Ceredigion Historical Society
Cardigan History, Castle and bridge Ceredigion

Cardigan

Cardigan history, archaeology and antiquities. Is a town in Ceredigion, West Wales. Situated close the Cardigan Bay coastline, between St Dogmaels and Gwbert.

  • Cardigan History - Discover the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion
  • Cardigan Sea Port - Discover the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion
  • History of Cardigan - Discover the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion
  • Cardigan History, Castle and bridge Ceredigion

Cardigan History Pictures
Teify-Side Antiquities - Stained Glass at Cardigan Church

Stained glass at
Cardigan Church

Since 1909 the Ceredigion Historical Society has published articles written about the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion, many of these articles printed within the Ceredigion Journal, are about the history of Cardigan.

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. History

1. A piscina at Cardigan

Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Vol 1, Part 4

2. Corbels at Cardigan

Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Vol 2, No 1

3. The Port Books of the Port of Cardigan in Elizabethan and Stuart Times

Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Vol 7

4. The Port Books of the Port of Cardigan in Elizabethan and Stuart Times (continued)

Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Vol 11

5. The Makeigs in Cardigan – By M. J. Baylis – 65


Ceredigion – Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, 1972 Vol VII No I

6. Cardigan and the River Teifi – By Zia Krarmer – 56


Ceredigion – Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, 1972 Vol VII No I

7. The Cardigan Boroughs Election, 1774 – By H. J. Lloyd-Jones – 50

Ceredigion – Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, 1972 Vol VII No I

8. The Makeigs in Cardigan: The Parkypratt Family – By M. J. Baylis – 189

Ceredigion – Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, 1973 Vol VII No 2

9. Bethania, Eglwys y Bedyddwyr, Aberteifi: enghraifft o fudo yng Ngheredigion Oes Fictoria – WILLIAM H. HOWELLS – 27

Ceredigion – Journal of the Ceredigion Historical Society Vol XVII, No I, 2013

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Teify-Side Antiquities - The Three Mariners Inn, Cardigan Door
Teify-Side Antiquities – The Three Mariners Inn, Cardigan Door

2. Index

  • Cardigan, iii:268,270,271
    • and the census of religious worship, iv:119,120
    • anghydffurfiaeth, iv:96,97,99,104, 105,108,110
    • argraffu, viii:204
    • assizes, ii:87-8
    • battle,1136, vi:276
    • benedictine priory, vi:146; vii:158,216
    • Bethania chapel
      • and the census of religious worship, iv:124
    • bibliography, iv:301-02
    • blacksmiths, vi:100
    • borough council, iv-.280
    • borough elections,18c,v-.313,314,322,402,405,406, 407,408,409,412,413,414,415,41,18,420
      • 1741, vi:128-9
      • 1768, vi:346
      • 1774, vii:50-5
    • bridge, vii:56,57; viii:329,333
    • Cambrian Archaeological Association’s meeting, 1859, iii:53,ix:272-3
    • Cambrian Quay, vii:63
    • castle, i:40,41,42; ii:117; iii:51,53- 4,56,266; iv:139,140,145,147,160,262; ii:56,57,58; x:189-218
      • pill box, x:193
    • chain and anchor factory, vii:62
    • charters, ii:117-18; iii:320-1; vii:57
    • common council, ii:117; v:402
    • commons, viii:108
    • compared with Lampeter 14c, iv:139,140
    • corporation seal,ii:117-18
    • court leet, ii:117
    • craftsmen, 1830, vi:91
    • custom house, vii:60
    • Din geraint
      • see Din Geraint
    • education, iv:54
    • eisteddfod,1176, iv-.256; vi:273; vii:14, 57;
      • 1866, v:357
    • emigration, ii:167,226,228; vii:62
    • fair and market, iii:322,323,329; v-.385;vii:57
    • fishing, iii:332
    • foundries, vii:62; ix:349
      • see also Cardigan Foundry
    • fulling mill, vi:108
    • gaol, ix:341; x:25-6,359
    • guildhall, viii:57
    • harbour, vii:57-64
    • herring fishing, vi:121
    • house of correction, vi:13-14,15-16
    • Howell Hurls a (and), v-.2-3,6,12
    • iforlaid, iii:28
    • independent church, vii:8
    • ivorites
      • see Cardigan : iforiaid
    • Labourers’ diet,1837, x:42
    • Lloyd’s Wharf, vii:62-3
    • maces, ii:118
    • maps, ii:265-7
      • see also Cardigan : Speed map
    • mayor, v:402
    • Mercantile Quay, vii:63
    • mills, iii:330-2; ix:338
    • nonconformity
      • see Cardigan : anghydffurfiaeth
    • population trend, vii:259
    • port, iii:327-8; vii:58-63; ix:114; x:126,407
    • pottery, x:205-15
    • printing
      • see Cardigan : aigraffu
    • rope factories, vii:62
    • Ropeyard Hill,vii:62
    • rugby club,ix:304
    • sail lofts, vii:62
    • St. Mary’s church, ix:336
      • consistory court at, ix:233
    • school board, iii:208,210,214,215-23;iv-.364
    • schools, number of, in 1847, ii:138
      • Ayling’s school, ix:199
      • British school, iii:215-23; iv-.362,363,372
      • Collegiate school, ix:199
      • elementary school
        • see Cardigan : schools : ysgol elfennol
      • grammar school, ii:155; vi:57; viii:51, 56; ix:196,198; x:322
      • grammar school charity
        • see Cornwallis charity
      • intermediate school, viii:54 9,62-4,66
      • national school, ii:145,150,151,153,155;iii:216,217
      • William Street school for girls, ix:199
      • ysgol elfennol, vi:58,64,87
    • shipbuilding, vii:62; viii:305; ix:122
    • shipping, iii:328-9
    • shire court,iii:285
    • Society of Sea Serjeants, vii:80-4
    • Speed map, vii:59
    • Tabernacl, v:12
    • tannery, vi:93
    • Teifi Wharf, vii:63
    • town gates, ix:336-41
    • town regalia,viii:58-9
    • town wall, ix:336-41
    • trade, iii:325-6; vii:58,59,60,61,62,63
    • vestry, vi:13
    • Volk’s Bakery, vii:350
    • water concert, vii:63
    • wesleyan methodists, iv:126
    • woollen mill, vi:110
    • woollen trade, iii:329
    • workhouse, viii:252,268,24
  • Cardigan area
    • botanical records, i:80
  • Cardigan Bay Steam Paclcet Company, ii:100
  • Cardigan Briton, march(stallion), v:135,138
  • Cardigan Com Relief Fund, x:44
  • Cardigan Foundry, ix:349
  • Cardigan Island, iv:11-12; v:55,70-1
  • Cardigan Mercantile Company, ix:116
  • Cardigan Printers’ Files, x:258
  • Cardigan Provident Bank, x:48-9
  • Cardigan Shipping Co. Ltd., x:424
  • Cardigan Trust, ii:105-06
  • Cardigan Union, viii:246-52,263,266,268,274
  • Cardigan, William, vii:57

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Teify-Side Antiquities - Stained Glass at Cardigan Church
Teify-Side Antiquities – Stained Glass at Cardigan Church

3. Illustrations

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

  • Cardigan Castle. North Tower, facing x:197 pl. 13
  • Cardigan Castle. Pottery, x:209,210,21f3igs. 11/12/13
  • Cardigan Castle. Sections and profiles, x:199 fig.10
  • Cardigan Castle. Site plan, x:195 fig.9
  • Cardigan. Excavations at, vii:352-3 figs.11 /12/13
  • Cardigan. Line engraving by W. Radclyffe after D. Cox, facing vii:56 pl 1
  • Cardigan. Location plan and section across town wall at Woolworth’s, ix:339 fig.25
  • Cardigan. Speed’s map of (1610), ix:338 fig. 24
  • Cardigan town defences, ix:337 fig. 23
  • Cardigan. View of, by Buck, 1741, facing x:196 pl. 12
  • Cardigan. Valle’s bakery, 1975, vii:351 fig. 10

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4. Architecture

  • bridge, vii:56,57; viii:329,333
  • castle, i:40,41,42; ii:117; iii:51,53- 4,56,266; iv:139,140,145,147,160,262; ii:56,57,58; x:189-218
    • pill box, x:193
  • guildhall, viii:57
  • town gates, ix:336-41
  • town wall, ix:336-41

5. Education

  • education, iv:54
  • nonconformity
    • see Cardigan : anghydffurfiaeth
  • school board, iii:208,210,214,215-23;iv-.364
  • schools, number of, in 1847, ii:138
    • Ayling’s school, ix:199
    • British school, iii:215-23; iv-.362,363,372
    • Collegiate school, ix:199
    • elementary school
      • see Cardigan : schools : ysgol elfennol
    • grammar school, ii:155; vi:57; viii:51, 56; ix:196,198; x:322
    • grammar school charity
      • see Cornwallis charity
    • intermediate school, viii:54 9,62-4,66
    • national school, ii:145,150,151,153,155;iii:216,217
    • William Street school for girls, ix:199
    • ysgol elfennol, vi:58,64,87

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6. Industry

  • blacksmiths, vi:100
  • craftsmen, 1830, vi:91
  • fair and market, iii:322,323,329; v-.385;vii:57
  • foundries, vii:62; ix:349
    • see also Cardigan Foundry
  • fulling mill, vi:108
  • Labourers’ diet,1837, x:42
  • mills, iii:330-2; ix:338
  • pottery, x:205-15
  • printing
    • see Cardigan : aigraffu
  • rope factories, vii:62
  • tannery, vi:93
  • trade, iii:325-6; vii:58,59,60,61,62,63
  • Volk’s Bakery, vii:350
  • woollen mill, vi:110
  • woollen trade, iii:329
  • Cardigan Foundry, ix:349

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7. Administration

  • borough council, iv-.280
  • borough elections,18c,v-.313,314,322,402,405,406, 407,408,409,412,413,414,415,41,18,420
    • 1741, vi:128-9
    • 1768, vi:346
    • 1774, vii:50-5
  • common council, ii:117; v:402
  • corporation seal,ii:117-18
  • court leet, ii:117
  • mayor, v:402
  • shire court,iii:285

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8. Seafaring

  • Cambrian Quay, vii:63
  • chain and anchor factory, vii:62
  • custom house, vii:60
  • fishing, iii:332
  • harbour, vii:57-64
  • herring fishing, vi:121
  • Lloyd’s Wharf, vii:62-3
  • Mercantile Quay, vii:63
  • port, iii:327-8; vii:58-63; ix:114; x:126,407
  • rope factories, vii:62
  • shipbuilding, vii:62; viii:305; ix:122
  • shipping, iii:328-9
  • Society of Sea Serjeants, vii:80-4
  • Teifi Wharf, vii:63
  • Cardigan Shipping Co. Ltd., x:424

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9. Religion

  • the census of religious worship, iv:119,120
  • benedictine priory, vi:146; vii:158,216
  • Bethania chapel
    • and the census of religious worship, iv:124
  • independent church, vii:8
  • St. Mary’s church, ix:336
    • consistory court at, ix:233
  • Tabernacl, v:12
  • vestry, vi:13
  • wesleyan methodists, iv:126

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10. Map

View Larger Map of Cardigan

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11. A Topographical Dictionary of Wales

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

CARDIGAN a sea-port, borough, market-town, and parish, and the head of a union, in the Lower division of the hundred of Troedyraur, county of Cardigan, South Wales, 232 miles (W. by N.) from London; containing 2925 inhabitants. This place, called by the Welsh Aberteivy from its situation near the mouth of the river Teivy, was probably selected, at a very early period, as an eligible site for commerce, its maritime situation affording a facility of communication with distant parts of the kingdom. Little, however, is known either of its original foundation or of its primitive inhabitants: there are neither authentic nor traditionary records of its history, prior to the conquest of this part of the country by the Normans, who erected a fortress at the place, to defend the passage of the river, and to secure themselves in the possession of the territories which they successively wrested from the native proprietors. It appears about this time to have first assumed the character of a regular town, and it subsequently became the capital of the province of Caredigion, comprehending, in addition to the present county of Cardigan, a large extent of territory, which originally constituted the country of Dimetia, and was granted, about the middle of the fifth century, to Caredig, son of Cunedda, a chieftain of North Wales, from whom it derived its name, now modified into Cardigan.

In the Welsh annals this place is described as the scene of some of the most sanguinary conflicts that occurred in South Wales, during the first three centuries after the Norman Conquest of England. Roger de Montgomery, who did homage to William Rufus, in 1091, for the province of Cardigan, finding himself unequal to defend the castle against the native chieftains, relinquished it to Cadwgan ab Bleddyn, Prince of Powys, a man of bold and enterprising ambition, who assumed the sovereignty of South Wales, and maintained a protracted warfare, not only with the Norman lords who encroached upon his territories, but with the English monarch himself. Cadwgan continued to maintain possession of the castle, and, after the death of William Rufus, entered into an alliance with Henry I. The castle appears now to have been a place of considerable importance, and one of the residences of Cadwgan, who, in the Christmas of 1107, gave a splendid festival here, including an Eisteddvod, a grand assembly of the bards. At this festival, according to some accounts, Owain his son, inflamed by the lively descriptions given by his companions of the beauty of Nêst, wife of Gerald de Windsor, determined on carrying her off from her husband’s castle in the county of Pembroke: others trace this outrage to a banquet given at the castle of Eare Weare, in the parish of Amroath, on the western coast of Pembrokeshire. The act drew down upon the family the wrath of Henry, who, having in vain demanded from Owain the liberation of his captive, incited the nobles of Powys to avenge the insult; and Cadwgan and Owain were compelled to abandon their country, and take refuge in Ireland. The former returned in the following year, and, having satisfied the king of his innocence, was restored to his possessions; but his son, unable to regain the king’s favour, carried on a desultory warfare against the English, which involving Cadwgan with the king, he was a second time deprived of his dominions.

Upon the death of this chieftain, who was assassinated by his nephew, Madoc ab Rhyrid, in 1110, Henry possessed himself of the sovereignty of South Wales. In the following reign, however, Grufydd, eldest surviving son of Rhŷs ab Tewdwr, in concert with Owain and Cadwaladr, sons of Grufydd ab Cynan, sovereign of North Wales, and the chieftains of South Wales, reconquered the whole province of Cardigan, and advanced to the gates of Aberteivy, in the vicinity of which place a sanguinary battle was fought, in 1136, between the allied Welsh and the Norman, English, and Flemish forces then in Wales, or in the Marches. In this engagement the latter suffered a total defeat, having, according to the testimony of Giraldus Cambrensis, 3000 men killed, and a great number drowned in the Teivy by the breaking down of a bridge in the line of their retreat. The castle fell into the hands of the Welsh, who, however, do not appear to have kept possession of it for any considerable time; for, in 1144, Howel and Cynan, sons of Owain Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales, raising a considerable army, obtained a signal victory over the Normans and Flemings at Aberteivy; and, having retaken the town and castle, in the latter of which they placed a strong garrison, returned into their own country, laden with honour and with spoil.

The castle was afterwards fortified by Roger, Earl of Clare, from whom it was wrested, in 1165, by Rhŷs ab Grufydd, Prince of South Wales, who razed it to the ground. According to most writers it was rebuilt by Gilbert de Clare, in the following year, but was afterwards twice taken by Rhŷs, who, having subsequently entered into terms with Henry II., was allowed to retain his possessions in South Wales, and kept it in his own hands till his death. Rhŷs, in 1171, marched a long cavalcade of eightysix horses from this place to Pembroke, and presented them to that monarch, when on his route to embark for Ireland; and on his having completed the repairs of the castle, in 1176, he celebrated in it a grand festival, and held an Eisteddvod, or assembly of the bards, of which notice had been published, for a year previously, in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales: from all these countries numerous distinguished guests arrived, and all the bards of Wales were present. After a display of deeds of arms and other military exploits, the bards were assembled in the great hall, and prizes were adjudged to the most skilful. In this contest the bards of North Wales gained the prizes for poetry; and among the musicians, those of the household of Rhŷs were allowed to have excelled in minstrelsy. Prince Rhŷs, in 1188, sumptuously entertained Archbishop Baldwin, attended by Giraldus Cambrensis, then preaching the crusades throughout Wales; first at St. Dogmael’s Priory, in the county of Pembroke, and on the day following in his castle of Cardigan. After the death of Rhŷs, in 1198, the castle, then in the possession of his son Grufydd, was attacked by another son, Maelgwyn, by whom it was taken; but, in the course of the same year Grufydd repossessed himself of all his patrimonial territories, with the exception of this castle and that of Ystrad-Meirig, which were still in the possession of his brother, who, at last, agreed to surrender the former of the fortresses to Grufydd, on hostages being given to him for the security of his person. These, however, he had no sooner received than he repaired the fortifications of the castle, reinforced the garrison, and, placing the hostages in the hands of his ally, Gwenwynwyn, Prince of Powys (from whom they effected their escape), refused to fulfil his engagement. He retained possession of the castle till the year 1200, when, finding that he could no longer defend it against the power of Grufydd, which was every day increasing, he sold it for a small sum to the Normans, that it might not fall into the hands of his brother.

In 1215, this fortress was surrendered by the Norman garrison to Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of North Wales, who returned to Cardigan, in the following year, to adjust the disputes which had arisen between the native chieftains of South Wales, and to divide among them the territories which they had jointly recovered from the Anglo-Norman invaders. In this partition the castle was assigned to Owain ab Grufydd; but Llewelyn, much to the dissatisfaction of that chieftain, kept it in his own possession, and in the treaty which he made with the English king, and which was ratified at Gloucester in 1218, he engaged to restore it, with all its dependencies, to the English. In the following year Llewelyn, refusing to perform his engagement, and apprehending an attack from the English, strengthened the fortifications, and augmented the garrison of the castle; but no attack was made upon it till the year 1220, when the colony of Flemings in Pembrokeshire, who had recently sworn fealty to him, revolting from their allegiance, marched against Cardigan, and speedily obtained possession of the castle, which however was soon retaken by Llewelyn, who put the garrison to the sword. Young Rhŷs ab Grufydd, being afterwards, as he conceived, wrongfully deprived of the castle by Llewelyn, went over to the English, placing himself under the protection of the Earl of Pembroke, who, after the quarrel between Rhŷs and Llewelyn had been amicably adjusted through the interference of the English monarch, seized the castle, which during his absence was again retaken by Llewelyn, and the garrison put to the sword. The earl, on his return from Ireland in 1223, marched with a powerful army to Cardigan; and laying siege to the castle, compelled a surrender, and retaliated upon the Welsh garrison the cruelty which his own soldiers had previously experienced from Llewelyn. Maelgwyn ab Maelgwyn, a Welsh chieftain, having, in 1231, forced his way into Cardigan, put all the inhabitants to the sword; and after laying waste and nearly demolishing the town, he was checked in his career of destruction only by the fortifications of the castle, which were considered impregnable. Being afterwards joined by his cousin Owain, son of Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, attended by some of the best officers of that prince, he returned to besiege the castle; and, having broken down the bridge, closely invested the fortress, and so battered and undermined it, that the garrison, after an obstinate resistance, was finally compelled to surrender. The castle lay in the ruinous state to which it had been thus reduced for nearly nine years, till the accession of Davydd ab Llewelyn ab Iorwerth to the sovereignty of Wales, in 1240, when Gilbert Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, encouraged by the weakness of the prince and the unsettled state of the principality in a new reign, seized upon the fortress, which he strengthened with works more extensive and better constructed.

From this time the castle appears to have remained in the undisturbed possession of the English, and no further notice occurs respecting it in the Welsh annals. Edward I., after his entire conquest of the country, resided for a month in the castle, whilst employed in settling the affairs of the principality. The lordship, castle, and town were settled by Henry VII. on Catharine of Arragon, on her being betrothed to his eldest son, Arthur, Prince of Wales, as part of her dower. Soon after the commencement of the civil war, Cardigan Castle was in the hands of the parliament, two of whose agents resided at the priory in the town. It was, however, taken by General Gerard, and garrisoned for the king; but was afterwards besieged by the parliamentarian forces under General Laugharne, by whom, after it had sustained an incessant cannonade for three days, by which a breach was made in the walls, it was taken by storm. On this latter occasion, Jeremy Taylor, the divine, who was with the royalists, was taken prisoner.

The town is pleasantly situated on the north bank and near the estuary of the river Teivy, over which it has an ancient stone bridge of five arches, connecting the counties of Cardigan and Pembroke. It comprises one principal thoroughfare, extending from the bridge along the turnpike-road to Aberystwith, from which another diverges to the east, in a line towards Newcastle; the former contains several respectable shops, and in both are a few good houses. For many years the want of a public supply of water was much felt by the inhabitants; but in the beginning of the year 1831, the sum of £400 was raised for that purpose by public subscription. A capacious reservoir was made near the gaol, and iron-pipes laid down, by which the water is conveyed into six public conduits in different parts of the town, for the supply of the inhabitants generally, and from these are branch pipes, conveying it to the houses of those who choose to pay a small annual rate for that additional accommodation. Other improvements have since been carried out. A literary and scientific institution has been lately established. Dramatic performances occasionally take place in the town, and during the assizes and at other times assemblies and concerts are given; but there are no buildings especially appropriated for these amusements. In 1847 the Angel inn was purchased by government, for the construction of new barracks. The environs are pleasant, abounding with interesting and varied scenery; and the view of the town from the higher grounds is highly prepossessing.

The port has jurisdiction over Newport and Fishguard, in the county of Pembroke, to the west, and over Aberporth, to the north; it carries on a very considerable coasting-trade, and a limited intercourse with foreign parts. The principal exports are, corn (chiefly oats) to Bristol and Liverpool, butter, oak, bark, and slate, which last may be deemed the staple article of the place, though it is not of a very good quality, selling only at half the price of the slate procured in North Wales. The chief imports are, timber from Norway and North America, coal, principally from Liverpool, and sometimes from South Wales and Staffordshire, culm from South Wales, limestone from Pembrokeshire, and manufactured goods and merchandise for the supply of the shops. The river Teivy is navigable up to the bridge for vessels of from 300 to 400 tons’ burthen at spring tides, but the entrance to the harbour is obstructed by a dangerous bar, having at high water in spring tides only twenty-two feet of water, with a fall of sixteen feet, leaving at times only six feet depth of water, and at neap tides the rise and fall do not exceed eleven feet; so that the general trade of the port is confined to vessels of from 15 to 100 tons’ burthen. It has been suggested that a great improvement might be made in the harbour, by constructing a pier from Pen-yr-Ergyd to the south-west, the expense of which probably would not exceed £1000. A lucrative salmon-fishery is carried on in the river Teivy, during the summer months; and a herringfishery, which in some years is exceedingly productive, affords employment to many during the winter. In summer the river assumes a remarkable appearance, from the vast number of coracles, or small portable fishing-boats, constructed of wicker covered with leather, and large enough only to hold one person. Ship-building was formerly carried on to a great extent, but it has almost wholly declined, and the town has now no manufactures of any description. The market is on Saturday; and fairs are held annually on February 13th, April 5th, September 8th, and December 19th. The market for corn is held by sufferance under the shire-hall. Butchers’ meat was exposed for sale in the principal street until the year 1823, when a commodious market-house and slaughter-house were built, under the direction of the corporation, on the west side of the town, near the river.

The borough was first incorporated by Edward I., after his final conquest of Wales, and the charter of privileges granted by that monarch was confirmed and extended by several of his successors, including Henry III., who in the fourteenth year of his reign bestowed upon the burgesses exemption from tolls, passage, or frontage, throughout the kingdom. The charter of the nineteenth of Henry VIII. partially elevated it into a county of itself, by granting “that the burgesses and their successors for ever shall have the return of all our writs and of all the suits of our heirs, in whatsoever pleas, real or personal, and of all other cases within the said town of Cardigan; so that no escheator, sheriff, bailiff, nor minister, of us do enter or in anything meddle, within the town and borough aforesaid;” but this charter has in practice been disregarded, and the corporation claims to be such by prescription. Until the passing of the Municipal Corporations’ Act, the style of the borough was “the Mayor, Common-Council, and Burgesses of the town and borough of Cardigan,” and the control was vested in a mayor, thirteen common-councilmen, a coroner, a town-clerk, two bailiffs, and an indefinite number of burgesses; the principal functions, however, being exercised by the commoncouncil. The mayor and coroner were elected annually by the burgesses, who chose the former officer out of the common-council, and the latter from among themselves; the town-clerk was appointed by the council, and the bailiffs by the mayor, from among the burgesses; and the council, on any vacancy happening in their body, themselves filled it up. The mode of obtaining the freedom was by presentment of the jury at one of the mayor’s courts. These were held, one on the Monday after Michaelmas-day, the other within a month after Easter; and were summoned by the bailiffs, agreeably with a warrant from the mayor, requiring them to summon twenty-four good and lawful men of the burgesses to be sworn of the grand inquest, to inquire into all matters relating to the corporation.

By the act 5th and 6th of William IV., c. 76, the corporation is styled the “Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses,” and consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, forming the council of the borough. The mayor is elected annually by the council, on November 9th, from among the aldermen or councillors; and the aldermen triennially, out of the councillors, or persons qualified as such, one-half going out of office every three years, but being reeligible: 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 annual value. Occupiers of houses and shops, who have been rated for three years to the relief of the poor, are entitled to be burgesses. 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 number of magistrates is three. Adjoining the town is an uninclosed common, containing about 200 acres of good land, which belongs to the burgesses.

The borough and its contributories, Aberystwith, Lampeter, and Atpar, return one member to parliament. The right of election was formerly in the burgesses at large, but is now, by the act for “Amending the Representation of the People,” vested in the old resident burgesses, if registered according to the provisions of the act, and in every male person of full age occupying, either as owner, or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of not less than £10, provided he be capable of registering as the act demands. The number of voters in the borough of Cardigan, including 69 burgesses, is 198; and the total number in the four boroughs, including 239 burgesses, is 754. The mayor for the time being is returning officer.

The assizes for Cardiganshire are held here, as the county town: the powers of the county debt-court of Cardigan, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Cardigan. The knight of the shire, also, is elected here. The shire-hall was built in 1764, and enlarged in 1829 by the addition of a room for the grand jury, and a retiring-room for the petit jury: the court is commodiously arranged, and contains a bust of the late Thomas Johnes, Esq., lord-lieutenant and parliamentary representative of the county, sculptured by Chantrey, at the expense of the county magistrates. The common gaol and house of correction for the county was erected in the year 1793, after a design by Mr. Nash. It occupies a spacious area at the extremity of the town, towards Aberystwith, and comprises six day-rooms, six airingyards, five work-rooms, and every requisite for the proper classification of the prisoners, it being capable of accommodating twenty-two in separate cells, and forty-seven by placing more than one person in each cell. In one of the yards is a tread-wheel, for the employment of prisoners sentenced to hard labour.

The parish comprises about 2340 acres, consisting of meadow, pasture, and arable land, and a very small portion of woodland; the soil is chiefly a stiff clay, and the produce, oats, barley, and wheat. The living is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king’s books at £9. 15. 10., and endowed with £200 private benefaction, and £400 royal bounty; present net income, £153, with a glebe-house; patron, the Lord Chancellor; impropriator, the Rev. Robert H. W. Miles, whose tithes have been commuted for a rentcharge of £300. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a spacious and venerable structure, consisting of a nave, chancel, and south porch, with a square embattled tower at the west end, and contains space for the accommodation of about 1200 persons. The various parts of this structure were erected at different periods, and display different styles of architecture. The chancel, which is by far the most ancient and most elegant portion, is in the decorated style; it is externally ornamented with a castellated battlement, and strengthened with buttresses surmounted by light handsome pinnacles. The porch was rebuilt, in the later style, in 1639, and the nave in the same style, but differing in the details, in 1703; the tower, which fell down in 1705, was partly rebuilt in 1711, by a brief under the great seal, and completed in 1748, by subscription. The appearance of the interior has been considerably injured by the erection of a carved screen above the altar, of the Ionic order, ill according with the prevailing style of architecture. The east window contains some portions of the ancient stained glass with which it was originally filled; the font, which is ancient, is octangular in form, and richly sculptured; and in the south-eastern angle of the church are two arches, under each of which is a handsome marble monument, erected about the middle of the last century. A gallery was erected in 1821, at the expense of Pryse Pryse, Esq., who made other additions. Mathaiarn, one of the sons of Brychan, Prince of Brecknock, who devoted himself to a religious life, about the middle of the fifth century, is said to have been buried here. The churchyard contains some very fine old elm-trees. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists.

The free grammar school was originally founded in 1653, and was at that period endowed, by the Hon. Commissioners for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales, with a revenue of £60 per annum, out of the impropriate tithes of Llansantfraid. At the Restoration these reverted to their former owners, the vicarschoral in the cathedral church of St. David’s; and the school was continued by support from the corporation of Cardigan, until Lady Lætitia Cornwallis, of Abermarlais, in 1731, devised £200, the interest of which was to be paid to the master. Her ladyship’s will becoming in 1785 a matter of contention in the court of chancery, an order was then made that £717. 10. 6. Bank three per cents, should be transferred to the mayor and council in respect of the above bequest, and the dividends, amounting to £21. 10. 6., are now paid to the master of the school. The school-house comprises one room, erected some years since by subscription on the property of the corporation. There are six boys on the foundation, who are nominated by the mayor and commoncouncil, and are allowed to remain five years, during which time they are taught the Greek and Latin classics, history, and geography, gratuitously, but pay one guinea annually for learning writing and arithmetic: there are about twenty-two other scholars, who pay for their education. Prior to the establishment of St. David’s College, Lampeter, young men were ordained from this school. It is said that four scholarships belong to it, but they are not at present available, neither can any particulars of their foundation be ascertained. Attached to the school is a parochial lending-library, founded by Dr. Bray’s Associates. A National school, in which about 160 boys are instructed, is supported by subscription; and there is also a school for girls, attended by a like number of scholars, and similarly supported. Six or seven Sunday schools are kept, chiefly by the dissenters. The poor-law union of which this town is the head, was formed May 9th, 1837, and comprises the following twenty-six parishes; namely, St. Mary’s in the borough of Cardigan, Aberporth, Blaenporth, Llandygwydd, Llangoedmore, Llêchrhŷd, Mount, Tremaen, and Verwic, in the county of Cardigan; and Bayvill, Bridel, Dinas, St. Dogmael’s, Eglwyswrw, Kîlgerran, Llanerchllwydog, Llantyd, Llanvair-Nantgwyn, Llanvihangel-Penbedw, Manerdivy, Meliney, Monington, Moylgrove, Nevern, Newport, and Whitchurch or Eglwys-Wen, in the county of Pembroke. It is under the superintendence of thirty-three guardians, and contains a population of 19,901, of whom 12,442 are in Pembrokeshire.

At the eastern extremity of the town, towards the river, stood a small Benedictine priory, the foundation of which is of uncertain date; it was a cell to the abbey of Chertsey, and its revenue at the Dissolution was valued at £32. It was granted by Henry VIII., together with the other possessions of Chertsey, to Bisham Abbey, and subsequently, by the same monarch, to William Cavendish and Margaret his wife. The Priory was afterwards the residence of the celebrated Catherine Philipps, daughter of Mr. John Fowler of London, and wife of James Philipps, Esq., better known by her poetical name of Orinda, and as the author of some pleasing poems, and a small work entitled “Letters from Orinda to Polyarchus,” by which name her early friend and patron, Sir Charles Cottrell, was designated. On the site of the old mansion is now a handsome villa, which, with the whole of the Priory estate, is the property of the Rev. Robert Miles, son of the late Philip John Miles, of Leigh Court, in the county of Somerset, Esq. Of the walls by which the town was encompassed there are no remains. The castle, from its situation, was well calculated for defence, and admirably adapted to command the entrance into the western part of the principality, of which it was considered the key; it occupied the summit of an eminence rising to a considerable elevation above the river, and overlooking the town and a large tract of the open country. The remains consist only of two bastions and a portion of the curtain wall. The site of the keep is occupied by a modern villa, having cellars formed out of the dungeons of that ancient tower, of which the walls in some parts are from nine to ten feet thick: the outer ward has been converted into a verdant lawn, tastefully disposed in parterres. Cardigan gives the title of earl to the family of Brudenell.

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13. References

  • Samuel Lewis, ‘Cardigan – Carew’, in A Topographical Dictionary of Wales (London, 1849), pp. 158-180. British History Online [accessed 8 August 2019].

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The aim of the Ceredigion Historical Society is to preserve, record and promote the study of the archaeology, antiquities and history of Ceredigion. That objective has remained the same since the foundation of the Society in 1909, though its name was changed from Ceredigion Antiquarian Society to the Ceredigion Historical Society in 2002.

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Index | Towns in Ceredigion | Villages in Ceredigion | Historic Sites in Ceredigion

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