Ceredigion Historical Society
Aberystwyth Historic Mapping - OS Six Inch, 1888-1913, Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

10 Must Read Articles About Aberystwyth History, Port and Archaeology

Aberystwyth history, archaeology and antiquities, is a seaside and market town in Ceredigion (formerly Cardiganshire), West Wales. Situated on the Cardigan Bay coastline, between Penparcau and Comins Coch.

What county is Aberystwyth in?

Aberystwyth is a seaside town, community and electoral ward in Ceredigion, Wales.

What is the population of Aberystwyth?

The population of Aberystwyth was 15,935 in 2001, reducing to 13,040 in the 2011 census.

How far is Aberystwyth from Aberaeron?

The distance between Aberystwyth and Aberaeron by road is 16.3 miles.

  • Aberystwyth History, Constitution Hill and Victorian Seafront Ceredigion
  • Aberystwyth Castle - Discover the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion
  • Aberystwyth Harbour - Discover the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion
  • Aberystwyth Pendinas Hillfort - Discover the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion
  • Aberystwyth Town - Discover the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion
  • Pendinas Hillfort Aberystwyth - Discover the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion
  • Aberystwyth Castle and a selection of coins produced at the Royal Mint
  • Aberystwyth History its buildings and archaeology in the county of Ceredigion
  • Site plan Pendinas Aberystwyth
  • Find on Pendinas Aberystwyth

History of Aberystwyth
Find on Pendinas Aberystwyth
Find on Pendinas
Hillfort, Aberystwyth
County: Ceredigion
Community: Aberystwyth
Traditional County: Cardiganshire
Map Reference SN58SE
Grid Reference SN5821681622
Medieval Parish
Cantref: Penweddig
Commote: Perfedd
Ecclesiastical Parish: 
Aberystwyth, Acres: 947.669
Parish Hundred: Genau’r Glyn
Electoral Ward:
Bronglais, Central, North,
Penparcau and Rheidol
Listed Buildings: Aberystwyth
Scheduled Monuments: Aberystwyth
Site plan Pendinas Aberystwyth
Historic site plan of
Pendinas Hillfort,
Aberystwyth

Since 1909 the Ceredigion Historical Society has published articles written about the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion, many of the articles are about Aberystwyth history.

The society has also produced three county volumes, under the name of the Cardiganshire County History series, these knowledgeable, learned, comprehensive and scholary publications record the history of prehistoric, early and modern Cardiganshire.

1. Local History

1.1. The Society’s Dinner at Aberystwyth

Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Volume: 1

1.2. The Royal Mint, Aberystwyth, 1915 – by the Rev. G. Eyre Evans

THE county mints of Charles I., and especially those in smaller towns are, says Henry Symonds, f.s.a., ” so veiled in obscurity

1.3. Famous Aberystwyth School

Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Vol 13

1.4. Some Aspects of the History of Aberystwyth-I – By W. J. Lewis – 284

Ceredigion – Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, 1959 Vol III No 4

1.5. Some Aspects of the History of Aberystwyth-II – By W. J. Lewis – 19

Ceredigion – Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, 1960 Vol IV No I

1.6. The Aberystwyth Town Walls – By D. B. Hague – 276

Ceredigion – Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, 1955 Vol II No 4

1.7. Aberystwyth Harbour Since 1925 – By T. H. Merchant – 283

Ceredigion – Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, 1962 Vol IV No 3

1.8. Hospital Services in Aberystwyth Before 1948 – By D. I. Evans – 168

Ceredigion – Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, 1965 Vol V No 2

1.9. Some recent archaeological discoveries in the Aberystwyth district – JEFFREY L. DAVIES – 1

Ceredigion Journal of the Ceredigion Antiquarian Society Vol XIII, No I 1997

1.10. The Building of Aberystwyth Promenade – MICHAEL FREEMAN – 73

Ceredigion – Journal of the Ceredigion Historical Society Vol XV, No 3, 2007

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Aberystwyth Castle and a selection of coins produced at the Royal Mint
Aberystwyth Castle and a selection of coins produced at the Royal Mint

2. Journal Index

Index to Ceredigion Journal, Volumes I-X, 1950-84

  • Aberystwyth, iv: 119
    • abolition of borough seat, v:313
    • archaeology, vi:438
    • argraffu, viii:204
    • assembly rooms
      • see Assembly Rooms
    • baptists, vii:121-2
    • Bethel baptist chapel
      • and the census of religious worship, iv:116,124
      • gravestone of Ellis’s Eagle Foundry, viii:342
    • bibliography, iv:299-301
    • blacksmith, vi:100
    • board of guardians, ix:79,87-94
    • borough council, iv:280
    • borough election 1741, vi:128-9
    • bridge, iv:20; vii:165
    • calvinistic methodists, vii:121
    • castle, iii:51, 52-3, 114-17, 284, 285, 286, 297,324; v:160; vii:163
    • castle, near Llanfarian, i:40
      • see also Tan-y-castell, Aberystwyth
    • censuses, ix: 257-9
    • cerddoriaeth, vi:306
    • chamber of trade, v:318; ix:151
    • charters, iii:319
    • cliff railway
      • see Cliff railway
    • clybiau cyfeillgar, iii:25
    • commons, iv:20-l
    • compared with Lampeter in the 14c, iv:139,140
    • Co-operative society, ix:152,155
    • corn mills, vi:98
    • court leet, viii:103
    • craftsmen, vi:92
    • crynwyr, iv:112
    • customs house, iii:289-91, x:127,367
    • drama, vii:230,231
    • ducking stool, iii:294
    • education, ii:3-l 7,66-84
    • Education report, 1847, ii:72-3,138,147,152
    • eisteddfod genedlaethol (1865), v:361,371,376; vi:87
    • eisteddfod genedlaethol (1915), viii:34
    • elections(18c),v:402-03,405,406,407,408,412,415,417,418,420,421
    • electric power, viii:6
    • emigration
      • see Aberystwyth: ymfudo
    • fairs, x:37
      • early 20c, iv:219
      • hiring, ix:153
      • horse, v:129
      • mediaeval, iii:321-2,323
    • floods, vi:326
    • friendly societies
      • see Aberystwyth: clybiau cyfeillgar
    • fulling mill, vi:108
    • further education, ii:12-13
    • gaol
      • see Aberystwyth: house of correction
    • gas works, Mill Street, viii:342
    • geology, vi:324-31
    • grist mill, iii:294-5
    • guildhall, iii:298
    • harbour, iv:283-9; vi:325,326,328; x:367
    • herring boats, vi:202
    • herring fishing, iii:332; vi:121,122
    • holidays at, x:269-86
    • Holy Trinity church, ii:66
    • hospital services, v:168-208
    • house of correction, iii:293-4; vi:14,15,18,24; x:359
    • independent chapel (Eng.), v:28
    • independents, iv:121; vii:121
    • iforiaid: Ceredig, iii:28
    • ivorites
      • see Aberystwyth: iforiaid
    • labourers’ diet, 1837, x:42
    • lead smelting, iii:295-6
    • lighting, iv:33
    • limekilns, iii:295
    • Liverpool evacuees, x:166
    • London and Manchester House, x:26
    • maps, ii:263-5
    • markets, iii:288-9,296; ix:182-3; x:38,44
      • corn, iii:296; vii:238
      • pig, iii:296
        • see also Aberystwyth Corn and General Market Co.
    • May Queen Festival, x:164-5
    • militia, x:370
    • mill, iii:330
    • mint, i:185-6,188;iii:285
    • music
      • see Aberystwyth: cerddoriaeth
    • name, iii:284
    • national eisteddfod
      • see Aberystwyth : eisteddfod genedlaethol
    • paving, iv:33
    • pier, iii:289; x:360
    • Plascrug swimming pool, x:345
    • political nonconformity, growth of, iii:127-8
    • poor house, vi:16
    • poor law union, ix:78-101
    • population
      • 1841, ix:135-49
      • increase 1871-1921, v:318
      • increase 1911-21, v:331
      • trend 16c-18c, vii:259
    • port, iii:326; vi:328; x:408
    • printing
      • see Aberystwyth : argraffu
    • public library, iii:161-80
    • quakers
      • see Aberystwyth: crynwyr
    • quarry, iii:292
    • Queen Street Welsh church, iv:126,127
    • railway, vii:232,235
      • involvement of H. Houghton and the Duke of Newcastle, vii:223
      • station : floods, 1886, iv:372
    • riot, 1794-5, iv:267
    • Roman Catholic chapel, vii:231-2
    • rope making, iii:295
    • Royal Welsh Show, 1957, x:174,175-6
    • St. Mary’s church, ii:66; vi:329,415,416
      • consecrated by Bishop Connop Thirlwall, vii:147
    • St. Michael’s church, iv:24,32; x:4
      • and the census of religious worship,1851, iv:116,119,120
      • as chapel-of-ease to Llanbadarn, i:66
      • first, ii:66; vi:416
      • organ fund, 1892, viii:9
      • schoolhouse, vi:416
      • second, ii:66; vi:417-18; vii:99,114,117-28
      • third, ii:66; vi:419
      • vestry, vi:419
    • St. Paul’s Wesley Band of Hope, vii:240
    • sand bar, iii:289-91
    • savings bank, iv:19
    • school board, ii:3-17, iii:208,210,212,214
    • schools, ii:138,147,152
      • Alexandra Road Primary school, x:171
      • Ardwyn school, vii:356; viii:57; ix:199, 200; x:164,173
      • board school, ii:5-6,9-16; iv:358
      • British school, ii:74-5,139,151
      • British schoolroom, v:28
      • Caerleon House school for young ladies, ix:199-200
      • Calvinistic Methodist school
        • see Aberystwyth : schools: ysgol y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd
      • Church infant school, ii:140
      • Church schools
        • see Aberystwyth : schools: National schools
      • Commercial and grammar school, viii:59; ix:199
      • Dinas Secondary school, x:171,173,329
      • drawing school, ix:199
      • elementary school
        • see Aberystwyth : schools : ysgol elfennol
      • Girls’ Grammar school, x:167
      • grammar school, ii:68-9; ix:199
      • High school, ix:199
      • intermediate school, ii:16; viii:54,56,58,67
      • maritime education, vii:296
      • mathematical and commercial school,viii:52
        • see also Evans, John, Aberystwyth, schoolmaster
      • Miss Keeling’s school, ii:5
      • Mrs. Williams’s dame school, ii:151
      • Mrs. Woollatts’s school, ii:5
      • National schools, ii:4,5,70-82,143,150;iv:19,47; vi:49; vii:105
      • Old Bank school, viii:58
      • private schools, ii:94,150; viii:52
      • Sabbath schools, ii:141
      • Tanycae school, ii:5
      • Wesleyan school, ii:94,139,151,155; vi:78
      • ysgol elfennol, vi:58
      • ysgol y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd, vi:78
      • ysgoldy, ii:68-9,71; vi:49
    • sea cadet corps, iv:283
    • Seilo chapel, ii:93; vi:305
    • shipbuilding, iii:295
    • shire court, iii:285
    • stocks, iii:294
    • storms, iv:372; vi:329-30
    • Tabernacle, x:256
      • and the census of religious worship,iv:124,126
      • chapel choir, iii:342; vii:240; viii:5
      • decision to build Seilo, ii:93
      • rebuilding, iv:27
    • tannery, iii:296; vi:93
    • taxidermist, iv:240
    • Temperance Society, ii:92
    • Theatre, x:361
    • theatres, vii:231
    • town band, viii:3
    • town clock, iii:298; v:176
    • town commons, iii:297
    • town gates, iii:297
    • town hall
      • used as a theatre, vii:231
    • town walls, ii:276; iii:297; iv:19
    • trade, iii:288-9,323-5,326-7
    • turnpike road, x:127
    • Unitarians, vii:122
    • University College of Wales
      • see University College of Wales, Aberystwyth
    • vestry, vi: 9,10,11
    • visit of Asquith, v:332,334,336
    • visit of Mrs. Pankhurst, viii:ll
    • visitors, iv:31
    • water supply, iv:33
    • wesleyan methodists, iv:126; vii:122
    • windmill, iii:299
    • workhouse, v:170-2; viii:252-3,262,267,268,274
    • ymfudo, ii:l 67,227-9
  • Aberystwyth Amateur Band, ii:6
  • Aberystwyth and Cardigan Bay Steam Packet Co., ii:99
  • Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire General Hospital, v:182-3
  • Aberystwyth and District Swimming Club, x:345
  • Aberystwyth Archaeological Society, iii:97; v:434-8
  • Aberystwyth area
    • botanical records, i:80-4,87,93
  • Aberystwyth Auxiliary Bible Society, x:368
  • Aberystwyth Board of Guardians, x:37
  • Aberystwyth Church Rebuilding Fund, vi:416
  • Aberystwyth Corn and General Market Co., iii:165-6
  • Aberystwyth Cycling Club, v:202
  • Aberystwyth District Education Committee, ii:16
  • Aberystwyth District Visiting Society, v:175
  • Aberystwyth Football Club, vii:240
  • Aberystwyth Footpaths Association, viii:408
  • Aberystwyth Foundry, viii:330,336
  • Aberystwyth Guide, 1816, x:257,259,264,357,365,368
  • Aberystwyth Improvement Company, viii:408,409,410-12
  • Aberystwyth Infirmary, ix:144
  • Aberystwyth Infirmary and Cardiganshire General Hospital
    • Y Crynfryn 1838-88, v:173-7,199; vi:22
    • North Road 1888+, v:l 77-82,200-1
  • Aberystwyth Labour Party, ix:155
  • Aberystwyth Literary Institute, iii:165, 167,168,169,175
  • Aberystwyth Literary Society, vii:235
  • Aberystwyth Marine Pier Company, viii:409
  • Aberystwyth Observer, v:321,325
  • Aberystwyth Old Social Club, x:45
  • Aberystwyth Old Students’ Association, viii:ll
  • Aberystwyth Pier Company, viii:409,412
  • Aberystwyth Rural District Council, iv:280
  • Aberystwyth Savings Bank, x:45
  • Aberystwyth Select Vestry, vi:24
  • Aberystwyth Service Reservoir, viii:336
  • Aberystwyth Trades Council, ix:158
  • Aberystwyth Union, viii:246-9,251-4,259,263,265,266,267,271
  • Aberystwyth Women’s Liberal Association,v:326,328
  • Aberystwyth Working Men’s Institute, viii:10

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Site plan Pendinas Aberystwyth
Site plan Pendinas Aberystwyth

3. Illustrations and Old Pictures

Index to Illustrations, Ceredigion Journal, Volumes I-X, 1950-84

  • Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire general hospital, facing v:169 pl.13
  • Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire general hospital: the President and the committee of management, 1948, facing v:192 pl.16
  • Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire general hospital staff, 1944, facing v:177 pl. 15
  • Aberystwyth by John Wood, 1834. Plan of, facing ix:135 fig.13
  • Aberystwyth circa 1748. Lewis Morris’s map of, facing iii:189 pl.13
  • Aberystwyth circa 1750, iii:290 fig 10
  • Aberystwyth circa 1797, facing iii:296 pl.4
  • Aberystwyth. Cliffs eroded in glacial deposits 3 miles S.W. of, facing i:162 pl.4
  • Aberystwyth enumeration districts, 1841-71, facing ix:134 fig.12
  • Aberystwyth from Craiglais, facing iv:21 pl.2
  • Aberystwyth grits exposed in the cliffs just north of Aberystwyth. Highly inclined, facing i:158 pl.2
  • Aberystwyth in Victorian times, facing x:277 pl. 15
  • Aberystwyth Infirmary and Cardiganshire general hospital built in 1888, facing v:169 pl. 12
  • Aberystwyth Infirmary and Cardiganshire general hospital…The hospital staff,1890,facing v:176 pl.
  • 14
  • Aberystwyth. Old St. Michael’s Church, facing vi:416 pl. 14
  • Aberystwyth. Plan of St. Michael’s Church, facing vii:122 fig.7

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4. Architecture

  • bridge, iv:20; vii:165
  • castle, iii:51, 52-3, 114-17, 284, 285, 286, 297,324; v:160; vii:163
  • castle, near Llanfarian, i:40
    • see also Tan-y-castell, Aberystwyth
  • cliff railwaysee Cliff railway
  • guildhall, iii:298
  • pier, iii:289; x:360
  • Plascrug swimming pool, x:345
  • public library, iii:161-80
  • town clock, iii:298; v:176

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5. Schools and Education

  • education, ii:3-l 7,66-84
  • Education report, 1847, ii:72-3,138,147,152
  • further education, ii:12-13
  • school board, ii:3-17, iii:208,210,212,214
  • schools, ii:138,147,152
    • Alexandra Road Primary school, x:171
    • Ardwyn school, vii:356; viii:57; ix:199, 200; x:164,173
    • board school, ii:5-6,9-16; iv:358
    • British school, ii:74-5,139,151
    • British schoolroom, v:28
    • Caerleon House school for young ladies, ix:199-200
    • Calvinistic Methodist school
      • see Aberystwyth : schools: ysgol y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd
    • Church infant school, ii:140
    • Church schoolssee Aberystwyth : schools: National schools
    • Commercial and grammar school, viii:59; ix:199
    • Dinas Secondary school, x:171,173,329
    • drawing school, ix:199
    • elementary school
      • see Aberystwyth : schools : ysgol elfennol
    • Girls’ Grammar school, x:167
    • grammar school, ii:68-9; ix:199
    • High school, ix:199
    • intermediate school, ii:16; viii:54,56,58,67
    • maritime education, vii:296
    • mathematical and commercial school,viii:52
      • see also Evans, John, Aberystwyth, schoolmaster
    • Miss Keeling’s school, ii:5
    • Mrs. Williams’s dame school, ii:151
    • Mrs. Woollatts’s school, ii:5
    • National schools, ii:4,5,70-82,143,150;iv:19,47; vi:49; vii:105
    • Old Bank school, viii:58
    • private schools, ii:94,150; viii:52
    • Sabbath schools, ii:141
    • Tanycae school, ii:5
    • Wesleyan school, ii:94,139,151,155; vi:78
    • ysgol elfennol, vi:58
    • ysgol y Methodistiaid Calfinaidd, vi:78
    • ysgoldy, ii:68-9,71; vi:49

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6. Fairs

  • fairs, x:37
    • early 20c, iv:219
    • hiring, ix:153
    • horse, v:129
    • mediaeval, iii:321-2,323

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7. Industry and Trades

  • blacksmith, vi:100
  • Co-operative society, ix:152,155
  • corn mills, vi:98
  • craftsmen, vi:92
  • electric power, viii:6
  • fulling mill, vi:108
  • gas works, Mill Street, viii:342
  • grist mill, iii:294-5
  • labourers’ diet, 1837, x:42
  • lead smelting, iii:295-6
  • lighting, iv:33
  • limekilns, iii:295
  • mill, iii:330
  • mint, i:185-6,188;iii:285
  • printing
    • see Aberystwyth : argraffu
  • quarry, iii:292
  • rope making, iii:295
  • savings bank, iv:19
  • shipbuilding, iii:295
  • tannery, iii:296; vi:93
  • taxidermist, iv:240
  • trade, iii:288-9,323-5,326-7
  • turnpike road, x:127
  • water supply, iv:33
  • windmill, iii:299
  • workhouse, v:170-2; viii:252-3,262,267,268,274

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8. Markets

  • markets, iii:288-9,296; ix:182-3; x:38,44
    • corn, iii:296; vii:238
    • pig, iii:296
      • see also Aberystwyth Corn and General Market Co.

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9. Local Administration

  • assembly rooms
    • see Assembly Rooms
  • board of guardians, ix:79,87-94
  • borough council, iv:280
  • borough election 1741, vi:128-9
  • chamber of trade, v:318; ix:151
  • court leet, viii:103
  • customs house, iii:289-91, x:127,367
  • elections(18c),v:402-03,405,406,407,408,412,415,417,418,420,421
  • shire court, iii:285
  • stocks, iii:294
  • town hall
    • used as a theatre, vii:231

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10. Hospital and Health

  • hospital services, v:168-208

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11. Population

  • population
    • 1841, ix:135-49
    • increase 1871-1921, v:318
    • increase 1911-21, v:331
    • trend 16c-18c, vii:259

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12. Ships, Shipbuilding and Martime History

  • harbour, iv:283-9; vi:325,326,328; x:367
  • herring boats, vi:202
  • herring fishing, iii:332; vi:121,122
  • port, iii:326; vi:328; x:408

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13. Railway

  • railway, vii:232,235
    • involvement of H. Houghton and the Duke of Newcastle, vii:223
    • station : floods, 1886, iv:372

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14. Churches, Chapels and Religion

  • baptists, vii:121-2
  • Bethel baptist chapel
    • and the census of religious worship, iv:116,124
    • gravestone of Ellis’s Eagle Foundry, viii:342
  • calvinistic methodists, vii:121
  • Holy Trinity church, ii:66
  • independent chapel (Eng.), v:28
  • independents, iv:121; vii:121
  • political nonconformity, growth of, iii:127-8
  • quakers
    • see Aberystwyth: crynwyr
  • Queen Street Welsh church, iv:126,127
  • Roman Catholic chapel, vii:231-2
  • St. Mary’s church, ii:66; vi:329,415,416
    • consecrated by Bishop Connop Thirlwall, vii:147
  • St. Michael’s church, iv:24,32; x:4and the census of religious
    • worship,1851, iv:116,119,120
    • as chapel-of-ease to Llanbadarn, i:66
    • first, ii:66; vi:416
    • organ fund, 1892, viii:9
    • schoolhouse, vi:416
    • second, ii:66; vi:417-18; vii:99,114,117-28
    • third, ii:66; vi:419
    • vestry, vi:419
  • St. Paul’s Wesley Band of Hope, vii:240
  • Seilo chapel, ii:93; vi:305
  • Tabernacle, x:256
    • and the census of religious worship,iv:124,126
    • chapel choir, iii:342; vii:240; viii:5
    • decision to build Seilo, ii:93
    • rebuilding, iv:27
    • Unitarians, vii:122
    • vestry, vi: 9,10,11
    • wesleyan methodists, iv:126; vii:122

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15. University

  • University College of Wales
    • see University College of Wales, Aberystwyth

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16. Location Map

View Larger Map of Aberystwyth

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17. A Topographical Dictionary of Wales

Originally published by: Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales (London, Fourth edition, 1849)

ABERYSWITH (ABER-YSTWYTH), a sea-port, borough, market town, and chapelry, and the head of a union, in the parish of Llanbadarn Vawr, lower division of the hundred of Geneu’r Glyn, county of Cardigan, South Wales, 38 miles (N. E.) from Cardigan, and 208 (W. N. W.) from London; containing 4916 inhabitants. This place, from its having been fortified at a very early period, and also forming part of the ancient parish of Llanbadarn-Vawr, was originally called Llan-Badarn Gaerog; whilst the small ancient village of Aberystwith was situated to the west of it, on ground now covered by the sea, and on the bank of the Ystwith or Ystwyth, into which river the Rheidol or Rheidiol probably emptied itself, at some distance from the ocean. These rivers now unite at the town, and form at their mouth the modern harbour of Aberystwith. The courses of both have been changed, the Ystwith having flowed directly into the sea, prior to the diversion of its channel some years ago, which was done in order to strengthen the current of the Rheidol in clearing away the bar at the entrance to the harbour.

A castle was founded here in 1109, under the following circumstances. A Flemish nobleman of the name of William de Brabant, in journeying through South Wales, was waylaid by Owain, son of Cadwgan ab Bleddyn, and slain with all his retinue; which so incensed Henry I., that he granted permission to Gilbert de Strongbow to invade the territory of Cadwgan, in Cardiganshire, and win it by the sword. Strongbow was successful; and in order to defend the possessions thus acquired, he built at least two castles, one at Aberystwith, and the other at Dingerait, supposed to be Kîlgerran, near Cardigan. In 1114, Grufydd ab Rhŷs, a Welsh prince, who had for some time carried on with considerable success, in the county of Carmarthen, a desultory warfare with the Norman invaders of South Wales, being invited by the inhabitants of the province of Cardigan, to assist them in throwing off the Norman yoke, attacked the castle of Ystradpeithil, near Aberystwith. This he reduced; and then encamped at Glâs Crûg, about a mile east of Llanbadarn-Vawr church, intending to attack the castle of Aberystwith on the following morning. The governor, apprised of his design, had sent to the neighbouring castle of Ystrad-Meirig for a reinforcement, which arrived during the night; and in the morning Grufydd, ignorant of the circumstance, and confident of success, advanced to a place called Ystrad Antaron, opposite Aberystwith Castle, where he encamped, and held a council of war. Preserving no discipline among his troops, the Normans took advantage of their disorder, and sent out some archers, to tempt them into a skirmish, and to draw them by a feigned retreat towards the bridge over the Rheidol; at the same time placing a part of their best cavalry in ambuscade behind the Castle Hill. The Welsh eagerly pursued these archers to the bridge, over which they were allured by a fresh device of the enemy, and continued their pursuit almost to the gates of the castle, when the horse which had been posted behind the hill attacked them in the flank, while those whom they had pursued made a stand, and assaulted them in front. By this means all the Welsh that had crossed the bridge were cut to pieces, and Grufydd was compelled to retreat with the remainder of his forces, and to abandon his enterprise.

In 1135, Owain Gwynedd and Cadwalader, sons of Grufydd ab Cynan, with a large body of Welsh, made a more successful attempt on the castle, which they took and utterly demolished, putting to the sword all the Normans and Flemings who had settled in this part of the principality, with the exception only of a small number, who escaped by sea into England. Cadwalader, soon afterwards marrying Alice, daughter of Richard, Earl of Clare, and Lord of Cardigan, rebuilt the castle, and made it his chief place of residence; but Owain Gwynedd, after his accession to the sovereignty of North Wales, in revenge for his brother’s contumacy, besieged it and burned it to the ground, in 1142. The place continued for many years to experience all the disasters arising from predatory and intestine warfare, and was frequently destroyed and rebuilt in the continued struggles for dominion which occurred, not only between the English and the Welsh, but also among the rival princes of the country. During this period, mention occurs of the castle of Aber Rheidol being destroyed, in 1164, by Rhŷs ab Grufydd, on his invasion of the territories of the Earl of Gloucester; which circumstance has led to a supposition that there was another castle on the seashore, near this place, though it is not at all improbable that the castle of Aberystwith was occasionally designated by that name. Notice of the town of Aberystwith first occurs about the close of the twelfth century.

After rising from some of its frequent demolitions, the castle was again destroyed, in 1207, by Maelgwyn, a chieftain of South Wales, who had previously restored and fortified it, in order to maintain his power in this part of the principality, but who felt himself unable to hold it against Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, who was advancing to attack him. Llewelyn, on his arrival at Aberystwith, rebuilt and garrisoned the castle, and seized the whole of the extensive territory lying between the rivers Aëron and Dyvi; the castle he retained in his own hands, but the territory he afterwards surrendered to Rhŷs and Owain, sons of Grufydd ab Rhŷs, and nephews of Maelgwyn. In 1212, King John, having with the aid of Maelgwyn and his brother Rhŷs Vychan compelled Llewelyn and other chieftains to do him homage, sent Foulke, Viscount Cardiff, warden of the marches, to force the sons of Grufydd also to acknowledge him as their sovereign, in which attempt Foulke was joined by Maelgwyn and Rhŷs Vychan. The two nephews, unable to withstand so powerful a force, made the required submission, and agreed to relinquish all right to the territories which had been ceded to them by Llewelyn; and Foulke, having repaired and strengthened the fortifications of the castle, placed in it a strong garrison, to defend it for the king. Maelgwyn and Rhŷs Vychan, disappointed in their hope of obtaining for themselves the territories of which Rhŷs and Owain had been dispossessed, now laid siege to the castle, which they succeeded in taking, after an obstinate defence; and razed it to the ground. It appears to have been almost immediately rebuilt; for in 1214, Rhŷs Vychan, being defeated by Foulke, in Carmarthenshire, took refuge in it with Maelgwyn, and brought with him also his wife and children. In the reign of Henry III., the castle was in the possession of Rhŷs ab Grufydd, who, about the year 1223, joined the party of the Earl of Pembroke, in consequence of which, Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of North Wales, seized it, with all its dependencies; Rhŷs, however, complaining to the king, and requesting his protection from this violence, Henry commanded Llewelyn to appear before him at Shrewsbury, and the prince obeying the summons, the quarrel was amicably adjusted.

In the reign of Edward I., Grufydd ab Meredydd and Rhŷs ab Maelgwyn besieged and took the castle, then held by Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales. It soon after fell into the hands of the English; and Edward, in order to secure the fulfilment of the conditions of the peace which he had concluded with Llewelyn, rebuilt it in 1277, and, placing in it a strong garrison, returned to England. The oppressive conduct of Edward’s lieutenants, in this part of the country, soon led to an infraction of the peace lately concluded, and among the principal exploits of the insurgent Welsh was the capture of Aberystwith, otherwise called Llanbadarn, Castle, by Rhŷs ab Maelgwyn and Grufydd ab Meredydd: but it was not long afterwards delivered up to the English forces, and from this period nothing of importance peculiarly relating to it appears to have occurred till the reign of Henry IV., when it was assaulted and taken, in 1404, by Owain Glyndwr, in whose possession it remained for three years, till it was surrendered on terms to Prince Henry. Owain soon after regained possession of it by stratagem; but it was finally reduced in the year 1408, by the English, who appear to have retained it without further molestation. In the 35th of Henry VIII., William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was appointed captain of the castle and town of Aberystwith. In 1637, Mr. Bushel, who succeeded Sir Hugh Myddleton in the possession of the mines royal of Cardiganshire, having obtained permission from Charles I., established a mint in the castle, for coining silver, for the convenience of paying the men employed in the mines; and specimens of all the coins then struck in it, bearing the crest of the Prince of Wales, and dated between the years 1638 and 1642, are to be met with in the cabinet of the collector. At the commencement of the civil war, the castle was strengthened with additional fortifications, and strongly garrisoned for the king; the royalists kept possession of it till the year 1646, when it was besieged and taken by the parliamentarians, who soon afterwards dismantled it.

The town, which owes its origin to the erection of the castle, is described by Leland as being encompassed by walls, the last remains of which were removed some time since, and as being, in his time, a better market than Cardigan. Camden, who ascribes the building of its walls to Gilbert de Clare, commonly called Strongbow, states that when he wrote it was the most populous town in the county. Of late years it has materially increased both in extent and importance, and the town may be regarded as the most flourishing place in this part of South Wales. It is pleasantly situated at the lower extremity of the valley of the Rheidol, amid lofty hills, and on a gentle eminence overlooking the bay of Cardigan, by which it is bounded on one side, while on the other it is environed by the Rheidol, over which is a stone bridge of five arches, forming an entrance to it from the south. It consists mainly of two long streets, from which others, branching off nearly at right angles, lead down to the shore. The houses are in general of stone, and for the most part well built and of respectable appearance, some of them being large and handsome, especially such as are of modern erection. The streets are disposed with considerable regularity, and the turnpike roads leading to the town rank among the best in the principality. An act was obtained in 1835, for lighting, watching, and paving the town, which authorizes the levy of a rate not exceeding 2s. 6d. in the pound on the rack rental, on all houses, &c., valued at £8 per annum and upwards; also for supplying the inhabitants with water, which had previously been brought from the rivers Ystwith and Rheidol in barrels, on sledges drawn by one horse. Water-works were accordingly erected by the town commissioners in 1837, the expense being defrayed by a rate levied on the inhabitants, aided by the rent received for the supply of the water; pipes are laid down through the streets, and the reservoir affording the supply will hold about 185,000 gallons, exclusively of a cistern or well in another part of the town, subsequently built, and capable of holding 5000 gallons. Gas-works were erected in 1838, by a company formed with the consent of the commissioners and other authorities; they are substantially built, and are situated in a suburban part of the town.

The advantages of its situation on a fine open bay, the purity of its air, and the efficacy of some mineral springs adjacent, have contributed to render Aberystwith a place of resort for invalids. About the close of the last century, when it was a mere fishingtown and small sea-port, it began to rise into notice as a bathing-place, and from a series of improvements, it is now one of the most frequented places of fashionable resort on the Welsh coast. The beach, though composed of pebbles, affords a pleasant and interesting walk; and the shore, consisting of lofty and precipitous rocks of dark-coloured slate, is worn by the action of the waves into caverns of picturesque appearance. In some parts the coast scenery near Aberystwith is remarkably striking. The interior of the country, also, affords some beautiful excursions. Hot and cold sea-water baths are provided, with every requisite accommodation; bathing-machines are kept; and, from the convenient sloping of the beach, a facility of bathing is afforded, at almost any state of the tide, within a very short distance of the shore.

For the accommodation of the increasing number of visiters who annually resort to the place, many additional lodging-houses have been built, of which the Marine Terrace, a handsome range of buildings, is situated on the margin of the bay, embracing a fine marine view, enlivened by the frequent arrival and departure of vessels trading to these coasts. In this range is the Belle Vue, a spacious and commodious hotel; and in front, where the beach is level, is a good promenade. On the south-west of the Marine Terrace is a gateway leading to a castellated mansion of unique appearance, called the Castle House, commanding an extensive prospect across the bay. It was originally built as a private mansion by Sir Uvedale Price, Bart., of Foxley Hall, in the county of Hereford, but latterly has been held by yearly tenants, and is now furnished and let out in apartments. It consists of three octagonal towers, connected by ranges of apartments, and having a light and elegant balcony on the side towards the sea. Beyond this, on one side, is the Castle Hill, crowned with the venerable ruins of the ancient fortress, and forming another favourite promenade, affording, from different points, various extensive and romantic views of the sea, the neighbouring hills, and the surrounding country. On the other side of the Castle Hill, separated only by the churchyard, are the Public Rooms, built in the Grecian style of architecture, on ground given by W. E. Powell, Esq., of Nant Eôs, lord-lieutenant of the county, from a design by Mr. Repton. They were completed at an expense of £2000, raised by subscription on shares of £10 each, and opened to the public in 1820. The suite consists of a very handsome assembly and promenade room, forty-five feet long, and twenty-five feet broad; a cardroom twenty-five feet long, and eighteen feet wide, opening into the assembly-room by folding-doors; and a billiard-room, of the same dimensions as the card-room. The assembly-room and card-room are similarly ornamented; and under the same roof is a dwelling-house, with a bar for providing the visiters with refreshments. The assembly-rooms are opened generally in July, and closed in October. When the card-room is not wanted for balls, it is used as a reading-room. There are also three good circulating libraries in the town. Races are annually held, generally in August, which continue for two days: a field near Gogerddan, the seat of Pryse Pryse, Esq., about three miles distant from the town, is, by the courtesy of that gentleman, used as a race-course.

The harbour, towards the close of the last century, appears to have been in a very bad state, and is described as in great danger of being lost or destroyed; a bank of sand at the mouth was the chief cause of injury to the trade. In the year 1780, therefore, the inhabitants obtained an act of parliament to “repair, enlarge, and preserve” their port, under which trustees were empowered to levy duties upon articles landed within the limits of the port, and to borrow a sum not exceeding £4000, upon the credit of the harbour-dues, for the improvement of the harbour. About the year 1806, a pier was attempted to be built on the low ridge of rocks called the Weeg, at the end of Pier-street, as a refuge for fishing-boats; but it appears to have been designed on too small a scale to be efficient, and, being constructed with dry stone, has long since disappeared. A subsequent act was obtained in the 6th of George IV., for the same object as the former act, with power to borrow £20,000, on the credit of a new scale of tolls; and in 1830 the trustees consulted the late Mr. Alexander Nimmo, the eminent engineer, upon the state of the harbour. That gentleman made a report; and at his death, upon the recommendation of the Duke of Newcastle, then owner of the Havôd estate, the trustees selected as their engineer the late Mr. George Bush, who likewise surveyed the harbour, and made a report agreeing in the main with Mr. Nimmo’s. Under his superintendence, and the more immediate management of the present resident engineer and harbourmaster, Mr. Page, the existing works were commenced in 1836. They chiefly consist of a pier, extending in a north-north-west direction from the high-water point of the beach of the Ystwith, towards Bardsey island; the present length of the pier is 260 yards, and it is intended to carry it forty yards further, as soon as the funds of the trust will permit. Upwards of £15,000 have been already expended on these improvements, towards which the Duke of Newcastle made a donation of £1000, the members for the county and boroughs £500 each, and several of the neighbouring gentry various other sums.

The trade of the port, since the commencement of the new works, has greatly improved; the harbour is now accessible to much larger vessels than formerly, and is found of signal benefit to vessels driven into the bay by stress of weather. The principal exports are, lead-ore and black-jack, or blende, for Bristol, or the ports on the river Dee; a small quantity of copper-ore, for Swansea; oak-bark for Newry, and other parts of Ireland; and poles of oak and other kinds for the iron-works in Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire. The imports include timber from North America and the Baltic; hemp, also, from the latter. Shop-goods and other merchandize are brought from Liverpool, Bristol, and London, to which places are regular traders. Coal is imported from Newport, Llanelly, and other ports on the Bristol Channel, and also from the ports on the river Dee; slates and slabs from Bangor, Carnarvon, and the river Dovey; flaggings from Cardigan; bricks and earthenware from Bideford and Bridgwater; grain from London, Yarmouth, and Poole; salt-fish from the Isle of Man, and Cornwall; and limestone from Milford and Red-Wharf. The number of vessels belonging to the port, including the creek of Aberdovey, in 1847, was 164, and their tonnage 9000, employing upwards of 700 sailors, men and boys. The present customhouse, built in 1828, is a neat edifice, commanding a good view of the harbour. By a treasury warrant dated November, 1847, the limits of the port are extended so as to reach from New-Quay Head to the north bank of the river Dysynni, beyond Towyn, Merionethshire; thus including the additional creeks of New-Quay and Aberaëron. Here are two ship-building establishments, an old-established ropewalk, with a sail-maker, chain-cable and anchor smith, and oar and block manufacturers. The Cardiganshire lead-mines, about seventy in number, are chiefly in this part of the county, and several of them are now worked upon an extensive scale.

The markets are well supplied. The corn-market is held on Monday, in a new hall, built on a handsome plan in a central part of the town; all kinds of grain are sold here, and this is the mart for cheese, wool, and various agricultural products. Monday is also the market-day for butter, eggs, poultry, fish, vegetables, &c.; and on Saturday is a market for butchers’ meat, for which a building was erected in 1824, measuring 104 feet in length, by 31 feet in breadth. The fish-market is held in the area under the town-hall, and is well supplied with such fish as the bay affords, together with salmon from the neighbouring rivers, and other fish from distant places. Fairs for horses and cattle are held on the Monday before January 5th, the Monday next before Easter, on Whit-Monday, May 14th, June 24th, September 16th, and the Monday before November 11th. The first Mondays after the 13th of May and the 13th of November are called by the natives of the surrounding country Dydd Llun Cyvlogi, or “Hiring Mondays;” and on these days a great number of the farmers and others meet here to hire servants.

In Meyrick’s History of Cardigan, is a copy of a charter, dated the 20th of November, in the 20th year of Henry VIII., and granted by that king to the burgesses of the town of Llanbadarn (Aberystwith); but it does not appear that any copy of this document has ever been kept among the muniments of the borough, nor has it been referred to in practice, the corporation being considered such by prescription. Until lately the title of the corporation was, “the Mayor, and Burgesses of the town, borough, and liberty of Aberystwith;” and the government was vested in a mayor, coroner, chamberlain, town-clerk, two serjeants-at-mace, a bellman, two scavengers, and an indefinite number of burgesses. The officers were elected by the jury out of the body of burgesses, at a court leet held before the mayor, within a month after Michaelmas-day; and at this court and a similar one which took place within a month after Easter, burgesses were admitted, and the ordinary business of the corporation was transacted. By the act 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76, the corporation is styled “the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses,” and consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, together forming the council of the borough. The council elect the mayor annually on November 9th, out of the aldermen or councillors; and the aldermen triennially from among the councillors, or persons qualified to be such, one half going out of office every three years, but being re-eligible: the councillors are chosen annually on November 1st, by and from among the enrolled burgesses, one third going out of office every year. The aldermen and councillors must have a property qualification of £500, or be rated at £15 per annum. The burgesses are, the occupiers of houses and shops who have been rated for three years to the relief of the poor. The mayor and ex-mayor are justices of the peace, and a commission has been lately granted by Her Majesty, by which five gentlemen are appointed magistrates for the borough, in addition. Two auditors and two assessors are elected annually on March 1st, by and from among the burgesses; and the council appoint a town-clerk, treasurer, and other officers annually on November 9th. The revenues of the corporation are derived from certain lands within the borough, let out on leases, some for building and some as pasture and meadow land: the total rental is about £130 per annum. This property, prior to the year 1808, consisted of uninclosed land, over which the burgesses enjoyed rights of common; but such privilege being disputed by some parties, the corporation were compelled to assert their exclusive claim, which entailed an expense of £3729, and it was to meet these heavy costs that they adopted the plan of letting their lands, now the most valuable property in the town, for long leases upon considerable fines, and with small annual rents.

This is one of the contributory boroughs in the county, which unite in the return of a member to parliament. The right of election, until the passing of the Reform Act, was vested in the burgesses generally, but is now in the former resident burgesses, and in all persons occupying, either as landlord, or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the clear annual value of at least £10, if duly registered according to the provisions of the above act: the present number of voters in the borough is about 330. The mayor of Cardigan is the returning officer. The old town-hall is a building in an ancient style of architecture, erected in the year 1770. The new hall, or court-house, at the end of Portland-street, erected in 1848, is in the Grecian style, with a portico of four Ionic columns; the centre contains a court for civil and criminal business, and the wings contain, on one side, judges’ apartments and rooms for counsel, and on the other, rooms for grand and petty jurors, and for witnesses. This building was raised partly with a view to secure one of the assize fixtures every year, and a portion of the county sessions’ business; an object not yet attained. The powers of the county debt-court of Aberystwith, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Aberystwith. The prison, which is also one of the houses of correction for the county, is adapted to the reception of only eight prisoners, in three separate classes.

The living is a perpetual curacy, endowed with £600 royal bounty, and £400 parliamentary grant; net income, £139; patron, the Vicar of LlanbadarnVawr. The late chapel, dedicated to St. Michael, was built by subscription, being completed in the year 1787. It was a plain structure, situated within the precincts of the castle, and separated from the walks around the ruins of that edifice by a stone wall, erected at the expense of the inhabitants. It measured sixty feet in length, and twenty-six in breadth: a gallery was erected at its western end in the year 1790, at an expense of about £100, by Mrs. Margaret Pryse; an organ was presented by Pryse Pryse, Esq. The augmented population of the place, and the increased number of visiters, rendering the erection of another place of worship necessary, a new chapel was commenced in 1830 upon a larger scale, by subscription, aided by a grant of £1000 from the Parliamentary Commissioners for Building New Churches, and £400 from the Society for the Enlargement of Churches and Chapels. The funds, amounting to £3500, were sufficient for completing the body of the building, which is in the later style of English architecture, and is so planned that a tower of corresponding character may be added at some future time. In the gallery is a fine-toned organ by Robson, which cost £350, raised by subscription among the inhabitants. Divine service is performed in Welsh at the old school-house, which has been licensed for that purpose. Many years before the erection of Old St. Michael’s chapel, which was taken down in 1836, the town appears to have been deprived of a church or chapel by the encroachments of the sea. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists, and Roman Catholics.

A National school for boys and girls, established in 1819, is supported by subscription, by which means also a suitable building was erected, Mr. Pryse contributing £200 towards the expense. In the town are also a British school, commenced in 1846; an infants’ school, commenced in 1842; several schools supported at the parents’ expense; and a number of Sunday schools. A savings’ bank was established in 1818, which has now deposits to the amount of £30,000. In Upper Portland-street is the Aberystwith Infirmary and Cardiganshire General Hospital, founded in January, 1838, supported by subscription, and intended to afford, among other benefits, every advantage of a sea-bathing infirmary. In Pierstreet are the premises of the Cambrian Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, commenced in 1847, and supported principally by voluntary contributions from all parts of Wales. The poor-law union of which this town is the head, was formed on the 28th of May, 1837, and comprises thirty parishes and townships; namely, Aberystwith, Broncastellan, Ceulany-Maesmawr, Clarach, Cwmrheidiol, Cyvoeth-yBrenhin, Cynnullmawr, Eglwys-Newydd, Elerch, Hênllŷs, Isâ yn Dre’, Isâ yn Vainor, Llanavan, Llanbadarn Isâ yn y Croythen, Llanbadarn Uchâ yn y Croythen, Llancynvelyn, Llanddeiniol, Llangwyryvon, Upper and Lower Llanilar, Llanrhŷstid-Hamining, Llanrhŷstid-Mevennydd, Llanvihangely-Creiddyn Isâv, Llanychaiarn, Melindwr, ParcelCanol, Rhôsdiau, Trêvirig, Tîrmynych, Uchâ yn Dre’, and Uchâ yn Vainor. It is under the superintendence of thirty-three guardians, and contains a population of 22, 242. The workhouse is situated on an elevated spot, about a quarter of a mile distant from the town, and forms a striking feature in the approach to Aberystwith from the north: the style is a mixture of the pointed and the Elizabethan, and the main front is 220 feet long.

There are now no remains either of the town walls or their gates. Of the latter, one, called the Great Dark Gate, was situated in the street leading to Llanbadarn-Vawr; another, called the Little Dark Gate, in the street which now leads to the Baptist meeting-house; and a third, opposite to the bridge. The remains of the castle, which occupy the summit of a rock projecting into the bay of Cardigan, consist chiefly of portions of the towers, the principal gateway, and some fragments of walls, forming a picturesque heap of ruins. The area, which was originally of very considerable extent, and in the form of an irregular pentagon, is at present greatly diminished, through the action of the waves, which have undermined the rock. It was laid out in walks and pleasure-grounds, with much taste, by the late Mr. Probart of Shrewsbury, to whom the site had been granted on lease. On Pendinas Hill, adjoining the town, where the lines of an encampment are still visible, an ancient British celt and other remains have been found: in 1802 a golden angel of the reign of Henry VII. was turned up there by the spade. There are traces of another encampment, or of a fortress, also in the immediate neighbourhood of the town, at Tan-y-Castell, in the parish of Llanychaiarn; and adjoining Craig Glais, which commands a splendid prospect, is a small rock, called Br&ygrave;n Dioddau, or “the mount of suffering,” from its having been formerly a place of execution. It is doubted by some antiquaries whether the castle built by Strongbow occupied the site of the present ruins; they would place the original castle at Pendinas, or at Tan-yCastell, and some passages in the Welsh Chronicles appear to warrant this variation from the common historical accounts of the town. Aberystwith Castle was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, and it is very probable that after its demolition on some one occasion, a new site was chosen. Another interesting spot in the environs is Plâs Crûg, formerly a castellated mansion surrounded by a moat; it seems to have been the residence of some person of distinction, and was probably at one time the manor-house of the lordship of Llanbadarn. The present tower, however, was erected about a century ago, and the place now exhibits few traces of its original importance. Some hundreds of Roman coins were found about two miles from the town, in 1841.

A chalybeate spring, which is in great estimation for the medicinal property of its waters, was discovered about the year 1779, at a short distance from the eastern extremity of the town, on the road to Llanbadarn-Vawr, and near Plâs Crûg: the well is covered with a small square building, from one side of which the water issues by a spout. There are various other springs in the neighbourhood having a ferruginous impregnation, and traces of sulphur have been discovered at Penglais. A new and an excellent “Guide to Aberystwith and its Environs,” by Thos. Owen Morgan, Esq., was published in 1848, from which some of the particulars in this article are derived.

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19. References

  1. Aberystwyth map (Header): Reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA) licence with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.
  2. View: Aberystwyth Historic Mapping

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