Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/County of Cardigan

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CARDIGAN, County of, or Cardiganshire, a mari time county in South Wales, is bounded on the N. by Merioneth, on the E. by Montgomery, Radnor, and Brecon, on the S. by Carmarthen and Pembroke, and on the W. by the Irish Sea. Its greatest length from south to north is about 30 miles, and its greatest breadth from east to west about 40 miles ; but these dimensions give a very imperfect idea of its size, as it almost exactly repre sents in figure a " half-boot," the line of the sole being from east to west, with the toe at the extreme west. It possesses an area of 693 square miles, or 443,387 acres, and is, therefore, the fifth in size of the Welsh counties.

The whole area of this county is occupied by the lower Silurian geological formation. It does not, therefore, possess mines of coal, or iron, or limestone ; but, as if to compensate for this want, it is the richest of all the Welsh counties in its metalliferous lodes. Its lead mines have long been famous ; and it was from the profits of his min ing speculations, carried on chiefly in this county, that the celebrated Sir Hugh Myddelton was enabled to carry out his gigantic project for supplying London with water, by means of the New River. The Lisburne, Goginan, Cwm Ystwith, and other mines still yield largely, and have been sources of great profit to the adventurers. Some of the lead raised is very rich in silver ; and in the 17th century the quantity of silver obtained was so considerable, that, by virtue of letters-patent, a mint existed for coining it on the spot.

Cardiganshire is exceedingly wild and mountainous ; but the mountains generally have little of grandeur in their character, Plinlimmon itself, in spite of its height, being singularly deficient in boldness of outline. There is a considerable tract of flat land lying along the sea coast, especially towards the south-west, the general aspect of which is so dreary and desolate, that it has been called, and with good reason, the desert of Wales. In that district it is almost possible to travel 30 miles in a straight line without seeing a house, or a road, or a human being. The principal mountains are Plinlimmon, just within the county boundary on the north-east, rising to the height of 2469 feet, and Tregaron mountain, near Tregaron, in the south east, 1778 feet in height. Few of the others exceed 1000 feet in elevation.

The vale of Teifi presents views of great beauty and interest, especially as it approaches the sea. The valleys of the Aeron, the Ystwith, and the Rheidol, also present scenes of great beauty, especially the last, in which is the famous Devil s Bridge, with the falls of the Rheidol, one of the most celebrated pieces of Welsh scenery.

The county abounds in lakes and rivers. The chief of the latter is the Teifi, which rises in a lake of the same name (Llyn Teifi), about 8 miles north-east of Tregaron ; flowing through the centre of the county, in a south-west direction, till it reaches Lampeter, it becomes from that point the county boundary, separating it from Carmarthen and Pembroke, and, after a course of about 50 miles from its source, falls into the sea at Cardigan. The Aeron takes its rise in some lakes in a low range of hills called Mynydd Bach, and first flowing in a southerly direction, and afterwards nearly west, falls into the sea at Aber- aeron. The Ystwith and Rheidol both rise in Plinlimmon, and flowing west, cross the county, falling into the sea at Aberystwith ; and the Towy forms the county boundary, separating it from Brecknockshire on the south-east.

Cardiganshire has been called the lake county of Wales, an appellation which it well deserves. The most important are Llyn Teifi, Llyn Fyrddyn Fawr, Llyn Egnant, Llyn Gynon, and Llyn Eiddwen ; but hardly any of them exceeds three-quarters of a mile in length. They abound in trout, and are now a good deal resorted to by anglers.

The climate on the coast is mild and salubrious, but suffers from an excess of rain. The climate of the hill country is cold, wet, and bleak. The cultivated crops con sist of wheat, oats, barley, turnips, and potatoes ; and in the lower districts on the coast, especially in the neighbour hood of Aberaeron, Llanrhystyd, and Cardigan, good crops are raised ; and at the last-named, as well as at Lampeter, great improvements are now being effected, by means of the Government Drainage Bill, in draining and improving several large estates. In 1873 there were 2038 holdings of an acre and upwards, and 1278 of less size, the average extent being 118 acres, while that of all Wales is 74^ acres. Seven holdings exceeded 5000 acres, and none extended to 30,000 acres. It is calculated that one-half of the lands are enclosed. The hill district is entirely occupied with wild heathy pastures, which are stocked with the small mountain sheep of the country, and with herds of ponies and cattle, which are annually drafted off by dealers to be fattened in the more fertile districts of Wales or England. Cardiganshire has long been famous for its breed of horses, and for these high prices are obtained from English dealers, who now visit the farms in considerable numbers.

The following tables show the acreage of particular crops, and the numbers of live stock in the years 1872 and 1875:—

Oats. Barley. Wheat. 1872.... 31,411 25,849 8430 1875.... 30,540 24,366 8459 Horses. Cattle. 1872 11,762 1875 ... 12,745 Gieen Oops. 14,739 13,653 Sheep. Grass under rotation. 40,505 37,991 Pigs. 23,739 20,688 56,565 203,619 61,535 205,346

Black cattle, sheep, pigs, butter, barley, oats, woollen manufactures, slates, and lead and lead ore form the prin cipal articles of export.

The railways within the county are the Cambrian, by means of which access is given to Aberystwith from all parts of the kingdom, and a line through Tregaron and Lampeter, and by way of Pencader to Carmarthen. At present the county town is without any railway commu nication.

The principal towns are Cardigan, Aberaeron (at which, in consequence of its central situation, the county sessions are held), Aberystwith, Llanbadarn Fawr, Tregaron, Lam peter, and Adpar, which last is the name given to the portion of Newcastle Emlyn on the Cardigan side of the Teifi. The county, which contains 97 parishes, is in the diocese of St David s; and at Lampeter there is a college for the education of the Welsh clergy. It returns one member to Parliament, and has done so since 1536. The political influence is divided between the families of Powell of Nant-Eos (Conservative) and Pryse of Gogerddan, Pryse of Peithyll, Lloyd of Coedmore, and the earl of Lisburne (Liberal). Constituency in 1875, 4563. The annual value of real property paying income tax is 256,078.

The population of the county by the census of 1871 was 73,441, giving an average of 105 2 persons to a square mile, or 6 3 acres to each person. Of the total number 33,396 were males, and 40,045 females, showing an unusual disproportion of the sexes, in the great excess of females. This may be perhaps accounted for by the emigration of men to the mining districts, especially Glamorganshire, where the excess of males would just balance the deficiency in Cardigan, Carmarthen, and Pembroke. The number of inhabited houses in 1871 was 16,420, uninhabited 741, and building 76, giving an average of 23 6 inhabited houses to a square raile, and 4 4 persons to each house. The following table gives the census returns for the last fifty years:—

1821 57,784 1831 64,780 1841 68,766 1851 70,796 1861 72,245

1871 73.441

The women may often be seen dressed in the picturesque costume of Wales, and having their heads surmounted by the high-crowned broad-brimmed hat. Many curious customs and superstitions still survive. On the occasion of a marriage, a " bidder " goes from house to house inviting the inmates to the wedding. It is expected that all the guests are to bring presents of money and provisions. The marriage always takes place on a Saturday ; but the guests assemble on Friday with their presents. All these are set down on paper, that repayment may be made if demanded; but this seldom happens. The furnishing of the bride is also brought home on this day. On Saturday ten or twenty of the man s friends who are best mounted go to demand the bride. She is placed on a horse, behind her father, who rides off as fast as he can. He is soon, however, over taken. Presents continue to be received on Saturday and Sunday, and on Monday they are sold, and sometimes with the money received realize 50 or 60.

There are numerous British and Roman antiquities in the county, consisting of cromlechs, tumuli, camps, and stations, and also the remains of a Roman road (the Sarn Helen) about four miles from Tregaron, and the Roman town Loventium at Llanio.

The castles of Aberystwith, Cardigan, and Newcastle Emlyn are interesting ruins, and the remains of Strata Florida Abbey are among the most beautiful of the eccle siastical antiquities of South Wales. The church of Llan- badarn Fawr (once the seat of a bishopric) is a fine example of a severe type of Early English architecture, and the collegiate church of Llanddewi Brefi marks the site of the synod in which, according to the legend, St David confuted the Pelagians.

The early history of the district is obscure, but at the time of the Roman invasion it was tenanted by the Demetae, a Celtic tribe, within whose limits was comprised the greater portion of the south-west of Wales Mingled with it, though living at perpetual variance, was a Gaelic popu lation (drawn, probably, from Ireland), which in the 6th century had got the upper hand, and in turn was subdued by the sons of Cunedda, who came as liberators from North Britain. One of these sons was Caredig. who con quered and gave the name to the province of Caredigion, which was nearly co-extensive with the present county of Cardigan. In the 8th century it formed part of the dominion of Sitsylt (from whom it received the name of Seissyltwg), and was hotly disputed by the descendants of his sons and daughter. Ultimately it fell to the latter, and at the close of the 1 1th century had been reduced to sub mission to the Norman sway, from which, in spite of short lived successes, it never escaped.

Cardigan was one of the counties involved in the singular disturbances known as the Rebecca riots.

Cardigan, a market town and municipal and parlia mentary borough of England, the capital of the county of the same name, is situated on the south-east of Cardigan Bay, about 36 miles by rail from Carmarthen, at the mouth of the Teifi, which there divides the county from Pembrokeshire. The houses are mostly constructed of slate rock, and the streets are narrow, steep, and irregular. The principal structures are the church of St Mary s, a fine and spacious edifice of considerable antiquity, the county jail, erected in 1793, the national school dating from 1848, and a large block of buildings which includes a town hall, an exchange, a grammar school, a public library, and various markets. Besides being the commercial centre of a pretty extensive district, Cardigan engages in the coasting trade and the fisheries, and exports slates, oats, barley, and butter. Its harbour is unfortunately obstructed by a bar, so that the entrance is dangerous for vessels of more than 300 tons burden, except at high spring tides, when it is passable for vessels drawing 15 to 18 feet of water. The imports in 1874 were valued at 3035, the exports at 52. The borough, in conjunction with Aberystwith, Lampeter, and Adpar, has returned one member to Parliament since 1836; and in 1874 the district had a constituency of 1981. The population in 1871 was 3461 in the municipal borough, and 4939 in the parliamentary, which is partly in Pembrokeshire.


Cardigan, called by the "Welsh Aberteifi, fiom its position at the mouth of the river, first rose into importance about the time of the Norman conquest. In 1136 the English army, under Randolph, earl of Chester, suffered a severe defeat in the neighbourhood at the hands of the Welsh. The town was fortified by Rhys ap Gryffydd, prince of South Wales, to whom was also ascribed the foundation of the castle, which is still represented by a few ruins near the bridge. His grandson Maelgwn razed the castle to the ground, and ravaged the town ; but the effects of his vengeance were not long after repaired, and the castle continued to be a post of some import ance down to the Parliamentary wars, when it was held for a while by the Royalist forces. In the neighbourhood there was, before the Reformation, a small priory of Benedictine monks, which, a,s a private dwelling in the 17th century, obtained some celebrity as the residence of Orinda (Catherine Philips), the friend of Jeremy Taylor. About a mile and a half distant was the more important priory of St Dogmael ; and about three miles up the river are the ruins of Cilgerran Castle.