Llanbadarn Fawr - Extract from 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' by Samuel Lewis 1833
The name of this extensive parish, which is of very remote antiquity, is derived from the dedication of its church, and its distinguishing adjunct from the pre-eminence which it enjoyed with respect to other parishes of that name, and also to distinguish it from the adjoining town of Aberystwith, which was anciently called Llanbadarn Gaerog, or the " Walled Llan-Badarn." St. Padarn, or Paternus, to whom the church is dedicated, was a divine of considerable celebrity : he is said to have studied under Iltutus at Lantwit Major, or in Glamorganshire, and is associated with Teilo and David in the Welsh Triads, as one of the three blessed visitors. He is supposed to have founded a religious establishment here, which afterwards was erected into an episcopal see, of which he became the first bishop, and a suffragan to the Archbishop of St. David's. Paternus continued to preside over this see for twenty-one years, during which period he erected several churches, and founded divers monasteries in various parts of the province of Caredigion, now comprised chiefly in the county of Cardigan, in which he placed colonies of monks from the principal establishment at Llanbadarn, and at the end of that period, being recalled into Brittany, where he was made Bishop of Vannes, was succeeded in this diocese, which was afterwards called, after its first diocesan, " Paternensis," by Cynoc. The see appears to have flourished for nearly a cen-tury, and notice of a bishop of Llanbadarn occurs in the minutes of a synod held in the county of Worcester, in the year 601. About this time Llanbadarn is said to have lost its episcopal privileges, in conse-quence of the violent conduct of the inhabitants, who killed their bishop, and the church is said to have been annexed, after the dissolution of the see, to that of St. David's. The name of the bishop who thus be-came the victim of their fury is not mentioned in existing annals, neither is there any particular record of the event but Humphrey Lloyd supposes it to have been Bishop Idnerth, to whose memory there is a monumental inscription in the parish church of Llandewy - Brevi. The suffragan bishop of Llanbadarn was one of the deputation appointed to meet St. Augustine, on his landing in Britain, with a view to resist the encroachments which were apprehended from the church of Rome, by opposing every attempt on the part of that missionary to establish the su-premacy of the pope over the British church. The church was destroyed in 987, by the Danes, whose ravages in this part of the principality were carried to so great an extent, that Meredydd Prince of South Wales compounded with these ferocious invaders for the security of his territories, by the payment of one penny for every man within his dominions ; this pay-ment was called " the tribute of the black army." In 1038, this place was reduced to ashes by Grufydd ab Llewelyn ab Sitsylt, who wrested it by violence from the hands of Howel ab Edwin ; but in the year 1106, when Ithel and Madoc, who were in alliance with Henry I, ravaged all the county of Cardigan, with the exception of this place and Llandewy-Brevi, it suffered only an attack upon its sanctuary, from which several of Owain ab Madoc's men, who had taken refuge there, were dragged by force and put to death. Gilbert Strongbow, Earl of Strygyll, who, in 1109, erected the castle of Aberystwith, in this parish, gave the emoluments of this church to the monas-tery of St. Peter at Gloucester, in the year 1111 ; but the ancient establishment does not appear at that time to have been dissolved, for mention occurs of John, arch-priest of Llanbadarn, in the Welsh annals, in the year 1136, wherein he is stated to have been canonized for his great piety; and in the same an-nals, in the year 1143, the death of Sulien ab Rhyth-march, a man of great knowledge, and one of the College of Llanbadarn, is noticed. In the year 1116, Grufydd ab Rhys, who had been invited into this part of the principality to assist in recovering from the Norman settlers the territories which they had usurped in the province of Cardigan, encamped his forces at Glâs Grûg, in this parish, previously to his unsuccessful attempt on Aberystwith castle ; his failure in this enterprise was by some superstitiously attributed to an act of impiety, of which he was guilty, in taking some cattle to refresh his forces from within the limits of the extensive sanctuary attached to the church of Llanbadarn. Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, attended by Giraldus Cambrensis, visited this place, in 1188, on his tour to preach the crusades throughout the principality. Upon this occasion it is especially noticed by Giraldus, in his Itinerary, that the revenue of the monastery was chiefly enjoyed by laymen of one family, and that the affairs of the establishment were in a very bad state. The church was subsequently appropriated to the abbey of Vale Royal, in the county of Chester, founded by Edward I. During the insurrection headed by a native chieftain named Rhys ab Meredydd, in 1287, Llan-badarn-Vawr was the principal place of rendezvous for the English forces in South Wales.
The parish, which extends on an average about fifteen miles in length and six in breadth, is intersected by the rivers Ystwith and Rheidol, and comprehends a district distinguished for the abundance of its mineral wealth. The surface is generally hilly, in some parts even mountainous, and is also agreeably diversified with picturesque valleys ; and the lands, with the exception of some large tracts of common and extensive elevated wastes, which, however, bear but a small proportion to the extent of the parish, are enclosed and cultivated; but the system of tillage, though it has considerably improved of late years, has not yet attained any great degree of excellence. The village is pleasantly situated under a high ridge on the banks of the river Rheidol, and consists of one straggling street of considerable length. The surrounding scenery is boldly and richly varied, combining many features of picturesque and romantic beauty; and from the higher grounds are obtained extensive and interesting views of the bay of Cardigan and the adjacent country. In the neighbourhood, and within the parish, are several noble mansions and elegant seats, of which the principal are, Nant Eos, the seat of Colonel William Powel, a spacious and well built mansion, beautifully situated in a richly wooded vale, comprising much pleasing scenery; Gogerddan, the seat of Pryse Pryse, Esq. ; and Glanrheidol, the residence of James Hughes, Esq. The soil is various, in some parts affording only scanty pasturage for sheep, and in general being rather poor than fertile and productive. The principal mineral produce is lead-ore: from the mines, which were formerly worked upon a very extensive scale, Sir Hugh Myddelton chiefly derived the princely revenue which he patriotically expended, in the reign of James I., in supplying the metropolis with water by means of the New River. After this period the mines were continued in successful operation by Mr. Bushel, who, in the reign of Charles I., obtained from that monarch the privilege of establishing a mint in the castle of Aberystwith, as noticed in the article on that town. At present they are not worked to any great extent; indeed, owing to the great reduction in the price of the ore, and the deterioration of its quality, very few of them are in operation. The Cwm Symlog and Darrenvâch mines, which are situated on the estate of Pryse Pryse, Esq., are now in the occupation of Messrs. John Wil-liams, Junr., and Brothers, of Scorrier House, near Truro, in the county of Cornwall: the quantity of ore raised from them, in the year 1831, was eighty tons, producing about sixty tons of fine lead, containing in every ton thirty-four ounces of pure silver. The Cwmrheidol mine, in the hamlet of that name, in the same year produced sixty tons of ore, from which forty-five tons of fine lead were extracted ; but the proportion of silver intermixed with the ore of this mine was too inconsiderable to compensate for the trouble of separating it. The situation of the parish, on the coast of Cardigan bay, is highly favourable for the exportation of the produce of its mines ; and the turnpike roads from Aberystwith to Llanidloes, Machynlleth, and Radnor, afford great facilities of intercourse with the neighbouring districts.
The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Cardigan, and diocese of St.David's, rated in the king's books at £20, endowed with £450 private benefaction, and in the patronage of the Bishop of St. David's. The church, dedicated to St. Padarn, and situated near the centre of the village, is an ancient and venerable cruciform structure, in the early style of English architecture, with a large square tower rising from the centre, supported on four massive columns, and surmounted by a low spire. The chancel contains several mural monuments to the principal families of the neighbourhood, among which may be more particularly noticed those to the families of Nant Eos and Gogerddan: of these, one of the most interesting is of white marble, sculptured by Flaxman, to the memory of Harriet, daughter of Viscount Ashbrook, and late wife of Pryse Pryse, Esq.: above this monument is a canopy exquisitely carved, in the most elaborate style of later English architecture. In the churchyard are two ancient British crosses without any inscription.At Yspitty, in the hamlet of Croythen Uchâ, is a chapel of ease, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the landholders in that part of the parish which is above Nant Lymystaw, who pay sixpence in the pound, according to an old survey, towards the stipend of the minister. From the greatly increased population of the parish it has been found advisable, in addition to the newly-erected chapel in the town of Aberystwith, to build a chapel also at Tyn Llidiart, in the hamlet of Parcel-Canol, for the erection of which a plan is now under consideration, and subscriptions have been opened, several hundred pounds having been already contributed. The number of places of worship for dissenters, including those in the town of Aberystwith, is no fewer than seventeen or eighteen, namely, for Baptists, Independents, and Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists. Roderick Richards, of Pen Bont, in 1752, bequeathed £ 104 ; Jacob Evans, late of Pen-lanolew, in 1760, bequeathed £40; and John Jones, in 1783, left £50, for the instruction of poor children of this parish. Lewis Jones, late of Caeaebâch, bequeathed £200 for teaching poor children of four ham-lets ; and Richard Lewis, late of Abercumdole, left £ 150 towards instructing those in the hamlet of Parcel-Canol : there are also some smaller charitable donations and bequests for distribution among the poor. The Roman Via Occidentalis, now called the Sarn Helen, passed through the parish ; and about a mile eastward from the church are the remains of Glâs Grûg, the fortified post occupied by Grufydd ab Rhys prior to his attack on Aberystwith castle. Davydd ab Gwilym, an eminent Welsh poet, was born at Broginin, in this parish, in 1340: he became Bard of Glamorgan, and is said to have written one hundred and fifty poems: he died in 1400, and was buried at Ystrad Flûr, or Strata Florida. Lewis Morris, an antiquary of some eminence, and surveyor of the mines royal, was interred in the church of this place: he had for sometime preceding his death resided at Penbryn, in this county. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor of the whole of this extensive parish amounts to £2172.1. "
[Gareth Hicks: 1 Jan 2000 ]