Beddgelert might be best known for the tragic legend of Llywelyn the Great’s courageous dog, but today marks the 72nd anniversary of another iconic moment in the village’s history – the night a meteorite crashed through the roof of a local pub.

In the early hours of 21st September 1949, residents of the village were woken by the bright light of the falling space rock, and described a “terrific sound” as it tore through the roof tiles of the Prince Llewelyn pub.

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Two Durham University scientists, who had read about the incident in a newspaper, travelled to Beddgelert and collected the meteorite for analysis. They published their results in a 1950 scientific paper, along with eyewitness accounts that provide fascinating insight into the event.

The National Wales: The meteorite was discovered in Beddgelert, North WalesThe meteorite was discovered in Beddgelert, North Wales

One particularly poetic account came from a Miss Janet Wilson, who lived roughly thirty miles away in Penmaenmawr.

She wrote in a letter: “I  was awake on the morning of the display - my room was suddenly lit up to such an extent that I could have read headlines of a paper.

“I hurried to the window and saw a most beautiful sight.

“Flying across was a blue luminous body, partially bulbous and partially elongated, but a most lovely blue colour.

“The whole spectacle did not occupy more than about 45 seconds.

“Very shortly after it had gone, I heard a slight distant explosion.

“I consider myself fortunate to have seen it, a most magnificent sight.”

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Miss Vera Garrood of Prestbury, Cheshire, described a “disc of brilliant light, about the size of a  saucer, followed by a trail of sparks, drifting earthwards across the sky.”

Mr W P Tillotson, the manager of The Prince Llewelyn, told the scientists that he was woken that night by his dog barking, just in time to hear a few bangs as the meteorite struck the pub.

He remarked that the bangs reminded him of naval bombs, but when nothing further happened, he went back to bed.

It was only when his wife entered the upstairs lounge at lunchtime the next day that they made their discovery, finding the room “covered in plaster dust, which had obviously been released from a jagged hole in the ceiling”, with a dark stone lying a few feet away from the hole.

The couple only realised that they had a meteorite in their possession when a customer, an old miner, told them he’d seen similar rocks at a museum many years ago.

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Scientists determined that the meteorite was a “black chondrite”, so-called for the circular mineral “chondrule” particles embedded within them, which are rarely found in Earth rocks.

Dr Jana Horak, co-acting head of natural sciences at Amgueddfa Cymru (The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff), where a slice of the Beddgelert meteorite is still on display, says that chondrules can teach us about the formation of our Solar System. 

She said: "[Chondrules] solidified from the cloud of dust from which the Sun and our planets formed.

"They occur in meteorites derived from asteroids, which retained their original composition (these are termed primitive meteorites), thus giving us a clue to the composition of this original cloud - the Solar Nebular."

Meteorites of this kind, she says, require very little preservation.

"This chondrite is actually very stable. It has survived coming from deep space to Earth - this may contrast with the iron (or nickel iron) meteorites which may oxidise and fall part in more humid climates."

Amgueddfa Cymru's slice was cut using a diamond saw, and likely polished with diamond paste.

"In general, we don't want to undertake other interventions on meteorite samples, as this may contaminate it for future analysis," Dr Horak added.

The Beddgelert meteorite is just one of two ever known to have fallen on Wales, with the other discovered in Pontllyfni, near Caernafon, in 1936.

The National Wales: The Beddgelert meteor crash could be heard from Conwy, over thirty miles awayThe Beddgelert meteor crash could be heard from Conwy, over thirty miles away

The bulk of the Beddgelert meteorite is split between London’s Natural History Museum and Durham University.

This, Dr Horak says, is common practice.

"Unlike in some other countries, meteorites are not state or protected property - the person who finds it is free to do what they wish with it.

"What is most important is that the science is undertaken and the expertise on meteorites is based where the meteorite is housed.

"The Natural History Museum London is one of the leading world centres for meteorite research so this is most sensible home."

She adds: "I don't think more will ever be permanently housed in Wales.

"We do have a meteorite watch camera on the Museum roof to aid locating possible falls, if we find something in Wales... I would like to think we would retain a significant sample.

"It is only fluke where a meteorite lands."

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The Pontllyfni meteorite, meanwhile, is said to have resided under somebody’s bed for more than forty years before it was snapped up by the London Natural History Museum.

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