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Beddgelert


National Gazetteer (1868)

"BEDDGELERT, (or Bethgelert), a parish in the hundreds of Evionydd and Isgorvai, in the county of Carnarvon, and of Ardudwy, in the county of Merioneth, North Wales, 6 miles to the S. of Snowdon, and 14 miles to the S.E. of Carnarvon, its post town. It lies in the centre of a mountainous district, rich in the grandest and most diversified scenery, embracing mountains, waters, woods, and cultivated valleys. Snowdon itself is partly within this parish, besides several other principal mountains of the great range. The village, a small number of scattered dwellings, is seated at the confluence of the rivers Claslyn and Colwyn, at the foot of the mountain Moel Hebog, which rises to the height of about 2,580 feet. It is one of the favourite starting points for the numerous tourists who visit North Wales, and for whose reception and comfort there is a good hotel.

Beddgelert takes its name, signifying "grave of Gelert," from a priory of the Gilbertine order, founded here at a very early period, and believed to be, with the exception of the religious houses at Bangor and Bardsey, the most ancient in Wales. The foundation of this priory is attributed to Llewellyn the Great, the last king of Wales, and its origin is accounted for in the well-known and touching legend which tells how Llewellyn and the royal family were one day out on a hunting excursion, leaving in the house (his hunting seat) an infant is on in the cradle, and his favourite greyhound, Gelert. Llewellyn returning, his dog met him at the door, his mouth all stained with blood. With a fearful boding, Llewellyn rushed to the cradle, which was overturned, and blood was on the floor. Convinced that the child had been destroyed, he laid the dog dead at his feet in a moment; when, recovering from the sudden frenzy, he removed the cradle, and there lay the child in happy sleep, and near it a wolf, slain by the faithful dog. He reared a monument over the grave of his lost friend, which is still pointed out in the churchyard, and afterwards erected near the spot the conventual church.

About 1283 the priory was nearly burnt down, but was restored and flourished till the Dissolution, when its value was 69. There are no ruins left; but it is thought that the present church may have been built or repaired with the materials of the old buildings. The living is a perpetual curacy in the diocese of Bangor, value 90, in the patronage of John Priestley, Esq. The church is dedicated to St. Mary, and is in the early English style, with a fine east window, and some arches of greater antiquity than the body of the building. In the parish are chapels belonging to the Wesleyans, Independents, and Baptists, and several to the Calvinistic Methodists. There are some small charitable endowments.

Close to the village, on the south, is the pass of Pont-Aberglaslyn, a stupendous ravine through which the waters of the Glaslyn, or "Blue Lake discharge themselves into the sea. The rude and rich magnificence of the scenery of this pass, with its lofty precipitous sides, overhanging crags, dark depths, and rushing torrent, is unrivalled, and mocks description. The chasm is crossed by a stone bridge, a single arch of 30 feet span, resting on two perpendicular cliff's, and connecting the counties of Merioneth and Carnarvon. Near the bridge is a small cataract which forms a salmon leap.

North-east of the village is the pass of Nant Gwynant, a deep valley abounding in lakes, woods, and meadows, and along which lies the road to Capel Curig. Near Llyn Gwynant is Dinas Emrys, a steep and lofty rock, the traditional scene of the conference of Vortigern and his wise men previous to his retirement; and afterwards the residence of the "prophetic Merlin." On its summit, which is defended by ramparts, are remains of a structure of stone, with walls of immense thickness. Copper and titanium are found in the district, and there are several mines. Fairs are held on the 18th August, and the 23rd and 27th September."

"LLWYN LLINON, a hamlet in the parish of Beddgelert, county Carnarvon, 4 miles N.E. of Tremadoc."

"MOEL-Y-WYDDFA, (or "the conspicuous summit"), is the highest peak of Snowdon, in the parish of Beddgelert, in county Carnarvon. It attains an elevation of 3,571 feet, and was a station of the Ordnance Survey. Many other Welsh mountains have the prefix "Moel.""

"NANT-GWYNANT, (or Nanthnynant), a hamlet in the parish of Beddgelert, county Carnarvon, 5 miles N.E. of Beddgelert. It is situated in a valley under Snowdon, watered by the river Avon Glas, and is said to have been the retreat of Vortigern and the magician Merlin."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson 2003]

A Topographical Dictionary of Wales
Samuel Lewis, 1833

BETHGELART (BEDD-CELERT), a parish partly in the hundred of EIVIONYDD, Eivionydd division, and partly in that of ISGORVAI, Arvon division, of the county of CARNARVON, and partly in the hundred of ARDUDWY, county of MERIONETH, NORTH WALES, 16 miles (S. E. by S.) from Carnarvon, and containing 777 inhabitants. This very extensive parish, anciently called Llan Ybor, derived its present name from a priory of Black canons, of the order of St. Gilbert, founded, according to some writers, about the year 1198, and dedicated to St. Mary, by Llewelyn the Great, in gratitude for the preservation of his infant son from the attack of a wolf, which, during the absence of the family upon a hunting excursion, had entered the house, and which his favourite greyhound Celert had killed, while attempting to seize the child in its cradle. According to the well-known legendary story, Llewelyn, on his return from the chase, perceiving the mouth of the dog stained with blood, hastened to the nursery, and finding the cradle overturned, and the floor streaming with blood, hastily concluded that his son had been killed by the hound, and instantly drew his sword and stabbed the faithful animal, while caressing his master. But, on removing the cradle, he found his child unhurt, and sleeping quietly by the side of the wolf, which the watchful Celert had slain. Stung with remorse, Llewelyn erected a tomb over the dog's grave, on which spot the conventual church was afterwards built ; and from this circumstance the priory obtained the appellation of Bedd Celert, or "the Grave of Celert." But Mr. Rowlands has traced the existence of this monastic establishment to a period long anterior to the above, even prior to the reign of Owain Gwynedd, from whom it received an endowment of lands, &c., which was augmented by Llewelyn. The priory having been nearly destroyed by fire, about the year 1283, was repaired by Edward I., assisted by Anianus, Bishop of Bangor, who granted ample indulgences to all who should contribute towards the rebuilding of it; and in his edicts for this purpose, he describes it as being, with the exception of those of Bardsey and Bangor Iscoed, the oldest religious establishment in the principality. The priory flourished till the time of Henry VIII., who annexed it to the abbey of Chertsey, in the county of Surrey, and it was subsequently, together with that establishment, given by the same monarch to Bisham abbey, in the county of Berks : its revenue, at the dissolution, amounted to 69. 3. 8. There are no remains of the building, the materials of which are supposed to have been used in the erection or repair of the parish church ; nor can its site be at present distinctly ascertained. All the lands in the county of Carnarvon, belonging to the priory, were granted to Robert and Henry Bodville, by Edward VI., in the second year of his reign.

The parish is situated in the heart of an extensive mountainous district, abounding with strikingly romantic and with grand and magnificent scenery, richly diversified with lofty mountains of various elevation and character, luxuriant vales, expansive lakes, woods, groves, and plantations of the richest verdure, and comprehending an almost endless variety of views and prospects of surpassing beauty and interest. Its limits reach to the summit of the towering Snowdon, including nearly the whole of its southern side and base, as well as the mountains Moel Hebog, Aran, Graig Goch, and Mynydd-Mawr, with part of Siabod, all of which, though secondary to Snowdon, are mountains of lofty elevation.

The village, which is small, but in which a spacious and commodious inn has been built, for the accommodation of the increased number of persons who visit this interesting neighbourhood, is delightfully situated at the confluence of the rivers Glaslyn and Colwyn, which rise in the adjacent mountains, and consists only of a few scattered cottages, principally inhabited by shepherds, whose flocks feed upon the neighbouring mountains.

To the north-west of it the road passes between the small lakes Llyn y Cader and Llyn y Dywerch, beyond which is the broad lake Llyn Cawellyn, at the base of Mynydd-Mawr, a mountain of lofty and precipitous elevation, which in this part, receding in a semicircular curve, forms a bold and rugged barrier to this fine sheet of water, which is more than a mile and a half in length, and about three quarters of a mile broad : the water is beautifully transparent, and abounds with red char, a fish peculiar to mountain lakes. At the extremity of the lake, and upon a bold rocky precipice in the mountain, are the ruins of Castell Cidwm, a fortress erected by Cadwaladr, to defend this important pass into the regions of Snowdon, which from the earliest ages had been the secure retreat of the native Welsh, in cases of extreme danger, and the rallying point of their efforts in repelling the invaders of their country. To the west is the mountain pass called Drws y Coed, where are some productive copper mines, and beyond are two fine lakes adjoining each other, called Llyniau Nantlle, from which spot is obtained a view of the summits of Snowdon, all of which are seen through a vista between the intervening mountains, with singular grandeur of effect.

To the north-east of the village, an opening between the mountains forms the beautifully romantic pass of Nant Gwynant, memorable for the sanguinary battle which was fought between the forces of the Earl of Pembroke and those of Ievan ab Robert, in the reign of Edward IV. Through this delightful vale, the name of which implies the vale of waters, passes the road to Capel Curig, extending for five or six miles through a continued succession of richly varied scenery, unsurpassed for picturesque beauty and sublimity. In some parts are seen alternately clear and expansive lakes, reflecting either the rugged and sterile precipices, or the richly wooded sides, of the lofty mountains by which they are enclosed ; and luxuriant meadows and fertile plains, intersected by numerous rivulets ; and in others craggy cliffs, over which the mountain torrent forms frequent cataracts, barren rocks, and the most dreary sterility. On the margin of Llyn Gwynant, one of the principal lakes in this romantic vale, are the ruins of a small ancient chapel, called Capel Nant Gwynant, formerly belonging to Bethgelart; and not far distant is the isolated rocky eminence called Dinas Emrys, celebrated as the spot where Vortigern is said to have assembled his council of wise men, or magicians, in 449, and also as the residence of the renowned Merlin. The summit of this rock forms an extensive area, which is defended with walls of loose stones, and accessible only on one side : the entrance appears to have been guarded by two towers, and within the area are the foundations of circular buildings of loose stones, the walls of which are about five feet in thickness. The road to Capel Curig extends beyond the point of the mountain Siabod, where it joins the pass of Llanberis, through which a road to Carnarvon was opened in 1831.

To the south of the village is the pass of Pont Aber Glaslyn, the entrance to which is somewhat narrow, but becomes gradually more contracted by the approach of the mountains, leaving scarcely room for the river, which rushes with violence through its rocky channel. The scenery in this vale is rudely magnificent : the mountains rise to an amazing height, and towards the vale present a series of huge precipices, towering above each other at irregular intervals, and rugged masses of projecting cliffs, threatening every moment to detach themselves from their lofty heights, and fall into the vale. At the extremity of the pass is Pont Aber Glaslyn, a bridge of one arch, thirty feet in the span, thrown over a chasm of tremendous depth between two steep precipices, which here bounds the counties of Carnarvon and Merioneth, and forms the principal communication between them. This spot is celebrated as the place where the princes of Meirion received the sign of the cross from Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, when preaching the crusades throughout the principality. Near the bridge is a cataract, formed by a mountain torrent obstructed in its descent by shelving ledges of projecting rock. The lake Glaslyn, or the Blue Lake, so called from the transparency of its waters, is the source of the river of that name ; and within the parish are numerous other lakes, besides those already described, among which may be noticed Lyln Cwmstrallyn, Llyn Dinas, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn yr Adar, and Llyn Duwaunydd. A little to the south of the village, and near Pont Aber Glaslyn, copper-ore has been found in great abundance, and mines of it have been worked for many years ; but the copper was so intermixed with other ores, as to render it very difficult of separation with any advantage to the proprietors. About the year 1800, the high price of ore induced some adventurers to renew the works, from which great quantities of ore were obtained for some years ; but they were again discontinued, and remained in a neglected state till 1819, when they were re-opened, and since that period many hundred tons have been procured annually. The principal mines are those of Drws y Coed, at the base of Mynydd-Mawr, in the district of Llyniau Nantlle, which afford employment to four hundred men : the ore obtained here is of very good quality, and is sent in great quantities, by means of a rail-road leading from the works, eight miles in length, to the wharfs at Carnarvon, from which it is shipped to Swansea, Staffordshire, and other parts of England. Fairs are held here on August 18th and September 23rd and 27th.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry of Merioneth, and diocese of Bangor, endowed with 800 royal bounty, and in the patronage of Mrs. Priestly. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a lofty and spacious structure, containing some portions in the early style of English architecture : in the north wall are two lofty sharply pointed arches, which appear to have communicated formerly with some other building, probably a chantry, and at the east end is a good lancet-shaped window of three lights; these are evidently of much older date than the rest of the building, being probably parts of the ancient priory. There is in the village a place of worship for Calvinistic Methodists, who have four others in various parts of the parish, in which also are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyan Methodists.

W. Wynne bequeathed a rent-charge of 2. 13. for providing coats for six poor men of this parish, and other uses ; Maurice Wynne gave a rent-charge of 2. 13. 4. for educating one poor boy in the school at Bangor ; and Mrs. Jones, in 1743, bequeathed 50, directing the interest to be distributed annually among ten poor widows. Some beautiful quartz chrystals are found in the mountains in this parish, more particularly in Snowdon, of a clear diamond-like transparency, and in the form of a regular hexagonal prism, which are known by the appellation of Welsh diamonds. In the township of Nanmor resided two distinguished bards of the fifteenth century, Rhys Goch o Eryri, the favourite bard, of Owain Glyndwr, and Davydd Nanmor, both of whom were natives of the parish, and were interred in the churchyard. Bethgelart is principally the scene of Dr. Southey's poem of " Madoc." At Dolvriog, in the vicinity, considerable plantations have been formed within the last thirty years, by W. M. Thackeray, Esq., M. D., which are now in a flourishing state. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor is 377. 14.

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