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Brynrefail stands a short walk from the northern shore of Llyn Padarn lake. Afon Rhythallt leaves the lake at this point becoming Afon Seiont downstream at Pont Rhythallt, Llanrug before meandering its historic way to the sea.
The main street (now quiet after the by-pass was built in the 1960s) is mainly traditional terraced housing, the village Post Office, and the village's sole chapel which is still in use.
The village is policed from Llanberis and has a dedicated Community Beat Manager.
The roots of the village are in the 19th century slate industry and was apparently built to house workers for the nearby Dinorwig slate quarry.
As far as can be established the village developed around the village smithy (yr efail in Welsh). The building housing the smithy still exists and was has been converted from a tumbledown building into a cottage.
The village's development may well have been also influenced by the quarry railway that ran between Dinorwic Quarry and Y Felinheli (or the unofficial English name of Portdinorwic) and skirted around the village and along the shore of the lake.
It has been noted that on the 1933½ inch Ordnance Survey map of the area (Sheet 11) that the village is referred to as Bryn-yr-Efail and is still shown as so on the 1948 Revision of the same map.
The school's site was cleared in the 1990s. In 2002 work began on a multiuse centre called Caban. Opened in 2004, Caban is home to a cafe, a meeting room which doubles as the village's chapel and 13 business units. The cafe is mentioned in the Which? 2008 Good Food Guide.
Until 1960 the village's main street was the main road between Caernarfon and Llanberis until it was by-passed by the existing road to allow machinery to be conveyed to the what was then the major construction site for the Dinorwig Power Station. This split the village, leaving the small Local Authority housing estate of Trem Eilian effectively stranded on the other side of what has become a very busy main road.
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