind
Park Street and one on Lewis Terrace. There were also a number of
schools in the area specialising in navigation and
Right: A Schooner of
the success of the shipbuilding industry in New Quay, new technology
was advancing and changing transportation needs would soon
bring about the end of both shipbuilding and lime making in the
area. In 1864 Aberystwyth linked to Shrewsbury by rail. In 1886
Cardigan was linked to Great Western Railways and the Aberystwyth,
Lampeter and Carmarthen line came in 1867.
had been coming to New Quay in small numbers aboard steamers from
Liverpool and Bristol. However, the increased ease of transportation by
land into the area, brought about the next phase of New Quay's
development. Lodging houses started to appear in New Quay and visitors
wrote glowingly of its benefits. One visitor wrote in the 'Christian
World' of 1885: ' ..a little town, white in the bright
sunshine, built along the steep sides of a shimmering Bay.....this
little town was the quaintest most picturesque one could wish to see...
first printed Guide book to New Quay was :'Being a short description of
New Quay as a watering Place,' printed in Lampeter by the Welsh Press
left: New Quay in 1880
Horse drawn buses brought
visitors from the stations at Aberystwyth and Llandysul in the 1890's.
It is noted that by 1895 New Quay had some 10,000 visitors in the year.
New Quay beach in the early 1900s
is the GWR bus
that brought passengers from the station at Llandysul to New Quay in
considerable change in recent years has been the immense growth of the
caravan industry in the areas around New Quay, along the coast towards
Gilfachreda and along the Llandysul Road at Cross Inn. The
greatest impact being on land at Hengell Farm behind Traethgwyn from
New Quay to Cnwc y Lili - known in the sixties as 'Hengell Park and
today as the Quay West Holiday Park.
'The Two Bays' Traethgwyn about 1920
Transformed by about 1960 into 'Hengell Park'
New Quay is a thriving holiday resort at Easter and in the
summer months. Off season however, it remains a haven of tranquility.
'New Quay and Llanarth' by W.J. Lewis. pub 1987 Aberystwyth.
'New Quay at the time of the 1851 census' by Susan Passmore. Journal of
the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society Vol. X, No.3, 1986.
'Shipbuilding at New Quay' by Susan Campbell-Jones, Journal of the
Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society Vol. V11, No.3/4, 1974 / 1975.