By David B James, 1991
Published by the author
See introduction on Page 1
(this section is not a complete extract)
The entries made in the marriage register for the parish of Myddfai in the period 1817 -- 1837 required both bride and groom to append their signatures. Should either or both of them be unable to write their names then their respective 'mark' was placed in the register entry. There are 159 marriages recorded for this period; of these half the men involved could write their names but only about one fifth of the women. One presumes that those unable to sign their names had not been taught to write or else had received insufficient tuition for them to have the confidence to write their names. These data thus point to the existence of some kind of tuition or school system within the parish around the year 1800. The fact that so few women could write their names is probably just a reflection of a view that men were considered more deserving of tuition than women.
The bishop's visitation return for Myddfai in 1684 declares 'there is no publique schoole in our parish at present, nor private'. Reference is made however to a few neighbouring school-boys who attend the minister 'to be influenced'. By 1720 the churchwardens write that there was present a schoolmaster who teaches his scholars the catechism of religion and they add that there were no charity schools.
The return for 1748 states that a small school had been newly set up in the parish, the schoolmaster being of a regular life and of sober conversation. The vicar also conducted what was termed a private school in 1755 at his own home. The then vicar was David Powell who lived at Llwynrhicet. Thirty two years later the churchwardens record that there are two public schoolmasters who bring their pupils to hear divine service on Sundays and see that they behave themselves quietly during sermons. The significance of the term 'public' in this context is uncertain but it presumably refers to an individual who set up a school and charged for tuition, and that they were not 'charity' schools.
Within the period 1740 - 1770 a number of Welsh Charity circulating schools had been established within the parish. The following is a list derived from data recorded in 'Welsh Piety'.
NUMBER OF PUPILS
STATED LOCATION IN PARISH
Rhandir y Bruswood
Tyr Allt Goch
These were the schools which the Rev Griffith Jones of Llanddowror had been instrumental in forming and developing but they were largely financed by Bridget Bevan, better known as 'Madam Bevan', a philanthropist and educationalist, daughter of John Vaughan of Derllys Court, Carmarthenshire. These schools were not permanent establishments but were set up for a three or six months period. They posessed three basic features, tuition was to be free for the pupils who could be of any age and furthermore it was to be in Welsh. The teaching aim was limited to the barest essentials namely to enable pupils to read the bible in Welsh, and to catechise them, meaning to instruct them in basic Christian doctrine.
As a follow on as it were to the circulatory schools of Griffith Jones there was initiated a circulatory Sunday school movement. One of its principal instigators was Thomas Charles who lived at Bala, Merioneth. There is record of one such school in Myddfai, but there may well have been more. Such a school was started in 1827 by a Thomas Thomas who lived at a place called the College, not to be confused with Col. This went round, or did at some stage a cycle of eighteen houses in turn. The churchwardens accounts for the period 1805 - 1836 show that regular and annual payments of between two and four pounds were made to the schoolmaster, but as payment for the tuition of four poor children. In 1825 the tuition of eight poor children was paid for but this was exceptional. The churchwardens paid for coal which was used by the school. There is also one reference to the fact that the families of Llwynwormwood and Dolgarreg paid for the tuition of at least some poor children.
We have quite a clear idea of what the school was like in 1846 for on the 23rd of October that year a William Morris visited the school and made a report of what he found. He was an assistant to R.R.W. Lingen a commissioner who inquired into the state of education in the counties of Carmarthen, Glamorgan and Pembroke, he published in findings in 1847. The report shows that the school in Myddfai village was held in a room with dimensions of 17 by 10 feet with a nine foot high ceiling. The names of 74 children were on the books but there were only 59 in attendance on the day in question. Such was the degree of overcrowding that some of the pupils had been drafted into the master's dwelling house but even allowing for this there must have been gross overcrowding and it is difficult to imagine how the pupils could be accommodated.
There is nothing to indicate where the schoolroom was sited. There are pointers which suggest that around 1860 the schoolroom was at or near the western end of the school as it stands today. It cannot however correspond with what used to be the infants classroom of the school since the dimension of that room do not match up to those provided in the report. There is a recollection which has been handed down that a school was held within the period 1840-50 at the house in the village which used to be called Corner House and later Brynamlwg. The school as it stands today, apart from some relatively minor and modern structural alterations, was established in or around 1870. This was done by converting the coach-house belonging to Gwynne-Holford of Cilgwyn into a school building. The coach-house had been used to house the coach and horses whilst the family attended services at the parish church.
The report of the assistant commissioner stated that many of the children read exceedingly well and that some answered scriptural questions very readily but on no other subject would or could they answer questions. The headmaster was Mr Morgan Jones. It is recorded that 35 practised writing on paper and that 10 did so on slates. Slates were used by children of the infants class for writing practice until at least 1937.
Very recently (March 1990) a copy has come to hand of the school regulations which were drawn up by David J. Lewis who was master of the school in the period 1860-70. The precise date is not declared. The following is a transcription of the regulations.
RULES for MOTHVEY NAT. SCHOOL
Parents who wish to get their children admitted into the above named school may do so on any Monday morning by applying to the Master. Parents are requested to pay attention to the following 'Rules' -
- 1. The children are to assemble at the school on every week day morning at 9 o'clock and every afternoon at 2 in the Summer and half past 1 in the Winter, except Saturday which is a Holiday.
- 2. The school hours are from 9 to 12 and 2 to half past 4 in the Summer: and half past 1 to 4 in the Winter.
- 3. The children must be sent to school clean and neat in person and dress.
- 4. No child may stay away from school without leave from the master: which will be readily granted either by application personally, or by note, this application must be made before and not after the child absents himself.
- 5. Every child must bring a Penny a week to be paid in advance every Monday morning.
- 6. No child can be admitted under the age of 4.
D.J. Lewis Master.
A list of the headteachers and some of the assistant teachers who were at the school is given below. This list is not complete and comprehensive although it is reasonably so from 1880 onwards. The dates given are those associated with tenure at the school.
- David Protheroe. Described as schoolmaster in the parish register when he died in 1811. Probably had charge of a school around 1780.
- Thomas Davies 1807, 1809. He was paid a salary of £5-8s-0d by the churchwardens in 1807.
- William Price 1810-12.
- Morgan Jones 1813 - 1851. First referred to as schoolmaster in 1814 and living at Col. In the 1851 census shown as a schoolmaster living in Myddfai village, aged 72. Paid for teaching poor children.
- David James Lewis. Described as national schoolmaster in 1861 and 1871. Lived at Myrtle Hill. Married Gwen Lewis of Lletyfanddu 1868.
- William George Davies 1881.
- John James Hill 1887 - 1899. Left in 1899 to take up headship of Hendy National School. Married Miss E.A. Evans of the Post Office, Myddfai. In 1891/92 Miss Mary Durance Davies was appointed pupil teacher aged 14 years and remained the infants class teacher until her retirement in 1942.
- G.H. Hoyle 1899 - 1902. Was organist and choirmaster at the parish church. He gave a prize of six pence for the best collection of wild bird eggs by a school pupil.
- Edwin Saville 1902. Was church organist.
- John Price 1914, 1915. A native of the parish, born Bailycelyn but lived for a time at Cwmydw. Went to the armed forces in 1915.
- A. English 1915. Took charge of school for six months.
- T. Thomas 1915 - 1919.
- John Price 1919 - 1922. On March 17, 1919 John Price resumed his post as headteacher. Suffered from malaria after war service. Left to take up the headship of Llandeilo N.P. School. Miss S.A. Jones was assistant teacher; a native of the parish having been born at Hafod.
- Thomas Edwin Jones 1922 - 1926. Left to take up headship of Mynydd Cerrig Council School.
- D. Deilo Thomas 1926 - 1928. Lived at Myrtle Hill. Left to be headteacher of Llansaint Council School. Instructed pupils solely through medium of English.
- John Jones 1928 - 1940. Lived at Tymelyn in the village.
- Benjamin Emlyn Davies 1940 - 1949. Left to take headship of Penrhiwlas School, Talog. Miss Ceridwen Thomas of Penrhywydw, Myddfai appointed infants teacher 1942. In 1947 Mrs Ceridwen Como (nee Thomas) appointed assistant teacher.
- Nancy Williams 1949-51. Took up post of temporary headteacher.
- David B. Howells 1952 - 1967. Left in 1967 to take up headship of Llandovery C.P. School. Miss Gwenlais James appointed assistant teacher in 1952.
- William John Davies 1967 - 1976. Left to become headteacher of Cefneithin C.P. School.
- Mrs M.M. Walters 1976. Appointed acting head teacher for a short period.
- Alan Rowlands 1976 - 1989. Left November 1989 to become head-teacher at Talley and then Nantygroes school. Mrs Mair Cooper appointed Assistant teacher at Myddfai in 1977.
- Mrs Mair Cooper 1989 - appointed head teacher.
The village school was not the only one in the parish; another school had been built not far from Halfway village but it was usually known as Cwmdwr school after the area in which it was built. This school was built on land belonging to Goyallt farm and established so it has been claimed at the instigation of Edward Jones Esq of Felindre by Llandovery. The school was built around 1860. Within the period 1870-80 the building was used regularly for Sunday services and is in fact described as a school-church. It was primarily the task of the curate for Myddfai to hold services at this school. The school was closed in July 1969 and its last headteacher was Tudor O. Jones a native of the parish who was born at Hafod.
The log-books of the village school in Myddfai chronicle what were considered to be significant or memorable events in the life of the school and in so doing often reflect rather tellingly on aspects of the day to day life and problems of the parish and parishioners. The village school and that at Cwmdwr have historically been developed and nurtured by the parish church. .................................
The headteacher in Myddfai had to be a confirmed member of the established church, later the church in Wales. As a consequence of this, John Jones who was appointed headteacher in 1928 was confirmed within two months of his appointment at St. Catherine's Church, Brynamman. Religious instruction played a very important role indeed in the school curriculum. This meant that up until about 1940, children of the primary section had to memorise and learn to write the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. They also had to learn certain key phrases such as 'A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning', another example was 'Esau was a hairy man and Jacob was a clean man'. Such phrases would be repeated as a kind of sing-song in unison. The examiner for religious instruction in 1929 reports, 'they carry sing-song however to a fine art'. A report for 1926 records that there was a fundamentally religious atmosphere in the school......
............. Miss Mary Durance Davies who was a pupil at the village school in the period around 1885, and was later the infants teacher for 52 years recalls that pupils were punished by being caned if they were heard speaking Welsh in school. That such an attitude and policy could be condoned is seen today as an outrage as indeed it was. The justification for the policy came in part from the Lingen report which attributed reduced economic and social development in Wales to an inability to speak and make use of English as a language. Judging by people in the parish who were taught under this policy it seemed to have had no influence on ability to speak Welsh but it did seem to have had an impairing influence on the ability to write in Welsh.
~An examination of the log-books reveals a seeming obsession up until about 1939 with the school attendance of pupils. The attendance officer or 'whipper-in' as he was more commonly called visited the school nearly every week; he was after all a local person. This attention to attendance figures is largely explained by the fact that the headteacher's salary was affected by this. In 1891 the then headteacher J.J. Hill complains rather bitterly that his attendance on one day was only 42 out of a possible 85 and it had been of that order for the previous six months.' He notes 'this state of things greatly affects my salary'. He also intimated that Mr Durance the parish attendance officer was quite ineffective..............
............... School attendance was much influenced and reduced by a number of factors in particular the weather but also by seasonal work on farms. A very wet or stormy day reduced attendance to a half or third. Under such conditions the pupils could be sent home because their clothes and feet were rain-sodden. Fine weather during the time of hay-harvest markedly reduced school attendance. An example from the beginning of this century shows the type of thing that could occur. One of the children from Wernyfed was regularly very late about two days a week. On being questioned as to why he was late his invariable reply was 'Fetching sog, Sir'. The explanation is that he had to walk about two miles to the brewery in Llandovery before going to school in order to bring back a bag of brewers grains with which to feed some of the farm animals.
~In the period up to around 1938 one is struck by the relative frequency of times when the school was closed for one day in connection with some special event. A singing festival in either church or one of the chapels usually meant closure of the school because it was required to provide meals for those attending, or as the headteacher would rather indelicately record 'used for feeding purposes'. Myddfai fair held on June 18th often meant closure of the school as did sometimes one or two of the major fairs in Llandovery. The funeral of eminent parishioners also called for school closure.
~The log-books record fairly regularly in the period 1913 - 1941 the existence of skin infections amongst the children, in particular ringworm, scabies and impetigo. The former probably orginated as an infection received from cattle. Scarlet fever and measles were also of frequent occurrence and more latterly diphtheria. ......................................
~The nature of the day to day class work is not revealed in the log-books or only very incidentally. One gets an occasional reference to an educational trip organised for the school. In 1923 a trip was taken to Llanwrtyd Wells and in the following decade two went to Bristol and primarily to see the zoo. The reports of the school inspectors highlight how the problem of language has changed over the past fifty years or so. In 1933 they comment that the paintwork is in a very bad state both within and without the school. They further declare that 'language is the main difficulty here in the middle and upper classes. In the infants group Welsh is the only language used. When the second language is introduced in Standard II the teacher finds considerable trouble in keeping both languages in use and the tendency is for Welsh to be used to the exclusion of English'. In 1958 the situation with respect to language was that all the pupils including two whose first language was Italian, were Welsh speaking. By 1987, out of eighteen pupils in the school only three were naturally Welsh speaking......................................
(this section is not a complete extract)
The churchwardens as executive agents of the church vestry have anciently been the ones responsible for much of the administration and implementation of actions affecting the welfare of the parish at large. It was they who saw to it that vermin such as rooks, crows and foxes were destroyed and they also looked after the poor and indigent parishioners, to name but two of their functions. After 1601 the overseers of the poor took over the onerous function of looking after the parish paupers, although in Myddfai more often than not, the churchwardens and the overseers were one and the same persons. A very big administrative change was however initiated in 1888 with the establishment of county councils which took over responsibility for roads, education, law and order. Parish councils were first formed under the local government act of 1894 as were district councils. The parish council essentially took over the parochial work organised and controlled by the church vestry, sometimes called the parish vestry.
~The new act made it mandatory for every parish to have a parish meeting at least once a year to which all parishioners had a right to attend. It was at this meeting that parish councillors were formally elected. The first parish meeting in Myddfai was held on Tuesday evening December 4th 1894 in Bethania vestry for the purpose of electing eleven parish councillors. Twenty candidates had been proposed and voting took place by a show of hands. Whether the person being voted on left the room is not made clear but presumably did so. Those elected and the votes cast were Thomas Pritchard Price, Caegwyn (49); Thomas Thomas, Trallwm (47); Evan Price Evans, Glasallt (46); Daniel Lewis, Cefncerrig (46); William Campbell, Trawslwyndu (44): Morgan Davies, Gorllwynfawr (44); David James, Ysguborfawr (44); William Jones, Llwynrhicet fach (44); John Price, Bailycelyn (44); Rev. David Richards, The Buildings (42); William Price, Williamsfield (Llwyniar) (42).
The first meeting of the parish council as distinct from the parish meeting, took place at the village school on Friday, January 4th 1895 when William Price Llwyniar was elected chairman and William Campbell of Trawslwyndu, vice chairman. Thomas Price, Trallwm was elected clerk. At the same meeting Evan P. Evans of Glasallt isaf was appointed overseer of the poor for the lower division of the parish and William Campbell for the upper. Much if not most of the overseers work was undertaken by the assistant overseer for the parish who in 1895 was Miss Sarah Evans of the Post Office. She received a salary of £18-10s per annum.
~The distribution of the three parish charities was legally the responsibility of the vicar and the local trustees. Approval of the parish council was however always sought in the matter. The minutes of the annual parish meetings are largely taken up with a record of the names of charity recipients and of the amounts received. On one occasion in 1896 there was quite a controversy over the fact that two of the parish councillors were recipients. Some considered that it was the old and indigent that should have been the recipients instead. At the second parish meeting applications for allotments by three parishioners were considered and the matter was left to a decision of the parish council. As with so many issues, that was the last that was heard of the matter, at least in so far as the minutes show.
~The care and maintenance of roads and pathways within the parish has been a perennial problem since records began. Prior to the setting up of the county council the roads had been ultimately the responsibility of the justices of peace as represented by the authority of the court of quarter sessions. Road improvement and repair was financed by a charge on the parish and a constable was responsible for its collection. The churchwardens accounts for Myddfai contain many instances of payment to what was termed the 'county stock'. This money was used mainly for roads and bridges. Sometimes a parish could be made specifically responsible for the construction and maintenance of the whole or part of a bridge. Myddfai parish was responsible for repairing the fourth span division of Pontardowy Bridge, near Llangadog.
There were three sections of turnpike roads in Myddfai. These were set up and controlled by two separate turnpike trusts. These were essentially private companies who charged for passage along their roads. These were -
- 1. The Llandovery and Llangadog turnpike trust which was responsible for the road from Llangadog to Penrhock via Cilgwyn and Penrallt. It also controlled the road over the Black Mountain from Llangadog.
- 2. The Main Trust which controlled the road from Llangadog to Llandovery past Cwmcowddu and Glantowy.
- 3. The Main Trust which was also responsible for the road from Llandovery to Trecastle via Halfway and Cwmdwr. A section of this road lies within Myddfai parish.
The trusts set up gates on the roads at various strategic places and also usually built an adjoining house for the gate keeper. A toll-gate and keepers house was built at Penrhock in 1779 on what is now land belonging to the house called Mithig at the junction of the Myddfai and Llangadog roads. It belonged to the Llandovery and Llangadog turnpike trust. The Penrhock toll-gate was let in 1782 to a John Jones at a rent of £24 per annum. In 1787 however no one was seemingly prepared to take the lease and so the trust had to appoint a keeper at a wage of half a crown a week. In 1791 the gate was leased to Davies, Cwmcowddu for £32 per annum. Tickets were issued at each gate having the name of the gate stamped on them.
In West Wales the tolls paid at the gates came to be seen as a very repressive and onerous imposition and especially so in times of severe agricultural depression, as occurred towards the middle of the last century. This contributed to the Rebecca Riots which were such a feature of Dyfed in the period 1839 - 1843. These riots took the form in the main, but not entirely, of destroying toll gates. The Penrhock gate was not destroyed, but gates outside the parish at Waunystradfeiris, Pontarllechau, Porthyrhyd, Dolauhirion and Pentre-bach were demolished. Why the Penrhock gate should be spared is unclear. Farmers and travellers from Myddfai could avoid the gate without too much trouble and this may have given it a reprieve.
The records of the quarter sessions indicate that the roads in Myddfai were often in an atrociously bad state. In 1820 the road past Cilgwyn is described as being 'very ruinous', very deep broken and in great decay for want of due reparation. As late as 1924 the road from Myddfai to Llanddeusant via Col is described as being in parts almost impassable as a result of timber hauling operations. Eye witnesses alive today recall that the road from Myddfai village to Llandovery via Cefncerrig was very deeply rutted such that no motor car could go along it. There are other and earlier references to the great damaging effect of timber hauling on roads.
~After 1888 when responsibility for roads was taken over by the new county councils there seems to have been a slow if steady improvement in the condition of the roads in the parish. The stone required to repair and improve the roads was obtained usually from fairly close at hand. One can still trace and find near most parish roads, small quarries from which the stone was quarried. The supply of the stone sometimes afforded a small income. At the beginning of this century, David Jones of Hafod records how stones picked from the fields were put in heaps along side the road and for which there was payment.
~The advent and use of the steam-roller seemed to have heralded a marked improvement in road construction and repair. The parish councillors however of Myddfai in 1912 unanimously resolved to protest against the use of a steam roller since it would be a waste of public money. It was argued that the traffic of laden timber-waggons which weighed between five and six tons would immediately undo any good work carried out with the steam-roller. They had changed their minds completely by 1924 when the first steam roller was actually used. The parish representative on the district council was involved in an acrimonious debate as to which parish should have priority in the use of the new steam-roller. It was finally agreed that the order should be Myddfai, Llangadog and then Llanfair ar y bryn there being only one steam-roller.
~One problem that exercised the collective wisdom of the parish council over a considerable period was the matter of a water supply to the village. In 1905 the medical officer of health had made a complaint concerning the standard of the water supplies available to village residents. At that time drinking water was obtained from one of three wells or springs. These were the Mill-well which was close to the bridge crossing the river Bran just beyond Ysguborfawr; the Cwm-ty-hen well which lay between Nantllan and Tynllwyn and the third was known as the Wern spring. It was agreed that the Mill-well be bricked up an iron cover put over it.
The situation was still not satisfactory partly no doubt because the well was about a quarter of a mile distant from the village. The possibility of getting a piped water supply from either the Wern, Cwmtyhen or Nantioroth springs was considered over a period of about seven years. In the end it was decided to use the Wern spring and James Ingram landlord of the Plough was given the contract of cutting the pipe track. The system was put in place in 1914 and two taps installed. One tap was placed against the churchyard wall near to what is now the war memorial and the other on the roadside some three yards to the north of the school and opposite Bristol Terrace.
~The minutes of the parish council meetings and to a lesser extent that of the annual parish meeting reveal miscellaneous facets of parish administration and affairs. One somewhat trivial matter which appeared fairly regularly was in connection with the parish chest. Thomas Jones in 1896 proposed that the parish council should provide a chest in order to keep books and documents. It was resolved that a small committee should undertake to buy such a chest. As so often happened nothing was done and Thomas Jones again put the same proposal to the council the following year. This time an iron safe was purchased and costing £4-19s; on it was a brass plate with the words Myddfai Parish Council.
Where to keep the safe proved to be quite a problem. It was first kept at the post office, then after about fifteen years it was moved to the school. It remained in the school for about six years before being moved to the house of Mrs Lloyd in Bristol Terrace. From thence it was moved into the charge of Thomas Hughes at Hollybush. At some later stage the keys got mislaid thus we find the clerk writing to the makers for duplicate keys but apparently with no success. In 1935 the council approved the purchase of another safe which was to be kept at the school but the key of this one seems to have got lost. In 1945, Ewart Jones, Llwynmeredydd proposed that the parish safe should be reopened and if possible a key for the same procured.
~In 1898 the parish council expressed concern that delivery of letters took more than a week and it was pointed out to the regional postmaster that other parishes got daily delivery from house to house. The outcome of the submission is not recorded but it seems that daily mail delivery commenced very soon after this.
~Meetings of the council were not always conducted in a quiet rational manner. Early on its history, standing orders had to be modified such that any member disobeying the chair or otherwise misconducting himself or using obscene language, be expelled from the meeting and his name entered in the minute book. Lewis P. Lewis of Llettyifandde had interrupted the meeting and disobeyed the chair and is thus named in the minutes. The cause of the dissension was the matter of the interruption of the right of way to Cefnrhyddan by Mr Bishop of Cwmrhyddan, but more basically there had been deep animosity between the Lewis and Bishop families going back at least a hundred years. On a more general level the matter of road and footpath repair and maintenance has probably been the most consistent theme in the minutes of the parish council from its inception.
~At the beginning of this century it became compulsory to dip sheep in an effort to eradicate sheep scab. In 1904 the siting of two sheep dipping baths, one for each division of the parish, was a matter before the parish council. One of these baths was put on the open mountain immediately below Craig Cwmclyd and its remains are visible to this day. The location of the dipping bath for the lower division is not declared.
~There was one notable incident where the parish, in the form of a resolution approved by a special parish meeting in 1921 got involved in matters which were rather bigger than it could cope with and which ultimately led to a high court action in London. The resolution seemed innocuous enough, it was that three delegates for Myddfai parish be appointed to act with the Llanddeusant commoners concerning the distribution of the money received as compensation from Llanelly Rural District Council for using Llyn y Fan Fach as a source of piped water for Llanelly. The delegates for Myddfai were David Davies Rhyblid, Thomas Jones Llwynmeredydd and Tom Davies Penlan.
The essence of the issue was that arising from the Llanelly Rural District Water Act 1912, some of the common land around Llyn y Fan Fach which formed part of the Black Mountain had been purchased. Llanelly Rural District Council had agreed to pay the sum of £8500 as compensation for the land in question. The crucial question was, who should receive the money, for it was a very substantial sum. The one person who received half the money was the Lord of the Manor, Earl Cawdor of Stackpole Court; it must have appeared to him as an unexpected and most welcome bonanza. It was the remainder of the money that caused the trouble.
The commoners of the parish of Llanddeusant assumed, possibly not unreasonably so, that the remaining money would be theirs since the land in question was entirely within their parish and it was their sheep in the main that grazed on the land. The commoners of Myddfai and Gwynfe felt, amongst other things, that simple justice demanded that they be awarded a share of the money. They too were commoners with grazing rights on the Black Mountain. The commoners of Llanddeusant, try as they may, could not bring themselves to agree with this view of the issue.
The matter was taken to the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division and the first day of hearing took place on Tuesday June 5th 1928 before Mr Justice Astbury. The only two who gave evidence from Myddfai were David Davies, Rhyblid and Tom Davies, Penlan. The reason for this was that they were the only two farmers in Myddfai who happened to have sheep grazing on the Black Mountain in the vicinity of Llyn y Fan Fach.
The verdict of the court was simple but its implementation was long and costly. It was decreed that the compensation money due, should be divided among the commoners of the manors of Myddfai, Llanddeusant, Gwynfe and Vabon. The only direction given was that it should be distributed between those who had been commoners on Oct 8th 1913 and further that if any commoner had died in the meantime then his or her death had to be proved by official writ. The commoners of Myddfai and Gwynfe had triumphed, justice so some declared, had been done. The whole episode was a field day for the solicitors involved and the total costs came to £799-6s let alone the legal fees........................
~In relatively more recent times a major challenge and decision facing the parish council was the opportunity to build a village hall. It is very much to the credit of the then parish council that this opportunity was taken to build a hall on the premises and land of what used to be called Ty talcen. The hall was opened in 1950 and the deeds signed by Ivor James as chairman of the parish council and George Morgan on behalf of the Myddfai Improvements Committee, otherwise known as the Hall Committee.................................
(this section is not a complete extract)
Recreation may be defined as the voluntary pursuit of activities which do not contribute to, and are separate from those activities which provide for ones livelihood. Recreation today often involves pursuits and activities which are quite separate and different from everyday work. In the pre-television era, which we may for simple convenience take as before 1950, the division was not quite so apparent if we exclude religious and cultural activities. What is quite clear however is that in the parish of Myddfai, recreation in the form of organised games such as rugby, football, cricket and the like, have traditionally been totally alien. Interest in such pursuits by certain individuals is a relatively recent phenomenon, within the past thirty years or so. The contrast between a parish such as Myddfai and small industrial communities within the same county in respect of organised games has been very marked indeed.
There are apparently no written references which indicate that the old inter-parish ball game known as knappan was played but there is no reason to believe that it was not. What was presumably a popular diversion was the playing of quoits. The autobiography of John Thomas records that quoits were played in the church yard in the period 1740-50. Quoits remained popular until at least the 1920's but its niche now seems to have been taken by the playing of darts.
There are some incidental references, usually of a condemnatory nature, which suggest that cock-fighting was a popular pastime with parishioners. There can be little doubt that many from the parish attended a cock-fighting match or main as it was termed, which was held at the White Hart in Trecastle where Josias Bate lived. This was a three day event commencing on Wednesday, April 17th, 1771 and arranged between the gentlemen of Carmarthenshire and the gentlemen of Breconshire. Each side was to present twenty one cocks at weigh-in. The sponsors of this match who are formally described as Feeders were Messrs Taylor and Llewellyn. We have no means of saying how long cock-fighting remained a popular sport in and around the parish but it is doubtful if it lasted much beyond the first quarter of the last century; such was the power and influence of nonconformity.
One of the principal recreational and social activities associated with the farming scene has been the annual ploughing match and often associated with it a hedging competition. Reports indicate that a series of annual ploughing matches were begun in Myddfai in 1870 but the first one for which we have any details took place in 1891. Ploughing matches were very much in vogue and the Llandovery Agricultural Society was already holding a show and ploughing match as early as 1842. In that particular match Rees Thomas of Caegwyn farm won a complete new suit of clothes as the prize for winning the ploughing competition.
An account of the 1891 ploughing match in Myddfai is quite typical of what generally happened. A meeting of the ploughing match committee was held at the Plough Inn on October 19th under the chairmanship of David Davies, Llwynrhicet, when it was decided to hold the 21st annual ploughing match on Thursday, November 26th 1891, and to invite Mr Vaughan Pryse-Rice of Llwynybrain to be the president. The secretary was Thomas Jones Llwynmeredydd and the treasurer Thomas Thomas of Trallwm. Stewards included Evans Tynllwyn, James Price Caegwyn, John Thomas Cwmydw, John Williams Carreglefen. On the morning of the match snow fell for over an hour but did not affect activities. At the close of the match an 'excellent dinner' was enjoyed at the Plough Inn catered for by the hostess Mrs Jones.
The accounts given in the Carmarthen Journal for ploughing matches invariably record that a most excellent dinner was had either at the Plough or Kings Head inns and that the host was always most genial, no doubt he or she had every good reason to be so. The chairman at the ploughing match dinners around the turn of the century was usually either the vicar or the Rev. David Richards, the minister of Seion. The ploughing and hedging matches often included other more minor competitions. In 1901 we find for example, competitions for splicing a line, for wooden spoons and ladles, for the best walking stick, a wooden mole-trap and for the most accurate at pacing out the distance of one hundred yards. Sheep dog trials were not so popular although they were held in 1926 on Llwynwormwood Park and also in 1937 on Tynewydd; their popularity however has increased greatly within the past twenty years.
Around the turn of the century instructional classes of various kinds were very popular and these were usually held at the village school. They were designed usually to improve proficiency and competence in certain farming practices or in household management. Whilst technically perhaps they should not be classed as recreational, there is little doubt that those who took part looked upon them very much as such and a change if not relief from the daily round of tasks. Reference has already been made to the lessons given by Mr Hill the schoolmaster in land surveying and related subjects. Other classes involved instructions in cheese and butter making. In 1896 the Myddfai Cheese Class was in existence, having in part been financed by J.P. Gwynne Holford of Cilgwyn. Examiners came down from the Department of Agriculture at the Univeristy College of Wales, Aberystwyth to judge the work undertaken. There were classes specifically for women, such as in nursing and hygiene, scientific dress cutting and instructions by means of a travelling cooking school. Lectures in horticulture proved very popular and one result of these is that to this day, one can just occasionally come across in the most unexpected of places an apple tree where someone has grafted onto a wild-growing crab apple tree a variety of domestic apple.
The farming scene was not always one of unremitting toil, it did offer some diversions. The opportunity and the need to control pests of various kinds has probably been from time immemorial an excuse to forgo for a short time the daily and regular round of tasks. With the passing of the Ground Game Act of 1880 tenants were legally allowed to destroy rabbits on their land. From the beginning of this century rabbits were becoming increasingly important as farm pests. By the early thirties there were articles in the Carmarthen Journal dealing with the 'rabbit-plague in West Carmarthenshire'. Certainly most farms in Myddfai were greatly infested with rabbits, thus their reduction was both necessary and an opportunity to indulge in the pastime of ferreting.
Ferreting was a popular pastime and one cannot gainsay that there was a certain air of excitement and anticipation whilst waiting quietly for the rabbits, hopefully, to bolt out of their warrens. On the other hand there was also a good chance that the ferret might lodge underground for many tedious hours. There was also the possibility, not always realised, that there might be some profit at the end of the day. The advent of myxomatosis into the parish around 1954 put a very sudden end to what was usually considered an enjoyable diversion.
Hunting, fishing and shooting are often considered as the traditional rural recreational pursuits. The former and latter however have largely and traditionally represented the indulgences of the landowner or the so called gentry. A few tenant farmers did however take an interest in hunting and followed the proceedings. The squires of Glansevin and Llwynybrain were obsessed with fox hunting and the latter also with beagling. They both maintained packs of hounds and hunted extensively over the parish. An account of one such hunt is available and is briefly summarized as follows; it appeared under the title Glansevin hounds record run.
Of the so called traditional country sports the one which was most likely to be indulged in by the ordinary people of the parish was fishing, but usually of the illegal kind. The use of lime to catch trout was not unknown and neither was the system of catching trout by the method of sacking. The salmon fishing season for some commenced after the official fishing season closed. This occurred at the time the fish came up to spawn into the rivers and small streams towards the end of October and beginning of November. These fish were caught with light and gaff. The fish in the streams at such time, at least in Myddfai, were usually stale run and the flesh devoid of any pink colour; this makes for poorer eating. One suspects that if there had been no legal prohibition then the extent of local if illegal fishing might have been very greatly reduced.
The more cultural and intellectual kinds of recreational pursuits and activities have possibly been a more dominant feature of leisure activities than any kind of sport. These have been catered for by means of local concerts, eisteddfodau and also what were termed 'cyrddau diwylliadol' which may be translated as cultural or literary meetings. The parish has not been without its choir and amateur dramatic company at various times.
The first record we have of such activities, if rather atypical, is that of a concert held in the national schoolroom at Myddfai in 1873 and held in aid of the parish church restoration fund. The programme was arranged by the Misses Bishop of Dolgarreg at the request of the vicar. One of the items was a piano duet by Miss Bishop and Miss Campbell-Davys of Neuadd, Cilycwm and accompanied by Capt. Lloyd of Glansevin on the cello. One suspects that such an item was something very new in the experience of many of those attending but the more intriguing question is how and where did the piano come from.
The first eisteddfod we have record of was held in May 1896 but this is not to say that many had not been held previously. An eisteddfod was also held at Halfway in the same year. These eisteddfodau were a regular, though not necessarily an annual feature of parish life up until about 1933. They then appear to have lapsed and did not recommence as a regular feature until after 1950 when the new village hall had been erected."
The programme of the 1896 eisteddfod is summarised below and is quite typical of its period and gives a flavour of the occasion. The chairman was the Rev David Richards, minister of Seion whilst the compere was the Rev T.E. Thomas, minister of Bethania Chapel. The principal competitions were as follows:
- 1. Soprano solo, also tenor solo which was won by William Thomas, Trallwm.
- 2. Solo for a person over forty years of age.
- 3. Recitation for person under 16, also solo.
- 4. Competition for a trio.
- 5. Bass solo 'Dos i'r frwydyr', winner D. Davies Brynhelig.
- 6. Children's choir, winner Llanddeusant Juvenile Choir, leader John Thomas.
- 7. Male voice party.
- 8. Party of eight - 'Awn ymlaen yn llu banerog' - Won by Llangadog party.
- 9. Chief competition for anthem - Dyddiau dyn sydd fel glaswelltyn'. Three parties competed:
Llandovery, leader T.Gwenlais Davies
Myddfai, leader W. Thomas, Trallwm
Llanddeusant, leader John Thomas.
- 10. Best letter to a landlord asking for a reduction in rent.
- 11. Best pair of knitted stockings; first prize to Miss Davies, Llwynrhicet and second to Miss Jane Powell, Pwllcalch.
- 12. For an 'englyn' on the river Bran in Myddfai. Twelve competed.
- 13. For the best six stanzas on 'The Mount of Olives' the prize being the eisteddfod chair. Eleven competed, the 'nome de plume of the winner was 'Credadyn' but he does not seem to have been present to claim his chair.
The eisteddfod was held in the afternoon and in the evening a 'grand concert' was held. This was a rather unusual feature since an eisteddfod usually lasted for the evening as well. The essential difference between an eisteddfod and a concert is that no chair is awarded in the latter and there is less of a competitive element. The eisteddfod was resurrected as it were after 1950 and since 1962 a chaired eisteddfod has been an annual event but there has also been a mini-eisteddfod (eisteddfod fach) for purely local participation.
The eisteddfod programme provides an useful summary of the nature and extent of much of the recreational interests which were prominent in the lives of many parishioners around the turn of the century and after. There were in the parish always a few persons who could compose, off the cuff as it were, stanzas or poems to celebrate a marriage, birth or some notable event. Few if any of their efforts remain on record. One which does remain is a saga of thirteen verses describing a novel and quick method of making 'cawl', broth by boiling the head of a sheep. This slightly scurrilous poem was composed by Thomas Thomas of Troedrhiw, Halfway. To balance this there are extant a few poems which are of a rather pious and worthy nature, if of a very unimaginative type.
In the period 1933 - 1950 very few eisteddfodau were held in Myddfai, although they flourished in adjacent parishes. Their place was however taken over by literary concerts or meetings. These were usually held in one of the chapels, Seion or Bethania. Three or four such meetings were organised each year within the period October to March. They were really small concerts with a competitive element.
One very popular competition was to construct a sentence using all the letters in a specified word as the initial of the words in a sentence. For a meeting held in 1939 the given word was Hitler. The winner was Sally Jones of Gorllwyn fach with the sentence, Heriodd iawnder trwy ladd ewyllys rydd. This rather literally translated means, 'he challenged justice by destroying free will'. This rather profound construction came from a person who had no special educational advantage beyond the very basic of the time but it is symptomatic and revealing of the kinds of interest that were common within the parish and which sustained literary concerts and meetings. There were of course the philistines but their views and attitudes were insufficiently strong and widespread so as to be a dominant influence.
Another competition which invariably created much interest was one to provide the last line for a limerick which was often of a topical nature. Once example will suffice and this was for a meeting held in 1940 at a time when farmers had been given quotas for the grain crops they had to grow. The lines were as follows
Mae ffermwyr yr ardal yn cwyno
Fod gormod o dir i'w lafurio
Mae'r quota'n ormodol
A'r gost yn eithafol
Ond gwell dwyn baich llethol nac ildio
The gist of the limerick is that farmers are complaining that the quotas are excessive. The winning line states that it is better to undertake an oppressive burden than surrender. The winning entry was submitted by David Powell then of Cwmantyboidy.
Another feature was the impromptu speech as part of a debate on a topic submitted to the contestant without any prior knowledge been given of the title or subject. The subjects chosen for these debates are of interest in that they reflect on what was debatable and also worthy of public debate. Examples are:
- 1929 Is it an advantage or disadvantage to keep a child in school until fifteen years old? Is the world getting better or worse?
- 1930 Should the Church support games? Is it fear of punishment or hope for reward that is the strongest incentive to a Christian life?
- 1931 Which is the best example for a young man to follow; being a tee-totaler or a follower of temperance? Is it suitable for a woman to conduct public worship?
Topics were not always as serious or heavy-weight as the above might suggest. Some were comic such as which is the better a cow or a horse. On one occasion a protagonist in a debate having forcefully stated his case, was followed by a slightly confused antagonist who stated that he agreed wholeheartedly with his opponent, which caused the audience to collapse with laughter.
The line between recreation and celebration if often unclear; both are an opportunity to leave aside for a while the daily tasks and to partake in something different. One of the high days within families and which often extends its influence into the community is that of marriage. One could distinguish up until about 1880 two different arrangements associated with marriage. There were those marriages which involved biddings and those that did not. The difference was largely determined by wealth and status. Those with pretentions to wealth or status, real or imagined, would tend to dispense with biddings but others and the majority of the community adopted the custom and for very good reasons.
A bidding and the two Welsh words for it, 'cymortha' and 'taith' each reflect different facets of an old custom. The first Welsh term signifies help or support whilst the second word signifies journey. It was the latter term that was used in Myddfai and Llanddeusant in the last century. Essentially a bidding represented a scheme whereby relations and friends of the bride and groom gathered together and brought gifts in money or kind, for the benefit of the newly weds in setting up their new home. In the eighteenth century and earlier a special person 'y gwahoddwr' literally the person who invites or bids, went around declaring in verbal and formal manner the invitation to the bidding or 'taith'.
The custom has an ancient history in Myddfai for as early as 1317 a Rhydderch Gwillim of Moythva in the county of Carmarthen was prosecuted for 'inlawfully inviting of diverse persons to his wedding and for taking and receiving of diverse somes of money by way of Comortha'. He was fined very heavily in the sum of £3-6-8d. Myddfai was part of one of the Marcher Lordship and biddings therein had been proscribed.
Biddings seemed to have gone out of existence with the period 1870 - 1880. There is available a copy of a bidding letter which was used in Myddfai in 1871 and it may very well have been one of the very last used in the parish. The following is a transcript of a copy-
Carmarthenshire Jan 31st 1871
Having entered the Matrimonial state, we are encouraged by our friends to make a Bidding, on Friday the 24th day of February 1871 at our own house called Cwmclyd in the Parish of Mothvey; when and where the favour of your most agreeable company is humbly solicited, and whatsoever donation you may be pleased to bestow upon us then, will be most thankfully received, warmly acknowledged and readily repaid, whenever called for on a similar occasion, by your most obedient servants.
Anne Harries (late Davies)
The YOUNG MAN desires that all gifts due to him be returned on the said day and will be thankful with his stepfather and Mother, James and Sarah Morgans, Neuadd, Llanwrda for all additional favours granted.
ALSO THE YOUNG WOMAN, together with her Mother and Sister, Mary and Gwen Davies, Gellyfelen, Mothvey desire that all gifts due to them be returned on the said day, and will be thankful for all additional favours conferred.
Friday the 24th of February 1871 must have been a jolly day at Cwmclyd since those coming to the bidding would have to be entertained and feasted. The donations given at the bidding reception were not equivalent to wedding gifts in any modem sense. Donations could be in money or in kind. It was understood that the donors or their family could at some future date call upon and expect to receive an equivalent donation from the current recipients. Thus the whole business was a means of helping young married couples set up a new home.
There is information concerning a third bidding in Myddfai which comes from the transactions of the Carmarthenshire Spring Assize for 1846. This took place at Garreglefen on the evening of the wedding of William Lewis and Ruhama Powell of Abermydan on December 12th 1845. The evidence put before the court shows that friends had given contributions of money to the bride and groom, whilst others repaid the monies previously given by the young couple on previous and similar occasions. The total amount of money received at Garreglefen was £34.
The court case involved one David Davies a servant at the farm who was accused of stealing some of the bidding money. It was also revealed that he on the day prior to the wedding had sold a pistol in order, so it was declared that he might have two shillings to contribute at the bidding. Such was the imperative to try and make a contribution. .David Davies was found not guilty. There is a record of a 'taith' or bidding taking place at Caeshenkin in 1848.
As for wedding preparations in general, arches made with evergreen branches and leaves were put over the road the groom had to travel to church or chapel. This was a common occurrence up until 1939 but then it ceased to be carried out. As soon as the newly married couple emerged from church or chapel friends of the groom would discharge shot-gun volleys using blank cartridges. One such occasion occurring in the 1920's remained firmly in the minds of many parishioners, for the local policeman came along and charged a number of those assembled with the possession of shot guns not having gun licences.
One would not normally and overtly admit to a funeral ever being considered as a celebration, yet in Myddfai up until the middle of this century and even now in some instances, a funeral had elements of a public celebration, albeit a sombre one. Most funerals in this day and age are often very private affairs for members of the deceased's family and possibly some close friends. In Myddfai the funeral of a parishioner was traditionally an event of significance to many if not most households within the parish. Thus at a funeral one would normally expect to find at least half of all the households in the parish represented and many more besides.
The circumstances and conditions which generate the above kind of reponse can of course work in the opposite direction. At the funeral of David Rees, such was his unpopularity that no one was prepared to attend the funeral nor carry his coffin to the church. This was however quite exceptional and is remembered because it was so. A funeral was a kind of celebration of remembrance by a large section of the parish community and it was in the strict sense a social occasion as much as anything else.
In chapel circles, possibly more so than in church ones, a funeral entailed quite a prolonged and elaborate ritual. The window blinds would be lowered, or the curtains closed at the house of the deceased. There was much else to be seen to. If possible, the immediate family would need to purchase or borrow first-mourning clothes. These would consist of all black outfits which would be worn by the immediate family of the deceased for up to six weeks during attendance to chapel, church or public functions. During this period the immediate family would remain seated throughout the whole of normal Sunday services.
After the period of first mourning had passed, then second mourning might be worn for which the all black rule was relaxed. It could take in all up to three months or more to get back to the use of normal modes of attire, and then only gradually. Widows were sometimes known to adopt second mourning in perpetuity.
The funeral service in chapel was preceeded by a short service at the house of the deceased. Up until the mid-thirties of this century the coffin would then be carried by bearers to the church or chapel and sometimes for distances of up to two miles or more. In church the traditional and prescribed burial service would be enacted. In chapel however one might be subjected to a long sermon as part of the service. After the service was over refreshments would be provided for all those attending. One or two parishioners seemed to make a point of attending all funerals.
There was at some funerals what could be considered as a strange face which meant not being relation or friend of the deceased nor being of the parish. This would be the solicitor who had come to read the will. The will was read after the funeral service was over and in the presence of the family and known or likely beneficiaries. The setting and the occasion for the reading of the will certainly served to enhance the supressed tension and excitement of those present however much they might pretend otherwise. It was an unique and unforgettable experience, and resulting not infrequently in family dissension and quarrels. The whole of the funeral protocol outlined above has by now largely disappeared and probably life is a little less interesting for that.
(this section is a complete extract)
There is no means of assessing for how long there has existed a collection of houses or abodes at the site of what is now recognised as the village of Myddfai. The problem of which came first, church or village cannot now be unambiguously resolved. In the absence of any kind of archaeological evidence one can only make conjectures based on the form of the settlement. The village would seem to have been established and built around the church which suggests that the church came first.
All the information we have concerning the village is of relatively recent origin. One of the first specific references to the village as such is dated 1709 and describes the meeting of the Court Baron at the house of Rachel Rogers in the village and in what was probably an alehouse. Fenton in his diary dated 1809 records having visited the village and being shown the 'great-house' where some of the hereditary physicians were alleged to have lived at one time. The hearth tax returns for 1689 show that there was one house in the village very much larger than the others. It possessed four hearths whilst the others in the village only possessed one or at most two in a few cases. This house was occupied by Gladis Thomas, and is almost certainly the one that Fenton referred to.
By one of those lucky strokes of good fortune, the will and inventory of Gladis Thomas, dated 1684 is available and describes in great detail her possessions and the contents of her house in the village of Myddfai. The following is a list of items as recorded in the inventory which gives a fairly vivid picture of what the interior of her house must have looked like.
- 1. 18 small decayed pewter dishes, 1 pewter basin, 6 little pewter saucers, 2 little pewter saults, 4 old pewter candlesticks, 12 pewter spoons, one brass broth spoon, 5 wooden spoons.
- 2. 4 pewter mugs, 6 flaggons, 3 pewter chamber-pots all decayed, 1 pint pewter pot, 16 earthen and wooden drinking cups.
- 3. 11 plaine wooden trenchers, 3 ladles, 2 midling decayed brass pans, 2 little brass pans, 2 small brass cauldrons, one iron pot.
- 4. 7 worm-eaten chests, one cupboard, one whitch, 5 boards, 4 trestles, 14 stolls, 3 old chairs, 4 benches or forms, one old skreen or skew.
- 5. 2 spinning wheels.
- 6. 7 old bedsteads, 4 feather beds, 3 pairs of old flannel curtains.
- 7. 7 winnowing sheets, 1 dozen coarse napkins, 3 coarse table-cloths, one cornsack, 4 leathern satchells, six old cushions.
- 8. 1 boar, 1 sow and 5 suckling pigs, 3 hives of bees.
- 9. 1 iron barr, 1 spade, 1 betting instrument, 2 mattocks.
- 10. the muck at her mansion house valued at one shilling.
The above list does not include all her possession since she also had what was termed a 'dairy' at or near the present day Tynllwyn farm. Her house must have been quite exceptional in the village but there is nothing to indicate where it might have stood. We do not know what the other houses were like other than that the majority only had one hearth. They were probably low, mud-walled, thatched houses packed rather closely together, such may have been the situatation.
We have to wait until the appearance of the tithe map of 1839 and the various decennial census returns which began in 1841 before we can get a better picture of what the village was like. Unfortunately the tithe map for the village is not very accurate and does not show the precise location of all the listed houses. At least thirty houses are listed which compares with a figure of 21 for a little over one hundred years later. The general form and extent of the village in 1840 was very similar to what it is even today. Most of the extra houses in 1840 seem to have been on the site of what are today's houses, but were presumably then more closely packed together suggesting that they were probably small cottages. There were however four or five houses or cottages around the back of the churchyard on the north-eastern side of the church. These have by now disappeared but the plot of land where they stood was until quite recently known as Cae Warws. The 1840 census shows three of these cottages described as London Warehouse.
One of the main changes that has taken place since 1840, apart from quite recent housebuilding, has been the erection of three houses known as Bristol Terrace. They were built by Willie Williams who was born at Rhyblid but had moved to Bristol where he developed a succesful business. It was he who was responsible for building the three houses, hence their name. Local tradition has it that he came back to Myddfai from Bristol in order to avoid his creditors; he having presumably gone bankrupt. When he commenced building his houses in Myddfai he was informed by one of the villagers that he should not make his houses too tall in case the people of Bristol might see them.
There is today only one public house in the village and that is the Plough Inn. In the period around 1860 there were three public houses; the Plough whose landlord was Thomas Bowen, the Kings Head which was run by John Durance and thirdly the Mothvey Arms whose landlord was John Watkins. The 1841 census however lists the Crown and also the 'Square and Compass' but these names do not appear on later census returns. The location of the Crown is uncertain but it is highly probable that it stood at what is now called Preswylfa but which was known until about thirty years ago as Crown House or Crown Shop, and in Welsh Corondy. The location of the Square and Compass is unknown and all we know is that David Lewis the parish clerk occupied it at one stage. Mothvey Arms occupied the site of what is now The Manse but during the first quarter of this century it was known by the unprepossessing name of 'The Building and was the home of the Rev David Richards, minister of Seion Chapel, before he moved to Myrtle Hill.
Public houses were not confined to the village of Myddfai by any means and there is evidence for the existence of at least eight if not nine others. The village of Halfway at the beginning of this century possessed three public houses, namely the Three Horse Shoes, Halfway Inn and the Royal Oak; all three are now no more. It is highly probable that Hollybush which is virtually part of the village of Myddfai was at one time an inn. This assertion is based solely on the nature of the name which is quite characteristic of public houses and in particular the element 'bush' in the name. An analogous name is the Ivy Bush which is an hotel of ancient lineage in Carmarthen. Another well known inn not so far from the village was Tafarn Trap or the Trap Inn. This was on the roadside leading from Myddfai to Llanddeusant via Col, and was located to the village-side of Llwynrhicet. Rev. Howel Harris refers to it in 1739 and he probably called there for refreshment. The field adjacent to this old inn is still called Cae Trap.
Two other public houses were the Greyhound and the Spread Eagle. The former was on the site of what is now Mount Pleasant and the second named was fairly close by and opposite the road leading to Dolgarreg. There is also evidence that Cwmgwyn was at some stage an inn. Of all the inns in Myddfai the one which has possibly the most interesting if not romantic past is that of the Black Cock. It was sited at the edge of the mountain alongside the old and original coach road from Llandovery to Brecon.
Up until about 1785 the old coach road followed mainly the track of the old Roman road past the farm of Hafod fawr and Y Pigwn. It did not follow the general route of the modern A40 main road via Halfway and Cwmdwr. The old coach or Roman road climbs steadily from what used to be called the Victoria Inn, otherwise known as Why Not, but with an especially steep gradient beyond Troedrhiwfelen. Oxen were used to help the coaches up this steep hill and they were housed at the Black Cock. Drovers also used the road past the Black Cock and no doubt made use of its facilities. There is a local tradition that one person was murdered within its walls. What must have been once a hive of raucous activity is now a place of solitude and all that remains are low overgrown walls amongst some tall ash trees.
Of all the inns that have been named only the Plough now remains. One naturally asks what was responsible for the demise of so many. A number of factors seem to have been operative, not least the dramatic and steady decline in the population of the parish and thus of potential users and customers. Allied to this has been an equally dramatic change in social attitudes as represented by the temperance and tee-total movement which became a powerful force within the parish. Few if any of the public houses within the parish seem to have been capable on their own of providing a livelihood for their occupiers who were mostly craftsmen or else had charge of a small holding. The disappearance of the inns seems to have been just another example of the more general effects of economic and social conditions which brought about the elimination of small farms and holdings as well as craftsmen.
The public houses used to be the focus and centre of much of the social life of the parish. The ploughing and hedging match dinners were held there as were the church vestry meetings where the churchwardens organised and accounted for their many duties. In older times the court baron and court leet also met at one of the village inns.
A court leet still meets twice a year, once at the Cross Inn, Llanddeusant in July and the other at the Plough Inn in Myddfai which usually occurs on the first Monday in November. There under the aegis of what is still called locally the Steward of the Manor a jury consisting of twelve parishioners is elected. A chairman is appointed and then the jury in groups of three, each place a hand on the bible and solemnly declare that they will uphold and administer the duties and customs of the court without fear or favour. The beadle then presents to the court any stray and unclaimed animals that may be in his keeping. Should any such animals remain unclaimed they have to be re-presented in six months time at the next court leet. Should they still remain unclaimed they are then forfeited. Two members of the jury value the unclaimed animal or animals at which point the beadle may take posession of them on payment of half their value price. The money paid for the forfeited animals enables modest provision to be made for refreshment for the jury and what is left over may go to a leet court fund which can be used for the general benefit of the commoners in some way. The past four beadles for Myddfai have been William Powell, Cwmnantybeudy; Elfyn Davies, Trichwmwl: Morgan Morgan Cwmclyd and Eynon Morgan of Esgairllaethdy who is the current office holder.
The parish pound was placed against the church yard wall by the north-east gate to the cemetery. Its position and remains are still evident although it has fairly recently been subject to much structural alteration on being transformed to the site of a public seat.
The pound was traditionally associated with a rather colourful procedure involved with the gathering of stray sheep from the mountain common-land. On the Sunday before mid-summer day (June 24th) each year, a notice would be given in church immediately after divine service stating which day after the 24th of the month had been chosen for the commoners to go to the mountain in order to gather and drive down stray sheep which had not been shorn.
The stray sheep on being gathered were placed in the parish pound. The commoners of the parish would then have an opportunity to claim and take away any that they owned. Any unclaimed sheep were to be fed and cared for by the beadle but brought to the village pound on the next three consecutive Sundays and put in the pound before matins or divine service. There they had to be left until three o'clock in the afternoon. This was to give the commoners and other interested parties a further opportunity to examine and claim any which might be theirs. They would of course have to pay pound fees and the beadles costs for looking after the sheep whilst in his charge.
There were occasions however when there were still some sheep which had not been claimed. In such cases the beadle was obliged to shear those sheep within the period between July 25th and the last day of that month. In the case of sheep so shorn, its ear marks had to be copied onto a piece of paper which was then attached to the fleece of the particular sheep. Thus anyone subsequently claiming the sheep would also be given the correct fleece, but after due fees and expenses had been paid to the beadle.
One wonders whether the day appointed to gather the unshorn sheep from off the mountain was a bit of a holiday outing. One can also easily imagine how, after morning service in church there would be a procession of the older and venerable parishioners going to the nearby pound and there to try and guess the ownership of sheep therein. Sometimes the village pound could be used in anger as it were. In 1826 William Price who farmed Garnlwyd had got so exasperated with a David Lewis whose sheep broke into his clover field that 30 of his sheep were put in the pound for two days. William Price claimed compensation for the damage they had done but there was also a counter-claim by David Lewis against William Price.
In many respects the highlight of village life and that of the whole parish occurred annually on June 18th, this being the date of the annual and principal fair. This was not the only fair since there was recollection of a hiring fair held in November but this was no longer taking place by the beginning of this century. The June fair was last held in 1938 and was attended by the author as a young lad; one could sense a feeling of unspoken disappointment amongst the few who had come together and witnessed the end of an institution that used to be so vital.
In the period between the two world wars 1919 - 1938 the fair was exclusively devoted to the sale of horses and in the main mountain ponies. In the middle of the last century, cattle were a feature of the fair, probably the prime one; the Carmarthen Journal in 1853 records that there was a good supply of horses and cattle at the June 18th fair in Myddfai. Harry Powell of Abermydan notes in his diary during 1774 that he bought two oxen off a William Thomas David at Myddfai fair for the total sum of £9-12s. It is probable that at the beginning of the last century it was predominantly a cattle fair. A diary written at Tyllwyd, Llanwrda for the period 1848-55 records three instances of cattle being taken for sale to Myddfai fair; in 1855 two of the largest cattle were sold for £12 and two shillings 'luck'.
In the twenties and thirties of this century, fair day in the village of Myddfai did present quite an astonishing scene, or so it would seem today. The roadways within the curtilage of the village and a little beyond would be packed with groups of horses such that it was not very easy for the timid to walk from one end to the village to the other. Many of the ponies were unbroken and rather wild. Four distinct sets of people attended the fair. There were the farmers who brought their horses for sale. Then there were the dealers who came from quite far afield and who in the main were regular buyers at the fair. One such person was a Mr Marsden who came from Anglesey. The majority of the horses sold were destined to work in the coal mines drawing drams. There was also a strong contingent of gypsies and the fourth category represented an assortment of parishioners who came to watch every thing that went on.
As might be expected much time was spent, if not lost, in trying to strike a bargain. The first offer was almost invariably rejected out of hand and the dealer having made the offer would walk away. If however he was really interested in buying he would be back and then the hard bargaining would begin until a compromise price reached. This was signalled by a slapping of hands and the seller was normally expected, and did, give to the purchaser a certain amount of 'luck' money. Transactions were normally over by around mid-day and by three o'clock the village would be emptied of horses. The gypsies always remained behind and spent much of their time in the Plough. It was rare for there not to be a fight or scuffle within the gypsy group before the day was out. The opening hours of the Plough and Kings Head were usually extended on fair day.
The census of 1841 and subsequent ones enable a picture to be built up of changes that have taken place in the village and its community. Estimates for the number of houses and residents is set out below.
NUMBER OF INHABITED HOUSES
The change in the estimated numbers of residents and houses reflect the wider change in the parish as a whole. The relative reduction in the number of houses has been far less than that in the number of residents. A large proportion of the houses are now occupied by only one person, or at most two and there are very few families indeed with young children. It is this demographic change which has largely contributed to the reduced population.
One of the most striking things which emerges from an examination of the census returns for the middle of the last century, is the wide diversity of occupations represented within the village. In 1841 there were living in the village: carpenters 4, masons 6, wheelwrights 2, shoemakers 5, smiths 3, butchers 3, coopers 2, agricultural labourers 4 and paupers 8. There were also a tiler, nailer, sawyer and rather oddly one sailor.
In the early twenties of this century there were three smithies, one belonging to the late J.F. Richards which is still standing but not working. The second was at a site adjoining what is now called Tymelyn and the third lay between the old post office and Tynllwyn Villa. The picture that emerges of the village is that of a dynamic community where craftsmen of various kinds were very much the dominant element. Many of these had been born outside the parish and the census figures generally convey a picture of considerable mobility. In looking at the parish as a whole, the 1851 census shows that out of a total population of 1100, approximately 470 had come to live within the parish from outside its boundaries.
In the period 1861 - 1871 the indirect impact of the Caesara lead mines must have had a considerable influence on village life. In that period twenty three miners are listed as being resident in the village, some albeit transiently. Many of them were described as lodgers or boarders. Five came from Cornwall having such surnames as Treloer, Odgers, Johns, Boundy and Skinner, but most had been born in adjacent parishes, in particular Cilycwm and had probably been lead miners in Rhandir-mwyn. The mines also offered some ancillary work and we find that John Durance junior was an engine driver as was David Evans. As a result of the mining activity two of the grocers in the village were licensed to keep and sell explosives.
There have been at various stages three or four lead-mining enterprises associated with the parish. None of them seemingly flourished in financial terms but nevertheless must have had a considerable economic and social impact. The three principal ones were respectively sited in the vicinity of Caesara, Gilfach and Gellyfelen; the former two are just beyond the parish boundary. One somewhat confusing feature is that these mining enterprises were known and registered under different names at certain stages. What was usually known as the Caesara mine had also been designated as the Great Welsh Silver-Lead Mine and also as Cwm Brane. The Gilfach mine or the Nant-yr-hiddyl mine was at one time recognised as part of the Lady Eliza Mine whilst that at Gellyfelen was known first as the Wheal Morgan and afterwards as the Lady Eliza mine.
Mining had probably taken place at Caesara since the 18th century but it was not until 1851 that it was fully developed as the Great Welsh Silver-Lead Mine by Henry Gibson. Very rich ore was found at a shallow depth and one block of ore weighing a quarter of a ton was sent up to London with the sole aim of encouraging investors or adventurers as they used to be called, to invest in the enterprise. It is estimated that in all, 890 tons of dressed ore was mined which is equivalent to about 650 tons of lead metal.
In 1854 a rich vein of lead ore was discovered in the parish road near the farm of Gellyfelen. This land belonged to a Morgan Morgan and he leased the mineral and mining rights to Thomas Fuller of Threadneedle Street London. The property was handed over in a ceremony whereby a glass or two of 'cwrw da' was drunk and Mr Morgan struck the ore outcrop with a pick. It was then known as the Wheal Morgan mine, wheal being in origin the Cornish term used for a mine.
A general meeting of the share holders held in December 1856 showed that expenidture was £703-11 s-2 1/2d but sales of ore had only brought in £61-5s-0d. Thus ended the Wheal Morgan mine. Mine owners and speculators were however nothing if not optimistic, thus in 1857 the Lady Eliza Silver-Lead Mining Company was formed to exploit the old Wheal Morgan mine and some other alleged ore deposits in the vicinity. This lasted until 1862 when it too was wound up.
It is likely that there are many reserves of lead ore within the parish which have not been exploited, due probably to inaccessibility. A report in the Mining Journal for 1840 declares that the sexton of Myddfai when digging a grave had come across a very rich vein of lead ore, in the church yard. One needs to bear in mind however that when the discovery of an ore vein was reported it was almost invariably described as being 'a very rich vein' although subsequent exploitation often showed it to be otherwise.
We know very little of what conditions were like in these mines and their main local importance was that they were a source of work and cash, at least whilst they remained solvent. We can have a glimpse of, and infer what conditions were like in the Gilfach and Nantyrhiddyl mines from accounts which cover the period 1769-72. The following is a selection from the accounts and which give some indication of what conditions were like and the problems encountered.
- 6 quires brown paper for Cartriges 1s 0d
- 20 pounds Powder ---
- To treating the Man of the Black Cock who showed a vein in the Dingle 2s 6d
- To Howel Rees Powel 12 days at 12d 12s 0d
- To Rees Evan 12 days at 8d 8s 0d
- To 5 weeks subsistence to Howel, the man hurt 15s 0d
- To Bargain Ale - the south level. 5 hands 5s 0d
- To medicins for the men to prevent the Bad effects of Damps in the levels and salves for wounds and bruises 17s 6d
- To medicins to the cure of Rees Evans, a blast bursting which dislocated the pan of his knee, several cuts and his face and eyes much burnt 15s 0d
- To Alexander Rogers, a cornishman, 12 days 14s 0d
- To Oyl, to Oyl the Bellows 1s 0d
- To Davy Daniel 13 weeks sharpening tools and repairing same, at 12d per week 13s 0d
- To Ale to the men at settling accounts and to Earnest those short Bargains ---
- To Ale to the men gathering ore from the geer at Sundry times 2s 6d
- To clearing the course of the river Abertriphlwyf ---
- 6 dozen candles £2 12s Od
Lead mining at best has always been a hazardous undertaking in terms of health and safety or of economic profitability. The Cwmbran Mining Company and Thomas and Rosewarne, mining brokers, on a number of occasions failed to pay their workforce at the Caesarah mine. The records of the Llandovery County Court for the period 1856-66 are full of claims by persons from Myddfai against the mine proprietors or agents. The miners in turn were unable to pay their grocery bills in the village and in a number of instances they just absconded without paying.
There were a number of different, if rather minor sources of employment if for relatively few parishioners at various times. Towards the end of the last century the woollen mill at Abertriphlwyf offered work for a few. Mary Durance Davies recalls that eight of the persons who worked at the mill lodged in the village and walked back and fore to the factory each day. Earlier in the century there were a number of weavers living in the parish, but as often as not their existence is recorded as paupers in receipt of parish relief.
A source of income although minor, but probably of the utmost importance to its recipient was that derived from the sale of knitted stockings. This seems to have been a very widespread, if incidental occupation. The census returns show a number of professional stocking knitters but it seems to have been the occupation of many women whenever there was a spare moment. The stockings were taken for sale to fairs at Llandovery where they were not only sold to private buyers but to wholesale buyers who took them to the industrial areas.
An occupation which brought in some extra income and which virtually the whole family could participate in was that of bark-stripping. Bark, and principally that of oak was required in relatively large quantities by the leather tanneries. Bark-stripping was however a seasonal occupation which lasted from April to June. The above mentioned Mary D. Davies relates how four or five women would turn up at the village looking for bark-stripping work and for which they would be paid a shilling a day plus their food. A description of an oak-barking party which worked in the area of Halfway in 1880 is given by a Rees Price of Merthyr Cynog. About fifty to sixty people had assembled, some of whom had travelled many miles. The party consisted of men, women and children and there were clearly a 'party' and 'picnic' atmosphere about the whole episode. Persons coming from a distance would stay with friends or relatives during the week while 'barking' lasted, returning home only at the week-end. After oak-barking had been completed the trees would then be felled.
In many respects one of the most important ancillary sources of work and income within the parish, at least throughout the last century and up until the mid twenties of this one, was that of timber hauling. Five or six families were very much involved in this business at the beginning of this century. It was not a full-time occupation but an adjunct to fanning. The timber carriages used were horse-drawn and there are still one or two parishioners who can recall that such was the length of the tree trunks carried that it could be difficult to turn the corner in the village square in Myddfai.
During this century two major events have influenced and touched the life of most parishioners and that of the community as a whole. These have been the two world wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. The second of these in particular marks a very profound divide in every aspect of the life and work of all those who lived in the parish of Myddfai. By the end of the second world war or very soon after, everthing seems to have changed; farmwork, housework, transport, education, leisure, all appear to be very different to what they were like pre-war. One could almost say that all that remained familiar were the biological and natural constraints associated with birth and death and seasonal changes.
One of the principal and direct impacts of both world wars in Myddfai was that of the conscription of some able bodied men into the armed forces. Its effect however in terms of numbers involved was relatively small in the parish, in comparison to that in industrial or non-agricultural communities. This was because farmers and farm workers were basically categorised as being in reserved occupations and not normally called up for active service. Thus the war memorial tablet in church and that set in the churchyard wall records the names of few who died. A special tribunal determined whether or not a farm was overstaffed, such that one or more could be spared for the armed forces.
There is little doubt that the biggest practical impact of the wars in the parish arose from the imposition of what were recognised as cultivation quotas. The quotas meant that farmers had to plough and cultivate a stipulated acreage of land and grow on it certain specified categories of crops. The main crops specified were corn of various kinds but there was also a quota for potatoes. Anything up to a third of the potentially arable land on a farm had to be cultivated. During the first world war this work was carried out entirely by means of horse and human power. In the second world war, whilst horses were still being used extensively, tractors became increasingly more important. Many of the tractors used, had been imported from the United States despite the hazards and losses due to submarine warfare in the Atlantic. That cultivation quotas were fulfilled was checked on by 'cultivation officers' on behalf of the County War Executive Committee. It was generally considered, probably quite unjustifiably, that cultivation officers were themselves in the main poor or failed farmers.
Whilst the majority of men, although eligible with respect to age, had not been conscripted because they were in a reserved occupation, they were not exempt from uniformed duty.
They formed the Myddfai company of the Home Guard. Membership of this was compulsory at one stage during the last war.
The modern picture, if caricature, of the Home Guard is largely based on the television programme called 'Dad's Army'. There certainly were elements of this in the Myddfai platoon. One gets the impression that they formed part of a national propaganda exercise rather than a serious and professional fighting force. A few members were however very dedicated and professional in their attitude. Lewis Davies then of Esgairllaethdy was first lieutenant in overall charge and very committed. The village troop was led by David Jones of Tymelyn who had seen service in the middle-east during the first world war. He was also the village air-raid warden and possessed a special whistle to prove it. What was to be done in the unlikely event of an air raid was never made clear. David Jones is always remembered for his advice to his 'troops' when a British aeroplane happened to come over rather low, which was to 'scatter boys'. His profession was that of manager of Hepworths clothes shop in Llandovery.
The headquarters of the Home Guard in Myddfai was the old cottage forming part of the Kings Head. In many respects the Home Guard was as much a social and recreational gathering as a fighting force although it may have been that too. They fortunately never fired a shot in anger or defence and the only life which the author saw them take was that of a dragon-fly which was destroyed by heavy Sten-gun fire as it flew along the river bank.
On the more domestic level the war was characterised by food and clothes rationing and the associated coupon books. There was also the blackout which meant that windows had to be fitted with black blinds or curtains so as to stop any light showing outside. Children attending school had to carry their gas mask with them at all times.
A feature which probably caused the greatest purely domestic change if not upheaval was the descent of the evacuees at various times. Two main groups of children came as evacuees to the parish. The first and largest came from the Streatham area of London; at later stages smaller groups were evacuated from Swansea and Liverpool. What was truly extraordinary was that children some as young as five years old could be transported to what must have seemed to them an utterly foreign and alien land, and yet seemingly and relatively quickly settle down without apparent trauma. The fact that they came from the same school and had their own teacher with them probably helped.
The second world war did come home to the parish; three of its members did not return, Iryl Price, Tommy Rogers and Glanmore Thomas. Areas of the parish were used extensively for infantry and gunnery training and practice, as was Mynydd Bach, Llwynwormwood Park, Pentregronw and Llechglawdd. Sometimes there were unexpected and tragic consequences to such exercises. After such exercises there were inevitably lost or misplaced lots of live ammunition and explosives. Despite warnings not to pick up such objects, some did so and sometimes with tragic consequences. Mrs Stanley Thomas of Grey House, Myddfai and Denzil Lewis of Penrhiw ucha, Llanddeusant were killed as a result of the latter having picked up and kept an unexploded shell.
The nights of February 19th, 20th and 21st 1941 will always remain in the memory of those who are now the older members of the parish, for on those nights a continuous red glow could be seen in the sky in a southerly direction. This was the result of the blitz on Swansea which largely destroyed its commercial and shopping centre. At a later date the parish was directly under the path of the German bombers as they carried out their night raids on Liverpool. One event which brought home the tragedy of war to the parish was the discovery on Christmas eve 1944 of the body of a British airman on the land of Pentregronw. He had died subsequently to having to bale out of his plane and his body was taken down by horse and gambo to the parish church where a commemorative service was held on Christmas Day.
The post-war decade was notable as a period when many, and often extensive civil engineering constructions were built. At the purely parochial level, not that it would come in the above category, was the erection of the village hall in 1950. There was however one large scheme undertaken and localised mainly within the parish; this was the Usk Reservoir Project which was designed to supply the Swansea area with water from the river Usk. Swansea Corporation had purchased all the farms in Myddfai bordering on the river Usk prior to the 1939-45 war with the intention of carrying out such a scheme.
A clay-core earth dam was built and the abstracted water tunnelled under Mynydd Bach to emerge near Bwlch Bran and thence carried by large steel pipes. The civil engineers who undertook the work were Messrs Richard Costain Ltd., The Usk Reservoir was inaugurated on August 6th, 1955 by Queen Elizabeth II and her consort H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen on that day walked along the top of the dam and at the point where she left the County of Brecon and entered the parish of Myddfai she was formally welcomed and waited upon by Colonel Sir Grismond Philipps, the Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Carmarthen. She was probably the first British monarch to have made a special point of entering the parish. One presumes that this does confer some special status on the parish but also on the Queen herself.
Most parishes and communities have born within their boundaries a few persons who seem to be set apart from their contemporaries. Such people have often reached positions of distinctiveness if not of distinction in their particular spheres, and often outside the parish of their birth. They often reflect to an enhanced degree the beliefs and aspirations of their class and of their age. The identification and nomination of such persons is hardly a random selection since one is inevitably restricted in one's choice to those few we know something of. The final selection must remain completely subjective but three candidates seem to emerge as fulfilling the above criteria from within the parish of Myddfai.
The three who have been selected led lives very different from that of the vast majority of their fellow parishioners. They had very little in common with each other except that they were all ordained and thus could be described as three men of the cloth, but that is about as far as any similarity goes. The three nominations are, in order of historical seniority,
- the Rev. Dr Morgan Owen (of Glasallt),
- the Rev. John Thomas (of Col)
- the Rev. Sir Erasmus Henry Griffies Williams (of Llwynwormwood).
(the detailed sections on these three men have not extracted)
There are basically only two kinds of history; there is human history and natural history. The latter is defined as the study of natural objects and phenomena but especially of animal and plant life both past and present. Communities of plants and animals are subject to change and variation from place to place both within and between parishes. Knowledge and appreciation of such difference is usually difficult to come by since it entails exacting research work and it is rare for a parish to be the locale for such comprehensive investigations. Somewhat unexpectedly perhaps there is one aspect of the natural history of the parish of Myddfai which has been subject to quite extensive, if incidentally, professional investigation and that is its geology. .....................................
(this section has not been extracted)
It is probable that every generation or community has felt itself to be the witness of great changes in some aspect or other of human endeavour and activity. The demise of the large estates, the flourishing of Methodism, the change from the use of oxen to that of horses and even their subsequent displacement; these are but a few examples of relatively rapid changes that have occurred,, Some changes were rapid and dramatic enough to be appreciated by those who were part of the contemporary scene whilst other changes were so subtle and insidious, at least initially, such that they may be seen and appreciated only in hindsight.
There is now and has been taking place within the parish of Myddfai an extremely profound change. Some would say a change of a kind that is likely to alter in a completely fundamental way the whole character and ethos of its people as a community. The change is in the nature of the language spoken by residents of the parish. This is an especially acute and contemporary problem in areas which were until relatively recently strongholds for those using Welsh as their first and natural language. .....................................
(this section has not been extracted)
Un funud fach cyn elo'r haul o'r wybren,
Un funud fwyn cyn delo'r hwyr i'w hynt,
I gofio am y pethau angofiedig
Ar goll yn awr yn llwch yr amser gynt.
Fel ewyn ton a dyr ar draethell unig,
Fel can y gwynt lle nid oes glust a glyw,
Mi wn eu bod yn galw'n ofer arnom -
Hen bethau angofiedig dynol ryw.
Camp a chelfyddyd y cenhedloedd cynnar,
Anheddau bychain a neuaddau mawr,
Y chwedlau cain a chwalwyd ers canrifoedd
Y duwiau na wyr neb amdanynt 'nawr.
A geiriau bach hen ieithoedd diflanedig,
Hoyw yng ngenau dynion oeddynt hwy,
A thlws i'r glust ym mharablu plant bychain,
Ond tafod neb ni eilw arnynt mwy.
O genedlaethau dirifedi daear,
A'u breuddwyd dwyfol a'u dwyfoldeb brau,
A erys ond tawelwch i'r calonnau
Fu gynt yn llawenychu a thristau?
Mynych ym mrig yr hwyr, a mi yn unig,
Daw hiraeth am eich 'nabod chwi bob un;
A oes a'ch dell o hyd mewn cof a chalon,
Hen bethau angofiedig teulu dyn?
Some of the items under this general heading have already been extracted, at least as far as names are concerned, use the links below;
Extracted (on Index pages)
- A description of a town coach, otherwise known as a chariot, owned by George Griffies Williams Esq of Llwynwormwood...........................
- Words of a topical song written by one of two brothers, either William or Thomas Thomas of Troedyrhiw, Halfway
- Some topical rhymes of the last century
- A list of some of the earliest vehicle registration numbers and their owners
Some names, places and meaning
The following list of names is not comprehensive for the parish and it includes primarily those places whose names may be interpreted as having some descriptive or historical significance. Explaining and assigning meaning to place names is an especially hazardous endeavour and at best one can only submit likely or possible explanations in very many cases. Nevertheless many names give a rich insight into the historical background of places and events. Some incidental information of more general interest is also included where known and some alternative name-spellings are included.
ABERHENWEN or ABERHENWEN, FACH: in 1839 a farm of 80 acres within the parish of Myddfai close to where the brook Hynwen enters the river Usk, hence its name. The house is now derelict and the land forms part of the Usk Reservoir catchment. lt did form part of the grange of Dol Hywel belonging to Talley Abbey and Hynwen marked the eastern boundary of the grange. The adjacent farm of Aberhynwen Fawr lies in the parish of Trianglas. A family by surname of George was resident at Aberhynwen Fach from 1806 to 1947.
ABERMYDAN: a farm of 58 acres (1851) within the parish of Llandingat-Without. So named because the small stream Mydan joins the river Ydw nearby. The meaning of 'mydan' is rather obscure: it could be a corruption of 'mudan' signifying dumb or silent but the word 'mud' can correspond to the cage where hawks are kept whilst moulting. One cannot rule out the possibility that it may be a personal name. The will of John ap John proved in 1657-8 bequeathes Tyr Abermydan to his son Morgan. The account book of Harry Powell of Abermydan for the period 1765 - 1776 deals with clog-making, beekeeping and miscellaneous farming activities.
ABERTRIPHLWYF: the name signifies the meeting place or confluence of three parishes, they being Myddfai, Llanddeusant and Llangadog. This occurs where Nant yr Hiddil enters the river Clydach. ln 1839 a holding of five acres whereon was sited a woollen factory: this factory ceased working at the beginning of this century. A deed of 1631 refers to that 'one fullinge or tucking myll' sometimes called Y Velin Yssa (the lower mill), this being at Abertriphlwyf. In the period 1810-20 there were four cottages at Abertriphlwyf.
BEILI: there are three farms with names involving beili, Beilicelyn, Beiliglas and Beiliryn. The term denotes an enclosure to hold animals, probably cattle.
BLACK COCK: HEATH COCK: in 1839 an inn and a holding of 19 acres occupied by David Jones and owned by Edward Jones of Felindre, Llandovery. Situated alongside the old Roman road and later the coach road from Llandovery over Trecastle mountain. All that now remains are a few low and overgrown walls.
BLAENCWM, BLAENCWM HOUSE: in 1839 a house and holding of 14 acres within the parish of Myddfai. To be distinguished from Blaencwm ucha which is by Halfway. The name signifies the head or beginning of a narrow valley. ln 1771 the abode of William Rogers whose son Thomas William Rogers was born in 1774. The latter was ordained and was appointed to the curacy of Myddfai in 1815 at a stipend of £40 p.a.. His son, also named Thomas William Rogers married twice. He married his second wife Hetty Deborah Rand Griffiths in his eightieth year and there were three children of the marriage. He died in 1923 aged 90 years having within his lifetime purchased and become the owner of eighteen properties within the parish. His widow married Morris Isaac in 1928 and they lived at Blaencwm.
The Blaencwm Estate at its greatest extent in 1923 consisted of the following properties; Llwynwormwood Mansion and farm, Trallwm, Cefncerrig, Rhock, Cnwchllwyd, Pantygaseg, Tynllwyn, Nantllan, Pentwyn, Tyrbach, Garnlwyd, Cwmclyd, Esgairllaethdy, Troedrhiwfelen, Blaencwm, Bailyrhin, Treventy, Tyrcoed, Gorllwynfawr; Cwmbran, Troedyrhiw, Pentwynmwyn, Clarence House (Llandovery), Some houses in Llangadog.
BLAENDDOL: in 1839 a farm of 182 acres in the ownership of Sir Erasmus Griffies Williams. Situated at the upper end of the grange of Dol Hywel hence the name. Land is now part of the Usk reservoir catchment. It was more anciently known as Tyr brynmaen and presumably because of the 'standing stones' on the property. In the eighteenth century the home of the Phillips family, a descendant of which, John Phillips (1800 - 1874) was an eminent geologist being keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and Fellow of the Royal Society.
BLAENDYNFICH: in 1839 a freehold farm of 45 acres owned by Margaret Thomas. Notable for being the site of the murder of Lewis Williams in 1825. Named after the small stream Dynfich but its meaning is rather obscure.
BRAN MILL: situated within about 150 yards from Ysguborfawr farm-house and adjacent to the River Bran hence its name. An over-shot corn grist mill of ancient origin. There is a reference to its existence as a King's mill in 1587. The leet, in Welsh (pwant) supplying the mill-pond is taken from the river Bran approxiamtely a third of a mile upstream at a weir (gored). The last to operate the mill commercially were Rachel Thomas and her son William; the old waterwheel was dismantled around 1937 and a turbine installed to drive an electric generator.
BWLCHYRHIW: originally the name of a farm of 85 acres (1839) on the Cilgwyn estate but now part of Dagfa farm. The name is now that of a chapel built on the land in 1871. The name today signifies the gap or pass of the hill or incline but much of the land is relatively flat. Just occasionally the name is spelt Bwlch y rhew that is the icy gap. There is no means now of saying which is the more appropriate meaning.
CAELIAN, CAELEAN: in the last century a holding of less than ten acres. In 1840-50 occupied by John Rees who styled himself as sheep drover, butter carrier and farmer. The name may derive from the Welsh for nun which is lleian; thus it would denote the nun's field. Rather more fancifully it has been conjectured that it is a place named after Lluan one of the daughters of Salnt Brychan who lived in the fifth century.
CAENEWYDD: its name signifies a new field or enclosure and it is recorded in 1839 as a farm of 115 acres owned by Rice Williams Price Llwyniar and occupied by John Walters.
Much of the land represents an enclosure of part of Mynydd Bach, the common land, but there is no record of when enclosure took place. The old farmhouse has been converted into an implement shed.
CAE SIENCYN, CAEJENKIN: this name denotes the enclosure or field of Jenkin and as such may go back to early times when 'waste' land was being enclosed. It is one of the few farms that straddles the parish border. Until the relatively recent parish border changes, the kitchen was in the parish of Llangadog and the parlour in the parish of Myddfai.
CAE TRI LLIPA: a field opposite and across the road from Bethania chapel just peripheral to the village of Myddfai. Spelt in many ways the most consistent being Cae tyr llipa or just Cae llipa. According to Sir Ifor Williams the name basically derives from the Welsh 'lledpai' meaning askew, crooked, bending downwards. What is remarkable about this interpretation is that it is such a good description of the field, thus it signifies the field of the crooked, sloping land.
CEFN GOLAU, CEFNGOLE: most commonly pronounced as Cefngole. A farm of 103 acres in 1839 occupied by John Lewis and owned by Lewis Jones. Meaning rather obscure but could signify the light coloured or well-lit bank or hill side. Gole may however stand for slope or hillside thus the name could denote the slope of a hill.
CEFNRHYDDAN: a farm of 100 acres occupied by John Griffiths and owned by Lewis Lewis of Llettyfanddu in 1839. Rhyddan is taken to denote usually ruddy or red and this may refer to the brook of that name. An early reference is that of a will dated 1613 in which David ap John David bequeathes Tir Keven Rhyddan to Catheringe verch Thomas his wedded wife. In 1781 the site of an inquest into the murder of Rees Powell, gent. In the period 1840-50 there was in existence a Cefnrhyddan isaf. Owners of Cefnrhyddan at the beginning of the seventeenth century were David ap John David, Lewis David Phillip and David Lewis, in that order.
CILGWYN, KILGWYN: the mansion as it stands today is a residential home and which had been built at the beginning of the last century. Immediately behind and very near to it is the original house now known as Cefn Cilgwyn which goes back to the seventeenth century at least but subject to subsequent alteration. The earlier house still retains many feature of considerable historical interest, in particular an iron barred semi-dungeon where probably persons awaiting trial were kept. Both house and mansion have been renovated up to current day standards. The first undisputed owner and occupier was Benjamin Lewis who died in 1699 although seven antecedent generations of his are listed in genealogies thus going back to around 1500. After the bankruptcy and death of Benjamin Lewis the estate was purchased by James Price of Glantowy who came to live there. His only daughter and heir Miss Magdalen Price bequeathed Cilgwyn to a cousin John Josiah Holford whose son James Price Holford married Anna Maria Elinora Gwynne, daughter and heiress of Roderick Gwynne of Glanbran. James Price Holford on marriage assumed the name James Price Gwynne Holford. The last member of the family to live for a period at Cilgwyn in the 1930s was Major David Charles Sackville Gwynne who died in 1944. In 1873 an estate of 1380 acres.
CILGWYN MILL: there is now no trace of the original Cilgwyn Mill but there is considerable documentation relating to it. It was sited about two or three hundred yards in front of the present Cilgwyn Mansion and by 1860 it was in a very bad state of repair. It was a corn grist mill and the first reference to it is dated 1681 which also shows that it was listed as a King's mill. The old mill was demolished and a new one erected a short distance to the west of the present mansion but it too is now largely demolished although some remains are still discernible.
CLYDACH: the name of the small river that rises at Bylchau Blaen Clydach and joins the River Bran in the vicinity of Cwmbran (isaf). It is sometimes referred to as River Col. For most of its length it marks the boundary between Myddfai and Llanddeusant. The name and variants of it are believed to signify a rapidly running rocky stream; a name of Irish origin.
CWMBRAN: the name of a farm at the western edge of the parish the house being in the parish of Llangadog. Not to be confused with Cwmbran ucha which is towards the other end of the parish. Some eighteenth century indentures refer to it as Abercloydach and appropriately so since the river Clydach enters the Bran in the vicinity. An indenture dated 1726 shows that an iron-forge commonly called Cwmbran Forge existed as well as a water corn grist mill called Melin Fach. The forge was owned by Morgan Owen of the family of Glasallt.
CWMCOWDDU: the tithe schedule shows it to have been a farm of 49 acres owned by Charles Bishop of Dolgarreg and occupied by Evan Evans (1839). Old names for it are Cwmcawddi and Y tuy ar lan cawthey (1660). The term cawn or cawnen refers to tall grass found on wet or poor soils, or else to the turf that generates it. The Welsh for moor mat-grass is cawnen ddu. Certainly much of the soil on the farm is peaty and dark in colour and in times past would undoubtedly have supported grass naturally indigenous to such areas. The name is thus a good description of the soil and vegetation that lay in the valley where the farm lies.
CWMNANTYBEUDY: a more accurate representation would be Cwmnantyboidy since this would correspond to the local pronunciation, as in Llanboidy. In 1839 a farm of 65 acres occupied by William Price and owned by Lewis Walters. The name signifies the valley or hollow where the stream of the cattle-shed lies. The name probably harks back to the twelfth century or thereabouts when cattle would be taken up from their winter quarters to the unenclosed upland pastures for the summer. It is of interest that the three places whose names are associated with this custom, Hafod, Cwmnantyboidy and Esgairllaethdy border onto the unenclosed hill pasture.
CWMYDW: stands alongside the river Ydw bordering on the parish of Llandingat-Without; not to be confused with Cwmydw isaf which is downstream and borders onto Glansevin. An indenture dated 1640 shows that Tir Cwmydw alias Tir y Pinna was sold by William Lloyd to Rees ap Howell. It has been the home of the Bowen family which was prominent in church and parish affairs. David Bowen the last to hold the family name died in 1854 aged 91 years.
CYNILL: three holdings go under this name as Cynill ucha, ganol and issa, as shown on the tithe map of 1839. Notable for the fact that the three abodes were within about 120 yards of each other. There is now only one holding which corresponds to the old Cynill issa. Meaning too obscure to venture an explanation.
DAGFA: the tithe schedule shows it in 1839 to be a farm of 112 acres occupied by Charles Lewis and owned by Stephen Jones. The farm of Bwlchyrhiw is now incorporated with it. The dwelling house was erected 1820-24 but is no longer used, a new house having been built. The local, if most improbable, explanation for the name is that it comes from the Welsh for the place of strangling or choking - tagfa. It is alleged that it marks the site where Roman soldiers were strangled. The old Roman road is certainly close by.
DOL HYWEL: an area which corresponds closely to the area of land now covered by the waters of the Usk Reservoir and its immediate environs. This being part of the grange belonging to Talley Abbey. Signifies the riverside meadow of Hywel.
DOL GARREG: the first occupier and owner of which there is definite information is that of Rees Jones. He was a tanner by profession and remains of an old tan house may be seen to this day; he also had mining interests at Caesarah and Cwmbran. He died in 1785 and is buried at Myddfai. His daughter and sole heiress married John Bishop of Stonehouse, Radnorshire and descendants of them remained at Dolgarreg until about 1918. Since then different families by the respective names of Arbuckle, Bennett, Prentice, John have been resident at the mansion and it is now occupied by Mr & Mrs Clement. The house was burnt down in March 1931 and subsequently replaced by a much smaller edifice. The Rees Jones mentioned is credited with being a descendant of Meddygon Myddfai.
DYLLES: a holding of 12 acres in 1839 and owned by the Earl of Cawdor. Sited on what is now open mountain land alongside the stream called 'Sgio. No obvious trace remains. Meaning obscure.
ESGAIRFEITHGEN: in 1839 a farm of 77 acres owned by Gwenllian Bishop and occupied by David Davies. The term 'esgair' is usually taken to mean an elongated bank or ridge of land. Meithgen denotes an affliction of some kind. It would be premature to speculate on the significance of the full name.
ESGAIRLLAETHDY: a farm of 138 acres in the ownership of David Lewis (1839). The word 'llaethdy' stands for dairy. It is conjectured that the farm might have been the site of the summer abode for cattle taken up from the permanent and winter quarters or homestead. It is declared to be the place where the Lady of the Lake and her husband set up home and lived.
FAN FACH, FAN VACH: now often referred to just as Van. In 1839 a farm of 219 acres occupied by Lewis Williams and owned by Sir Erasmus Griffies Williams of Llwynwormwood. A lease of 1676 shows it to have been 75 acres in extent. Fan can signify a hill or more appropriately a high point and there is such a clear feature on the farm, although relatively small. Thus the simplest explanation for the name is that it signifies a small hill or peak. The fact that there is apparently no written record of a Fan Fawr lends support to this contention. The alternative, if partial, explanation is that there was at one time a Fan Fawr and a Fan Fach, the former having disappeared as a separate holding thus leaving the Fan Fach. There is no evidence to support this latter contention.
FERDRE, Y-FERDRE: a farm within the parish of Llandingat-Without but bordering on Myddfai. A name which probably goes back to the thirteenth century if not before. It is normally accepted that the original form would be Y Faerdre or Y Faerdref. This would refer to the land or area held directly by the local lord or chieftain whereon a number of villeins or unfree tenants would live and work under the supervision of the 'maer', in other words the lord's deputy or bailiff. Thus the name signifies the township of the 'maer'.
FERGWM: the will of David John ap Rees dated April 1608 bequeathes lands which include Tir overgwm, which corresponds to the present day Fergwm. The element 'over' in Welsh 'ofer' means waste or wasteful thus the full name signifies the valley or hollow of the waste or of the poor land. This is probably the best and clearest example within the parish of how place names develop and change. In 1839 Fergwm was a farm of 118 acres occupied by David Davies and owned by Sir Erasmus Griffies Williams.
GARREGLEFAIN, GARREGLEFEN: in 1839 described as a farm of 63 acres in the occupation of Jonah Williams, on the Cilgwyn estate. Until fairly recently the farmstead was characterised by two separate small houses of style and features which suggest a 17th century origin. The possession of rounded corners as opposed to the normal rectangular type is an unusual feature. Until the middle of this century at least, the houses probably represented the most authentic and least changed of inhabited farm houses within the parish, dating from the early 17th century. As for the meaning of the name, one can but tentatively speculate that the 'lefen' part is possibly derived from 'llyfn', the Welsh for smooth, even. The sole basis for the suggestion is that one of the houses is next to a small, if rather unusual smoothed rock outcrop.
GELLYMAEN: this was until about 1920 an alternative name for what is recognised today as Pentwyn farm a mile or so east of the village of Myddfai. The name can signify the glade or grove of the stone and it is inferred that the name arose because 'St Paul's Marble' stood on the land until 1823. It was however sometimes written as Gellymain which would denote the slender grove but that interpretation seems less acceptable.
GIMLET HALL: in 1839 a small farm of 18 acres occupied by Rees Daniel on the Cilgwyn estate. The name appears in the 1841 and 1871 census but not thereafter. It corresponds exactly with the farm of Mount Pleasant but there is no apparent explanation why the name should be taken up and then discarded.
GLANTOWY: a farm of 142 acres (1839) owned by Stephen Jones and occupied by William Saunders. There are two places called Glantowy in the parish; the one referred to here is the upper of the two and is nearest to Llandovery. The first person known to have lived there is James Price who is described in 1684 as a 'giddy brained Quaker'. He is buried at what was the Quaker grave-garden in Llandovery. His son Rees Price was an attorney who also lived at Glantowy and owned a number of properties; it was he who purchased Cilgwyn where his son James Price resided.
GORLLWYN, GORLLWYN FAWR: in 1839 part of the Cilgwyn estate and occupied by Thomas Thomas. Eighteenth century and earlier documents refer to it usually as Gorllwyn. One presumes that the appellation 'fawr' came into common usage when Gorllwyn fawr became recognised as a quite separate entity. The prefix 'gor' in the above context denotes emphasis, larger or greater thus Gorllwyn would mean the greater or larger wood or copse, but exactly in what context is unknown. The first named person we can associate with the place is Rees ap John of Gorllwyn who had a son Owen Price Esq. His son Thomas Price of Gorllwyn died in 1691 and there is a tombstone to him within the parish church of Myddfai. Bulkeley Price the son of Thomas Price was a lawyer of the Inner Temple and sold the Gorllwyn estate to Thomas Phillips of Pentre Parr, Llandeilo, but it subsequently became part of the Cilgwyn estate. The old, if rather interesting, house has been demolished fairly recently and a modern bungalow set in its place.
GLASALLT FAWR, Y LASALLT, GLAESALLT: signifies rather literally the greater green or verdant woodland. There is also the connotation that the woodland is on a slope or the side of a hill, as indeed it must have been. One can only speculate whether the existence of some evergreen tree species had a part to play in the development of the name. The place is best known as the birth place of Morgan Owen who owned an estate of lands within the parish but also other lands and properties. Morgan Owen became for a short period bishop of Llandaff and died at Glasallt Fawr in 1644. The estate remained in the hands of indirect descendants until at least 1840 when it was in the possession of Robert Lewis. It then came into the ownership of Saunders-Davies of Pentre in Pembrokeshire. Most of the estate was sold in 1897 to William Williams of Maesygwernen Hall, Swansea for £10,766. The final dispersement of these lands took place in the 1950's. The farm of Glasallt Fawr is now in the possession of, and part of Elidyr College.
GLASALLT FACH, GLASALLT ISAF: in order to avoid confusion the name of the farm has been changed to GREENGROVE. In 1839 owned by Robert Lewis and occupied by William Jones, 124 acres in extent.
GOYALLT, Y GOYALLT: the tithe schedule shows it as a farm of 115 acres owned by Daniel Prytherch and occupied by David Davies (1839). Halfway school was built on its land. Probably named Ceuallt or Y Geuallt at some stage, which in local dialect would give Coiallt, Y Goiallt in the same way as Ceulan is expressed locally as Coilan. Ceu(Geu) carries the connotation of hollow and / or steep, thus the name could signify deep or steep woodland.
GWERNYFED: a farm of 60 acres in the parish of Llandingat-Without but some of the land in Myddfai. A name, possibly of complex and interesting origin. The ancient European and Celtic name for a sacred grove was 'nemeton' which gave rise in early Welsh to nimet and then nyfed. Gwern signifies alder trees. Thus the name could signify the sacred grove in, or of the alder trees, or alternatively the large sacred grove since 'gwer' might signify large. The nature of the land is such that it could readily have supported alder trees. See Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies. Vol 21. pp 30-42, 1964-66.
HAFOD FAWR, HAFOD Y CADNO: legal documents of the last century usually refer to it by the latter name which is presumably derived from that part of the farm known as Cwm y Cadno which denotes the valley of the fox. The name 'hafod' signifies the summer abode as opposed to the permament winter residence. This harks back to the time when there was movement of men and cattle from winter quarters to summer pastures. It is conjectured for certain parts of Wales that the summer abodes became permanent residences at around the thirteenth century. The tithe schedule of 1839 shows it to be a farm of 203 acres in the occupancy of William Thomas and the ownership of Edward Jones, Felindre.
LLANNERCHGOCH: the term 'llannerch' can signify a clearing or glade within woodland or possibly an abode in such a place. The name as it now appears would denote a clearing possessed of some kind of reddish hue for some reason. Its not impossible however for 'goch' to have been part of a personal name. In the eighteenth century it represented two holdings, Llannerchgoch and Aber Cwm Meirch. In 1839 a farm of 133 acres occupied by Evan Davies and owned by Edward Jones.
LLETYIFANDDU: an owner occupied farm forming part of a small estate owned by Lewis Lewis (1839). The name as pronounced locally as Lletyifandde or just Llety. Its literal meaning is that of the abode of Evan possessed presumably of a dark or swarthy complexion or hair. It is probable that the Lewis family had been owners from the seventeenth century and remained so until the 1960's.
LLWYNIAR: the tithe schedule for 1839 shows it to be a farm of 109 acres in the occupation and ownership of Rice Williams Price. It marks the seat of the Williamsfield estate. There have been two names for the place in question, Llwyniar and Williamsfield. One suspects that the original name for the land in question was Llwyniar whilst the house thereon has been named Williamsfield. The name used today is Llwyniar and there is now hardly any recollection of the name Williamsfield. As for the significance of the Welsh name, it is the ending that causes the difficulty. lar could be the mutated form of giar meaning a hen thus giving the rather unlikely meaning of the hen's wood or copse. Iar is also the name for one of the pieces into which the king's stag in season was divided, possibly a haunch or shoulder. In this context it could signify shape or form. It is more probable therefore that the full name signifies a wood or copse of some particular shape.
The estate in 1840 included the following properties: Bran Mill, Beiliglas, Glannant, Caenewydd, Cefngwrych, Cwm, Graig, Gellybant, Lletyrhyddod, Penbwlchgwyn, Pantygaseg, Tyngarn, Ysguborfawr and Trallwm. The properties were owned by Mary Williams of Brecon (a relation of the Williams's of Llwynwormwood) and were bequeathed by her to a nephew Major Price who came to live at Williamsfield. Rice Williams Price the last to hold the estate died a bachelor in 1879 at Winterbourne, Bristol.
LLWYNMEREDYDD, LLWYNMEREDITH: in 1839 a farm of 178 acres on the Cilgwyn estate and occupied by Mrs Anne Williams. Depositions made in 1650 and a 'terrier' of church property made in 1720 give the name as Llwynmeredith Hygar, the latter word meaning amiable, pleasant. One cannot however decide whether 'hygar' refers to Meredith or to Llwynmeredith meaning Meredith's wood or copse. There is a local tradition that the name is Llwynmeredith Feddyg since one of the descendants of the Meddygon Myddfai is alleged to have lived there. Another place credited in the same way is Llwynifan Feddyg. There is no reason to dispute such traditional beliefs since there probably have been many descendants of the physicians living in Myddfai at some stage or other.
LLWYNRHICET, LLWYNRHICET FAWR: a 46 acre farm which was owner occupied in 1839 by John Walters. The name has been spelt in innumerable different ways. A will dated 1615 gives the name of the place as Tir Morgan ap Rickard in the tenure of Morgan John Lewis. A later will in 1771 refers to Tyr Morgan ap Richard otherwise called Tyr Llwyn Richard which is bequeathed to a Howell Powell. Ricet in Welsh placenames, or variants of it, is believed to be derived from Ricardus the latin for Richard. Thus the name in its present form denotes Richard's wood. At the beginning of the nineteenth century it was the residence of the Rev Thomas Powell who died in 1819 whilst attending Divine Service at Myddfai church.
LLWYNWORMWOOD: the name of a mansion and of an estate in the parish. The first named person to be clearly associated with the place is that of Daniel Williams, followed by David Williams attorney, then Sir George Griffies Williams and finally the Rev Sir Erasmus Henry Griffies Williams who died in 1870. The estate was subsequently dispersed over a forty year period. The mansion is now ruined but there is still a farm of that name. The usual spelling of the name is as shown; occasionally one sees Llwynwermwood or a Welsh version Llwynwermwd. It is tempting to see the term 'wormwood' as referring to the well known herb and medicinal plant of that name, and it may even be that. This term however in conjunction with 'lwyn' does not make too much sense and the matter may best be left.
MERDY BACH: in 1839 a farm of 34 acres occupied by William Evans and owned by Frederick Sackville Gwynne of Glanbran. By 1870 it was incorporated part of Tynllwyn farm and ceased to be an independant holding. There is now no trace of the original buildings. The name is usually considered to be a shortened version of Maerdy Bach signifying that it was the little or small house of the 'maer', the lord's bailiff or deputy.
PENTRE TRYSWEL: in 1841 a hamlet of two or three cottages close to Bran Mill but there may have been more in earlier times. There is now little if any trace left.
PWLLCALCH: in 1839 a farm of 64 acres in the ownership of Rice Williams Price of Williamsfield and in the occupation of David Thomas. Land lies within the parish of Llanddeusant. The name denotes unambiguously a lime pit, yet the limestone rock formation at its nearest is at least four miles south of Pwllcalch, on the Black Mountain. There is however on the farm a small isolated outcrop of a calcareous rock which has been used to make lime. Adjacent to this outcrop is the kiln used for its manufacture. One presumes that the kiln was fired with charcoal. The lime produced was called 'calch ado' and traditionally it was considered unsuitable for putting on the land but was used for making mortar. The first reference to Pwllcalch is in the will of Rees Owens, Glasallt, dated 1645 as Tyr Pull y Kallch alias Tyr David ap David.
There was also a MELIN PWLLCALCH which was a corn grist mill by the river Clydach and some remains of it may still be seen. Tenants of the Williamsfield estate had an obligation to grind their corn at this mill.
RHYBLID: a farm of 226 acres, part of the Glasallt estate and occupied by David Williams in 1839. At one time it was divided into two holdings ucha and isaf, or alternatively 'fawr' and 'bach'. The meaning is totally obscure but in the will of Rees Owens dated 1645 it is described as YR YBLID which would naturally lead to the name Rhyblid. At one time declared to be the abode of a descendant of the Physicians.
SARNAU: a house sited some mile or so along the road leading from Myddfai village to Talsarn in Llanddeusant, on the land of Caenewydd farm. At the end of the last century, the house of a gamekeeper. The name denotes a causeway which corresponds to its position at a point where there must have been some special provision for the road to cross a wet and boggy piece of land.
'SGIO: the name of a stream which runs into the Usk at Dol Hywel. It forms the western boundary of the grange of Dol Hywel. The apostrophe before the name suggests that it was probably termed YSGIO at one time. An early written reference of 1324 describes the limits of the grange of Dol Hywel as 'Dol howel in Cwm Wysg, between Yskenac and Henwen'. The Welsh word for elder is 'ysgawen' whilst the Irish for white thorn is 'seach'. The latter term would seem to better correspond with the older written name of the stream now called 'Sgio. Its not impossible for there to have been an Irish derivation for the word.
TRALLWM, TRALLWNG: a farm of 43 acres on the Williamsfield estate in the occupation of Elizabeth Thomas in 1839. Two wills dated respectively to 1742 and 1786 describe the place as Tir y trallwn halog and Trallwm halog. The name Trallwng is of fairly common occurrence and indicates an area of wet or boggy ground. The term 'halog' signifies polluted or impure thus the original form of the name probably denotes an area of wetland which was especially unproductive for some unknown reason. There is now no evidence to indicate what were the precise conditions there which might have evoked such a name since the land has all been drained. Much of the wet but potentially productive land in the parish was drained in the latter half of the last century as witnessed by the existence of so many old tile field-drains.
TRICHWMWL: a farm of 58 acres (1839) occupied by Elinor Price and owned by Edward Jones of Felindre, Llandovery. The farm house is now unoccupied. Documents from the last century, as often as not, refer to the place as Trichwmwd. Thus there are at least two rather literal meanings, three clouds or three commotes. There is no record of it being a place where commotes meet and neither for that matter do three clouds. What do meet within a short distance are three small valleys, tri chwm; thus the name may refer to this fact.
TYNEWYDD: this farm was part of the Cilgwyn estate; 213 acres in extent in 1839 and occupied by David Price. Members of the Price family have been in occupation since 1830. The name has only one meaning and that is the 'new house' but the intriguing problem is, when was it new. The first documentary evidence - which uses the name is that of the bishops transcripts for 1813; nothing seems to predate this. The house was probably new or at least completely rebuilt at the beginning of the last century. Its architectural style is in some key respect similar to that of Cilgwyn Mansion which was also built at the beginning of that century and it was also part of that estate. Manorial lists, estate rentals, parish records prior to 1820 make no reference to the name. The place which is mentioned and corresponds directly with it, is called Ty isha or Ty issa. The record book for the church and poor rates in the period 1832-38 lists Tyisha up until 1836 as being in the occupation of David Price, but from 1837 onwards he is listed as occupying Ty newydd and there is no further reference to Ty isha at all. Fenton when he came to Myddfai in 1809 records that the family of Jones who lived at Ty issa were descendants of the Meddygon Myddfai.
WAUN GYD: until fairly recently an area of common land approximately eight acres in extent but is now in private ownership. Until 1940 a favourite site for gipsy encampment. Waun signifies a wetish meadow; the second term is derived from the Welsh for waste land, tir guyd, in contrast to, tir coed, which stands for wooded land.
RHANDIR this word literally stands for share land but is nearly always used in conjunction with another term, for example rhandir fawr meaning the large shareland. It is alleged that the term derives and dates from the time when a specific area of land would be cultivated or managed by a group of people in common partnership. In the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries it was extensively used as a designation for land holdings in Myddfai. There is now no recollection of the use of such a term. Between thirty and forty examples are known; many of the names are very evocative but the location of the sites they refer to is in the main unknown. They are listed as follows -
- 1. Hene randyr gam
- 2. Rhandir Kae'r Erw
- 3. Y rhandir rhwng y ddoyddwr
- 4. Rhandir pen y goylan
- 5. Rhandir ar ynis Willym
- 6. Rhandir islaw perth ynis Willym
- 7. Y rhandir wrth kae'r gwartheg
- 8. Rhandir fach (Two examples)
- 9. Rhandyr y ffwrn
- 10. Rhandyr dan cae'r defed
- 11. Rhandir Owen
- 12. Rhandir fawr
- 13. Rhandir issa (Two examples)
- 14. Y rhandir genol
- 15. Rhandir y ffynon
- 16. Rhandir vawr arth
- 17. Rhandir glyn y therwen
- 18. Rhandir park y gwenith
- 19. Rhandir Cil y gof
- 20. Rhandir y Rhynydd
- 21. Rhandyr y pollion helyg
- 22. Rhandyr Eglwys yn cae pantygwenith
- 23. Rhandir y delyn yn cae Porthyrhyd
- 24. Rhandir Evan Rees
- 25. Rhandir Glandwr
- 26. Rhandir Mrs Mainwaring
- 27. Rhandir Mr Howarth
- 28. Penycha'r rhandir
- 29. Rhandir sais - on Cwmydw
- 30. Rhandir Eglwys
- 31. Rhandir rosser
- 32. Rhandir Delyn
- 33. Rhandir Wern
- 34. Rhandir y Bruswood.
- 35. Rhandir Llwyd - on Cnwchllwyd
- 36. Rhandir William Felen - on Glantowy isaf
- 37. Rhandir Clynfain - on Cwmydw
- 38. Rhandir Bailey - on Merdy Bach
- 39. Rhandir Pentre - on Llwymeredydd
- 40. Rhandir Farchog - on Penycare
- 41. Cae Rhandir ferchog - on Glantowy
- 42. Rhandir felin - on Lletyrhyddod
- 43. Rhandir Fallen - on Lletyrhyddod
- 44. Rhandir fain - on Pantygaseg
- 45. Rhandir Cwm Wheel - on Fron
- 46. Rhandir las - on Goyallt.
The areas referred to as rhandir seem to represent relatively small areas of land and some correspond to what are recognised as fields today. It is tempting to speculate that at least some fields evolved from specific rhandiroedd i.e. sharelands. lt is of interest that names number 22 and 23 indicate that the 'rhandir' could be part of what is described as a field.
YSGUBORFAWR: in the 1839 tithe schedule shown as a farm of 40 acres in the occupation of Rees Davies and ownership of Rice Williams Price, Williamsfield. The name means simply large barn but there is now no evidence for such a building. The present house was built at or just before the beginning of this century and tradition has it, on the site of the old barn. The first references to the place date to around 1790 but its name is usually absent from lists of lands or farms for the period. In origin it was probably an isolated barn with little or no land attached and possibly the tithe barn for the parish. Land adjacent to it was called Tir y Pentre.
A collection of miscellaneous items relating to Myddfai and included in the Scrap Book, compiled by the Myddfai Women's Institute, November 1952
- 1. That there was cock-fighting held regularly at one time at 'Y Cwrt'.
- 2. That there were trees planted in Cwmydw at the same time as in the churchyard to commemorate some event.
- 3. That the Myddfai born are known as 'Cywion pwll y bilwg' (chicks of Pwll bilwg).
- 4. That Myddfai people call their neighbours of Llanddeusant 'Cossacks'.
- 5. That the Game Laws were applied very strictly in the days of the Squires.
- 6. That Mr T.L. Morgan, then residing at Llwynwormwood had the lake basin excavated to provide employment
for the people of Myddfai during a year of great poverty and unemployment.
- 7. That Ysguborfawr was the old Tithe barn.
- 8. That near the old Mill at Ysguborfawr there was an area called pentre Truswel.
- 9. That girls walked barefooted to chapel in Llandovery carrying their shoes: to save leather.
- 10. That they used to bake enough 'bara cyrch' (oat bread) in one day to last for 3 months.
- 11. That in about 1865, no knives were used on Sundays - 'er duwioldeb' (for godliness).
- 12. That skilled bread-makers used their forearms as 'rolling pins'.
- 13. That the window-blinds used to be lowered on Sundays.
- 14. That 'siol a ffedog' (shawl and apron) used to be the maid servant's Sunday garb.
- 15. That in an endeavour to ascertain the real intention of a suitor, maidservants used to ask: 'Pun hyd Angau neu
Glamai'. (ls it unto Death or May Day).
Taw ar dy lol meddai Joseph or Col
Odi'e i bara meddai Dafi Casara
Paid bod rhy falch meddai Dafi Pwllcalch.
- 17. Bran ysgawn sy'n hedfan ymhell.
(This literally means that it is a light-weight crow that flies the farthest; it refers however to the fact that young women with little or no dowry have to move a long way before they got married).