Ceredigion Historical Society

The Genesis of the Society

IT was in the early summer of 1908 that the Reverend J. F. Lloyd, vicar of Llanilar, invited me to join him in a visit to Strata Florida Abbey. He had visited it previously himself, and, in the course of conversation with Mrs. Arch, The Abbey Farm, who was then the official keeper of the Abbey ruins, had learnt that I was a fairly frequent visitor to the stately old fane. Mr. Lloyd mentioned at the time that he would be accompanied by the Reverend E. J. Davies, Capel Bangor, now of Bangor Teifi, who also was keenly interested in the remains of the premier medieval ecclesiastical establishment in Wales. A few weeks later we met at the Abbey, which, except for the exposing of the foundations of the huge church with its transepts, was a scene of desolation. Masses of fallen masonry over-grown with brambles, nettles and fully- grown mountain ash and sycamore trees marked the scene which once teemed with the busy lives of the monks and lay brothers.

We spent some three hours talking over the venerable ruins and discussing the possibility of getting His Majesty’s Office of Works to carry on the excavation work first started by the Cambrian Archaeological Association in 1887 under the direction of Mr. Stephen Williams, architect, Rhayader. Lack of funds had limited Williams’s valuable work to the disclosing of the foundations of the church and the transepts.

An informal meeting was held at the Red Lion, Pontrhydfendigaid, after tea, and it was decided to take steps to form some society for the care and preservation not only of the Abbey but of all ancient and antiquarian remains within the county of Cardi- gan. Mr. Lloyd acted as chairman of this informal meeting. Mr. Davies proposed that the temporary chairman should consult some of the leading men in the county likely to be interested in such a movement, and this was seconded by myself. There was no opposition and not even a vote on the matter as we were only three present My recollection of the matter is now rather dim, but I am under the impression that among the persons mentioned at the meeting as likely to be interested were Professor Tyrrell Green, Lampeter Professor Anwyl, Aberystwyth, and Sir Edward Pryse, Bart., Gogerddan.

The Vicar of Llanilar carried out the instructions of the temporary committee strenuously during the following winter, and his labours culminated in the inaugural meeting of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, held at the Abbey on July 22nd; 1909. There was a large and interesting gathering of supporters with Sir Edward Pryse, Bart., acting as chairman and president. A most interesting speech on the Abbey was delivered by Professor Tyrrell Green, and this was mainly instrumental in creating among the audience that enthusiasm so necessary to ensure the success of a Society of this kind.

It is noteworthy that the Cambrian Archaeological Association, founded in 1846 at Aberystwyth, began its official work by a visit to Strata Florida Abbey. The Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society followed the example of its earlier and more illustrious predecessor by paying its first official visit to the same stately ruin.

The original purpose for which our Society was founded was accomplished when His Majesty’s Office of Works took over the care of the ruins some years ago, but to secure this desideratum entailed 20 years’ incessant badgering of that Office by our Executive Committee. The members of that Committee have been amply repaid for their labour.

R. OSBORNE JONES.

This note appeared in the Welsh Gazette, 26, xii, 1940.

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