CONWAY (CONWY) QUAY

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The district of Conway (Conwy) is mostly agricultural, and possesses no distinct
manufactures by which the prosperity of the town and its population can be greatly
promoted. A few small trading -vessels belong to the port; and here also ships of burden
are occasionally repaired. The great improvement to the harbour is the erection of the
quay; and the channel of the river having been deepened, and every impediment to the
navigation removed, it may be anticipated that a speedy increase of trading intercourse
will succeed its former languor and inactivity. The exports consist chiefly of timber, slate,
and lead; and the imports, of coal from Flint and Liverpool, and of tea, sugar, cotton,
with various other articles of domestic consumption.

The chain-bridge, which constitutes so beautiful a feature in the picture of
Conway, was erected by Mr. Telford, of whose genius Wales possesses several of
the noblest monuments. That immediately under notice — constructed on the same
principles as the bridge over the Menai, but much smaller in its proportions — is three
hundred and twenty feet between the supporting towers, and eighteen feet above high-
water mark. Nothing can be more elegant and beautiful, as it appears lightly spanning
the river, and suffering the eye to penetrate its net-like fabric, so as scarcely to offer
an obstruction to the landscape which shines through it. The scenery at this point is
exceedingly interesting, and presents the works of nature, and art, and human genius,
in striking combination.

The town of Conway, before the formation of the railroad, was one of the most
old-world places imaginable, unique for its faded and forlorn appearance, small as is
the area enclosed, a considerable portion being occupied by open spaces and gardens.
Everywhere entered by gothic portals, and as its interior was traced, with the defensive
wall everywhere in sight, it transported the beholder back to the Middle Ages, more than
any other walled city in England. There is a singular and picturesque variety of ancient
houses; some at the head of the street leading to the castle, curiously carved, appear
almost as old as the castle itself; others with their gable roofs, and black rafters, are
of later date, and the Plas Mawr, or great mansion, in the principal street, prominently
challenges the traveler’s attention with its air of faded magnificence and singular
construction. It is of Elizabethan architecture, and the arms of England, with initial letters
E. R. and R. D., supposed to be Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, as well as those of R.
W., Robert Wynne of Gwydir, sheriff’ of Carnarvon in 1591, and founder of the house,
occur frequently, and the place is lavishly adorned with various decorative devices of

the age — swans, owls, ostriches, mermaids, ragged staves, &c. The church contains
little to interest beyond its front, and an inscription to a certain Nicholas Hooker, of
Conway, gentleman, of a very anti-Malthusian import, the said Nicholas, though the
father of twenty-seven children, being but a degenerate copy of his father, who could
boast — O si sic omnia !— of no less than forty-one.

Numerous and delightful are the rambles about this most picturesque place,
which is backed by bold heathy hills and green sequestered valleys. One of the prettiest
is to Gyffin, about a mile distant, which may be reached by following up the shores
of the creek, south of the castle, and the small stream coming down into it. The little
church is very ancient, and contains some curious paintings worthy of inspection; it
is half buried, and so unpretending is the building in aspect that it may be passed
almost without noticing its sacred character. There is an excellent view of the town and
castle from the upper road on the return; the long line of walls may be traced from the
highest point, as they sweep round and join the castle, the whole space thus enclosed
resembling in its outline the Welsh harp, as often suggested. The liver and hills appear
finely beyond. The artist especially should not omit to view Conway from this, perhaps
its finest point of view.

So unique is, or rather was, Conway Castle in picturesque effect, that it is
difficult to mention any particular point from which it appears to greater advantage
than another. From the quay, or the river, from every eminence around, seen in front
or flank, near or distant, either by itself, or where the walls of the town prominently
enter into the composition, it is, or rather was, alike unequalled. The tourist who is
not pressed for time, and delights to hover around so magnificent a memorial of past
ages, will study it at every point. On taking a solitary walk round the walls, he may
fancy himself tracing the abandoned battlements of some old gothic town of the Orient,
Rhodes, or Antioch, or the Saracenic defences of Jerusalem ; a dream which may
hardly be long indulged at present ; for now, as Hood says,

“That iron age, which some have thought
Of mettle rather overwrought,
Is now all overcast”

and its crumbling memorials are sharing the same fate. Furness Abbey is turned
into a railway station, and the passing train thunders through the very centre of old,
castellated Conway, reminding us, while it indeed scares away all romantic daydreams,
of the happy’ change from feudal oppression and border warfare, to the fusion of jarring
interests, and the progress of enlightened civilization.

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