Llandanwg - Gazetteers

National Gazetteer (1868)

"LLANDANWG, a parish in the hundred of Ardudwy, county Merioneth, 2 miles S. of Harlech, its post town, and 13 N.W. of Dolgelly. It is situated on the western coast, close to the mouth of the small river Artro. The parish, which is hilly, includes the township of Harlech. The soil generally is barren and wild. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Bangor, value with the curacy of Llanbedr, £194, in the patronage of the bishop. The church, dedicated to St. Tanwg, stands close to the shore, but is now in a very ruinous state. There is a school, founded by one Ellis, with an endowment of £13 per annum."

"HARLECH, a hamlet and decayed borough in the parish of Llandanwg, county Merioneth, 10 miles N. of Barmouth. It is situated about half a mile from the sea-coast, at the river Artro's mouth, and was formerly the county and assize town of Merionethshire. It is still the election and polling place, but is now only a village. It contains the old assize court, a good hotel, four chapels, and Ellis's school, which has an income from endowment of £10 per annum. The castle, of which the tower and part of the walls remain, was a massive structure 210 feet square, erected in 1286 by Edward I., who chartered the town, supposed to be the Tar Bronwen, or Caer Collwyn, of ancient writers. The castle was several times besieged in the 15th century, and was reduced by Mytton for the parliament in 1647.

In 1664 a poisonous gas, supposed to be hydrogen, rose from the marshes near the sea, and destroyed the cattle and herbage., In the vicinity are many Roman and British antiquities, all on the old Roman way to Trawsfynydd; also the passes of Bwlch Tydiadd, Cwm Buchan, and Drws Ardudwy. A British torque of gold 4 feet long has been found, and numerous Roman coins. Fairs for the sale of cattle are held on the 4th March, 14th April, Trinity Thursday, 10th June, 16th August, 22nd September, and 11th October."

"MOCHRAS, a hamlet in the parish of Llandanwg, county Merioneth, 3 miles S. by W. of Harlech, and 10 N. of Barmouth. It is situated at the mouth of the river Artro, On Cardigan Bay."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)

Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]

A Topographical Dictionary of Wales

Samuel Lewis, 1833

LLANDANWG (LLAN-DANWG), a parish in the hundred of ARDUDWY, county of MERIONETH, NORTH WALES, including the small corporate and market town of Harlech, and containing 658 inhabitants. It is situated on the river Artro, within a short distance of its influx into St. George's channel, and is about five miles in length and four in breadth. Its surface is wild and cheerless, consisting chiefly of rugged rocks and sterile hills; and the surrounding scenery is dreary and uninviting. An act of parliament for enclosing the waste lands was obtained in 1806, under the provisions of which two thousand six hundred and thirty acres were enclosed, of which a considerable portion has been brought under cultivation.

The living is a rectory, with Llanbedr annexed, in the archdeaconry of Merioneth, and diocese of Bangor, rated in the king's books at £7. 13. 1 1/2., and in the patronage of the Bishop of Bangor. The church, dedicated to St. Tanwg, is a small edifice, in the early style of English architecture, Very inconveniently situated on a small isthmus at the mouth of the river Artro, and so close to the sea that in stormy weather the waves inundate the churchyard. A parochial school, founded and endowed with £ 10 per annum by the Rev. John Ellis, is kept at Harlech for the gratuitous instruction of poor children, there being no village bearing the same name as the parish. The interest and produce of several small charitable donations and bequests of money and land is annually distributed among the poor. On the mountains in this parish are numerous foundations and remains of the rude dwellings of wood-rangers, erected for the purpose of accommodating the hunters, and called by the Welsh Gyttiawr Gwyddelod. From the coast, a few miles to the south of Harlech, a narrow ridge of sand and gravel, called Sarn Badrig, " Patrick's Causeway," or Sarn Bad-rhwyg, " the Ship-breaking Causeway," extends a distance of twenty-two miles seaward, in a curvilinear direction. The whole of this shoal is dry at low water of spring tides, and is always marked in storms by terrific breakers. According to a tradition of unknown antiquity, this bank anciently defended from the encroachments of the sea an inhabited district called Cantrer Gwaelod, or "the Low-land Hundred," which was at last overwhelmed, about the year 500, through the negligence of a drunkard in omitting to close a sluice. According to another tradition of more modern origin, Sarn Badrig was miraculously formed to facilitate the passage of St. Patrick between Great Britain and Ireland. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor is £ 132. 10.



HARLECH, a small decayed town, formerly a borough, in the parish of LLANDANWG, hundred of ARDUDWY, county of MERIONETH (of which it is the ancient shire town), NORTH WALES, 20 miles (N. W.) from Dolgelley, by Barmouth, 32 (W. by S.) from Bala, by Festiniog and Maentwrog, and 229 (W. N. W.) from London. The population is returned with the parish. This place is conjectured by some writers to have been a fortified post of the Romans, constructed to defend the openings of the two aestuaries to the north of it, called respectively the Traeth Mawr and the Traeth Bach, and to secure a communication with the opposite shore; but this opinion rests only upon the discovery of some Roman coins and a golden torques in the vicinity. It is evident that it was formerly a fortified post of the ancient Britons, and was called Twr Bronwen, from Bronwen, the sister of Bran ab Llyr, Prince of Siluria, or Gwent. It afterwards obtained the name of Caer Collwyn, from having been, towards the close of the ninth century, the residence of Collwyn ab Tango, one of the fifteen tribes of North Wales, and lord of Eivionydd, Ardudwy, and part of Lleyn, who inhabited a square tower which subsequently became a portion of the more modern castle, and of which there are yet some remains. According to some of the British historians, the castle was founded, so early as the year 530, by Maelgwyn Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales : the present structure was built by Edward I., upon the ruins of the former, and was either called Arlech, from its situation upon a rock, or by its present name of Harlech, which signifies "the fair rock :" it was completed prior to the year 1283, for at that time Hugh de Wlonkeslow was constable, with a small garrison under him, and had an allowance of £100 per annum, which, however, was afterwards much reduced. Owain Glyndwr, during the furious and destructive war which he waged against Henry IV., forcibly took possession of this fortress, in 1404 ; but it was retaken by the English troops within three years afterwards. In 1459, it became the asylum of Margaret of Anjou, queen of Henry VI., who, after the disastrous battle of Northampton, retired to Coventry, and thence to this fortress, from which, after a short stay, she departed for Scotland, again to take the field in the North of England. On the accession of Edward IV. to the throne, that monarch soon became master of the whole of the kingdom, except two or three strong fortresses in Northumberland, and Harlech castle. The latter was held by Davydd ab Ievan ab Einion, a man of great stature and dauntless valour, and one of the most staunch supporters of the Lancastrian cause.. To effect its reduction, Edward, in 1468, despatched Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, with a strong body of men, who, after encountering the most formidable difficulties in their march through a rugged alpine territory, the line of which was afterwards called Le Herbert, or "Herbert's Way," invested the castle. The earl entrusted the prosecution of the siege to his brother, Sir Richard Herbert, a knight equal in prowess and bravery to the Welsh commander, whom he summoned to surrender, but received only a laconic and humorous refusal. Finding that the place was so strong, as only to be reduced by famine, after a siege of no ordinary duration, he entered into terms of honourable capitulation with Davydd, whose security and protection he guaranteed by intercession with his sovereign ; but in this he was at first unsuccessful, until he boldly offered his own life, and threatened to reinstate the Welsh hero in his impregnable fortress, apprizing the king, at the same time, of the difficulty of obtaining possession of it. From a manuscript in the Cotton Library it appears that, in the reign of Elizabeth, the garrison of Harlech castle consisted of twenty-four men, commanded by a constable receiving an annual allowance of fifty pounds. In 1624, much damage was done to the cattle and other farming stock of the neighbour-hood by an extraordinary mephitic vapour, which arose from the sea, and is conjectured by Camden's Annotator, Bishop Gibson, to have been caused by the putrefaction of a great swarm of locusts, which visited the neighbouring coasts about this time, and was suddenly destroyed by the coldness of the climate. During the civil war of the seventeenth century, this castle was alternately in the hands of both parties. Sir Hugh Pennant bravely defended it for the king, until deserted by his men, when it was surrendered to the parliament : subsequently it was again possessed by the royalists, from whom it was ultimately taken by Gen. Mytton, in March 1647, at which time the garrison consisted of twenty-eight men, under the command of Capt. William Owen : it was the last fortress in Wales which held out for the king, in like manner as it appears to have been among the last defended for the house of Lancaster.

The town, which is situated on the shore of the northern part of the great bay of Cardigan, having on one side some of the wildest and most desolate mountains in the principality, and on the other the wide expanse of sea which separates this part of Merionethshire from the great promontory of Lleyn in Carnarvonshire, has declined into little more than a village of inferior size and insignificant appearance. It was made a free borough by Edward I., who granted it certain lands, privileges, and immunities, and placed it under the government of two bailiffs, a recorder, sergeant at mace, and other officers ; but the chief of its burgensic privileges were abrogated by an act of enclosure in 1806, and there are now only five burgesses remaining, whose duty is confined to their meeting the parliamentary representative of the county, on the day of election, at the extremity of the town, and walking before him, with wands in their hands, to the town-hall, and thence to his place of abode; and this is the only remnant of municipal authority which the town retains. Owing to the unimportance of the Merionethshire towns, the privilege of sending a member to parliament, granted to those of the other Welsh counties by the 27th of Henry. VIII., was withheld from Harlech and the other boroughs of this county ; and in lieu thereof, the flourishing town of Haverfordwest, in Pembrokeshire, was invested with the franchise. The county assizes were formerly held here, but were removed to other places about two centuries ago; and the county court was removed from Harlech about the commencement of the present century : the building in which the assizes were held is still standing. The market, which was on Saturday, has fallen into disuse : fairs are held on March 4th, April 14th, the Thursday in Trinity week, June 10th, August 16th, September 22nd, and October 11th, chiefly for the sale of live stock. There are places of worship for Baptists and Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists, with Sunday schools attached. Here is a parochial school, endowed with £10 per annum by the Rev. John Ellis.

The castle stands on the edge of a lofty perpendicular rock, which overhangs an extensive marsh, once covered by the sea, but enclosed by the act passed in 1806. The buildings surround a spacious square area, at each angle of which is a circular tower, with a turret rising from one of its sides ; and on each side of the entrance is also a tower : the apartments, now roofless, are of large dimensions, particularly the banqueting hall, which is seventy-five feet long and thirty in width, and was lighted by four lofty windows on the side facing the sea: the other parts most easily distinguishable are the state chamber, the white chamber, the chapel, dungeons, keep, and water gate ; and on the lower part of the rock, adjoining the marsh, are vestiges of walls, with towers of defence. Part of the walls of the original edifice, of native Welsh construction, are yet apparent, the more modern works in some places resting upon them. This fortress was inaccessible on the side next the sea, and was protected on the other by a fosse of extraordinary depth and width, which, prior to the invention of gunpowder, rendered it impregnable. A constable is still appointed, the office being at present filled by Col. Vaughan, of Rug. From the castle is obtained a delightful view of Cardigan bay and the Carnarvonshire hills, with the lofty Snowdon towering above the rest. The golden torques above mentioned, which was dug up in 1692, in a garden near the castle, is now in the possession of Edward Mostyn Lloyd Mostyn, Esq.: it is a round wreathed flexible bar, about four feet long, composed of three or four rods twisted together, the spiral furrows being separated by sharp intervening ridges, running its entire length : the ends are plain, truncated, and turned back like pot-hooks it is about an inch in circumference, weighs eight ounces, and is supposed to have been a Roman British ornamental badge of dignity, hung round the neck and breast, with the quiver suspended from it behind. In the vicinity are some scattered vestiges of ancient Druidical monuments.

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