History of Traeth Dyfi
Firstly, a translation: Traeth is the Welsh word for Beach and Dyfi is the Welsh version of Dovey, meaning the river Dovey.
Aberdovey, or Aberdyfi, was once a sleepy Welsh fishing village with few inhabitants or dwellings. At the end nineteenth century, the village grew rapidly as the industrial revolution took hold and proved to be a boom time for Aberdovey. Ship-building transfomed the tranquil village into a busy, vibrant place with virtually all inhabitants involved with the sea. Just between the years of 1840 to 1880, forty five sailing ships were built at seven yards between Penhelig and Picnic Island, with each ship taking a year to build.
All of this increased sea activity necessitated the building of a lifeboat house and Traeth Dyfi was built for that purpose in 1837. The first lifeboat, Victoria, was purchased for £67 and housed here for twenty years. She was sail and oar powered boat on a wheeled carriage, which was pulled through the village by horses to a suitable launching point, sometimes many miles away depending on the tide and wind directions. There are documents telling of her beaching as far away as Llanegryn and the lifeboat men having to walk back to Aberdovey.
The lifeboat house had a wide doorway in the west-side gable for getting her in and out with ease. There are still traces of this doorway today and it was much wider than the current bay window, stretching out all the way to the left-hand side wall when viewing it from the outside.
In 1856, Victoria was replaced by a self-righting, six oared vessel, which stayed for just seven years. Then, in 1865 the ten oared “Royal Berkshire” was purchased and was called out to many rescues in her twenty one year service.
In 1886 a larger lifeboat was purchased and it was decided that a larger site was needed. A new lifeboat house was built just down the road from Traeth Dyfi, although it was another seventeen years until a more convenient slipway was built specifically for launching the lifeboat. This wooden slipway is still there today, just to the east of Traeth Dyfi.
The now redundant Traeth Dyfi was then converted into a cake shop and tea-room and was popular as a local meeting place. Large windows on the road-side were used to advertise the wares. Water for serving the teas was still drawn from the village pump in The Square, until mains running water came to the village in 1898. The tea-room became an important supplement to it’s owners income, which gradually attracted tourists as Aberdovey’s purpose changed.
Traeth Dyfi was also divided up to accommodate a small print shop, with the printing press standing in what is now the bedroom. Indentations still visible in the floorboards show that the press must have been quite a weight.
The new railway came to Aberdovey in 1865 and brought a decline in shipping. Ship building, and then shipping, decreased until only a few steamers came to Aberdovey bringing groceries, timber and animal feed. During the years following the First World War there was very little commercial activity and the pier became a deserted coal dump.
It was recognised that the sea was becoming popular by many, particularly the Victorians, for the leisure activity of bathing. The local hotels, once used by travelling salesmen and merchants were now attracting families making use of the new railway. However, it wasn’t until 1965 that negotiations were put in place to improve the village’s amenities and develop it to, once again, a vibrant village. This time to the popular seaside resort it is today.
Around this time Traeth Dyfi was changed once again, this time to a dwelling house. Various people have lived here since then, enjoying the closeness of the sea. There are several locals who still remember the colourful character of Lizzie Bavin, in the photograph above, who lived here for many years after the cake shop was closed.
2010 saw Traeth Dyfi’s latest reinvention to a holiday cottage, with major renovations having taken place. Interior walls were taken out, the original pitch pine flooring stripped and the ceiling lifted where possible. All to give the feeling of light, closeness to the sea and spaciousness it once had when it housed those lifeboats over 170 years ago.
If you have any other information on the history of The Old Lifeboat House,
we would be very keen to hear from you.
Telephone: 01654 712799