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A black-and-white photograph of a small group of houses running along the water.

The coastal county of Cardiganshire in the 1930s

Popular with tourists and students, 1930s Cardiganshire was diverse and picturesque

Discover Cardiganshire in the 1939 Register

Perched on the western coast of Wales, the county of Cardiganshire—known today as Ceredigion following a Welsh language initiative—is home to both stunning beaches and dramatic peaks. The Cambrian Mountain range, often dubbed the 'Desert of Wales' due to the inaccessibility of the area, takes up a large part of the east of the county. The remoteness of the county in 1939 was one of the reasons that Cardiganshire received a large number of evacuees, particularly from Liverpool and the north of the country.

The remoteness of the county in 1939 was one of the reasons that Cardiganshire received a large number of evacuees, particularly from Liverpool and the north of the country.

Although Cardiganshire had a significant population in the early modern period, it fell into steady decline during the 19th century as wider social and economic changes affected many aspects of life in the county. Several traditional industries were suffering; agriculture was in crisis, and it was becoming difficult to earn a living within the native parishes and communities. 

As it stands today, Cardiganshire is the second least densely populated county in Wales at around 75,300, but back in the 1930s there were only 55,184 inhabitants, spread around the various villages that dotted the countryside as well as the larger towns such as Aberystwyth and Cardigan. The most common occupation in 1939 was agricultural work, followed by personal services and commerce.

A brightly-coloured postcard showing a small high street, with green fields and blue skies in the distance.
High Street, Borth, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales. Image:© The Wentworth Collection/Mary Evans Picture Library

Unusually for the era, studentship was the fourth most common full-time occupation in the county—students could be found a number of universities across Cardiganshire, the biggest at Aberystwyth. Back then, Aberystwyth University was part of the larger University of Wales, which had several campuses dotted around the nation.

A black-and-white photograph of a busy beach promenade.
Aberystwyth holiday resort on the west coast of Wales, August 1937. The seafront hosts Victorian Edwardian buildings mostly 4-5 stories high. Image:(c) Mirrorpix

People lived long and healthy lives in 1930s Cardiganshire. The life expectancy for men was 77, compared to today's 80.8, while women lived to 81.3, a figure that has now increased to 83.9. 

Cardiganshire was one of only two places in the UK with a permanent summer residence of bottlenose dolphins

Like many Welsh seaside counties, the coastline was a popular tourist destination throughout the 1930s. Many of the county's smaller towns, such as Aberaeron, were successful resort towns, and Cardiganshire was one of only two places in the UK with a permanent summer residence of bottlenose dolphins. Although the tourism trade has since declined, in 1939 Cardiganshire was the holiday destination of choice for many people across the country. Education, tourism and agriculture (chiefly hill farming), are still the most important industries in Cardiganshire today.

Main image: Lower Quay, Fishguard, near Cardigan, Cardiganshire, Wales. Image: © The Wentworth Collection/Mary Evans Picture Library

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