"EGLWYSILAN (EGLWYS-ILAN), a parish in the hundred of CAERPHILLY, county of GLAMORGAN, SOUTH WALES, on the road from Cardiff to Merthyr-Tydvil, comprising the market town of Caerphilly, and containing 2818 inhabitants.
This parish is bounded on the east by the river Romney, and on the west by the Taf, and is computed to comprise about fifteen thousand acres : it formerly contained several ancient family mansions, of which, Energlyn, or Genau 'r Glyn, the property of Thomas Goodrich, Esq., alone remains, and even this is now uninhabited. That called the Vann, which was for ages the seat of the family of Lewis, ancestors of the Earl of Plymouth, to whom it now belongs, still forms an interesting object in descending the hill towards the town of Caerphilly. The surface of the parish is partly hilly and partly flat : the prevailing soils are gravelly clay and peat.
The parish is rich in mineral wealth, especially coal, which is worked to great advantage : iron-ore is raised at its south-western extremity under Castell Coch, where are also some excellent stone quarries. At Newbridge, the largest village within its limits, are situated the original works of Messrs. Brown and Co., for the manufacture of chain cables, the iron work of suspension bridges, &c.: the suspension bridge over the Thames at Hammersmith, one over the Tweed, another over the Usk, and the chain pier at Brighton, were made at these works, which afford employment to about one hundred persons, and manufacture annually from ten to twelve hundred tons of iron.
The Glamorganshire canal traverses the whole extent of the parish, and opens a cheap and expeditious communication between the mines and Cardiff, where the produce of the works is shipped. The living is a discharged vicarage, with the perpetual curacy of Llanvabon annexed, in the archdeaconry and diocese of Llandaf, rated in the king's books at £6. 13. 1. 1/2., and in the patronage of the Archdeacon and Chapter of Llandaf. The church, dedicated to St. Helen, is situated on the brow of a lofty hill, at a considerable distance from any habitation but the vicar's and the clerk's, and is almost inaccessible, during some weeks in the winter, to the majority of the parishioners. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists.
Mrs. Aldworth, of Bristol, by will dated in 1729, left certain lands in the parishes of Eglwysilan and Llandaf, in this county, and Bedwas, in the county of Monmouth, to endow a school for the education of poor girls, natives of the parishes of Eglwysilan and Bedwas : the property produces about £ 140 per annum, the greater part of which is appropriated to the support of three schools, viz., one at Newbridge, to which a salary of £27 per annum is attached ; another at Caerphilly, with a salary of £35 per annum ; and the third at Bedwas, with a salary of £25. 10.
Within the parish are situated two picturesque and interesting ruins, viz., Caerphilly Castle, described in the account of that place, and Castell Coch, or "the Red Castle," at the south-western extremity of the parish. The latter is so called from the colour of the stone used in its erection, which is ascribed to Ivor Bach, who, having succeeded in compelling Robert Earl of Gloucester, and lord of Glamorgan, to restore the ancient laws of the Welsh to his native vassals in this part of the principality, placed in it a garrison of two hundred men, to command the pass of two valleys, which here converge. The situation of these ruins is very striking, and commands a magnificent prospect of the rich Vale of Glamorgan, with the sea, and the distant hills on the English coast. They consist principally of two circular bastions of unequal sizes : in front is a steep precipice, and behind, a wide and deep fosse, excavated in the solid rock, which rises to a considerable height above it.
About a mile higher up the river, on its eastern bank, is a celebrated spring, called Fynnon Taf, or "the well of Taf," the water of which is justly held in high estimation for its efficacy in the cure of rheumatic disorders it is sometimes called Fynnon Dwym, or " the tepid well," and is the only thermal spring in South Wales : an extraordinary flood, in the year 1799, is said to have laid bare some Roman masonry adjoining this well, which was covered again by subsequent inundations of the Taf. There are some other springs, the waters of which are considered serviceable in the cure of pulmonary diseases.
William Edwards, the self-taught architect of Pont y Prydd, who rose gradually by his own talents to be the most celebrated bridge-builder in this part of the kingdom, to which he added also the profession of a Dissenting minister, and the business of a farmer, was born in this parish, in 1719, and was the youngest son of a farmer : his remains were interred in the churchyard : three of his sons practised the same branch of architecture as their father, and greatly distinguished themselves in it.
The average annual expenditure of the whole of the parish, including the town of Caerphilly, for the support of the poor, amounts to £664. 12."
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