EGLWYS-RHOS - Gazetteers

A Topographical Dictionary of Wales Samuel Lewis, 1833

EGLWYS - RHOS, LLAN-RHOS, or LLANVAIR YN RHOS, a parish in the hundred of CREUDDYN, county of CARNARVON, NORTH WALES, 2 miles (N. by E.) from Aberconway, containing 568 inhabitants. This parish is celebrated as having been at a very early period the residence of the sovereigns of North Wales : it contained the ancient royal palace of Deganwy, commonly called Gannock by the English invaders of North Wales, situated about a mile to the west of the church, on a hill commanding the river Conway, and which, for ages prior to the entire subjugation of the principality, formed the military station most earnestly contended for by the native Welsh and their Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman invaders. Deganwy is mistakenly supposed by Camden to have been the Roman station called in the Itineraries Dictum : it appears, however, from the testimony of the Welsh historians, that a city certainly existed here at a very remote period ; and by some it is stated that the castle of Deganwy was erected in 550, by Caswallon Law-hir, the first sovereign of North Wales, who made this the seat of government, previous to the removal of his court to Aberfraw, in Anglesey. He nevertheless left his son and successor Maelgwyn, surnamed Gwynedd, resident in this castle, from which that prince subsequently removed to a place called Penrhyn., in this parish, where he had built a palace, called "Llys Maelgwyn Gwynedd," in which he resided until the period when the pestilence called Vad Velen, or "the yellow fever," nearly depopulated this part of the country ; on which occasion he sought refuge from the plague in the parish church of Eglwys-Rhos, but, notwithstanding, fell a victim to it, as had been predicted, and was there interred. The successors of this prince usually resided either at Deganwy, or at Caer Segont, adjacent to the modern Carnarvon: the former city is said to have been destroyed by lightning, in the year 810, when it ceased to be a royal residence. The Welsh appear subsequently, however, to have erected here a fortress, which aided in defending the great rampart of the Snowdonian mountains against the repeated attempts made to pass it by the Anglo-Saxons.

In the latter part of the eleventh century, when Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, overran nearly the whole of North Wales, this castle was rebuilt by that nobleman's zealous officer, Robert of Rhuddlan, who, in 1088, encamped a considerable army near its walls. In the same year, Grufydd ab Cynan is said to have entered the Conway with three ships, and, landing under the castle at high water, left his vessels on shore at the recess of the tide, and proceeded to ravage the neighbouring country. Returning from his predatory incursion, and driving before him a large booty of men and cattle towards his ships, Robert, who witnessed the spectacle with indignation, descended from his fortress, attended only by a single soldier, and without any defensive armour but his shield. The Welsh attacked him with missiles, and, having filled his shield so full of darts that it fell under their weight, rushed upon him in a body, and, striking off his head, fastened it to the mast of one of their ships, and sailed away in triumph. Llewelyn the Great afterwards destroyed this castle, which was rebuilt by Ranulph de Blundeville, Earl of Chester, in 1210. In the following year, the English monarch, John, led his army to the castle of Deganwy, where he posted it for some time ; but Llewelyn so infested the roads with his light parties, that John and his forces were reduced to the greatest extremities of distress. Their supplies of provisions from England being intercepted, they were compelled to feed upon the flesh of their horses; and the soldiers, whenever they stirred from the camp, were liable to be cut in pieces ; the Welsh, from their knowledge of the country, and the use which they made of it, having usually the advantage in every skirmish. After thus sustaining severe losses, the English king, stung with disgrace, and breathing vengeance against the valiant natives, was compelled to break up his camp and retreat into England. In 1212, an unsuccessful attack was made on this fortress by the Welsh prince, Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, to whom it was surrendered two years afterwards, and appears to have been dismantled.

Henry III., in his invasion of North Wales, in 1245, halted with his army on the eastern bank of the aestuary of the Conway, not daring to pass that river, and enter into the mountainous recesses of the country, while the enemy vigilantly hovered around him in detached parties. Finding on the point of a promontory of this parish, which projects into the Conway, the ruins of the castle of Deganwy, and determined that his expedition should not be entirely fruitless, he began to rebuild this fortress, that its garrison might be able to intercept the enemy's incursions into that part of the principality of which the English had already secured possession. During the ten weeks which Henry employed in erecting this castle, his army, which was encamped in the open field, was exposed to many dangers and difficulties. The weather becoming exceedingly cold towards the close of the summer, the soldiers suffered much by being thinly clad, and by having no other covering than tents made of linen ; while at the same time they were occasionally reduced to great distress by a scarcity of provisions, receiving only a precarious supply from Chester and Ireland. They were also much harassed, and their numbers reduced, by the incessant attempts made by the Welsh to cut off their straggling parties, and storm their camp in the night : from one of these conflicts, however, the English, having had the advantage, brought in triumph to their camp the heads of nearly one hundred Welshmen. Henry having, in spite of all the efforts of the Welsh, at length completed this important fortress, placed in it a numerous garrison, with abundant supplies of military stores, and returned into England, at the end of October, with the wasted remnant of his army.

In 1257, the castle of Deganwy was vigorously besieged by Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales, who, however, was soon compelled by the approach of the English army, led by Henry III. in person, to abandon his enterprise. Henry advanced to this place, where, by the aid of a fleet belonging to the Cinque-Ports, he was enabled to maintain his army until Michaelmas, when he once more retired into his own dominions. The advantages afforded to the English invaders of North Wales by the castle of Deganwy were of incalculable importance : situated on the coast, it was open to receive continual supplies ; commanding one of the principal passes into the country of Snowdon, across the aestuary of the Conway, its numerous garrison was enabled to cut off the excursive parties of the Welsh ; and being likewise a place of great strength, both in situation and structure, it afforded to the English a secure retreat upon any disaster. But the strength of the fortress did not suffice to prevent its being taken and finally destroyed, in the year 1260, by the Welsh prince Llewelyn; and it appears to have been never subsequently rebuilt.

The village of Eglwys-Rhos is situated in a small valley, surrounded on all sides by hills, on the summits and acclivities of which are extensive woods of full-grown oak, and in the vicinity of the river Conway, which forms the western boundary of the parish. Near it is Bodscallen, a seat of the Mostyn family, an ancient mansion embosomed in rich woods, and commanding, from an elevated terrace, a beautiful view, over the tops of the trees which grow beneath it, of the town of Aberconway, of part of the river Conway, and of the vast mountains which form the back ground of this interesting picture.

Gloddaeth, another seat belonging to the same family; is beautifully situated on the acclivity of an extensive hill, richly decorated with plantations of trees of every description and variety : the upper grounds command some of the most extensive and interesting views in the principality, which present themselves in varied forms and in new combinations at almost every step : among the interesting features composing them may be noticed the windings of the river Conway, towards Llanrwst, and the lofty towers of the castle and the ancient walls of the town of Aberconway, beyond which are the lofty mountains of Moel Siabod, the Drum, Carnedd Llewelyn, and Carnedd Davydd. At a greater elevation in the grounds is seen the influx of the river into the sea, the view being bounded on the left by the smaller Penmaen mountain, and on the right by Great Orme's Head, or Llandudno rocks, between which may be discerned the fine bay of Beaumaris, the vast promontory of Penmaen Mawr, the Isle of Anglesey, and the insulated rock of Priestholme. A great part of the mansion of Gloddaeth was built in the reign of Elizabeth, with whose arms and those of the Earl of Leicester the great hall is decorated. A handsome modern structure has recently been erected, by Lord Kirkwall, under the hill on which the ruins of Deganwy castle are situated : from the summit of this hill a fine view is obtained of the castle, town, and bridge of Aberconway. The ruins of Marle, the seat of Owen Williams, Esq., which was accidentally destroyed by fire, in 1750, are seen through the venerable oaks by which this mansion was surrounded.

In the neighbouring parish of Llandudno are several copper mines, in which a considerable portion of the inhabitants of this parish obtain employment; and even within the limits of the latter some spirited attempts have been made, and are still in progress, for the discovery of lead-ore, which is supposed to be abundant here; but a sufficient quantity has not yet been found to remunerate the adventurers.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the archdeaconry and diocese of St. Asaph, endowed with £ 800 royal bounty, and £ 1200 parliamentary grant, and in the patronage of the Bishop of St. Asaph. The church, dedicated to St. Hilary, it  a small, but ancient and venerable, cruciform structure, having an east window of good proportion filled with modern stained glass, which was put up in 1820, at the expense of Mrs. F. Mostyn : the window of the south transept is ornamented with some ancient stained glass of great brilliancy. This church has for many years been the place of sepulture for the Mostyn family, of which the last male heir, Sir Thomas Mostyn, Bart., was buried here, in May 1831. Midway between the village and the town of Aberconway there is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists.

A parochial school, for the instruction of the children of this and the adjoining parishes, was founded and endowed with £ 1000 by Mrs. Frances Mostyn, in 1822; and a spacious and handsome building, including school-rooms and a house for the master, has been erected for it, principally at the expense of that lady : in this school, which is conducted on the National system, one hundred and four children are gratuitously instructed. Mr. Lewis Owen, in 1623, bequeathed the rectorial tithes of the parish of Aberconway, in trust, to be divided between the vicar of that parish and the poor of the parishes of Aberconway, Eglwys-Rhos, Llangwstenyn, and Llandudno; the portion of that grant which is assigned to this parish amounts to £ 16 per annum, and is distributed in clothing to the poor on the festival of St. Thomas.

Since the destruction of the castle of Deganwy by Llewelyn ab Grufydd, in the year 1260, this fortress has formed only a heap of ruins, among which are still traceable a few of the outworks ; and at a short distance are some small remains of a circular tower, or half-moon battery, apparently of a later date than the ruins of Deganwy. The latter occupy the summits of two low hills near the river Conway : the walls, of which only a few fragments now remain, appear to have crossed the space between them, and to have been continued up their acclivities. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor amounts to £443.8.

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