LLANGYNIEW (LLAN-GYNYW), a parish in the lower division of the hundred of MATHRAVAL, county of MONTGOMERY, NORTH WALES, 2 1/2 miles (N. by W.) from Llanvair-Caereinion, containing 675 inhabitants. This place derives its name from the dedication of its church to St. Cynyw, an eminent British saint, who flourished in the sixth century, and was son of Gwyn-lliw, and brother of Catwg the Wise. That it is of very remote antiquity is evident from the numerous British encampments, apparently of the very earliest character, which are scattered over the hills in various parts of the parish ; and that it was either occupied by the Romans, or at least known to that people, has been conjectured on probable grounds by several writers, both from the situation and the quadrangular form of a camp in the hamlet of Mathraval, which subsequently became the seat of the ancient princes of Powys. This station, situated on the bank of the river Banwy, at no great distance from its junction with the other branch of the river Vyrnwy, and at the western extremity of the Vale of Meivod, near the turnpike road from Llanvair to Meivod, has not only been supposed to be a Roman station, but by some antiquaries has been identified with the long lost Mediolanum of the Itineraries. The reasons upon which they establish their hypothesis are, the common opinion entertained by all writers that, from the coincidence of the situation with the distances laid down in the Itineraries of Antoninus and Richard of Cirencester, the site of that station is to be looked for either in the Vale of Meivod, or in that of the Tanat; that the western part of the former of these vales must have been the spot where the ancient Watling-street and the Via Devana would intersect each other, if continued in straight lines ; that there are no other remains of Roman origin near this place, which at all correspond with the distances given in the Itineraries; and lastly, the prevailing custom of the early Saxon princes of Britain, to erect their palaces on the sites of stations which had been occupied by the Romans. On the opposite side of the river, in a wood called Gwern ddu, is a circular intrenchment ; and in a field beyond it is a circular mount, both which Mr. Pennant thinks were appendages to the principal station at Mathraval, which he concurs with Burton in supposing to have been the Mediolanum of the Romans. About the latter end of the eighth century, the princes of Powys, in order to guard against the frequent incursions of Offa King of Mercia into the eastern portion of their territories, transferred the seat of their government from " Pengwern Powys," now Shrewsbury, where it had been previously established, to Mathraval in this parish, where they either built a palace, or enlarged one previously erected, which continued to be their chief residence till towards the close of the twelfth century, when Gwenwynwyn, son of Owain Cyveiliog, having taken " Castell Coch yn Mhowys," now Powis castle, removed the seat of government to that place. The Eisteddvodau, or triennial assemblies of the bards and minstrels, were regularly held at Mathraval with great solemnity; and Owain Cyveiliog, who, as Prince of Powys, resided in the castle of this place, and Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr, his poet laureate, who lived at Llechwedd-Isav, near the banks of the Vyrnwy, both bards of the first eminence, who flourished during the middle of the twelfth century, which is considered the Augustan era of Welsh poetry, composed on those occasions some of their finest odes, of which many are preserved in the Welsh Archaeology. After the removal of the seat of government to Castle Powys, the palace of Mathraval, which was deserted by the princes of Powys, fell into the possession of Robert Vipont, a powerful baron in high favour with John King of England, who either rebuilt, or at least repaired and fortified, the ancient castle. In 1212, Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of North Wales, having made an incursion into Powysland, invested the castle of this place, which, from having been recently fortified by Vipont, was strong enough to hold out against his assaults, till King John, marching from England with a considerable force to the relief of the baron, compelled Llewelyn to retire with his confederate forces ; and in order to prevent any similar attempt on the part of that prince, he ordered the castle to be burnt to the ground, since which period it has been in ruins.
The parish is situated nearly in the centre of the county, and on the turnpike road leading from Oswestry to Llanvair : it is bounded on the south and west by the parish of Llanvair, and on the north and east by the Banwy and Oweddyn, or Mechan, both branches of the river Vyrnwy, which unite a little below Mathraval. It extends for nearly four miles in length, and from one mile and a half to three miles in breadth, and comprises some very extensive tracts of arable and pasture land, which are in a good state of cultivation. Nearly three-fourths of the lands are old enclosures, and the remainder was enclosed under the provisions of an act obtained in 1810, which extended also to the adjoining parish of Llanvair-Caereinion, and part of that of Castle-Caereinion. The surface is greatly undulated, rising in many places into hills of considerable elevation ; and the surrounding scenery, which is strikingly diversified and picturesque, is in several parts highly enriched with woods of luxuriant growth, and enlivened by the branches of the river Vyrnwy. At Mathraval Fridd and Park are not less than three hundred and fifty acres of woodland, on which are growing some of the finest oak trees in this county, which is much celebrated for that species of timber : many of the young trees, not more than nine inches in girth at the butt, are sixty feet in height, and for cleaving are considered to be the best in the kingdom ; and those of more mature growth are unrivalled in the stateliness of their appearance, forming a majestic and beautiful feature in the scenery of the place. From several of the hills, which are generally of conical form, are some noble and magnificent views over the surrounding country, comprehending the most picturesque portion of the district called Powysland ; and from the summit of Penyborth, in the hamlet of Cynhinva, more especially, the view is almost boundless in extent and unequalled in grandeur. Towards the east are seen the open and fertile plains of Shropshire, as far as the high lands of Cheshire and Staffordshire, with the Wrekin, the Breiddyn, the Clee hills, and the Radnorshire range ; and on the west are the lofty mountains of Plinlimmon, Cader Idris, the Arans, the Berwyn chain, and the Arenigs, with numerous other Welsh hills, among which one of the peaks of Snowdon is plainly discernible. There are several small turbaries in the parish, which formerly supplied the inhabitants with fuel, but which are now almost exhausted : they appear to have been formed from timber which, being collected in hollows, and becoming decomposed, constituted a peat soil of considerable depth. In one of these turbaries, a little to the north of the church, the pieces of timber found in a horizontal position were chiefly oak and birch ; but as the surface was lowered by the removal of the peat for consumption, the stumps of trees which were found in an upright position were of fir, and, on the application of fire, easily ignited and blazed freely. From this circumstance it is evident that the fir is a species of timber of no modern date in this part of the principality, and also that turbary water is a preservative of timber, especially of fir. The substratum of the peat soil, which is now only a few feet deep, is a shell marl of considerable depth ; and between the peat and the marl is a layer of moss and sedges, apparently in their original state. On analyzing the marl, it was found to contain seven parts and one-tenth of extraneous vegetable matter, five-tenths of a part of siliceous earth, eighty-nine parts and eight-tenths of carbonate of lime, and two parts and six-tenths of waste, being a portion of water. According to this analysis, the marl, containing nearly ninety per cent. of carbonate of lime, is highly valuable as a rich calcareous manure for land, though it has not been hitherto much used for that purpose, the inhabitants having been ignorant of its quality. The branches of the river Vyrnwy still retain their wonted celebrity for various kinds of fish of very superior quality, which obtained for them the appellation "Piscosi Amnes." On the Banwy is a beautiful waterfall, near Dolanog bridge, partly within the parish of Llanvair.
The living is a rectory, locally in the archdeaconry, and in the diocese, of St. Asaph, rated in the king's books at £5. 13. 4., and in the patronage of the Bishop of St. Asaph. The church, dedicated to St. Cyniw, and situated at the eastern extremity of the parish, near the bank of the Banwy, is an ancient and venerable structure, in the early style of English architecture : in the interior are the remains of the ancient screen and rood-loft, embellished with some exquisite carvings in oak, and in the east window are some small remains of ancient stained glass ; the ancient font, which is of large dimensions, is still preserved : in the churchyard are six venerable yew trees. There are places of worship for Independents and Welsh Calvinistic Methodists. A National school for the gratuitous instruction of poor children has been recently established, and is supported by subscription ; and there are Sunday schools in connexion with the established church and the dissenting congregations. Some small charitable donations and bequests have been made by various individuals, the produce arising from which is annually distributed among the poor of the parish. The only remains of the ancient castle of Mathraval, the supposed Roman station Mediolanum, consist of vestiges of the vast rampart of stones and earth, with a deep fosse on three sides of the quadrangular area which it occupied, the fourth side being defended by the steep eminence overhanging the river : the enclosed area is about two acres in extent, each side being about one hundred and twenty yards in length ; at the north-eastern angle, which impends over the river, is a lofty exploratory mount, on which probably there may have been formerly a castelet, commanding a full view up and down the vale. Several relics of antiquity have been dug up among the ruins near this spot, among which were some tiles having protuberances at one extremity, apparently to connect them, also some silver dishes, an old sword, and some silver coins : within the area is a farm-house, situated near the mount, which, together with the greater part of the hamlet of Mathraval, belongs to the Powys estate. In the eastern part of the parish are the remains of two other encampments, forming, with Mathraval, an equilateral triangle, each of the sides of which is about a mile in length : the first of these, which are supposed to be of British origin, occupies a conical hill called Garthen, in the hamlet of Llangyniew, and appears to have been surrounded with three ramparts of earth and two fosses, enclosing a circular area seventy yards in diameter within the inner wall, and one hundred and forty yards in diameter within the outer : the other occupies the summit of a hill in Mathraval Fridd, and comprises an elliptical area conformably to the shape of the hill, seventy-two yards in the longer, and forty-four yards in the shorter, diameter ; it is surrounded by two ramparts and one fosse, except on the western side, where, being less defended by the nature of the ground, it is protected by four ramparts and three fosses ; the distance between the two ramparts is twenty yards, and between the additional ramparts on the western side, ten yards : both these camps occupy an elevated site, commanding an extensive view of the surrounding country. There is a very powerful spring in the parish, strongly impregnated with sulphur. The late Rev. Dr. Evans, rector of Llanymynech, and canon of St. Asaph, was born in this parish, and was buried in the church, where a marble tablet has been erected to his memory : he was a distinguished Welsh scholar and critic, and assisted Dr. Burney in writing his History of Music, and Mr. Edward Jones in his collection of Welsh airs. Among his papers was lately discovered a letter from one of his friends, requesting his literary assistance in the following terms: "A Friend of mine, of the name of Samuel Johnson, talks of writing a dictionary of the English language, and would be much obliged to you for sending a list of those English Words which are derived from the Welsh." The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor of this parish is £337. 8.