Ceredigion Historical Society

Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society Meeting at Gogerddan

In warm and beautiful summer-like weather on Wednesady afternoon a meeting of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society was held in the open air on the lawn in front of Gogerddan, the seat of Sir Edward and Lady Pryse. Sir Edward Pryse is the president of the Society and took the chair at the meeting which was attended by a large number of the members and friends.

In commencing the meeting, the President said he could not express the pleasure he felt at seeing so large a gathering interested in the doings of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society. The Society, he thought, filled a long-felt want. In Cardiganshire there was a large number of antiquities, some of which were in danger of falling away and being lost sight of for ever. That Society had been started to conduct excavations in the endeavour to discover other antiquities and to preserve antiquities already known to exist. Ancient inscribed stones had been used as gate posts in the county. In that particular neighbourhood there were things which to his mind pointed to an older civilization than that of the Romans and among those things he included the camps on the summits of the hills, the construction of which revealed extraordinary military engineering skill. He was but a layman in antiquarian matters, but his private opinion was that those camps existed long before the time when the Romans occupied these islands. (Hear, hear.) There was something he should like to have further information on and that was in regard to the two upright stones on the old Racecourse adjoining Gogerddan. The tradition of the neighbourhood was that the stones marked the burial place of a giant. If so that giant must have lived in a prehistoric age, because his grave was 630 feet nine inches long. (Laughter and cheers.)

Miss Evelyn Lewes, Tyglyn Aeron, read a paper in which after referring to Taliesin and Cantref y Gwaelod, Llanbadarn, and the three blessed visitors to the Island of Britain, she spoke of the history of Gogerddan, remarking that it was the birthplace of Rhydderch ab Ieuan Llwyd, who lived in the age after Dafydd ab Gwilym. It would be interesting to know, Miss Lewes added, when and by whom the ancient air of “I Blas Gogerddan” was composed as the Welsh words seem to point to some story of the house of Gogerddan during a period of warfare which might perhaps be that of the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century. Speaking of the history of the family, Miss Lewes said that Lewis Pryse seems to have departed from the former Parliamentarian tradition of the family, for he received in April, 1717, a letter from the Jacobite Earl of Mar, then at Innsbruck, inviting him to assist James Stuart to recover his lost kingdom. That letter, now in the National Library at Aberystwyth, might possibly have given rise to the legend still whispered in the neighbourhood that some ardent Jacobite member of the family once concealed Bonny Prince Charlie in a secret chamber of the old mansion. The name Gogerddan appeared to have been originally Gogarthan- Gogarth meaning, according to Pugh, a little buttress or ridge. Therefore it might have come from Gogarth, a ridge, and din, a fortified hill, suggesting that before the mansion was thought of a Gogarth or fortified place of some importance must have existed at the place; a suggestion which was supported by the existence of the old camp on the hill opposite the house which authorities judged to be of British origin. (Applause.) Professor Anwyl, U.C.W., Aberystwyth, congratulated the county on the formation of the Society and, on behalf of Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society, welcomed its advent. As the county was the unit of political representation and municipal administration, so it was a splendid unit for antiquarian research and study. The Society should not forget the excellent work done in the past by individual workers. The Society would be able to assist the Commission at present enquiring into the antiquities of Wales and how best to preserve them. A study of the past would help in the elucidation of the problems of the present and of the future. Though Cardiganshire was rich in antiquities, it was not so rich as the neighbouring county of Pembroke in monuments of the stone age and in cromlechau; but possibly there might be monuments of that age lying undiscovered in the county which that Society might unearth in its investigations and excavations. But though there were few monuments of the stone age in Cardiganshire, there were numerous remains of the bronze age. Among the remains of the bronze age were ancient graves called tumuli, containing a cinerary urn in which the ashes of the dead were deposited and placed in a stone chest and covered with earth or stone. A few years ago a very good specimen of a grave of the bronze age was discovered at Wstrws in the south of the county. Most of them knew the Abermeurig cup which once must have been in a bronze age grave and the county was fortunate in having produced one of the finest round bronze shields in Europe. It was said to have been found at Rhydygors, near Aberystwyth, but where Rhydygors was he had failed to discover. It was one of the gems of the prehistoric period in the British Museum. The county had also produced a splendid relic of the Celtic or pre-Roman period which was characterized by its great development of decorative art and there were in the county Roman remains, such as at Llanio or Loventium, and abundant evidence that the Romans worked the mines of the county not only for lead but also for silver contained in the lead, as well as evidence of their occupation in Roman camps, the study of which were both interesting and important. The study of place-names in the county would also through light on its past history. He had often puzzled over the meaning of Gogerddan and was pleased to accept Miss Lewes’s derivation. (Applause.)

The Rev Charles Evans, Ysbytty Cynfryn, in a Welsh address, gave an account of the Yspytty or hoispitium, in his parish for the refreshment of pilgrims going to and from Strata Florida and of the ecclesiastical significance of Pontrhydygroes, and the Rev. George Eyre Evans gave an interesting account, illustrated by a sketch, of the gaer on the hill top facing Gogerddan which he thought was a Roman work or at least copied from the work of Roman Britons. It was as far as he knew the only camp which had a circular protection outside its entrance on the western side which was the side facing the sea whence the invader was most likely to come. Most of the Welsh camps, be believed, were of the Roman British period. One could see from the Gogerddan gaer, the royal Pen Dinas, Castell Gwalter, Caer Pwllglas, and Darren.

Professor Tyrrel Green, St. David’s College, Lampeter, said that Strata Florida, Talley, and the neighbourhood of Gogerddan, claimed the last days of Dafydd ab Gwilym and that ubiquity of the great poet might afford research work for the Society. (Laughter.) He deplored the lack of interest which people of the county took in antiquities close to their own doors and said one of the first things for the Society to do was to awaken interest. At Lampeter it was intended excavating the site of the ancient Church of St. Thomas of which nothing above ground now remained. The Society would also combine in a common interest those who were widely divided on religious educational, and political matters, and by studying the history of the past would make them all better fitted to solve the problems of the present and of the future and to promote -he general welfare of the county.

The Rev T. F. Lloyd, vicar of Llanilar, reported that the Society numbered 164 members who had paid their subscriptions —(laughter)—and announced that the collection which was taken totalled £4 which would be devoted to excavation work.

Archdeacon Williams, Aberystwyth, proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Evelyn Lewes for her paper and to Sir Edward and Lady Pryse for their kind invitation to Gogerddan and the vote having been seconded by Mr Morris Davies, Ffosrhydygaled, was carried unanimously. Sir Edward and Lady Pryse subsequently entertained the company to an at Home.

In the evening the members sat down to an excellently-prepared dinner at the Talbot Hotel when there were present Sir John Rhys, principal of Jesus College, Oxford, a native of Cardiganshire, who was in the chair, Alderman C. M. Williams, ex-mayor of Aberystwyth, being in the vice-chair. There were also present Professor Tyrrel Green, chairman of the Executive Committee; the Rev T. F. Lloyd, Llanilar, hon. secretary; Alderman Edward Evans, treasurer; Professor Scott, St. David’s College; Mrs Davies, Feathers Hotel, Aberayron; Mr T. Jones, chemist, Tregaron; Mr Phillips, Manor Hall, Aberayron; Dr John Morgan, Fontrnydygroes; Alderman FA P. Wynne, Mr Arthur Jones N. and S. W. Bank; Mr D. D. Evans, Llanilar; Mr David Samuel, Mr W. J. Williams, Llanafan; the Rev Howell Price, Mr Denis H. Davies, Lampeter; Professor Anwyl, Aberystwyth Mr E. Williams, chief constable Mr John Morgan, Castle-terrace; Mr T. W. Powell, Mr J. B. Kitto, London and Provincial Bank; the Rev T. Owen Evans, Devil’s Bridge; Mrs Lloyd and Miss Pattie Lloyd, Llanilar Vicarage; Mrs Tyrrel Green and Miss Green, Lampeter; Miss Williams Lledrod Vicarage; Miss Jones, Ystrad Meung Vicarage; Miss M. E. Jenkins, Llangwyryfon Vicarage; Mr and Mrs D. W. Jenkins, Isbytty Ystwyth; Mr and Mrs Osborne Jones, Swyddffynon; the Rev W Francis, Ystradmeurig; Mr Basil Adams, Alltymynydd; Mr Denis Tyrrel Green, Lampeter; Mr Richard Jones, Graig Goch Mrs Evan Williams, Ystrad. Tregaron Mr N. H. Thomas, Aberystwyth; Miss Norrie Jones, Tregaron; Mr G. Dickens Lewis, Aberystwyth; Miss Nellie Lloyd, Tregaron; and Mr D. J. Davies, Lampeter.

The Chairman, in classic Welsh, gave the toast of the King which was loyally received and called on Mr David Samuel, headmaster of Aberystwyth County School, to propose the toast of Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society. Mr Samuel, complying, said the Society started with excellent prospects and gave signs of long life, though other local societies soon manifested signs of decrepitude and decadence. The Society was fortunate in having Sir Edward Pryse of Gogerddan at its head and in being served by excellent officers.

The toast having been cordially received, Professor Scott St. David’s College, proposed the health of Sir John Rhys, the chairman of the evening, who had attended at personal inconvenience; and the toast was drunk with musical honours. Sir John Rhys, responding, said he attended on condition that he was not to make a speech, he did not intend making one. (Laughter.) Referring to the presence on either side of him of Professor Anwyl and the Chief Constable, he added that the company would see his position. He did not unfortunately remember the Bible in English, but in the Welsh Bible there was a verse which said “lssachar sydd asyn asgyrnog yn gorwedd rhwng dau bwnn” (Issacbar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens). (Loud laughter.) He was not going to say anything about Professor Anwyl for fear he might retaliate and perhaps it would not be wise to say anything about the Chief Constable. (Renewed laughter.) In his native county there was no crime and he was informed also there was no game either, because the poachers had disposed of all of it. (Laughter.) With regard to that Society, he wished one had been formed long ago to have prevented some of the vandalism which had taken place in the county. He once asked an incumbent why he had put an ancient inscription on the walls of his church in several pieces far away from each other and he replied that the masons had done it while he was at lunch. (Laughter.) Well, he (Sir John) replied, the masons must have worked much harder than they worked when he used to watch them. Of course he did not like to suggest that the incumbent had taken an unconsionably-long time at his lunch. (Laughter.) He recognised that in some things the country had taken upon itself in recent years a greater activity than formerly obtained. Even the churches and chapels had put a Trot into the Old Hundred. (Laughter.) With regard to the antiquities of the county, there were many places which might well repay investigation and research. When he was twelve years of years he worked in a lead mine near Dyffryn Castell and had not the company became bankrupt he might have been working in a lead mine still. (Laughter.) Near that mine was a place called Esgerllu as well as numerous other places with curious names in the county which sug- gested that spade and pick might lead to important and interesting discoveries. Opposite his own old home on the western slopes of Plynlimon were Dysgwylfa-fach and Dysgwylfa-fawr which suggested the outlook for raids, and below a place named Y Dinas which modern Welsh writers wrongly spelled Y Ddinas. What gave to those places their names? Near Devil’s Bridge was a place with the curious name of Erw’r Barfau, or the acre of the beards. He did not known what gave that name to the place but it reminded him of the wise story of two brother kings who were looking at the moon and the stars. One said to the other that the moon and the stars were his. “Yes,” replied the other, but this field is mine and you must take your sheep off it.” They then began to fight and a king came down from the north and shaved off their beards. He did not know whether Erw’r Barfau, near Devil’s Bridge, was the spot where that dispute occurred; but investigation and excavation would probably throw some light on the origin of the name. (Hear, hear.) He did not know that he could suggest anything to the Society except that the members should try to draw up a careful list of the antiquities of the county and also to dig into some of them if they could find a proper man to wisely conduct the digging or else it would be much better to leave the work alone. (Hear, hear.) If a list of the antiquities were compiled they would, he thought, be found to be more numerous than was commonly supposed. Place names also afforded an interesting study and in that connection the names of petty sessional divisions such as Upper and Lower Moyddin and Penarth at Tregaron afforded large scope for investigation. (Cheers.)

Other toasts were given and responded to and the company separated after a pleasant evening during which Welsh airs were played with harp accompaniment.

From: The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard 1 October 1909 p.8

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