1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cardiganshire

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CARDIGANSHIRE (Ceredigion, Sîr Aberteifi), a county of South Wales, bounded N. by Merioneth, E. by Montgomery, Radnor and Brecon, S. by Carmarthen and Pembroke, and W. by Cardigan Bay of the Irish Sea. It has an area of 688 sq. m., so that it ranks fifth in size of the Welsh countries. The whole of Cardiganshire is hilly or undulating, with the exception of the great bogs of Borth and Tregaron, but the mountains generally have little grandeur in their character; Plinlimmon itself, on the boundary of the county with Montgomeryshire, in spite of its elevation of 2463 ft., being singularly deficient in boldness of outline. Of other hills, only Tregaron Mountain (1778 ft.) exceeds 1500 ft. in height. Of the rivers by far the most important is the Teifi, or Tivy, which rises above Tregaron in Llyn Teifi, one of a group of tiny lakes which are usually termed the Teifi Pools, and flows southward through the county as far as Lampeter, forming from this point onwards its southern boundary. A succession of deep pools and rushing shallows, the Teifi has from the earliest times been celebrated for the quantity and quality of its salmon, which are netted in great numbers on Cardigan Bar. Trout and sewin (a local species of sea-trout) are also plentiful, so that the Teifi is much frequented by anglers. This river is also believed to have been the last British haunt of the beaver (afangc, lost-llydan), for the slaying of which a very heavy penalty was exacted by the old royal laws of Wales. Giraldus Cambrensis, Michael Drayton, and other writers allude to this circumstance, though at what date the beaver became extinct in these waters is quite uncertain. On the Teifi may frequently be observed fishermen in coracles. Other rivers worthy of mention are the Dovey (Dyfi), separating Cardigan from Merioneth in the extreme north; the Rheidol and the Ystwyth, which rise in Plinlimmon; and the Aeron, which has its source in Llyn Eiddwen, a pool in the hilly district known as Mynydd Bach. All these streams flow westward into Cardigan Bay.

The valley of the Teifi presents many points of great beauty and interest between Llandyssul and the sea. The rapids of Henllan, the falls of Cenarth and the wooded cliffs of Coedmore constitute some of the finest scenery in South Wales. The valley of the Aeron is well wooded and fertile, while the Rheidol contains amidst striking surroundings the famous cascade spanned by the Devil’s Bridge, which is known to the Welsh as Pont-ar-Fynach (the Monks’ Bridge).

Geology.—The rocks of Cardiganshire consist of shales, slates and grits which have been folded and uptilted so that nowhere do they retain their original horizontality. They belong entirely to the Ordovician and Silurian periods; they have yielded few fossils, and much work remains to be done upon them before the stratigraphical subdivisions can be clearly defined. Many metalliferous lodes occur in the rocks, and the lead mines have long been famous; it was from the profits of his mining speculations, carried on chiefly in this county, that the celebrated Sir Hugh Myddleton was enabled to carry out his gigantic project for supplying London with water by means of the New River. Copper and zinc ores have also been obtained. Tregaron is the centre of the mining district, and the Lisburne, Goginan and Cwm Ystwyth mines are among the most important.

The slates have been worked at Devil’s Bridge, Corris, Strata Florida, Goginan, &c. Glacial drift occupies some of the lower ground, and peaty bogs are common on the mountains. A small tract of blown sand lies at the mouth of the river Dovey.

Industries.—The climate on the coast is mild and salubrious, but that of the hill country is cold, bleak and rainy. The cultivated crops consist of oats, wheat, barley, turnips and potatoes; and in the lower districts on the coast, especially in the neighbourhood of Cardigan, Aberaeron and Llanrhystyd, good crops are raised. The uplands are mostly covered by wild heathy pastures, which afford good grazing for Welsh mountain sheep and ponies. The country has long been celebrated for its breed of “Cardiganshire cobs,” for which high prices are often obtained from English dealers, who frequent the local horse fairs, especially Dalis Fair at Lampeter. Cattle, sheep, pigs, butter, oats, wool, flannel and coarse slates form the principal articles of export. Hand-looms are by no means uncommon in the remote parts of the country, and clog-making of alder wood meets a local demand. The North Cardiganshire lead-mines, of which the Lisburne, Goginan and Cwm Ystwyth mines are the most noted, have been famous, and are said to have been worked by the Romans. Some of the lead raised is very rich in silver, and in the 17th century so great was the amount of silver obtained that a mint for coining it was erected by virtue of letters patent at Aberystwyth.

Communications.—The railways within the county are the Cambrian, by means of which access is given to Aberystwyth from all parts of the kingdom; and the former Manchester & Milford line, which runs south from Aberystwyth by Lampeter to Pencader, and has been acquired by the Great Western railway. The lower valley of the Teifi, or Tivyside, is reached by means of two branch lines of the Great Western railway—one from Whitland to Cardigan, and the other from Pencader to Llandyssul and Newcastle-Emlyn.

Population and Administration.—The area of the administrative county is 443,071 acres, with a population in 1891 of 63,467, and in 1901 of 60,237. The municipal boroughs are Aberystwyth (pop. 8013), Cardigan (3511) and Lampeter (1722). Aberaeron and New Quay are urban districts. Other towns are Tregaron (1509), an ancient but decayed market-town in a wild boggy district; Aberaeron (1331), a small seaport, and Llandyssul (2801,) a rising place on the Teifi with woollen factories. In modern times several small watering-places have sprung up on the coast, notably at Borth, New Quay, Tresaith, Aberporth and Gwbert. Quarter sessions are held at Lampeter, and here also are held the assizes for the county, which lies in the South Wales circuit. The county returns one member of parliament, and has no parliamentary borough. Ecclesiastically it lies wholly in the diocese of St David’s, and contains sixty-six parishes.

History.—In spite of its poverty and sparse population, Cardiganshire has never ceased to play a prominent part in all Welsh political, literary and educational movements. The early history of the district is obscure, but at the time of the Roman invasion it was tenanted by the Dimetae, a Celtic tribe, within whose limits was comprised the greater portion of the south-west of Wales. After the departure of the Romans, the whole basin of the Teifi eventually fell into the power of Ceredig, son of Cunedda Wledig of North Wales; and the district, peopled with his subjects and nearly co-extensive with the existing shire, obtained the name of Ceredigion, later corrupted into Cardigan. During the 5th and 6th centuries Ceredigion was largely civilized by Celtic missionaries, notably by St David and St Padarn, the latter of whom founded a bishopric at Llanbadarn Fawr, which in the 8th century became merged in the see of St David’s. Two important local traditions, evidently based on fact, are associated with this remote era:—the inundation of the Cantref-y-Gwaelod and the synod of Llanddewi Brefi. The Cantref-y-Gwaelod (the lowland Hundred), a large tract of flat pasture-land containing sixteen townships, and protected from the inroad of the sea by sluices, was suddenly submerged at an uncertain date about the year 500. The legend of its destruction declares that Seithenyn, the drunken keeper of the sluices, carelessly let in the waters of the bay, with the result that the land was lost for ever, and Prince Gwyddno and his son Elphin, with all their subjects, were forced to migrate to the wild region of Snowdon. This tale has ever been a favourite theme with Welsh bards, so that “the sigh of Gwyddno when the wave turned over his land” remains a familiar figure of speech throughout Wales. In support of this story it may be mentioned that there are indications of submerged dwellings and roads (e.g. the Sarn Cynfelin and Sarn Badrig) between the mouth of the Dovey and Cardigan Head. The famous synod of Brefi, an historical fact clouded by miraculous details, probably took place early in the 6th century, when at a largely attended meeting of the Welsh clergy held at Brefi, near the source of the Teifi, St David’s eloquence for ever silenced the champions of the Pelagian heresy. In the 10th and 11th centuries the coast of Ceredigion suffered much from the inroads of the Danes, and in later times of the Normans and Flemings; but on the whole the native inhabitants seem to have maintained a successful resistance. By the close of the 11th century most of Ceredigion had been reduced by the Normans, and during the 12th and 13th centuries it formed a favourite battle ground between the Welsh princes and the English forces. By the Statutes of Rhuddlan (1284) Edward I. constituted Ceredigion out of the former principality of Wales a shire on the English model, dividing the new county into six hundreds and fixing the assizes at Carmarthen. By the act of Union in the reign of Henry VIII., the boundaries of the county were subsequently enlarged to their present size by the addition of certain outlying portions of the Marches round Tregaron and Cardigan, and the assizes were assigned to the county town. During the rebellion of Owen Glendower in the opening years of the 15th century, the county was again disturbed, and Owen for a short time actually held a court in Aberystwyth Castle. In the year 1485, according to local tradition, Henry of Richmond marched through South Cardiganshire on his way to Bosworth Field, and he is stated to have raised recruits round Llanarth, where the old mansion of Wern, still standing, is pointed out as his halting-place on this occasion. Under Henry VIII. Cardiganshire was for the first time empowered to send a representative member to parliament, and under Mary the same privilege was extended to the boroughs. During the Great Rebellion the county—which possessed at least three leading Parliamentarians in the persons of Sir John Vaughan, of Crosswood, afterwards chief justice of the common pleas; Sir Richard Pryse, of Gogerddan; and James Philipps, of Cardigan Priory—seems to have been less Royalist in its sympathies than other parts of Wales. At this time the castles of Cardigan and Aberystwyth, both held in the name of King Charles, were reduced to ruins by the Cromwellian army. In the 18th century the Methodist movement found great support in the county; in fact, Daniel Rowland (1713–1790), curate of Llangeitho, was one of the chief leaders of this important revival. The 19th century witnessed the foundation of two important educational centres in the county:—St David’s College at Lampeter (1827), and one of the three colleges of the university of Wales at Aberystwyth (1872). In the years 1842–1843 the county was much disturbed by the Rebecca Riots, during which a large number of turnpike gates were destroyed by local mobs. Forty-five years later it was affected by the Welsh agrarian agitation against payment of tithe, which produced some scenes of violence against the distraining police, especially in the district round Llangranog.

Chief amongst the county families of Cardigan is that of Lloyd, descendants of the powerful Cadifor ap Dinawal, lord of Castle Howell, in the 12th century. Certain branches of this family, such as the Lloyds of Millfield (Maes-y-felin), the Lloyds of Llanlyr and the Lloyds of Peterwell, are extinct, but others are still flourishing. The family of Vaughan of Crosswood, or Trawscoed (now represented by the earl of Lisburne), has held its family estates in the male line for many centuries. A representative in the female line of the ancient house of Pryse, long prominent in the annals of the county, still possesses the old family seat of Gogerddan. Other families worthy of mention are Lloyd of Bronwydd, Powell of Nanteos and Johnes of Hafod and Llanfair-Clydogau.

Antiquities.—Scattered over all parts of the county are numerous British or early medieval tumuli and camps. Traces of the ancient Roman road, the Via Occidentalis—called by the Welsh Sarn Helen, a corruption of Sarn Lleon, Road of the Legion—are to be found in the eastern districts of the county; and at Llanio are to be seen what are perhaps the remains of the Roman military station of Loventium. There are also various inscribed and incised stones, of which good examples exist in the churchyards of Llanbadarn Fawr and Llanddewi Brefi. In buildings of interest Cardiganshire is singularly deficient. Besides the ruins of Aberystwyth and Cardigan Castles, and of Strata Florida Abbey, there is a large cruciform church of the 12th century at Llanbadarn Fawr; whilst the massive parish church of Llanddewi Brefi once formed part of the minster of a prebendal college founded by Bishop Beck of St David’s towards the close of the 13th century. Tregaron, Llanwenog, Llandyssul and Llanarth own parish churches with western towers of early date, but for the most part the ecclesiastical structures of Cardiganshire are small in size and mean in appearance, and many of them were entirely rebuilt during the latter half of the 19th century. The little church of Eglwys Newydd, near the Devil’s Bridge, contains one of Sir Francis Chantrey’s masterpieces, a white marble group in memory of Mariamne Johnes (1818), the daughter of Thomas Johnes, of Hafod (1748–1816), the translator of Froissart.

Customs, etc.—The old Welsh costume, customs and superstitions are fast disappearing, although they linger in remote districts such as the neighbourhood of Llangeitho. The steeple-crowned beaver hat has practically vanished, although it was in general use within living memory; but the short petticoat and overskirt (pais-a-gŵn-bâch), the frilled mob-cap, little check shawl and buckled shoes are still worn by many of the older women. Of peculiarly Welsh customs, the bidding (gwahoddiad) is not quite extinct in the county. The bidding was a formal invitation sent by a betrothed pair through a bidder (gwahoddwr) to request the presence and gifts of all their neighbours at the forthcoming marriage. All presents sent were duly registered in a book with a view to repayment, when a similar occasion should arise in the case of the donors. When printing became cheap and common, the services of the professional bidder were often dispensed with, and instead printed leaflets were circulated. The curious horse wedding (priodas ceffylau) at which the man and his friends pursued the future bride to the church porch on horseback, and then returned home at full gallop, became obsolete before the end of the 19th century. Of the practices connected with death, the wake, or watching of the corpse, alone remains; but the habit of attending funerals, even those of strangers, is still popular with both sexes, so that a funeral procession in Cardiganshire is often a very imposing sight. Nearly all the old superstitions, once so prevalent, concerning the fairies (tylwyth teg) and fairy rings, goblins (bwbachod), and the teulu, or phantom funeral, are rapidly dying out; but in the corpse candle (canwll corph), a mysterious light which acts as a death-portent and is traditionally connected with St David, are still found many believers.

Authorities.—Sir S. R. Meyrick, History and Antiquities of Cardiganshire (London, 1806); Rev. G. Eyre Evans, Cardiganshire and its Antiquities (Aberystwyth, 1903); E. R. Horsfall-Turner, Walks and Wanderings in County Cardigan (Bingley).