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Holyhead, Anglesey

February 25, 1868, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.


Anglesey, Beaumaris, Holyhead, Menais Strait, Bangor. Bartholomew. 1902.

Anglesey Map.

London, February 23d . . . A tremendous gale prevails on the west coast of England and Wales. The great breakwater at Holyhead, and the massive stone pier, 900 feet long, have been carried away and the lights have disappeared. There are no disasters to shipping reported.

January 6, 1872, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Wreck of the Dawn, Bound for San Francisco

London, January 5th. -- The ship Dawn, from Liverpool for San Francisco, was wrecked yesterday off Holyhead. Five of the crew only were saved.

December 26, 1888, Daily Alta California

Remains Which Would Interest the Antiquarian!
Dean Swift's House - A Church Hundreds of Years Old - The Irish Nationalists' Retreat

Special Correspondence Alta California

Holyhead-Howth Crossing.
Holyhead, Wales to
Howth, Ireland

HOLYHEAD, Wales, December 1st On the way from London to Ireland, I stopped a few days in the quiet little town of Holyhead, the terminus of the London and Northwestern Railway. It is situated on a small, rocky island lying adjacent to the Island of Anglesea, from which it is divided by a strait so narrow that at low-water one can jump across it. It is connected with the larger island by an immense embankment, in the centre of which is a small archway called the "Rush." Through this the water pours with frightful volume and velocity at certain times of the tide. Holyhead evidently derives its name from its sacred character in the times of the Druids, for we are told that this place arid Mona, or the Black Island, were the last retreats of the Druids after the Roman invaders had driven them from the interior of Britain.

Druids massacred by soldiers of Paulinus.
Druids are massacred by the
soldiers of Suetonius Paulinus c. 58
Suetonius: Lives of the Caesars.Suetonius engaged in war against the Ordovices in Wales, and was attacking the Druids in Anglesey at the start of the campaign season of 61 AD. Here he was victorious, but, far to the south east, in the rich, settled region around the capital, Camulodunum (Colchester), rebellion erupted. The uprising endangered not only the province but also Paulinus's career. News of Suetonius' brutality reached Rome and an excuse was found to remove him from his post. His career was not harmed too much - he became a consul in 66 AD. In 69 AD, during the year of civil war that followed the death of Nero, he found himself on the losing side but was granted a pardon. What became of him after that is not known.

This was also the last place conquered by the Romans in Britain. The task was accomplished by Paulinus, who has left many traces behind him in Holy island. Climbing up the steep hill called the Queen's Mountain, at the base of which the town itself is built, one finds, about half way up, the remains of a Roman wall which stretches almost across the mountain.

The Druids.Druids. In later times the heroic Welsh Prince, Llewellyn, fled for refuge from the English forces to a cave in this mountain, and remained concealed until starvation compelled him to surrender. But this stone wall is not the only relic the Latins left behind. On the road to Porth-Davoch there is on one side of the road a wall, which for several miles of its extent is built of peculiarly shaped stones, hollowed out in the shape of a bowl, and other stones shaped like a pestle. These, tradition says, were the stones in which the Roman troops ground their corn.

The country is so full of these and ancient British cromlechs and grave mounds that it would be impossible to describe even a part of them in an article like the present. The town, moreover, is better known than the surrounding country, and is worthy of a little attention. As stated before, it is built at the foot of the mountain. Its population is probably about 4000 inhabitants. There is but one street of any importance, which is the business street of the town, and is called Market street. Though not one quarter of the length of its namesake in San Francisco, it yet winds around like a serpent, is unpaved, and about the width of Pine street. Off Market street to the right is a church in which the antiquarians of the United Kingdom have reveled in bliss. When first built, some 600 years ago, it stood alone on an eminence overlooking the sea. It was a monastery then, inhabited by a goodly clique of fat Saxon monks. To protect themselves from the attacks of the wild natives. these holy men had built their monastery of marvelous strength. There is a wall surrounding it which is fully seven feet thick. A narrow archway admits the visitor to a little graveyard, in the center of which stands the sacred edifice known as the "Old Church." The walls, thick as the outer one, are built of smooth, rounded sea-shore stones. It is a matter of wonder where the builder got his mortar from, so hard is it. This church has recently been restored, and for once the restorer has not altogether spoilt his work. Inside the pews were at one time all family pews, large, box-like concerns, with curtains around the top. Now, the pews are open and free to all, with the exception of the Stanley pew, which, in consideration of the late Hon. William Owen Stanley's munificence, was dedicated to his family's especial use. The coat-of-arms of the family is painted above the pew. In every corner and on every projection of this strange old place, are grotesque heads and figures which, in the "dim, religious light," admitted by the diamond-paneled windows, look positively hideous.

Leaving the graveyard, which by the way contains gravestones several hundred years old, the stranger finds himself in a narrow dark alley a hundred yards long or so. After traversing this, a turn to the right brings one into "Swift Square." Here it was that the famous Dean sojourned while on his way to and from Dublin. The house in which he lived is pointed out. A quaint looking old house it is, in which a lady keeps a children's school. She was very polite and showed me a room which she said had been used by the satirist, but as a friend afterward told me he had been shown a totally different room, it is just possible the Dean's apartment is not now known. I never met anyone who could tell the date of his residence there. Tradition alone preserves his name, just as tradition preserves many other things in this town.

"The Head is much sought after by the Irish Nationalist leaders as a place of refuge when sudden proclamations warn them to leave the green sod for British soil. Parnell, Egan, Dillon, Davitt and others are well-known to residents of the place. When Irish leaders were being arrested and thrown into Kilmainham Prison, those who had escaped the clutches of the law made their headquarters and issued manifestoes to their constituents from the Head. It is not to be thought from this that the people of Holyhead are well affected toward the Irish.

Thomas DeQuincey, the English Opium Eater.

They are not, and I remember well an "oldest inhabitant" telling me today the town is known generally as the"Head," just as it was in De Quincey's time, for so he calls it in his Confessions, in his broken English, how, during the Fenian troubles, the brave Welchers had driven all the Irish out of town.

Drove them on the mail boats willy-nilly bag and baggage, without leaving a soul behind, me oldest inhabitant here, as a rule, is not so loquacious as in more English communities. In fact, they look upon a stranger with suspicion. When I entered the old church-yard one day I accosted an ancient patriarch with a very natural question. I asked him what church it was. He shook his head in the negative. I asked, him where the railroad depot was. He shook his head. I got mad and asked him what his name was. He shook his head again. I thought he was dumb then and left him, but I was presently undeceived when I heard him, as I thought, blackguarding a stranger. I interfered, as I thought he certainly was going to beat the man. An Englishman stopped me. "Don't," he said, "he is only saying good-day in Welsh."


March 18, 1896, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

One of the British Ship Thistle's Crew Washed Overboad and Drowned.

The British ship Thistle arrived last night from Swansea. She sailed thence on November 9 and her captain reported that on the following day the ship encountered a very heavy gale with a very high cross sea, which went clean over the vessel. Six of the crew were injured and one, John Henry Hardwick, a native of England, aged 22 years, was washed overboard and drowned. The captain put into Holyhead and sailed thence November 21. No particular difficulty was encountered thereafter. The British ship Ardamurchan arrived from Cardiff, having sailed November 8. She reported heavy weather November 10 and 11 with varying winds thereafter.

October 10, 1896, Sacramento Daily Union, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Steamship Wrecked.

HOLYHEAD, October 9. A French steamship which put in here on account of the storm reports that she saw a large steamship founder off Bishop Island, Pembrokeshire. It is presumed that all on board were lost.

November 29, 1897, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Work Damage to Shipping off English Coasts

LONDON, November 28. A heavy northwest gale with terrific hall squalls has done much damage at Holyhead and near Liverpool. Many yachts and small craft have been sunk at their moorings and some buildings have been injured. At Holyhead tugs and a lifeboat rescued with great difficulty the crew of a Nova Scotian bark, which was in danger of running on the rocks. The wreck of Lord Nelson's old flagship, the Foudroyant, supposed to be firmly embedded off Black Pool, has been dashed to pieces. The gale has been general along the English coast, but only a few casualties are reported from the English channel.

Lighthouse on the South Stack (Ynys Lawd), Holyhead.

Anglesey is an island decorated with dramatic cliffs, isolated coves and sandy beaches.

Lighthouses of Wales.Lighthouses of Wales.

The Irish Sea around Anglesey has been a busy shipping area for centuries, not only with traffic between Wales and Ireland but also shipping into Chester and, after the River Dee leading to Chester silted up, Liverpool. The often stormy seas and the rocky coasts meant that many ships and lives and much cargo was lost. The need for a lighthouse on this part of the Anglesey coast was recognized as far back as 1645 when a petition was sent to King Charles I asking for a lighthouse to be built on South Stack. This request was refused, however, as being an unjustified expense for ship owners.

As a result the coastline is dotted with lighthouses. The most famous and picturesque of these is South Stack, near Holyhead. Until 1828 when an iron suspension bridge was built, the only means of crossing the deep water channel on to the island was in a basket which was suspended on a hemp cable.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
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W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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