Cardiganshire History (page 8)

Cardiganshire Fortifications

The number of BRITISH fortifications in Cardiganshire is very great. One of the most ancient, and certainly the most remarkable, is situated on a farm called Ciliau, or “the Retreats,” in the neighbourhood of Llandysilio-Gogo, being a large circular inclosure, about sixty-eight yards in diameter, divided into three compartments, and surrounded by rude ramparts of stones, from which it has acquired the name of Y Garn Wen, or “the White Heap.” Near the church of the same parish is an ancient circular fortification, called Castell Llwyn Davydd, and sometimes Castell Caerwedros, about 200 feet in diameter, defended by two deep ditches, with ramparts of corresponding height. In the parish of Llanvihangel-Penbryn is a very extensive British camp, called Castell Nadolig, formed by three ditches and embankments, with a large tumulus near it; and at the distance of about half a mile is another, of equal size and strength, styled Castell Pwntan. Near the village of Blaenporth are, an encampment called the Gaer, and two others called respectively Caer Lonydd and Castell Tydur, the latter of which is on the seacoast. There are divers other ancient intrenchments within the limits of the county, namely, Cribyn Clottas, in the parish of Llanvihangel-Ystrad; another of considerable extent called Castell Moeddyn, at the southern extremity of the parish of Llanarth; a third, called Pen-y-Gaer, in the same vicinity; a fourth in the neighbourhood of the mansion of Llwyn Dyrys, on the banks of the Teivy, near which is a large artificial mound, or barrow; several in the parish of Lampeter, one of them situated on the same eminence with the supposed Druidical stones abovementioned; and a variety of small ones on the hills in the parish of Kellan. On the summit of Moel-yGaer, in the northern part of the county, are the remains of a British fortress, about 150 feet in circumference, formed of loose stones piled together, with several hollows in the centre about eight feet in diameter. A short distance north-west of Trêgaron is an intrenchment of considerable extent, forming a segment of a circle, strongly situated in the midst of a deep morass: it is commonly called Castell Fleming, from its having been considered as a work of the Flemish invaders of the country; but it is thought by antiquaries to be of British construction. The parish of Trêgaron, besides several of the sepulchral heaps of stones called carneddau, contains a singular embankment of earth, extending from east to west a distance of several miles, called Cwys Ychain Banawg, or “the Furrow of the Bannog Oxen,” from a fabulous tradition current in the neighbourhood: the late Sir S. R. Meyrick, the historian of the county, considers it as the remains of an old British road. An ancient intrenched fortification, called Glâs Crûg, occupies the summit of a hill in a wide marsh, adjacent to the village of Llanbadarn. Near Wervilbrook, in the vicinity of Llandysilio-Gogo, are several carneddau, or sepulchral heaps of stones: divers monuments of the same kind are situated in the parish of Llanvihangel-Penbryn, and many others on the mountains in the parish of Kellan. Near the little river Frwd, in this parish, is a large stone called Llêch Cynon, or “Cynon’s Stone;” and on a mountain to the north are several cist-vaen, one of which is called Bedd-y-Vorwyn, or “the Maiden’s Grave.” Besides the carneddau on these mountains, are several single stones of great magnitude, only one or two of which, however, now retain their original erect position. Various upright monumental stones of large size, bearing inscriptions much defaced, are visible near the church of Llandewy-Brevi; and a single one in a field called Maes Mynach, in the parish of Llanvihangel-Ystrad, together with a remarkable monument of the same kind, ornamented with Runic knots, but without any inscription. In the vicinity of Llanwenog is a very large barrow, called Crûg-yr-Udon; near the passage over the river Clettwr, called Rhŷd Owain, or “Owen’s Ford,” is another, designated Tommen Rhŷd Owain; and on the summit of a hill in the vicinity of Llangranog is a third, which gives to the spot where it stands the name of Pen Moel Badell. About six miles from Llanrhŷstid is a lofty mountain, called Mynydd Trichrûg, from three tumuli near its summit. There are two artificial mounts, supposed to be the sites of ancient fortresses, situated respectively at Castle Hill, near the point where the road from Aberystwith to Rhaiadr and that from Machynlleth to Trêgaron and Lampeter intersect each other; and a little to the north of the church of Lampeter, near the banks of the Teivy, in the parish of Llanwenog. Besides these, in LlanbadarnVâch, near the seat called Mynachtŷ, are several, called Hên Gastell.

At the time of the general dissolution of religious houses, there were, at Cardigan, a small Benedictine priory; at Llandewy-Brevi, a college of priests; at Llanleir, a Cistercian nunnery; and at Ystrad-Flur, a Cistercian abbey, commonly called Strata Florida Abbey. Inconsiderable fragments of the walls yet point out the site of the abbey of Strata Florida: the chief relic is a beautiful roundarched gateway. On the premises of a house in the town of Lampeter, called the Priory, are some small remains of an ancient monastic edifice. The most interesting specimens of ecclesiastical architecture are seen in the churches of Cardigan; EglwysNewydd, or New Church, within the grounds of Havod; Llanarth, Llanbadarn-Vawr, LlandewyBrevi, Llandyssil, Llansantfraid, and Trêgaron.

Striking remains exist of the castle of Aberystwith, and of those of Cardigan, Castell Gwalter (on the summit of a lofty hill near the church of Llanvihangel-Geneu’r-Glyn), and Ystrad-Meirig. There are inconsiderable remains of an ancient fortress at Aberaëron, called Castell Cadwgan; of Castell Stephan, or “Stephen’s Castle,” at Lampeter; of a fortress on a hill near Llandyssil church, formerly called Castell Gwynionydd, but now Castell Coed-Von; and of an ancient fortress not far from Aberystwith, called Llanychaiarn Castle. On a mound near the village of Blaenporth formerly stood a fortress of great strength. A moated hill near the river Clettwr, in the vicinity of the farm Castle Howel, indicates the site of an ancient mural fortification of the same name: at Kîl-y-Graig, in the parish of Llandyssil, is an artificial mound, the site of a castle called in the Welsh annals Castell Abereinon; near the church of Bangor is a moated mount, called Castell Pistog, and near the village of Trêvilan is a lofty mound, on which anciently stood Trêvilan Castle, though the late Sir S. R. Meyrick has placed the site of this fortress at the small mounds called Hên Gastell, in Llanbadarn-Vâch, above mentioned. There are yet some fragments of the ancient town walls of Cardigan.

This county contains several remarkable old mansions; and on the eastern part of the Teivy, below Llandewy-Brevi, are the ruins of an ancient and magnificent mansion, called, from the parish in which it is situated, Plâs Llanvair-Clywedogau, once the residence of the ancestors of the late T. Johnes, Esq., of Havod. The seats most worthy of notice are, Alderbrook Hall, in the parish of Troedyraur; Allt-yr-Odin, in the parish of Llandyssil; Blaenpant, in the parish of Llandygwidd; Brinog; Bronwydd, in the parish of Llangunllo; Coedmore, near Llêchrhŷd; Crosswood; Derry Ormond, in the parish of BettwsBledrws; Falcon Dale; Gelli dywyll; Gernos, in the parish of Llangunllo; Gogerddan, near Aberystwith; Havod, or Havod-Uchtryd; High Mead, in the parish of Llanwenog; Llanerchaëron House, in the Vale of Aëron; Llanleir, in the parish of YspyttyYstwith; Llwyn Dyrys; Llŷsnewydd; Mabus, in the parish of Llanrhystid; Nant Eôs, near Aberystwith; Neuadd Llanarth; Neuadd Trêvawr, in the parish of Llandygwidd; Pantgwyn; Pigeonsford, in the parish of Llangranog; Troedyraur House, in the parish of Troedyraur; Tŷglyn, in the parish of LlandewyAberarth; and Ystrad. Great improvements have of late years taken place in the farmhouses and offices, which were formerly of a very inferior class, more particularly as wanting granaries. The appearance of the cottages is for the most part very wretched, to which the frequent want of good building materials much contributes: their walls are of mud, about five feet high, with a low thatched roof, surmounted at one end by a wattle and dab chimney frequently held together by hay-rope bandages, and greatly declining from the perpendicular. Fences of sods, or of stones and sods in alternate layers, are common in the tracts near the coast. The fences that are entirely of sod and mould are raised five or six feet high, on a base as many feet wide, from which they slope upwards to a breadth of three, two and a half, or two feet, with a double facing of green sods. These are effectual barriers, but the tracts where they are seen have a dreary and naked appearance, although of late years it has become a common practice to plant or sow furze and hawthorns on the tops of the mounds. The stones, sometimes placed in alternate layers in them, extend in length towards the centre of the bank; and those by which many of them are entirely faced are commonly laid according to the Roman method of building walls, as described by Vitruvius, and as seen in many old Roman edifices.

The favourite and ordinary bread of the peasantry is that made from barley-meal, unleavened, and baked in thin cakes on cast-iron plates over the ordinary fires. On some of the hills separating the Vales of the Towy and the Teivy, oats and barley are sown together, threshed, kiln-dried, and ground into meal, from which is made a kind of bread called sipris. Oaten bread is sometimes used in the uplands, and rye bread is not uncommon in some parts of the county. Servants are hired at the autumn or spring fairs, but for the most part at the former: at Aberystwith, the first Monday after the 13th of November, and the first Monday after the 13th of May, are called “hiring Mondays,” and great numbers from the surrounding country then meet for the purpose.

The county contains several mineral springs, sulphureous, or powerfully chalybeate: two of the most remarkable are Fynnon-y-Graig, near Llyn Teivy, and Aberystwith spa. The other chief natural curiosities of Cardiganshire are its waterfalls, of which the most striking, besides those of distinguished romantic beauty in the grounds of Havod, are, those of the small river Mynach, a little below the Devil’s Bridge, four in number, and in immediate succession, the first being twenty, the second sixty, the third twenty, and the fourth about one hundred, feet in perpendicular height; those on the river Rheidiol, into which the Mynach immediately falls, which are particularly sublime and romantic; and those on a tributary of the Teivy, near the church of Hênllan, called Frydiau Hênllan, or “the Hênllan Falls.” There are also waterfalls and a salmon-leap at Cenarth, in the parish of Llandygwidd.

See medieval boundaries:
Cardiganshire | Cantrefs  | Commotes | Gwestfâu | Sharelands

See 1800 Census Act and later hundreds, parishes and townships:
County of Cardigan | Hundred | Parish | Township