LAWHADEN, or LLEWHADEN (LLAN-HAUA-DEN), a parish in the hundred of DUNGLEDDY, county of PEMBROKE, SOUTH WALES, 3 1/2miles (N. N. W.) from Narberth, containing 657 inhabitants. This place, which derives its name from the dedication of its church to St. Aidan, Bishop of Lindisfarne, who died in the year 651, was for many years distinguished as the principal episcopal residence of the bishops of St. David's, who had a magnificent castle and palace here, with a very extensive park, and forest of red deer, noticed by Leland. This truly splendid structure, which was built entirely of hewn stone, was the favourite residence of Bishop Beck, who contributed greatly to its embellishment: it was adapted in every respect to the purposes of domestic convenience, and had every appendage of luxury and state. The exact time of its original foundation is not known; but from a deed of feoffment, bearing date 1383, it appears that John Fowley was at that time constable of the castle and master of the board of works to Bishop Hoton, who conveyed to him and to Ellen his wife certain lands in the vicinity, which are now the property of his descendants. In the reign of Henry VIII., Lawhaden castle, together with the other episcopal palaces of this diocese, was stripped of its leaden roof by Bishop Barlow, who subsequently availed himself of the dilapidation which he had caused, as a plea for carrying into effect his purpose of transferring the see to Carmarthen. From this period the palace was suffered to fall into decay; but the ruins, which are still venerable and majestic in their appearance, afford imposing evidence of its pristine grandeur. The parish comprises a large tract of rich arable and pasture land, which is enclosed and in a good state of cultivation. The village is situated on the summit of a lofty ridge overhanging the river Cleddy, and commanding a fine view of the adjacent country, which abounds with richly varied scenery; and within the parish are some highly interesting and pleasingly romantic features, among which are, the church, beautifully situated on the margin of the river, under a richly wooded eminence, and the majestic and venerable ruins of the ancient castle immediately above it; Ridgeway, an elegant modern mansion, erected by the late I. H. Foley, Esq., and now the residence of his widow, occupying a portion of the lands granted to the ancestor of that gentleman by Bishop Hoton, in the year 1383; and, in the village, is also a good family house belonging to the Skyrmes,. whose ancestor accompanied Oliver Cromwell into the principality during the parliamentary war, and obtained a settlement at this place. This parish constitutes a prebend in the cathedral church of St.David's, rated in the king's books at £17. 17. 1., and annexed to the Chancellorship of the cathedral by Bishop Beck, in 1287. The living is a discharged vicarage, with the perpetual curacy of Bletherston annexed, in the archdeaconry and diocese of St.David's, rated in the king's books at £8.18. 6 1/2.,and in the patronage of the Bishop of St. David's. The church, dedicated to St. Aidan, is an ancient and venerable edifice, with a handsome tower, and in its retired and beautiful situation forms an interesting and romantic feature in the scenery around the village. There is a place of worship for Presbyterians. It is in contemplation to establish a National school for the gratuitous instruction of children, in connexion with the parent society in London. The remains of the ancient castle form a majestic and venerable ruin, crowning the summit of a precipitous eminence, commanding a magnificent and extensive prospect. The site was originally surrounded by a moat, over which was a drawbridge leading to the principal entrance, through a noble gateway defended by two circular towers: this portion of the building is still in a state of tolerable preservation: there are also the remains of two octagonal towers (which appear to have contained the state apartments and rooms of residence, of part of a small but very elegant chapel, and some portions of the outer walls. Some fragments of the park walls are yet remaining, and the land which they now serve to enclose is some of the very richest in the county. The prevailing character of the architecture is that of the early English style, and the ruins have a most beautiful and picturesque appearance from every point of view. On the road side there are the remains of an ancient building, covered with ivy, which is said to have been founded by Bishop Beck, as an hospitium for pilgrims visiting St. David's shrine. Lawhaden castle was the head of the barony in right of which the Bishops of St. David's claim their seat in the house of peers. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor amounts to £155.17.
Gareth Hicks, 29 Dec 1999
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