The coast of Wales is dotted with many small towns and ports like those in Ceredigion such as Aberystwyth, Cardigan, New Quay and Aberaeron with rich maritime histories. Today the harbours feature mainly fishing or leisure boats but in earlier centuries these were key to the local economy.
Cardigan for example was noted for its shipbuilding dating from the town’s 16th century charter and based on ready supplies of Welsh wood. Later imported supplies from countries like Norway and the Baltic opened up other trade for commodities with these and other nations.
Passenger ships also facilitated large scale emigration. The failed 1816 harvest led to mass emigrations to seek a better life in emerging nations such as the US, Canada and Australia. Ships such as the Albion, Fair Cambria or the Active took tightly cramped passengers to New Brunswick and New Jersey, returning laden with timber.
In 1900, there were still 213 ships registered Aberystwyth harbour employing some 900 seamen and boys. Ships from Aberystwyth regularly travelled the high seas across the globe or plied their trades along the Welsh coast and Cornwall where they traded slate for tin and lime.
Many aspects and artefacts of this fascinating maritime history are on display at the Ceredigion Museum.