Jump to content

Bethesda, Gwynedd

Coordinates: 53°10′44″N 4°03′36″W / 53.179°N 4.060°W / 53.179; -4.060
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The former Capel Bethesda from Penybryn Road.
Bethesda is located in Gwynedd
Location within Gwynedd
Population4,735 (2011)[1]
OS grid referenceSH624667
  • Bethesda
Principal area
Preserved county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townBangor
Postcode districtLL57
Dialling code01248
PoliceNorth Wales
FireNorth Wales
UK Parliament
Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament
List of places
53°10′44″N 4°03′36″W / 53.179°N 4.060°W / 53.179; -4.060

Bethesda (/bɛˈθɛzdə/;[2] Welsh: [bɛθ'ɛsda] ) is a town and community in Gwynedd, Wales. It is on the banks of Afon Ogwen and on the edge of Snowdonia. It is 5 miles (8.0 km) from Bangor.


The settlement's ancient name was Cilfoden,[3] formerly known as Glanogwen.[4] In 1823,[citation needed] the Bethesda Chapel was built and the town subsequently grew around and later named after it. The chapel was rebuilt in 1840.[citation needed]

The town grew around the slate quarrying industries; the largest of the local quarries is the Penrhyn Quarry. At its peak, the town exported purple slate all over the world. Penrhyn Quarry suffered a three-year strike led by the North Wales Quarrymen's Union between 1900 and 1903 – the longest industrial dispute in British history. This led to the creation of the nearby village of Tregarth, built by the quarry owners, which housed the families of those workers who had not struck. It also led to the formation of three co-operative quarries, the largest of which Pantdreiniog dominated the town for many years.[5]

The A5 road runs through Bethesda and marked the border between Lord Penrhyn's land, and the freehold land. Most of the town is to the east and northeast of the road, with housing packed onto the hillside in irregular rows, built on the commons. On the current high street, all the public houses are found on the south side of the road.


The narrow gauge Penrhyn Quarry Railway opened in 1801 to serve Penrhyn Quarry. It connected the quarry with Port Penrhyn on the coast and operated until 1962. In 1884, a branch of the London and North Western Railway's network from Bangor was opened, along with a station for the town. The line closed to passengers in 1951 and to freight in 1963.

The trackbed of the Penrhyn Quarry Railway towards Porth Penrhyn is taken over by the Lôn Las Ogwen cycle path.

Modern Bethesda[edit]

The population of Bethesda was 4,735 in 2011.[6] Current opportunities for employment in the town are limited: there are a few manufacturing businesses; most businesses are in the low-paid service sector and hospitality industry.

Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen ("Ogwen Valley School") is a bilingual comprehensive school, with 374 pupils, established in 1951.

Zip World Velocity in Penrhyn Quarry is the longest zipline in Europe, at just over 1,600 metres (0.99 mi) long, and brings the town hundreds of visitors.[7]


At the local level, Bethesda elects thirteen community councillors to Bethesda Community Council, from the community wards of Gerlan, Ogwen and Rachub.[8]

Prior to 1996 Bethesda was a county electoral ward to Gwynedd County Council.[9] Since 2004, two county wards have covered Bethesda, namely Gerlan and Ogwen which each elect one county councillor to Gwynedd Council.[10]


Capel Jerusalem

The architecture and layout of the town are largely utilitarian. Most of the buildings are constructed of stone with slate roofs. Some are constructed wholly of slate blocks, although such buildings tend to suffer from damp and structural slippage because the very flat and smooth surfaces of slate do not bind well to mortar.

The town has 40 Grade II listed buildings, including three pubs, in addition to the substantial and imposing Grade I listed Nonconformist Jerusalem Chapel[11]

The upper parts of Carneddi, Cilfodan and Tan y Foel owe more to stone quarrying on the nearby hills rather than slate quarrying that supported the lower end of the town. At the eastern limits, the town is bounded by the rising land of the Carneddau mountains which form some of the more remote landscapes of Snowdonia. Much of Bethesda once consisted of discrete villages such as Gerlan, Rachub, Tregarth, Llanllechid and Braichmelyn; their names are retained as districts of the town.


Bethesda is noted for both the number of chapels (mostly dating from the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival) in the town.[citation needed] The town was named after the Bethesda Chapel, which was recently converted into residential flats.

Commerce and industry[edit]

Llanllechid, on the outskirts of Bethesda, is the home of the Popty Bakery, the origins of which date back to the bakery opened by O. J. Williams in the early 1900s. The product range highlights Welsh cuisine, including Welsh cakes and Bara Brith.[12]

Language and culture[edit]

The dominant language of the town is Welsh and can be seen written and heard spoken in most settings. According to the United Kingdom Census 2001, 77.5% of the residents are Welsh-speaking (with some parts being over 80.0%+),[13] higher than the average for both Gwynedd and Wales as a whole. In successive census returns (1901 and 1911) Bethesda had the highest percentage of Welsh speakers of its respective shire (Caernarfonshire) and of any district in Wales (with 1,500 monolingual Welsh speakers in 1901). The name of the town is known colloquially "Pesda" in the local Welsh dialect.[14]

The S4C series Amdani! (a play on words that can mean "go for it!" and "about her") was based on a fictitious women's rugby team in Bethesda, and many of the location shots were filmed in the area. The series was based on the novel of the same name, by Bethan Gwanas, who lived in the town.

In June 2012 Tabernacl (Bethesda) Cyf., a non-profit co-operative based in the town was awarded a grant of around £1 million to renovate Neuadd Ogwen, a performance venue on the High Street. It was due to reopen as a community arts centre in June 2013.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Bethesda developed a reputation as a hub of musical creativity.[citation needed] Jam sessions and small home studios abounded alongside a burgeoning pub rock scene. As well as the now well-established 'Pesda Roc' festival, Bethesda has nurtured the Welsh language bands Celt, Maffia Mr Huws and experimentalists Y Jeycsyn Ffeif. In more recent years it continues to spring up bands from the local community such as Radio Rhydd.


Notable people[edit]

William John Parry, 1897
Goronwy Roberts, 1955

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Community population 2011". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  2. ^ Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  3. ^ The Place-names of Wales – Page 121 by Thomas Morgan, 1912
  4. ^ Tourist guide to North Wales, London and North-Western Railway, 1909
  5. ^ Hayman, Richard (May 2017). BETHESDA: An urban character study. Gwynedd Council.
  6. ^ "Cyfrifiad 2011 – Ystadegau i Wynedd2011 Census – Statistics for Gwynedd" (PDF). Gwynedd Council. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  7. ^ "The 100 MPH slide; Riding Europe's Longest Zipline". Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  8. ^ "Councillors". Partneriaeth Ogwen. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Gwynedd County Council Election Results 1973–1993" (PDF). The Elections Centre (Plymouth University). Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  10. ^ "The County of Gwynedd (Electoral Changes) Order 2002 – Schedule". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. 6 December 2002. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  11. ^ Gwynedd Listed Building Register Archived 8 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Popty Bakery, About". caegroes.co.uk. Archived from the original on 15 October 2016. Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  13. ^ "ArcGIS Web Application".
  14. ^ Rhys, Guto (2022). Amrywiaith 2 - Blas ar dafodieithoedd Cymru (in Welsh) (1 ed.). Llanrwst: Carreg Gwalch. p. 40. ISBN 9781845278526.

External links[edit]