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Answering the Siren's Call.


Time is a strange entity. Looking backwards and half a century seems like no time at all, whilst looking forward to an NHS-arranged scan and three weeks seem like an eternity.


With the planned summer excursion to Sweden cancelled, or at least delayed and curtailed, Mrs Bygone Boozer and I, having found accommodation as a result of a last-minute cancellation, loaded bikes and plenty of other stuff into the car and headed westwards towards Anglesey.


Anglesey is a great place to ride, with less than thirty-four inches of rain a year and only nine rain days in June it's much drier than mainland north Wales, with many more sunshine hours to boot. With a huge network of quiet country lanes...




...it's a pleasure to ride there. Even the A5 is quiet.


Even the A5 is quiet.

And quiet it was on Tuesday morning when we set off from our accommodation on a farm, near Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch, for a spin which would take us to a bygone boozer overlooking the Menai Straits at Foel Ferry, near Brynsiencyn.


It won't be too long now until the fiftieth anniversary of my first visit to the Mermaid Inn and I remember the event as if it were yesterday. Eugene was sitting in the back of a white Volkswagen Beetle whilst I was in the front passenger seat giving John directions as he steered the little German coleopteran across Telford's bridge onto the island. If I remember my first visit to the Mermaid I also remember my last, which was in July 1986, and whilst the pub is no longer operating I regularly find myself responding to the siren calling me back to this part of the UK. I just love this area.


But let's leave the Mermaid for a minute or two, as another aim of this ride was to track down the whereabouts of the Bull Inn in Brynsiencyn or, more accurately, to track down the whereabouts of the former Bull Inn in Brynsiencyn.


The image below was reputedly taken in the 1870s in Brynsiencyn...


Bull Inn Brynsiencyn
The Bull Inn, Brynsiencyn, some cottages and a chapel in the 1870s.

...but the only pub that currently exists in the actual village is the recently renovated Y Groeslon, It's also the only pub that's marked on this old Ordnance Survey map from 1899...



Ordnance Survey map from 1899 showing The Croeslon/Y Groeslon.

Y Groeslon, Brynsiencyn.
Y Groeslon, Brynsiencyn.

...but just across the road from it stands this row of cottages and a chapel. There is no longer a portico, but doesn't it look familiar?



The former Bull Inn in Brynsiencyn, some cottages and a chapel in 2024.

Quite how long the Bull Inn operated for as a pub I'm not sure, but I don't believe it was for very many years. The only reference to it that I have been able to find is in the 1881 census which shows one Hugh Jones as a licensed victualler at the Bull Inn...


Extract from the 1881 census.

...but ten years later the place is simply named Bull and a different Jones family is in residence, running a grocery.


Extract from the 1891 census.

In all probability it looks as if it had ceased trading as a pub. The are other properties in the village listed as Half Moon and Plough which may well suggest that they too could have been boozers at some point, but this is merely conjecture on my part.


Having located the bygone Bull, Mrs Bygone Boozer and I continued on our merry way towards the Menai Straits and our main target of the day.



I'd always known the place as The Mermaid or Y Fôr-Forwyn – whose literal (or could/should that be littoral?!) translation being the sea maiden – but the same 1899 Ordnance Survey map that didn't mark the Bull in Brynsiencyn village gives its name as the Menai Hotel...



...as does the building itself.


mermaid menai hotel
The two incarnations are recorded on the wall.

Here it is, seen from the Menai Straits, in around 1911 when Harry Bernard had the place.




Prior to the completion of Thomas Telford's suspension bridge across the straits, in 1826, the only way to get between Anglesey and the mainland was by ferry, a number of which operated between various crossing points. There had been a ferry crossing established from Caernarfon to the opposite shore on Anglesey by 1426. In 1850 its landing point on the Anglesey side was moved about three-quarters of a mile north-eastwards from Tal-y-Foel to Y Foel, although the new pier constructed retained the name of the original landing point.


The orange pin marks the original landing point at Tal-y-Foel with the new one at the top right of the map extract.

The 'new' Tal-y-Foel pier, with Caernarfon Castle on the other side of the Menai Strait.

Whilst the Menai Hotel was almost certainly built to serve the passengers embarking on this rearranged crossing it possibly throws up a question. In 1861 Morgan Lloyd was the innkeeper at the Menai Inn at Foel...


Extract from the 1861 census.

...just as he had been a decade earlier.


Extract from the 1851 census.

Ten years before that though, Morgan had been recorded as a publican at the Tal-y-Foel Inn.


Extract from the 1841 census.

This must've been an earlier inn situated at the original landing point, mustn't it? There is still a property called Tal-y-Foel, but it is a modern build. However, it does boast a holiday cottage which seems to be sitting on the site of the original building, so it's possibly a part conversion.


The Caernarfon ferry continued to operate up until the 30th July 1950 and the entry in telephone directory of that year gives the number of the hotel as Brynsiencyn 217.


Extract from the 1950 telephone directory.

It had the same entry the following year, but in 1952 the place had acquired the name by which I've always known it.


Extract from the 1952 telephone directory.

After 1973 its listing disappeared but was back in the 1977 edition. I have some vague stirring deep in my hippocampus, or wherever it is in the brain that long term memory is stored, of hearing about a fire and a reopening at some point, presumably before the autumn of 1977 when I made my first visit.


Closed for a number of years now, the Mermaid is used for holiday accommodation.


Target reached we headed back to our temporary home through some different lanes. On doing so we passed this house...




...which had this name.




The first word probably needs no help to translate, but the whole thing means small prince tavern. Is that a small prince or a small tavern?. Whatever, it probably means a bit more investigating.


Ride over, shower taken, it was time for a beer. One bonus of being away from home is the opportunity to pick up some different brews. This one was Clogwyn Gold from Conwy Brewery. Describing itself as a golden hoppy ale, this bottle conditioned beer says that it needs to be stood upright in the fridge for a couple of hours before pouring to allow any sediment to settle. My bottle had had a couple of days standing upright in the fridge but the brew still emerged as cloudy as if the bottle was suffering with a severe UTI. Maybe it's supposed to be one of those seemingly fashionable hazy brews, I don't know.


So the bottle didn't retain the sediment, but what about the beer? Well, it kept its thin head, had a citrussy aroma with some hint of grassiness and the citrus carried over into the flavour. There was also a pleasant amount of bitterness as it passed over the back of my tongue. All in all, pretty refreshing after a good pedal, even though it looked a bit thick.



Time is a strange entity. Those few days on Anglesey seemed to be much longer. Hopefully the few weeks until the scan will actually seem like no time at all.


The Ordnance Survey map extracts are copyright and have been reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under the terms of this CC BY licence.




If you've read this far, then thank you. Possibly, like me, you may have some sort of interest in bygone boozers. Clicking here will take you to a searchable/sortable index which you can use to see if I've already featured any lost locals from your locality. You can also subscribe to ensure that you don't miss any future posts. Simply click here to return to the home page (opens in a new tab), follow the 'Subscribe' link and complete the form to receive an email notification of any future post. Or you could simply follow the link at the top of this page.

 

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