The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868] by Colin Hinson ©2018

"CARDIGANSHIRE, a maritime county of South Wales, is bounded on the N. and N.E. by the counties of Merioneth and Montgomery; on the E. by Radnorshire and Brecknockshire; on the S. by Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire; and on the W. by the Irish Sea. It extends in length from N.E. to S.W. 45 miles, and varies in breadth from 12 to 20 miles. In form it approaches a crescent, concave towards the sea, with a regular coast-line of about 45 miles. Its circuit is about 150 miles, and it comprises an area of 443,387 acres. The county is situated between 52° 2' and 52° 33' N. lat., and between 3° 40' and 4° 43' W. long. Under the dominion of the Romans this district was included in that division of the island called Britannia Secunda, and was occupied by the tribe called Demetæ. It was crossed by the great road called Via Occidentalis, on which was the station Loventium. The present name of the county is a corruption of the early Welsh name Caredigion, signifying as Caredig's country," which was applied to that part of South Wales given to Caredig for a lordship, in the 5th century. Rhodri Mawr, or Roderick the Great, became possessed of Cardigan in the 9th century, and on his death it was assigned to his son Cadell. The lordship at that period included, besides Cardiganshire, the greater part of Carmarthenshire; and Dynevor, in the latter county, was made the seat of government. The possession of the district was fiercely disputed between the princes of North and South Wales during the 10th century; and the devastations thus occasioned were increased in 987 by an inroad of the Danes, who only retired for a time on receiving a tribute from Meredydd, then King of Wales. The Normans made unsuccessful attempts to possess themselves of this part of Wales in 1068 and 1071, but it was not till 1092 that they effected a settlement here. Cardigan Castle was founded at that time by Roger de Montgomery, who did homage to William Rufus for the province. There were frequent conflicts, with varying results, between the Norman settlers and the Welsh princes, and in 1097 the former were driven out of the country by Cadwgan ap Bleddyn. Cadwgan was soon after deprived of the territory by Gilbert de Clare, who was empowered by Henry I. to seize it. A few years later Gruffyd ap Rhys made a vigorous attempt to possess himself of Cardiganshire, and was warmly supported by the native chieftains and the inhabitants. But his attempt had a disastrous ending, his army being at last checked and cut to pieces before Aberystwith Castle. The province was several times invaded and laid waste in 1135 and following years by Owain, Gwynedd and Cadwalader, princes of North Wales. On one of these occasions Aberystwith and several other Norman castles were burnt down. About 1170 the territory of Cardigan was granted by Henry II. to Rhys ap Gruffyd. This prince held a great festival in Cardigan Castle at Christmas, in the year 1176, at which all the bards attended, besides a large number of English and Normans. Fresh disputes arose after the death of Rhys, in 1196, whose son and successor Gruffyd was attacked and made prisoner by his brother Maelgwyn, the latter taking possession of the whole territory. Early in the following century it was taken from Maelgwyn by Llewellyn ap Iorwerth, who, with other chieftains, were compelled to do homage to King John in 1212. After the death of Llewellyn, Cardigan Castle was taken by Gilbert Marshal Earl of Pembroke. About 1250 Llewellyn ap Gruffyd, Prince of North Wales, entered the district, and recovered possession of the estates which Prince Edward (afterwards Edward I.) had taken from the chieftains. The final subjugation of Wales was effected about 1280 by Edward I., who soon after divided it into counties, and annexed it to England. During the revolt of the Welsh under Owain Glyndwr, at the beginning of the 15th century, Aberystwith Castle was taken and held for several years by that chieftain. In the civil war of the 17th century, the castles of Cardigan and Aberystwith were at first held for the king, but were soon taken by the parliament. No other important conflicts took place in this county--Cardiganshire is for the most part a mountainous country, having Plinlimmon at the north-eastern extremity, from which lofty chains of hills extend westward and southward. The sea-coast is elevated, except at the northern and southern extremities, and at the mouths of the rivers. The only considerable tract of level ground is in the south-western quarter. The highest points in the county are at Plinlimmon, rising to the height of 2,463 feet; Tregaron Down, 1,747 feet; Talsarn, 1,142 feet; and Capel Cynon, 1,046 feet. The aspect of the hilly regions is rugged and dreary, generally unrelieved by woods, and a very large extent of the surface is unenclosed, being incapable of cultivation. There is, however, some fine scenery along the courses of the rivers: these are the Teify, the Rheidol, the Ystwith, the Aeron, and other smaller streams. The Teify has its source in Llyn Teify, on the border of Radnorshire, and running south-westward, past Tregaron to Lampeter, forms thence the S. boundary of the county, and passing by Newcastle-Emlyn, falls into the sea at Cardigan. The Ystwith and Rheidol rise on the border of Montgomeryshire, and running westward fall into the sea at Aberystwith. The river Towy skirts the county on the S.E. There are a great number of small lakes in Cardiganshire, of which the principal are Llyn Teify, Llyn Gynon, Llyn Egnant, and Llyn Ruddon Vawr, forming, with others, a cluster at the head of the river Teify. There is a remarkable waterfall at the Devil's Bridge, where the small river Mynach runs over a series of precipices, into the Rheidol. The rocks, which are mostly slate, belong to the transition series, and contain no fossil remains. Grey mountain stone is quarried in some places for building purposes, but there is no limestone nor coal. Lead and zinc are found, and the former contains a large proportion of silver. The mines were profitably worked after the middle of the 16th century, under a patent granted by Queen Elizabeth, and after being for some time neglected have been reopened with good success. The Mines Royal were leased to Sir Hugh Myddelton by the original corporation, and from the working of them he realised his immense fortune. Thomas Bushel, a subsequent lessee of the mines, had a license from Charles I. to establish a mint at Aberystwith. Cwm Synlog was one of the most valuable of these mines. The rich mine at Esgair Hîr, the property of the Pryses, was discovered in 1690. The quantity of silver obtained varies from 40 to 80 ounces for every ton of lead; and in the mine at Llanvair, the proportion has been known to rise to 100 ounces per ton. The climate of this mountainous district is cold, wet, and stormy. The snow lies late on the hills, and the harvest begins late. Along the coast the temperature is more equable, and during the summer and autumn the air is dry and healthful. The soil is generally poor and meagre, being only a thin covering to the slate and shale, which form the substratum of nearly the whole county, except in the river valleys, where good loam occurs. The valleys of the Ystwith, Teify, and Aeron are well cultivated, and yield good crops. Wheat is grown in some parts, but the chief crops are barley, black oats, and rye. Peas, beans, and potatoes are also cultivated. Lime, brought from Pembrokeshire, and seaweed, washed up in immense quantities after a gale, are largely used for manure. The farms are mostly of small size, varying from 50 to 150 acres, and the methods and implements of the farmer, as well as the dwellings of the labourer, though less rude than formerly, still need improvement. Cardiganshire has a breed of small, hardy, black cattle, and a breed of very small mountain sheep, the fleece of which weighs about two pounds. Other breeds of sheep are also reared. A considerable quantity of butter is made, and pigs are exported in great numbers. The fuel most commonly used is peat, of which there are some beds of great thickness. Cors Loch is said to yield the best, and it has been there dug to the depth of 20 feet. For the purposes of civil government the county is divided into 5 hundreds, the names of which are-Geneu'r Glyn, Ilar, Moyddyn, Penarth, and Troedyraur. It was anciently divided into 3 cantrefs. The county contains 68 parishes, of which 5 are market towns, viz., Cardigan (the county town), Aberystwith, Aberaeron, Lampeter, and Tregaron-; these are all, except Aberaeron, corporate towns. One member is returned to parliament for the county and one for Cardigan conjointly with the other boroughs. Cardigan is the place of election both for the county and the boroughs, and a polling-pace, with Aberystwith, Lampeter, and Tregaron. The county is divided into 5 Poor-law Unions : those of Aberaeron, Aberystwith, Cardigan, Lampeter, and Tregaron; and into 5 County Court districts: those of Aberaeron, Aberystwith, Cardigan, Lampeter, and Llandeilofawr. Cardiganshire is included in the South Wales Circuit, and in the Home military district. Cardigan is the assize town. The quarter sessions are held there, or at Aberystwith, except at Easter, when they are held at Lampeter. The local government is vested in a lord lieutenant, high sheriff, and a body of about 50 magistrates. For ecclesiastical purposes the county is in the diocese of St. David's, in the province of Canterbury, and constitutes, with parts of the counties of Carmarthen and Pembroke, the archdeaconry of Cardigan. No important manufactures are carried on in this county, the pursuits of the inhabitants being chiefly agricultural. A small number of persons are employed in the manufacture of flannel and coarse hosiery, hats, and gloves. Many are employed in the mines, and others in the coasting trade and in the fisheries. The antiquities of Cardiganshire consist chiefly of the remains of fortresses and military works, which are numerous. Among them are those of the Roman station at Llanio, presumed to be the ancient Loventium; camps at Lampeter and Llanwenog, and traces of the great Via Occidentalis, now called the Sarn Helen (originally Sarn Lleon, signifying "Way of Legions"); remains of two British encampments near Llandysilio-Gogo; one with a triple rampart at Llanfihangel Penbryn, and several others. The principal ruins of castles are those of Aberystwith, Cardigan, Castel-Gwalter, and Ystrad Meirig. There are traces of others at Aberaeron, Lampeter, Llandyssil, Blaenporth, and other places. The ecclesiastical remains are few and unimportant, consisting of those of the abbey at Ystrad-Flur, or Strata Florida, and the priory at Lampeter. Remains of primitive stone circles are found in several places, and there are many cairns. The former are at Yspytty Cynvyn, Carrog, near Llanwchairn, and Alltgoch, near Lampeter. The principal cairn is the Bedd Taliesin, "grave of Taliesin," the famous bard. It is situated on a mountain in the parish of Llanfihangel Geneu'r Glyn, and consists of six large stones, five upright forming a chest, and the sixth covering them. Around it are two circles of stones, the outer one being about 30 feet in diameter. There are several handsome seats, as Gogerddan House, near Aberystwith; Crosswood, formerly the seat of the Earl of Lisburne; Blaenpant, Coedmore, Mabus, Hafod, Nanteos, Tyglyn, &c--At present there is no railway or canal in Cardiganshire; but a line is projected in connection with the Oswestry, Newton, and Llanidloes railway, which will enter the county from Llanidloes, on the N.E., and passing by Devil's Bridge, run down the valley of the Teify to Newcastle-Emlyn. The principal roads, which have been materially improved, are those from Cardigan, northward by the coast, to Aberaeron and Aberystwith, and thence to Machynlleth or Aberdovey; and from the same place westward to Newcastle-Emlyn and Lampeter; thence northward to Tregaron. There are cross roads from Aberaeron to Lampeter, and from Aberystwith into Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire."


[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2018