166. This report and thesis attempts to determine the origins of Palleg Manor c.1215-1915 and its farms within the boundaries of Ystradgynlais parish. It also expands upon the history, tenants and land owners of the Palleg land area from prehistoric times to the present day. Researched, compiled, revised & published by James M. Burton 2010-16. Open to public revision. Uploaded 1st Jan 2013. Some maps are pending licence and will not display. Email: email@example.com.
If you have landed on the palleg3.html page you will not be able to see the index please go to Palleg - Main Site
|Latest Updates: Nov '16: updated 'Awbrey Ownership', 'Commonwealth Parliament', 'Palleg Timeline', 'Morgan, Hughes & Williams Ownership'. Replaced 'copyrighted' maps 1819, 1839. Removed UTF-8 coding errors, fixed dead web links, spelling errors. 11th March 2015: project now complete for this session. Thesis published in book format for deposition in libraries.|
Hi! I'm James, amateur genealogist and antiquarian local to Aberdare. When I say amateur, I have been chipping away at the old block for 14 years so I have gathered much experience in the field, but alas no qualifications! To study one's forefathers is to know yourself and what lies in your future. My initial interest in the Palleg Manor came from the fact that my 7th generation forefather, Richard Owen born 1762 happened to be listed as a farmer on Penllwyn Teg farm, Ystradgynlais in the 1841 census (proven by extensive research over 10 years).
It was exciting to discover this, but I had no idea of the importance of being head of a farm, or that it had a rich history of being part of a feudal manor dating back eons. This revelation came by my delving into the vast and well preserved estate records of the Landlord's Tredegar in Aberystwyth library. So much history I uncovered that I decided I must extract it all for the use of future generations and solve a puzzle that was questing me, how long had my family been there and did this manor stretch back to the Norman times and beyond?!
Rather a lot of study and background information had to be waded through before I could come up with my conclusions on the origins on the estate, and it is not without conjecture, but the best kind, that based on fact. The work is essentially a desk based assessment over 3 years, and that compressing facts from over a 1000 different sources. Most of that important information was gathered, carefully transcribed and cross checked from 1st hand official sources in archives, libraries and their associated websites with consultation of a few choice professionals and experts. I have also made comparisons and cross reference with similar semi independent Welsh 'manors', such as Caerphilly Mountain & Gelligaer.
When I have made attempts at guess work, hunches, assumptions and conclusions from that evidence, I have made it abundantly clear; could, should, might have, it appears, we think, possible, what if, when, why and how are occasional inquisitive tentative hypotheses you will hear me utter as I stumble upon the gaps in knowledge. Furthermore some of the evidence given by 3rd parties has been interpreted from my own personal perspective, and so could contain miscellaneous generalisations that might raise the eyebrows of the more enlightened.
I am fluent in Welsh, and have endeavoured to stay true to correct Welsh spellings, grammar and translations, although certain letter accents and marks may be missing. For what it's worth I have also a Higher Diploma in Landscape Science, but my qualification to write up this thesis comes from the fact that I am doing it, in depth and that action supported by the 'elders' of Palleg. My on site support & suggestions come from John Williams, historian & author of the Palleg area.
Therefore as new documents and books are continually being discovered by
myself, mistakes, misinformation and guess work can continue to be ironed out by the regular updating of the document, which I welcome
your assistance with at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What I have witnessed during cross examination of evidence from history is that everyone has an opinion and most if not all of them are sometimes wrong. People lie on documents to make gain, they lie in court to gain land, they make analogies, metaphors and legends about nobodies or those who never existed. Gaps are filled with pastry in erroneous family trees to give egotistic pride to those thought born of nobles. Forgeries and manipulated manuscripts and family trees still exist in archives from the medieval times, and still believed to be true by eminent experts.
Most derided of all these are the professors who study in their dusty rooms and claim authority on the basis of qualification without checking original documents. They have made this project sometimes a maze more than it should be, and I would be happy to delete most of it, if it were not for the fact that from those mistakes you can learn not to trust backwards time. The more I add to it, the higher the tower of history becomes, the more gaps need to be filled, the foundations already shaky, until it all crumples into a pile of nonsense, and leaves me fool lying in the rubble wondering why I have made no contribution to history.
Therefore, any document or reference prior to 1500 concerning Palleg that is outside the Crown records & Rome is to be treated with great caution. Many forgers of land records, genealogies and history spent countless hours drawing up false documents to make claim on land, knighthood and prowess. The Welsh essentially have no history, it was all oral and then destroyed by the Romans & Normans. All we have are books of prose & mixtures of fable and fact, akin to a modern Star Wars plot. The Black Book of Llandaff based on greed and lies. The lives of the saints are also in question as well as 'ancient chronologies' such as 'Brut Y Tywysogion' with no document to cross check with. The genealogies of Wales read like a rhetorical shopping list, absolutely no evidence in MSS to support them.
However they all have SOME basis in fact drawn from memory and scattered documents lost. I would not wish to sit on a scornful arrogant throne and cast dispersions on events outside my understanding of 6000 years of history, and the very ancestors which went through so much toil and trouble to bring a lasting peace, stability and freedom to these isles. So we must imagine & believe that the story went something like this in the absence of alternate information, then the incredible will become credulous and offer some salve to the small problems encountered in the relatively monotonous modern age of comfort, leisure and pleasure.
The hamlet of Palleg in the parish of Ystradgynlais, county of Breconshire, South Wales is upon the edge the south eastern Black Mountains & the Brecon Beacons National Park, close to Ystradgynlais town, stretching to the boundary of Llywel parish in the north, and bounded by Twrch & Giedd rivers west & east. Due to it's elevated position of up to 500m on the edge of the highest mountains in S/Wales, it is the first port of call for the depletion of rain clouds coming in from the Atlantic. This means up to 80 inches of rain a year, but by this situation it is warmer in winter with low snow but cooler in summer. The red sandstone characteristic of Breconshire is not evident here. The area sits on a limestone strata with abundant coal measures.
The predominant vegetation is grassland upon the moors which include perennial rye, cocksfoot, timothy, bent, mat, rush, blue moor. In
the lower parts rushes, bracken, heather and gorse occur. Previously part of a vast strand of oak forest, this has now been denuded,
and woodlands and hedges support oak, ash, hazel with alder in the river valleys. Most medium mammal types are listed as being in the
Ystradgynlais area, and I'm sure there are a diversity of upland birds including pipits, wheaters, skylarks, curlew, grouse, corvids,
and falcon types including red kites.
This 5902 acre parcel of farmland encompassing 23 farms (2165 acres) and a mill (in the estate of 1747) with shared moor land grazing (3717 acres) dedicated to the raising of livestock, was in existence as a Lord's estate, feudal manor and possibly previously a Welsh 'maenor' or llys for a very long time.
Wading through the earliest maps and their compilations to the 1800s one might have become dismayed that the vast empty featureless mountainous areas south of Brecon may not have yielded any history at all. Indeed, we have to scavenge for titbits of information from the general history of the county to gain an understanding of settlement of Palleg before documents start to trickle out of the woodwork from the late 15th century.
The first recorded leases I have found pertaining to land with a named owner in Palleg date from 1510; the manor & mill of Palleg, 1551; and the earliest farms, 1562 and 1569. We know that Penllwyn Teg farm was rebuilt in 1709. The oldest surviving buildings on the estate are on Henglyn Isha farm, listed by CADW as an early 1700s, a 1 1/2 storey formerly thatched stone cottage, now a holiday home. Parts of Pencaemole & Glyncynwal Isha have a build style of mid 1600s. A few of the farms and large houses in the area date to 1500-1600 and the precursor of the town church & Ynyscedwyn manor nearby to at least the 13th century, the first advowson for said church dated 1372. A basic castle was even built here, documented in 1289-91. There was also reputed to be a court leet of the manor situated at Brynhenllys farm, which would have been a 'llys' and run under Welsh Law IF existing prior to 1283 but not after 1536. There are also farm ruins dating to c.1100 near the modern farms. So we have physical & documented evidence of the existent of at least a manor-church-farm set up, from post Norman influence through to the beginnings of the Industrial Age.
Before the Norman invasion the Welsh Lords of Brecknock held much of the land of the 'kingdom'. The conquest seized the fertile farms and llysoedd (Welsh 'manors'), pushing the Welsh into the poor marginal areas, like Ystradgynlais. They may later have assisted in the rebuilding of the church in the nearby town which replaced a reputed earlier 'Celtic' church. We can deduce from maps that this farmed land was the main area of food supply for Ystradgynlais, and therefore subject to church tithes & tributes. But it was one of the few areas in the south of the county wholly outside the governance of the Great Forest of Brecknock, a hunting and common pasture ground established by the Normans.
While the 'Welsh' ruled Brecknock for a millennia between the Roman and Norman presence, there were continual periods of skirmishes, invasions, infighting & intermarriage for power and land control. Those who established a predominant ruling foothold were the Irish Christian settlers who many believe established Ystradgynlais town church under 'St Cynog' in the 6th century.
Before Welsh rule, the Romans established camps, roads and forts not 6 miles from Palleg, so the field systems, mining and improvement of this area of land could date to then or earlier. Many archaeological finds within the wider area establish early settlement, including the hill fort of Craig y Rhiwarth in Glyntawe (8 miles NE) and Henllan (1/2 miles SE) that may have iron age origins.
Ystradgynlais and the Palleg area have always been part of the 'Brecknock administrative sphere' from at least the Roman times. It is located as a protruding bump on the very edge of the county in the south west corner. I presume this to be as the confluence of fast flowing rivers in that area formed a natural defensive barrier and indeed a physical, social and administrative barrier to people and trade.
The hamlet of Palleg was by 1747 divided into two areas of ownership, the majority, that of Morgan of Tredegar 23 manor-farm-estate to the north, and the Awbrey (then Gough) Ynyscedwyn Estate 'Tir Y Palleg', the farms on south Palleg, known as Gwern Yorath, Penybont, Brynygroes, Penyparc, Caemawr, Glyn Medic, Penygorof, who also owned most of lower Y'gynlais, the town, iron works and pits. It is from this date that the majority of the official records the estate begin and were well preserved, allowing us some insight without conjecture into its governance and history.
time we need to prove many of the above points by cross examining items of evidence left to us in the archives, before we can loosely
fix the approximate origins of the manor of Palleg.
We can only begin reasonably by stating that after God's handy-work the Palleg area was 'moulded' into shape by the action of a mile thick sheet of ice grinding and pushing rocks around the area, ending c.12,000 years ago. On receding, nature conquered with a damp oak forest, with alder in the river valleys, that would have stretched at least to at least 3-400m in the uplands. Deer, boar, wolves, bears, aurochs, sabre toothed tiger, hyena remains have been found in the area. The rivers would have abounded with trout, salmon pike, eel, lamprey, sewin etc.
How long it was until those hardy souls made progress into the area from Eurasia we cannot tell you, but Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Bronze Age tools, bones, artefacts and remains have been found in many caves, barrows, cairns, settlements and enclosures in Palleg itself, Glyntawe nearby and the high moorlands.
They were nomadic hunter gatherers living in the uplands, choosing to steer clear of river valleys and woods
either through practicality, fear or reverence. There was a lot of tree clearance during the Bronze Age time. The limits of oak
directly corresponds with the limit of improved farmed land in Palleg, due to the extra nutrition of the forest floor. So one may
assume that a fair amount of the upland forest in Palleg was felled during this time. Pollen analysis from Drim Common a little south
suggests substantial deforestation from 2400 BC and again in 1550 BC. They gradually became pastoral, herders of stock and slowly
as farming and settlement became the norm, we are sure the valley parts of Ystradgynlais may have become sparsely populated, because of the rich soil & mineral depositions by the rivers, and the eternal supply of abundant water.
Celtic pottery, finds and artefacts have been found nearby in caves of the Dulais Valley; Dan Yr Ogof, Ogof yr Esgyrn and Penwyllt Caves near Glyntawe 5 mile NE; including the 'Seven Sister's hoard' at Hirfynnydd 5 miles SE. The 'hoard' found near a streambed in 1875 consisted of Celtic tankard handles and terrets (used on a chariot to connect the horse and harness) and Roman cavalry items. This indicates organised tribes, the Silures or as the Romans called them Silvestres, men of the woods, from their habit of attacking from there, interacting with each other. Whether they raided, traded, or were given gifts by the Romans the evidence of them living, working, hiding and burying their dead at the nearby caves is sufficient claim to them having used Palleg area for hunting, mining and pastoralism.
They relied on cattle and horses for trade, but were also skilled metal workers, iron was in abundance at Palleg. Some say they had an animist type religion, in the reverence of animals, rivers, and elements that the spirits of their pantheon of Gods were said to exist. They travelled by horse over the cefn (escarpments) of mountains.
No dated early Celtic finds have been found as yet on Palleg, but because of the abundance of Bronze Age 'farm' settlements, I'm sure there was some continuation in their use, and the construction of temporary wooden structures & tents. The suggested iron age fort of Craig y Rhiwarth (Rock of the sloping wooded promontory) at Glyntawe is an excellent candidate for the location of the first ruling Welsh overlords.
At Henllan (old enclosure) 1/2 mile to the SE of the town had many features that suggested ironage origins, including a well, but this area has been destroyed by coal mining. Hengaer (old fort) close by is also thought to be of this ilk but does not have a suitable defensive position for a hillfort (more under Late Celtic).
The conquest by Rome was a steady affair in Wales, with many bloody battles resulting in a total conquest. Some fought hard and bitterly in a guerilla war against the people who essentially improved their lives, but most paid tribute and were accepted as 'citizens of wider Rome'. They built a primary road called Sarn Helen (named in honour of Helen Llwyddog (of Hosts), whose granddaughter apparently married Brychan Brycheiniog) leading from Neath to Brecon not 5 miles E of Palleg, one running east-west passing 13 miles to the north and another running east-west 8 miles south. Neath garrison was only 8 miles away, Brecon fort, 20 miles, a days march and a thousand heavily armed troops could converge here. A 4 acre auxiliary fort was built at Coelbren (5 miles E) to station a legion of 320 infantry and 120 horse-troopers to protect road builders, craftsmen, cooks, slaves, administrators and granaries, although the site has not been fully investigated so we are not really certain what was here.
There were also temporary marching camps at Plas-y-Gors, Ystradfellte also two small fort-lets in Hirfynydd 3 1/2 miles south and a suggested encampment at Cilybebyll (site of the tents) 5 miles SW, built when securing the area or exercising troops. Archaeology and local history also suggests a possible tributary road passing through Palleg (not proven) at Pensarn farm (head of the paved road). Also a road is suggested as running from Neath to Dolaucothi gold mines via Llandovery passing through Cae Gurwen 3 miles West. The construction of secondary roads is known and could have been sponsored by a local chieftain and maintained by the tenants. They may have been short cuts and drovers roads already present for a long time, and improved with gravel and stone.
It is not impossible to imagine that they took an interest in the rich veins of minerals here, or demanded tribute of them, and encouraged trade of it, but would definitely have quarried stone for the roads, possibly at Penwyllt for example, but many outcrops of limestone exist in the area. While the roads were being built they had to be fed, and one may consider that they had basic crops and herds near the fort and hunted on the surrounding uplands and woods, including Palleg.
Romans did not just attack and destroy local tribes, they encouraged them through trade and negotiation to adopt their civilised ways. Did they make any progress with the Welsh of Glyntawe? No dated finds from the Roman period at all as yet have been found in Palleg, but scores of Roman pottery, jewellery and tool finds found in the surrounding forts and caves indicate trade and raids upon or by local tribes and even use of the caves by Romans. A legacy of Roman influence is seen with two 'gravestones' marked in Latin found in the old church of Ystradgynlais when demolished, said to be 6thC (see Late Celtic). With a religious need inherent and the emergence of Christianity, a small chapel at Coelbren is even likely to have been built, Clwyd Banwen tombstone in honor of 'MACARITIN (son of) BERIC' was found 1 mile south of the fort.
The general history of Wales suggests they later intermarried, learnt their ways of farming and the basis of their laws influenced Welsh law for centuries. Sons of noblemen would have been taught Latin, many were taken into the Roman Empire to be tutored, as were the skilled Welsh warriors to join the legions, some even became 'Emperors of Britain'. All roads in 'Garth madrun' led to Brecon Gaer, a large fort where trade and produce from Palleg possibly oats and beef would have been sought after to feed the ever hungry troops. I shouldn't wonder a small market was established near the fort as the Romans gradually demilitarised.
I suggest these details, as it is not at all feasible for me to state that the Welsh had no contact or interaction
with their militaristic & economic overlords who resided here for 400 years on the very doorstep of the inhabited Welsh tribal land which included Palleg. They left only the roads behind and Wales defenceless when they left.
Wales, now open to 'attack' was said to have been raided by Danes, Norse, Saxons, but the Welsh were often more preoccupied with fighting among themselves for land and status. They would harbour grudges and family feuds could last centuries. 4 petty kingdoms emerged, later up to 16 or more, uniting on occasion to fight off the 'Anglo-Saxons'. Population displacement saw Cumbrians, Cornish & Amoricans moving to Wales all of the 'Brythonic tongue', the Irish seemed to have established a foothold around Brecon, whether invited or not, bringing with them Christianity which began to be accepted widely.
Dedication of St Cynog's Church
The church in Ystradgynlais is currently dedicated to St Cynog (c.434-500 AD) and has been so since 1861. He is held to be the eldest son of Brychan Brycheiniog, son of an Irish king who married three noble's daughters including the granddaughter of Helen of Hosts, and founded or re-established the Kingdom of Brecknock by pushing out the rival Irish king of Powys. Reported to be the father and grandfather to most of the saints now honoured in name at the churches and towns of South Wales, although it is likely that they were chiefs of clans associated with him. Cynog was charged with defending the 3 river entrances into the kingdom against invading raiders and was greatly feared. He later became a monk, and said to have been beheaded by invaders at Merthyr Cynog by other Irish (from my studies Merthyr comes from the old Brythonic murthra : to murder and not from Old English martyr). Many churches within the immediate area of Brecon were dedicated to him, and he is the origin of at least the name of the town of Defynnock (Tref Cynog) although experts disagree on this. Professor W.H. Harris of Lampeter suggests through his research c.1940 that the original dedication was St Cynog (I have not seen his thesis).
Alternatively Theophillus Jones in 1802 states that Saint Gwynllyw Milwr (Latin: Gundleus), was one of the first rulers of Ystradgynlais c.500 AD. Initially a warrior chieftain of Glamorgan he raided Brecknock and married St Gwladys a daughter of Brychan who apparently owned the area, and the church dedicated to him as St. Gundleus, the river named after him also. Indeed the area is titled in the 13-1500s as Stadgenles, which could translate to Gundleus's Estate (from stad: estate). Hendre-ladis (Gwladys' Homestead) farm and Sgwd Gwladys near Neath, a waterfall is said to be in the wife's name. But the first mention of the area only occurs in 1129 as the river Cingleis, in a bull by the Pope (see Toponymy). There is a 'folktale' that has Gwynllyw dying in the arms of his son St Cattwg in 'Egwlys Caradog' a cave near Dan Yr Ogof, but he probably died in St Wollos.
St. Gwynllw, St. Gwladys and St. Cattwg are more closely associated with Gelligaer, where the churches were named after the mother and son. Gwynllw inherited cantref Gwynllwg (Wentloog), established a church in Newport called St Wynllyw (Wollos), and lived at Allt Wynllyw in Fochriw after kidnapping Gwladys from Talgarth. You will notice the place names are Wynllyw & Wollos and are not Latinized as Theo suggests with Gundleus, although Gwent was more Anglicised than Brecknock. Indeed, in Papal papers of 1421 Richard Mersfeld is named as the vicar of St Gunleus, Newport. The church is also well known for 'making up' the names of saints, which were based on the actions of real people in the district to give justification for new control of territories. The notion of a 'saint' was not instituted until the Roman church influence was re-established by the Normans, before this martyrs or confessors were venerated at a local level.
So where did Theo get his information? He quotes Capgrave, that would be John Capgrave, Augustinian friar, historian, and theologian, Cambridge 1393-1464 in "Nova Legenda Angliae", the first comprehensive collection of English saints' lives. But this work was really complied by John of Tynemouth, a Benedictine (born c.1290), who copied it from earlier scattered manuscripts. He wrote in a rhetorical purpose only including British saints, undermining Rome and making his own amendments. So he was biased, and he quoted from MS of which we do not know the whereabouts of.
To further debunk this theory, there is no mention at all of any deviation of these rulers / saints names, grants of land by them or claim on Ystradgynlais in the Black Book of Llandaff (dated c.1125), that is supposed to be a direct copy of MS dated c.500 at the very time whence Gundleus was said to exist and rule the whole of Glamorgan, whence the diocese was claimed to stretch to Gwent, Brecon and the Towy (Although the Black Book is discredited a being full of manipulations and forgeries of older documents). So I wouldn't want to dispense with Theo's suggestions, but I certainly question it.
Studying the writings of Giraldus Cambrensis (1146-1223) should have settled this dispute, as he was archbishop of Brecknock and a prolific chronicler. In his tour of Wales he does not even acknowledge Ystradgynlais when passing close by at Neath, or in his writings of Brecon, Llywel is the closest he mentions, and that being burnt down many times. Here he was recruiting for the crusades, but obviously he couldn't visit every church. Upon viewing a direct copy of the 1535 Valor Ecclesiasticus in Kew, it gives no hint at all to the dedication, neither do St. David's episcopal registers from 1490.
John Ecton the chronicler & 'deputy receiver of first fruits' (tithes) for the church of England under Queen Anne records that the church was dedicated to St. Kynog at the time of his writing in 1754. Theophillus wrongly quotes Ecton as stating the church was dedicated to St Mary. I have found no evidence or reference in any mention of Y'gynlais to the church being Roman Catholic and under that particular saint. However that does not preclude it from being under the influence of Rome during the Norman period prior to the 1536 reformation especially if the advowson was under the Earl of Hereford, and it not being under St Davids until 1490 (discussed in Middle Ages). The later landlords Awbrey were regularly accused with no apparent outcome of being recusant and papist, but for John Awbrey whos manor house in Llantrithyd was a haven for royalists and priests during the Civil War of 1642-9, for which he was arrested for and fined. Rev Thomas Hopkin of Ystradgynlais church was also evicted in 1648, one may assume for being papist, but more likely for being in with the Awbreys or corrupt. It may be a coincidence that Ystradfellte was dedicated to St Mary as was Neath Abbey, but Brecon Priory under St John, and there is certainly more scope topographically at least for the Abbey influencing the dedication, they apparently having a grange located at Upper Dulais 1/2 a mile away in around 1296.
The Liber Regis by John Bacon in 1787, (a direct copy of John Ecton's work of 1723) records the dedication to St Kynog but the Liber Ecclesiasticus by Luke Howard of 1827 changes it to St. Gunleus, no doubt by the influence of Theophillus. The census takers are no help and in two minds about the saintly patronage, they name it St Catwg in 1891 and St Cynlais in 1901 & '11. The matter is confuted by the fact that Ystradgynlais was one of 71 'unbeneficed' churches in Brecknock up to 1490, whence it was then formally adopted by St David's diocese, therefore does not occur in early church tax lists as it was held in an advowson by a nominated vicar under the Earl of Hereford (by at least 1372, see Early Middle Ages).
One may infer (at present) therefore that the dedication changed from Cynog under the Celts to St Mary under the Normans, (not forgetting what it may have become under the Anglicans after 1540), possibly reverting to St Mary under Catholic sympathisers, then to St Cynog under Parliamentary Puritans in 1648, then St Gunleus on the authority of Theophilus in 1800. It was finally re-dedicated to St Cynog after the rebuilding and re-sanctification of the church in 1861.
However confusing the matter is, local ancestor worship was practised by the early Welsh. Shrines or totems were placed in their honour at local sacred ritual sites. The church was very careful in its conversions by supplementing but not replacing the original practices, until shown that new was better and the old ways gradually abandoned or incorporated so fully, that no difference could be told. Therefore we are presumably relying on the long generational memory of the tribes that long persisted in the area to associate the church with Cynog, their historical and brave 'superhero' ancestor.
Foundation of Ystradgynlais Church
The Celtic church founding date is all according to a few odd Latin inscribed parts of 'pillar' stones dated to the 5-6th centuries by Proff V.E. Nash-Williams (d.c.1960) found in the "steps leading up to the gallery" of the medieval church when it was demolished, and those built into the east wall of the present church in 1861 under builder John Gabe of Merthyr Tydfil & architect Benjamin Ferrey of Westminster. Having viewed these stones (Picture) I was not entirely impressed at the provenance the experts attribute to them, in my amateur scepticism I took them to be modern Victorian graffiti intended to woe tourists or as a false claim to antiquity. The first reads "(H)IC IACIT" : here lies, and the lower "ADIUNE": a personal name or ADIVNETI (Adiunetus). The 'awkward' rough engraved style in vulgar Latin is consistent with other stones of the period, (Clwydi Banwen pillar stone nr. Seven Sisters & Maen Madoc nr. Ystradfellte) and they are clearly different from the dressed stone in the rest of the church. The 1859 builders contract confirms that stones could be used from the previous building.
I was sceptical because of their crudity, compared to stones of their kin, were they made in a hurry during a civil war, or by monks who had no training? Also they lack Ogham markings expected with a church established by Irish settlers and associated with St Cynog, like those inscribed stones found at Trecastle, Defynnog, Cray and Llywel, but that carries no weight, religious men who spoke Latin were here from Roman times. If there is the slightest chance they came from a late Romano-British grave site here, we'll never know, the foundations of the old church have not been investigated.
But lacking in documented evidence, the oldest and thickest of the yew trees in the churchyard certainly gives age to the site. It measures over 7 metres in girth, and therefore could be up to a 800 years old or more, but that only takes it back to the post Norman period. It is listed by interested groups as an ancient tree (Picture). It is suggested that yew were synonymous with pre-Christian sacred sites as a symbol of eternity. The old enclosure of the church was a raised sub-circular shape, consistent with being mediaeval compared to dated churches. It is also situated close to a river, where the 'Celts' believed their souls would flow into after burial. One would expect that there might be a well associated with a church, and by chance in a Ynyscedwyn lease dated 1585 it mentions land boundaries "to the well called ffynon gynogg", also called "Ffynnon Genoke" in 1561. Many writers speak of the 'cult of the well' built where as if by magic, a underwater spring may appear from nowhere, with no apparent source, and that sacred water used to bless and heal by pilgrims.
But there are precursors to Ystradgynlais church that has not been considered, Brynygroes farm, although a 'modern' name from c.1650 (presumed to be Tir Gwern Evan Griffyth ap Owen in a 1612 lease according to John Williams) is not associated with any crossroads. In a 1562 Ynyscedwyn lease the land is denoted as "from the tree called Derwen Pen y Sarn to the cross called Mayn y Grouse". Mayn comes from maen, a stone and Grouse is obviously groes, a cross, therefore a stone cross. No mention of it has been found before or since this chance quote in lists of antiquities, so we presume removed. Rector Walter Watkins of Y'gynlais came to live here from that date to 1584, and before this, possibly Abbot Leyshon from Neath Abbey upon the dissolution c.1540. Early prayer meetings were also held here by Calvinists before Capel Yorath was built. It is also located on the opposite side of the river Tawe to the town church. So plenty of scope to this being the location of some early cross associated with Palleg, especially if you consider that it is safely placed the near side of the river Tawe, that river convenient to denote the early boundary of Brecon/Glamorgan. These medieval crosses were used as muster/ meeting points, oratories, sites of healing and prayer, for when the church was closed, river high, and is certainly an echo of the patronage of the older religions. Many of these were destroyed in the Commonwealth period.
We also have Henllan near Hengaer, 1/2 a mile SE on Mynydd Y Drum/Drim/Drym. Hen mean old, as in pre-Norman and abandoned. Llan in the Brythonic language refers to a 'sacred' tribal area of land, later an enclosure of land, that on the coming of Christianity is where small churches were established. Gaer means a fortified settlement. Cropmarks & a well (analogous with a sacred site) were found here & dated ironage, but destroyed by coal mining & farming. To the north of the Drim escarpment, bronze age burial cairns and settlement remains were investigated. Both were listed as farms from 1814 maps, with 6 farms surrounding which have all disappeared. From their geographical position I would suggest them serving the upper Crynant community rather than Ystradgynlais, they being inside the Glamorgan boundary to 1984 (then Breconshire), and on the other side of the (impassable?) deep river Tawe. The area was previously owned by the Mackworths of Ynyspenllwch estate, prior to this Gnoll estates, and so with the distinct possibly of it being under the influence of Neath Abbey at one time. Indeed the Abbey according to many sources had a grange in the upper Dulais valley, although the evidence for this is very scanty. I suggest from this evidence an early Celtic fortified house and 'church' setup, with Mynydd y Drim used as a sheepwalk. This thesis is tentatively confirmed by CGAT in an Elizabethan document from NLW Peniarth MS 120 as the "chapel of... crynant ycha".
The prefix 'Llan' is the most widely used toponymic prefix in Wales denoting the establishment of a church in the Late Celtic period (c.4-10th C) on previous sacred sites, with 600+ examples throughout West Britain. However, I think it pertinent and important to note that the prefix 'Ystrad' is 1 of only 16 in Wales (see Toponymy). Many bishporics and monasteries were gradually being established with 'diocese' at this time (in the immediate area Llandeilo, Llangynidr, Llangyfelach, Glasbury, Llantwit major monasteries were all later claimed by Llandaff diocese in 1125 but lands W & N were subsumed by St David's). their territories synonymous with the conquests of rival Kings and their patronage. These early mother churches were well known for their work with the wandering tribes, encouraging them to settle and establish sheepwalks.
You will see, referring to the 1129 bull's by Pope Honorius II & Bishop Urban II in the black book of Llandaff (see Norman Conquest), that the boundary of Llandaff diocese is denoted by river Twrch, Tawe & Cynlais, & the church of Y'gynlais is built almost directly on that divide. That definition is also within a copy of a land grant dated c.500 AD, but it is thought by scholars that this and many of these similar claims to be pure rhetoric, adapted, made up or modified to claim ancient patronage in the dispute over the diocese boundaries. This precise boundary claim is however backed up in truth by a grant of land by King John in 1203 (see Norman Conquest).
But that line in the sand does not match with the boundary of Y'gynlais parish which extends over to Mynydd y Drim in the modern day (although parishes were not established until 1540s, and the official boundary not recognised until 1984). The precursors to these diocese were in dispute over boundaries by 958, continuing for over 180 years, St David's gaining territory by the formation of Deuheubarth in the 9thC, 'winning' influence to the Tawe and in the Gower. Llandaff created in around 1120 was adamant that they be pushed back to the original boundary of the the river Tywi, claiming grants of land as far as Hereford, Monmouth and Glasbury (N. of Brecon), but the deal was finally sealed by Bernard de Neufmarche who found in favour of St Davids, bringing almost the whole of Brecknock under it. There is even an echo of this dispute in the rival marcher war of 1290, see Early Middle Ages) where the Earl of Gloucester attempted to build a castle in Ystradgynlais town and claim Morlais castle, both on the county boundaries. It later led to the murder of William Awbrey in 1679 over a land dispute on Mynydd y Drim. The dispute finally came to a head in the early 1800's where a lengthy court case evolved between Gwyn, Awbrey and Morgan over the right to mine minerals under the Drim to supply Ynyscedwyn ironworks. This has to do with the abundance of coal and iron here, annexing it could deny Brecknock weapons of war, and vast wealth, although its exploitation was not fully instigated until this late period.
Theses on the Church's Foundation|
Therefore, there should be defined, several theses as to the period when Ystradgynlais church may have been founded in consideration the information above :
Of all these theories that could be attributed to any church without a Llan prefix, I do not have to make a specific choice because history is silent on the subject, we can mix up all 4 and create an infusion of part truth. We can but infer because of settlement & archaeological evidence from the very beginnings of civilisation in the area, that tribes needed to meet, greet, perform sacrifice, worship their ancestors and sing to their Gods, and that was the template for their conversion to Christianity. The fact that the church became established and maintained on the boundary through centuries of invasion is testimony to their courage, strength, diplomacy and faith.
Therefore a pagan shrine was presented with a cross, a wooden chapel was built, replaced later in stone, sacked in a rival Marcher war of 1289 (see Early Middle Ages) and possibly rebuilt again c.1489 under the benefice of St David's upon the victory of the 'War of the Roses'. Evidence of an early church would suggest tithes or tributes may have been demanded, meaning farmed land and settlement throughout the area from this time.
Celtic Llys & Maenor?
The now partly civilised Welsh living in Palleg were ruled by relations to the chief lord (teyrn) of Brecknock in the administrative district of Cantref Tewdos, (the Red Book of Hergest suggests Ystradgynlais was later within the smaller unit of Llywel commote), which each had a number of maenorau and llys (courts), a precursor of the Welsh manorial system. These might be wooden forts overseeing villagers, who lived in basic clay or stone and thatch cottages, with herds of pigs in the oak wood and sheep and cattle shepherded on the unenclosed moorlands with basic crop rotations. The social structure was tribal and communal and included a local chief (rhaglaw), the noble elders (uchelwyr), the freemen (rhingyll), and the bondsmen or slaves (maer). All work and land was shared. The chief lord would have visited their respective llysoedd in the cantrefs in turn for court jurisdiction, inspection and demand tributes in food (the precursor of rent demands) in return for protection. He had privileges to hunt or chase when he did visit, deer and boar would exist here then, a falconer (hebogydd) and huntsman (pencynydd) would be among his large horse mounted retinue.
There was, with only reference to Hywel Ddas laws in the 10th century two types of maenor. Those with nobles & freemen, (maenor wrthdir) and the other serftowns (maenor vro) for laborers and slaves. From later evidence through the centuries (that you'll find scattered below) we can establish that freemen and nobles were the main tenants, and with the presence of a mill, a smith and traditional appointment of a shepherd and a 'district bull' we can bestow the title of 'tref rhydd', a freetown on the area. 13 of these freetowns would make a maenor, an echo of its jurisdiction being Dr Awbrey of Cantref awarded as many lordships in the late 1500's.
Toponymic evidence suggest that Brynhenllys farm (hill of the old court) on Palleg is the approximate area of the placement of the local llys, although there is no archaeological or documented evidence for its existence, and it is also named -Llysg & -Llisk from 1726-98, which may refer to a station for sledge carts. This also was at a time before Ystradgynlais land ownership was split through inheritance, and part of the larger comotte. One may presume therefore if not here, that they may have held court at Glyntawe, or Defynnog and continued to use wooden hill forts right up to the Norman period and beyond.
Horses were definitely important, if not revered by the Celts. A fine Lord's horse was treated as equal to its owner, as one. Palleg has a tradition of raising horses in the moorland, but I doubt this is where the graceful, powerful warhorses of old were reared, pack horses (pynfarch), cobs and farm horses (march llyfnu) were more likely. Their compatriots, the cow were also reared in large herds, they being a sign of a man or tribes wealth, and often forming part of a marriage 'dowry'. Sheep were not so important at the time, but reared for their wool.
If we ever need definite proof of early settlement then it is usual to refer to the rivers & streams, these were the first physical features to be named, giving direction and boundary markings. The rivers Twrch, Gwys and Amman have Brythonic associations with now extinct wild boars of this period. Glyn Cynwal farm also appears from toponymic study to have been named in honour of a St Cynwal of Gower or Cynwal Ffrwdwr a military leader of the early centuries, all discussed along with Brynhenllys in Toponymy.
Late Celtic Archaeology
There is no firmly dated archaeological evidence or finds from this period within the Palleg area denoting settlement, according to CPAT. The court at Brynhenllys is doubtful, the Henllan sites destroyed and the town church stones of debatable origin. In the wider area there is a dearth of settlement archaeology; upland populations were said to have declined due to a worsening of weather conditions between 600-1000AD. Settlement in the area it seems is only firmly acknowledged in the Usk Valley, where the many Ogham church stones are found. We also have the Gnoll Stone carving at Cefn Hirfynydd 5 miles SE depicting a Celtic priest. However, this search has not included artefacts and finds which could be found within wooden huts destroyed or the continued reuse of Bronze age stone dwellings by pastoral tribes in Palleg. But the Welsh were definitely here somewhere, herding their stocks.
Late Celtic Conclusions
Most of the land in Brecknock in the Celtic era was considered divided tribal areas, centred on a collection of fortified farms with communal grazing, surrounded by 'waste lands', improved, cleared and enclosed as the years went by, overseen by local chieftans and a Teyrn of Brecknock. It is therefore reasonable for me to assert the assumption that upland Palleg was at least used pastorally from these times, because of the nature of the toponymy, (sparse) archaeology, genealogy, ecclesiology and general history of the area. We rely on the supposed continuation of respect for land boundaries and their administration from the earliest times to this, associated with the hamlet of Palleg, synonymous with the breadth of land farmed by a llys and maenor, to assume that it remained a consolidated whole pre and post Norman.
Initial Conquest of Brecknock By Bernard de Neufmarche
The weather systems of Britain were said to have 'improved' by 0.5 of a degree by 1000AD, leading to population rise and hunger for new land. This coincided with the Norman invasion, which struck swiftly with great slaughter, although they already had a foothold in the marches prior to 1066. The accepted theory is that Brecknock was conquered gradually (due to horsemen & knights being unsuitable in Welsh mountain guerilla war) under Bernard de Neufmarche, there was some strong resistance in Llywel, battles were said to have been fought as far as Ystradgynlais. However many of the Normans were of continental Celtic decent and their presence was more welcome than Saxons, Angles and Jutes. It is also thought that Bernard owned land in Hereford and Brecknock by 1088, and that by his rebellion against William II was allowed to expand into the county eventually taking most of it. Gower was conquered by Roger de Newburgh c.1100 from Brecon and came into the sphere of Brecknock influence. In the early Norman documents the full title of the Brecknonian conqueror is given as "Bernard, Goisfredi de Nova-Mercato filius" this makes him Bernard, son of Geoffrey of Neuf-Marché, so later scribes should have titled him Bernard fitz Geoffrey of Newmarket.
The Defeated Welsh Tribes
Welsh Chieftan Bleddyn ap Maenyrch was said to have been killed at the battle of Brecon 1093, possibly at Aberllech, although there is no firm evidence of his existence (experts state Gryfydd ap Elisedd d.1045 was the last true ruler of Brecknock, he seems to have ruled it as a sub-kingdom from Deheubarth, others conflict opinion by stating Rhys ap Teudwr was the ruler of S/Wales and died in the same battle). His descendants were pushed into the poor marginal areas of the kingdom, but allowed to keep their 'status' under feudal bondage but could not own land, prosecute an Englishman in court or attain high office. Of his 'sons', Gwrgan was under house arrest in Brecon castle, but was 'given access' to land in Blaenllyfni, Aberllyfni, Llanfihangel and Talyllyn. Cradoc was given the 'hilly parts', and his Uncle Drymbenog, Cantref Selyf. Granting this right to farm the land to those who showed fealty was a better policy than executing more of the 'beloved princes of the natives' which may have stirred up increased resentment and rebellion by other tribes. Indeed that idea was not far from the minds of some, as in the murder of Welsh chieftains in Abergavenny castle c.1176 including Trahaern Vychan of Glyntawe, by William de Braose lord of Brecknock which led to a fierce Welsh uprising.
The Bleddyn tribe were either granted access to land in Glyntawe, Defynnog & Y'gynlais or retained that right after the conquest. Either way they were within the jurisdiction of the Marches of Brecknock under the Earl of Hereford, listed as living as local nobles at Glyntawe from around 1130. The chieftain Cydifor, grandson to Bleddyn died c.1200 leaving the tribal lands to be divided among his sons. One assumes Gruffudd 'Gwyr' ap Cydifor took all the land south and east of Palleg, what was to become the Ynyscedwyn estates. Meurig ap Cydifor the eldest took Glyntawe lands, which may have included Palleg, as his direct descendent Trahaearn ab Owain "Fwya" is living there by c.1390.
These ennobled but subjugated princes and most other Welsh were effectively left to eke out a living in the uplands in which the Normans could not accustom to, and only by loyalty to the Crown and intermarriage with their overlords could they adapt to this predicament. It is by this method that the 'Norman' Awbreys of Abercynrig are found as 'constables of the Forest' by 1330 and slowly claiming titles to land by intermarriage with the Welsh, including the Glyntawe families. That however did not stop the Cymric natives rebelling when their 'blood was up' regards intransigence, injustice and bad kingship, but often felt the worst for it at the end of their struggle, loosing more lands and privileges.
The Welsh were notorious for switching sides if the wind was in their favour. Thus we have hearsay that Gruffudd Gwyr grandson to Bleddyn being granted a Lordship in the Gower possibly Knelston or Ilston in 1215, or at least stewardship of 'Welsh North Gower' - Uwch Coed, for assisting William de Breos, bishop of Hereford reclaim Gower who was AGAINST King John in a civil war (see Manor of Brecknock section below). He became an 'opulent authority' within the area, based for a time at Oystermouth.
On the obverse of the coin, we see Cradoc ap Gwilym, chieftain of the Welsh of Glyntawe LOYAL to King John against de Breos were granted a coat of arms, azure, a buck tripping, argent, unguled and attired, between horns, imperial crown, Or, at least according to Theophillus. It is supposed then that this is when the status of Lordship was conferred upon Ystradgynlais or Palleg. Could the family have split their loyalties, on the King's side with interest in retaining land he held under the Crown, and his close relative Gruffudd Gwyr on Breos's side, thinking that whatever the outcome the tribe as a whole would gain something out of it. Of the few references to him, a Gryffydd Frych ap Gruffudd Gwyr of Glyntawe gave up the land in Uwch Coed with others to de Breos to keep the peace in 1287.
All this activity had something to do with the apartheid that was imposed by King John on the 11 Nov 1208 John in another charter for Gower separating Welsh and English from food provisions and customs. The grants of land and arms were made under the auspices of the Magna Charta around 1215 that sought to bring some peace, but actually inflamed the situation with its duality, especially when annulled by the Pope after hearing King John had been forced to sign it.
|"56. If we have disseised or removed Welshmen from lands or liberties, or other things, without the legal judgement of their peers in England or in Wales, they shall be immediately restored to them...for the tenements in England according to the law of England, for tenements in Wales according to the law of Wales, and for tenements in the marches according to the law of the marches. Welshmen shall do the same to us and ours."|
|Magna Charta, King John, 19th June 1215. 3|
The Manor of Brecknock & Palleg
The Normans seized the fertile lowlands and 'maenors' in the north and around Brecon, franchising them out to their be-knighted compatriots, granting land to priories and abbeys with granges. The collective estates were known initially as the Lordship of Brecknock, but broken up over time into the separate Lordships of Brecon, Hay, Builth, Blaenllyfni, Dinas, Crickhowell, and Ystradgynlais, all contained within the 'Marches of Wales' under the Earl of Hereford for the Crown. The poorer uplands south of the Usk & Brecon (excluding Y'gynlais) were established as the 'Great Forest of Devynnock' a huge hunting and common grazing land reserved for them under 'Marshall law' wherein were 7 Forest mills mentioned in 1372 and the few small 'Celtic' churches.
No mention is made of the Normans confiscating or granting any lands in Y'gynlais, but Palleg was 'ruled' under oath of fealty as a sub-Lordship known as a 'Knight's Fee' (from evidence of documents in 1551, 1595, 1634, 1747 discussed in later chapters), initially by the Welsh nobles, due payment of 'comorth' (dues of assistance) in the form of cattle, men-at-arms and provisions to Brecon castle. There are no 'prominent' Norman manors, castles or churches documented south of the Usk in the vast see of the Forest. Y'gynlais is not mentioned until 1289, wherein a castle & church is recorded (see Early Middle Ages) which hints at the presence of a Lordship. The Great Forest was synonymous with the Manor of Brecknock, and so Y'gynlais inc. Palleg are understood to have been outside both their boundaries or taken out of it around 1215 but had all the right of pasturage within it for a fee, for these reasons (that are discussed in detail further on):
1. Never contained in any rent roll, grant, lease or survey of the Manor or Forest of Brecknock from 1521-1747. Early leases state all advowsons and knight's fees were reserved to the Crown|
2. Appurtenant to no.1 above; Not contained in lands seized from dissolution of monasteries, Earl Jasper, Duke of Buckingham, Rhys ap Gruffudd, Earl of Pembroke or Parliamentarian Civil War
3. Appurtenant to no.1 above; Never mentioned in the list of 'mills of the Great Forest' from 1372-1813.
Palleg, Ystradgynlais & Abercrave had their own mills
4. Palleg appears as hereditary freehold land converted from 'tribal demesne lands' in 1551, 1585, 1595 & 1634
5. Palleg held in a knight's fee prior to 1521, thereby implicating Norman origins granted by the King
6. Advowson of Y'gynlais 'owned' by Earl of Hereford prior to 1372, with evidence of a church prior to 1289
7. The area strongly Welsh until 15thC, but loyal to the Crown
8. Evidence of intermarriage between leading Normans & Welsh of Glyntawe
9. Land reserved for 'battle-beaten Welsh' under oath of fealty
The closest we come to the area is that the 'Fisheries of the Tawe', (possibly near Callwen church), the Advowson of Glyntawe church, and payment of comorth from Glyntawe were due to the Earl of Hereford through Brecon Castle, evidenced by lands seized from Earl of Buckingham in 1521. We would infer then that Ystradgynlais was still due customs, comorth, military service and tithes, at least while the Welsh were peaceable, as there is evidence (given in later chapters) of a church, noblemen, settlement and thus a feudal manor, (initially without a grand mansion). Therefore it would not be acceptable for me to state that given all this evidence that the area was a wooded Welsh rebel base for 400 years, although this is circumstantial and inferred from continuation of tradition from the 1400s and does not preclude it from being so at times.
Many interpret collection of dues to implicate that Ystradgynlais within the 'Manor of Brecknock', it did not, it only denoted the right to be paid, administered as a knights fee held in chief to the Crown, but within the Marches of Wales and the Brecknock administrative boundary. Although the Welsh were stripped of title, status and privilege, Welsh law & customs were tolerated, and nominative tribal 'ownership' of land was passed on only through the female line with the provision that they intermarry their English overlords. A modern parallel of the situation might be described as Y'gynlais being like Palestine; part of Israel, but not part of Israel.
Palleg as a Knight's Fee
From several Crown documents dated 1551, 1585, 1595 & 1634 (see later chapters) we find that the Manor of Palleg has an early origin as a 'Knight's Fee'. These were areas of Crown land reserved for the 'propagation' of footsoldiers and bowmen to fight for the knight under the king when needed or to guard the various castles in the district for 40 days service in the year. Thus meaning subjugated Welshmen pledging personal fealty to their Lord were trained by armed men in the art of warfare to fight against their own people, foreign invaders, civil wars, crusades etc. Is it to me obvious why it was created here, as it was on the edge of rebellious Gower and Dyfed, and the wild nature of the moor producing many tough, hardy young men who in essence lived on it for half the year, and ruled by the rod of a constable (possibly stationed at Llwyn Cwnstabl) to carry out backbreaking labour. This 'service' also included organizing commerce and appointing overseers, sherriffs, tax collectors and maintaining roads, bridges and mills to grind the grain for bread and beer.
Not only men were procured, but provision of horses, ale, crops and armour by those appointed were made to support the knight. At only 1/8 of a fee, it was a small contributory, and formed one of many under the nominated tenant-in-chief / knight / overlord, 60 of these fees would create a 'Barony'. We have the presence of a mill and plenty of land to support horses, crops in later years. As for the provision of armour, I suspect that that there may have been a forge at Llwyncwnstabl (hints by archaeologists) or later at Tir-Y-Gof farm (land of the smith). Unfortunately if there was sword-smithing here, no archaeologist or metal detector has come up with anything substantial, bar a mediaeval horse shoe (see Amateur Archaeology), they may have only supplied iron from the quarries with a primitive forge.
These fees could be instigated by a king, or by the tenant-in-chief separating an area from the larger demesne, suggesting that there may have even been a larger Lordship of Y'gynlais under one ruler at one time. If King John or a later king did grant it, no obvious documentation or grant has survived or come to light, which may make the latter suggestion plausible. It is very certain though that it would have been created in the feudal Norman period, as a continuation of the earlier Welsh system, as all knights fees were without exception.
As it is so small, it hints that it would have been under the collection of knight's fees held by the Lord of Brecknock or the Earl of Hereford for example and not a paltry part of a local Welsh Lord's demesne, since they were usually barred from that privilege, of course he may have been charged with administering the district. However, evidence from the earliest surviving records of all major landholders within the manor of Brecknock suggests otherwise, as Palleg is never mentioned at all in the lists of included manors, knights fees were always reserved for the Crown. This is no way precludes it therefore from being in the hands of a loyal Welshman as a reward, or later the Awbreys, being as is they maintained Palleg co-current with Abercynrig from at least 1521. The Magna Charta of 1215 confirms that a knight's fee could be held by a third party.
As to how long this privilege was maintained we can only guess. The system broke down in the later Middle Ages and feudal tenure was finally abolished in British Territories in 1660, however there is the anomaly that Palleg is still described as a knight's fee in documentation of 1747 (see Morgan, Hughes & Williams Ownership), although by then most of the provisions to Lord Morgan were commuted to payments in cash and kind. I would even go so far as stating that it never lost this status until the breakup of the manor in 1915, making it an interesting anachronistic 700 year old survivor, and by evidence from the tenants in the local news never wished it to end, so enamoured were the Welsh at having a grand Lord looking after them with cheap rents, discounted seed crops and a kind of deep seated love of the ancient ways that could astound a modern city visitor.
Jurisdiction of Brecknock Manor 1093-1283
Although Ystradgynlais was 'semi-independent' of the Manor of Brecknock and fee farmed initially by Welsh nobles under fealty, and not fully under control of the Normans, it was still under its influence and due customs to Brecon Castle so I think it pertinent to contain its history here. In a charter denoting the boundaries of Gower by grant of King John's court to William de Breos III he writes that:
|"River Logherne (Loughor) as far as the Amman separates the land of Gouher (Gower) from the land of Carnewaldhar (Carnwyllion). Amman separates Gower from Iskennen (Iscennen) and the commote of Perfedd as far as the Lleuenedh (Llynfell). Along the Llynfell as far as Claudhoweyn (Clawdd Owen), and Clawdd Owen as far the Tourthe (Twrch). Twrch separates Gower from the territory of Brecknock (terre de Breckeneu). Tawe separates Gower from the Earl of Gloucester's land (le conte de Gloucestrie, ergo Glamorgan)".|
|Chartre de la terre de Goulier, King John J.R. 23 Feb 1203. 2 6|
We interpret 'territory of Brecknock' as meaning Ystradgynlais seeming to have been under control, but it certainly assures us that Gower did not rule over it. But the governance was sporadic, the Welsh often rebelling, the Normans holing themselves up in their castles, then retaliating from Swansea, Neath & Brecknock with scorched earth policies and severe cruelty such as in the Gower and Cilybebyll. Much of South and East Wales and the English border counties were known as the Welsh Marcher Lordships, a buffer zone, granted 'independent control of the Crown' bar minting coins, overseen by at least 7 earls and 150 Lordships. These were created so that justice might be met on the rebelling Welsh or any other invaders without having blood upon the hands of William and his successors. But they could also wage war on each other. However feudal and cruel some of their exploits seem to have been, they intermarried with the Welsh noble lines, respected local tradition and laws and acted as 'replacement Welsh princes'.
The honour of Brecknock passed by marriage of Bernard's daughter Sibyl to Miles Fitz Walter. The initial success of the conquest was later fiercely countered and in around 1143 Roger Fitzwalter was re-granted Brecknock & Gower after assisting King Stephen re-conquer Wales. William de Braose his successor was involved in the notorious murder of Welsh chieftains in Abergavenny c.1176, which led to a fierce Welsh uprising. He burnt Leominster and fled to Ireland d.1213. His lands were confiscated by King John c.1203 but the son William de Breos, bishop of Hereford retook those lands with assistance from Gruffudd Gwyr and Llywelyn Fawr, when King John faced a civil war after both sides broke the terms of the Magna Carta.
Brother Reginald de Braose inherited, he was given additional lands by Henry III, Llywelyn Fawr of Gwynedd his father in law was incensed by this and burnt Brecon town, but was appeased and so took to Gower but could not pass at Ystradgynlais because of the boggy ground and floods, and lost many carts. He was forgiven by Reginald and given Caerphilly castle. But still incensed his son William de Braose was captured by Llywelyn, Henry had to pay the ransom of Builth for him. While there William consorted with Llywelyn wife, daughter of the king. He was therefore asked to a party, then summarily hanged on a nearby tree. Henry requested that Llywelyn answer for this crime, but he did not, rebelled and sacked much of Wales, retaking much of Brecknock, but failed to take the castle. The lands therefore defaulted into the hands of the de Bohun family.
Llywelyn great nephew continued to hassle the English and a truce was offered by Henry III in 1267 whereby he was offered the Lordship of Brecknock, overlooking de Bohuns claims. Therefore Humphrey de Bohun with Edward I in 1283, sought to reclaim lands lost, invaded Wales, slaying 'last prince' Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, retaking the Lordship of Brecknock in the process.
Rhys ap Maredudd was said to be the only prince 'loyal' to Edward I in the conquest of Wales and was granted cantref Mawr and Bychan (In Carmarthen). But he rebelled in 1287 attacking Swansea and the Gower killing women and children, and then withdrew. Gruffudd Frych ap Gruffudd Gwyr of Glyntawe and others offered up their woods to William de Braose to keep the peace, which included wooded land in upper 'Welsh' Gower, 'Uwch Coed' on the border of Ystradgynlais which became Caegurwen and Cilybebyll Manors. An example of the seizures of a 'Welsh chieftain' from a similar semi independent area, Caerphilly mountain belonging to Llywelyn Bren in 1317 by Edward II included 469 milk cows and calves, 528 ox, 3 bulls, 500 sheep and 500 pigs & goats.
Cictersian Monks of Brecknock
So from this general history we can acknowledge that settlement was sparse but increasing in Glyntawe and the surrounds. It was encouraged by the grant of land, tithes, mills and entitlement to fish in the Great Forest to the monks of the priories and abbeys. You might call this the more gentle invasion. This was done by Bernard de Neufmarche before his death in order to absolve him from any evils he may have committed and that the monks pray for his repentance and to curry favour with the Pope. These holy men, Black Friars and Cistercians would go unarmed into the Welsh territories making pilgrimages between Margam, Neath, Brecon, St Davids (even Rome) to preach Christianity, teach the young, tend to the poor, improve sheep farming, apiary & horticulture, generally left unruffled, sometimes settling on the lands given. However, no lands, manors or granges seem to be documented as being given south of the Usk.
The 7 mills of the Great Forest, the closest being in Glyntawe, the 'Fisheries of the Tawe' including the Advowson of Glyntawe had some jurisdiction or instigation by these monks as they were responsible for collecting those tithes. Blaendulais grange, part of Neath Abbey 1/2 a mile SE was also close, documented as in existence by 1296, and a 'fraternity belonging to Brecon Priory' at Ystradfellte, where both would have had some interaction with local farmers prior to the dissolution c.1536. Neath Abbey was the first to be founded in Wales, land granted by Richard de Granville son of Roger conqueror of Gower in 1129. As previously noted, the Abbey was dedicated to St Mary, as was Ystradgynlais & Ystradfellte, but Brecon under St John. Parts of Uwch Coed in Upper Gower were traditionally owned by the lords of Glyntawe so there is certainly more scope for the Abbeys influence here logistically and geographically than from Brecon. If the sheepwalks of Palleg and Mynydd y Drim were not already present, being as it was the Welsh more enamoured with cattle droving then I'm sure some dedicated man of God helped to improve husbandry here as sheep farming became economically viable after 1300.
The last Abbott of Neath was a Leyshon Thomas who left in 1532. It is with some certainty of claim by the descendant Leyshon family that still live on Bryn-Y-Groes farm (Hill of the Cross) in south Palleg that his descendants settled there after the dissolution, as a lead plaque inscribed 'I.O.S. 1607 J.L.' was found on one of the barns. Said to be deciphered as Iesus (H)ominen Salvator, (Jesus saviour of men); John Leyshon (Thomas). The toponymy of the farm also seems fitting, Bryn Y Groes translating to Hill of the Cross, and there being no evidence of any apparent crossroads here. An early Ynyscedwyn lease dated 1562 states Gwern Yorath farm was given to Rev Walters, the boundary denoted by "the cross at Maen y Groes"(a stone cross), whereabouts unknown from that date.
The boundaries of the sees were fiercely contested at the time. Llandaff and St David's bishops 'fought' for control of the area (there were great economic benefits in church lands, synonymous but separate from Crown lands, also St. David's sought independence from Canterbury). The dispute and church corruption went on for many years, mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis 1146 - 1223. A 'Bull' of 1129 by Pope Honorius II to Bishop of Llandaff, officially described these boundaries, wherein the borders of Y'gynlais as they were are mentioned;
|"...upwards to Mynydd Ddu to Blaen Twrch along river (Turch) Twrch to the Tawe, along that river to river (Cingleis) Cynles to Blain Cynles, from the source of the Cynles to Alltungwernen...".|
|Bull of Pope Honorius II, 5th April 1129 1|
As for Y'gynlais church at this period, it is not known whether it was under the control of St Davids, established and built by the Normans or even sacked later by the many rebellions that swept through the area. We may presume that there was still a 'Late Celtic' wooden chapel church of some form here patronised by the nobles of Glyntawe with some influence or guidance from Neath Abbey, because we have mention of a church in 1289 and it is held in an advowson by 1372 under the Earl of Hereford (see Early Middle Ages) and the fact we have acknowledgement that cattle dues and customs were being paid to Brecon castle at this time (see above), we may infer (without direct evidence) that a tithe system was in operation for the district while the Welsh were peaceable.
The Great Forest of Brecknock, Mills & Fisheries
Bernard de Neufmarche created the Great Forest of Brecknock as a royal hunting ground, stocked with deer and boar within which farmers were allowed to pasture their livestock for a fee. This included most of the hilly country south of the river Usk. The monks of Brecon town priory were given the "tithe of the forest, tithe of all cattle arising from gifts of the Welshmen, of all spoils, profits, tolls, mills and larders of castles filled by the benevolence of Welshmen", this was a common edict by nobles wishing to curry favour with the pope, this particular one by Roger Fitzmiles, 2nd Earl of Hereford c.1144. This grant was reinforced by many subsequent Marcher lords until 1536. Administration was upheld by forest courts with rangers and constables, who exercised severe punishments for poaching, encroachment and trespass, which ranged from loss of all monies, livestock, hands or head.
It is with great certainty that Y'gynlais & Palleg were never included in the Forest. A compilation map from the 'middle ages' (c.14-1500) shows Y'gynlais parish squished into a marginal corner surrounded by the hunting area and the counties of Carmarthen and Glamorgan. By 1795 the boundaries are certainly documented as stretching to the upper limit of the Palleg common lands. The Lordship and Forest were said to be synonymous with each other in most rights and laws until separated around 1639. Within were contained the 7 seigneurial mills, "Dyvinnock, Lluell, Crey, Senney, Estrodvelt, Glintaway, and Pollgough, part of the lordship of Brecon". Palleg, Abercrave and Ystradgynlais had their own corn mills, and thus if they were within the Forest and the Lordship they would have been within this list, which remained consistent through the ages.
Thus said, the tenants of Y'gynlais were allowed to drove their animals into the Forest for double fee of those living in it, but it is doubtful how many of the Palleg tenants did this, with so much of their own free grazing land, it was a perk usually used by those who did not own land and those on the boundary. In 1804, fees were "For every Cow or other Beast, two pence. For every hundred of sheep, sixteen pence, or two pence per Dozen for any less number". They could also take lime for their farms at 1p per horse (load), again, Palleg farms each had their own limekiln and communal quarries. (Note that in defence of a case for selling off the Forest in 1784, Ystradgynlais tenants petitioned the solicitor to complain that they would loose valuable pasturage that they droved to each summer. This might be explained by the fact that farmers often rented out flocks of sheep for the summer).
Also within the Forest fee was the right to farm fish in rivers and ponds, mainly on the Tawe, Nedd & Usk. The 'fisheries of the Tawe' appears consistently in documents, the first 'owner' being Hugh Le Despenser listed in his possessions of 1337 as "Fisheries in the waters of Glyntawe". These rights end up separate from the Forest and in the hands of Dr William Awbrey in 1579, described as being at 'Tir Y Piscodowr' - 'Land of the Fishermen' in upper Glyntawe, p.Defynnog. No maps of any age give a toponymical clue to the location, but one may hazard a guess that it would be near Callwen church or above Glyntawe mill if the right to tithes of fish was granted to the monks, and they being allowed to consume these animals instead of red meat. Palleg also had its own fish pond from at least 1900, a pond keeper was nominated by the commoners committee. The Lord also had the right to fish in the Twrch and Giedd and I'm sure that a group of tenants were nominated for that job here, with fish baskets traps across the streams, eels caught with tridents. The original rivers would have been pristine with trout, salmon, eels, lamprey, sewin etc, by 1861 with the influx of industry and mass poaching the river was reduced to a sewage outlet that has been cleaned up only in recent times.
The Forest farm right, within the Lordship of Brecknock but separate from it, passed down from Neufmarche to Fiztwalter, Braose, Bohuns, Earls of Hereford then to the Duke of Buckingham, thence to the Crown, whence it was granted to various individuals separate from the Lordship until sold to the Morgans of Tredegar in 1639. This tenure passed through the family until around the time of sale of the Great Forest in 1811, when it was part enclosed, part sold and rest left as common land. The mineral rights were sold separately and by 1840 Morgan had asserted his right to fully exploit these natural resources all over his Breconshire lands, including Palleg.
Norman Class System & Labour Division
The class system of this period was rigid and well defined, and from King to Earl to Norman baron, Welsh gentry to free tenant, villein to serf and slaves, tribute and obeisance were expected on pain of death. These included 'cattle dues' "for a custom of 90 cows with their calves given by Welsh tenants to the lord for 'Treet Calamay' every second year on the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross, a custom called 'advoc'", is one example, flour dues and 'prise of ale' (12 gallons of each brewing) being sent to Brecon castle and pasture and transport fees demanded throughout the area. The tenants were subject to 'suit of court' whereby attendance at the local manor court and church were enforced in lieu of fines. Here freemen were empowered with roles in it and on the jury, settling any disputes or breaches of law. We believe from the general evidence of the area that Brynhenllys farm may have been the approximate location of the Court, or a nearby knight's hall, Hen Neuadd might be an example.
The villeins, serfs and slaves bore the brunt of hard work and had little say. At times of heavy work e.g. in harvest the 'Boon Works' were exacted, whereby they had to provide a minimum amount of work in payment of food. They also had to make 'suit of mill' i.e. repair the corn mill, cleaning ditches. For all this labour for the lord he offered them protection from rival lords, but with a catch, they had to take up arms in his name when called for, and could be 'sold off' if they were defeated in battle. The knight's fee conferred upon the lord of Palleg around this time meant that a number of armed men could be called upon to serve and fight for 40 days guarding castles within Brecknock.
Norman Archaeology in Palleg
No dated finds from THIS period have been found on Palleg or Ystradgynlais as yet. A small keep or wooden fort built in 1289 at Cae'r Castell is covered in the next chapter. The Normans were well known for their rigorous castle building programs, and Ystradgynlais was then upon the borders of the two rebellious Welsh petty kingdoms of Deheubarth and Dyfed. Most of the surviving nearby castles surround mid Breconshire and the main town, Gower, Swansea and Neath. The nearest similar castle was Castell Coch in Ystradfellte 16 miles away on a fork of the Mellte, only mentioned as being owned by William de Braose in 1239 and additions possibly poorly built by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd's short tenure c.1260. They would therefore have used the Great Forest area as a buffer zone while they holed themselves up in the castles when attacked, as there are no prominent Normans or their descendants found documented as living in the area until the 1400s. The river Cynlais is first mentioned during this time as Cingleis in 1129, which is discussed in the chapter on Toponymy.
Conclusions on Norman Palleg
The dearth of direct evidence to suggest the Lordship of Palleg as a knight's fee was in existence at this time is the best affirmation of its presence, as all such fees were separate from the Manor of Brecknock and directly under the auspices of the Crown. The small numbers of Welsh allowed to survive would have been denuded of all rights and privileges and thus squished into a corner of wild Wales had little choice but to fight or accept fealty. The collective intelligentsia would realise the potential of influence if they welcomed their newcomers and so accepted and fought on the side of the Crown, thus being gifted with the fee farm of these territories after their rebellions failed. Therefore Ystradgynlais with the Lordships of Abercrave, Palleg and precursor of Ynyscedwyn were under the Crown within the Marches of Wales and due payments, tithes, taxes, provisions etc through Brecon castle, but was separate from the fee farm of the Great Forest and Manor of Brecknock and ruled under Welsh laws and customs by at least 1215
Advowson of Ystradgynlais Church
Y'gynlais church existed before 1289, (evidenced in the section below), and by 1372 it was held in an 'Advowson', thus meaning the lord of the demesnes had built, rebuilt or established a church in the area and so had the power to nominate and control the appointment of a parish priest on behalf of the diocese. In owning the church he/she could influence the tenants of his manor through the teaching of the church and so strike moral fear, ensuring tax was paid, raising productivity, preventing crime and disloyalty. 'Peasants' & tenants were bound by law to attend church, as the work on the manor, with no other access to external knowledge, so it was a powerful conduit for power and control. The incumbent priest for his loyalty, received tithes from the rented properties on the manor.
Lords sometimes instigated advowsons for their 2nd or 3rd born sons, as they would not inherent the prime lands due to primogeniture, however this would not apply to Wales at the time, as inheritance was tribal and usually split equally between sons under 'gavelkind' laws. Could the advowson have been patronised by Cydifor c.1150 for his son Gruffudd 'Gwyr' with assistance from the Normans and Brecon priory? Or possibly built by Gruffudd with his substantial wealth after his grant of lordship in c.1215 under Neath Abbey? Historical research suggests that advowsons became popular after the total conquest of Wales in 1283, whence the tithe collection could be controlled by appointed constables and vicars loyal to the Crown, and the church personally owned by Lords & Ladies as a supplementary income.
Thus is the case with the first recorded advowson owned by Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford upon an inquest into his death in 1372, whence it passed to Thomas Duke of Gloucester. By 1398 an official order to Clement Spice escheator in Hertfordshire was to give;
|"Eleanor...one of the daughters and heirs of Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereforde, widow of Duke of Gloucester...the advowson of Straungedeles (Ystradgynlais) church, all held in chief."|
|By K (Richard II) Close Rolls, March 21 1398. 12|
So it appears, from the orders above that a higher authority than the local lord was in command of the appointment of a vicar from Herefordshire, possibly directed by the Bishop there. Whoever he was, he must have been a very tough Christian, not adverse to a horse when the local civil wars broke out intermittently. Eleanor was indeed the sister to Mary Bohun who married Henry IV and made a claim on her sister's inheritance of the Lordship of Brecknock. So we are talking about serious power, influence, pressure and control on the Welsh in this district and their loyalty to the Crown, early on. However this was a short lived administration by Eleanor ending in 1400 with the reconquest of Wales, albeit for a brief period by Owen Glyndwr to 1415, where a scorched earth policy against English administrative buildings was ordered.
The church does not appear in the Taxatio Ecclesiastica of 1254 or 1291 and Gerald Cambrensis does not mention it in his travels of 1194 (although Horace Morgan says it is "within the lists of Pope Nicholas IV"). This might be explained by these Welsh rebellions, wars with England and sacking by rival Marcher Lords, such as that documented in 1289 (see below) whence its 'value' was reduced to 1d, and could have been a small wooden chapel of ease or the original Celtic church, and remained unbenificed by St Davids or Brecon for this reason. It is generally thought that work started on a proper parish church after the success of Brecknock under the Tudors in the War of the Roses ending c.1487, as the first Rector, Sir Thomas is documented as being admitted in 1490 under St David's diocese.
The drawing (by Rev Henry Thomas Payne (1759-1832, Llangattock) or Rev Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc 1787-1848)) and description by Theophillus in 1809 of Ystradgynlais church depicts it with a belfry tower, (Picture). That church has no similarity or architecture of any early Norman church in the district, it is more akin to the surviving small Welsh rural chapels that abound in the district. John Morgan's documentation of the account of the church 'repair and revamp' in 1730 which included a new floor and roof, shows that the belfry tower was built at that time, further evidence that that it was probably rebuilt/restored again in the late medieval period. The original mediaeval church would not have been dissimilar, to that of the restored nearby church St Teilo, Pontardulais, now in St Fagans museum (many church murals were lime washed in the reformation of 1536). Also Crynant chapel of ease 6m SW has a similar history, extant by 1296 built in a similar style. Llanelieu (Talgarth) and Wenallt (Talybont) churches are in the same style.
Ystradgynlais Church & Castle 1289
An interesting document released online recently at the PRO states that there was a church AND castle in Ystradgynlais in the year 1289. The document concerned is a petition by Humphrey de Bohun then Lord of Brecknock to King Edward I, concerning trespass by the Earl of Gloucester while the king was away in Gascony.
|He "entered Brecon territories with 100 armoured horse & 1000 footmen, burning and pillaging 3000 acres of hay & oats, 6000 cheese, 200 marks of flour, 4000 beasts and also pillaged churches at Holy Church (Brecon Priory?) ending Michaelmas 1288. He ignored 4 writs issued during this time by the King's Council to keep the peace and again pillaged 15 days before feast of St John 1289 taking 3000 acres of oats & hay, 84 cows, taking property and prisoners, exiled his men, built a new castle in the petitioner's fee and franchise so that no one dare stay near the CASTLE and CHURCH of Strackenles (Ystradgynlais) which was worth 20 marks, now no more than 1d." (A mark was 13/4s; 20 marks = £13 (£7,153.26 in 2005)).|
|Petition of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Calendar of Close Rolls, Edw I, 1290. 7|
"le castile de Strackenles", authour's transcription of an extract from the above document
Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester was formerly the ward of Humphrey de Bohun, 2nd Earl of Hereford, Brecon & Gower Lordship. He initially was against King Henry III but changed sides after being excommunicated, fighting off rival to the throne, Monfort, allowing succession of Edward I. He was rewarded with Brecknock & Abergavenny Lordship in 1265, overlooking Bohuns claim, but as discussed in the above chapter this claim was annulled and all given to Llywelyn with Caerphilly castle to keep the peace. He led the attack under Edward I into Wales but was defeated at Llandeilo Fawr, but Wales was eventually taken in 1283, at the death of 'last prince 'Llywelyn Fawr'. He was determined to get back Brecknock, and so waged a war while Welsh were licking their wounds against Humphrey de Bohun 3rd Earl Hereford grandson of his guardian in 1288.
Under Marcher Laws had a right to wage war, but the king decided to show his ultimate authority, (the original trial was scheduled to be held at Castell Coch in Ystradfellte, but moved to Abergavenny) both were imprisoned and all lands forfeit, Clare fined 10,000 marks:£6,500 (£4 million in 2005), Bohun 1000 marks:£650 (£340,000). Minor nobles, John le Veel; Richard de Flemmying ; John ...; William de Valers; Stephen de Capenore; John de Crepyng were also punished. The land was restored to them on release and the fines apparently never paid. Bohun seems to have been punished because he allowed the invasion to happen, indeed encouraged it, maybe to rid himself of troublesome Welsh left over from the 1283 conquest? The fact that he had taken prisoners and property seems to infer that.
We would suggest that as the church was reduced in value to 1 pence that it could have been burnt down? Or was he referring to the tithe value? I'm pretty sure the 3000 acres of hay & oats refers to the district as a whole. The 84 cows seems a reasonable number for Ystradgynlais, but maybe some of the farmers escaped to the hills with their stocks.
Interesting though is the mention of a castle. We already have a supposed location for it 666 yards south of the current church, and named Cae'r Castell (Lle'r Castell by William Rees) near Coedcae Prins. The toponymy fits, as castell (castle from castel) and prins (prince) are 13thC Norman influenced Welsh words, the location fits, near the former church and manor of the 1490s, there is also recognition by CPAT that there may have been an earthwork here the site is however destroyed by coal mining. Elsewhere in S/E Wales we have the ruins of Rumney Castle built c.1081 at Cae'r Castell (a manor from c.1250) on the banks of the Rumney estuary. The church of St Cattwg in Gelligaer built c.1230 in an area called Cae'r Castell. Ystradfellte already had a castle built c.1239, supposedly by William de Braose.
According to the document the Earl of Gloucester built the castle with an "immense number of armed men" between 1289-91 and was then ordered to stop. I doubt it was anything spectacular probably a mound, moat, palisade and wooden tower, or even a fortified house, but enough for the name to stick for 700 years. There is nothing noted on any maps of any period at the field site, apart from Ystrad Isaf farm nearby which had a U shaped system of barns.
There is a farm located at Coedcae Prins, noted on the earliest map of 1812, not found mentioned in any leases as yet. Satellite images revealed a perfect triangular markings in a field nearby, but this was explained as a drainage system. Coedcae means a ffrid, an area between high and low farmland consisting of a mixture of marsh, woods, meadow, heath, bog, consistent with how the area was before improvement (also synonymous with a sheep paddock in S Wales). And why the suffix prince? Did a minor Norman-English noble continue to reside at the castle that was NOT pulled down prior to Ynyscedwyn being built?
If the castle HAD been allowed to persist at the site for a number of years Ystradgynlais may then have been officially recognised as a 'borough' (a fortified settlement) with grant of a royal charter and brought fully under English law, which I am sure was one of the underlying reasons for the supposed conflict between the two Earls, being as Ystradgynlais was on the border of troublesome Gower, it being one of the linchpins to control of Wales. However Welsh law persisted in the district and did not developed as a centre of abundant trade until 1536 therefore this scheme failed and the castle no doubt abandoned.
Ynyscedwyn House 1200-1489
Many give the impression that Ynyscedwyn was the location of the centre of administration for the estates of Gruffudd 'Gwyr' after he inherited the area c.1200. In 1215, Rhys Grug, Lord of Deheubarth and supporter of Llewellyn the Great, the 'Prince of Wales' invaded Gower to expel the 'English'. He then gave the lands back for "Welshmen to dwell in their lands" and made Morgan Gam and Gruffudd mense lords to rule Afan and Gower, supposedly honouring his side of the Magna Charta deal (see Norman Conquest). Therefore Gruffudd seems to have had the influence and wealth to sponsor building of a manor and church in Ystradgynlais. But in the 1291 case above, we see no mention of a manor house, only the church and that the invader "built a new castle in the petitioner's fee and franchise". This at least certainly confirms there were feudal collection of tithes, dues and rents in operation. Maybe Ynyscedwyn was then a fortified house, doubtless if tithes and dues were being collected by an agent of the Earl of Hereford, he needed some secure base for his reeves to work from. Also other researchers place Gruffudd's seat as being down in Oystermouth after 1215. A debatable grant is found within the papers of Neath Abbey dated 1123 or 1242. "Grant of Henry Newburgh Earl of Warwick grant to Neath Abbey, free licence to fish and erect a weir across river Tawe from their land at Glyntawe called Ynysunwen (Ynysgedwyn)". Birch considers this to be a forgery, for reasons I did not note down.
The first documents regarding what we presume is the mansion only turn up in 1489 where Isabella verch David ap Owen Lloid, conveys the tenement at "Enesgeddewyn" to Thomas ap Traherne ap Thomas. The Lloyd family therefore appear to be landowners of Ynyscedwyn estates, and direct descendants of Gruffudd Gwyr, living in Priscedwyn. It is of interest that a later tenant of Ynyscedwyn, Jenkin Franklin married an Ellen verch Rees Lloyd in Priscedwyn (near Loughor) in N. Gower c.1540. Notice the similarity of placename, Ynyscedwyn and Priscedwyn. In many genealogies the placename is prefixed as [Gruffudd Gwyr, Priscedwyn] so possibly another clue as to the extent of his estates. Gruffudd's influence after 1215 seems by current research to have also extended to Llys Nini, Penllegaer (N Gower) nearby as his direct descendent Gwilym ap Jeuan ap Gwilym 'Ddu' makes a quit claim there in 1507. There is also in a Penpont MS of 1510 mention of a Madoc Lloyd ap Thomas 'Ddu' granting land right next to Ynyscedwyn. In 1571, John Games of Newton sold to Henry ap Rees ap Griffith of Y'gynlais Tire (Tir) Thomas 'Duy' (Ddu) at Yniscedwyn. However complex the ownership of land was, it is clear evidence that a manorial system was in operation, and obviously there was some crossover & interaction between this estate and Palleg.
Brecknock Lordship 1283-1483
Edward I in 1284 created the Principality of Wales, after countering a Welsh rebellion which included Gruffudd 'Gwyr', and was now considered now under English rule. But the Marcher Lordships had always been separate entities and continued so. Ystradgynlais & Palleg therefore may have lost some status of 'Welsh semi-independence' with a constable being posted to every parish to oversee the law and payment of tithes and comorth, therefore we would assume that although still not and never in the 'Manor of Brecknock' ties and administration were strengthened to it at this time.
Humphrey de Bohun 4th Earl of Hereford surrendered his lands including Brecknock to Edward II to show piety for the 'crimes' of his father above. They were regranted and the charter of Brecon renewed. Hugh Despencer was a close favourite of Edward II, some say too close, he was showered with titles, including land in Brecon and inherited the Earldom of Gloucester, keen to expand he cheated his sister-in-law Elizabeth de Clare out of Gower and Usk, contesting the Bohun inheritance. The marcher lords rose up against him & the king with Scotland, but were defeated and he came into the Lordship of Brecknock. But such was his corruption that a cue was instigated and he was hung & quartered in 1326. Brecknock reverted to John Bohun who renounced all charters and grants, his nephew Humphrey on inheritance restored them.
In 1365 William de Bohun granted a charter to Brecon town with a 16 day fair, and with it's lavish castle became one of the great market towns of South Wales, so no doubt Palleg tenants would not miss out on this opportunity to sell their surplus wears. He died in 1377 and the Bohun line became extinct. Henry Bolingbroke married Mary, daughter of Humphrey Bohun and so became Earl of Hereford, later becoming Henry IV, so the Lordship of Brecknock first came into the ownership of the Crown proper who gave exemption from Forest taxes to his tenants, renewed the priory claims on tithes in the Forest and gave Brecon a royal charter, in the hope they would fight for him.
But there was a further rebellion in 1400 under Owain Glyndwr with assistance from Rhys ap Tudur whence much of Wales became independent for a short time. This may have affected Palleg, there were rumours of skirmishes at Brecon town and 'seizure of demesnes', but Brecon castle never fell to the Welsh, and was a stronghold for Henry IV. When his upland tenants were called to fight for him, they agreed only if the Welsh in Glamorgan were defeated. By issues of court, Brecknock passed to the Duke of Buckingham 1444, whose wife on her retainder annulled all grants, privileges and charters. It then passed to Henry Stafford Duke of Buckingham c.1460 who assisted Richard III usurp the Crown. He was adamant that all taxes and rent were paid and ordered the seizure of cattle and property at the slightest whim to maintain order.
Archaeology in Palleg 1283-1483
Snaking through the Palleg area from Ystradgynlais and Cwmllynfell manor towards Llandeusant are recorded drovers roads or cart tracks said to have been present in 1300. Farm settlements, sheep pens and lime kilns have been documented on many sites in Palleg, Glyntawe and over the Twrch near Clawdd Owen as dating to the 'medieval period' (see Archaeology for maps). Amateur detector Mr Gary Valentine came up trumps though, and found one single hammered coin of Edward III's reign found at Henglyn Uchaf farm dated 1361-69 Picture and a crossed lead money token from c.1400 at Tyhwnt Picture. (Other finds listed in Archaeology)
Trahaearn ab Owain "Fwya" b.1370, direct descendent of Welsh noble Meurig ap Cydifor of Glyntawe is documented as living in Palleg, probably around 1390. The plague of 1345-50 had devastated a third of the population, which led to isolation, fear and neglect of farms which with some later severe storms led to a famine in 1390. Returns from the various Welsh estates describe "ponds without fish...land and woods of reduced or no worth...neglected mills...churches with no laity". This would explain the need for new settlement.
Conclusion on Palleg 1283-1483
No direct record has been kept of a specific court or manor from 1093 to 1489 in Ystradgynlais, other than the MSS relating to St Cynog's church, the shortlived castle and later Ynyscedwyn house. So we surmise that as an advowson church was established prior to 1289, and we have records of settlement, crops, castles and tithes in operation there HAD to be a minor officials residence and a court or the beginnings of a manor, either near Ynyscedwyn or Palleg or both, tithes being collected for the whole area. The parish was continually under the auspices of the Lordship of Brecknock who sublet Palleg presumably to the Welsh nobles of Glyntawe, who married into the Awbrey constables of Abercynrig.
End of the Marcher Lords
After years of Lordly and private franchise, The Great Forest and the Lordship of Brecknock came into direct Crown ownership first via Richard III's execution of the 2nd Duke of Buckingham for treason in 1483, due to his turncoat support of the house of Lancaster during the War of the Roses, and raising troops in Brecon. Richard kindly reduced payment for pasturage for all tenants from 3d to 1d, and allowed free passage through the Forest. This led to relaxing of Forest Laws and poaching of the deer to extinction (by at least 1700). Upon Richard's defeat at Bosworth in 1485, the Lordship was restored to the 3rd Duke of Buckingham, who although a close favourite of Henry VIII he was executed again for treason in 1521. So ended the Marcher Lordship of Brecknock. Some say this was a victory long fought, Henry Tudor (aka Tewdwr) descendent of the conquered kings of Deheubarth, according to Royal lineage.
The survey of the late 3rd Duke's estates in 1521 lists the large and various holdings of the 'Lordship of Breknok', but does not list any land, mills or churches in Ystradgynlais or Palleg. The closet we come is him holding the advowson of Glyntawe church & mill and Tawe fisheries. A later survey in 1547 states Glyntawe was due 'comorth' to Brecknock, a very ancient pre Norman tradition commuted to cash payment.
|"Comortha for one year Glantawie, 9s. Comorth of cattle : 'vaccis comorth' of 137 1/4 vaccaries at 8s viz £55 18s 9d bienially."|
|Possessions of late Duke of Buckingham. Harley Rolls, 1547. 152|
137 cows would indicate about 1 cow per farm from the whole district, this may seem paltry but many of the poor farms never possessed more than about 3 cows at any one time, and there were strict limits on the numbers that could graze the commons. In 1877, this was ONE cow per £4 of rent, with an average rent of £25 = 5 mountain cattle per farm, at least on Palleg. However, none of this pertains to Ystradgynlais, it specifically mentions Glyntawe, with its dues and customs within the Great Forest. We have a speculative report of at least a lordship existing in Y'gynlais from a report by John Leland 1503-1552, an English antiquarian, chaplain to Henry VIII, inspector of monastic libraries, unfamiliar with county boundaries before 1536;
|"...towards the rootes of the Blak Montayne, is a 15 miles of wild ground almost all. To Ystrade Genles a lordeship in Caimardineshir. This Genles a little ryver...goith ynto Tawe. This Tawy is heere a kefinith (allied) to Glamorgan. This way be many hilles (woods, good plentye), but few villages or corne except in a few smaule valeys. The mountaines have some redde dere, kiddes plenty, oxen, shepe."|
|Itinerary of John Leland, King VIII's chaplain c.1536 31|
Henry VIII gave the killing blow to serfdom, the payment of comorth by cattle and the notion of inheritance by gavelkind, giving Welsh equal status in law to the English. With the strengthening of government this later led to better administration of feudal manors and collection of tithes, leading to improvements in agriculture. The various marcher lordships within Brecknock united to form Brecknock-shire in 1535, parishes were restructured, the old 'cantref' boundaries disappearing. With the dissolution of the monasteries this lead to economic upheaval and legal chaos from claim of land by inclosure, leading to many homeless former peasants and thus 'illegal' land grabbing.
The system was already difficult in 1500 when a John Waeldeboff official receiver of Brecknock tried to gather information on tenure, rents, but "could not levy any", many serfs had escaped and claimed farms, after a lapse in feudalism. He did however compile a list of free tenants, copyholders and customary Welsh tenants but this is now 'missing'. Ystradgynlais was said to be 'poorly husbanded', the tithe of the rectory in 1536 was £9 (£2,768.04 in 2005), however this amount seems comparable with most other parishes. This led to a Bishop's survey in 1563, showing 68 copyholders in Ystradgynlais. A copyholder were those given the contiguous part of a lease by the lord of a manor, so called because when brought together they would both match the wavy cut marks in the vellum. But the Welsh were not always understanding or enamoured of the new English law and continued as per always, sometimes selling, splitting, granting and sub letting the copyholds, acting as a freeholder. Oblations and purifications result from payment of burials, baptisms, services. Sinodals and procurations are fees paid to the mother church.
|"Estradguillos (Ystradgynlais). The same Thomas is rector there: it is worth yearly in tithes of sheaves 66s 8d. Of cheeses 66s 8d. In oblations and purifications common years 66s 8d. Sum £10. Whereof in the ordinary visitation and for the sinodals and procurations to the Archdeacon 10s 5d. And there remains clear £9.10.7. The tithe thereof 19s."|
|Valor Ecclesiasticus 1535. John Lloyd Vol II, Trans. 25|
Ownership of Brecknock Lordship: 1617-1641
In 1617 James I granted the Lordship and all it contained to Sir Francis Bacon, wardship of the Prince of Wales, who 'took possession' when he became Charles I in 1625. He then granted it to William Russell, who released the Great Forest to the Earl of Pembroke who sold it to Thomas Morgan of Tredegar in 1639.
First Documents relating to Palleg Manor 1551
We have the first evidence of the manor of Palleg existing and under the Crown in the inheritance of Richard Awbrey in 1551. It states therein in typical English-mangled-Welsh that the "Manor of Patheleke (Palleg) & Abercounrike (Abercynrig)" were to be held by Edward Herbert until Richard came of age (reached 21), his father William having died after 2 marriages. His father in turn was Hopkin Awbrey who was in the care of land on the south of Palleg, by at least 1510.
The area is also mentioned in a dispute of 1592 between Sir Thomas Awbrey, Llantrythid, who 'owned' Palleg Mill "long time built upon the bank of the said river Turche in the lp (Lordship) of Palleg" and another local mill owner. When Thomas' father Dr William Awbrey died in 1595 whence a chancery inquisition by Elizabeth I was inducted, it was found he was the 'tenant-in-chief' under the Crown, of Palleg manor. The land he held on behalf of the Queen reverted to her, whence it was inherited by his former mentioned son and described as the "manor of Palleg in Istradginlais". It is thought that Dr William was sold or granted Palleg by the estates of Richard Awbrey his cousin above when he was supposedly murdered by Morgan, a jealous step-brother, who was also subsequently murdered at a Brecon fair.
Sir Thomas thence designed to pass it onto his son Dr Thomas in a marriage settlement to his cousin Eleanor Awbrey of Ynyscedwyn, dated 1634 which was annulled and thence on his '2nd' marriage to Eleanora Abigail Rudd shortly after, thence to his daughter Mary in 1666. Charles I granted 'Tir y Pallegge' (7 farms on southern Palleg, split from the main Manor) to a Morgan Awbrey of Ynyscedwyn in 1641 within an 'oister le main' a procedure inducted whence an heir had reached the age of 21. All these matters are discussed & dissected, in depth in Awbrey Ownership below.
Conclusions on Palleg: 1483-1641
Palleg was never listed in any of the surveys and inventories of Brecknock Manor or the Great Forest. Therefore it was merely tribal common land grazed and farmed by the locals, converted later to a Lordship. It was managed by the descendants of the enobled 'Cydifor' family of Glyntawe, loyal to the Crown and later the Awbreys through intermarriage. It came under the jurisdiction of the Earl of Hereford Marcher Lords, to whom they owed comorths of cattle, food, rent and military service via Brecknock castle in return for being allowed to live with a roof over their heads while working the land.
The victory of the War of the Roses saw a renewal of affairs & owners at Ystradgynlais, which was strengthened under Henry VIII, he giving the death blow to tribal ownership, Welsh law and changes to feudalism, the manor or lands could then be franchised, sold, or granted more easily. This might explain why Palleg could be 'sold' by Richard Awbrey to his uncle Dr William Awbrey c.1579.
However this may lead to the question as to whether Palleg was a consolidated Lordship under a knight's fee prior to 1536 if we have evidence of customary Welsh tenancy and no copy of the Lordship being instituted by a royal grant made to a baron. This view would however ignore all the evidence that points to it being under a knight's fee from the very beginnings. The main premiss of such an entitlement was to raise troops and food for conflict in support of the Knight-Baron under the Crown, and so it seems disingenuous to me that such a status should have been conferred AFTER the age of chivalry, knighthood and 400 years of rebellion had ended! Thus the status of Palleg under a knight's fee from c.1215 stands, and it separate from the Manor of Brecknock, but it's royal grant being amiss in the vaults of Kew.
It is as a consequence of these events that we see the cohesion of the state, freedom of enterprise, which assisted in Britain becoming wealthy from the profits of wool, leading to conquest of the direction and dreams of the world of men, and the genesis of invention, of which Palleg was a small contributory. Since 'ownership' of the manor is held by a wealthy prominent lord, it is reasonable to state that the farms, mill, woods and mineral workings were revitalised, and utilised as part of that burgeoning Tudor-Elizabethan enterprise.
Civil War of 1642-1649
We then come to a very turbulent period in the history of Palleg, whence Brecknock is on the side of defeat and everyone looses out, and ownership of land is debatable. Brecknock and its chief-tenants; William Morgan MP of Dderw, Herbert Price MP, Morgan Awbrey of Ynyscedwyn, John & Thomas Awbrey of Llantrythid, Edward Williams of Llangattock, John Jeffreys of Abercynrig, Gunter, Vaughan etc were fervent royalists interested in keeping possession of their honours granted by Charles I, so raised troops from their Breconshire tenants and fought major loosing battles in 1642 & 1648. Brecon town wall and castle was said to have being demolished to prevent a siege by either the citizens or Cromwell's army. They supposedly passed through Ystradgynlais on the march from Brecon to Swansea, tradition has them stopping at the Lamb & Flag Inn for refreshments.
Cromwell had supposed Welsh connections in that Katherine Cromwell, sister to Thomas Cromwell adviser to Henry VIII, married Morgan Williams an ale brewer from Glamorgan, his g.g.grandfather in 1497, the family later taking the name Cromwell, some of them reverting to Williams to disassociate from the political movement. Indeed Oliver was known as "Oliver Cromwell alias Williams". I have no idea whether this is propaganda on Cromwell's part to curry favour with the Welsh, no family line prior to Morgan Williams has been documented, theory dictates they were related to the Williams of Aberpengwm, which were also related to the Williams of Llangattock. Recent research on the BBC suggests that Thomas Cromwell started out as an alebrewer, albeit a very bad one, so a faint clue.
The county finally 'surrendering' on 23 Nov 1645, many nobles were fined, although they rebelled and lost again in the Battle of St Ffagans, 1648 after witnessing the abolishment of court juries, sequester of land, enforcement of tithes, removal of clergymen from office, vandalism of recusant churches, and many gentry being executed. The Commonwealth's aim was to nationalise land ownership, but they seem to have failed or been hypocritical about their policies, Gower estates was also annexed by them and granted personally to Cromwell.
In 1647 royalist troops were stationed in Ystradgynlais. Edward Games, gent, Howell Thomas and Evan ap Howell took advantage of this situation somehow in that they "stole title deeds, broke down hedges and turned their cattle and horses upon complainants' lands". This lead to a pleading in the courts by William, John, wife Eleanor and Richard Awbrey, William Williams and Thomas Griffith in 1648 complaining of these abuses. Mary (da. of Sir T. Awbrey) & Charles Walbeoffe, Llanhamlach were also in the London courts in 1647 over these matters but all these crumpled Latin documents have not been translated as yet. Games (descendant of Dafydd Gam) was on the side of the winning Parliamentarians, appointed Brecon Sheriff in 1647, for its sequestration and collection of the £2000 fine of the county, removal of 'useless' clergy and arrest of royalist delinquents. Ironically he was appointed a commissioner by the Parliament of 1654 to fill up those empty schools and churches with 'approved Puritans'. He would therefore have been instrumental in the removal of Rev Thomas Hopkin from Ystradgynlais church, for being either too papist, too Anglican, corrupt or or most likely a Royalist in the favour of the Awbreys of Ynyscedwyn. Another irony is that Charles Walbeoffe above was also appointed High Sheriff of Brecon after him in 1648, we presume he switched sides, but was non-coperative and was fined (in 1652) and removed.
There is no evidence to suggest that Ynyscedwyn or Palleg manor was sequestered, but everyone was certainly interfered with in some way. Morgan Awbrey was a 'Commissioner of Array & Association' empowered by Charles I to summon all men aged 15-60 to war, raising money men and horses, he also lent the king £50 under the royal seal. Suddenly he dies in 1648 aged 29, history does not record whether he was wounded in battle, but his 'death bed' will was made in June, one month after loosing the last battle of St Ffagans. It is very short and made in a hurry and was nuncupative, meaning "of a will or testament declared orally as opposed to in writing, especially by a mortally wounded soldier". His assessment by parliament was a personal wealth of £2000 with a real estate value of £500. On his tomb in Ystradgynlais church it was recorded (at least in 1809), "this marble may look sad and well it may, being fixed thus to display, a dolefull fate which befell, the people here in generall". Although this is a later addition, it certainly hints that the Parliamentarians dished out some punishment here.
The church was transformed to become 'Anglican Protestant' which meant removal of stained glass, murals, icons and building a very simple altar, if not done already in the 1540> reformations. The laity was given over to 'humble' men of the parish, James Jones a thatcher, and then David Jones a ploughman after a vacancy of 5 years.
The Lordship of Brecknock was seized by the Commonwealth Parliament on the execution of Charles I in 1649, completing a survey of it in '51, the 7 Great Forest mills being taken from Dr Thomas Awbrey, St Davids, documented in his name. The Great Forest was certainly sold of to a David Morgan, ironically the investigator of 'concealed lands within the manor' for the Surveyor General. When asked to produce deeds to the mills by the same, Thomas said he could not owing to the plague sweeping through his home town in Carmarthen. His brother John Awbrey, Llantrythid was involved in the siege of Cardiff castle, the family home being a 'sanctuary' to royalists and Roman Catholic priests and so those estates were also sequestered, the church ransacked, and he fined £800, obvious targets of Cromwell's reforms.
What happened to Palleg during this period? It may have escaped notice by the surveyors or worth so little it deemed unworthy of a land grabbers attention. The leading families of the county secreted away entitlement to the Lordship just as well as they hid their priests. But of course we have mention of Mary (née Awbrey) & Charles Walbeoffe being in court over land in 1647, the outcome of which we know not what. It must be noted though that Brecknock was still passionately royalist even after its defeat, and sequestration of private estates and fines were found to be 'difficult'. The Awbreys were also on good terms and intermarried with the Williams, Herberts, Lewis families of Llangattock from late 1580's, so there is a distinct possibility it was passed to them by one of these means if they were in trouble. Again though we have a conundrum as these latter families were also involved in raising troops and tax to perpetuate the war, leading as officers, taking a "fearful oath against parliament". Edward Williams (forefather to one of the later owners of Palleg) was one of the most energetic leaders, the committee hearing in 1645 describing him as being seen on horseback in Crickhowell with swords and pistols at one of the recruitment drives, assuming the title of colonel. He was assessed at being worth £1000 but his estates were not sequestered.
After the restoration of Charles II the Lordship of Brecknock was granted to Charles Morgan of Tredegar in 1661 and renewed lease of the Forest in 1693 under King William and Mary. Most of the other families loyal to the King in the war were also showered with golden nuggets of patronage and privilege. Palleg passed on through a post nuptial settlement in 1666 by raising a fine for its use in Brecknock Court, resulting from a joynture between Mary (so far identified as da. of Dr T.Awbrey^) wife to John Morgan of Llandetti, a former parliamentarian turned good and Lewis Gunter of Gileston (see Williams Ownership).
Conclusions on the Civil War Period 1642-60
It is unclear due to lack of discovered documentation translation what may have happened to Palleg manor in this tumultuous period of history. We might have considered that as Parliament had taken charge of Brecknock Lordship & Crown lands that it may have been cheaply sold off secretly to their loyal comrades, but it does not appear in any lists or inventories of lands sequestered or sold under the Commonwealth. We assume therefore that Dr Thomas Awbrey managed to hide his hereditary entitlement through to the restoration and may have bestowed it on his daughter Mary after her marriage c.1660 when all the kerfuffle had died down.
The Commonwealth completely reversed the renewal of the Tudor feudal rights, a catalyst for the ruination of Ystradgynlais, its people, clergy & religion and gentry for 20 years. This led to the (Feudal) Tenures Abolition Act 1660 & the Act Of (Religious) Toleration in 1689 under the restoration of Royalty, within which period the Manor of Palleg gained an equally unsympathetic landlady, Ann Maria & John Morgan of Llandeti.
The first mentions of farms within Palleg come from the Ynyscedwyn, Penpont & Cilybebyll estate papers. Ynyscedwyn and its predecessor was a minor country seat with farmland that overruled at least initially the southern part of Ystradgynlais, if not also Uwch Coed in N. Gower and other lands. It later bloomed into a centre for iron production from the mid 1800's, founding Ystradgynlais as a town, and the estate owning vast tracts of land. How it and Palleg came into the possession of the Awbrey/Aubreys/Albreys is a matter for debate. I have witnessed many conflicting reports and family trees, and a complete dearth of factual evidence to support it. I will not even repeat the accepted story here as it is so erroneous and will conflict opinion, I will stick to documented fact.
There is no documented evidence (found as yet) that the 'first' Albrey, Sir Reginald was ever granted Abercynrig & Slwch by their Norman brethren, Bernard de Neufmarche. But they are listed, at least in the Bartrum's 'Golden Grove' genealogies, as ruling on those estates from 1100, so we take it for granted that they came into Brecknock with the Norman conquest. Current research suggests errors in this tree and that they came from Hereford or Pembroke and on reaching prominence paid scribes to link them to the first conquerors. They married into the descendants of the local noble Welsh families at Glyntawe from 1330, appointed as esquires, constables, sheriffs & forest rangers under the Lords of Brecknock based at Abercynrig manor. The tomb of Walter & Christina Awbrey of Abercynrig in Brecon Cathedral dated to 1312 is one of the only surviving physical evidences of their presence here.
Thomas Awbrey, The 'Red Constable' - 1st English Owner of Palleg?
Thomas b.c.1300 is documented in rolls & genealogies as being the constable of Brecknock Castle and ranger of the Great Forest, suggested as living or working from Abercynrig. I am relying on the work of others that suggest he married c.1330 to Nest, da of Owain Gethin ap Owen, direct descendant of Bleddyn ap Maenyrch and 'inheritors' of tribal lands in Glyntawe. The tradition continues in that family to a Richard Awbrey, Chief Forester, who lived around Ystradgynlais c.1490.
|Thomas Awbrey to the King: "The bishop of St David's has taken his cattle... into the town of Lando (Llanddew) in the precinct of Brykenoze (Brecknock) and held in chief of the king, which said town is outside the body of the county where the King's writ does not run ...for which reason Thomas cannot have deliverance of his beasts because of the lordships great power."|
|Calendar of Ancient Petitions Relating to Wales ed. William Rees  No.4432. 1293 AD. p.130 220|
Llwyn Cwnstabl is marked on maps as the escarpment east of Dorwen farm, running north-east, here also are ruins of hut circles, long-houses, undated medieval 'hafodydd', primitive ironworks and ancient sheepfolds, marking this as a site of first occupation before clearance of the lower woods. The term cwnstabl helpfully translates directly as constable. So maybe an Awbrey lived here or held that title in this area, although Palleg was outside the Forest, but tenants allowed to pasture within it, and Llwyn Cwnstabl used as the forest constables operation centre for hunts or even deer breeding.
It seems therefore too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence that with the evidence of marriage between the noble ruling family of Glyntawe and the landowning Awbreys living in Ystradgynlais, and they working as constables and rangers of the forest, that they came into possession of Palleg via an early marriage settlement. Alternatively they were granted lands and titles for their assistance in the War of the Roses or some other of the many numerous rebellions in the area. They were definitely in possession of the farm right of the 7 mills of the Great Forest on the attainder of Duke of Buckingham sometime after 1521, and PRIOR to this date selling and granting land on the south of Palleg (separate from the main Manor). Certain also is that on the abolishment of the inheritance of land by gavelkind in 1536, ownership by individuals and the sale of Palleg could be made, tribal care of common land by the families of Glyntawe was abolished forever, the manor was in the care of the Awbreys. Thus, if we consider the documented facts below, then it will make circumstantial sense to anyone worth their salt for me to suggest that Palleg was granted in an early marriage settlement, even if we have no direct evidence of that liaison;
1. Wales conquered in 1283, a 'condition' of which that the English marry |
into the Welsh as a means of gaining authority over their lands and status
2. A tradition of passing down the manor by marriage dowry as a freehold hereditament (documented c.1536-1742)
6. Tradition of Awbreys being appointed Constables of Brecknock Castle & Forest rangers
3. The church & court needing a constable to oversee collection of tithes
4. An escarpment named Llwyn Cwnstabl (constable) being on Palleg
5. Palleg having a link to Brecon Castle in providing men-at-arms for its guard
7. Hopkyn Awbrey & son William, direct descendants owning land in Palleg prior to 1521
8. Abercynrig and Palleg Manors turning up together in the jurisdiction of the same family in 1551
Awbreys Documented on Palleg
There is mention in a 1510 Penpont lease of land in Ystradgynlais "between land of Hopkin Awbrey at one side and a Aberkynleis". That land is on the south of Palleg, and refers to Penygorof or Penybont farm. This is not sufficient evidence to claim that he owned the whole of Palleg. His son William Awbrey of Abercynrig, (Sherriff of Brecknock 1547) married twice. The children of his first marriage are said to have been 'disinherited' as supposedly his wife was unfaithful. He married again to a Joan Herbert, daughter of Sir Richard Herbert, Knight, a powerful lord, Steward of the Welsh Marches, Gentleman Usher to Henry VII etc. William dies leaving his estates to Joan, and she on passing leaves Palleg & Abercynrig Manors to her legitimate son Richard Awbrey.
|"Grant to Edward Herbert esq custody of manor of Abercounrike (Abercynrig) & Patheleke (Palleg) with the water mill of Patheleke and all the lands of Patheleke & Abercounrike....in Estraddinglease (Ystradgynlais) co. Brecon, value £14 in the King's hands by the minority of Richard Awbrey son & heir of William Awbrey, gent, deceased, and Joan Awbrey late his wife, which she held of the king in chief as of the castle of Brecon by knight's service also the custody of the body and the marriage."|
|By P.S., Greenwich. . Patent Rolls, Edward VI. 20 Jan 1551 29|
I have assumed previously that Awbrey gained Palleg in a very early marriage settlement, and this may still be the case, but we also have here mention of the powerful landowners Herbert, close relatives to the Earl of Pembroke. It states clearly that Joan held Palleg in a knights fee to Brecon castle via the marriage. Therefore we have a hint of an alternative idea that on the abolishment of inheritance by gavelkind and the turning of waste lands and commons into freehold c.1536, that Richard Herbert may have been 'granted', seized Palleg or that it reverted to the Manor of Brecon administrators under primogeniture thence passing it to his daughter Joan in a marriage settlement around the same time, thus 'giving it back' to the 'original' owners Awbrey who now had a legal claim in writing to the estate.
Richard is said to have sold Abercynrig to Dr William Awbrey his uncle around 1579-85. As he also owned Palleg Manor, it is likely therefore both were bought at the same time. Did he do this at his coming of age, realising he could not cope? Or bequeathed it at his early death in 1579 aged c.40? Other sources state Morgan the 'illegitimate son' got hold of Palleg manor & sold it to Dr Awbrey, might this have happened after it defaulted to him on his brothers death? The advowson of the church & rectory in 1558 passed to a John Fleetwood of Lancs from the Crown, who did very well thankyou out of the dissolution of the monasteries. These matters are further discussed below. This branch of the Awbreys moved thence to Llanelieu where one of the few remaining tombs to an Awbrey can be found. They then married into the Penn family, helping to establish colonies in Pennsylvania.
Dr William Awbrey (1529-1595) & Palleg
Dr Awbrey, born in Cantref, was 'right place, right time' to be able to exploit the confusion over land tenure to accumulate land cheaply in his position as M.P. for Carmarthen (1554) and Brecon (1558), J.P. and sheriff (1545) for Brecknockshire, and a member of the Council of Wales (1586). He acquired extensive estates in Brecknock by purchase and royal grant, and could "ride nyne miles together" on his own land in Breconshire visiting them "to make merye with his frendes". No doubt he travelled in his 'private coach', one of the first of its kind in Britain. The Earl of Pembroke, of the Herbert line was his kinsman, sponsoring him through college and 'instrumental in his rise'.
Although popular at court, enamoured by the Queen as "her little Doctor", alluding to his short rotund features, he was extremely litigious and made many enemies. As he was so close to Elizabeth he was accused of being a secret papist or a recusant, and charged with 'seditiously' corresponding with Mary Queen of Scots. One of his court cases in 1592 gives some hint into this feud (it is a little complex to decipher). He seems to have heaped all the blame for this on the Bishop of St Davids, Marmaduke Midleton in 1585 who considered him an 'insatiable cormorant'. He sends his 'henchmen' from the Vaughan, Gunter & Games family and others to find out secrets of the Bishop in order to dethrone him. These were prominent men in Brecknock, but described by the defence as lewd, treasonous and evil affected by religion. They tried all manner of intimidation against the bishop almost ending in murder, but they also accuse him of the murder of a Morgan Awbrey and retaliates by saying they had the 'French disease' (syphilis). This MAY relate to the one killed at Brecon fair in a family feud that we hear of, but find no other evidence. The outcome of the case is not not known, but Dr Awbrey did later serve on the jury that put Queen Mary to death, although he was much against it. Upon his own death he asked for the last rites to be given by a Roman Catholic priest, according to his descendant John Awbrey.
On the 21st Nov 1595 a chancery inquisition for Elizabeth I was conducted into the death of this gent, Doctor of Civil Laws, one of the Masters of the Court of Requests, Chancellor to Bishop of York, favourite of the Queen etc. Inquisitions like this were held whenever a prominent man who cared for Crown lands died, as the Crown was entitled to death duties. Among his many possession we see that:
|"...long before his death (Dr Awbrey) was seized in the demesne as of fee and in the manor of Palleg with the appurtenances lying and situate in the parish of Istradginlais ...now held of the said Lady the Queen as part of her manor of Brecon by eighth part of one knights fee... The said manor of Palleg with the appurtenances, messuages, lands and tenements and all other premises are worth per annum in all issues beyond reprises (£5)."|
|Jenkin Llewelin escheator for Brecon County 21st Nov 1595 44|
A knight's fee is described as the amount of income a knight could live on in the manner he was accustomed to for a year, OR in Wales, the amount of men that could be rallied to serve and fight at a castle for 40 days, explaining the link to the Manor of Brecon. So a very poor area in economic returns & human logistics. It describes the manor as "seized in his demesne as of fee", which means he owned the 'corporeal hereditament of the freehold property', thus suggesting that he inherited Palleg on the death of his cousin Richard in 1579, or more controversially on the suggested murder of Richard's brother Morgan c.1585, and may not have 'bought' the estates after all. The term 'fee' described how the tenants of the estate owed services and rents to Dr Awbrey, but could make profits from the land.
Further in the will it describes how on 27th December 1585 he made a tripartite indenture between his wife Willgifford, Anthony Mansell (of Briton Ferry) and Dame Elizabeth Wallwyn and "gave granted and enfeoffed the aforesaid manors of Palleg..." and other lands in Brecon to his 2nd son Thomas Awbrey and wife Mary and their heirs forever. I believe this means that the manor was bestowed before his death to Thomas as a college endowment fund but with some clause that Dr Awbrey still had some claim upon it. We see further evidence of this as Thomas was in a dispute over Palleg Mill in 1592 (see Palleg Water Mill). Note this same date when his father went to trial above. Also it later notes that:
|"By virtue whereof...a certain Act of Parliament of Lord Henry 8th late King of England on the 4th day of February in the 27th year of his reign (1536) for turning the uses of lands and tenements with the appurtenances into possession, the aforesaid Thomas Awbrey & Mary his wife were still are seized of the aforesaid manor of Palleg with the appurtenances and of the messuages lands and tenements aforesaid within the county of Brecon in the demesne as a freehold for the term of their lives."|
|Jenkin Llewelin escheator for Brecon County 21st Nov 1595 44|
The reference to that law can be seen in those rolls as: "4 Feb 251. The Marches of Wales. For the abolition of inheritance by "gavaill kind," and for local government as in the shires of England.". 27 Thus clearly describing how the Welsh tribal system of holding land by virtue and trust alone ended, bringing squabbles over land tenure on the misty cairns to the dry eyes of the inner court. It also further illustrates that Palleg was in the hands of Awbrey in and before 1536 as it is described as inherited property, and that it was held in freehold, but with condition that it owe suit & service to the Crown through Brecon castle, but was not within the Manor of Brecknock.
Sir Thomas Awbrey (1565-1641) Inheritance of Palleg
As stated, the manor was granted to his 2nd son Sir Thomas upon his marriage to Mary Mansell in 1585, he was well provided for in his college days. Llantrithyd estates (near Cowbridge) was bought from the Mansells shortly after (family bought Margam Abbey after dissolution). In 1592 he was involved in a dispute over Palleg Mill on the Twrch, with a fellow mill owner in Llangiwg some miles away (see Palleg Water Mill). He is described as having a "wicked sense of humour" and involved in many court cases including battery of servants and moving the cattle from his outlying estates to Llantrythid for fattening. His household accounts of 1622-3 suggest that this was the cause of the tenants of Palleg coming to his manor for a meeting as he had moved 9 "mountanny cattle" 40 miles from there in July, the "dayire man" paid 4s. Note below we have the Walbeoffes, powerful landowners, JPs etc doing business with the Awbreys at Llantrythid, they may have had some involvement with the running of the manor.
|Household accounts of Sir Thomas Aubrey of Llantrithyd|
|Household accounts of Sir Thomas Aubrey of Llantrithyd. Transcribed by Lloyd Bowen 56|
Dr Thomas Awbrey Esq (1608-1673) Inheritance of Palleg
Sir Thomas in turn arranges to bestow Palleg on his 2nd son Dr Thomas, chancellor of St Davids in a marriage dowry on the 16th of March 1634 to Eleanor, daughter of Morgan Awbrey of Ynyscedwin, a close cousin. However this arranged liaison did not come to anything, as in the will of Morgan proved in 1635, Eleanor had produced a grandson Walter by Walter Romsey who appears to have been a JP in Brecon. It seems a little bizarre they should draw up such a lengthy contract in the same year that Morgan was drawing up his final will and it come to nought.
| Relations of Morgan Awbrey, Abercynrig, extracted from transcript of 1634 will,|
"MS rel. to Wales in B.M." by Edward Owen, 1900 62
However, Morgan was sentenced in 1635, of what we are yet to discover, the will hints at him being fined £3000, a huge sum, maybe he died of shock, but he was certainly legally well prepared for death from 1634, so maybe it is because of this court case that the marriage dowry was hastily arranged to secure the estates but fell apart due to this 'sentence'? The word in this context may even mean 'the commands of'.
What then happened to Palleg? We presume it was passed on in the subsequent marriage dowry between the same Thomas and (Eleanora) Abigail Rudd, of Aberglasney, other than the fact that it does not turn up in the surveys of: his father's Llantrythid estates in 1643; the concealed lands of Brecknock by the Commonwealth Parliament in 1651; or his elder brother Sir John Awbrey's estate on his subsequent arrest by Parliament in 1649, although there are 300+ un-transcribed, uncatalogued deeds and accounts pertaining to the family in 3 boxes at Kew. But of course in the interregnum the whole world of the gentry is turned upside down and many houses & documents were destroyed.
The Awbreys were fervent royalists in the Civil War of 1642-49 who fought alongside the Vaughan, Gunter, Awbrey & Morgan landowners who all lost out in some way. Sir John, above, raised troops in Glamorgan and was involved in the siege of Cardiff, he was fined £800 and had his lands sequestered including Llantrythid manor which was a haven for royalists, and the church was ransacked, as might have been Ystradgynlais. Mary (daughter of Sir T. Awbrey^) & Charles Walbeoffe contested their inherited estates vs their brother John in the London courts in 1647 at the height of the Civil War, but I have not transcribed that document yet. Many Brecon families' influence declined after this, others were rewarded for their loyalty on the restoration (see also Commonwealth Parliament).
The Great Forest was seized by Parliament in 1649 and surveyed in '51. We have record of the Forest mills being in the care of Dr Thomas being sold, ironically to the very commissioner who took them from him. There are no records extant or found of Palleg being sequestered or sold. On the restoration the manor turned up in the hands of Mary & John Morgan of Llandetti in a post-nuptial joynture involving Lewis Gunter of Gileston in 1666, as evidenced in the sale of Palleg in 1747. This Mary is thus far proven to be the daughter of Dr Thomas.
How Awbrey Claimed Ynyscedwyn
The surviving Ynyscedwyn leases for Gwern Yorath, Glyn Meyrick, Penpark and Penygorof farms clearly prove they existed prior to 1510 and on the inheritance of Palleg Manor by William Awbrey c.1519 he sold these off to various parties. Bryn y Groes was developed from 'Tir Gwern Jevan Griffith ap Owen' by Rev Hugh Walter of the church from 1562-84. Morgan Awbrey the "illegitimate & jealous" son from the 1st marriage (or his son Morgan) appears to have acquired these farms via the marriage settlement of Jevan ap Henrie, son of Henry Price, to Margaret verch Jevan ap Morgan ap Richard in 1588.
The boundaries of those 7 farms can clearly be seen divided from the Manor by Palleg Road west, rivers Giedd & Tawe and Penrhiw farm road north, the prefix 'Gwern' before 3 of the farms indicating this was originally an expanse of alder woods. There is also the suggestion that as we have an early mention of 'Park', it may be indicative of a deer park, very common in association with older large mansions, e.g. Margam Park. Parks also are usually parcels of farmland reserved in the estates for the Lord of the Manor's use, and there is plenty evidence here of this, as the leases for such are given by direct sale or grant, as opposed to the main Manor of Palleg with its copyhold leases.
The lands are described as being within the Manor of Palleg up to 1612, whence they passed into the care of Ynyscedwyn in 1626, and thence known collectively as 'Tir Y Palleg' confirmed by Charles I in 1641 no doubt for the abundance of iron and coal beneath that was useful for the forming ironworks (further discussed in Mines & Minerals).
At this time, Morgan, Awbrey, Games, Gwyn & Lloyd families and the Earl of Worcester all claimed ownership of parts of Ystradgynlais within the Cilybebyll & Ynyscedwyn estates which extended to Gower and began to claim and inclose land in Ystradgynlais after 1540. Awbreys are not mentioned as being in tenure of Ynyscedwyn until 1596 in the surviving leases. The Awbreys began to multiply in the period taking over many of the farms.
The eldest son of Morgan Awbrey mentioned above, William married Anne Franklin c.1550 and moved into Ynyscedwyn house. Here her father Jenkin Franklin (d.1591) was the 'official receiver' of the Earl of Worcester and fought many legal battles for him during this period of land grabbing and was involved in the Inclosure Movement, but did not own the house. He was also Under Sheriff of Glamorganshire and had married into the Lloyd family of Priscedwyn (N Gower). His wife Lewis ap Rees Lloyd appears to be a direct descendent and inheritor of Gruffudd Gwyr, but Ynyscedwyn seems to have been acquired by Cilybebyll Estate (formerly part of Neath Abbey) around this time, under the Herberts of Swansea, with family links to the Lloyds.
Meanwhile, the grandson (or son) at Ynyscedwyn, another Morgan Awbrey was conveyed or bought that house from George Herbert of Cilybebyll Estates in 1596, a year after the death of his uncle Dr Awbrey, (no wealth, only land seems to have been passed down by him into the family as his estate was partly squandered by his crooked solicitor & executor). He then made many land purchases and built up the ironworks, gradually taking over the Cilybebyll Estates, which included those surrendered to Earl of Worcester due to illegal inclosure. He was recognised for his efforts and made sheriff of Brecknockshire in 1612, and boosted his influence by becoming patron of Ystradgynlais church. He therefore was probably instrumental in rebuilding or enlarging Ynyscedwyn House.
From this evidence we can gather that as the Awbreys were well respected (if not feared) landowners, JPs, sherrifs and constables for many years that they were by invitation or their own merits responsible for sorting out the mess that was land ownership in Ystradgynlais, as opposed to the continuation of Palleg as a consolidated Manor. Why it was so we can only assume is that because much of the land here was ruled from Gruffudd Gwyr's presumed seat in Gower or Priscedwyn and their descendants, and that it lying in a different county, made it difficult to control and broke apart over time under the 'fever' of land claims after 1540.
In the will of Morgan & Margaret Awbrey (née Games) in 1634 (proved 1635) it states they were in the care of Ynyscedwyn house, the advowson of Ystradgynlais church, 'Tyr y Pallegg & Gyry (Garth? Garn?)', 32 other tenements and 2 mills in Ystradgynlais, and land in Devynnock, Llangwick, Llandilo and Cilybebyll and had left it to Morgan Awbrey (b.1619) who was then 14y 11m. In 1641, a 'writ of ouster le main' is instigated by King Charles I for "Tir y Pallegge" in favour of the same, which means that he had 'come of age', i.e. reached 21, and could formally inherit that land. 'Tir y Pallegge' was the collective name for the 7 farms in the south of the hamlet mentioned above. Whether they could be legally split from Palleg Manor is debatable, but of course it was granted by Charles I when he was busy trying to curry favour with the local gentry before things turned sour during the Civil War.
He died in 1648 aged 29 at the time of the Civil War after he assisted in raising an army of royalist troops in Brecon, the county surrendering in 1645, but rebelling again in 1648. History does not record whether he died of war fatigue, but his short death bed was made in a hurry, one month after the battle of St Ffagans and was nuncupative, meaning "of a will or testament declared orally as opposed to in writing, especially by a mortally wounded soldier" so it is not very revealing, all lands going to Masod his wife. An ode upon his tomb in the older Ystradgynlais church read, "this marble may look sad and well it may, being fixed thus to display, a dolefull fate which befell, the people here in generall". Although this is a later addition, it certainly hints that the Parliamentarians dished out some punishment here. His son Morgan Awbrey 1645-83 died heirless, and the Ynyscedwyn estates defaulted to the Portrey family. Palleg is not mentioned in his will of 1683, or that of Portrey in 1729.
The Awbrey Murders of 1301, 1585, 1635, 1648 and 1679
Speculation and confusion arose through there being so many Awbreys of the same name, they intermarrying, and regularly coming to a sticky end as to which one was murdered when. We have an early mention of a William Awbrey being murdered in 'self defence' by Henry Jagelard in 1301, pardoned at Worcester goal. The Bishop of St David's being accused by Dr.Awbrey of the murder of a Morgan Awbrey c.1585. Theophillus Jones & Alcwyn Caryni Evans state William Awbrey son of Morgan or William was killed 'in a family dispute over land' at the fair in Brecon around this date, so there may be connection between these. We also do not know the circumstances under which Morgan Awbrey, Ynyscedwyn died during the Civil War after his surrender in 1648 or the possible execution of his father in 1635. There are also hints of a John Aubrey of Grendon, co. Hereford being executed by Parliament after expulsion from Brasenose College in 1649.
The only documented legal case I have found comes from hints in a letter by Howell Price in 1781 stating that there was a disagreement between John Gwyn esq who had enclosed 20 acres of land on Drim Common and William Awbrey of Ynyscedwyn, his cattle sometimes escaping and trampling crops leading to "much scolding". The case went to court at the Brecon sessions in 1679. Being a late case they retired to an inn where the debate became heated leading to Thomas Gwyn the son murdering Awbrey, I presume shot. The case went to the Hereford assizes and he was later pardoned.
You might assume from this that the Awbreys were hated as landlords, "country squatters with long purses", as a Palleg farmer calls them in 1915. But there were as many disagreements between neighbours as detailed in the newspapers which were resolved by petty tooth for tooth deeds, ending in the killing and mutilation of stock. Gangs of marauding criminals frequented the Brecon marches (often protected by local Lords) rustling cattle, highway robbery and holding 'kangaroo' courts. It was as wild place as it is now, so the Awbreys were often unluckily in the line of fire due to their wanting rule of law on their lands.
Conclusions on Awbrey Ownership of Palleg
Therefore we summarise that Palleg Manor was managed early on by the Awbrey family for the Crown after they intermarried with the descendants of the old conquered 'Welsh Princes' who previously 'owned' the land in tribal gavelkind under the Welsh Marcher Lords prior to 1400. By 1520 it was in the hands of William Awbrey, Abercynrig we presume by marriage settlement although this is before the 'tribal lands' were made freehold. By inference his father Hopkin Awbrey may have been chief over the estate. The manor then passed to Dr William Awbrey, Cantref & London who with money and influence either bought it directly with Abercynrig or 'acquired' it through inheritance or litigation involving the murder of a Morgan Awbrey of Ynyscedwin, intimidation of the Bishop of St Davids and a Catholic plot, improved it, built new farms upon it. He would also have been instrumental in bringing understanding of English Law into the Leet court, strengthening the claims of tenure by the tenants. It then passes via marriage settlement through 2 generations from 2nd son Sir Thomas in 1585, to 2nd son Dr Thomas in 1634 whose 1st marriage was annulled, thence probably settled upon him and his 2nd wife a little later. He managed, we believe, to hide his title grant to the manor up until 1666, whence in the restoration passed it to his daughter Mary who had married John Morgan, Wenallt c.1660. South Palleg farms were split from the main manor in 1641 possibly to assist in the growth of the ironworks under Ynyscedwyn Estates. We also see with the 3 possible murders or executions of the Awbreys and the many court cases, that they fought hard to and paid dearly for their beliefs and loyalties.
Palleg manor came to the Williams family of Llangattock Court, Crickhowell by a round about way involving marriage settlement, land seizure and lengthy court cases. (It may help to bring up the family tree Williams, Llangattock Family Tree (1500-1800) due to complexity and repetition of names). They were fervent supporters of the King, Edward Williams d.1657 was a royalist colonel in the Civil War (see Commonwealth Parliament). He (or his father of the same name) was involved within the deals of large tenements of Brecon land in 1649 by 'Sir' Hoo Games of Newton, sheriff of Breconshire 1657, responsible for Parliamentarian sequestration of land, related to the Herberts, Earls of Pembroke, and whose children married into the Williams of Penpont, both of whom the Williams of Llangattock married into as well as the Vaughans and other prominent families of Brecknock. Part of the former land had been taken (ironically?) from John Awbrey, royalist, of Llantrythid Estates. Their near relation Edward Williams, of Gwernfigin, Trallwng also sheriff 1659 in the Civil War was also involved in sequestration of estates, even from his own family. They are deemed to be descendant from the Conways, keepers of Crickhowell castle, and were rewarded for their loyalty in the restoration by Charles II. So we have plenty of scope for them being able to seize or acquire land 'by many means'.
The great grandson Edward Williams esq. leaves "all the messuages, mills, lands, tenements in Ystradgynlais" and nowhere else, not even the Court, in his will of 1726 to his mother-in-law Ann Maria Hughes until her death or the coming of age of his son, overseen by Penry Williams, Penpont, which seems a little strange considering their large estates. This is all explained in a London High Court case of 1717.
Williams vs Hughes 1717
John Morgan of Wenallt, Llanddeti, Brecon (Barrister-at-law, Keeper of Bronllys castle bought from Vaughan 1679, patron of Llanddeti church) acquired many Lordships before dying in 1699. He left his estates to his son John who died without issue, which then should have defaulted to his brothers William & Hugh thence his sister Mary Morgan who had married Henry Williams of Llangattock Court. However all the testators died and John's widow Anna Maria seized the lands and remarried James Hughes, Gelli, Llanvetherine (gent, d.1725, Gelli farm large Grade II listed built by his grandfather James 1649). They then proceed to remove large amounts of trees and orchards from the Manors and pull down old farms (presumably to improve them, the court says spoil them).
In the meantime Henry and Mary died, leaving son Edward in the care of William Morgan of Llangasty Talyllyn, previously of Wenallt, (Great uncle to John Morgan). Under his guidance they contest the spoilage of the estates in the High Court under no less a distinguished person than William Lord Cowpar Baron of Wingham, who finds in favour of Edward. This deal is further skilfully negotiated by the marriage of Edward to his cousin Anna Maria Hughes, the daughter of Anna Maria with which comes the dowry of Palleg.
John Morgan's Will 1699
In the codicil amendments of the will of John Morgan, it clearly states that Anna Maria was entitled to distrain the estates on failure or death of the other testators and was entitled to £100 a year from the profits and £20 a year to educate her son. It also annuls the payment of £500 due to Henry Williams of Llangattock by his father, until he settles his estates on wife Mary (sister to John). There is also the condition that £1000 be paid to any child born after John's death from the estates. Empowered as executors of the will, it is no surprise to find Sir John Awbrey of Llantrythid and William Powell of Llangattock (son later married widow of Edward Williams). It all appears to be legal and aboveboard, but can we trust deathbed amendments?
Hughes, Mistress's of Palleg 1699-1742
Anna Maria and her daughter Anna Maria are mentioned as 'Mistresses' (lady of the manor) of John Morgan of Fforchorllwyn (no doubt related to her late husband, no link found as yet) in his estate rent account book of Palleg from 1726-42. He certainly had a lot of activity on the estate, he lived on it. He collected the rents, rebuilt the mill, sold (over) 25 acres of coppiced trees and assisted the repair of many of the farms, so he may have been given free reign. He also noted that in 1730 Evan Gethin offered to 'pay a fine' of £30 for the entire estate, and that a William Williams countered with £50. David William Pritchard did not want Evan to have it, and so made a survey of the 'tenants lands'. On the death of her mother in 1729, Palleg passed to daughter Anna Maria (later Powell) whence it was inherited by her son Edward Williams upon her death in 1742. He is the first recorded owner to issue copyhold leases to the majority of farms on Palleg estate in that same year.
Williams sale to Thomas Morgan, Tredegar 1747
Edward was appointed High Sheriff of Breconshire 1745, but in 1747 he was in a debt of £1500 (£127,740 in 2005) at 5% APR to Charles Vaughan of Scethrog, descendant of the noble Vaughans of Tretower, whom he had connections to by marriage and the Morgans. I speculate that he could not pay it seems and so had to sell Palleg to Hon. Thomas Morgan, Tredegar for £3184.40 (equivalent of 23 years rent). The debt was paid off by Thomas out of that money. He died in 1751, his only daughter Anne married into the Williams family of Penpont c.1770, but died in childbirth.
Thomas had presented a copy of a deed dated 20th of March 1666 during these negotiations to Edward in the Brecon Court Chambers; "between John Morgan gent & Mary his wife... for making a joynture... for the manor of Palleg", evidenced to explain how the manor came to the Williams family. But without the original and this scrawled copy, the huge debt Edward Williams owed and Thomas being MP, JP and master of the world at the time, I could stoop to the level of waving the flag of blackmail, was it not for the fact that he paid Edwards' debt in full and the complex legal background that comes with Palleg after the Civil War.
|"A deed... between John Morgan gent & Mary his wife on the one part and Lewis Gunter on the other part for making a joynture for the said Mary agreed to buy a fine at the next Grand Sessions to be held for the County of Brecon of the manor of Palleg and several other lands & tenements therin mentioned to the said Mary for life and to this John Morgan his heirs and app for ever" 20th of March 1666.|
|Sale of Palleg. Tredegar 121/125, 1747 92|
There are conflicting reports from newspaper articles in 1914 stating that Y'gynlais council & the newly formed Crown & Common land Council by investigation found that Palleg had been sold to Tredegar by the Crown in 1739 for £2,730, although another later article contests this, and so should we for the moment. Sir Thomas would have had access to the deed counterparts held in Brecon Courts at the time, that now may be missing, so there is no need to doubt this transaction he could have been helping Williams out after a game of bridge went wrong.
This was a post nuptial settlement, a joynture described as: "in the way of an estate settled on a wife for the period during which she survives her husband, in lien (a right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is discharged) of a dower. We see also in law that a fine: "In the late 12th century a procedure evolved for ending a legal action by agreement between the parties. The agreement was known as a final concord (or fine). Originally this was a means of resolving genuine disputes, but by the middle of the 13th century the fine had become a popular way of conveying freehold property, and the legal action was usually a fictitious one, initiated with the cooperation of both parties. This procedure survived until the 1830s."
We know these families were fined heavily in the civil war and even before that the £3000 debt owed by Morgan Awbrey in 1635 would still have been carried forward. John Walbeoffe, inheritor and cousin to Mary (da of Sir T. Awbrey) was plagued by debt, a codicil in her will 1674 states he was barred from entering or removing property from Llanhamlach Court for 40 days after her demise. We also see a lingering debt to Henry Vaughan by Edward Williams in the sale of Palleg in 1747, that may have been carried on for several hundred years!
Lewis Gunter (in the above 1666 doc) is the g.grandson of Thomas Gunter who was the bailiff of Welsh Pencelli Manor of which Wenallt was formerly a part, and the Morgans had married into 2 generations ago. Of note, Thomas was charged later with fraudulently obtaining customary dues from the Manor that should have gone to the Crown in 1553, he was sentenced but bailed by Henry Vaughan of Crickhowell. The family were also persecuted heavily due to being 'papist recusants'. The Walbeoffes, Morgans, Gunters and Vaughans were all intermarried from an early date, in doing so ensuring they kept hold of their estates and were well placed to use all sorts of ploys to gain and transfer land deeds. Many writers are very derisory of the litigious tactics and enforced marriages these branches of high ruling families used. However the transfer of Palleg was legitimate and hereditary and there is no evidence to suggest it was sequestered by any of them in the Civil War.
Identity of Mary wife of John Morgan, Wenallt
We know that John Morgan, Wenallt married Mary Awbrey, daughter of Dr Thomas, some family trees omit her, but the county genealogist recorded the fact c.1698, below, and is shown baptised in the parish records of Llantyrthid in latin, "Maria filia Thomae Awbrey in legibus Bacchalaurij et Elenoriae vxoris eius baptizabatur 30 Novembris 1638". The extra gibberish in Latin indicates that Dr Thomas was a baccalaureate of law. This is also evidenced in her great aunt's will, Mary Walbeoffe in 1674, where Mary Morgans is named as her godchild. 206
Vaughan of Newton pedigree, Brit Lib. Harley MS., 2,289, f. 39 c.1698. (Transcript by J.M.B. 2016) 140
What I do take issue with is the interpretation by E. K. Chambers of the epithalamium Henry Vaughan the silurist wrote for what he states is the betrothal of a "Mary Awbrey and John Morgan of Wenallt c.1660". Firstly, the poem is entitled, "To I. Morgan, of Whitehall, Esq". Chambers states the name "appears to have been Anglicised". Wenallt was always known as Wenallt. It interprets to English as Whitehill, it is similar lexicographicaly but Henry, although Cambridge educated was deeply enamoured of Welsh. It actually referred to his other kinsman Sir John Morgan of Whitehall (i.e. Westminster in London!) who was knighted by Richard Cromwell 26 Nov 1658, 208 son of Lewis Morgan of Llangattock (family were also MPs for Radnor & Hereford). It is on this sudden rise to fortune, marriage and later purchase by the family of Kinnersley Castle in Herts under Charles II that the poem is written. This is a very subtle difference and was an easy mistake to make.
Identity of Anna Maria ---?
Regards the identity of Anna Maria who married the John, the son of John Morgan of Wenallt, of whom the father I was not sure of and spent fruitless hours searching for her natal name; Anna Maria is a distinctly Roman Catholic name, more popular on the continent at the time. Many of the older wealthy families in the area were of this faith, especially the Awbreys. The best clues would have been in the Llanddeti parish records but they are all destroyed, and although there are numerous papers relating to her and mention of a sister, none gave her origins or natal name. We even have a burial record in Llangattock... frustratingly the monument was removed or worn away. It was definite that she was not Anna Maria Pryce of Newton, whose family had close connections to the Vaughans of that town, as she died in 1735 a spinster it seems according to her monument in St Deny's, Oxford.
However, as I had a hint that John Morgans father's lineage had been recorded by Hugh Thomas, the County Herald, I decided to go back to his original papers of c.1693 in the British Library, and there in ink & parchment was the holy grail, for me at least, giving the natal name Anna Maria Brailsford da. of a ... Brailsford, merchant of London. I should have trusted my gut instinct back when I found that her son was named Brailsford Hughes! A short search found the will and several court cases involving James Brailsford her father, a very rich haberdasher. He died young, leaving four orphans, one of which was Anna Maria. It seems there were connections to the Morgans already as James mentions a Mary Morgans in his will. One assumes they made connections with the shenanigans of the civil war period.
|Morgan of Wenallt Family Tree by Hugh Thomas Brit Lib. Harley MS., 2,289, f. 39 c.1698 (Raw transcript by J.M.B. 2016) 171|
I am very 'suspicious' of Anna Maria's dealings and politics, although it may be groundless. It just seems a little odd that she survives the deaths of her husband, 5 testators, 4 guardians, the executor and her son up to the court case of 1717, where she comes out none the worse for wear by the enforced marriage of her daughter to Edward who was awarded Palleg, who then subsequently dies and she acquires Palleg again. The 'deathbed' codicil of the will also annuls Henry Williams of a loan and makes provision of £1000 to any new child of Anna. It is all worthy of a Royal plot for the throne, which by all accounts were underhand and ghastly but conducted with grace and dignity, thus leaving only a paper trail but no direct evidence of wrongdoing. My sub-theses of investigation into the origins of Wenallt and Gelliwig Manor which helped me lead to these conclusions can be viewed here.
Conclusions on Morgan, Hughes & Williams Ownership
According to investigations of legal matters in the Great Forest in 1784, the ownership of land therein was very confusing, the Crown and its absentee landlords taking a hands off approach and the land neglected, the estate, mills, mines and Forest all split into different entities over time, many tenants claiming farms for themselves. Maybe because of that confusion, the upheaval of the Civil War, seizure of pro-Catholic and Royalist lands, plague and loss of documents that Palleg may have been seized from the Awbrey's for a time, or secreted away within the wider family, until Mary Awbrey fought to get it back with her new husband-lawyer John Morgan in 1666.
It then passes by dowry to son John Morgan and wife Anna Maria c.1685, and on John's death in 1699 his widow claims his estates and remarried James Hughes, who pass it again by dowry to daughter Anna Maria Hughes & Edward Williams in 1720, the marriage arranged due to his mother-in-laws prior legal claims on the estate. Thence on Edward's death in 1726 in passes back to his step-mother, and on her death in 1729 it passes again to Anna Maria (the daughter) who marries a Powell, thence to the son from her 1st marriage, Edward in 1742, who sells it to the Morgans of Tredegar by way of debt release in 1747.
Financial Conditions at Purchase
After buying the manor from the Williams family, the leases were then reissued under Thomas Morgan, in the spring of 1747 for a term of 99 years. The whole or part of the his Tredegar estates were mortgaged to a Samuel Savage esq. of Middlesex for £20,000 by an indenture of lease, released on 25th of March 1747 through the Duke of Devonshire. He also became an MP in that year. The first Palleg leases are dated 25th April 1747. This appears therefore to have been a way of raising money to buy more land, perhaps due to debts, bad interest rates or as a way of securing power in parliament, there are mentions of "unsettled accounts" in the estate papers for that year. Having backing from the Duke of Devonshire, who came from the Cavendish family, one the richest most powerful and influential families of the time is very significant and hints at having deeper political intrigue or a noble cause. The 3rd Duke William Cavendish, 1698-1755 at the time was serving as the Lord Steward in the court of King George II by personal appointment. Samuel Savage could be either a rich leather merchant d.1793 from St James, Middlesex, London or an entrepreneur of the same name, 1718-1797 from James County, Middlesex in Massachusetts who was in the shipping insurance business who also traded in perishable exports. He is evidenced by letter to is wife as being 'out of town' at the time of the contract, however the contract could have been signed by an agent of his in England.
It is from around this date that the Manor of Palleg is brought back into the collection of lands that originally made up the Lordship or Manor of Brecknock that parts broke off from around the 12-14thC. By this time, with the inheritance of lands and surrenders they were in charge of a large portion of Breconshire. So the Morgans now wealthy landowners could afford to update many of the estates. This would have been in their interest due to the steady growth of the ironworks, lime and coal mining in the town and margins of the estate which led to the Ystradgynlais canal being completed in 1798, and the subsequent industrial revolution of 1840s when most of the farms were completely rebuilt. As very busy absentee landlords they had little time for interest in Palleg matters, devolving power to those they trusted, visiting at Michelmas for rent audits at the Tredegar Arms, feasts day, fairs in the town or the tradition of 'beating the bounds' of their estate. For this reason it is explained that farmers were applying the same principals of land management as they did from the Roman age until the late 1800's.
Short History of the Morgans from 1650
The Morgan families of Wales claim descent from Cadifor Fawr, Lord of Cilsant d.1089 with a distant pre Norman distinguished heritage and had been in control of large amounts of land for many years. His third son, Bledri d.1120 was on good terms with the Norman conquerors, who may have granted him lands in Monmouthshire. They became a rich and influential family, regularly appointed MPs, Lord Lieutenants, High Sheriffs, judges for Brecon and Monmouth and military leaders in war. At the end of the 18th century the Tredegar branch of the Morgans owned over 40,000 acres. Tredegar House, the family seat is a fine example of a 17th century country house, open to the public under the National Trust as of 2012, the "weekend hunting lodge," Ruppera Castle is still in ruins.
The lasting legacy of the Tredegar Morgans was founded by William Morgan MP for Monmouth 1640-1680, marrying his 1st cousin Blanche Morgan 1650-1673 of Dderw Estate, Brecknockshire. Her grand father, William 1570-1649 was a court recorder of Brecon, the King's Attorney for South Wales and MP for Brecknockshire, enabling him to purchase extensive estates in that county. He died, passing his estate to his son William 1630-1658, who acquired the Manor of Brecon around 1639, thence leaving it all to Blanche. Because of their loyalty to the Crown in the Civil Wars of 1642-51 the Morgans were richly rewarded with lands after the restoration by Charles II. The Morgan and Awbrey family also traded and intermarried with each other in the area, in 1636, '66 & '69 William Morgan paid £20 to Thomas Awbrey for half years rent, for the "Great Mill in Divinocke". A branch of the Awbreys also changed their name to Morgan.
Blanche (cousin to Blanche above) leased 'waste land' from "brooke Elen (Nant Melyn?) to river Dylais", (mile East of Ystradgynlais) in 1559 to a John Gwynn. Blanche her cousin leased the same land then called Waine Newydd near Nant y Stalwyn to a Jenkins Griffiths in 1671. Fee farm of the Great Forest of Brecknock was granted to them in 1693. Mynydd y Drim was already in their ownership (supposedly bought from the Earl of Pembroke) and being mined from at least 1724. They were therefore big players in the county, preferred because of their honesty, loyalty and lineage. So it is no surprise that Palleg was within their sights, with the Williams being seen as a territorial threat, especially with their links to the Awbreys. Indeed, they had to acknowledge and forfeit by covenant 19,00 acres of land in Ystradgynlais additional to the 4000 or so they cared for in Palleg upon its sale.
Their son Thomas 1664-1700 inherited, his son William died in 1699. The male line then became extinct. It passed to his brother, John MP 1670-1720, who purchased much land in Brecknockshire. His relation John Morgan "the merchant" of London also bought Ruppera Castle in 1626 and other lands. Several Morgans later, under Thomas 1727-1771 land was mortgaged off and bought back and there are reports of "unsettled accounts" in 1747, the year the leases on Palleg were re-issued. On the death of his brother John 1742-1792 the male line becomes extinct again, his sister Jane Morgan 1731-97, inherits and marries Charles Gould 1726-1806 of Pitshanger Manor, Ealing, MP for Brecknockshire who was knighted in 1779 becoming the 1st Baronet Tredegar. On that date he changed his name to Morgan. He was not popular with tenants. Due to being English he neglected to observe local Welsh custom, using the letter of the law to demand ancient tolls and taxes in the Forest of Brecknock.
He was succeeded by Sir Charles Morgan, 1760-1846, and in turn by Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan 1792-1875 the first baron Tredegar. Under Godfrey Charles Morgan his son, 1831-1913 he became a viscount after serving in Crimea War, but died without issue, a bronze statue of him in full military regalia upon his horse 'Sir Briggs' stands in Cardiff. This led to the auction of the Palleg farms and much of the estates in 1915 due to hefty death duties of £600,000 by his nephew, Courtney Charles Evan Morgan 1867-1934, a navy and party man with his own private yacht. However the auction due on 5th August in the Mason's Arms, Brecon was cancelled due to every one of the then 25 current tenants purchasing their own farms by 'private treaty'. No doubt there was some pressure on the Morgans in a secret meeting, and some large discounts being negotiated. His son Evan was an eccentric who threw lavish parties with links to Adolfus Huxley, H. G. Wells and Oscar Wild and sold more of the estate after WWII. His cousin John, with no interest in S/Wales sold Tredegar House which became a convent school, and the last vestiges of the estate. No titled Morgans apparently survive.
Farms - Leases, Law & Build Style
For there to be in existence a mill prior to 1551 and a tithe collecting church pre 1289, both documented, established farms would have been present to supply them with the tithes they demanded, and probably a reality for a long time prior to this. This is concrete fact even without lists or maps denoting their presence. To be in a position for John Morgan to collect rent on 20 or so farms in 1728, they had to have been built and established before that time. Indeed his property valuations of 1728 in Palleg are copies of those made in 1710. CADW recognises the build date of the best preserved cottage on the estate in Henglyn Isaf to the 1700s. With this exception, Pencaemole, and those farms now abandoned, every other farm on the estate had, from 1840-96 a Victorian 2 storey farmhouse built alongside the original longhouses which survive as barns, outbuildings or ruins in the 1700s build style, Penllwyn Teg is mentioned as (re)built in 1709 in the rent accounts.
Pencaemole and Glyncynwal Isaf are the best surviving of these, dated to late 1600's, all were modernised and had additions over the centuries. Stone tiles at Pensarn taken from the surviving longhouse portion suggest they were quarried after 1740 as they vary in size (Prior to 1740 they were large & uniform, after 1840 slate was imported from North Wales), but as the window sills are flush with the wall, ceiling beams protrude through the wall, has keystone archways, and built with a 'rainbow' of different coloured river stones as Glyncynwal Isaf, I believe it to be much earlier build of late 16-1740. The fact that it was built on a slope into the hill indicates that it was rebuilt on the site of a much older farmstead. We could even suggest this of the Penywern ruins. Roof beams and crux trusses were often reused over many centuries and dendrochronology results from Tredeg farm suggest a late mediaeval date, according to the owner. The loose crux beam at Penrhiw cart house appears to me, very crude and hand made and I suggest it is also of that same ilk. At Brynygroes farm a lead plaque inscribed "J.H.S. 1607 J.L" was found on one of the barns.
The mention of farms in deeds & leases: Penysarn in 1562 ; Tir Y Gelly 1609, and the Ynyscedwin farms in S.Palleg, Eskerr y Parke (Pen Y Parc) 1512; Gwern Jororth ap Oweyn (Yorath), 1519; Glyn Myric, 1540; Gwern Jevan Griffith ap Owen (Bryn Y Groes) 1562 ; Caemawr, 1569; Tire Pen y Gorof, 1585 ; Tyr Pen y Bont (alias Gwern Boulth), 1626; relate to the rebuilding of those farms in stone during the Tudor-Elizabethan land claim period. Ynyscedwyn deeds stretch right back to 1489. This proves the existence of previous farmhouses, but are now either 18thC and modern rebuilds or altered in some way.
The fact that we have names such as Henglyn Isha & Henglyn Ucha and Glyncynwal Ucha & Isha (upper and lower) in 1728, indicates that a bigger earlier farm was split in two, possibly under early Welsh inheritance laws, 'gavelkind', abolished in 1536, that was already unworkable and in decline by 1350. There is also a direct reference, at least in 1564 to a 'Tir Enis Gedwyn Igha' (Ynyscedwyn Ucha), where the 'lower' farm might have been we can but guess.
Worthy of mention also are the larger 'gentry' houses on the outskirts of Palleg. Glynllech Uchaf was re-built in 1745, where Howell Price, the rent agent for Palleg from 1775 lived, this family was said to be descendant of Brychan, but more clearly related to the Vaughan family, the previous house dating back to at least 1547. The house is wider than a longhouse with a hall. Fforchorllwyn, a longhouse, east of Caemawr farm where again a rent agent of the estate lived, John Morgan, dates to the mid 1600s. Neyadd Fawr next door to Ynyscedwyn dates to 1500.
There is also physical evidence on the above ground to date round houses, house platforms, limekilns and sheep enclosures back to the medieval period, from ruins at Llwyncwnstabl escarpment, Penwern and Cwmfforchwen farms according to the archaeologists. They are not date specific, being anywhere between 1100-1500 (see Archaeology). The documented evidence of a church and castle in the town dated 1290 backs up these finds (see Early Middle Ages).
Because we have evidence of noble Welsh families based at 'Glyntawe' from 1100 which may include Ystradgynlais, and their descendants living in Palleg by 1390, it is abundantly transparent to me that they did not live in the caves of Dan yr Ogof, and so dwellings whether of stone or wood were abundant, cheap and temporary. Permanent stone homes were more frequently built after 1540 due to the need to establish ownership of land for primogeniture and English law, so we stretch to the very edge of 'modern' dated settlement evidence on Palleg.
Fields - Age & Inclosure
It is also possible to age farmland from the style and evolution of the field system. It appears from the survey of fields of 1782 and the earliest OS map of 1812 that a small square enclosed field system was in operation, a style inherited from the pre-Roman period, which were suited to the work capacity of a team of oxen. The fields in the west and east 'appear' to become smaller still in the 1845 estate map, but this may be because of greater accuracy of a local survey. However many of the larger fields are seen clearly to have been divided into smaller units, I'm sure this reflects greater diversity in crops and rotations. The greatest concentration of 'smaller fields' i.e. those under 5 acres are shown below the Gwys stream in the SE. The NW portion has large open fields before 1782. This may then indicate that it was clear felled earlier than the SE, especially considering the Bronze Age settlements and old 'llys' located there, the Gwys being the limit to which they came, and it being an early demarcation boundary. There is no evidence from my perspective of shared strip fields used by serfs, this makes sense though as the area area has always been geared primarily for livestock.
Having a large area of common grazing land is also indicative of there being a feudal manor here previously, and pastoralism before that time. Commons were established before statute law (c.1189) in oral agreement in courts of the elders, the chieftain being recognised in collective agreement, and being known by his manner of conduct, dress, court & wealth inherent or entitled to by that title. The tenants had the freedom to roam, graze, hunt and collect fuel here from time immemorial, and that right was never taken away, so the area was never affected by the Inclosure Acts of 1750-1860. Even in 1813 when the Great Forest of Brecknock was subject to inclosure, the tenants stopped their landlord Charles Morgan from doing so to their common land on Mynydd y Drim.
The wall that runs through the upper moorlands, known as 'Y Chain' dates from the late 1750-1850's, and is typical of the style instructed to be built by the inclosure acts, and there are many sites along the walls and in the upper stretches that appear to be the remains of 'hafodydd', summer houses built roughly of stone and earth for use by shepherds. However on the abandoned farms of Cwmfforchgwyn and Penywern, the field walls here are well piled large glacial boulders from field clearance, some in-filled with earth as a basic bank and do not have any appearance of the later formal dry-stone walling. It is explained that enclosure of open fields with walls and hedges, donating demarcation of the tenants farmed land increased during the Tudor period when feudal manor rules ended and sheep farming became profitable, leading to a need for improved pasture and demarcation for English legal purposes.
Whether these walls date from that time, the settlements in the 1200's or even the Iron Age, I cannot really give firm answer to, but they certainly are very basic structures, not more than 3 foot high, which wouldn't provide secure stock control, unless topped with a fence or palisade, but certainly make a boundary for a crop field. They certainly do date to before 1750 as the Inclosure Acts gave directions for the detailed dimensions of boundary walls and usually used quarried stones. As for the rest of Palleg, most if not all the fields now in use are hedged and fenced, and there are few examples of 'modern style' dry stone walls, again indicating early demarcation of fields. Those hedges though have a remarkable abundance of oak, remnants of the post glacial forest that once stood here.
The general style of the surviving longhouses built on Palleg in the 1600-1740s are described as being of roughly shaped local stone taken the rivers, field clearance and nearby quarries, with walls often half a metre thick, held together with a mortar of clay, ash and lime. Round river stones were skilfully shaped by splitting along the grain to reveal a flat surface and come in a rainbow of colours shown in the walls of Glyncunwal Isaf. These were separated sequentially into a hall, pantry & kitchen, and byre (for animals), with hay loft and bedrooms above. A big fireplace and chimney was located at the gable end, often with a stone staircase nearby and the windows very small, initially wooden slats. The supporting beams, laid flat, each at least 4 metres across were hand carved from one solid oak branch or tree, I counted at least 24 at Brynhenllys (note: larch was also in use by 1777 in Wales). On the earliest houses, the beams will protrude through the wall to the exterior.
Then topped with crux beams, fitted together only with joints and wood dowels, they were thatched with straw or reed thatch (later stone slates) and lime-washed. If done well these were watertight homes that would last 50 years before maintenance, shining brightly on the hillside. I did wonder at the extent thatch was used in the uplands, because wheat straw was not grown here abundantly and the area is quite damp. But looking in John Morgan's accounts, the rebuilt Palleg Mill was thatched in 1728, photo evidence of Brynygroes shows it was practised up to the late 1930's and probably beyond in the district. Henglyn cottage was also previously so roofed according to CADW. And anyway they probably used reeds in these parts. Stone slate was more widely used on the long farms.
At Glyncynwal Isaf farm, the best preserved of this style of longhouse the upper storey was connected to a land bridge or ramp so that crops or hay could be directly moved inside without any lifting, which can still be seen at Penywern ruins. These were patched up until they fell down or rebuilt, and over time slate roofs and glass windows introduced from at least 1747. There are surviving on many of these longhouses and barns, arrow-slit windows, which dispensed with the window tax, gave ventilation, plus no doubt provided some siege defence if ever there was again a civil war in the area! The responsibility of building and repairing was generally in the hands of the landlord. Small repairs could be carried out by the tenants. Timbers and trees were regularly delivered on the farms for the farmer or the estate carpenter to shape into doors and rafters.
Many of these longhouses were abandoned prior to the 1800's as barns, I would suggest even a long time before that, and many farms never had longhouses, they had cottages or houses half the length of a longhouse, but still 'long' in the modern sense. On the 1844 & 1845 maps it is difficult to determine which is the main house and which is the barn. I can only say with some certainty that Penllwyn, Gilfach, Dorwen, Penrhiw, Maespica, Tredeg, Penywern & Gelly had a longhouse & longbarn of almost equal length alongside each other, either of which was still being used as a dwelling.
In the mid 1800s many of the older houses were demolished in favour of newly built square 2 storey houses, at the time of the boom in the ironworks. Most of the longhouses were shortened, used as barns, demolished or as in Pensarn incorporated into the new house. Penyrhiw carthouse, now a crumbling shortened ruin has a fireplace in one corner and a byre in the other. The last of these new Victorian builds, Penllwyn Teg in 1896 was said to be justified on poor farmland by very low transport cost and lack of competition from imported foods. They are characterised by being built of quarried limestone blocks (and stone from the demolished longhouses), 2 storeys, chimneys at each gable end, porch at the entrance. Bricks were only used in the 4-8 large main windows and chimneys, some are stamped 'Melyn Court' which is in Neath. Tiles stamped 'Hancock & Buckley' indicate they came from Hawarden in North Wales.
Before the 1540s wood was more abundant and cheap. We might have seen wooden framed houses on a stone and earth base, in-filled with a mortar mixture of sticky clay, hay, horsehair, the partitions made of wattle and daub. These were slowly build in layers, allowing it to dry before the next layer, it was then topped with crux beams and thatch, with a fireplace on the floor. These 'wood and mud' huts were very strong and warm, lasting many years, and easily repaired. But with the dampness and abundance of stones and quarries on Palleg I wonder at their extent, but many longhouse platform ruins are found in the area. The cottages of the shepherds, miners and labourers would have been even more basic, Gerald Cambrensis describes them in 1194 as "small huts made of boughs of trees twisted together". There is no standing house left anywhere in Wales of this cottage style prior to 1550, the timber and stone reused, the thatch and clay used as fertiliser, homes were often temporary, families moving between the seasons. Those on the upper lands would be termed 'hafodydd', summer houses, the lower winter houses known as 'hendre'. 'Ty unnos' - 'house built in a night' were said to be frequent among those who wished to claim an area of common land, but more often associated with the homeless, squatters or newly weds who did not have permission from the local Lord.
Because archaeology is extremely spare prior to the Norman Conquest we can but infer that if these house platforms were in use the dwellings were even more basic, most common were the typical round huts, a base of stone with a conical thatched roof, especially if they were prone to be pastoral and herding flocks in the summer, using the winter houses to shelter. But that is a kind of snobbery, it is abundantly clear they were as skilled and clever as us just by looking at the metal jewellery made in this period and the building skills inherited from the Romans.
There are many hints to 'tents' being used in the district from the toponymy. This hinges on the etymology being correctly deciphered and they being place names surviving from those times. Palleg itself has several meanings one being 'tented'. Cilybebyll meaning 'shelter of the tents'. In several leases and a map by Theophillus Jones, a Nant-y-Pebyll-Bedw : Stream-of-the-Birch-Tents is found, a stream above Cynlais. An echo of this ancient craft survives in the reindeer herding Sami of Scandinavia who lean birch poles against each other and cover them with skins or cloth to form a shelter. This is not an implausible idea for the Welsh, described as hardy to the cold and hunger as the very flocks they gathered.
Evidence from surveys and digs have revealed settlements on the farmland dating to the Bronze and Medieval Age, but nothing much in-between, apart for rumours of iron age enclosures at Glyncynwal farm, Cae'r Castell near the town and Hengaer further south. Pre-Norman artefacts & finds from the surrounding area have been discussed previously. Most of the important mediaeval sites that have survived the farming, mining and landscaping are located near Pen-y-wern in a copse of wood, on the top of Llwynycwnstabl ridge and scattered around Cwmfforchwgyn moorland. These are mainly stone hut circles, long huts, lime kilns, cairns and sheepfolds dating to 1100-1500, but some confusion arises amongst archaeologists as to the precise era. The huts in the uplands are either summer houses, or from a period where the climate was warmer c. the Bronze Age.
Having visited many of these recorded ancient sites, I was not much impressed at seeing a pile of stones in the middle of a field, which one farmer commented that he thought it was where they had dumped stones from clearing the fields, they being so rocky. My most impressive find was of a rock at Pen-y-wern within a circle of stones that had a very deeply carved notch in it that could have been used to hold a slat of wood. The well preserved mediaeval lime kiln close to that hut has been investigated in detail. There are a few of these old limekilns near farms marked on the old OS 1878 maps. Lime is used to improve farmland amongst other things, and that is an important link to establish that this area was settled and farmed and improved from the medieval age. The longhouse and hut remains at Cwmfforchgwyn are more convincing, the outline of much older houses can be seen, and there are a few in that area, albeit of mixed dates.
A small farm was in operation called Blaen or Cwm Gwys Fach on the south of Llwyncwnstabl ridge up to 1776. There would be no evidence of it ever existing but for two letters by Howell Price concerning the tenant John Williams who also ran Dorwen, who wished for a written lease and £2 annual rent in that same year. It was described as "20 acres surrounded by moorland under a chattel lease", and so more of a shepherds cottage, it being near the sheep pens. Howell Price advocates John should be given notice to quit as a 'higher bidder' offered £3 a year rent, but I find no mention of the property in any of the accounts, leases, maps or letters of Palleg (also those copies of letters have obsolete NLW references and now 'missing'). A chance reference by John Morgan records that he and the tenants stopped "at Llwyncwnstabl... we drank 2/6s worth of beer" on the annual 'Walk of Liberty' on Holy Day 1728, could they have been given the beer in Blaen Gwys? We must assume it remained a shepherd's hut or used as part of Cwm fforch Gwyn or Dorwen after 1776 until ruinous. One of these is no doubt the 'pitfold' built by the farmers under John Morgan in his account of 1728. This was a pound for restraining the 'jack cattles' costing 15s 11d, being built of stones and mortar, it even had a hinged wooden door. (Picture 1).(Picture 2) (1877 Map)
The 'hafod' of Morgan Awbrey c.1540 at Llwyncwnstabl may have been in operation at this same place, or at least possibly the abode of the constable from around 1285, the ruins of the house measure at least 20 metres even compensating for rubble spread, comparable with a large modern farm. It is debated, that this area may have kept a hunt of hounds, or even been a deer breeding farm, safe outside the Great Forest hunting area, but no further evidence has come to light. The toponymy also suggests it was lived in or owned by a constable, so theory dictates that it could have been the traditional mill parcel given to the incumbent of that title stationed at Abercynrig, which helpfully were usually Awbrey. In a 1918 newspaper clipping a local historian notes that there were "remains of iron works" here, what those were and how old he does not say. Considering the tumultuous history of the area I have no doubt metal forging would have gone on for many centuries, and this is an ideal place to do it, with the 'constable' in charge of providing weapons to military tenants. Slightly below this site on Cors Einon is also located a round house and ancient wall enclosure described as being 'pre-Bronze Age' by CPAT.
Near Brynygrainen, are located two garns, Bronze Age burial barrows, which have almost eroded away, and have not been excavated. Taking liberty to imaginatively translate the Welsh Brynygranen to bryn-y-garn-wen - 'hill of the white barrows', could this area have been reserved as a interment or cremation site for the Chieftains of Ystradgynlais? The occupant of said farm maintains grainen is old word for pebbles, the ground being so rocky.
The well worn drovers roads or cart tracks pass near Cwmfforchgwyn and Dorwen up through the Black Mountains to Llandeusant, the old Red Lion Inn conveniently situated there. The drovers may then have gone right to Brecon, or up to Llandovery. These are marked as present in the 1300's O.S. compilation map of 1923. It is explained they went out this way to avoid the tolls of the Forest of Brecknock and later the turnpike roads. But they also would want to avoid the deep Tawe and its wide flooplains, so one of main mediaeval drovers roads it is suggested by John Williams was the Gwrhyd way (describing the width of the road as being the length (hyd) of a man (gwr), thus 6 foot making it a substantial construction, translating to the English as a 'fathom', literally 6 foot). It is suggested as running from the lower Swansea valley up to Ystradowen, through Brynhenllys to Tir-y-gof for renewing of cattle shoes and on through Penrhiw over a ford at Llwynybedw whence they could wet their appetite and market sheep at the Lamb and Flag inn or proceed to Brecon along the Glyntawe road.
B.C. Archaeological Sites Map
Roman Archaeological Sites Map
Medieval Archaeological Site Map
Prehistoric [pre <6,000 BC]|
Stone Age [c.6,000 BC - 2,500 AD]
Bronze Age [2,500 BC - 450 BC]
Iron Age [c.450 BC - c.78 AD]
Roman [c.78 A.D. - 383 A.D.]
Early Mediaeval [c.383 A.D.-1083 A.D.]
Mediaeval [c.1083 A.D.-1453]
Post Mediaeval [c.1453 A.D.-1800]
* The above maps are compilations of archaeological site positions acknowledged in 'Archwilio',
the online Welsh database portal map by CPAT, GGAT and Dyfed HER.
Amateur Archaeology on Palleg
As far as finds of specific recent dates go, Gary Valentine amateur metal detectorist and member of Brecon detecting club with permission of the landowners, has come up trumps with a 'hoard of treasure' from all over Palleg. His finds were exhibited and displayed in Y'gynlais by Sarah Rees, artist in residence in 2015. Finds include a hammered coin groat of Edward III dated 1351-01 was found near Henglyn Uchaf, Picture and an Elizabethan sixpence (1601) & shilling (1560) near Brynygrainen. A crossed lead token dating to 1400 was discovered at Tyhwnt Picture totally consistent with the pattern of settlement on Palleg. Lead tokens were used as coinage substitutes, in gambling or even for pilgrimage. The Greek cross on this particular piece has widening ends and covers the coin, therefore possibly of religious origin.
Others have found scores of 'cattle shoes' at Tir-y-gof from a time when those beasts were shoed and droved up to Brecon. No activities of a smith occurs in any document yet found regards Tir-y-gof from 1728. There was a blacksmith Richard Owen who resided at Pentwyn Gwys from around 1860-1900 and a Howell Rogers near Tir Roger 1841-61, also a smith is employed to make a sundry list of items for the new Palleg mill in 1726. Howell Price of Fforchorllwyn notes shoeing of his cattle from 1760. Maybe it was beyond the scope of those to record the day to day activities of the farms, but shoeing occurred from the medieval times and probably earlier up to the age of the railways, which here was around 1860. But we must put into perspective the fact that this was a sheep walk, and numbers of cattle were prohibitive. Typical numbers from the late 19thC are 60 cattle and 2500 sheep.
Palleg Farm Names
The nomenclature of the farms may look as if they indicate origins from landmarks or events that pre-date the Romans, but Welsh place names usually tend to refer literally in a down to earth way to some poignant physical feature in the vicinity of the farm. But, I will not discount the Welsh custom of double mindedness in playing down things of significance, praise and importance and so have an open mind as to the etymology. The farm names may well be traditional tags passed down for generations from the post-Norman period, they certainly did not change from 1728 to 2013, but that is not to say they were formally named as recently as the 1500s, as we see evidenced in the perpetuating names of south Palleg farms from 1512-2013.
The names of Welsh farms have different spellings over the years due to English spoken estate managers, map surveyors and census takers. They meanings have also mutated in common usage. Some English spellings have mutated names beyond translation, so I have given the next best possible meaning referring to older Welsh words and alternative meanings from other dialects.
Brynhenllys, is noted in the estate rental records from 1821 as being where the court of the manor of Palleg was held, the literal translation: 'hill of the old court'. This is a tenuous link and no evidence supports it which is discussed in the next chapter.
Tredeg is a common name, and is usually referred to as meaning 'pleasant homestead'. However it has an older meaning, the 'house of fair tribute', attributed to a time under Welsh Law when taxes and tribute were at least within means. It is situated near Brynhenllys. Waun Llwyd near here could mean the holy meadow, otherwise it is brown meadow.
With evidence from the 1500s leases we see that some farms were initially named after their owners. So Tir Morgan Teilwr (Land of Morgan the tailor) and elsewhere in Y'gynlais; Hendre Morgan (Morgans (winter) homestead), may indicate homes and land of founding father Morgan Awbrey and his brothers who moved to Palleg c.1520.
Shin Grug Fawr is intriguing in that it is said to be a corruption of the very old Welsh word Eisingrug, from eisin: husks and grug: a mound. This would have been a place for winnowing corn and oats after threshing. Two farms with exactly the same name and function exist in Trelewis and Llancaiach Fawr, and is a common occurrence near mills in Wales. This farm is first listed next door to the water driven corn mill in 1728. Winnowing by hand or in special wind barns a process could take up to 2 months, was carried on in Britain until the 1800's, and that farm was demolished prior to 1878 possibly to make way for the railways. To add my penny's worth, grug is also translated as heather, heather-peat was a fuel preferred for drying crops before being sent to the mill.
Dorwen Tyle Garw is near Llwyncwnstabl ridge and interesting in that 'tyle' is a medieval antecedent term meaning a raised sleeping platform, referring to slates placed on an earth floor, before the wooden structure was build upon it, but could also mean the ascent i.e. of a hill. Dorwen may also be a corruption of derwen, an oak, others say it is white or holy (wen from gwen (feminine of gwyn)), dor referring to the rough stream. This makes the name either Rough House (near the) White Torrent ; Ascent of the Rough White Torrent; Rough Oak Homestead; Home (near the) Holystream in the (Harsh Wilderness). They never translate well!
Gilfach has a straightforward meaning as a sheltered spot, but it's suffix, of which there are two variants, Hesgi and Hoogi caused some puzzlement. Hesgi could mean sedges (from hesg), these were once used for roofing houses. Sedges MAY have been grown here, I would not discount it, but I would normally associate its growing in damp lowland areas. Hoogi could mean to sharpen (from hogi), such as a scythe. Why one farm would sharpen all the tools in the estate doesn't seem to make sense. But both words can also be used for a fast flowing river, and the farm is placed near to such.
After some research I mused that the three farms found near the Bronze Aged ring cairns were named as such; Brynygranen, 'hill of the white cairn' (from bryn:hill, garn from carn:cairn & wen: feminine of gwyn) ; Tir Cae Mole, (from moledyc: praiseworthy, referring to the noble nature of those that were buried there) ; and Tir- Y-Gelly, land of the (burial) cysts (gell from cell:a cell). These are however, to my dismay are probably explained in a down to earth way as Hill of Pebbles, (granen from graean: grit or pebbles). Barren Fields (mole from moel:barren) and Land (in the) Grove (gelly from celli: grove (of trees)), respectively. But these are very old Welsh words not used for many years. Grainen, as there are so many spelling variations could also refer to graen: 1.grain (of wood), 2.lustre, 3.sad, black or 4. terror, sadness.
Pen-y-sarn (head of the paved road) may also be misleading in that sarn refers to a paved Roman road, but could also mean a causeway over a wet moor or river. The farm is not exactly close to a river, it is placed on a slope off the road, neither is it at the end of a road, and this is confuted by having Penrhiw and Penrheol farms nearby, both more modern names for head of a road. There are references to the Romans having tributary roads here. Chieftains in the Roman era often sponsored the building of roads, and later the Abbeys, until 1555 whence all males of the parish were responsible for maintaining roads, but they were made of crushed rock, and not formally paved as indicated by the nomenclature. Elsewhere we have Pensarn hamlet, Rhumney near a Roman road also Pen-y-Sarn village at the head of Via Julia Montana in Carmarthen.
The mystery seems to have been solved by looking at the older map of 1812+26, a now hidden road is seen passing from Pensarn over another ford towards Penybont farm. This continues and widens before stopping at the end of a field, continuing as a trackway to the common. I will make a suggestion that before Henglyn farm split into upper and lower, before the road from Henglyn to Pencaemole was build, to get to Pensarn you had to take the road to Brynygrainen then up and around, through Penybont, making Pensarn, literally head of the road. Its use gradually discontinued when a more direct route from the town was laid down.
Penybont (in this context meaning, 'above the bridge') provides the same sort of problem, in that there appears never to have been a bridge near here. A ford is listed nearby on the first maps. Could there have been an early mediaeval bridge here? Etymology suggests that pont (bridge) could refer to any sort of passing place on a river.
At Tir Y Gof, meaning land of the blacksmith, many cast off cattle shoes were found here by investigation, presumably when it was demolished for forestry in the 70's. There is nothing in the Tredegar papers to indicate purchase or shoeing of cattle here, and so this may have been a late medieval site prior to 1728 used for that purpose when cattle were droved up to Brecon. A blacksmiths shop existed at Gwys cottage, opposite Tir Y Gof, evidenced by census from at least 1861 to 1900s. Smiths were important in the manufacturing personalised tools, ox and horse reigns, and prior to this weapons of war if existing in the 1200s, so I am hoping that metal detectors may have finds from the area.
Maespica could have the literal meaning of the field of stones ; field on a pointed rise (maes: field; pica: 1.pointed, sharp or 2.stone) ...or the older, more alluring, 'the field of spears' (from picell:spear). There were reported to be battles between the Normans and Britons in this district, but there is no further evidence at all to give credence to this romantic notion.
The 'split' of farm names is important in establishing that there were larger farms existing before 1536. Henglyn Uchaf and Isha, Glyncunwal Ucha and Isha illustrate this. Uchaf (highest) and Isha (lowest) in this context denoting the 'importance' of either farm. This could be a link to the old Welsh custom of cyfran ergo 'gavelkind' whereby inheritance of land could be split equally amongst those sons willing to take it on. We also believe north and south Palleg may have been split in this way under Awbrey ownership before 1521, the custom was already unworkable and in decline by 1350. The 'obvious' translation of henglyn is old glen, but there is a wide use of the word henglyn in this district, deriving the possessive mutation of englyn: an old form of Welsh quantitative poetry, which would be a very romantic name for a farm, and so doubtful.
Glyn Cynwal - 5-6th Century Connection?
My examination of the name Glyn Cynwal (Cynwal's Glen) on the farms in Palleg leads me to believe and speculate that it is a personal name given in honour of a Cynwal 'Wledig' ap Ffrwdwr b.400 of Wales and Dumnonia (Cornwall, then part of the Celtic sphere). Wledig means conqueror and owner of land, and Cynwal may come from cynwalch, a brave leader in battle. His son is said to have relations in Wales by his marriage to the daughter of Cunedda, king of Gwynedd whose son married Meleri daughter of Brychan Brycheiniog. Could he have lived, settled or fought here and helped Brychan overthrow the king of Powys, thereby forming Brecknock? At Glyn Cynwal farm rumours of hill forts are unsubstantiated.
His son, Amlwadd ap Cynwal b.430 who was apparently titled 'Emperor of the Britons' and grandson Cynwal ap Amlawdd b.470, whose nickname, 'canhwch', translates literally as white sow, the colour denoting high status or it could mean 100 sows (female pigs). Just to mention, 35 miles North near Llandovery there is an area known as Cwm Cynwal, where a preserved gold coin of popular Emperor Trajan (98-117AD) was found embedded in the walls of an early farmhouse.
There was also a William Cynwal (d.1587) an early Eisteddfod poet, of Ysbyty Ifan, in Denbighshire, but this is in North Wales, and seldom are places named after Welsh poets. Cynwal son of Caw appears in the list of soldiers summoned by King Arthur in the legends of the Mabinogion tract, Cylwch and Olwen.
A more plausible and local link comes from Saint Cynwal (also Cynwalan or Congual), a disciple of Saint Dubricius (St Dyfrig 465-550) supposed son of Catwg - founder of Tregatwg (Cadoxton) who is thought to have established Llan Cingualan (also Sancti Cinguali or Cella Cyngualan - Llancynwal) a monastery in the Gower, possibly in Ilston or Lower Rhosili until overcome with the yellow plague. A clergyman named Cynwal appears at this same time period as witness to several land grants to Llandaff, so possibly the same man. Monks were known for expanding their settlements, could he have done so in Palleg after the plague? Warriors often took holy orders after their bloody exploits, so as we are in the same time period he could even be one of the post-war Cynwals mentioned above. However all this hinges on the belief that the Black Book of Llandaff, Brut y Tywisogion & early chronicles are true copies in 12thC of that written down in the 6thC.
There is no other logical etymology for this this farm name, other than as a sparsely used patronymic name. Doubtless there may have been other Cynwals in the area as yet undiscovered. So here we have either a vale given a personal name from the early centuries, or in honour of them centuries later, or a local term whose meaning is now lost.
Palleg Field Names
I think it pertinent that the names of the fields should be examined, there are hundreds more of them to give clues as to previous houses, activities. Most are very basic, common, down to earth, referring to the immediate use or location. Cae Crwn: round field; Cae Dan y Ty: field below the house; Wain Fach: small meadow; Y Craig: the rock etc. Where coal is abundant, we might see the suffix 'Du': black. A common theme on almost all farms is Coedcae, this does not refer to woods, but to a sheep paddock. Also this term is synonymous with 'ffrid' in South Wales, meaning a mixture of habits, maybe a bog, wood with a heath, basically a mess that would have to be improved or left alone after the first settlement or resettlement. But some are so obscure, old or have local derivation we never might know. The map makers in 1781, 1844, '45 & '68 were very careful with their spelling, but nevertheless sometimes they enter them phonetically, so I wont attempt to insult the Welsh language with mangled supposed meanings.
On the first issue OS map of Palleg c.1812 and no other maps found as yet, the bog below the sheep-pens on the south of Llwyncwnstabl is named Cors Einon - Einon's Marsh or bog. It may be a coincidence that there is an identical named bog near Llys Nini in Loughor which has connections with ownership of land in Ystradgynlais under Gruffud Gwyr. According to ancient genealogies (or fable) this was King Einon of Dyfed d.984, son of Owain, grandson of Hywel 'Dda' who expanded his territories in the Gower and Glamorgan by defeating the Danes & Vikings. At some point he annexed Brycheiniog for Deheubarth. 'Tis said that so much devastation he caused it provoked a famine. Could we take this further and connect Einon's son Edwin or uncle of the same name to establishing or owning land at Ynyscedwyn as many local historians debate? That might then lend some credence to the existence of a 'llys' at Brynhenllys if his grandfather's inherited policies for establishing such centres of jurisdiction were employed in the area.
By following this genealogical root we end with descendant Rhys ap Tewdwr, last king of Brycheiniog, which in turn leads to g.g. grandson Rhys Grug, who gave back Uwch Coed to Gruffydd Gwyr in 1215.
Whether we can trust one early map reference to infer that one of the most esteemed King's of early Wales and their descendants helped establish Palleg is beyond the trust I place in traditions. Nevertheless there would be no doubt a copy of 'Hywel Dda's Laws' in the local Llys, the observance of which persisted to 1536, with echos of its traditions lingering to the early 1800's. Naming a bog after a king or a king after a bog espouses no merits to his deeds or the sages that Christened it such. Thus we must remember that many other Einons lived at that time. Einon 'Sais' was a celebrated Welshman, so called as he spent so long fighting in England under Edward III. He settled in Penpont, building a castellated mansion, owning much of Devynnock, Craig Einon in Llywel named after him and he the grandson of Gryffydd Gwyr and ancestor of Dafydd Gam, which also makes a sensible connection.
The derivation of Ystradgynlais has been widely debated, giving rise to many obscure theories, all of which could be valid. The stream that runs through the town, Cynlais or Gyrlais is thought to have given its name to such. It is named Cingleis in Latin in 1129 in a copy of a charter made in c.500 donating boundaries of Llandaff diocese, but my expertise of the classic Latin used is lacking, as are the contemporary dictionaries. "...from the Mynydd Du i blaen Turch (Twrch), down the river Tawe as far as (river) Cingleis (Cynlais)", Black Book of Llandaff.
There is a 'coincidental' link to the Norman-French in that Le Cinglais region was ruled by Gislebert house of Tesson in department du Calvados, Thury-harcort being the capital, in Normandy. They are associated with the conquest, however they settled at Plumpton Manor in Yorkshire. Staying with the theme a 'cingle' is also a local geographical word referring to the idea of a meandering river in the Dordogne valley, this is in the very south of France. It seems doubtful that the Normans would re-name just the one stream on the very extremes of their territory which they left to the Welsh. However, it was in their prerogative to do so, if they wished to denote boundaries as instanced above.
My understanding is that names of rivers & towns were latinized by virtue of their aspect and not by direct translation, so when Bishop Urban (Gwrgan) made this declaration in the Black Book of Llandaff, one of his surveyors from south France may have bestowed this name upon it. Also the translations of that book were not made until the late 1800's, so they then referred to the modern name of the stream. Still, the book was written in 1129, but the grant of 500AD is of dubious credibility.
From Rev Theophillus Jones, 1800, he maintains the Latin for St Gwynllyw: Gundleus is the origin as he believes Gwladys was kidnapped from Hendreladis farm near the town and he given the estates by her father Brychan Brycheiniog, thus 'Ystrad Gundleus', but as I have discussed previous, there were disputes over the boundary area between St David's & Llandaff, leading to rhetorical claims of the exploits of 'Saints'. Discussed further in the benefice of Ystradgynlais: Late Celtic Period.
But I am happy to cast doubt on my own theories. The prefix 'Ystrad' is sparsely used in Wales, only 16 times as compared to the 600+ 'Llans' (in Western Britain). 5/10 of these are debated to be in honour of the first landlords, settlers or martyrs: Ystrad Aeron (Celtic God of War); Ystradenni: (Enni, possibly St Nynnid); -Einion (anvil, ref to abundant metal mines or several 6thC people); -fellte (after the river fellte (flash, as in flash flooding); -Meurig (possibly a martyr); -Mynach (from man: place & ach: bog); -fflur (apparently from fflwr (flowers)); -Rhondda (not known, originally Rhoddeni (Rodney?)); -owen; (possibly after Owain ap Collwyn); -yfodwg (after St Dyfodwg); -Yw (from ywen: yew trees). So we could U-turn and state Theo was right if I was not so doubtful.
If we are to explore every possible etymological avenue, then it is even worth pointing a curious finger at the 'Red Book of Hergest', that contains the legend of the battle between Arthur & the Twrch Trwyth in Culwch and Olwen. As I have discussed below many of the streams around Ystradgynlais seem to have been named either in honour of events in the story or the story formed around them. There is therein mention of a "Cynlas (Cuneglas / Cuneglasus in Latin) son of Cynan" who was "slain by the Twrch Trwyth after he passed through Abertywi". But should we trust in a 14th century rendition of a 6th century handmedown? It is no more plausible or implausible than any other surviving dark age fragment of history. Could it just be fierce rhetorical national pride of the semi independent Welsh in their later day heroes that led them to truly believe in Arthur's exploits and name the stream and thence the town after Cynlas a fallen hero like many of the other streams in the area?
The name has been mutilated many times over the years in the following documents:
In my opinion the earliest mention Cynlais is correct in this context as it was written by learned men of the church who knew and respected the people. Gerald Cambrensis was arch deacon of Brecon round this time, and was involved in a dispute over the see boundaries, he also spoke Welsh. The later versions were commercial map makers, passers through, all English, the scribes noting everything phonetically. Cynlais mutates in Welsh to Gynlais when prefix by Ystrad.
We have many obscure derivations of the river name which scholars and amateurs have attempted to discern, but the name defies specific etymology due to socio-pathogenic linguistic corruption over eons. Cynlais / Cingleis could have early Celtic animist associations referring to the stream, woods or hunting, such as 'hear my voice' (from gen:I have & lais:voice) ; 'voice of dogs' (from cwn:dog & lais:voice) ; 'chiselled stream' (from cyn:chisel & glais:stream), or even 'dingle of the lath' (from cingl:dingle & ais:lath (roofing wood) ; gleis could also be referred to as a young salmon, which would be described as lively and spirited, an appropriate name for Celtic river spirit reverence.
Iago Emlyn derives Cynlais from cyn, primeval; and dais, a trench through: which a stream flows. John Williams historian on Palleg suggests that from studying maps you see river Dulais and Cynlais emerging from the same source, and so suggests Dulais is 'black stream' (from du & gleis) and Cynlais was originally Gwynlais: 'white stream' (from gwyn & gleis). Natives of the area knew the town as Ystradgyrlais (vale of the rough sounding / burbling brook) in their youth, also from gyrlais we get 'vale of the drovers voices' (from gyr:drove & lais: voice). English tourists nicknamed it 'Just A Guinness' as a means of help for pronunciation, and American troops stationed here in WWII, 'Why Strangle Us'.
In its simplest form it is the 'Vale of Cynlais / Gyrlais' referring to the stream. The Tawe river is the main major river that runs through here, but the name Ystradtawe & Abertawe were already taken. We also have the farms nearby named Waungynlais (meadow of (from gwaun)), Abergynlais (confluence of) and Werngynlais (alder trees near (from gwern)), all referring to the river. In my opinion the rivers would be the first of the topography to be named by settling 'Celts', and in a manner suitable to their nature or after revered people. There was no town as such here prior to 1840, and only a small wooden unbeneficed chapel prior to 1283, and when that was established in the early centuries it was named after the nearby stream, which gave then its name to the later town, but the church dedicated to St Mary (at least by the Norman period). It was not given the prefix 'Llan' or an ecclesiastical prefix as it was located on the contested diocesan boundaries of St Davids & Llandaff and possibly built because of that dispute at a later date than many of the larger churches in Wales or even that it was so poor a district that no vicar could make decent living here.
The OS maps from 1812-2013 consistently name the stream Gyrlais, a farm nearby, Werngyrlais. So then unfortunately 'Vale of the Burbling Brook' is the best we can come up with referring to modern maps. However if we are to trust in the word of the church & the Normans, from 1129 and its translators, then Cynlais (Cingleis) stands, to whit an obscure derivation or a stream renamed by them. If you want to vote for Theophilus, he associates it with a dark age King Gundleus of Gwent, or myself a dark age Saint Cynwal from Gower. If none of these modern theories suit your divided conscience, then the default Celtic animist name blessing should be your etymological choice, matching with the origins of streams Twrch, Giedd, Gwys and Amman nearby, which in turn could have links to the legend of Penteyrn Arthur which will suit the expectations of the romantic patriots among you.
Mention must also be made, even though it is a legend, of the story of King Arthur and his battle with the giant ferocious boars of the Twrch Trwyth from the Mabinogion. The heroic deeds of the mythical battle that passed through Cwm Twrch seem to have crossed into reality, with scores of place names in the area denoting aspects of the fight. He is said to have existed in the 5-6th centuries, but place names are only evident from maps in 1812. Look around Cwm Twrch area (valley of the boar) at names such as Llwyn y Moch (grove of pigs), Waun y Ddraenen (meadow of thorns, the area is long devoid of trees), Pwll y Cig (pool of meat), nant Gwys (female boar), nant Amman (piglet), Pen Arthur, Coiten Arthur and Gwely Arthur (Arthur's homestead) on Garreg Lwyd. The stream Echel also said to named after Echel Forddwyttwl slain in the fight, as might be river Cynlais, from Cynlas son of Cynan
The Celts revered animals like the boar as they exhibited aspects of the personalities of their Gods, which in turn could be seen in the actions of these wild rivers, which they also sanctified as home to 'water spirits'. So naming rivers after wild now extinct animals in the Celtic animist tradition dates settlement within this period before the influence of Christianity. The naming after such a fierce animal as the 'twrch' on the borders of the tribal territory could also indicate a warning to others or seek to bestow magical guardianship upon the inhabitants. If only tenuously linked with that late Celtic legend, it strongly indicates that boars were known of and hunting was practised in the area, as boars became extinct in Britain in the 13th century. If therefore there was a hunt, there had to be a llys or maenor in which to conduct it from. And who knows, maybe that 6th century exaggerated battle describes the fate of the last of the boars in the Ystradgynlais area. Or, maybe it was Norman influenced propaganda that anthropomorphised the various raiders and war bands that existed on the uplands whose names are erased from history. But boars were certainly documented as existing, but not then favoured for the hunt, in the Great Forest of Brecknock until the 14thC. It must be said though that the Mabinogion fables were not written down until the late 13thC, and only published widely in the 1840s, but the 1812 maps carry the names associated with it.
Only the streams Gwys (sow), Aman (piglet) and Twrch (boar) and can be certain to have links to the hunting that went on here, or the legend, or the fact that the streams in their most active burrow and dislodge the ground. This is because the river Twrch / Turch is mentioned in a Gower charter by King John in 1203, a bull of Llandaff diocese boundaries by Pope Honorius II in 1129, a description by Bishop Urban II of Llandaff at the same period, and is included on the OS compilation map of '6thC Dark Age' Britain, 1966, we presume William Rees sourced this from old MS. Still, to have streams named after animals that were extinct by the 1300's in old Welsh is a logical step in dating early settlement.
Brecknock & the Black Mountain
For reference sake we must include explanations for the overruling districts in which Palleg lies. "Out from the desolate, dark of the Black Mountain, to see black cattle being shoed by a blacksmith with his black face in the blackness of the evening". Evidently so named for its wild desolate topography, but are there here ancient connotations of warning for the Christian traveller or invader? He who could be swallowed up without trace by Pagan, blue faced, crazy, half-naked warrior-druids?
Tradition bestows the 1st name Garth Madrun on the district, meaning, for want of better explanation, 'head of the fox'. I personally have no doubt it refers to 'he of the fox like hair' describing the freckle faced red haired Irishmen or Picts that settled here, later renamed after one of their leaders Brachan Brecheniauc: 'Brychan Brycheiniog', who's name also evokes the same caricature of him and his kin. The Anglicised 'Brecknock' Lordship namesake survives among others until the unity of them under the banner of Breconshire, ironically by a fox haired king of Goedelic descendant.
Finally the name Palleg is quite obscure. It is first evidenced from medieval genealogies of 1370, and 1551 in legal documentation. From the few translations we have, two in Hebrew refer to land being broken up or divided. That is certainly what the land share was like up to 1900, patches of land belonging to some farm were scattered over the estate.
But those words have foreign etymology, and I can but only refer back to the old Welsh word, pall with the verb-noun-suffix eg, is tented, halled or mantled, in keeping with the religious theme, 'in the tent of God' or 'hall of the Lord'? The suffix eg according to John Mills is also the obsolete form of erw:acre, suggesting acres of tents, not an absurd suggestion for migrating pastorals. There is a stream near the Dulais named Nant-y-pebyll-bedw ('stream of the birch tents') mentioned in many leases, with Cilybebyll further south ('shelter of the tents'). The 'mantle' referred to is also identified as a shoal which women wore widely in old Wales, it has the same meaning in Cornish. It survives into old English as "the garment worn by Christians instead of the Roman toga". Might this then refer to the tradition of passing Palleg to the wife as a marriage dowry? 'A shoal of comfort upon a divorce or widowhood?' All are completely plausible ideas.
Conversely another obsolete meaning for pall, is to fail, combined with eg, creates the word failing, or failed an appropriate name for the poor damp area inhabited by defeated Welsh serfs? Referring to local geography we see many places in the lower valley named pant, specifically Panteg, from pant: valley and teg: fair. Could we have the complementary opposite here: Allt Teg: the fair hill, transmuted through time to Palleg? We have also paled, which means a park or area of land enclosed by pales i.e. stakes. That would be the original method of claiming land. There is even a suggestion by Bedwyr Lewis Jones that it could be a soft mutation of balleg, a fish trap or bow-net that was used to catch salmon and trout migrating upstream, a common activity on rivers in the area.
But why should not an estate owned by a Lord be named in a foreign tongue? Many of the landowners were classically trained in Greek and Latin. One meaning comes from the Hebrew bible; Peleg who was the near descendant of Noah in the time when the lands and people were divided and confused after the fall of the Tower of Babel, with which his name became associated in meaning. It is a great coincidence that on the estate maps of 1868 you will see that some of the land is not evenly distributed for the convenience of the tenants. This was the result of inheritance by gavelkind under Welsh law prior to 1536. Peleg also means in Hebrew 'to split' as in as tributaries of rivers, and there are many in the area. In Aramaic it means 'cut in pieces' ; 'appoint to some one his portio' referring to breaking up the land into farm parchments. Also in Sami it translates to 'body'. In old French we have pelage, noun, 'the hair, fur, wool, or other soft covering of a mammal'.
It seems doubtful though that considering the deeply Welsh and ancient origins of this district that some pushy overlord may have changed the name of the hamlet unless he was very well enamoured with the tenants. Ergo we shall have to stick with the theory of an obsolete pre Christian origin for the name, considering that the rivers in the area are of this ilk. If it is indeed Brythonic, we are well out of our depth.
Therefore I think it best to leave the accurate meaning open to debate, thereby contributing to lively discussion in history societies for all time.
As we have discussed in the chapters above, Glyntawe and the surrounding district was reserved for the defeated Welsh by the Normans. It made good politics for their future succession to accept their surrender, and offer them lands and respect their laws, rather than slaughter any thousands of natives and their beloved princes, invoking the rage of the rest of the Welsh tribes. A mutually beneficial respect would be in the best interest of the Welsh, fawning to the overlords would allow them certain privileges and access to the markets. How many survived and moved or stayed in Ystradgynlais? Possibly 300 individuals? (1801 census 993 head count).
A complete and continuous unbroken line of Welsh descendants lived in the area from that time to the present day, with very few Norman or English settlers. This is documented in medieval genealogies, early leases, church and tax records in the reference. The few outsiders that did settle, primarily the Awbreys, did so after long negotiation and marriage into the tribes. It was an extended game of 'love & trust thy neighbour' a commandment which never did fully enter in the conscience of the suspicious minds of the Welsh who had known a 1000 years of cultural oppression.
The first recorded settler on Palleg is Trahaearn ab Owain "Fwya" c.1390, of the Bleddyn ap Maenyrch tribe, who came from the ruling family in Glyntawe, as are many of his relatives from 1430 onwards. Thomas Awbrey arrived in Ystradgynlais c.1430, Richard Awbrey c.1470, Hopkin Awbrey c.1500. I would obviously state from this evidence and that of the toponymy that the Welsh tribes 'have always been here' from 'day dot'. Nothing in the current sphere of accepted cultural history can prevent me from counteracting that conclusion. The Roman, Danish, Jute, Saxon even Irish settlers or invasions never really made a strong impression in the district.
The families of the area have been well researched and documented, primarily by Horace & Leonid Morgan, from who I produce this list. Surnames in Ystradgynlais from 1500-1800. Welsh: Bowen, Owen, Bevan, Evan, David, Gruffudd, Gethin, Gwyn, Herberts, Henry, Penry, Howell, Powell, Harry, Parry, Hopkin, Watkin, Jeffreys, John, Jones, Jenkin, Lewis, Lloyd, Llywelyn, Maddock, Meredith, Morgan, Prees, Rees, Rice, Pritchard, Richard, Phillip, Rudderch, Thomas, Walter, William. English: Smith, Mitchell, Awbrey, Trauter, Morrice.
It is said with some accuracy that we are all descendant of kings, and so most of the families in the area would be the product of cadet houses to the Welsh royal courts, and they being few in number and perpetuating in stable continuity have a high chance to trace back to them. However there are many hurdles, the first being patronymic naming e.g. Thomas ap Gruffudd, the son of Gruffudd ap Thomas, and worse than that, up to six generations of male heirs of the same name e.g. Morgan Awbrey, Edward Williams. The second, nomination of an inheritor who while being called the 'son' has no direct blood relation, he being merely of the tribe of the chief, whom also of which I would not discount as to keeping harems of wives, called a 'gwely'. Third with affinity to the latter, that bastard sons could inherit equal measures of the land. Fourthly, while Christian marital law was usually observed, on no list of prohibitive betrothals were 1st cousins prevented from marriage, especially if it might enrich the family with huge tracts of land in the dowry. All this quandary has produced some well thought out but completely erroneous trees, of which I confess have become reliant on for information, leading to perpetuation of myth, in the absence of anything accurate.
With reference to the fact that half of all Welsh speakers in Brecknock live at present in Ystradgynlais, this may be more to do with the influx x10 of people into the area during the industrial revolution, and the subsequent isolation of the town from further economic development. The marginal areas of Brecknock abounding in Welsh speakers also because of the fact the Normans forbid them from owning land, attaining high office or becoming a trader in Brecon town. This prohibition in many cases at least for higher status families was broken by marrying into the English settlers.
As to the dialect and particular linguistic nuances of the area, I cannot give any degree of analysis, only that a particular term I picked up on was that Welsh cakes are called pica ar y maen - stone cakes, they being cooked on such. Also when asked "Lle'r wyt ti'n sefyll?", I thought they meant 'where are you standing?', when in fact they meant 'where are you staying?'. There is a high chance of having a good conversation on many of the farms in Welsh, if you speak it, and they willing to reciprocate.
As for tombs and monuments to the inhabitants, you may be lucky to find gravestones at Y'gynlais church and parish records prior to 1800, but most are destroyed and only fragmentary records remain. Capel Yorath is the Mecca of memorials for the farmers of Palleg from c.1800, scores of Leyshons, Griffiths, Daniels, Owen, Morgan etc rest here many with inscriptions in 'deep poetic' Welsh. I would consider St Keyne's Chapel in Brecon cathedral as the 'shrine' to the memory of those Lords associated with Ystradgynlais it with stained windows depicting Humphrey de Bohun, Giles de Breos, Edward Stafford, St. Cynog and Brychan Brycheiniog, chieftains that inspired the inhabitants to war, rebellion, faith and freedom Picture.
Tombs to Walter Awbrey d.1312, Abercynrig, Richard Gough, Hugh Bold and others also persist here. Elsewhere Llanelieu church has a 1645 tomb for a descendant of Richard Awbrey (owner Palleg 1551) of same name. Dr William Awbreys tomb a grand affair in Old St Paul's perished in the great fire of 1666. His progeny at Llantrithyd share their memorials, which are many, with the grandiose Tudor Mansell tomb, looking as if it should be in a Cathedral other than in this tiny ecclesiastical outpost, next door to the decaying Llantrythid Manor. As for Ynyscedwyn it became a school, then a watch factory until demolished. Abercynrig is a fine surviving 17thC house, but not open to the public. We also have a wealth of portraits at least of the rich and famous Morgan landlords in an unbroken line from 1736-1950 at Tredegar House.
Family Tree Scrolls
I collect here the family trees I have composed during my investigations into those lineages. Most can be seen in detail with original document sources on Ancestry.co.uk, while that site survives. I have not included Awbrey or Morgan, Tredegar as those trees are well known and rather beyond my time limit.
Any disputes regarding arrears, mistreatment of land and animals, boundaries, tenancy and minor crimes were originally said to have been held in a building near Brynhenllys farm, 'old court on the hill' being the literal translation. That 'fact' is recorded in the Palleg rent accounts from 1821 by Walter Price, gent and rent agent. However from the 1725-98 rent accounts of John Morgan and many other sources is has the suffix LLYSG or LLISK. That either translates to a local farming term 'hill of the old sledge (cart)' or the obsolete old Welsh 'hill of the rod'. There is a marked difference in pronunciation between 'llys' and 'llysg' that even an English ear could detect, John knew of Welsh and was native to the area and working within it. Could it be that there was never a court here at all, but merely a station for the transport of coal, lime, stones and wood by sledge cart from this mineral rich area in the Elizabethan times? Or, the abode of the foreman who wielded the 'rod of power and persuasion' from a time when serfs were employed on the estate? Also as the area is known as 'old' by 1725, how are we to judge that age? 200? 500? years?
Surviving Court Records
There certainly are no existing records, documents or letters from any period (found as yet) concerning a court leet at Palleg. In his thesis, Dewi Glan Twrch thinks the papers from there were taken to the Hundred court in Defynnog. The only surviving ones found concerning Brecknock Lordship are those for Penkelly Wallica, Talachddu, Dinas & Cantref Selyf manors from 1760. It does not appear in any list of court leets in the area (the 1831 list by Sarah Anne Bold Griffiths lists 6 nearby in Cilybebyll Estate, 4 in Neath, 1 in Kaegurwen and 1 in Bryn yr Arle, Llangynwyd). John Morgan & Howell Price, Palleg rent agents and Thomas Bold, steward of Brecon Lordship do not mention attending a court leet in their diaries. Walter Price of the same former job title in 1785 makes a reference to a "Leet court tickett for the constable 2s" when one of his indentured servants 'escapes', but that probably concerns the Abercrave leet court.
These four gentlemen were well known representatives in courts all over Brecknockshire and beyond. The only surviving echo of jurisdiction comes from the meetings and minutes of the Palleg Tenants 'Commoners Committee' of the estate from 1872-15. There was in operation, at least in 2003, a court leet that met at the Cross Inn, Llandeusant that farmers from Ystradgynlais attended to claim strays that met from 'time immemorial'. This might be the 'secret' successor to the many courts in the district, and now includes Palleg.
No archaeological evidence of a medieval or Norman jurisdictional building or court of a late Celtic chieftain prior to those marked on the 1812 map has been found on the site, the present rebuilds are essentially Victorian. The cart house MAY be originally from the 1700's and extended at each end in the 1850s. The site was investigated briefly by Clwyd Powys archaeologists in 1995 but only a small field enclosure was found.
Evidence of Court from Leases
The only firm factual evidence of there being a tradition of a court leet in the manor is in the submission by Edward Williams Esq of Llangattock to Thomas Morgan, Justice of the Peace in 1747 at the Court Chambers of Brecon, whereby he surrenders the manor to him acknowledging the "Manor, tenements, court leet, baron court and view of frankpledge...of Palleg". The leases for the 23 farms issued by Charles Morgan for that manor in the same year do mention that "suit of court and suit of mill" has to be made by the signatories.
Within this sale document we can also refer to the deed of 1666 on which the transfer is based, wherein it states the "a fine will be raised at the next grand sessions to be held in Brecon... for the manor of Palleg". We can back this up in fact within the 1634 'sale of Palleg' by Thomas Awbrey of Llantrithyd wherin it states that at the "next estate sessions to be holden for the said countie of Brecon (they) will leavy and acknowledge one ffine...for the Manor of Palleg". We can discern that this would be the Baron Court sessions specifically for Palleg and other manors within the Lordship of Brecknock.
Because they mention a leet court, it does not mean that there was guaranteed to be one at Brynhenllys at this time, the above statement could merely have been a legal term that was inherently included within the privileges of the manor, but in practicality a defunct anachronism, and the tenants meeting in an informal manner several times a year on different farms.
Because we have the older Welsh suffix 'llys' and not the Norman influenced 'cwrt' in the name, I suggest with the most flimsiest of evidence that this was indeed possibly the centre of government for the lower half of the commote previous to the Norman influence.
Prior to 1093 Wales had its own system of laws, tolerated and influenced by the Normans in the Marches up to 1283, but definitely not after 1536. Brecknock was divided into jurisdictional districts. Ystradgynlais was part of the Cantref Tewdos which was later demoted (probably on inheritance by 3 sons) into 3 commotes, Commot Dyffryn Hodni (near Brecon, after the river Honddu), Commot Tir Rawlf (near Pencelli) & Commot Llywel (included Palleg), each commote having its own court and several manors. If the court on the site of Brynhenllys was active at that time, then this well dates the estate to 'Celtic' ownership by a Welsh 'Teyrn' or Lord of Brecknock who would have utilised its facilities and presided over the court when in the area, demanding tribute of food, horses and cattle in return for protection. A court of bards would have been connected to it in the retinue and payment of the Lord, meeting in varying farmsteads. They were feared for their ability to ridicule the accused in rhyme. They also sang, told stories and acted. These are said to be the origins of the Eisteddfod and a kind of 'Noson Lawen', a 'Merry Night'.
A 'llys' was defined in the Celtic era as a defended settlement with a hill fort, housing the local notables, so basically a precursor of a manor house. The area could be interpreted as a place suitable for a fort. Brynhenllys and Waunlwyd are placed atop a steep hill overlooking a river valley, indeed the whole lower area of Palleg is separated from the lower valley by a steep wooded hill, fast flowing rivers and to the north by cold dark moorlands, making the whole escarpment a very large 'natural fortress'. It is also situate at the 'entrance' to Powys from Carmarthen that would have been used by travellers coming from there to Brecon, avoiding the deep river Tawe. Archaeological evidence suggests that one of the few roads through Palleg at this time crossed a ford on the Twrch, and ran from Brynhenllys up to Llwyncwnstabl and onto Llandeusant or through Tir y Gof to the Lamb & Flag, onto Brecon. I am certain there would have been checkpoints for travellers through the area so this makes it a plausible placement for one. But I doubt this area was popular to travel through prior to 1500s as it was so wooded and full of roaming gangs of robbers, but passing through Palleg farmland was a little safer.
Otherwise, as I have discussed previously, was Ystradgynlais initially placed in the Forest of Brecknock and it is here a forest court was situated? Due to negotiation, patronage or rebellion was the area taken out of the Forest or the court burnt down during the rebellions of the 13th-15th century? These ran similarly but less formally, dealing with poaching, theft of wood, rights of pasturage.
Llwyn Cwnstabl the escarpment on the hill above Brynhenllys may have a connection with the court, in that it literally translates to 'grove of the constable'. These were appointed in the late Norman period to "keep the lord's armaments" and provide protection to the tenants of a manor and comes from the Latin stabuli (count of the stables) also appointed to oversee the Great Forest of Brecknock. A constable of a leet court would issue summons to it and oversee procedure within it, discussed below.
Members of the Awbrey family were regularly appointed constables of the forest from the very beginnings of it c.1330, and Morgan Awbrey was said to have lived on Llwyncwnstabl from around 1520. It is suitably placed high up overlooking the estate and there are remains of a post mediaeval (c.500 years old) long hut, 'Gwys Fach' here. In 1285 Edward I passed laws to appoint 2 constables to every Hundred, one assumes this may have included Wales as he had just re-conquered it. John Morgan's 1751 list of constables on the Tredegar Estates, notes of having 1 in the upper division Ystradgynlais and 1 in the lower. It's not clear whether these were unpaid parish constables or employed by the estate.
There would have also been an ecclesiastical court in the town church for matters relating to temporal issues such as fornication, missing church, wills, slander, bastardy etc. A stocks is reported by one historian as being outside the town church in 1376. Often know as bawdy courts as each family would have their say, sometimes ending in punch ups. However as is so for the leet, any court records originating in Ystradgynlais are destroyed, hidden away or in private hands. The Upper Ystradgynlais parish court records survive from 1834.
Procedure of Court Leet
But, we can only surmise so far that it may have been a court leet which had special powers relating to agricultural matters in the manor possibly between 1215-1650. The Cilybebyll & Neath court leet papers (5 miles south) survive from 1741, as part of the Gough Estates and mainly include notations of cases of fines for rent arrears and trespass, in which a Thomas Morgan is mentioned as being an attorney and a tenant, struck off for issuing summons without prior consultation.
Courts leet evolved from the Norman times, when all land was owned by the Crown and leased by franchise to Barons and Lords in return for military service. This land was to be used at the whim of the Lord, and used as hunting land, forestry or farming. The tenants of these lands were bondsmen who swore an oath to the Lord in return for protection. The form of this was met by the courts which had the power to police the manor and issue summons to those out of favour, in debt or in breach of the law. I shall repeat the procedures of court leet, until further evidence may confound its existence. A steward was appointed by the lord to oversee it and judge. 12 jurors were nominated from the freehold tenants. A bailiff, summoned the Jury, performed arrests, supervised court matters. Constable (Tithingman), ensured law and order during court sessions. Among the other possible appointments were; ale taster, ensured the quality of ale, checked that true measures were used. Carniters ensured the freshness of meat and poultry. Bread Weighers verified the freshness and weight of bread. Affeerers, assessed amercements (fines). Searcher and Sealer of Leather, ensured the quality of leather goods. The Hayward, responsible for enclosures and fences on common land. Surveyor of the Highways or Overseer of Pavements, and Brook Looker, to ensure the proper condition of roads and waterways.
Therefore the court was held usually every 6 months to ensure that the King's law was upheld within all aspects of peoples lives and works, and allow discussion to resolve disputes. There is only one meeting recorded in such a fashion amongst the Tredegar papers, which had in attendance Sir Gough of Ynyscedwyn, a steward, Lords agent and tenants, in the year 1813. It concerned the enclosure of Drim Mountain Common for the extraction of minerals which the tenants all opposed and sent a petition to Sir Morgan.
Conclusions About Brynhenllys
Although Wales was subjected to English rule in 1283 and Welsh Law was abolished in 1538 it was still recognised informally up to the late 1700's and you will still in Wales today be custom to settle disputes outside of English law. As the farm is called the OLD court by 1725, we can but make the assumption that if there was a llys here a long time before that, then it was possibly abolished and re-created as a court leet under Edward I's invasion then abolished under Henry VIII's revamp when civil jurisdiction was thence held in the local church court and more serious in Brecon county courts, where in convenience the Morgan family later served as judges. Or did it go into decline as many did in the 1650s during the Civil War? The Parliamentarians and Puritans abolished juries and turfed out many priests from churches for being too Catholic.
What if the Morgan family abolished the court leet after buying the manor in 1747 because they then governed the whole of the Lordship of Brecknock and could deal with matters centrally in Brecon office? The Palleg Tenants Commoner's Committee records date from 1872, which seems a logical 'watered down' replacement to the old obsolete court leet, giving jurisdiction which would always have been needed in shared farm land. Having also mention of a working court leet in 2003 where Palleg farmers could attend that has been run 'forever' adds to that thesis. So it seems likely then given all the evidence that the court most probably was a local jurisdictional centre with more powers than a court leet, given the tumultuous history of the area, and the fact it was held as a knight's fee within a barony. It was its most proficient from the conquering of Wales in 1283 to the introduction of Poor Laws in 1540 whence parish matters was separated from it. Baron, Church, Forest and Hundred courts where also in operation in the wider area prior to 1538. I also hesitantly suggest that prior to 1283 a Welsh llys was in operation here, housing a branch of the Defynnog nobles.
The successor to the court leet, whenever that may have been abolished, was the commoners committee which traditionally met at Tir Y Gof farm every 6 months. This farm no doubt chosen as it was central, and where everyone used to habitually meet, it being always warm at the blacksmith and where travellers shoeing their cattle would impart the latest news & gossip. Here they set the amount of animals that could graze on the moor (due to overuse in the past), in 1877 1 cattle per £4 of rent was allowed, and the rate for doing so (in 1898) was 1 & 3/4 pence per animal (also for sheep). Thus meaning Penybont farm could only keep 2 cows, and his sheep numbering only 50, contributing unfortunately to his impoverishment. In contrast, Penrhiw farm next door kept 530 sheep. Some farms were obviously instructed to focus more on crops. They also elected a boundary shepherd from April to Oct who had the power to restrain up to 60 'foreign cattle & ponies' that strayed here from the Great Forest. These could be claimed in the 'court of the jack cattle' whereby neighbouring farmers would pay a fine of 5s each (in 1880) for their release, discouraging roaming and overuse, but ironically providing extra income to the committee to pay the shepherd. The owner would be identified by cut marks and notches made in the ears of the stock. The appointed directors would elect when to gather, shear or send sheep out. This was a very ancient custom that was often exploited, so banned in most places by the 1540's.
I conclude from studying the book that agreements for the limits on cattle numbers would be a very early type of environmental conservation of the moor, as it was, geared solely towards sheep, at least in this period of time. Setting limits however impoverished many farms, but we can see clear cooperation and delegation between the tenants. Their ancestors had been meeting like this for 100s if not 1000's of years, from the time when open field parliaments where formed by each head of the farm or tribe carrying or dragging by ox his own heavy long stone to the speaking circle. This established control over their stocks leading to a thorough knowledge of how much use the moor could take before it led to denudation, erosion and landslip. The fact that we see farms in the hamlet of Palleg, but outside the Manor (and nowhere else) having the right to graze upon the sheepwalk contributes to the theory that Palleg Manor originally contained these outside farms in a consolidated whole.
The fines and punishment for petty crimes during the Norman medieval period and beyond were certainly severe, hangings, torture, castration, seizure of all land were all practised, later deportment from the motherland was well favoured, but clemency was absolute if remorse and repentance were witnessed. However with gangs of rogues and criminals hiding in the Great Forest often sponsored with impunity by local Lords, you would be lucky to receive any justice. A long tradition in Wales, fuelled by family disputes took advantage of Welsh Law whereby a neighbours cattle (and even women) might be seized from one commote and driven to the next. If the owner was lucky enough to find them he would have to pay an extortionate sum for their return. An echo of this is seen in the Court of Jack Cattles in Palleg (see chapter above) where strays were impounded, and the fine paid would pay the shepherds wages.
Traditions like this perpetuated in the district, such as inheritance of land equally between sons by gavelkind, the payment of comorth (assistance dues) by cattle to the Lord of Brecknock, fee on loss of virginity (amobr) and betrothal, provision of land or cattle in a marriage dowry (agweddi). These Welsh Laws codified by Hywel Dda were favoured in the district, but could be exploited and were used in parallel to the Norman, as the Welsh were effectively barred from taking an Englishman to court, which certainly lead to a lot of confusion and its outright ban. On Palleg however the demand of traditional payments - comorth perpetuated, as evidenced in the rent accounts to at least the late 1800s.
The Welsh stance on the law was more in favour of payment in fines rather than punishment, e.g. 'galanas' - blood money might be paid to the family of a murder victim. In my mind it seems fair, why behead a man for poaching meat for his starving family. But it doesn't obviously extol the virtues of rehabilitation. One might assume that as everyone knew each other the humiliation often poured on such offenders in the Lord's Llys by the poets in front of ones peers might be enough, and that the community would deal with their reformation. Peer pressure often works best when coming from immediate family than strangers in a dehumanising court system.
After 1536 Welsh Law was amalgamated into the English system, many of the Baron & Leet Courts powers being curtailed. Anything outside of farm matters was devolved to the parish under the Poor Laws, where the overseers of the poor sat in session at the church had the power of stocks, pillory and flogging, and dealt with matters of crime, immigration, bastardy, domestic disputes the more serious in Brecon sessions and Hereford assizes. The town church definitely had stocks outside it from 1376. An example of a prescription for stealing of wood on the estate of Palleg in noted by John Morgan in 1729, "...if any body cuts any sort of wood he is to be imprisoned for 3 months and whipped every month".
He notes how immigration of the dispossessed were dealt with under the Settlement & Removal Acts of 1662, in a copy of a bond dated 1697 to Llewelin John. Each parish was like a mini fortress and a plea had to be made at the court if they wanted to move to it. If it was found that the family were fit enough to care for themselves later, they would be given a signed declaration by the council stating that the had an obligation to meet all costs and care for their welfare. This was to prevent vagrancy and 'gypsies' settling who might become a burden on the rates. Where then did the wounded war hero or ex-convict go? It is said that there were never many vagrants / tramps in Wales. Those who had no family worked as farm labourers or door to door sellers, many ended up in the workhouses from 1723, for some a fate worse than death.
Later, from 1828 Petty Sessions were held, meeting at Ystradgynlais police station from 1840. For example in 1854, Thomas Griffiths of Palleg (not sure which farm but he was employed by Tredegar Estates) was charged with others in the area for 'unjust uses of weights and measures'. He provided an excellent defence, drawing diagrams and demonstrating a model of the machine with witnesses for his honesty, but was still fined £3. This was when Superintendent Vigors was in charge of Police who brought 19 of these cases, the unlucky ones who were said in a case of 'corruption' against him to be unable to 'pay the bribe'. Other common fines in the area around 1890 were failing to notify and contain sheep scabies, fine 2s. Riding a bike without lights, 1s. Driving a horse and cart in a 'furious manner', 4/6s. The inhabitants on the whole were well behaved and the most common offence was being drunk which incurred a 2/6s fine, but if drunk and fighting 5/6s.
This might be excused in the fact that beer was the only safe thing to drink at the time, in the parish of 1881 there were 39 pubs to 2,106 men, which led to the Temperance Movement. This lack of mains water led to a crime upon themselves, which only God could punish, that of dumping their ordure into the rivers that led to the cholera outbreaks. Farms were little cleaner with mounds of animal and human waste around the farm. Cases of theft were 'uncommon' but enough for the colliery owners to hire speciality constable PC Bassett after 1920, charged with protecting 'coal and colliery equipment'.
Theft of food, livestock was frowned upon by the integrity of the community who were always willing to give a job or assistance to the unlucky soul. Hangings for sheep stealing were still being enforced well after repeals of 1832. Unlicensed fishing and 'poaching' were tolerated as it was an inexorable right from the dawn of time, and wages were low, but rabbit and fishing poachers could be fined £1, if the constable didn't like the look of them. However theft of game birds such as grouse and belonging to Lord Tredegar were dealt with firmly, gamekeepers would seize dogs, equipment and guns if they could and notice of rewards of 2 guineas resulting in a successful prosecution were published in the newspapers and fly posters from the early 1800's.
Apart from the court leet, the tenants could also petition the landlord or his agents by letter or at his offices in Brecon or Tredegar. With a fair amount of illiteracy and lack of English tongue a translator and representative was often chosen to do this. An example of this prerogative is seen in letters dated 1762-1779 from John Morgan and Walter Price, to George Morgan, Brecon estate manager, concerning the lease of Brynhenllys farm. Daniel Howell the tenant is reported as being on his last legs for many years, the oldest and poorest man in the parish, sporting a "scoulding wife" with no heirs but his son-in-law William Owen, who desperately wants the lease. The land agents explain this, but implores his lord not to give the tenancy to William as he is a "man of bad character" & "a cunning man whose tricks will be found out, the tenants cannot bear him to live near them". Another letter states that he "shooed away tenants gathering coal from his pit in a 'sassy manner'". His petition for the lease went on for 17 years!
William Owen was a married man with 6 children who rented a coal pit on the estate. He was very adamant to have the farm and petitioned the Tredegar office in person, but was dismissed as the owner was still alive. He also built a new beast house on the farm and was agreeable to rebuilding the farm "much out of repair" if he got a lease. How true this character assassination is we do not know, John mentions that he would desire the farm goes to HIS son... In 1779 however William was running both Brynhenllys and Waunlwyd farms with his eldest son. But I do note the rent was increased by 60% on his takeover with only a 21 year lease.
Due to echos of their primitive pack sensibilities, men seek the need to be led by (in their eyes) great men of substance, learning and hopefully compassion for direction and control of their lives and resources. I ignored writing this piece as I find politics dull, boorish, rhetorical, hypocritical and divisive but in theory it is the most important aspect of the history of Brecknock and Palleg. For, without there being a general mutual consensus to bend to the wishes of the Crown, his Earls and military rulers then the county would not have been a strictly agricultural district for over 6000 years, with the Great Forest (through later neglect) "a treeless barren wasteland populated with few sheep, cattle and very poor farmers".
The great men of the day who had acquired whether by force, fine or inheritance great tracts of land were those self elected to Parliament by virtue of their stature and wealth in society. It was usual to have a knight from each shire represented, (the first recorded MP being Edward Games of Newton in 1542) but all was under the divine right of the king, which was gradually being eroded as early as 1200. It was not until 1832 that the right to vote was extended to freeholders of land, which but then only amounted to 5% of the population, which included certain farmers on Palleg.
This policy of keeping the herding masses down and on the farm with little rights or say and threat of severe punishment for minor misdemeanours, especially the Welsh 'underclass', was instrumental in preserving Brecknock as a deeply conservative district until World War I. Whence, in 1914 the outlook changed with Liberals and Radicals gaining 50% of the seats on the Brecon Council through 'people power'.
Palleg as we have discussed was governed by mutual agreement between tenants and Lord in the Court Leet, which was a moderately powerful medium for settling matters, but not for radical changes, they were still dependant and under the suffrage of ancient laws of the manor well up to 1915. I have no doubt that due to the actions of local councillor and man of many talents B.L. Thomas of Tir Roger that the decision to allow farms to be sold to the sitting tenants, was through his negotiation with Lord Tredegar, an example of politics being turned on its head. This in the present day being very true, with each man having the freedom and resources to be his own king if he so desires which that has lead to the 'multi enterprise' landscape of Palleg being changed beyond recognition in most of the former estate, and lack of conference and cohesion between neighbours.
Some of the terms used in the copyhold leases are ancient and customary dating to pre Roman and Norman times, but I am unsure whether a 1742 lease carrying archaic legalistic terms is sufficient claim to tie the estate to that source, but they were familiar to the tenants and practised for eons.
The oldest term we see is that of amobr, an ancient fee paid to the Landlord on the settlement of a marriage by a tenant. Typically we see many close proximity pairings, that collected 2 shillings per hop of the broom. Additional to this it was usual for the father of the bride to provide a marriage settlement in the form of land or livestock to complement that of the husband, which was sufficient enough to woe the girl.
The term 'comorth' applied to the payment of cattle in the mediaeval period to the lord of Brecknock, that was later demoted to payments in cash. Glyntawe we see from the terms prior to 1538 (see Middle Ages) was made to bequeath 173 cattle biennially, along with cheeses, ale and flour. Multiply that by the 20 or so lordships in the area, it may have amounted to over 3,000 free cows!
When a tenant died, the clause 'heriott' would enact, meaning that the next tenant would have to offer the best beast or goods to that value of the deceased to the Lord. It arose from the tradition of the lord loaning his serf a horse, armour or weapons to fight so that when the serf died the lord would rightfully reclaim his property (abolished 1922). In the Palleg rent accounts of 1801 a heriott of £12.12.0 (£400) was collected on the death of David Lewis of Penyrhiw farm.
These customary payments were expressly banned from 1534 as it was made under Welsh Law, and often exploited by extortionists, although those with a King's License could continue and it did linger on the estate up to the late 1800s. John Morgan's rent accounts 1728-46 record an average payment of £3 per year customary dues versus the £100 rent for the whole estate.
Leases in the 18th century were initially granted for 99 years on the condition that three lives were given to it. For example Griffith Thomas of Pensarn farm in 1747 named Owen and Margaret his son and daughter as 'heirs' to the lease. By 1791 there was only 'one life remaining', that of Owen Griffith, his father dead and sister married off. In 1793 Owen died, leaving his illegitimate son Richard Owen the chance to contest and prove his ability and legitimacy to run with that lease. Chattel Leases also were in operation, whereby the tenure was at the whim of the lord, this was notable with the mill, shared land and the most northern farms.
Prior to 1540 when Welsh law was tolerated on the estate one assumes that a man was allocated a farm through the court of elders and may have paid a nominal sum and kept tenancy by merely existing in occupancy. The gavelkind laws, the split of farmland on inheritance between sons, Henglyn, Glyncynwal being examples, often left patches of land belonging to farms far away from it, half a field belonging to one would have corn, cows could be put in the other by another farm leading to trampling and arguments.
There was limited permission to collect coal, timber, lime and minerals, which had to be paid for at a discount, although freedom to hunt, collect peat and scrub was exercised on the common land. Later in the 19th century, discounts on farm essentials were gained through the farmers union. There was also a rent audit held every year in the Tredgear or Ynyscedwyn Arms, which ensured a 20% discount for tenants, a big bonus and privilege for being on the manor, when many scattered farms outside had no say in these matters.
There were evictions on the estate for rent arrears or breaking the lease, but I have not found evidence of any, as the court leet rolls are 'missing'. Alienation fees are sometimes recorded, meaning that leases were sold or sublet. Abomination fees could also be paid if encroachment, trespass or harm of livestock was made. In general as long as they paid the rent, kept the law, attended church and got on with their neighbours they were completely at the whim of the elements.
The jurisdiction for the observance of terms of the lease came from the court leet or llys which sat every 6 months up to at least possibly 1650. In this close community where the jurors were also your farmer neighbour, the evidence would be overwhelming, and no appeals were usually granted. Attendance to this court was also a term in the lease, 'suit of court' was its name, along with 'suit of mill' where you could be summoned to repair the mill and its leats at any time for payment in beer. All corn and oats had to be milled here also.
The terms of bondage of tenant to Lord were instigated by the conquering of lands and peoples. Those who lost the war were to be used as the king saw fit and would bow before his victory. Mass sombre homage ceremonies to the King were held at Brecon castle which involved humbly prostrating and citing oaths of fealty. They were then entrusted with lands which were owned now by the overlord on condition that they pay tribute and monies when summoned for. They were in effect slaves to the land until private ownership was allowed. With 500 years of rebellion, infighting and private wars in Wales, it was not uncommon for the fittest to be enlisted in those struggles.
Under a fiefdom many tenants would have feared their overlords who were often foreign, well built, rich and educated judges and executioners. The option of knowing ones place coexisted on pain of death. Their overlords rule was unquestionable, (most) were men of faith, integrity, infallible having the freedom of the Kings privilege for centuries, which prevailed in Wales for longer. Some of the letters I have encountered from the tenants to the Lords Morgan in 1700s appear sycophantic and grovelling to my eyes at least, often sent with a "couple of capons (chicken) to please his Lordship". But by all measures the Morgans were a fair family who kept open, honest and well preserved accounts of the estate, and kept rents fixed for 100 years.
Due to remaining loyal to the Crown and being in a manor there were many more privileges to be had than those exploited and worked to death on the outside, such as the mass slave labour and suffrage in Ireland for example and although tied down by leases, laws, taxes, military service and restrictions they earned their right to be freemen with free speech. As freemen, they were able to negotiate with the landlord, he would have to keep his oath too, however high and mighty he was.
Palleg was held from the earliest times in a Knight's Fee for the King, meaning that as part of the terms of allowing Welsh tenants to live on Crown land, they had to fight for their Lord in wars whether domestic or foreign. Also men had to be provided to stand guard at Brecon castle for a number of days. To this end training in hand to hand combat, especially archery was provided from an early age, which ironically could work against the English when the Welsh 'turned tune' as they often did. So by these methods we would have seen Welsh loyal or subjugate to the Crown fighting their brethren when rebellions flared up as they did commonly in the days when slights against man were settled in bloody conflicts. The cause of these uprisings as we see below was not always intransigent leaders, they could result from family feuds, popular and traditional in Wales, a national sport of sorts. The usual trigger being women or the right under laws of gavelkind for each of the sons of a deceased father, whether illegitimate or not being able to claim an equal share of his land. So having siblings was a threat to the elder brother's authority and was expected to assert his right to become chief before he was 30 which might result in cattle raids and combat, not always ending in bloodshed, but preferable if it did, capturing a trophy wife in the bargain a great bonus.
One such example of a wider rebellion of 1321 is when Humphrey de Bohun Earl of Hereford, Constable of England is ordered to maintain peace in Brecon, to what cause the King is 'blissfully unaware'. It seems the root of the rebellion was Hugh le Despenser, the new 'personal court favourite' of the King being showered with honours and Lordships, but he corrupt and oppressive in his dealings, there was also famine in the land. He had already hung & dismembered 'leading rebel' Llywelyn Bren and seized Caerphilly Castle from him in the rebellion of 1316. To crush this uprising 400 footmen are raised from the county (with 12,000 others from Wales) to fight a war with Scotland and the disaffected Barons, headed by Humphrey, killed near York on 16 March 1322. England ultimately won and all the Lordships of Brecknock, Gower & Glamorgan were then entrusted to Hugh. The inhabitants responded by sacking, stealing and poaching anything they could from their new Lord leading to further punishment. Hugh was later hung drawn and quartered for his crimes.
An echo of this ancient right survived up to World War I, but after many centuries of passive culture only 2 men appear to have been raised from Palleg, each of whose actions led to completely contrasted endings. Refusals to fight involved pleading to a committee, and there are many cases in the local paper of farmers doing so at Ystradgynlais Police Court. The Daniels of Pensarn had four sons, two were below age and the others maintaining the flock of 300 sheep and 20 cattle. They had to choose between sending the most "useful or useless" son to the front in Sept 1916. Lewis the father was quite furious and wished to appeal to a higher court but denied. Benjamin was the unlucky milk delivery boy, only 20, chosen to accompany many of the ill fated horses that were gathered from Palleg to perish in the muddy fields of the Somme on 30 Nov 1917.
The other hero in the tragedy is John Thomas Walter James of Penllwyn teg who was brought up on the farm, attending Maesydderwen school. He was commissioned in an officer training school and enlisted as a 2nd lieutenant in the Machine Gun Corps in 1915, who chose the fittest and most intelligent men. After further training he is sent to France to serve at Paschendale and the retreat of the Somme in 1917, but seems to have come down with 'trench fever', a bacterial infection transferred by lice, common in the squalid conditions of the trenches. After a short leave he returns to the 'The Battle of Champagne' and is awarded the Military Cross and rank of Captain for breaking up a German counter-attack and covering a 2nd while in retreat while wounded, on 21st May 1918. He survived his experiences and moved back to Y'gynlais before serving in the Royal Army Service Corps in WWII, where he presumably became a Major and retired in Hereford. A Thomas James, presumably a relative, was living at Penllwyn teg until the late 80's.
From these WWI exploits we can suppose how men from the manor were 'utilised' by knights in battles of the past, some used as 'cavalry fodder' falling in the first throws, the other skilled in archery walking away, unscathed. It was a prerequisite that all (mediaeval) tenants were trained in warfare skills, archery lessons commonly being taken after church. An echo of this is seen from the discarded shooting medal of 1906 (see Amateur Archaeology) at Henglyn Sunday School, through which competitions John James probably came to the notice of the visiting recruitment officers.
"To tax the poor and so become rich" was the motto of many a noble family that had gained prominence or primogeniture over the land. This originated in the battle beaten paying tribute to their victor, but it was the heads of households, land owners and freemen who were the main contributors. Some were extortionate, others fair. There were many imaginative and not so ways to source money for governance, war, fancy houses and national debt clearance.
The tenants of the estate had rents to pay with land tax incorporated (from 1692), (prior to 1536 1-2 cattle, cheese, beer and flour were sent to Brecon as yearly tribute). Added to this was the fee called Amobr, payable upon their marriage to the Lord and the registering church. Upon their death a herriot would be demanded, initially the 'best beast' of the deceased tenant and a fee for his burial. The church would also claim 10% of earnings or produce of a property under the tithe system (commuted to a percentage of land acreage in 1836). Windows, chimneys, horses and carriages were taxed at various times. There were restrictions on the amount of animals sent to the moor, even then they had to pay 1 3/4 pence per animal for its use, despite it being a 'free common'. This was all a hefty toll on their incomes, and many did not break even year to year because of it, I imagine long hard winters living on turnip soup. But the Lords Morgan seemed to be in the fair camp, allowing arrears and debts to linger for many years often allowing payment in goods and services, until Gould took over who was most adamant of receiving all ancient taxes. However non payment after an agreed time could also involve a summons or eviction by the farm bailiff in the court leet. Many of the ancient customary taxes were often exploited by landlords and banned from 1536, but allowed to linger on Palleg.
Certain farmers were considered 'very poor', with one cow, one suit and a dilapidated farm, so the 'Poor Rate Tax' (from at least 1601) collected for the even poorer of the parish led to a petition to the King in 1843, 800 people meeting in Cwmtwrch to complain that only 6s in the pound collected went to the poor, the rest on 'administration'. They also objected to the 'Corn Laws' which taxed imported wheat leading to high bread prices, and also that the price for corn bought by a landlord based on the value of their land, e.g. 56s a quarter, would lead to liquidation if it only fetched 46s in a poor year. The tithes were also being charged at 1/6th rather than the normal 10th for some reason. Morgan Daniels (possibly an early relation to those later on Palleg) exclaims that his rent was so high he could hardly pay his labourers. The ban on foreign imports was the cause of high rents, said to be enforced to keep stock quality high, but also drove up the price of land. Many of these problems went un-addressed until after World War I.
|Tithes from the terrier of Ystradgynlais in 1741|
|Signed & Approved by Rev Portrey & farmers of Y'gynlais 142|
They were best fed by staying put in the farm, for if they wished to bring in a new flock of sheep from another county, there were turnpike and bridge tolls to pay along dark dangerous roads, where another form of secret toll was extracted, the 'highway robbers tax'. Passing through the Great Forest would incur a fee of 1-3p per head of livestock known as cheminage, pedage and portage.
The drovers roads of the period were well managed, they did not like getting their flocks dirty. Indeed some still used the old Roman roads a 1000 years later! There were few bridges, fords were used then, and travel was sometimes impossible in the winter floods especially if going south of the Tawe. Prior to 1555 the Abbeys and chieftains sponsored building and maintenance of the roads. We believe that the old hidden road passing from Pensarn through Penybont to the common dates from this period, lacking evidence that it was created in the Roman times. A fine surviving example is also seen running from the moor at Caemawr down to Cwmgiedd road. It is hard paved with stones, passing through boggy areas, probably on a bed of brushwood & heather with 'sheep daggings', left over wool.
After 1555 every male in the parish was responsible for maintaining roads when called for by the parish orders, these were built with crushed stones. In 1663 the Turnpike act was passed, the wealthy lending money for repair of roads, this recovered by farming out collection of turnpike taxes at gates. In 1776 farmers were made exempt but for when they took produce to Brecon. In 1830 it was changed again so that everybody had to pay, this led to toll gate riots in parts of Glamorgan.
Everything prior to 1800 was carried by man, pack horse, cart and horse drawn tram carts, but could not cope economically with the increased amounts of produce, especially with the Napoleonic Wars. The Swansea canal was therefore built in 1798 for the transport of iron, coal, lime and corn, the 1861 railways certainly saw a limited amount of portage of sheep, cattle and farming goods. The economic boom of the 1840s after the invention of the use of anthracite in blast furnaces saw a mass influx of thousands of settlers to the area, the farms and church could not cope which is why they were all rebuilt and modernised during this time. Despite all this vain glorious hard work, the ironworks had shut down by 1877 and the collieries by 1955.
Travel in the desolate wooded vales of Wales always had its perils. A story from Brunton a foreman of 500 men for the building of the 1820 tramway through Cwmtrch highlights this. He travelled once a fortnight with saddle bags containing £400 in coins as wages from Swansea, since banknotes were still frowned upon. He was regularly waylaid from the hedges, but always saved by his dog alerting him to their presence so he could gallop off.
There were 7 seigneurial mills in the Forest of Brecknock survey of 1651 held by Dr Thomas Awbrey, Llantrythid, first recorded granted to the family in 1521. Crown records relating to them stretch to 1372, I have no doubt that their continued re-use dates from the Roman period, they included Devynnock, Llywel, Crai, Senny, Ystradfellte, Glyntawe & Pwllgoch, but the 3 mills of Y'gynlais were never included within the group. Thus Palleg Mill does not turn up until 1551 in a Crown grant to Awbrey, and by inference from that documentation existed previous to that date. It stated in 1651 that the mills were "so much in decaye" after the plague & war swept through the area, and they seized from Thomas and sold off. His father also Sir Thomas was in the care of Palleg Mill, documented in 1592. It therein states that Palleg mill had been "long time built upon the bank of the said river Turche in the lp (lordship) of Palleg". It was the cause of a dispute in that Lewys Griffith of Kilybebyll had built a new mill, Felin Gelligron in Llangiwg. These mills are some miles apart and neither on the same stream, so I am unsure what the fight was about, jealousy? lower bread pricing? I have not transcribed the document.
In a 1728 copy of a 1710 property valuation list, John Morgan notes 3 mills in Ystradgynlais, that of Ynyscedwyn, Palleg and Dyfnant, these were never included in the fee farm of the Forest or the Manor of Brecknock, remaining semi-independent in the hands of the Welsh. The same John rebuilt Palleg Mill from scratch in 1728, for £19 under the authority of Anne Maria Williams. It was again partly rebuilt in 1757 under John Francis, and again by the recommendation of Walter Price in 1816 with £411.19.87 labour costs, 30 different specialists, stone masons, plasterers, carpenters and Watkin Watkins millwright were all employed.
A condition of the lease from 1742 and probably a custom prior to this was that all tenants had to grind their corn or oats at Palleg mill and assist in the repair and upkeep of it when summoned for. In 1805 they were all employed to deepen the river Twrch near the mill, they were paid in ale. Repair of the mill is a regular occurrence in the expenditure records, not least the regular millstone replacements, which in the early days were dragged from Swansea on a sledge cart.
The river Twrch was diverted again to feed it on 2 Jan 1817. The cost of a new weir was shared between Gough and Morgan estates in 1828 at £142 each, it sits bordering the two estates. Because the area is so wet, and the river has such a wide and high catchment area nearby, the mill would have been in constant use. The corn seems to have been winnowed at Penshingrug farm nearby and then carted here for milling. A communal coal powered oat dryer was built here in 1773 for £3.11.8 as each tenant had one, and was said to be wasting good firewood.
John Morgan (above) kept a detailed account of all the curious parts made by the smith for the workings of the mill in 1728. Many of these items I was sure I had mis-transcribed, but they are local Welsh words, perhaps unique to the smith himself.
Account of the Smith's Work Towards the Mill
John Morgan, Palleg accounts, 1728 84
A wealth of coal, stone, lime, rotten stone, silica, lead, iron, lapis carosus and other minor minerals (not to forget wood) are detailed as being beneath the Palleg estate and in the river valleys, even folk tales tell of its richness. It is not implausible to imagine that the area was mined and trees extracted by the early tribes, Romans for their extensive innovations, the Normans for their castles and the Elizabethans for their ship building. Mineral seams were exposed by rivers and mined into the mountain.
A 1612 stamp on a pig of iron found in 1795 dates Ynyscedwyn Ironworks to this time. But they were burning ore here much earlier, at a place called 'Tyr yr Osgle' (from Llosgle: burning place), where the ironworks was founded, leased to Sir Hugh Walter vicar of the town church in 1561. The farms of south Palleg were also in his care in 1562, where is located an iron quarry. I have no doubt this industrious preacher was in some way responsible for its continued and experimental production.
The lease of an iron quarry at Craigyfferndwrch, near Brynmorgan colliery in 1607 was also given by Cilybebyll estate to Thomas Awbrey with the "liberty to make ways for Jenkin ap Rees and Rees ap Jenkin, Gruffyth ap Richard and Morgan Awbrey to the river Twrch for carriage to the furnace". At Llanaicachfawr in Gelligaer which has a similar history to Ystradgynlais the ironworks are documented to 1486. We can infer that iron was being mined here to supply the Crown for use as ammunition and armour for a very long time because of the abundance of it.
Coal was extracted from Drim mountain mine, leased from the Morgans to Charles and John Griffiths in 1724, who also leased the iron ore quarry at south of Palleg to Thomas Price at £10 a year around this time. Extraction would have increased upon the opening of the Swansea canal in 1798. John Christie, who owned the Great Forest of Brecknock briefly, laid down a tram road in 1825, running from Drim Mountain colliery to Sennybridge, transporting limestone and coal. But charcoal was the preferred method of fuel for iron smelting until the development of the blast furnace in 1840's which used anthracite that abounded in the area, leading to large scale settlement and the railroads arriving in 1861. The Brynhenllys coal mine was established around 1844.
Six of the Palleg farm tenants had their own coal pits from at least 1728, which judging from the amounts they extracted was for private sale, own use and the burning of limestone for the fields. Stone was quarried to build farms, and it is noted that a small amount of rotten stone was taken (cerrig pwtron, an abrasive used in woodwork, tin polishing). Rough cottages existed in abundance on the upper moorlands where lime quarries and burners and charcoal makers worked, transporting them by pack horse down to Brynamman, Ynyscedwyn and Cwmtwrch.
But it was all very small scale on Palleg. The vicar-come-gamekeeper Rev. Thomas Williams of Ynislas complains of the lack of exploitation of this vast resource in a letter dated 1842, advising that roads should be built throughout Palleg for greater extraction. The terms of the 'lease' of the Lordship of Brecknock by the Crown prevented large scale extraction of minerals, until the Great Forest was enclosed in 1811 and the mineral right sold off separately. The Morgans only open Palleg to large scale mining from the 1880s, leading to around 400 acres and the majority of acreage of several farms being taken out of use (Brynhenllys, Wainllwyd, Penywern and Tredeg). Following the sale of the farms in 1915, it increases, leading to large scale open mining on the west of the estate in the 70's and 90's, which recently finished. Drim mountain continues to be open mined in 2014, the seam of coal there said to be 18 feet high and the width of the mountain.
We must not forget that the oak, ash and alder trees that attracted settlement in the first instance was a valuable mineral. They were important assets in ironwork, as oak makes the best charcoal. John Morgan lists a large clearance of 'cordwood' on the estate, between 1725-8 that was delivered to the farms in the east, amounting to 462 cords of wood. An acre of 20-25 year old trees will produce 20 cords of wood = 800 bushels of charcoal = 2 tons of iron. Depending on how you calculate the trees per acre, that could amount to around 25 acres or more of coppiced woodland. These were sold to Thomas Popkin of 'Fforrest' in Llansamlet, who owned a new ironworks there, but also co-ran Ynyscedwyn ironworks at this time.
This would have taken a fair chunk of farmland out of use from each farm, and the farmers were not allowed to touch that wood on pain of pillory. Wood personally delivered to tenants on the farms by John himself included timber for furniture, coffins, beams, arnoddion (plough beams), doors, great ploughs, small ploughs etc. Bark of trees was also sold to tanners. At the industrial boon time from 1840 wood props for the mines, railway sleepers & wood for housing were much in demand, new plantations were set out, a 'woodward' kept them at 20s a year after 1843 (see Roger Rogers in People of Palleg.)
We are very lucky in many respects that such a wealth of documented evidence for this area of poor upland farmed land is left for us to delve into. And that is the main conundrum. Why should an unimportant stretch of land have such a treasure trove of records by one of the most important families in South Wales from the last 300 years. Well as I understand it, entitlement of land was only granted by the Crown so long as the owner took especial care of it. Ownership of land entitled the Lord to sit and vote in parliament. The tenants would support their elected knight to fight for their rights by provision of good and services, so in turn they may receive a roof over their heads and chance to breed. The area was also known to have vast quantities of minerals beneath it that was not exploited fully until the 1880s.
So the Lord kept this manor in a fair state, with well kept records for the beneficence of the tenants and those around so that he is seen as a good man, justifying his position in parliament and the courts to carry out all the good works that history tells us that he did do. The land and its bonded tenants also acted as surety on many of their grand projects, such as Tredegar House, "one of the most significant late 17th-century houses in the whole of the British Isles". The fact that the Morgans did take over the estate was its saving grace, they with money to repair and later rebuild almost every farm in the heyday of the industrial and agricultural revolution, stalling the demise of this ancient manor by a 150 years, 'bringing through' many ancient Welsh families to the modern age, to which I personally am a product of.
In a historical summary, the thick wooded slopes of Ystradgynlais were felled extensively and settled on by Bronze age peoples and in turn by the Romans who if not taking an interest in the iron, certainly did in the limestone for the building of extensive road systems. Then, this tribal area, after the Romans left, I can imagine being of interest as a hunting ground to the Lords of Defynnog during the Celtic period. Streams are named by them in honour of old words for wild boars, the Twrch, Amman and Gwys. If it was used for agriculture, cows and sheep would be herded on the uplands, possibly pigs in the wooded area, with basic crop rotations in open fields.
Following the Norman invasion many Welsh were pushed here and established small farms under the 'protection' of the Glyntawe Welsh lords. At this time Palleg may have been split from a larger tribal area into a separate area of land through inheritance c.1200 and improved and settled on further. If the manorial system was not immediately imposed by 1100, a tithe collecting church was definitely in situ before 1289, and clearly defined as being in the territories of Brecknock by 1203 and the See of St Davids by 1129. It is probable that some agreement between the Crown and the native Welsh around the time of the Baron Wars & Magna Charta c.1215 conferred the status of a knight's fee, ergo a Lordship upon Palleg independent of the Manor of Brecknock but tied in tribute to Brecon castle for their loyalty. Due to Welsh rebellions the full scope of jurisdiction may not have been fully implemented until the 1283 conquest when a constable was (re)posted possibly under the authority of the Awbreys, based at Llwyn Cwnstabl. The Black Death of 1350 left the area devastated, and was resettled by Trahaearn ab Owain "Fwya" of the Glyntawe noble family.
The Awbrey family may have come into possession of Palleg by marriage settlement in the mid 1300's by Thomas Awbrey 'The Red Constable' of Brecknock castle & ranger of the Great Forest, marrying Nest ferch Owain "Gethin" descendant of the Glyntawe Welsh nobles. The farms and animal husbandry continued to be improved while providing support to the Crown against the many rebellions.
Later, charcoal would have been well used by the newly forming ironworks, oak makes the best. So one can surmise that it continued to be clear-felled and improved by the Awbreys, after Hopkin moved here or inherited c.1490, fresh after the successes of the War of the Roses, Ynyscedwyn & the town church being revamped and taken into more formal governance. At the demise of Welsh law and inheritance of tribal land by 'gavelkind' in 1536, Palleg was thence proclaimed formally owned freehold land by individual Lords for the Crown, the first such person being William Awbrey of Abercynrig, who was also granted the 7 mills of the Great Forest in 1521. Financial troubles (or intimidation) may have forced Richard his son to sell (or granted on his death) Abercynrig & Palleg to his uncle Dr. William Awbrey of Cantref c.1579-1585 who may have improved the farmland and local industry, he being with a great deal of wealth. It is bestowed by dowry to his 2nd son Sir Thomas of Llantrythid in 1585, formally granted to him by the Crown in 1595, who in turn arranges to leave it to his 2nd son son Dr Thomas of St David's in a marriage settlement in 1634, but is annulled after the death or execution of potential father-in-law Morgan Awbrey of Ynyscedwyn in 1635. The death of Sir T. Awbrey in 1641 and the Civil War of 1642-48 disrupts the running of the estate, leading to further spoilage and debatable ownership until the restoration of Charles II.
Its use was then raised by fine in the Brecknock Court in a post nuptial settlement in 1666 by a Mary (da of Dr. T.Awbrey^) & John Morgan of Wenallt in joynture with Lewis Gunter of Gileston. Thence Palleg is bestowed upon John Morgan (son of former John & Mary) upon his marriage to Anna Maria Brailsford c.1685 who inherits upon her husband's death in 1699. She then removes trees and farms with 2nd husband James Hughes of Gelliwig. Because of this spoilage, a court order of 1717 places the manor in the care of her nephew-in-law Edward Williams, Llangattock who marries her daughter Anna Maria Hughes and continued to improve the farms and feed the ironworks with cordwood. On his death in 1726 it passes back to Anna Maria his step-mother as it was her dowry right. On her passing in 1729 its use goes to her daughter Anna Maria and on her demise in 1742 to her grandson, Edward Williams who in that year re-issues the first batch of leases for the farms still surviving. As the ironworks and coal-mining grew, the Morgan family then take an interest in the estate in 1747 when the Williams family get into debt and purchase it from them.
The Morgans then demolish and rebuild most of the farms in the mid 1800s in the heyday of the industrial age to better serve the burgeoning town with produce. They also gain the right to extract large quantities of coal and minerals from above and below the estate. There is steady progress in the productivity of the estate through to the 20th century, sheepdog trials, school eisteddfods, agricultural fairs regularly held there, tractors, electric and water arriving around the 1950's. Due to hefty death duties, it was broken up and sold in 1915, Palleg manor in the legal sense ceased to exist after this. I do not believe there was ever a manor house of Palleg here, it was simply always a marginal area of land ruled from afar jurisdiction coming from the Lord's agents, stewards and bailiffs with a basic court leet.
However, there is a certain amount of conjecture in my above thesis, BUT I can only base it upon documented facts I have uncovered. For all I know this area could have been a thriving Celtic tribal area with forts and farmed land, development encouraged by the Romans who mined the area. Then it could have been established as a manor with a court leet immediately after the Norman conquest, to keep this unruly area in check after the defeat of the Welsh in Brecon, or left in the governorship of the defeated Welsh in the maenor they were accustomed to from c.600 AD. But the evidence to tie the existence of a manor, maenor, tribal llan or llys to pre-1500 only exists in the stones left in the ground, and the general documented history of the area, as in the 1300s only a church and a few large houses with 2 drovers roads are said to exist in Ystradgynlais, that is not to say there would have been many small farms and cottages, otherwise there would be no need for a church!
The spoils of land seized or granted by the Normans, Edward I, Richard III, Henry VIII, Cromwell do not mention Palleg Manor specifically. Viz. a vie, it does not appear within surveys, lists, maps, commissions or itineraries adherent to those matters within Brecknock relating to the Enclosure Movement, Great Forest, Manor of Brecknock, dissolution of monasteries or the lands of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Buckingham, Rhys ap Gruffudd & Earl of Pembroke before 1551. Its existence is only hinted at by way of customs, dues and military service imposed on the commote or parish of Ystragynlais as a whole.
So with no doubt in my mind I will stand by the theory for now, until further evidence may come to light, that Palleg as acknowledged and described under Norman-English law, was a feudal manor existing by at least 1215, tithed by the Earl of Hereford through the advowson of Ystradgynlais church. It was part of the Marcher Lordship of Brecknock, but outside the Manor of Brecknock & Great Forest but within which Welsh laws and customs were tolerated, and held by prominent landowners acting as tenant-in-chief to the Crown under a knight's service to allow the raising of troops for Brecknock castle & beyond and provision of ale, cattle and flour biennially under comortha dues. All these traditions ended in 1536 and ownership passed into one individual Lords hands and its existence written into legal statues with many dues and rents commuted to payment in cash. Previous to 1093 it was utilized as common pasturage and settled in before the Roman period as tribal land stewarded by Welsh chieftains and 'uchelwyr', inheritance passing through gavelkind customs and marriage settlement.
|2000BC||Palleg settled by Bronze age peoples, major deforestation|
|750BC||Celtic settlement in the area|
|078AD||Roman conquest, activity, roads, forts built nearby|
|383AD||Roman withdrawal from Britain|
|400||Christian Irish invade and found churches around Defynnog|
|500||Mention of Twrch, Tawe & Cynlais rivers in black Book of Llandaff|
|600||Ystradgynlais Celtic church founded, area subject to tributes|
|1060||Bleddyn ap Maenyrch is Lord of Brecknock|
|1093||Bernard de Neufmarche conquers Brecknock|
|1130||Cydifor ap Gwgon, grandson of Bleddyn 'Lord' of Glyntawe|
|1176||Fierce rebellions and counter conquests of Brecknock|
|1200||Meurig ap Cydifor 'inherited' Glyntawe, Palleg and parts of Defynnog|
|1200||Gruffudd 'Gwyr' ap Cydifor inherited land south & east of Palleg|
|1330||Thomas Awbrey gains Palleg land by marriage settlement with Nest Owain of Glyntawe|
|1400||Mention of Twrch, Echel, Gwys, Amman in Red Book of Hergest|
|1129||Palleg outside diocese of Llandaff confirmed by Pope Honorius II & Bishop Urban II 1|
|1175||Murder of local chieftains at Abergavenny castle peace talks, including Trahaern Vychan of Glyntawe, by William de Braose henchmen, fierce Welsh uprising 188|
|1203||Palleg in territories of Brecknock confirmed by King John of England 2 200|
|1215||Barons War, Uwch Coed returned to Gruffudd Gwyr by de Breos. 3 13 Coat of Arms & Lordship conferred upon Cradoc ap Gwylym of Glyntawe by King John? 174|
|1265||Llywelyn ap Gruffudd of Gwynedd conquers Brecknock briefly to 1276 4|
|1283||Edward I conquest, Wales & Brecknock fully under English control. Sheriffs & constables re-posted 5|
|1287||Gryffydd Frych ap Gryffydd Gwyr of Glyntawe gives land in Uwch Coed to de Breos of Gower 6|
|1289||Ystradgynlais crops, cows & tenants pillaged by Earl Gloucester. Tithe was worth 20 marks. Castle built at Cae'r Castell 7|
|1330||Marriage, Thomas 'Cwnstabl Coch' Abercynrig to Nest verch Owen Gethin (desc. of Bleddyn ap Maenarch), Palleg as dowry? debatable 202|
|1350||The plague aka 'Black Death' sweeps through Wales 8|
|1372||Inq Post Mortem into death of Humphrey de Bohun owner of Advowson of Y'gynlais 9|
|1390||Trahaearn ab Owain "Fwya" first documented settler on Palleg, related to Cradoc^ 10|
|1397||Inq post mortem into death of Thomas Duke of Gloucester, owner of advowson of Y'gynlais church 11|
|1398||Advowson of Y'gynlais church granted to Eleanor wife of above^ & da Humph de Bohun 12|
|1400||Brief independence of Wales under Owain Glyndwr to 1415 16|
|1438||Henry Stafford, Lord of Brecknock in favour of Henry Tudor 17|
|1485||Brecknock Welsh fought in favour of Lancastrians, winning War of Roses 18|
|1489||First mention of Ynyscedwyn Manor in lease to Thomas ap Traherne ap Thomas 19|
|1490||First mention of Ystradgynlais church under benefice of St Davids, Rev Sir Thomas (Lloyd?) 20|
|1510||Hopkin Awbrey of Abercynrig in care of land in S.Palleg 22|
|1512||William Awbrey of Abercynrig witness to conveyance of land in S.Palleg, mentioning Eskerr y Parke (Penyparc) farm. 28|
|1519||Gwern Jororth ap Oweyn (Gwern Yorath) farm first mentioned in Ynyscewdyn leases 30|
|1520||Morgan Awbrey of Abercynrig, grandson of Hopkin above moved to S.Palleg 23|
|1521||Duke of Buckingham, Last Earl of Marches executed, Glyntawe advowson, Tawe fisheries & comorth defaults to Crown 24|
|1535||Valor Ecclesiasticus, tithe of Ystradgynlais worth £9 25|
|1536||Welsh law, courts (inc Brynhenllys?), inheritance by gavelkind, comortha payments abolished. Palleg 'Tribal lands' converted to Freehold. 27|
|1536||William Awbrey & wife Joan, Abercynrig are formal chief-tenant of the knight's fee of Palleg Manor for the Crown 29|
|1536||John Leland, King's chaplin, mentions Ystradgynlais Lordship 31|
|1547||William Awbrey, Abercynrig dies. Palleg passes to wife Joan (née Herbert) 29 35|
|1551||Richard Awbrey minor, son of William, Abercynrig inherits Palleg under care of Edward Herbert esq via the Crown 29|
|1558||Grant of rectory & church of Ystradgynlais from Crown to John Fleetwood 36|
|1561||Beginnings of Ynyscedwyn Ironworks at Tir yr Osgle 38|
|1562||The tree 'Derwen Pensarn' & the stone cross at Mayn Y Grouse (Bryn-y-Groes) mentioned in Ynyscedwyn leases 40|
|1563||Bishop's Survey - 68 copyholders in Ystradgynlais 41 42|
|1569||Papers relating to Caemawr farm begin 43|
|1579||Abercynrig & Palleg sold/granted/inherited by Dr. William Awbrey, Cantref, uncle by Richard^ (murder by jealous cousin?) 176|
|1585||Dr. W.Awbrey made a tripartite indenture for future use of Palleg between wife Willgifford, Anthony Mansell and Dame Elizabeth Wallwyn to Sir Thomas Awbrey 2nd son 44|
|1585||Marriage of Thomas Awbrey son of Dr. William^ to Mary Mansell, gains Llantyrthid 212|
|1588||Henry Price gives Tir Gwern Jervethe ap Owein (Gwern Yorath), Tir y Kay Mawre Ycha in marriage settlement to Morgan Awbrey 45|
|1592||Sir Thomas Awbrey, Llantrythid son of Dr.William^ in charge of Palleg Mill, court case 46|
|1593||Dr William Awbrey, court case, charges Bishop of St David's with Morgan Awbrey murder 180|
|1595||Chancery Inquisition into Dr William Awbrey death, tenant-in-chief of Palleg Manor 44|
|1595||Palleg Manor granted to Sir Thomas Awbrey, knight, Llantrythid son of above via the Crown 44|
|1600||William Awbrey of Y'gynlais conveys Clyn Miricke (Glyn Medic), Tyr Sion David Goch, Tyr y Gorof (Pen y Gorof), and Kaye Bychain to Morgan Awbrey of Y'gynlais 32|
|1607||Iron quarry & furnace active at Craigyfferndwrch & Ynyscedwyn 49|
|1612||Surrender of Gwern Evan Griffith ap Owen farm (Bryn-y-Groes) to Morgan Awbrey, Ynyscedwyn 54|
|1622||Movement of cattle from Palleg to Llantrythid, tenants & Mary Walbeoffe (da.) meeting with Sir Thomas Awbrey (also 1623) 56|
|1626||Sale and later repurchase of Tyr Pen y Bont (alias Gwern Boulth), Tyr Gwern Evan ap Owen (Bryn-y-Groes), Tyr Pen Y Parc and Tyr y Cae Mawr within the Lordship of Palleg by Morgan Awbrey junior of Ynyscedwyn 58|
|1634||Palleg arranged to be bestowed in marriage dowry to Dr Thomas Awbrey, St Davids & Eleanor Awbrey, Yniscedwin (annulled) 60|
|1634||'Tyr y Pallegg' (south) in will of Morgan Awbrey & Margared (Games) left to Morgan Awbrey jnr, Ynyscedwyn 62|
|c.1635||Palleg in dowry to Dr Thomas Awbrey, St Davids & Eleanora Abigail Rudd, Aberglasney due to annulment^ 62|
|1641||Sir Thomas Awbrey^, Llantrythid dies 56|
|1641||Writ of Ouster le Main. 'Tir Pallegge' (south) awarded to Morgan son of Morgan Awbrey, Ynyscedwyn^ by King Charles I 64|
|1647||Ystradgynlais stations royalist troops. Town, crops, leases ransacked by rioters 68|
|1647||Charles & Mary Walbeoffe (née Awbrey^) vs Sir John Awbrey (brother) Llantrythid, contests estates of Sir T. Awbrey^ ownership in High Court 181|
|1648||Morgan Awbrey of Ynyscedwyn dies 1 month after Battle St Ffagans (war casualty?), nuncupative will 144|
|1649||Lordship of Brecknock & Gower seized & surveyed by Commonwealth Parliament 71|
|1649||Rev Thomas Hopkin evicted from Y'gynlais church 72|
|1651||Commonwealth survey, 7 seigneurial Forest mills in possession of Dr Thomas Awbrey, St Davids, son of Sir Thomas^ 167|
|1652||Twrch floods, destroying much of Cwmtwrch, rubble deposited near Ynyscedwyn (debatable) 76|
|1653||Charles Walbeoffe^, Llanhamlach dies, husband to Mary (née Awbrey)^ elegy written on his death by Henry Vaughan, the silurist 169|
|c.1660||Mary Awbrey da of Dr. T.Awbrey^ marriage to John Morgan, Wenallt (inferred from regnal restoration and 1666 deed below)|
|1666||fine raised for joynture of Palleg between 1. John Morgan, Wenallt & wife Mary^. 2. Lewis Gunter, Gileston in March 92|
|1674||Mary Walbeoffe, Llanhamlach dies, leaves £20 each to Mary Morgans^ (née Awbrey) godchild and Sir John Awbrey, Llantrythid (cousin) 206|
|1679||William Awbrey of Ynyscedwyn murdered by Thomas Gwyn over Drim land dispute 74 75|
|c.1685||Palleg awarded to Anna Maria Brailsford & John Morgan, Wenallt, s. of John^ in dowry 78 146|
|1699||death of John Morgan, Wenallt (Sir J. Awbrey^ executor) wife Anna Maria^ takes possession of estates and remarries James Hughes, Llanvetherine, 1707 78 146|
|1717||High Court Case, Anna Maria Hughes^ ordered to surrender estates to nephew-in-law Edward Williams, Llangattock, arranges marriage to her daughter, Anna Maria Hughes 78|
|1726||Palleg Manor left in will of Edward^ to Anna Maria Hughes^, step-mother 82|
|1728||First appearance of Palleg farm names in John Morgan, Fforchorllwyn, estate rent book (& copies of values from 1710) 84|
|1729||Death of Anna Maria Hughes^, Palleg manor in care of da. Anna Maria Williams (later Powell), widow of Edward^ 84 154|
|1740||Calvinist Methodist meetings begin in Palleg farms 88|
|1741||Terrier of the Y'gynlais tithes agreed, signed by local farmers & Rev Portrey 142|
|1742||Death of Anna Maria Williams^, inheritance & reissue of leases on Palleg Manor of 18 farms by Edward Williams, Llangattock Court, son 90|
|1747||Palleg Manor sold to Thomas Morgan, Tredegar for £3184.40 25th March by Edward^ due to debts 92 93|
|1747||Leases reissued by Thomas Morgan, Tredegar for 23 farms on Palleg Manor 25th April 96|
|1760||First recorded rent books for Palleg Manor under Tredegar Estates 98|
|1782||Survey of Palleg estate, field names & use (map now missing) 99|
|1793||Wet summer, bread shortage 76|
|1797||Swansea Canal construction complete to Hen Neuadd, Y'gynlais 76|
|1806||Capel Yorath built, popular with Palleg tenants 88|
|1820||Estate and farm maps drawn (Christie Tramroad built near Palleg) 100|
|1840||Ynyscedwyn anthracite blast furnace in operation, town population trebles 76|
|1844||Y'gynlais tithe maps & schedules published 107|
|1845||Palleg estate survey, maps of individual farms drawn 108|
|1847||Palleg manor 99yr leases expire, 60yr leases reissued. Most farms rebuilt to 1896 110|
|1849||Typhoid and cholera outbreaks to '66 76|
|1861||Town church rebuilt, re-sanctified as St Cynog 113|
|1868||Palleg estate survey, maps of individual farms drawn. 114 Railways active 115|
|1880||Opencast coal mining on Brynhenllys, Wainllwyd, Penywern and Tredeg 116|
|1887||1st Palleg Agricultural Show at Tredeg 118|
|1900||Henglyn Uchaf farm converted to Sunday School under Capel Yorath 120|
|1915||Proposed auction of farms at Masons Arms, Brecon, withdrawn, sold by private treaty to tenants 122|
|1930||Golf course built at Pen-y-Gorof (proposed 1919) 124|
|1957||Brecon Beacons Park formed, part of Palleg sheep walk within 210|
|1960||Open scale mining, forestry 126|
|1965||Golf course relocated to Tir Canol 128|
|1987||S4C feature in 'Cefn Gwlad' on Eurwyn Daniel, Henglyn, Palleg 130|
|1995||Further opencast mining at Brynhenllys, Waunllwyd, Tredeg. Direct action protests at Brynhenllys 132|
|2003||Palleg farmers & Llanddeusant Leet Court feature in S4C's 'Cefn Gwlad' - 'Y Mynydd Du' 133|
|2006||Land reclamation, many farms rebuilt. 200th anniversary of Capel Yorath 88|
|2010||Medieval 'treasure hordes' found by Gary Valentine, metal detector 138|
|2012||James Burton, descendant of Thomas Griffith, Pensarn, publishes thesis into the origins of Palleg Manor 166|
Overview & Development of the Farm Estate
In the beginning, let's say before the Romans arrived the Palleg area was thickly covered with an ancient oak forest, the moorlands never being so. It was wet and boggy in many areas with bad drainage, the rivers often flash flooding from the upper moorlands making travel to Swansea impassable. In time the trees were felled for settlement which increased to feed various cottage industries, livestock and crops intermingled with no strict boundaries on poor land, until they became more adept at hedging fencing and walling in the Tudor period. Liming, drainage, manure-ing and pasturing over many centuries gradually improving the soil. The battle with scrub, gorse and coarse grasses a perpetual war. Animal and human plagues, war and famine would often ravaged the land leaving the ground abandoned for periods of time. But they never gave up! Wool was always valuable and so the majority of the population tilled and tended the land as a profitable, respectable and life extending career. From 1750-1850 there was a huge explosion in the science of farming which helped to treble the population of the United Kingdom.
The main aim of the estate was to improve the ground, thereby producing more efficient, quality and profitable sales of livestock, (prior to around 1540 for subsistence and tribute). The focus was on sheep rearing for their wool and small numbers of beef cattle for the English market. Horses, pigs and poultry were also processed. The existence of a mill on the estate indicates crops were grown in quantity also, mainly oat, wheat and barley. Wood, charcoal, coal and iron for industry, limestone and stones for building and rottenstone (an abrasive) were also extracted from the area at times.
The estate operated as a community of mutual beneficiary, but each farmer was independent. Thus, they shared labour, machinery, produce and grazing ground, receiving discounts on rent, seeds, coal, lime and other farm essentials. The farmer was free to do as he willed, and so improvement of the land for the benefiting of his crops and livestock was in his best interests for profit making, enabling him to pay the rent, taxes and tithes and continue in perpetuity. However cheap the rents and benefits were compared to private farms, there are many on the estate that did not break even from year to year and remained in arrears and extreme poverty.
Although later not a feudal manor, they were in a sense held in bondage to the land courtesy of Baron Tredegar in the form of indentures. They being a powerful MPs, judges, sheriffs and landowners, albeit absent, it was not in their interest to trifle with a man of such stature in those times.
Although farming might have been advancing elsewhere, improvement of the uplands were often neglected especially in Wales. Palleg had the lowest crop returns in the county. Until the mid to late 1800s methods would have been very primitive, with wooden ox drawn ploughs, no chemicals and basic tools. This is detailed in a "furious" letter by Rev. Thomas Williams tenant of nearby Ynislas farm, dated 1842 to Lord Morgan, complaining of the poor state of Palleg.
He bemoans the large number of stones in the hedges, the unlimed, undrained fields and the lack of a wall on the Palleg sheep walk which meant his cattle could mix and be led astray for miles. He also complains that the vast mineral resources on the estate are not being exploited due to lack of decent roads. At his most vehement he describes the tenants as having not been pastored to or given farming advice by the Lord or his agents and described them all as "very poor and ignorant". He also stereotypes the woodsman as a "drunken vagabond". (Of interest to note that 2 years previously, this gun totting vicar was fawning to Lord Tredegar with promises of woodcocks, rare greyhound puppies and catching a poacher on Palleg, maybe his license got revoked).
Conversely in a report by Robert Young to Charles Morgan 1840, he reports the yearly profits of the Palleg Mill to be £2000, but the rent set at only £25 for many years. This may typify Lord Morgan as a busy gent with a hands off approach or little interest in farming, but large investments in poor upland farmland may not have been a priority for him, and keeping rents low and life simple for loyal tenants may have been socially advantageous in the politics of population control of the time. Methods of farming the uplands remained unchanged and successful for over 2000 years, so there was no immediate need to rush hastily into unfamiliar territory! It could appear that the 'advice' in the letter was it seems heeded, as coincidentally with the coming of the new ironworking process, Ystradgynlais expanded rapidly with most of Palleg farms being rebuilt and improved to feed the influx of workers.
Upland Farming from 1200
Visit Palleg today and you will see little change in the techniques of sheep rearing employed from the domestication of the first mouflons, but a vast change in the farming community. Every house, field, gate, road, thought and working hour were shaped towards the production and safe passage of its most valuable assets, wool and beef. It would not be an uncommon site 300 years ago to see the upper fields alive and swarming with white flocks. Technology has gradually aided the a farmer, but the numbers of sheep and people have dropped dramatically from a time whence it was all done by hand.
The year would start with the first festival of Easter and lambing time. All hands would be employed for the safe passage of the newborns into the world on the farms and the lower fields of the common. Then shorn, marked and dipped at Cwmfforchgwyn and Dorwen they would be left to fend for themselves on the uplands in June under the watchful eye of the ever present shepherds, the most diligent building 'hafodydd', summer houses on the moorland, essentially a hole in the ground, lined with dry stone walls and topped with turf, with the stars as their blanket.
The great drove in September would be the next big occasion. Men on their ponies and dogs would round up the furthest strays and bring them down to the upper field to a seething mass of 2500 sheep. Then, the great battle of dividing ownership, mother from lamb, stray from familiar. The strays (called jacks) left unclaimed from neighbouring parishes would incur a fine if not collected with in a certain period. Then if left unclaimed invite a little competition, they were let loose, and those farmers who caught them first would be the new owner. Many a friendly tussle was had.
Those males lacking breeding potential become wethers by castration and sent back to the moor. Prize rams are introduced to the breeding ewes for tupping. The older wethers and worn ewes were sent to market. They were often bought by drovers agents near the Lamb & Flag and then walked on foot on the drovers roads to the English markets via Brecon or up north via Llandovery. The wool was packed up and sent by trail ponies and donkeys to who knows where, but in 1812 there was a wool factory located near Llwyn y Moch farm west of Penywern, originally Felin Fach corn mill (these went into decline by 1850). The mainstay breed was the Welsh mountain sheep, kept in large numbers as they were prone to death and disease but later was supplemented with black faced and Cheviots from the north.
A same life in the year of the cattle could be told, but with less work. These were over wintered, initially in the longhouses, giving warmth to the occupants living in the other part. Later they would be penned in beast houses, being fed on hay stored in the longhouse lofts and root crops buried in mounds. They would be hand milked and that sold and a portion made into cheese and butter. Those sent out to the uplands in summer would mainly be steers and bulls, although it was not unknown for farmers to milk cows from the hafodydd. There was a limit on the number of cattle you could send to the moor. In 1877, it was 1 for every £4 of rent. Therefore, Cwmfforchgwyn could send 2, but Penrhiw, 16. Those who were marked to be sent to market would first be shoed at Tir y Gof, and droved by foot in the same manner as the sheep. Welsh Black was the preferred initial breed, dual purpose, later strengthened with Shorthorns, Hereford and Highland bulls as higher milk yields and better beef was demanded.
Horses were evidently reared here, the uplands described as winter ground for such. I can't imagine these being thoroughbreds, more likely colts, ponies and the like that could be broken in as pack horses, cart & harrow pullers and mounts. The burgeoning mines here from Elizabethan times would have demanded a strong trade in pit ponies. Waunllwyd was said by the owner to have had stables for such, and I believe also Brynhenllys.
Some may say it sensible to ignore the role arable played in the uplands, but it was an important supplement and mainstay of food and money for man and beasts during the winter. Oats, barley, wheat, hay, root crops, legumes and others were grown here, and from inference of the tithe demands even flax and hemp. It was not unknown to see a skilled ploughman up at 2 am carving a plough from felled wood, having the blacksmith fit a blade and then him taking his team of 2-8 or more oxen (castrated bulls) out, (until at least the mid 1800's), precision drilling several acres before sundown. It would be wrong to think of this as a single affair. This was a communal manor and so each farm would help the other in 'job trades'. Several teams of ploughmen might be seen working a field with children helping to lead the oxen. This is true also of the harvest, the great affair where all descended upon the fields with their half moon hand sickles at dawn to reap with care by hand and stack in piles of what would be works of art for drying. Oats would require further processing, each farm had a drying kiln for these, which later devolved to a communal dryer at Palleg mill.
I will also mention liming as this was also a skilful job. Many of the farms have marked near them 'limekilns'. The best surviving of these is at Penywern, described as 'medieval' It was basically a stone lined flue, into which broken lime rocks were filled, and heated slowly without direct contact from flames over several days. Later a simpler method of layering coal or wood alternately in stacks and burning would fill the valley with acrid smoke.
And these tasks were not done by the clock or the calendar. Work activity was governed by the weather and nuance of the head of the farm. These older experienced heads would wake early and find the day favourable for such and such a task and all hands would be up and out after their porridge until the task was complete. And there were many of them. With large families, sometimes of 10 children, with servants, serfs and hired labour from the fairs, all under his authority. He was the voice of reason and it was he who saw that they ate or starved, so no questions would be asked, corporeal punishment was not unknown. Not forgetting the farmers wife, who ruled in the house, the food production, cooking, cleaning and milking.
All cooking was by range, milking by hand, ploughing by ox, communication by letter, lighting by rush light. A gamble to sell produce at the markets of Ystradgynlais, Brynamman and Ystalyfera was taken by a cob and cart, but on the farm sleds (car llysg) were still used for haulage. And inevitably horses and machinery arrived, but very late in the uplands of Wales. Why rush things that had been done well by hand for 500 years?! Improving the land was a steady progress of liming, draining, clearing stones and copses and manure-ing via animal husbandry and its selective breeding. You will hear from the older farmers that mains services did not arrive on some farms until the late 1970's. But after 1850 mechanical machinery start to trickle in, this was the boom period for Ystradgynlais, and the heyday of the farmer.
Whatever quarrels, petty crimes, drunkenness, sheep stealing and incest that would be normally associated with isolated farms in the unenlightened period of "peasantry" I am sure went on within the estate. However, this was considered communal farmland with shared grazing land for over 2500 animals, so there had to be a some degree of trust, friendship and workmanship between the 25 or so families and their shepherds and labourers for it all to work. We can assume therefore that most were God fearing hard working Christians, and the other moiety contributing to the image of "the cider sodden county of Brecknock".
There were several times a year when most could amalgamate to re-forge old alliances or break new ones. The rural fairs, major attractions for selling home made wares, hiring of labour and dalliances between the prospective farmers' sons and daughters. The droves of sheep and cattle from the moors for sale and shearing. The big holiday, harvest time or Michaelmas saw pig slaughtering, folk dancing and on the lower scale drinking, cock fighting with a general good time for all those who had made a profit, coinciding with St Cynog's feast day on 7th Oct. Marriage was high on the agenda and might see at least half a day off with a feast. The Lord of the manor would arrange for a feast once a year which was stopped in 1765. Also in 1810 a procession was held between Palleg and Ynyscedwyn and again to the Great Forest of Brecknock, headed by the Lord with food and beer provided. It was called the Walk of Liberty by John Morgan in 1728, "We walked the possession about the Liberty of Palleg, Holy day Thursday 1728. We drank 2/6s in ale at Llwyn y Cwnstabl on the mistresses account". This was to familiarise with the boundaries of the estate and pray for its protection.
With most births deaths and marriages recorded in the Parish records, one would assume that many of the families were regular attendees of church and considered Christian. However the town church was Roman Catholic until the reformation of the 1540s, and the service held in Latin then English, the majority of the tenants were Welsh spoken as a first language, most often illiterate with no education other than that of the oral traditions, stories and know-how of their forefathers. There was usually a market and stocks right outside the church. The blacksmith was more patronised than the latter as a meeting place for 'religious debates' but more for the gossip and wisecracks. This evolved from the belief that the forging of metal was considered a magical art, the smith having supernatural powers, plus probably warmer than home. There is an echo of this favour in that the 'Commoners Committee' met at Tir y Gof from at least 1850.
This deficiency was addressed by Welsh Methodist preachers calling at farms to teach the gospel, initially illegal but allowed after the Act Of Toleration in 1689. This led to services at the farms of Maespica, Brynygroes and Gwern Yorath and later the establishment of Welsh chapels, which the farmers of Palleg funded and gave lands to. One may assume that some practised folk-religions not unlike Wicca, with traditions like the 'Marie Lwyd' the headless horse skull being paraded round the farms until at least the '70s. Although Christianity was widely accepted from Roman times.
We may consider that although free from the crowded squalor of the early town with access to clean mountain water they would be free of the range of diseases that abounded then. But living in large families with little privacy, often sharing a part with animals for warmth in cold stone built dark smoky houses, working dawn till dusk on a mostly oat, milk and vegetarian diet surrounded by animal and human ordure dumps would have taken its toll on the weak. This would be especial whence the plague and cholera passed through the area. Conversely sprightly farmers of 90 years could be seen droving their flocks in the summer, shepherds sleeping out in rough built huts on the moorland.
With limited access to doctors they would have either suffered illness or practised basic home made herbals remedies. A major injury would either mean death or a slow recovery, and those too infirm, mad or simply disliked for bad deeds would in certain limited circumstances be turned out of the farm and forced to wander.
John Morgan lists some typical remedies on the estate. "Jaundice in horses, given by William Williams 1759. Boil a handful of llyber clefyd melyn (celandine), wormwood, boxwood, ash tops, 12 garlic bulbs, ground ivy, and rue in 5 quarts of beer to 2/3 and give the horse 4 hornfuls for 4 days". Also; "A receipt given by Jones Doctor of Cardigan for William, son of my last wife. Take 2 handfuls tansy, valerian, verllus, llyssiau (vegetables) pound and boil in butter, strain. Rub over the skin to purify the blood". He also prescribed himself a similar recipe using feverfew and chamomile for his aching knee, "when walking down anywhere". Indeed the area had a long tradition of folk healing, the famous 'Physicians of Myddfai' near Llandeusant 12 miles north were often sought for cures from c.1177. They were learned monks who migrated from Strata Florida Abbey, sponsored by Lord Rhys of Deheubarth. Rhiwallan who was his personal physician and his three sons - Cadwgan, Griffith and Einon were given land in Myddfai and founded a centre for herbal healing and research.
Inevitably death would come for them all whatever their position or how much care they took of themselves. This was a solemn and serious occasion, an important event in life, a marked passage to live eternally with the ancestors. Bodies were taken to be cremated on the moor or buried under stone cairns. When this fell out of favour the churchyard became full, paupers were buried in a reusable communal coffin up until 1776. There was a superstition of corpse candles in the district, in that a strange blue light was sometimes seen to travel from the house of the pre-deceased to the graveyard, an omen of death. If not candles, then funeral processions could be seen marching over the hills to return those to the parish they were born but did not die in.
Was then life for those farm labourers a little more pleasant than the crowded, dirty, poverty of the town industrial workers which they often switched allegiance to on the promise of 3d extra a day? Endurance and patience it seems were rewarded only after 300 years of toil.
By all accounts we would consider the tenants as very poor and humble, illiterate, gnarl faced and Welsh spoken, with one or two suits or dresses for life, a pair of wooden clogs, some sparse household utensils and a milking cow or two. And in many cases this is a correct analysis, the term 'poor but happy' an oft used patronising simile bestowed upon the 'quaint mud hut dwellers'. It would be wrong to generalise however, as income from the Palleg Mill was said to be £2000 in 1840. In 1797 Thomas Morgan of Maespica bought a bond of £200 in shares in 'Gnoll Estates'. If a farmer had a means of making a greater profit from stock, trade or town employment he was free to do so, and many farmers were also learned poets, writers and preachers. Indeed, until 1850 there existed no town as such in Ystradgynlais. So each farmhouse was a centre of trade for secondary professions, such as Tir Y Gof the blacksmith; Caemawr the cobbler; Morgan Teilwr the tailor; Brynhenllys the court; Palleg Mill the flour mill. There also living and passing through were skilled tanners, leatherworkers, colliers, woodsmen, gamekeepers, charcoal burners, carpenters, builders, washerwomen, weavers, wool spinners, seamstresses, even door to door match and pin sellers.
These secondary service providers to the farms and manor lived in cottages. Typically these are depicted as rough and ready clay or stone with a thatched roof and not given any specific address, often with one room and a chimney. Others would travel from farm to farm living in lofts or outhouses. The solid build stone longhouses could be seen for many miles, they being lime washed and so bright they could "hurt the eyes". Inside, it was a complete contrast, a very dark, smoky, spartan interior would greet you with an ever boiling cauldron of stew, from whence the proverb 'pot luck' comes from, as they were only cleaned once a year. Lighting would be provided by rush light, the pith of a reed dipped in scalding grease, and foul smelling tallow candles were not unknown.
The head of these farms was considered a working man, beneath the gentry and Lords, but had a greater knowledge of the lay of the land and the best ways to proceed with stocks and crops, even thought that may not have been to his pecuniary benefit. He was respected as the natural leader of the number of field labourers and womenfolk under him, and he in turn was responsible for their well being and that of his 10 most immediate neighbours. He held the lease and the purse strings, had a reserved pew in the church and the court leet, so it was he who led the time of harvest or the great droves, and played the tunes to which they danced. Nothing was more important to the Welsh than their good name and so fought hard to maintain standards. If you want a modern equivalent, it would be worth observing the strict Amish communities of Pennsylvannia.
As for the Lord of the manor they were seldom seen, devolving power to their reeves, bailiffs and agents who could by evidence of letters 'put the frighteners' on those in arrears. The heavy handed approach never really enamoured the Welsh to them, who often rebelled as was their right against unrepresentative and absentee Landlords & Kings. The best chance of a glimpse of the Lord was at church where he sat in his sponsored seat, maybe in the gallery. The weekly hunt after service was always popular helping to strengthen ties between all the classes. The hounds of Ynyscedwyn galloping over the moors was by evidence a scary sight for criminals hiding away in their cairns. Fox hunting of course was an echo and perpetuation of the primitive right to hunt game, successively the great aurochs, wolves, wild boar, deer and grouse until nothing much remained at the end of the 1900's but a vast wilderness with scattered 'vermin'. An analogy of the hunt that best sums up the feelings of those participating is by Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster, c.1354 "A sinfull heart is like a fox in a hole into which the conscience is driven like a terrier to corner the beast, the sin." 170
Benjamin Thomas, farm hand, Cwmfforchgwyn
Roger Rogers, woodsman, Tir Roger
Richard Owen, farmer, Penllwyn Teg
John Morgan, gent, Fforchorllwyn
Price Family, minor noble, Glynllech
The story of serfs and labourers are often untold in biographies, only because their sphere of influence did not stretch beyond the 60 acres they were allotted to. I have great pleasure in undermining this tradition by telling the story of Benjamin Thomas, good citizen and farm hand on Palleg. His diaries from 1894-1936 give an eye into the simple hard working farm life at the tail end of the Industrial Revolution.
Benjamin Thomas was born in 6th June 1876. From the 1881 Census we glean that he was foster child to Evan and Jane Thomas, farm tenants of Cwmfforchgwyn since 1867, family research suggest they came from Carmarthen. Whether he was the child of a close relative or had his name changed, we'll probably never know. He attended Tanyrallt School in Pontardawe, which was a daily walk of 5 miles each way. A bridge was built over the river Giedd using two railway sleepers and planks so he could cross dry, the sleepers now sag across. Welsh was his first language but was taught in the English medium, which in his schoolbooks appears to be fairly fluent by '94. His diaries are less so, but by 1930s he writes only in English in which he is competent. The lessons in his final years were basic maths, geography, some Welsh poetry, literature and an emphasis on morals, such as cleanliness, hard work, thrift and faith. His 'work experience' entailed visiting the local railway works to see how wagons were made, and a 'Wild Beast Show' where he was "quite intimidated" by the lions & tigers behind iron bars.
A humorous maths problem posed him was "How long will 8,050 oxen and 14,006 sheep...last a besieged city of 1,000,048 people...each allowed 2 ounces of meat per day?". His teacher Mr Samuel gives him a pass in the '6th Standard' in 1894 and a reference to become an errand boy. In that year he turns 16, and officially given his first wage on the farm as a labourer by his father. It is from then he kept his first work diary until 1899.
They are remarkably innocent and give little details of his personal feelings and thoughts. But we can gather that he worked hard from dawn till dusk for at least 300 days of the year on Palleg farm estate. (He took off a month for influenza in May 1894). Every Sunday was spent in Chapel, in the afternoon Sunday School and in the evening Chapel again. We may infer that as Capel Yorath was nearby he was a member of such, but no mention is made of his chosen denomination, his daughter appears to have been Baptist. He notes certain sayings and passages of the teachings down, but more than often he records the current 'joke of the week'. Examples of which are:
"I'll give you two oranges if you tell me where god is!";|
"I'll give you two oranges if you tell me where he is not!"
"Excuse me sir can I come into the fair for sixpence?";
A fat man on a full train asks a boy, "Why he does not give his seat up to a young lady?"
The details on farming activity remark at nothing extraordinary, but certainly confirm the typical life in the day on the estate. He first begins as a shepherd, droving sheep between the farms and on the Black Mountains. He had his own team of dogs, in 1897 he won 3rd prize in the 1st class category of the sheep dog trials at Tredeg. As he gets to be known on the estate and becomes stronger he is involved with shearing, dipping, carting coal, lime and stones, taking animals to the blacksmith (one of my distant cousins, Richard Owen at Pentwyn Gwys), reaping hay, repairing walls, lifting potatoes, mending the public roads. He mentions working on most of the farms on the estate in turn, including Tyhwnt, Fforchorllwyn and Cwmgors nearby. It suggests that he was a farm hand for the estate, but he receives a regular wage from his father.
His salary was approximately 20 shillings a week, which at the end of 1898 was £1/20, say around £100 a year (approx £6,000 in 2005). Certainly enough pocket money to buy weekly treats. A Sunday suit would have cost him £2. But I'm sure he certainly saved hard due to the relative poverty of the farming community, which was made up for by the clean living hard working lifestyle.
Cwmfforchgwyn, or Cilcet as he regularly calls it was a small isolated farm on the edge of the Black Mountains. With no public services or roads it would have been a very gentle, atmospheric, if not desolate and unforgiving environment. He notes on several occasions he could not work because of the sheet rain and gale force winds. It was only in 1897 that a stone track way was laid to the farm, allowing him to travel with his pony and gambo a little easier. That farm and road today is a total ruin, abandoned around 1980. It is difficult to tell what sort of house it was. It was not a longhouse, and does not appear to have been rebuilt in the mid 1800s as were all of the other farms. But at least 3 older ruins exist close to them, one being a 'medieval longhouse'. One may infer therefore that this site had some sort of dwelling from the earliest times.
He mentions having several pigs cows and horses on the farm, but very few, the largest flock of sheep he records for dipping in 1896 include 161 sheep and 67 lambs. The lambs went for 5s a head, the older wethers 14/4s, mature sheep for 18/6. He sold 35 wethers at the Lamb and Flag Inn in 1899, which is where dealers and farmers would meet, it being on the old drovers road to Brecon. That sale fetched £24 (paid by a cheque) and would just about covered his father's rent and food bill for the year.
After his father became ill in 1902, his mother, sister and himself aged 25 were left running the farm for one more year. There is a Benjamin Thomas listed as running Penybont farm from 1896 to 1902, but if this is him, he does not mention it in his diaries. So maybe he could not handle the expense of running two farms alone and abandoned the lease and moved to a rented house, 34 Pelican Street in the town around the time of his fathers death in 1905.
But despite the impecuniousness of his position, he managed to take 'siarabàngs' with the chapel. He took a weekend in Aberystwyth in '94, a weeks holiday in Llanwrtydd in '95, the Eisteddfod in '97, a visit to Swansea by train in '99 and regularly walked to the fairs of Ystradgynlais, Ystalyfera and Neath. He probably met his fiancee on these outings or at the chapel as he married Elizabeth Smith in
A poem by his hand may have wooed his future wife.
|'Englyn gan Benjamin Thomas'||'Poem by Benjamin Thomas'|
Nadolig llawen i chwi gyd
Merry Xmas to you all|
From the clean loving boy
Everyone knows I love the little beauties
If the years go to seed
Oh! don't loose heart
You'll catch them before you're a hundred
They'll run to worship you
|Benjamin Thomas, Xmas 1894|
The family in 1911 included his daughter Sarah Jane Tirzah Thomas aged 3 (later Harries, she became a schoolteacher in the district). Benjamin was then still working as a farm hand occasionally on Brynygroes, Rhywfawr, Penrhos and Penparc farms but also took regular work in the Afon & Diamond colliery, working for the council and gardening, later living at 20 Pelican Street.
He complains of being 'bad' at certain periods, this when he was 60, what illness we know not, but serious enough to claim 'sickness benefit' a useful pay out when work was slack. To qualify for this benefit he had to pay regularly for 'stamps' which were glued into National Health Insurance & Unemployment books. He regularly visited the 'labour exchange' in Ystalyfera looking for men to take him on, this when the coal industry was on the wane. He later diversifies taking in a lodger John Smith, who on 6th Oct 1938 is given a 24 hours notice to quit, maybe they didn't get on, but they seem to have resolved matters as he died in the house in 1950, he was probably the brother to his wife.
In 1942, aged 66 he starts work felling trees for a timber merchant at Tyrwern, Seven Sisters. Fortune does not favour the hard working on this occasion as a tree falls on his head for which he suffers concussion and broken ribs, for which he is attended by a 'lady doctor'. He was probably active and working in some capacity until his death in 1954 aged 78.
This would be a typical story for many 'working class' men who left the farms for the promise of regular wages, civility and amenities
during the Industrial Revolution. Although his hard working apprenticeship on the farms left him in rude health and ability to turn
his hand to all trades, I wonder how much happier he would have been not having the promise of regular work and the affinity of the
farm, with it's tranquillity.
Benjamin Thomas Family Tree
In the toponymy of farmed land from the earliest times, we find that it is often named for legal purposes after the original owner. For example in very early Ynyscedwyn leases of 1564 "Tyr (land of) John David Goch" was granted by them. Often than not it is renamed through changing owners. Not such is the case with Tir Roger near Henglyn Uchaf farm on the very east edge of Palleg Manor. On the 1845 & 1868 estate map we see a small portion of land, 4 acres, Tir Roger, marked in bright red, this is too small to be noted in the rent books as a farm. In the 1781 estate survey the area is called 'Ynys a'r lan yr afon' - 'Island on the river shore', part of Henglyn Uchaf farm. It is not included in the OS map of 1812 but mentioned in the 1844 tithes as being in the ownership of Lord Tredegar, and rented to Roger Rogers. Therefore we surmise that this small parcel of land was originally carved from the woods when Roger Rogers was appointed a woodsman c.1834 (his son John born here in 1835), we assume for the Palleg estate, as he is listed so in the 1841 census, and he built a house there with his crafting skills, and so honoured the land with his namesake.
He was born in or around Defynnock about 1791, although no specific baptism can be attached to him, it is assumed from current research that he MAY have been the son of a Howell Rogers who somehow acquired the ancient estates of Blaenlevenny (or Blaenllyfni near Pencelli), leaving it to a son Roger Rogers. If he WAS the son of Howell, it is not know what happened to that wealth as Roger became an innkeeper of the Redcow Inn, Cwmdwr near Llywel from around 1830. This was directly on the busy coach route & drovers road from Carmarthenshire to Gloucester via Brecon. From Llywel the coaches had to grind up a steep hill (often pulled by oxen) to reach Halfway House inn on the Carmarthen border, the Red Cow inn was suitably placed on this hill, giving a welcome break. The original house still exists.
He lived at the time when one of the first cases of near fatal drunk driving accidents occurred not 5 miles from his pub, where a monument commemorates the event just outside Llandovery, called the 'Mail Coach Pillar'. Edward Jenkins on 19th February 1835, intoxicated (maybe he had stopped for a tipple at the Redcow) was hurtling down the hill in his mail coach with 6 horses to Llandovery, swerving to avoid a cart, flew off a precipice 121 feet down and dashed it to pieces on an Ash tree. The 6 people inside were unhurt. Roger married in Llywel church to Ann Williams from Llandeilo in 1830, age 40, not so far away and had 2 sons Howell and William here. We believe that there was some connection to the Morgan family regards land in Devynnock and so this is why he is offered the post of woodsman on Palleg, and that he invested in building the longhouse of Tir Roger, also renting land from Ynyscedwyn later in 1847 to build Llwynbedw cottages and developing a nursery for Larch trees, there is a marked increase in conifer plantations around the Cwmgiedd area from 1845-'01. I have no doubt that with his previous skill as an innkeeper he is also a brewer of ale supplying the 40 pubs in the Ystradgynlais district.
The Giedd river, despite its peaceful sounding name was apt to violently flood. A living descendant of the family remembers around the 1930's hearing a great roaring sound, and seeing the stream in a great brown boiling mass sweeping through Tir Roger farmland, later floods washed away part of the smithy, trees and land. According to census transcribers the family lived in an inn called 'Hue & Cry' in 1851 at the end of Pelican street, later maps suggest it could have been the Butchers Arms, and that they were housed here to escape one of these floods.
James Price the rent agent in 1843 advocated to Lord Morgan by letter that as the "considerable new (tree) plantations" on Palleg estate were finished, a woodward should be hired at 20s a year. As Roger is already living on Palleg by 1835, we assume that he was planting those trees. Caring for the whole of the woods on Palleg estate was indeed a task at that time, it being in the period of industrial boom. There would have been great demand for charcoal-coppice for the ironworks, pit props - structural timber for the mines, railway sleepers, the vast number of new houses in the town. Each farm on Palleg was to be rebuilt over the next 40 years requiring huge beams. Wood had to be transported using 10 oxen (at least to mid 1800s) per tree, and each one sawn down and shaped by hand. The 23 farms also had to be maintained and would need wood for ploughs, doors etc. Additionally, theft of wood was a crime demanding corporal punishment, so hard days nights would be had I'm sure.
Some did not take so much delight in this hard work, Rev. Thomas Williams of Ynislas farm nearby in 1842 described the woodward of Palleg as a "drunken vagabond" in his complaint about the state of Palleg to Lord Tredegar. If assuming Roger was the ONLY woodward on the estate, that's a hefty charge and insult. Hopefully he never got to see that letter. James's letter of 1843 is confusing for the fact that we know Roger is working as a woodward in 1841, and there is mention of a woodward in 1842, so maybe he meant a professional and not a tree planter, unless of course there is the slight possibility of him working for Ynyscedwyn estates while renting from Tredegar.
Roger dies in 1858 age 67 of jaundice. This has many causes, but considering the less than salubrious manner in which his neighbour describes his conduct, and the fact that he was previously an innkeeper, we may assume that the demon drink got to him in the end. He leaves a contested will, which haunts and fuels a family feud for 50 years, with everyone moving out of Tir Roger, the cause no doubt made difficult by his property being on land rented to Lord Tredegar AND Lord Gough. In 1881, £300 (£14,493 in 2005) is paid out to his wife, but she too dies intestate in 1884. In 1889 his 2nd eldest son William receives £66 and part of the property and £100 to his 3rd eldest John. But then William dies in 1902 unmarried, leaving it to his sister Margaret who had married a John Hughes. John Rogers contested this and Llwynbedw cottages are eventually left to him in 1911. However another bitter court case ensues between the two Johns in 1912, leading to press coverage. John Rogers then dies in 1914, allowing John Hughes again to contest it.
John Rogers seems to have been burning the wick at both ends, as he is a moulder in the ironworks for 30 years but listed (conveniently for the case above) as an estate agent from 1890. Whence, by liaison with Benjamin Laugharne Thomas, an accountant from Carmarthenshire marrying his eldest daughter, and his wife Catherine Bevan's influence with the Morgan family (said to have nursed their children), they became land agents for Tredegar Estates and therefore instrumental in the valuing of farms for the auctioning off of Palleg Manor in 1915. His list of typewritten valuations ironically contains his own families (rented) house & land, Tir Roger at £750, described as a 'new house' with 'old outbuildings', we can assume therefore that Lord Tredegar rebuilt the house after Rogers death, as is common to all the Palleg farms at this time. So with a strong influence within Tredegar Estates and knowledge of property law on their side, the John Roger side of the family seem to have 'won' the case eventually, also acquiring Tir Roger as did every other tenant their farms under 'private treaty', which I am sure he was negotiate to, before the cancelling of the public auction.
Benjamin was also the coroner for Brecon, under sheriff of Breconshire, and co farmed Pensarn farm with the Daniels of Henglyn from the auction date so this might explain where the legal finances came from. He was also active within the local conservative club, with connections to the local police force and ran a 'Friendly Society' from Tir Roger to 1916, a community group whereby individuals paid a monthly fee in return for insurance and sickness payments when needed. Cub scout groups were regularly welcomed at Tir Roger for camp weekends, and he also being Clerk to the Governor of Maesnewydd school, rent agent for Craig Y Nos, with regular prizes for 'best dairy cow' at the local summer fairs makes him appear very well connected and busy man. Indeed he is described as "one of the best known figures in the Upper Swansea Valley" in 1916.
There appears only one mark on his character, in that he appeared before Y'gynlais police court in 1916 charged with watering down his milk, as it was found deficient in fat by 1% in a random test. Watering down milk or abstracting fat before sale was quite a common practice before the days of the Milk Board on farms that had no Court Leet to set standards. Milk was often sold 'at the gate' fresh, warm and unpasteurised. In this case however it is assumed that it was caused by a deficiency in the cow, the case dismissed and he ordered to buy a new one.
Tir Roger is described in the 1915 auction catalogue as being on 9 acres 29 perches with access to Palleg sheepwalk, "a brick built house, 12 rooms, outhouse stone and stone slated with pig sty, stable and hay loft and a good garden." (stone slates indicates a longhouse built pre 1840), "It is in the tenancy of B.L. Thomas at £45 a year, with notice to quit".
The area in which the family live is called Ynys Bedw, Ynis Isa, Ynis House, Henglyn Ynys in the census from 1861-01. The term Ynys (island) is given as Tir Roger and the land they bought/leased south of it, is isolated between two farms, and geographically between woods and the river Giedd and the B road. The 1900s map of the area suggests about 4 houses on this 'island', with a smith. That could explain why 3 related families are listed in the census as being at 'Ynis House'. Howell the eldest son is found as the blacksmith, probably hand making tools for farmers and the local ironmongers.
The grand-daughter of the family born 1924 (90 yrs in 2014) moved to St. Brides near Bridgend in 1961 and named her house as Palleg in memory. The family still owns Tir Roger to this day, although the old longhouse is demolished, with whose assistance and personal records made this story possible.
Roger Rogers Family Tree
The first records we find, of my most distant relation with the name Owen (7th generation) show a Richard of Ystradgynlais being born illegitimately to an Owen Griffith and Mary Morrice on the 13th March 1762 on Pensarn farm. Due to traditional patronymic naming, he is given the first name of his father as a surname. The Griffith portion of the name passed down through the family at Pensarn probably from around 1500, Griffith Thomas is his grandfather, Thomas Griffith g.grandfather. He is persuaded by changing customs, laws and ease of tax collectors sanity to establish the prefix Owen for future generations. His mother seems not to be native of Ystradgynlais. The only possible reference I have found to her is a William Morrice being the cartographic surveyor of Palleg & Breconshire estate (completed in 1782).
The 77 acre farm Pen-y-sarn was leased on the Palleg Estate, on the provision that 3 lives were given to its running. In lease details of 1791 only his father and aunty Margaret are remaining and she had already been married off to Hopkin Richard of Tredeg farm in 1753. So upon his father's death in 1793, Richard as the eldest son 'inherited' the lease on the farm. Under the informally recognised traditions of Welsh law, being a bastard did not preclude you from this precedence. I have no doubt he proved and pleaded his case well with the Palleg tenant's court and Landlord's agents. He also married a local farmer's daughter, Ann William in the same year, for which he pays 2 shillings in an ancient amobr tax to Lord Morgan. There were at least 6 Williams families on the estate and so this also would have put him in good standing. Additionally in that year was said to be a 'minor famine' due to wet weather, so maybe no cake at the wedding feast.
Penllwyn Teg, the farm next door is being run at this time by a Margaret Rees, widow. In 1801 she happens to die without issue, leaving him an opportunity to run the 2 farms for a few years. By 1804 he has passed the running of Pen-y-sarn to Griffith Owen, his younger brother, and is solely running Penllwyn Teg proper.
Penllwyn Teg, was an average farm of 68 acres, just to the NW of Ystradgynlais. Glancing at estate maps of 1868 it looked to be a typical single storey long-farmhouse of the area, parallel to it a beast pen for 10 cows. It was geared for sheep & cattle raising, he also maintained allotments, woods, streams and a small cottage which was utilised by farm workers and later close family, Griffith William a miner with a large family sublet the Pentwyn Teg cottage from around 1835-1849. One would assume Richard also had a flock of geese and a pig or two, and was allowed to small amounts of wood, lime, coal and peat from the moor.
Working conditions, food and clothing would indeed have been basic with a small income, his illiteracy and Welsh tongue hampering further progress, but enough to raise 6 children in a Christian household, which was wholly Welsh speaking. We can imagine bare stone floors, tiny windows, a coal fire, scarcity of wooden furniture, and a daily meal (quoting from Samuel Pepys) of oat gruel, turnip soup, coarse bread, milk, with the luxury of bacon meat maybe once a fortnight, and the produce from the allotments. There was no piped water, gas, electricity (until at least 1970 on parts of the estate) and everything was done by hand or by horse and oxen. If the children did receive any education it would have been at one of the farms nominated in succession, with visiting 'circuit teachers', and in the Sunday School.
We can calculate his possible profitable earnings to being around £100 in 1800 in a good year (£3,217 in 2005) based on cattle sales,
rent books and tax% of the period. When we say 'good year' we mean those without animal disease, crop failures and typhoid outbreaks.
I would consider that he broke even in most years due to the latter and fluctuating prices. 12 pence = 1 shilling. 20 shillings = £1.
|1800 Possible Yearly Outgoings Pen-y-sarn (£,s,p)|
|1798 Land Tax||£ 0.05.2|
|1800 Farm Rent||£ 5.04.6|
|(1844) Tithe Tax||£ 3.00.6|
|Income Tax||£ 0.13.2|
|Labour x3 men||£ 30.00.0|
|Plough boy||£ 23.00.0|
|Wear & Tear||£ 5.00.0|
|Children, food, clothing||£ 20.00.0|
|1800 Possible Yearly Income Pen-y-sarn (£,s,p)|
|Cattle sold to dealer £5 x 10||£ 50.00.0|
|Wether sold to dealer £0.4.6 x 50||£ 12.05.0|
|Wool fleece 300 x 10d a lb x 270lb||£ 27.00.0|
|Pigs, eggs, milk, cheese, hay etc||£ 30.00.0|
|Oats 4s a bushel. 48b per acre||£115.02.0|
|Possible Profit 1800||£ 115.18.0 (£3,728.50 in 2005)|
|*(Rent was based on acreage and included an annuity, payable at Michaelmas (29 September, end of harvest). Income Tax was 1 shilling to the pound of the total rent of the estate. Tithe Tax is based on 1844 figures and is 10% of the potential return of the 7 year average price of the main crop, based on arable land total, prior to 1800 10% of the actual physical crop was paid in kind. Cattle numbers based on the 10 stall barn on the farm, 26 acres of pasture = 20 cows and them producing at tops 10 calves a year. Sheep, with 4000 acres of common grazing land I assume at least 200 sheep. 12 acres arable, oats, barley (possibly turnip). 2 pigs, 10 geese, 3 dogs, 2 horses. Plough team, harvesters, lime, coal, wood, manure and building material would probably be provided by the estate at discount or bargained for locally).|
We can assure that he was better off than most, in fact privileged in some respects, as he was allowed to vote in 1835. The 1832 Electoral Reform Act extended the right to vote to include certain leaseholders and householders. This gave 5% of adults a vote. This entitlement granted as he sub let a property and the farm was classed as freehold.
Richard was farming at the time of the agricultural revolution from 1750-1850, which saw a trebling of the population thanks to crop rotation with turnips and clover, improved drainage, high yield crops like wheat and barley and land reclamation. Although I do not know the true extent of its effects and improvements on the estate, we can assume he felt the impact of it.
In 1849 he is forced to retire. The original 1747 lease had expired and none of his sons wished to carry it on. At the age of 88 this might have come as a blessing. He surrenders the lease of Penllwyn to a Samuel Griffiths seen there in 1851, who was probably a distant cousin. William Owen the eldest son rents a small parcel of land close to Penllwyn in 1847 (a huge sealed indenture from Sir Morgan commemorates that) and rebuilds a house, Ty-y-wain, with his skill as a sawyer. This generous son takes in his old father into his new home. And I doubt he was idle. However our founder dies of general decay aged 89 (documents record 91), after lodging there over the winter of 1851. Apart from William his eldest, his sons are not involved in farming ever again (a few of his daughters married local farmers). They prevail mainly in industry and involvement with the chapel.
The loss of a farm and the turning away to the black trade would be considered by many as a fall from grace, a great shame. Consider though the extreme poverty and lack of ambition, living on the poorest land of the district. 'civilising' ones self by moving to town and assisting the poor, misguided and uneducated through the chapel would be considered a better goal than sitting with sheep for another 100 years.
Richard is recorded as being buried in the old graveyard of St. Cynog's which was probably cleared during the rebuilding of the church
in 1861. However many of his descendants are buried in the Capel Yorath graveyard, a stones throw from Penllwyn.
Richard Owen's Pedigree (1670-2014)
As a gentleman and educated man his services were much sought after in this poor district. He was an intermediary between the noble and tenant. This role was fulfilled by collecting rent, keeping accounts, collecting taxes, witness, advocate and solicitor in legal matters, upholding the laws of the manor, amateur vet and doctor, letter writer, overseer of the poor and minor patron of the church. As a side-dish he also ran his farm at Fforchorllwyn and also owned Henclawdd (Tir Y Cwm) and Gwaunclawdd farms, and traded cordwood from Palleg with the first iron masters.
Born around 1690 he is the direct descendent of Richard Jenkin Awbrey and Gladys Morgan Games (m.1470), the ancestors of the Ynyscedwyn Awbreys. He married first Mari Williams, then Margaret Williams, siring 11 children. His diaries cover the period from 1725-1765 whence he was employed as a land agent for Palleg under Anna Maria Hughes, her daughter Anne Maria Williams, step-son Edward Williams all of Llangattock, then Thomas Morgan of Ruppera, to whom there MAY be a connection through his children marrying Morgans.
I can imagine that he attended a church college as his collection of books (including those of his children) contain classics on spiritual, religious, legal, grammatical and poetical themes and those in Latin, Welsh and English. As for his knowledge of Welsh, he lived dealt and traded with 1st language speakers on the farm on a daily basis, but his spelling of Welsh words is mainly in the English vernacular. His Welsh books include those on deep matters of faith and religion. There is also in the beginning of his diary a lengthy poem signed as penned by him in Welsh (included in Poetry section below).
From this list of 'books lent out' we can see he was well acquainted with gentry and nobles of the area, Powell, Morgan, Awbrey, Herbert, Gethin, Popkin all listed. He has copied word for word marriage licences, wills, matters of the poor and leases so we can see he had access to legal offices of the church and court. These omit names and places. Therefore I believe he used them as examples when writing up contracts for the people of the district, as a kind of solicitor-advocate. He would have been well known and respected and therefore trusted in these matters. Indeed he had to be as large amounts of money were passing through his hands from rents, sale of cordwood and charcoal on the estate.
He has two very interesting lists in the diary. That of the rebuilding of the mill from scratch (see Palleg Water Mill) and the partial rebuild of the church of Ystradgynlais. Added to that we see a a large amount of tree clearance and a general repairing of many of the Palleg farms from 1725-35. This may indicate that the area could have become neglected and spoiled after the Civil War and plague (who knows maybe many people were executed), they certainly were so spoiled by Anna Maria & James Hughes according to the 1717 Court Case (see Morgan, Hughes & Williams Ownership.) In 1731 rates of £11.14 were collected and spent fitting a new roof, tile floor, and belfry tower in the town church. This included orders for 1300 tiles, 15 loads? of lead, 600 lathes, 100 tiles and 20 loads of lime and killing of four hedgehogs, a 'wild catte' and ravens.
His 'receipts' for veterinary cures, given to him by various doctors and people in the district are very basic traditional remedies, which in some cases I am sure were effective and cheap. Lice on cattle were dealt a mix of butter and tar. Horses with worms had part of their palate cut, the swallowed blood was said to kill them. Swelling in sheep and lambs was easily cured by "pissing" in their mouths. Doctors were few and far between in the rural districts and so folklore medicine was practised. His son seems to have suffered from some malady of the blood as he treats him for that and also prescribes himself an ointment for his knee which gave him trouble when walking downhill, I'm sure he did plenty of that.
He was diplomatic regarding matters on the estate. Cattle and sheep were well known to stray from different common lands in the summer, and were impounded under Forest laws until a fee was paid, this was the case for many centuries. In 1765, in a letter to John Hughes, who may be some sort of new Great Forest official, he explains these matters and advocates that grass be given for grass as it was impossible without a fence to stop strays from wandering. This may have been to resolve matters of over zealous impounding of cattle. In other matters he used his status to try and gain leases of farms, (for Brynhenllys see Crime & Punishment), but also wanted Cwm Fforch Gwyn as a place for his personal shepherd. There is no evidence he gained either, but certainly leased other farms in the area. He was very active on Palleg manor overseeing the cutting of the cordwood that was sold off to the surrounding pits and the ironworks in Ynyscedwyn and 'Fforest' near Llansamlet. Some of those trees were delivered by him personally to the farms for beams, great harrows, small harrows, coffins, doors, arnoddion (plough beams), oxen drags etc
His historic family home, Fforchorllwyn is a longhouse farm which dates to at least the mid 1600's. Described in 1972 as being unusual in that the byre was longer than the living quarters, a hall, which served as kitchen, bedroom and living area. They presumably slept in 'bed-cupboards' or in a hanging loft. A parlour with fire and staircase were added around John's time. A dairy, porch and new gables were built in the Victorian period. In 1746 he writes of having 39 acres 132 perches of meadows, that may not include his arable land. His furniture was probably sparse, but definitely included a clock, as he bought one for 37/6 shillings from William Morgan of Cwmamman in 1751, for which he paid 2/s each year for its upkeep.
He gives no personal opinions, insight or details of his private life in the book. But we can gather from its content that he was an
honest, hard working man, trusted and well known in the area. His education, private study and Christian faith led him to be
compassionate and fair, but firm with matters of disobedience of the law. At the end of his life, in one of his last letters of July
1771, aged around 80, he asks to be pardoned for his spidery writing as he is suffering from intermittent "ague", and "dare not come
to the (Brecon?) fair, less it return". This indicates a fever of some sort that could have a myriad of causes, but obviously was the
death of him.
John Morgan, Fforchorllwyn, Family Tree 1500-1800
The Price family, originally Rees, descend from the union between Welsh nobles Rees Vaughan and Llywela Jeffrey, they buying Glynllech farm in 1674, resided there for many centuries. Howell Price, his son Walter, and grandson James were sequentially rent agents on Palleg from around 1772 to 1860. They were an influential family in the area, and some of that I will brush off here.
Howell Price 1720-1808
Howell Price born 1720, married Maragret Williams of Llwynywormwood, Myddfai in 1745, siring 5 children. As a gent he inherited several farms, and Llech mill, and is concerned with their running and is mentioned several times as involved in the mortgages and leases of land by Gwyn and Ynyscedwyn estates.
The notebooks he left us 1758-66 tell us of a very busy man. His activities and responsibilities include selling and buying of livestock, timber, leather, coal, lime, crops, cloth in the district and at the fairs Trecastle, Camarthen, Neath, Brecon, London. So much travel did he do, his shoes seem to wear out constantly, as he is buying a new pair almost every month. He and his wife seems also to have been well dressed as he buys wool silk and cotton often, including plenty of hats, handkerchiefs and gloves. His wife and workers were spinners and seamstress as they bought and sold cloth regularly in large quantities, 5 yards at a time, almost 5 metres, suggesting that he may have had tailors working for him and ran a local fashion shop. He has a typical diet of milk, cheese, meat, bread, salt.
Some terms I was unsure of the meaning of including '17 pace of tapps for tapping 10s'. These relate to the metal studs in wooden shoes, he may have run a small cobblers business from Caemawr, as he mentions shoes so often, but it is easy to confuse this with shoeing of cattle 'shoes to Neath 3s' is ambiguous. Also 'pendrill' possibly a Welsh name for a crop. He also spent 4 days 'mitching' in 1762, which I am pretty sure means the same as it does today, to skulk and mooch about doing nothing in particular.
He spent 2 weeks lime burning in 1762 at a nearby kiln, making 263 loads in two weeks. I consider a load to be one basket upon a pack horse, that's a considerable amount, and would require at least a train of 10 horses per day to transport a distance. Some typical prices include:
2 pigs for 12s
A bushel of acorns
71lb of pendrills 2p a lb
Pair of shoes 5s
Iron from Ynyscedwyn furnace
Built new house by mill, 14th Jan 1761
Had a leather apron & saddle bags made
Hog 4s. |
20 lambs 2d each
2 stone of wool 7/2d
Sent 62 butters to London
Bogberries (probably bilberry) 10s
66 bushels of barley
Shoeing oxen 4/6d
Took 2 bullocks, 4 heifers and
3 horses to Carmarthen fair
Howell Price, Notebook, 1758-66 148
He had an active social life in that he attended Coelbren church, but also played cards and 'went dancing', who knows possibly
court dancing in Ynyscedwyn house. He mentions of being part of the various 'clubs' including Gwenllian's, Richard Taylor's (the
tailor) and Watkins, I believe these were trade clubs to discuss new fashions and farming techniques of the day.
It speaks of a well connected hard working farmer and trader who seems to have made a good deal of money from his negotiations. A verse
floating around at the time he seems to have enjoyed, he wrote it down twice:
This is in fact a single couplet from Alexander Pope's often quoted 'The Rape of the Lock' published 1714. It refers to a lock of hair snipped from Arabella Fermor by admirer Robert, Lord Petre. She and her family were much offended and set out for revenge, but they try to appeal to her sense of virtue and humour which would outlast any damage done by 'venting the spleen'. It is "a humorous indictment of the vanities and idleness of 18th-century high society". The language and references are hard to decipher, but from what I can gather is that the spleen at the time was said to be the seat of passion and rage in men, hence the term, venting your spleen. It has here the meaning that uncontrolled passion could result in maids getting 'unwanted attention', hence they call for corks to bottle it!
As a prominent and respected man in the district, he is headhunted by Charles Morgan in around 1775 to become the rent agent for Palleg. This he does not mention in the diaries above, but I believe would have put double the workload upon him, and this could not be done by one man alone, so I would consider he was in charge of a substantial body of men and women. He also was a foreman of a local colliery at the time, confessing that he followed a line of coal for 15 fathoms before running out in 1776. With this letter he sent a freshly caught hare that "yielded very fine sport" to Sir Charles Morgan.
His other son Rice Price on the 28th February 1766 having been abroad for 5 years sailed for Ireland from Neath with Captain John Garrett on the ship Providence of Pillafourza. Capt John was of noble descent of a family of traders from Ballabroole, Sulby, on the Isle of Man. This was 20 years after the great famine of Ireland and a time of boom in trading. Therefore with all this hard work, appointments, inheritance and trading connections, one believes he left a substantial sum to his son Walter after his death in 1808, presumably at Cefn Coed farm.
Walter Price 1749-1834
Watkin, or Walter Price his son born 1749, married Gwenllian Jones of Ystradfellte 1782, siring 9 children. He was a man of some wealth. His diaries do exist from 1782-9, but were last in the private hands of Colin Morgan, Glanrhyd. While not farming Glynllech and organising affairs on Palleg estate he also ran Dorwen sheep farm for a short period 1791-9. He owned farms and land which he rented out in Girnfawr and Porth Gwyn in Ystradfellte. Blaengwrthid in Llanspythid (outside Brecon). Tyr Howell John and Noyadd Fach, Tredomen, Tyr y cae, Cae da Griffith, Penyvole in Devynnock. Llech Grist (corn) Mill, Tonspyddadin, Penygraig, Bachy Gwrnddin, Tyr y Corslwyns and Rhyd y ffobodu, Blaenllech, Henrhyducha, Henrhyd Isaf, Cefn yr Erw, Cefn y Coed in Ystradgynlais. He is described as exclusively owning most of the upper parish of Ystradgynlais, which had many minerals beneath. An inventory of his accounts for end of 1787 includes:
|Walter Price Inventory 1787|
150 cattle worth £150 |
10 horses, £50
200 sheep, £60
Llech Mill income, £6
Rent In, £50
Corn sold, £35.
Butter sold, £15
Spare cash, £35
Walter Price, Diary, 1787 150
He was a conscientious husbandman and like his father he burnt lime for the fields. In 1781 he paid the communal limekiln worker David Thomas 10d a day to produce 373 loads, using up 120 loads of small coal hauling them by horse at 130lb per pannier. Further testimony of the burden of beasts are that in 1785 Penyvole farm roof had to be replaced, and so 98 oxen were used to hall timber to the farm, 10 oxen were used for each tree. They were shod by a Wili Morgan the smith, and this kind of communal work on his estate could be paid for by cash, favours, food or in one case the "butt of an oak". Morgan Phillips gave him 173 loads of coal one year in lieu of rent, Eliza Lewis an old widow was paid 4s for 20 days hay making, repair of Penyvole wall was part paid with a 12lb cheese. This portrays him as a reasonably considerate and paternalistic gentlemen.
This is also the arrangement that many of his servants at Glynllech farm entered into. They would work for a whole year for an agreed fee payable at the end of the term. On 3rd Oct 1782, Thomas Richards did so for £2.16s and "cloth for breeches". He was given a shilling, and after this his expenses were paid for and noted. After his travel to the fairs of Brecon, Neath and buying gloves, leather aprons, cloth and shoes, the leftover balance paid to him was 9/6s at the end of the year. This was done as serfs might decide to make a run for it if given £2 in cash, Mary Williams ran off after 3 days in his service and a warrant was made for her arrest & return!
Then as now weather was variable, 1785 was described by him as being "...the driest know by any living man...snow was seen to cover the cairns on the 23rd of May". But he could not afford to let freak weather detain him as he was also the rent agent for Palleg from 1788-1831, where he keeps the most meticulous and well scribed of all the rent books. 40 years at this job would have acquainted him personally with all the tenants, and I am intrigued to say my 7th generation grandfather, Richard Owen who although a bastard was allowed to 'inherit' the lease of Pensarn farm in 1793, for which the approval and kind consideration of Walter I may be indebted to.
He personally funded the rebuilding of Coelbren chapel in 1799, in which he had the only sponsored seat (parishioners had to stand in those days) when Theophillus Jones visited in c.1805, describing the chapel as 'unfinished'. Theo later married into a branch of the Price family, and corresponded with Walter, apparently a close confident. A letter from him to Walter around that time divulges that he had secretly looked at a will of one of his patrons, and found that he was concerned about its contents and asks to meet up in Brecon possibly to 'amend it' perchance it might cause offence through gossip. Walter was also a man of letters who attended legal and financial matters in Brecon, Hereford and Carmarthen courts. He was a witness in the reports in the case for selling off the Great Forest, he being opposed to the inclosure of common lands that he and his tenants had right to graze. He was also keen to become an MP as in 1787 he thinks he should sublet Glynllech estate.
He seems to have had rude health, bar a fall in 1799 which confined him to his house for a month, but by age 84 in 1833 he is 'confined to bed' and being cared for by his son James. Old age seems to have been the cause of his demise. His will of 1834 evidences his gentry status. Leyshon Morgan, David Lewis and Lewis Powell were appointed executors to oversee the estate and clear any debts, leaving annuities of around £40 a year to each of his children, who all inherited leases or farms. A condition of the youngest son James was that he had to marry a daughter of Llewelyn Powell, cousins of Glynllech Isaf. He did not.
Glynllech is translated as 'covert vale', named after the river Llech nearby. It was originally named Tyr Maddock Griffith, then Croft
Heligors, bought from William Walters of Cardiff in 1674. A date of 1547 was found marked in the
plaster of the fireplace, it was then altered in 1603, but rebuilt in 1745 with 2 storeys, unusual in the district at the time. 100
years later it gained an extra storey with dairy and kitchen at back. It is in the village of Coelbren, of which many interpretations
have been made, but I like 'truth stick' best, a carved piece of wood that was passed round in a meeting of elders, the one holding it
was authorised to speak and tell the truth, hence the saying "making the truth, stick".
Price Family Line (1500-1800)
I collect here the various snippets alluding to unsung characters of Palleg and those related to it. Ianto Ben, the only man who enjoyed baptising (dipping) sheep, near Cwmfforchgwyn. The stream was never warm even in summer, and all the others hated it, spending all day soaked in water and lime might cause hypothermia. The only redeemable feature was that the man who persisted at the job was rewarded with a bottle of whisky. Dan 'Coes Bren', a farmer at Waunllwyd who died aged 90 in around 1914, had a nickname befitting his misfortune, that of Dan 'wooden leg', who tells us that he lost it during a fight with some gypsies while droving cattle to England.
Gwilym ap Leyshon, or William Griffiths 1863-1925 from Brynygroes (Cross on the Hill) farm ran a school for poets in Cwmgiedd, later Ysgol Cynlais where pupils sat to pass the exam for entry to the 'Gorsedd of The Bards'. He had a weakness for gooseberry pies, and wrote a poem on them, (see Poetry section below) from his book 'Cerddi'r Mynydd Du'. He came 2nd often in the Eisteddfodau. He was also a minister at Capel Yorath for over 30 years, and would have been a close companion of my forefather Thomas Owen an elder deacon from 1910-15. His family are said to be descended from the last Abbot of Neath Abbey, Leyshon Thomas, who moved to the farm after the dissolution. A lead plaque inscribed 'I.O.S. 1607 J.L.' was found on one of the barns, said to be deciphered as Iesus Hominen Salvator, Jesus saviour of men. J.L. is John Leyshon Thomas.
Eccentric Englishman George Borrow who taught himself Welsh, came very close to Palleg on his tour of 'Wild Wales' he marched quickly as was his style of pace down from Llandovery to Gwter Fawr, aka Brynamman 2 miles west. He tells of being drenched to the skin by the moors weather and put down his umbrella as he could not be drenched more than he was. As is usual on his stay at Welsh inns, the inhabitants are awestruck, suspicious and in fear of an Englishman with knowledge of Welsh and are soon fawning to him as if he is a lord.
In around 1860-91 a cobbler and farmer, William Hopcyn b.1817 lived at Caemawr. At the time there were outbreaks of rebellion against the tithes because the money went to the church of England at the time of fervent religious non conformity, and he refused to pay it. Dr Thomas Walter, vicar of Ystradgynlais from 1856-74 pursued him for that payment. Traders & iron workers travelling from Llandeusant to Ystradgynlais would leave their piles of worn wooden clogs at Caemawr for repair, collecting them on the return journey. One day a constable was called to seize the leather of William as substitute payment. The workers were incensed and gathered all the old shoes, dumping them in a huge pile outside the vicar's front door. A poem was written recording the event entitled 'Lleidr y Lledr'. He may have lost his business as a cobbler after this as the 1871 census records him as only being a farmer, when the farm was bought by the Morgans. His grandson Edgar Jones was also born on this farm in 1903, author of the book 'Hwyl a Fro'r Glowr a Humor y Glowr' recanting the close knit community of Cwmgiedd.
Below Llyn y Fan Fawr to the very north of Palleg there is a stream named Sali Morys. Hearsay has it that the same named lady used to carry large loads of trade goods from Llandeusant over the mountain to Ystradgynlais in the 1800's. One day she went home in a fierce storm, and her body was found near the stream that was named after her. The moor is a perilous place to the uninitiated, and I myself have suffered its indifference to the unprepared, and nearly suffered the same fate. I was walking over from Llandeusant to Ystradgynlais in around 2000, knowing little of the moor the origins of my forefathers or the fact that I was to embark on this project back then. It was a hot day and I stripped to take a dip in the Twrch. I somehow lost the location of my camouflaged pack and spent 5 hours looking round for it. I then caught a chill and had to stay in a small cave for 2 days. Running out of food I decided I had to make a march for it. It took me a further 3 days to reach what was then the ruins of Waunllwyd surrounded by the opencast, with nothing left but a cup of tea and a little money left for the bus fare home.
On the coming of industry to the town, it attracted money, and with it thieves, who had always laid in wait in bushes for unsuspecting travellers. John Brunton a foreman of the tramway construction in 1820 describes once how his black mare was stolen while he was lodging at at inn, possibly Ynyscedwyn Arms. He made a search of the area and recognised the hoof prints, which lead up through Cwmtwrch. People he questioned described the thief as going on to Carmarthen, he recognising him as one of his own workers. A constable was despatched and man arrested and brought to the nearest magistrates, 14 miles away, (at Swansea?). Unfortunately the judge bore a grudge in that the tramway Brunton built passed through a piece of his land and he dismissed the case as there was no horse retrieved as evidence. He and the constable conspired after they left court to rearrested the man and took him off in a 'dog cart', detaining him for 2 weeks.
The thief refused to confess, so Brunton, knowing the superstitious nature of the irreligious workers dressed up as an old woman witch with a beard, offering to give some sort of seance to him. He then made some magical signs and incantations which made the prisoner melt, and told him of all his life and deeds including the theft of the mare. He then suddenly dropped down to his knees and confessed where he had hidden the horse, which was retrieved a little thinner. This skilled engineer came down from London and was keen to learn Welsh so he could express his technical desires. Parson Davies who could speak little English agreed to teach him if he returned the favour, they became friends and he moved to his farm. This was a relief to him, as his flat above the grocers was "full of wasps and another full of cockroches". His recovered horse was overwintered in a field, but he found that grass and feed were going missing, and so decided to watch the field at night. Lo and behold a fat cow and local woman, feared locally to be a witch came in. She was seldom challenged because of this, but Brunton impounded her cow, the woman playing on peoples superstitions threatened curses against him. She returned the next day refusing to pay the 10s fine, making more threats.
Daniels of Pensarn Family Tree 1800-2000
This chapel was founded, built and supported by the farmers of Palleg. It still is in operation, a Calvanist Methodist chapel solely for Welsh speakers. The Calvinistic movement was inspired by the theology of John Calvin 1509-1564 who died in Geneva, preachers of his faith came to Wales, and a Howel Harris in 1735 was enlightened while listening to Rev Pryce Davies in Talgarth. He in turn began preaching in Palleg upon the farms, John Richard & John Jones were made overseers of Palleg in 1743 amongst other parishes. John Morgan of Maespica farm was appointed to help who's debts of £100 were cleared. In 1750 the seat disappeared due to competition, and in 1780 it began again, meeting in lofts and the farms of Maespica, Brynygroes and Gwern Yorath.
In 1800 there were 14 members, no other churches existed in the district bar St Cynogs, so they needed a meeting place. They initially decided on building a church in Brynygroes farm but were leased land by Samuel Williams of Gwern Yorath who had bought the farm from the Gough Estates in 1795, after being part of it since 1488. The small hut they opened in 1806 was still considered church of England by the authorities so they could not ordain, baptise or marry. Therefore when they became independent in 1811 and the members grew, the church rebuilt in 1824, the first minister John Walters of Brecon was allowed to be ordained. Thomas Levi of Penrhos also helped form a Sunday School. In 1849 they built new chapels in the district and in 1858 the walls and roof were extended to admit up to 500. In 1900 or so Henglyn Uchaf farm on the Palleg estate with the assistance of the tenants and landlord Sir Charles Morgan allowed it to be turned into a Sunday School (now in ruins) called Pen Pishga after the mount where Moses died. It celebrated its 200th centenary in 2006 with a book published by John Williams.
The main cause for the want of a place of worship other than St Cynog's was for the fact that the Welsh had endured English clergy and Latin mass for centuries, and this frequently from clerks interested only in what they could get out of it, with weak and uninspiring preaching once a week, sometimes less. St Cynogs was for 500 years essentially a means of supplementing income of busy knights and keeping the 'herding, unwashed pagans' civilised. Nothing more lifted the heart and spirits of the Welsh than to hear one of their own vicars preach and sing to them in deep rich understanding of his flock & Christ, reaching to a crescendo of the spirit called 'The Hwyl' (to sail) where he became impassioned, emotional and spontaneous. Due to the persecutions of all types of religions for years by its own government, I'm sure it seemed reasonable for them to become independent of all state doctrine, wherein they could be free to worship in a language they understood as Jesus taught on a daily basis. The chapel when established then provided a secondary function, the permeating of traditions, song, literature and language to its younger successors, of which we can see the outcome in the siarabàngs, eisteddfods and crowded graveyard of the chapel. At its peak, as noted in the 1851 church census, 600 souls descended to this tiny village hall, while 100 sat in St Cynogs on a Sunday. The sonorous tunes that emanated from such gatherings were indeed a tonic to the hearts of those wishing to please God regardless of the vast empty rolling hills around.
Fairs and competitions were always traditionally observed as a break from the norm, but with the growth of the town so came an opportunity to make some extra profit and raise money for the Red Cross war effort. The 'Great Palleg Show' was held annually from 1887 at Tredeg, medals and cups sponsored by Lord Tredegar, Col Gough and Brynhenllys Mining company. It was an echo of the larger Brecon fairs, and would attract 5,000 people with 400 competitors for events such as sheep dog trials, best horse, cow, chicken etc, shoeing, shearing, ploughing competitions, horse racing. So popular was this event Ystradgynlais started its own additional fair from 1914, sponsored by the Goughs, despite the fact that many horses had been commandeered for the war effort. All this promise of reward was to encourage good farming practice and better quality strains of animal, the standard of the stock in the Palleg fair being described by a judge in 1915, "as good as the Bath & West show".
Indeed improvement of breed was encouraged by the formation of a 'Bull Society' which met in the Penybont Inn. A Hereford bull was bought for the district by the Goughs and kept by Griffiths of Pensarn in March 1914, sponsored by the Board of Agriculture at £15 a year. But there is reported heated debate between the farmers of 'Palleg & District Agricultural Society' and the "other lot" on the best breed and they decided to buy their own Shorthorn bull kept by Williams of Tir y Gof. This disagreement seems to have been taken seriously by some, culminating in that bull being mutilated by having its ear cut off in August that year.
Mini Eisteddfods were held annually at Penpishga Sunday school (previously Henglyn Uchaf farm) from around 1900, with poetry reading, folk dance, recitation, music, singing and plays were rewarded with medals, money and cakes. This interest in perpetuating culture resulted in a poets school being established in Cwmgiedd by Rev. Griffiths Leyshon with many locals going on to win the chair at the the National Eisteddfods.
Local Presidents, Judges, Winners|
A diverse range of people from the surrounding district were involved, to ensure lack of bias (guaranteed, yes). Listed here are some names familiar to this project. It seems the Morgans of Gelli farm held the crown for being best singers for many years, or the only entrants.
'Llifogydd Y Twrch' gan Iolo Morgan, wedi 'chopio' o 1652
Mil che chant, warant orau, -a deugain
Bu digwydd llifeiriau
A deuddeg, a rhai dyddiau
Yn torchu lawr, a Twrch o'i lle 76
|'The Twrch Flood' by Iolo Morganwg, 'copied' from 1652
One thousand six hundred, best warranty, and twenty
There was a flood of words
And twenty, and a few days
Whirled down, the Twrch out of place
This is said to be a copy of a poem regards the flooding of the Twrch in that year which "destroyed all the houses in
Cwmtwrch, an old lady saved her life by clinging to a Elderberry tree, leaving a pile of rocks near Ynyscedwyn house". However Iolo
'Ystradgynlais' gan Dienw c.1760
Mae odyn ar y Gurnos
A melin fal ar Dwrch
Mae cwn yn Ynyscedwyn
Yn dda i hela iwrch
Mae ffurnes ar lan Tawe
Yn difa lawer pren
Arianwr mawr y pentre
Yn caru Beti Wen 76
|'Ystradgynlais' by Anon c.1760
There's a limekiln at the Gurnos
And a flour mill on the Twrch
The hounds of Ynyscedwyn
Are good to hunt roebuck
There's a furnace on the banks of the Tawe
That culls many trees
The head banker in the village
loves Beti Wen
This literal simple description sums up the town very neatly in that period. It was said to have origins in the poetry circles that
used to meet on the farms.
'Trial Pali Sion Aubrey' gan William Davies
Mi glywais i gan rywun
I Pali dunnu polyn
O'r adwy gaeais i a drain
Yng ngodre gawen y felin
Mi brofaf i fod Pali
Drwy'r parthau mysgu perthi
Am nad oes gwaeth drwy'r byd yn bod
Am llusgo cod i'w llosgi 76
|'Pali Sion Aubrey's Trial' by William Davies|
I heard from someone
That Pali pulled up a pole
From the gate I enclosed with thorns
In the yard of the merry miller
I will prove that Pali
Unravels hedges throughout the district
There is nothing worse in the world
than dragging wood to be burnt
This poem was said to be penned in the 'Court of Bards' over 200 years ago which operated in the area as a secret social adjunct of
the official courts. They used to summon the accused to trial by poetry, to ridicule and shame them into either confession or a vocal
admittance of their innocence, if they responded in good poetry, all the better!
'Gweithwyr Y Camlas' gan Ivor Cwm Gwys
Hawdd gweled dwsin, mwy neu lai
Mewn cornel cae'n cyfarfod
I frolio, yfed fel ar dasg
O amglych casg o ddiod 76
'Canal Workers' by Ivor Cwm Gwys
It's easy to see a dozen more or less
In the corner of a meeting field
To boast, drinking as if on a mission
About a cask of ale
Penned by a local poet of National Eisteddfod fame, around the time of the building of the Swansea canal so c.1795, in the tradition
of the old court of bards, shaming the workers and their vices.
'Gwsberies' gan Gwilym ap Leyshon
'Ni fuasai gennyf obaith
Am ddim ond bara chaws,
Oni buasai Ann o'r Gilfach
Ddod yma ar ein traws
Ond 'nawr, cawn deisen flasus,
Gwsberis gorau'r coed,
Na chraswyd mo'i chyffelyb
Ar lawr un ffwrn erioed 76
'Gooseberries' by Gwilym ap Leyshon
I would not have hope
For anything but bread & cheese,
But that Ann of Gilfach
Come across to us
But now, we have delicious cake,
Best gooseberry's of the woods,
Nothing comparable baked
At the foot of any oven ever
This was the poetic utterance of the minister of Capel Yorath after having been
making hay all day, at coming home to Brynygroes and finding his sister had baked a favourite gooseberry pie in secret. c.1900
'Maes Twrch' gan Gwilym ap Leyshon
Yn ngraig Tyle Garw bu'r Twrch ar fin tranc
A rhanwyd ei berchyll ond ef yn ei wanc
A groesodd i'r Tywi - yr olaf o'r wyth
A'r awyr yn wefr o hela'r Twrch Trwyth 168
'Battle of the Boar' by Gwilym ap Leyshon
On the rock of Tyle Garw the boar was about to fall
And he became separated from his brood
He crossed to the Tywi - the last of 8 rivers
The air still electric from the hunt
Another poem by the above poet, describing the last vestiages of the legend of the battle with the Twrch Trwyth, a giant boar, under the leadership of king Arthur.c.1900
'Angladd Ar y Mynydd Du' gan W. Gwernwy Richards c.1920
Dros y mynydd i Llandeusant
Heibio'r Garreg Goch ar Llwyn
Araf, araf a'r cynhebrwng
Hyd y llethrau rhwng y brwyn
Adref dros y llwybr garw
Brodor sydd yn troi yn ol
Un o defaid Iesu ydyw
Ddyga angau yn eu gol 168
'Funeral on the Black Mountain' by W. Gwernwy Richards c.1920
Over the mountain to Llandeusant
Pass the Red Rock and the Grove
Slow, slow is the funeral procession
Over the slopes and through the rushes
Home over the rough paths
A native who is turning back
One of Jesus's flock is he
The bearer's sad in their duty
This describes how the corpses of comrades were transported between villages at the time of the industrial revolution. The funeral
procession would meet half way at Bwlch y Ddeuwynt, take a service on the banks of the Twrch, then turn back to Llandeusant.
'Y Chosb' gan John Morgan c.1725
...a chosbi aflan sy yn awr yn byw yn hon
dihinees gwedy marw y uso'r waiwffon
...dryge fy yn cael rhyddid uffernol ynddi y fyw
...fridd na chynghorion nes delo dial daw
I gwrando'r pentre anhappus ond ydyw hyn yn wir
Na pherig dy einioes aflan di wyddost ddim yn hir
ennill i of neu cholli troch ymma sydd ar dy law
Ni chai di byth ail gynnig o cofia'r dydd a ddaw
O druan os yn uffern yr wyf ti yn cwyroth nyth
Y boeni dan law diawlaid ni ddewi oddiyno byth
Ni chai di mwy na deifos wrth lefrin yn y fan
...dwr y oeri'th dafod gwell troi na mynd ymlaen
Marca byth yw'th golled mor wallgof yn dy wun
Colli duw ai heddwch ar nefoedd colli'th hun
Am aflan blesser ronin yn boenus bith rhaid bod
Gwauth galon gwyddwn druan weld hyn o fyd erioed
Dyna passio dyddie'th gyslydd heb ystyr dros dy ben
...chanod pyrth trugaredd ath droi di or nefoedd wen
..duw ble yr ai di gwedyn i ymgyddio nid oes lle
Ffoi rhag poene uffern gwel yr anhappus dre
Gwrando eirie yr arglwydd yn dirion deg ith wawdd
yn cwyno orfod dy adel yn cynig iti nawdd
pwy ddyn yn ddichon traethu dy anhappusrwydd di
yn dewis poene uffernol a flaen paradwys fry
Marcar holl brophwydi sy yn llefain o dy flaen
Ai deigre ar y dourydd yn ceifio'th rwystro ir fan
A christ ai apostolion yn cynnig iti yn rhad
I troi di y geifio pardwn fe sela ai werthfawr was
Dy ofer ddyddie ath heibio fel breuddwyd ffarwel
Ar hyn yn ol fy amserlen o weld diwrnod mwy
Nid oes ond'r dwr bressennol yn dy feddiant di
Ennill nef neu cholli fel p'bae ar dy ddwylo di
Edifarha fel llinif os gwnai di ynghyngor
Pwy wyr na all'r argwlydd dosdyrio wrthit
Wyla'r dwr yn holi bydd siriol am dy ddrwg
A duw dosdyrio wrthit cyn mynd yn dan a mwg
Finis, Scripta John Morgan 84
'The Punishment' by John Morgan c.1725
An unclean punishment that now lives
A lady killed by a spear
It has unleashed hell in the living
No advice given until revenge comes
Listening to the unhappy village, isnt this true?
You won't know your a foul hazard for long
To gain or loose immersion hither thy hand is upon your fate
You'll have no second chance to remember the day at hand
Oh pity if you wax your nest in hell
Under pain of devils you'll never be able to leave
You'll get no more than a scorching for crying in that place
Water freezes your tongue, better turn than go ahead
Mark your losses, as you grin so manically
Loosing God and his peace and the heavens loosing itself
In unclean pleasure I am at pains this will not occur
Stave the heart I despair this will never happen
There in the days of your trial, meaning flies over your head
The gates of mercy sang and turned you from the white heavens
Where will you go to hide, there is no space
Flee from the pains of hell, see the unhappy town
Listen, the word of the Lord is fairly gracious to your scorn
Complaining that your departure offers you sponsorship
What man could measure your unhappiness
That chooses the pains of hell over heavens flight
Mark all the prophets that weep before you
Their waves of tears prevent you reaching this place
Christ and his apostles making you free offers
To turn you and get a pardon, Selah! his valuable servant
Your vain days went by like a farewell dream
This by my timetable of seeing another day
Only water is now present in your possession
As if winning or loosing heaven was in your power
Repent like us if you take advice
Who knows if the lord could save you
The water will weep cheerfully enquiring of your deeds
And god granting you mercy before you go up in flames and smoke
The End, Written by John Morgan
|This is an untitled poem of 16 measures transcribed from the notebook of John Morgan rent agent for Palleg c.1725. It is
damaged and faded, so some of the words are obscured. The verse is very melancholic and moving that seems to describe the fate of an
unnamed man that decided to turn from God to do evil, apparently by thrusting a lady with a spear in cold blood, and is sentenced to be
burnt at the stake. He remarks at the vain glory of the man, and pleads inwardly that he show remorse and ask for mercy, but is sure
he will not and suffer torment in hell. It is possible he could have penned it while witnessing an emotional trial in Brecon assizes.
By this poem I have judged him to be fluent in Welsh, as it is marked as 'written by' him, but some of it appears to me as garbled
and obscure grammar as if he had taught himself from the Welsh bible, but is more probably my unfamiliarity with 300 year old Welsh!
'Pen-wern, Pen-mynydd Pen-du'
gan James M Burton 2012
Cerddais lawr y mynydd ar glan y Mynydd Ddu
Dim tywyllwch yn fy ngroeso
Ond yr hen ffermdy
Penwern ysgubor hir hiraeth
A'i cwmwl yn y to
Hen ffenest yn cymorth y bwyell yn ei tro
Ond dim byw sydd yn fy nheiliad
Lith' lefrith llo dim mor
Y bugail di mynd i'w greiddia
Gwin a cig moch dan ty Twrch to
Cywilydd gyda'i colled hir y bren oes
Y hendre a'i a dododd i bedd cell Catwg phren croes
Chall a ddaeth y ferchen tylwyth oes
ar ben y feic
Yn scathru am ei cobia
A cofia nol hen oes
A'scwn i y gall gnoter y grwten
A disgyn lan i'r hen ffermdy
Ar lafar oedd yr enfys yn fy nhynnig i
'Penwern, Atop the Black Topped Mountain'|
by James M Burton 2012
I walked down the mountain, on the shore of the Black Mountain
No darkness welcomed me
But the old farmhouse
Penwern with its nostalgic long barn
It's clouds in the roof
The old window supporting the axe in its time
But no life is in these seconds
The milk of the calf will not flow more so
The shepherd has gone to his infusion
Of wine and pork in the Twrch Inn
Ashamed of his long loss of the tree of ages
The homestead he placed in the grave-cell of Catwg's wooden cross
With wisdom came the fairy-girl ontop of her bike
Praising her cobs
Reminiscing the past
I pondered if I could marry the lass
And descend up to the old farmhouse
Vocal was the rainbow tempting me
This verse wrote itself when I was investigating the ruins of Penwern in 2012. I had previously been speaking to a farmer's daughter
at Waunlwyd farm. As I neared the old farmstead, a rainbow appeared above it, I thought, hmm a sign that I should buy these ruins?! On
entering, it was quite atmospheric, and old Welsh words that I did not know the meaning of flowed into my head. I had scarcely used
Welsh for 20 years.
Folkstory Relating to Brynygrainen Farm
The Folk Lore Journal Vol VI, E. Sidney Hartland, Jan-Dec 1888
"There was a person of the name of Dafydd William Dafydd living at Bryngrainen farm, Palleg, Ystradgynlais (confirmed as David Williams rented the farm from 1762- 1823). He was a very religious man, fond of music, and a good player on the flute. One day he went out as usual to see after his cattle and sheep on the adjoining mountain, to a place called Llorfa, (flat rock of Limestone just east of Dorwen farm) near the Van Pool. He often went up there to play the flute. This day, as usual, he took his flute with him; and he did not return home that evening.
His wife called together her friends, and said Dafydd had not come home. They went looking for him that night and the day after, and for many days. They dragged all the pools in the rivers, and made a great search for him, but could not find him, nor any account of his whereabouts. His wife and friends at last made up their minds he had come to some sad end.
However, in about three weeks after Dafydd came home, about five o'clock one evening, to the great surprise of his wife, who had given up all hope of ever seeing him again. She asked him where he had been instead of coming home as usual; and he was quite as much surprised to hear the question, for, as he thought, there was nothing unusual for him to be out of the house for only a few hours. He inquired why she asked. His wife said: "Where have you been for the past three weeks?" ; "Three weeks! Is it three weeks you call three hours?" said Dafydd. His wife told him they had been looking everywhere for him, but could get no clue to him, and pressed him to say where he had been.
At last he told her that while playing on his flute at the Llorfa he was surrounded at a good distance off by little beings like men, who closed nearer and nearer to him until they became a very small circle. They sang and danced, and so affected him that he quite lost himself. They offered him something to eat, small, beautiful cakes, of which he partook; and he had never enjoyed himself so well in his life."
Mr. Walters states that John Williams declared that in his youth he knew Dafydd well; and it was useless to try to persuade Williams that the adventure above related was not a fact, for he would always reply that Dafydd was a very religious man, and he did not believe he would say what was not true.
There is little calling for remark in this version of a well-known story. The incident of the cakes, however, may be noticed. In general, when the hero of a folk-tale gets into the power of supernatural beings in the under-world he must be careful not to partake of any food which is offered him if he desire to return. But Dafydd, though he had fallen into the hands of the Tylwyth Teg, and become for the time invisible to human eyes, had not reached the underworld, their dwelling-place. This may account for his escape; and careful search should be made among Welsh and other Celtic legends for parallels. (I personally believe he encountered some travelling folk who offered him some 'space cakes' but that's just my modern bias, Ed.)
'The Treasure on The Drim' from the 'Folk Lore Journal' by E. Sidney Hartland, 1888 Full Story at Wikipedia
from "The Welsh Fairy Book" by W. Jenkyn Thomas 1907
"There once lived at Ystradgynlais a wizard with an iron hand. By means of his magic he discovered that there was a great treasure hidden in Mynydd y Drim, and that he could secure it if he could only get some plucky fellow to spend a night with him on the mountain near the rock under which the gold and silver lay.
For a long time he could not secure a companion. He approached all his friends and acquaintances in vain : they were afraid and refused to have anything to do with such a perilous adventure. At last, however, John Gethin, (A John Gething is mentioned on the window tax of 1747, and tradition has him living at Gwerngyrlais farm on the Drim, where the Gethin descendents lived for 300 years, the sheep being branded LG for Louis Gethin up to recent times) who was a reckless youth and said that he cared for nothing in heaven above, or in the earth beneath or in the water under the earth, said he would accompany the man with the iron hand on condition that he received half the treasure.
One dark night the twain went to the mountain and took up their stand on a greensward near the rock under which the wizard said the treasure was concealed. "Now," said the magician, "I am going to call upon the spirit which guards the treasure to present himself before us." He put on a robe of black covered with talismanic characters, girded himself with snake-skins tied together, and placed on his head a cap of sheepskin with a high crown bearing a plume of pigeons' feathers. In his hand he had a whip, the thong of which was made of the skin of an eel and the handle of bone. With this he traced two circles on the sward touching each other like the figure 8. After that he took a great black book and lit a candle and stepped into one of the circles. "Stand in the middle of the other circle," said he to Gethin, "and whatever happens, do not step out of the ring." Gethin did as he was told.
The wizard opened his book and read: "I adjure and invocate thee by the silence of the night and by the holy rites of magic and by the number of the infernal legions, that without delay thou present thyself here and answer my demand by the force of the words contained in this book." This he repeated thrice.
First there appeared a monstrous bull, bellowing dreadfully, but the plucky Gethin held his ground, and the bull vanished. Then a gigantic goat came and rushed full pelt at Gethin, but as he did not move the goat also melted into thin air. Next a huge bristly boar charged at him, and an immense fire-breathing lion crouched and leapt at him, but Gethin stood motionless, and as soon as these fearful apparitions crossed the circle drawn by the magician they vanished into space. Then a great fly-wheel of fire, blazing brightly and roaring loudly, made straight for poor Gethin. For a moment he lost heart and swerved out of the ring. No sooner had he done this than the fly-wheel of fire assumed the shape of the Enemy of Mankind, and began to haul Gethin away. The man with the iron hand seized hold of him and tried to get him back. Poor Gethin nearly parted in half in the struggle between the two.
The Enemy of Mankind was getting the better of the tug of war, when the wizard said, "By the power of the East, Athanaton, of the West, Orgon, of the South, Boralim, of the North, Glauron, I charge and command thee to suffer this man to live while this candle lasts." The Evil One let go his hold of Gethin and vanished. Thereupon the wizard immediately blew out the candle and gave it to Gethin. "Had you not swerved out of the circle," he said, "all would have been well, but as you disobeyed my command, this is the utmost respite that I can secure for you. Put the candle away in a cool place. As long as the candle lasts your life will be safe."
Gethin went home and preserved the piece of candle very carefully, stowing it away in the coldest place he could find. But as time went on he found it was wasting away, although it was never lighted. Gethin was never the same after his fearful night on the mountain, and when he found the candle was wasting away he took to his bed. As the candle wasted away he did the same, and after some years both came to an end at the same time. The wizard attended him during his last hours, and those who carried the coffin, which was supposed to contain Gethin's mortal remains, found it very light. The story went that Gethin's body disappeared out of the coffin before it was nailed up, and that the wizard put a lump of clay there instead to save appearances, but no one was bold enough to open the coffin to find out the truth."
I sit here in 2013, with the Mynydd Y Drim being ransacked for the millions of pounds worth of minerals within it, wondering if this old tale has a great truth in it. Is it based on the struggle between those who wanted to mine the coal and the landowners and tenants who were sometimes pressured by fear and 'dark magic' to which they were true believers in to sign their surrenders of land? Ed.
Taken from the 'Welsh Fairy Book' by W. Jenkyn Thomas, 1907 Full Story at Google Books
The name Cwmtwrch (Welsh language: 'Valley of the Wild Boar') has a traditional association with the "Twrch Trwyth" a mythical wild boar of King Arthur's legends and the ancient Welsh folklore of the Mabinogion in early Welsh literature. The legend relates to one of Arthur's tasks: to rid the West Wales of the pack of wild boars that were terrorizing the people. Arthur chased the boars from Dyfed eastward towards Powys. On the Black Mountain (range), he picked up a large stone (the Carreg Fryn Fras) and cast it towards the wild animals, striking dead the leader of the pack on the edge of a valley near Craig-Y-Fran Gorge. The big boar's body rolled down the valley and into the river valley which is now the River Twrch. The big stone can be seen on the mountain.
The above version is abridged and twisted to give more interest to Cwmtwrch, as the legend goes that Arthur was tasked with taking a comb and razor from the boars bristles to trim the hair of his future wife, and that he hunted it from Ireland, through Wales into Cwmtwrch, onto Cornwall before being driven into the sea. Ed.
Translation from ancient MSS 'Kilhwch and Olwen or the Twrch Trwyth' by Lady Charlotte Guest c.1849 Full Story at Uni of Rochester
In the late twelfth century, a widow lived at Blaensawdde, near Llanddeusant, Carmarthenshire. Her husband had died in the wars of independence from the English. Her only son spent time looking after the livestock. Their favourite place was near the small lake called Llyn-y-Fan Fach, in the shadow of the Black Mountain.
One day whilst walking along the edge of the lake. To his astonishment he saw, sitting on the unruffled surface of the water, a Lady. She was one of the most beautiful creatures that mortal eyes had ever seen. The young man just stood still with his eyes staring at the woman and unconsciously offered her the barley bread and cheese which he had with him.
Bewildered by a feeling of love for the Lady, he continued to hold his hand out to her. She glided near to him but gently refused the offer of the food. He tried to touch her, but she eluded him saying:
"Cras dy fara!" - "Hard baked is thy bread!"
"Nid hawdd fy nala" - "'Tis not easy to catch me!"
She immediately dived under the water. The love-stricken youth returned home, desolate that he had lost someone, fairer than all the maidens of Myddfai.
When he had told his mother what had happened, she advised him to take some unbaked dough or "toes" the next time, as there must be some kind of spell connected with hard-baked bread, 'bara cras', which prevented him catching the Lady.
Next morning, before the sun had gilded with its rays the peaks of the Fans, the young man was at the lake, not to look after his cattle, but seeking the same enchanting vision he had seen the day before. But he waited in vain, the surface of the lake being only graced by the ripples caused by a stiff breeze, and a cloud hung heavily on the summit of the Fan, adding gloom to his already distracted mind.
Hours passed and the day became warm and sunny, when suddenly he noticed his cattle on the precipitous slope on the opposite side of the lake. As he rushed over to them, to his inexpressible delight, the Lady appeared once more, more beautiful than ever.
He held his hand out to her, full of unbaked bread, which he offered from his heart with vows of eternal attachment. All of which were refused by her, saying:
"Llaith dy fara!" - "Unbaked is thy bread!"
"Ti ni fynna." - "I will not have thee."
But the smile that played on her face as the Lady vanished beneath the waters raised a hope in the man which stopped him despairing at her refusal. When he returned home, his mother suggested that next time his bread should be slightly baked, as this would probably please the mysterious being with whom he had fallen in love.
Impelled by an irresistible feeling, the youth left the house early the next morning and ran until he came to the edge of the lake where he waited with a feverish anxiety for the reappearance of his Lady. Many hours the youth waited, his flocks of sheep and cows wandering hither and thither, but all his thoughts and attention were directed at the lake for the reappearance of the Lady.
Day was fast turning into night and all hope of seeing the beautiful Lady was gone. The young man cast one last look over the waters when to his astonishment he saw seven cows walking on the water. They were followed by the maiden, who seemed even lovelier than ever. She approached the land and he rushed to meet her. A smile encouraged him to hold her hand and on his offering the bread, she accepted. After some persuasion she consented to become his bride, on condition that they should live together only until she received from him three blows without cause:
"Fri ergyd diachos." - "Three causeless blows."
Should he ever strike three such blows she would leave him forever. But he gladly agreed. Thus the Lady of the Lake agreed to become the young man's wife. Her father gladly consented to the marriage giving a dowry of as many sheep, cattle, goats, and horses that his daughter could count without heaving or drawing in her breath. He added, however, that should the youth prove unkind to her, and strike her three times without cause, she should return to him and bring back all the livestock.
And so the marriage took place. When the time came for the Lady to count the animals, she counted by fives, as many times as possible in rapid succession till her breath was exhausted. After counting the sheep, cattle, goats and horses, the full number came out of the lake when called upon by the father. They went to live at a farm called Esgair Llaethdy, about a mile from Myddfai, where they lived in prosperity and happiness for several years, bearing three beautiful sons.
One day they were to go to a Christening in the neighbourhood, but the wife was reluctant to go saying the distance was too far to walk. Her husband told her to fetch a horse from the field which she said she would do if he got her gloves from the house. When he returned from the house with the gloves he found that she had not moved. Jokingly he slapped her shoulder with the gloves saying, "Go, go!" Thus he had struck her the first time without cause.
On another occasion at a wedding, in the midst of mirth and merriment, she burst into tears and her husband touched her on the shoulder and asked what was wrong. "Now people are entering into trouble", she said, "and your troubles are likely to start as you have struck me a second time".
Years passed and their sons grew to become clever young men. The husband was ever watchful lest he should, in some trivial incident, strike his beloved wife again. She told him, as her love was as strong as ever, to take care for the final blow would, by an unalterable destiny over which she had no power, separate them forever.
It happened that one day they were at a funeral, where, in the middle of great mourning and grief, the Lady was happy and laughing. This so shocked her husband that he touched her saying, "Hush! hush! Don't laugh". She said that she laughed because people, when they died, go out of trouble. She then went out of the house saying, "The last blow has been struck, our marriage contract is broken and at an end! Farewell!"
She went back to Esgair Llaethdy and began to call the sheep, cattle, goats and horses that she had brought with her as a dowry. They all obeyed her call, even a little black calf that had been killed came alive and joined the others. The four great oxen ploughing in the field left their work when they heard their mistress call:
"Pedwar eidion glas sydd ar y maes, deuwch chwithau yn iach adre!"
- "The four grey oxen That are in the field Come you also Quite well home!"
Away they all went across the mountains towards the lake from which they had come. On reaching the lake they disappeared beneath the water without leaving a trace except the furrow made by the plough drawn by the oxen.
What became of the ploughman when the oxen set off, or what happened to the disconsolate and ruined husband, is not handed down in legend. But of the sons it is said that they often wandered by the lake in the hope of seeing their mother. It happened that during one of these walks near Dol Howel, at the Mountain Gate, still called Llidiad y Meddygon; the Physicians' gate, the mother appeared to the eldest son, Rhiwallon. She told him that his mission on earth was to be a benefactor of mankind by relieving them of pain and misery through the healing of all disease. To this end she supplied him with a bag full of prescriptions and instructions for the preservation of health. She prophesied that if he and his family followed those instructions clearly they would become the most skilful physicians in the country for many generations.
She appeared on several occasions to her sons and once accompanied them as far as Pant-y-Meddygon, the Dingle of the Physicians, where she pointed out to them the various plants which grew there and revealed their medical properties and virtues. The knowledge she gave to her sons, together with their unrivalled skill, soon gained for them such celebrity that none ever possessed before them. And to ensure that that knowledge should not be lost, they wrote it down, for the benefit of mankind throughout the ages.
Rhiwallon and his sons first became physicians to Lord Rhys Gryg who gave them rank, lands and privileges at Myddfai. Their fame soon spread and their services were in demand throughout the country. The descendants of this ancient family continued to practice medicine in Wales without a break until the middle of the eighteenth century, when the last lineal descendant died in 1743. The late Rice Williams, M.D., of Aberystwyth, who died in 1842, appears to have been the last of the Physicians descended from the mysterious Lady of Llyn-y-Fan Fach.
For myself, a lifelong cynic, I can only attribute this tale to there being a traditional lady healer (e.g. a sorceress etc) living on a crannog or settlement at the lake, and the story of her courting and betrothal embellished into a fable to give some levity to the prowess of her medically trained descendants. 'Doctors' were rare at that time, regarded as mysterious shamans and revered, they living on the edge of sacred lakes where they made offering to the 'Gods', offering herbal healing, an echo of the ancient Druid ways until Christianity discouraged it. There is a similar allusion in the 'King Arthur & The Lady of The Lake' story, which, according to some also occurred at this same lake. At Llyn Fawr near Hirwaun, sacrificial iron armaments and a cauldron were found in the lake edge in 1909. Nearby at Llangors Lake a royal fort on a crannog belonging to the 'Queen of Brycheiniog' was said to have been burnt down in 916 by Mercians, archaeologists found a 9th century boat on the island there in 1925. This is the only crannog found in Wales, a legacy of the Irish influences. Ed.
Apparently appears in Red Book of Hergest dated 14thC, translated by By John Pughe 1861 (abridged). Full story at Sacred Text Online
14 of the 23 farmhouses are extant in 2012, refurbished or rebuilt and much of the land used for sheep and cattle farming. The mill was converted to housing from around 1920. Half the farmed land in the west was mined as an open cast site in 1880, 1970 & 1995 by Celtic Energy despite fierce protest from 50 environmental activists who occupied Brynhenllys farm and tree houses. This was later reclaimed and planted with forestry, grassland and a fish pond. Part of Tir Canol's land was turned into the Palleg Golf Course in 1965 and also has a landfill site. 8 farms are in ruins, 3 completely obliterated from the map. The Upper Moorland remains as it ever was, now part of the Brecon Beacons National Park, stone sheep pens, shepherds' huts and miles of boundary wall can be spotted via satellite. The upper part of Drim Common is continuing to be mined as open cast, with some forestry, but the majority remains untouched.
The estate has come full circle in these 2000 years, it now residing in the descendant hands of those hands who cut the first sods and trees, who felled the last of the primal beasts and sacrificed their time and effort and tolerated so much through the ages, to bring us to a situation where now man can take more pleasure and delight in Palleg as God did when he created it. They are still with a rich Welsh language, very hospitable and welcoming ready to help a stranger in his strange projects.
The farmer of Waunllwyd, born at Dorwen and knew peace and tranquillity all his life, and has never known any hubbub since. He remained loyal to Palleg and had a dream of reviving the farms after the destruction of the open cast mining, which recently came to fruition in 2006. The Daniels, champion sheepdog breeders, one of the oldest families at Henglyn, restored the ancient cottage there and Pencaemole longhouse with sensitivity, as has Mrs Craig award winning welsh cake baker, with the longhouse at Glyncynwal Isaf. The legacy of those long 500 years of toil and tillage are show in the happiness and vitality of the faces of the octogenarian couple living at Caemawr farm, a testimony that empty moor does not equal a lost soul. The notable historian and author John Williams regularly gives walks and talks on the area.
As for the future of the estate; if the farms, golf club and tip remain solvent, they will continue in perpetuity, while man has an insatiable appetite for meat, leisure and a throwaway culture. I can see that there may be a revival in some of the ruined farmhouses, with 3 being completely rebuilt recently. Drim mountain, if it continues to be mined may disappear from the skyline. There is always the possibility that new technology may harness the ability to extract more of the valuable minerals from the soil on Palleg. In a dream world the Celtic chieftains of old may arise from the slumber in the caves and put right what wrongs may be here, they certainly did ask me to write of their legendary struggles for them.
The following list of tenants of farms and their rents have been extracted from the official original Tredegar Estate leases, rent books, maps, surveys, valuations also from census, tithe, land tax and miscellanea relating to Palleg. There may have been small errors in the original records as well as in my careful transcription of the facts, which can only be corroborated by viewing the original documentation. The entirety of the records from 1728 - 1915 with detailed entries for each year can be downloaded and viewed in the
Palleg Spreadsheet.ods (for use in Libre Office or a 'free document opener').
Palleg Spreadsheet.xls (for use in Microsoft Applications).
Tenancy dates from the first recorded entry, but not necessarily to the last, gaps are filled whereby a tenant appears in an early record and a later one, but not in-between e.g. 1901 and 1911 census. Tenants sometime co-ran 2 or 3 farms, or sublet from 1742. By 'tenant' I refer here to the chief rent payer and lessee, farms may be sub let and show different inhabitants within a general census, though most farms stayed within the family unit. Prior to 1781 only the tenants are mentioned in the Tredegar rent books, and not the farms in which they occupy, apparently a security measure. I traced back using firstly the name of the tenant, then their apparent predecessor which in most cases is the father due to the nature of the inherited leases, with reference to the rate of rent which was fixed for each farm between 1760- 1808. I also matched names from the copyhold leases of 1742 & 1747, and lists of lessees, managing to to trace most owners back to 1728 with the help of John Morgan's estate record book.
Relationship to previous tenant has only been entered where the rent record or lease confirms it. Dates of death and marriage refer to the time the fee was paid to the Lord for the privilege of such; I have placed those details within specific farm details when there is evidence to link a name of a tenant to that farm. From 1742 to 1850s the farms were run by family units, after this some farms became increasingly amalgamated and larger, small plots were rented out and many new cottages were built. Rent prices usually included the land tax within it. Acreage may vary based on the skill of the surveyor, approximation by the tenant and incorporation of land farmed elsewhere on the estate.
Abbreviations: br: brother. brl: brother in law. da: daughter. neph: nephew. s: son. si: sister. sl: son in law. wid: widow. CPAT: Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust.
Manuscript Terminology: Lease nominees for inheritance. Moiety (one of two equal parts). Messuage (house, outbuildings and the land with it). Tenement (a separate dwelling within a house). Apurtances (the goods and tools). Heriott payment of best beast or goods to that effect previously belonging to the recently deceased to the landlord. Abomination Fee: apparently a compensatory fine for doing wrong to a neighbour. Amobr: fee payable on marriage of a tenants children. Alienation fee: payment made where tenancy is transferred.
Maps: c.500 1100 1200 1300 1400? 1579 1612 1729 1756 1812 1845 2012
Artwork: see Artwork in ref.
Translation: Uncertain etymology. Welsh: 1. an enclosed place or park from pal : park enclosed with a pale. eg : open area. 2. to fail : pall ; pall-eg: a failure. 3. pall, shoal of a maid. 4. pall-eg : tented, halled ; or, eg : erw : acre, acres of tents. 5. balleg : fish trap. Aramaic: "cut in pieces" ; "appoint to some one his portion" referring to breaking up the land into farm parchments. Hebrew: Peleg refers to the son of Eber in Genesis, during whos time the earth/tribes were divided. Can also mean a split in a river, a tributary. Sami: body. 1820s French: pelage, noun the hair, fur, wool, or other soft covering of a mammal.
Palleg Manor Description: a parcel of farmed land consisting of 23 farms and a mill (in 1747) with a stretch of unimproved common grazing moorland to the north, amounting to 60% of the estate. Situate to the north of Ystradgynlais bounded by river Twrch to the west and Giedd to the east. Palleg Hill, north of the farmed area consists of 3 escarpments up to 548m with valleys, in parallel, named Tyle Garw, Llorfa and Carreg-Len (or Cefn Mawr) stretching to Banwen Gwyn, at the Llywel parish boundary, marked by piles of stones. Approx 4000 acres. Drim Common to the south east of Ystradgynlais, comprised of Mynydd Drim, semi improved common grazing land, 1600 acres in size, 298m elevation. Lower parts formerly an oak forest.
Status 2012: Estate broken up in 1915 by private sale to tenants. Part mined, part forestry, part farmed, part golf course, part derelict. Some of the farms and cottages are let as holiday homes.
Tenants-In-Chief: The below landowners, were tenants-in-chief for Palleg held in a knight's service for the Crown from c.1215 with service to Brecon Castle under the Marcher Lordship of Brecknock and the Earl of Hereford. It was then converted from Tribal Ownership to a Freehold Manor & farm estate in 1536 until 1915. Question marks in 'Documented Evidence' indicates that original MSS suggest previous ownership by implication, or that the evidence is not sufficient to be corroborated. ^ means from or related to the above.
|DATE||Tenants-In-Chief: Circumstantial Evidence|
|1060||Bleddyn ap Maenyrch?, a Lord of Brecknock|
|1093||Gwgon ap Bleddyn?, a Lord of Brecknock, son of above|
|1130||Cydifor ap Gwgon?, Glyntawe, son of above|
|1200||Meurig ap Cydifor?, Glyntawe, son of above|
|1230||Gwilym ap Meurig?, Glyntawe, son of above|
|1260||Caradog ap Gwilym?, Glyntawe, son of above|
|1290||Owain ap Caradog?, Glyntawe, son of above|
|1330||Owain "Gethin" ab Owain?, esquire, Glyntawe, son of above|
|1360||Nest ferch Owain "Gethin"?, Glyntawe, daughter of above|
|1360||Thomas Awbrey?, constable, Abercynrig, husband to above|
|1380||Richard Awbrey?, esquire, Abercynrig, son of above|
|1400||Gwallter Awbrey?, esquire, Abercynrig, son of above|
|1430||Morgan Awbrey?, esquire, Abercynrig, "Hen", son of above|
|1460||Jenkin Awbrey?, esquire, Abercynrig, son of above|
|1510||Hopkin Awbrey?, esquire, Abercynrig, son of above|
|DATE||Tenants-In-Chief: Documented Evidence|
|1536||from Hopkin?^ to William Awbrey, Abercynrig, son^. Crown grant / Dowry?^|
|1547||to Joan Awbrey (née Herbert), wife^, Abercynrig. Death of above^|
|1551||to Richard Awbrey, son^, minor, Abercynrig, under Edward Herbert. Crown grant^|
|1579||Richard?^ cousin? to Dr William Awbrey, Cantref, court of Elizabeth I? Sold/inherited^|
|1585||to Sir Thomas Awbrey, Llantrythid, 2nd son^. Dowry^ to Mary Mansell, Margam|
|1595||to Sir Thomas Awbrey, Llantrythid, (as above). Death of Dr W.A.^, Crown grant^|
|1622||Sir Thomas Awbrey, Llantrythid, (as above). Rent accounts|
|1634||dowry to Dr Thomas Awbrey, St David's, 2nd son^ & Eleanor Awbrey, Ynyscedwyn (annulled)|
|1634||(Morgan Awbrey & Margared Games of Ynyscedwyn, owned South Tir Y Palleg. Will)|
|c.1635||dowry to Dr Thomas Awbrey, St David's^ m. to Eleanor Abigal Rudd, Aberglasney|
|1641||(Morgan Awbrey of Ynyscedwyn, son of Morgan^ granted South Tir Y Palleg. Oister le Main^)|
|1666||to John Morgan and Mary (da of Dr. Thomas Awbrey^). Raised fine in joynture|
|1685||to John Morgan, Wenallt, son of J. Morgan^. Dowry to Anna Maria Brailsford^|
|1699||John Morgan, Wenallt, on death seized by wife Anna Maria Morgan^. Will^|
|1707||Anna Maria Morgan^ remarries James Hughes, Llanvetherine. Crown Court case 1717|
|1717||to Edward Williams, Llangattock, cousin-in-law to John Morgan^. Crown Court, award^|
|1717||to Anna Maria Hughes (da of J. Hughes^) and Edward Williams, Llangattock^, dowry^|
|1726||to Anna Maria Hughes (née ----?)^, death of E.Williams^. Will^|
|1729||to Ann Maria Williams^ (later Powell) da. to A.M. Hughes^. Death^|
|1742||to Edward Williams of Llangattock, son of A.M. Williams^. Death^|
|1747||to Thomas Morgan, Ruppera. Sold for £3184.70^. Receipt|
|1766||to John Morgan of Ruppera. Death^|
|1792||to 1st Baronet Charles Gould Morgan of Tredegar. Death^|
|1808||to 2nd Baronet Charles Morgan of Tredegar. Death^|
|1850||to 1st Baron Charles Robinson Morgan of Tredegar. Death^|
|1875||to 1st Viscount Godfrey Charles Morgan of Tredegar. Death^|
|1913||to 1st Viscount Courtenay Charles Morgan of Tredegar. Death^|
|1915||to Nolton Estates, Brynhenllys Colliery, private farms. Auction, private sale^|
|1935||to Breconshire County Council (Palleg Common) sale by Tredgear Estate|
|1952||? Eagle star insurance?|
|1956||Brecon Beacons National Park Created, parts of Palleg contained within|
|1974||to Powys County Council, (Palleg Common)|
|1996||to Brecon Beacons National Park (Palleg Common)|
Annual Rent Income: 1728, £104.6.10. 1740, £112.7. 1747, £129.4. 1760, £145.13.0. 1772, £139.3.6. 1780, £159.10.6.
1792, £219.4.6. 1800, £220.18.6. 1821, £419.17. 1839, £684. 1870, £657. 1890, £520. 1915, £564.
Coal, Iron Income: 1795, £17. Heriotts: approx £5.
Other Income: was due from mining rottenstone, building stone, lime, wood.
Rent Agents & Estate Stewards:
1725-42, John Morgan (Fforchorllwyn)
1747, Evan Evans
1760, John Morgan (Fforchorllwyn) & Thomas Bryan (Steward)
1775, Howel Price (Glynllech) & George Morgan (Steward)
1788, Walter Price (Glynllech & Dorwen) & Hugh Bold (Steward)
1831, James Price (Glanllech) Thomas Bold (Steward 1822)
1867, Edgar Thomas (Steward)
1823, Thomas Jones. 1840, Rev. Thomas Williams, Ynislas. 1847, Rev. Thomas Williams, Ynislas. 1853, William Feetham. 1858, David Davies. 1858, Morgan Morgan (May).
Palleg Spreadsheet.ods (for use in Libre Office or a 'free document opener').
Palleg Spreadsheet.xls (for use in Microsoft Applications).
Unmatched Marriages: 20th Nov 1783 John Rees son of Rees John & Elinor da. of David Rees, Palleg. 1764, Harry Thomas marriage (Penybont?) £0.2.0. 1795, David William (Penybont?) & Ann Rees (Penllwyn Teg?).
Palleg Farms: Penrhiw, Glyncynwal Isaf, Glyncynwal Uchaf, Maespica, Shin Grug Fawr (now Pentwyn), Tredeg, Pen-Y-Sarn, Penllwyn Teg, Henglyn Uchaf, Henglyn Isaf, Tir-y-Gof, Gilfach Hesgi, Bryn-Y-Grainen, Penywern, Tir Morgan Taylor, Tir Cae Mole (now Penrheol), Dorwen Tyle Garw, Pen-Y-Bont, Brynhenllys, Waunlwyd, Palleg Mill, Tir-Y-Gelly, Tir Canol, Cwm Fforch Gwyn.
Caemawr (purchased from David Jones 1871) SN 79005 13152, SA9 1NQ, Tenants: 1871-76 Miles? Williams. 1877-85 William Hopkins. Lewis Jones, 1903-15 Rent: £21.10. Sold 22 sept 1915. 67.1.28a. Tir Roger. SN 78716 12973. 4 acres of land carved from Henglyn Uchaf woods. 1835-58 Roger Rogers. 1884-95 John Rogers. 1915 BL Thomas sub agent, corner and deputy sheriff for Breconshire. 3.1.52a £10 rent.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1868 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
Pictures: Farmhouse Barn Carthouse Carthouse Carthouse Carthouse
Translation: head of the slope.
Name Variants: Pen y Rue, 1742. Pen yr Riue, 1747. Pen y Rhiw, 1781. Pinrhiw, 2012. Variations of rhyw, rhew.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, pantry, beds (3), box room. Out: stone/slate, cart house, barn (2), stable lofted (3), double beast house (7), calf cot lofted. Stone/stone, pigsty. Steel/zinc, french barn. (1972) derelict, built 19th C. heightened to 2 storey mid 19th C. (2012) House in 1840s Victorian style, restored, stone, 2 storey, two chimney, multi frame small windows, stone lintels, slate roof, limed. Out house in similar style but maybe older, 1 and a half storey, arrow vent shaft at rear. Older part of house or cart barn behind in ruins, part quarried block stone built, some parts river stone, one and half storey, arrow slit vents, two large openings, tapered chimney with wood bressumer above fireplace, fallen crux beams, hand shaped with hand made wood and iron dowels.
Some Field Names 1844: Cae tyr du, Wain fach, Gwndwin melin, Cae yr graig, Ardd yr cwm, Cae dan ty, Cae rotin, Croft yr coed, Yr widdolan, Cae scaleg, Wain goch, Caecwm, Cae fray, Croften, Cae sgybor, Cae clay, Coedcae, Gorsllwyn, Wain fach.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: extant, farm also Washing Machine Centre.
Previous Tenants: 1728-29: David Lewis (d.c.1729?)
1729-69, Lewis David d.c.1768: (David, Thomas & John s.)
1770-78: Lewis David wid.
1779-00: David Lewis s. d.1800
1801-31: John Lewis br.
1839-44: Mary Lewis
1851-61: Richard Morgan
1867-75: John Thomas (+ Henglyn Isaf)
1876-78: Enoch Morgan (+ Henglyn Isaf)
1879-84: Rachel Morgan (+ Henglyn Isaf)
1891-15: David Williams (+ Henglyn Isaf + Tir cae Mole)
Death Herriots: 1768, Lewis David £2.0.0. 1800, David Lewis £12.12.0
Marriage Amobr: 1765, Ann, da. Lewis David da. £0.2.0. 1767, Jennet David da. Lewis David £0.2.0. 7th May 1786, Thomas Walter, Llywel & Gwenllian David da.David Lewis, 2s. 11th Dec 1779, William Thomas & Anne David da. David Lewis, £0.2.0.
Annual Rent: 1728-41, £4.0. 1742-1808, £5.4 1812-31, £18. 1839-00, £65.3. 1900-15, £97.
Tithe: 1844, £3.0.6. Freehold Value in 1915: £1012 "buildings in bad state of repair"
Acreage: 1844, 79.0.14a. 1861, 100a. 1868, 78a. 1871, 120a. 1903, 78.3a. 1915, 93.3a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1899 1905 1918 1964 2012
Pictures: Farmhouse Barn
Translation: Glyn: narrow valley. Cyn: chiselled or before. Wal: possibly wall. Others state it may have been named after a Celtic fort on the site, Saint Cynwal of Gower or Cynwal ap Ffrwdwr, relative of Brychan Brycheiniog. Uchaf: Highest.
Name Variants: Glin Cunwall, 1742. Glin Cunwal, 1747. Glyncunwall, 1791. Glyn cwnwal, 1814. Glyncunwal, 1845.
Architecture: (1915) House: stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, beds (4), washhouse. Out: stone/slate, double beast house, range, lofted (16). Steel/zinc, stable lofted (4), barn (2), cart shed, pigsty (2), french barn (4). (2012) Main house completely restored, maybe from old Victorian house with additional porch and side house. Out building of stone completely restored as house, L shaped, slate roof, with large brick arched cart door on left.
Some Field Names 1844: Wain isha, Coedcae, Cae slang, Cae canfaes, Cae yr odin, Wain yr helen, Cae yr erw, Cae yr sgybor, Y Graid. Uchaf: superior.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: Extant 2011. Farm and holiday cottage. Also JLA recycling.
Notes: originally farmed as Glyncynwal farm, but split into upper and lower, prior to 1540s.
Previous Tenants:1728-57: Howell Lewis d.1757 (Margaret & Anne da.)
1757-64: Howell Lewis's wid.
1765-74: Morgan Daniel
1775-88: Howell David's wid.
1789-44: William Llewelyn
1851-92: David Griffiths
1892: David & William Griffiths
1893-15: William Griffiths
Deaths & Herriots: 1789, Margaret Llewellyn widow, £2.0.0. 26th Aug 1757, Howell Lewis, £2.0.0. 1808, Ann Howell, £10.10.
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £4. 1734-41, £5. 1742, £6. 1760-1808, £6.1.6. 1809-25, £20. 1826-31, £25. 1839-03, £43. 1915, £34.8.
Freehold Value: 1915, £1143. Tithe: 1844, £4.3.7. Acreage: 1844, 81.0.31a. 1861, 75a. 1871, 68a.
Maps: 1812 1819 1844 1845 1878 1899 1905 1918 1964 2012
Pictures: Sign Longhouse Longhouse Anvil
Translation: Isaf: lowest. Glyn: narrow valley. Cyn: chiselled or before. Wal: possibly wall. Others state it may have been named after a Celtic fort on the site, Saint Cynwal of Gower or Cynwal ap Ffrwdwr, relative of Brychan Brycheiniog.
Name Variants: Glin Cunwall Isha, 1742. Glyncwnwal, 1812. Isha.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, beds (4). Out: stone/slate, barn (2), stable lofted (3), beast house, range, lofted (9), carpenters shop, cart house, pigsty. Steel/zinc French barn (5). (2012) House in Victorian style c.1840, restored, stone, two chimneys, slate roof. Opposite, a well preserved and restored long barn c.1660, part cottage, part storage, one storey, with large loft area, stone built, stone bridged keystone archways, earth bank ramp to loft area removed.
Some Field Names 1844: Waun ucha, Coedcae, Y graig, Cae yr frest, Cae hwnt, Cae y banwen, Cae sgybor, Wain, Cae glansiri, Cae penirren, Erw fawr, Erw bant, Cae pentwyn, Wain caer lloi.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: Extant 2011. Holiday Cottage on the farm. Mrs Mali Craig.
Notes: originally farmed as Glyncynwal farm, but split into upper and lower, prior to 1540s.
Previous Tenants: 1728-70: William Griffith d.1770
(Richard Wilm. & Griffith Wilm. s., Jane da.)
1771-08: William Griffith wid.
1809-41: Edward Williams + William Griffith (land parted)
1844-61: Griffith William
1867-90: Thomas Evans
1891: John Evans
1892-96: Elizabeth Evans
1897-15: Thomas Evans
Deaths & Herriots: 23rd Nov 1778, Griffith William. 1779, John William Owen.
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £6.12.6. 1735-41, £7.5. 1742-16, £8.19.0. 1820-38, £16+£26.
1839-79, £42.7.6. 1880-93, £42.7.6. 1894-15, £41.19.6.
Land Tax: 1808, £0.11.9. Tithe: 1844, £5.1.0. Freehold Value 1915: £1057.
Acreage: 1808, 133.1.15a. 1844, 138.1.29a. 1861, 86a. 1871, 89a.
Maps: 1812 1819 1844 1845 1878 1899 1905 1918 1964 2012
Pictures: Farm 1880 Sign Farmhouse Barn/Cottage
Translation: Maes: open field. Pica: stones or sharp. Probably field of stones. Or field on a pointed rise. Or from old Welsh, maes: battle, site of the sharp (swords?). A sharp battle?
Name Variants: Tyre Mase Picka, 1742. Tir Mary Picka, 1747. Tir Maes Picca 1781. Maesypien 1814. Maespicka 1821.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, kitchen (3), parlour, dairy, beds (4). Out: stone/slate, beast house, range, lofted (12), stable lofted (3), cart house, barn (2). Stone/stone pigsty (2). Steel/zinc, french barn (4). (2012) house probably restored from original Victorian, 2 storey, porch, modern exterior. Older outhouse or cottage, derelict, in restoration, dressed square stones, keystone archways. Later stone built store added to side.
Some Field Names 1844: Ynis fawr, Croft William Llywellyn, Ynis ganol, Ynis felin, Ynis blaen y pound, Ynis brwynag, Croft llwyn, Cae ciw, Cae pwll, Croft rhoddol, Cae grase, Cae picka, Coedcae, Widdol fach, Cae sgybor, Cae odin, Warddol genol, Cae pentwyn, Cae war y cwm, Cae betting isha.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenants, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: Extant and farmed. Part of Land Palleg Golf Course by 1965.
Notes: jointly farmed with Shin Grug Fawr farm from 1742-64, 1788-1826. Apparently abandoned or used as a 2nd home from 1861-91.
Previous Tenants: 1734-57: John David Lewis d.1757 (+Shin Grug)
(John & David s. Margaret da.)
1758-64: John David's wid. (+Shin Grug)
1765-84: Lewis John (Howell) (Shin Grug sublet)
1785-31: Thomas Morgan (+Shin Grug)
1839+44: David Griffiths
1841: Elizabeth Griffiths
1851: Griffith Griffiths
1861-91: run from Shin Grug Fawr and uninhabited?
1881-02: Samuel Griffiths
1902-15: David Samuel Griffiths
Deaths & Herriots: John David Lewis, 1757, £2
Marriage Amobr: 1765 Gwenllian John, da. John David, to Edward William, £0.2.0. 1767 Margaret John da. John David to Watkin Madock, £0.10.0.
Annual Rent: 1734-41, £5.7.6. 1742-1825, £9.4 paired (£6.2 single). 1826-27, £24.4 paired. 1831, £18 single. 1839, £28.5.4. 1894-1915, single £28.6.4. Tithe: 1844, £2.8.5. Acreage: 1844, 76.1.9a. 1881, 44a. 1903, 49a. 1903, 65a.
Maespica cottage on the farm. Leased to Owen J Owen Age 84 1884, 1867-1887, £1.1.6. Died 3:4:1887. 1887-1902 J.D.Owen, £1.13.0. 1902-1935 Owen, John Owen, £1.13.0. Lease from 17/8/1872 for 60 years. Expired 1931. Sold to Nolton Estates 24 June 1935. Letter 1939, J Owen moved to 25 Chapel St. Inverskilen, Pebbleshire.
Maps: 1819 1844 1845 1878 1899 1905 1914 1964 2012
Pictures: Farmhouse Barn
Translation:the word shingrug refers to early winnowing activity, the word is apparently a corruption of the old Welsh 'Eisingrug', eisen meaning husks and crug meaning a mound or a heap (of oats). (The farm is next door to the mill).
Name Variants: Tyr Shingrig Vaur, 1742. 1781-1821 alternates of Shingrugfawr. Penshinrgrig 1845. 1940? renamed Pentwyn farm.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/zinc a store. Stone/slate, beast house (4). Wood, stable (2), harness room, cart house, french barn. (2012) House recent rebuild, modern exterior. Outhouse earlier stone built one storey tin roof.
Some Field Names 1844: Wain ucha, Graig, Wain issa, Cae crenbi.
Fate: possibly demolished <1878 for railway and mine and rebuilt. Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: farm extant, rebuilt, renamed Pentwyn farm.
Notes: farmed at intervals from Maespica with separate or combined rents.
Previous Tenants: 1734-57: John David Lewis d.1757 (from Maespica)
(Owen Wlms wid. Occupier)
1758-64: John David Lewis wid. (from Maespica)
1765-70: William Gethin
1771-74: John David
1775-79: John David's wid.
1780-86: John David Jnr s.
1787-26: Thomas Morgan (from Maespica)
1831: William Davies
1841: Elizabeth Griffiths (from Maespica)
1839-51: Griffith Griffiths (subtenant)
1861: John Thomas
1867-00: Herbert Griffiths
1902: Margaret & William Griffith
1903-14: Margaret & Arthur Griffith
1915: Margaret Griffiths
Annual Rent: 1767-1825, £3.2. 1831, £13. 1839-15, £18.14. Tithe: 1844, £1.14.9.
Freehold value 1915: £745.
Acreage: 1844, 39a. 1871, 29a. 1906, 38a
Maps: 1812 1819 1844 1845 1878 1899 1905 1918 1964 2007
Pictures: House Layout 1972 Farmhouse 1980 Farmhouse 2000 Farmhouse 2012 Sign
Translation: the fair farmstead. Or old Welsh: dwelling of fair tribute.
Name Variants: Tir Deagnes? 1747. Dredeg 1800+21.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, kitchen, parlour, dairy, beds (3). Out: stone/slate, stable lofted (3), tool house lofted, pigsty (2), double beast house lofted (12), calf cot, barn (2). Stone/zinc, cart shed. Steel/zinc French barn. (1972) 2 storey, rendered, Victorian porch, rear lean to. (2012) restored house from Victorian shell, widened, stone, with Victorian porch. Long barn, stone, restored, with stained glass dragon.
Some Field Names 1844: Wain hir, Coedcae y gwayr, Coedcae y grug, Cae glwyd ucha, Cae yr hyg, Cae war y ty, Cae yr wain, Cae glwyd isha, Cae sgybor, Wrlod, Cae ty hwnt y ty, Cae du isha, Cae y banwen, Ynis ucha, Gurlod newydd, Hanwen fawr, cae Thomas Shinkin, Cae pwll glo, Banwen, Wain cae yr betting, Coedcae yr lloi.
Fate: Part of land used for open mining from 1889, farm still let. Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Land opencast mined from 1995, farm abandoned. Restored c.2006.
Status 2012: extant as farm and house.
Previous Tenants: 1728-30: Richard Williams Griffiths
1730-41: Richard Williams Griffiths wid.
1747-97: Hopkin Richard (William Rich, br. Richard Wlm, neph.)
1798-27: Griffith Hopkin s.
1831: Richard Elias
1839-44: William Griffith
1851+61: Daniel Richards
1867-88: William Griffiths
(1871-01: David Davies farm bailiff)
1889-25: Brynhenllys Colliery
1925-40: Brynhenllys Anthracite Colliery (sold to)
1940: Henllys Valley Trading, Swansea (conveyed to)
Death Herriots: 1797, Hopkin Richard £9.0.0. Marriage Amobr: 12th May 1753, Margaret Griffith (Pensarn) & Hopkin Richard. 1776, Hopkin Richard. 17th March 1781, Ann da. of Hopkin Richard & Rees Herbert of Llandilo. 8th July 1786, John David & Mary da. of Hopkin Richard.
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £7. 1734-41, £8. 1747-1816, £13.4. 1821-7, £35. 1831, £42. 1839, £62. 1867-90, £60.
1892, £62. 1894-02, £95.3.10. 1903-15, £62. Land Tax: 1808, £0.10.73. Tithe: 1844, £3.1.0.
Freehold Value 1915: £1767. 1925: £76,500.
Acreage: 1808, 202.1.10a. 1844, 205a. 1851, 110a. 1861, 200a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1868 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
2012 Pictures: Sign Farmhouse Longhouse Stone Tiles
Translation: Head of the causeway, referring to a road over wetland.
Name Variants: Pen-Y-Sarn 1781. Pen-y-Sarne 1800+21.
Architecture: (1915) House: stone/slate, kitchen, parlour, dairy, beds (3), box room. Out: stone/slate, double beast house (16), calf cot, lofted (2), stable, lofted (3), barn (2), fowl house, loft. Steel/zinc, French barn. stone/zinc pigsty. (2012) Modern house built onto and into the old longhouse, may conceal Victorian features. Longhouse portion shortened, one storey and loft, shaped stone, corrugated roof, flat beams protruding through walls, stone lintels, keystone archways. Similar outhouse near, but with brick archways, probably a later build. Load of old stone slates stored in a corner.
Some Field Names 1844:Cae maes pound, Cae cornel, Quarter dan, Cae erw wern, Pen cae rotin, Cae pant, Wain llwn, Cae sgybor, Wain dre wyse, Coedcae pensarn.
Fate : Rebuilt mid 1800s (CPAT). Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: Extant 2011. Sheep farm.
Previous Tenants: 1728-77: Griffith Thomas d.1778 (Owen s. & Mary da.)
1778-93: Owen Griffith s. d.1793 (Margaret, si.)
1793-00: Richard Owen s. d.1851
1801-03: Richard Owen (+Penllwyn Teg)
1804-31: Griffith Owen
1839-44: Griffith Jeffrey
(1841: Howell Jefferys)
1851+61: William Daniel
1867-95: William Daniel (+Henglyn Ucha + part Pen Y Bont)
(1871: Benjamin Daniel)
1896-14: Lewis Daniel (+Henglyn Ucha + part Pen Y Bont)
1915: Benjamin Daniel + Lewis Daniel
Deaths Herriots: Griffith Thomas Sep 1778, £3.0.0. Marriage Amobr: 12th May 1753, Margaret Griffith (Pensarn) & Hopkin Richard (Tredeg). 1793, Richard Owen & Ann William £0.2.0.
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £3.10.0. 1734-41, £4 1747-180, £5.4. 1821-26, £18. 1839, £51.14.6. 1867-15, £51.14.
Land Tax: 1808: £0.5.2. Tithe: 1844, £2.12.5. Freehold Value: 1915, £1641.
Acreage: 1781, 77a. 1844, 77.0.13a. 1861, 100a. 1868, 19.2a. 1871, 150a. 1903, 108a. 1915, 79a
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1845 1868 1878 1905 1915 1919 1964 2007 2012
Pictures: Sign Farmhouse 2001 Farmhouse 2012 Beastbarn Beastbarn Beastbarn Pig Pens
Translation: head of the fair grove.
Name Variants: Tir Pellwyne Teugue, 1747. Various spellings
Architecture: (1915) House: stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, beds (4). Out: stone/slate, double beast house (10), calf pen (2), stable lofted (3), barn (2), pigsty (2). (1972) mid 19th C, 2 storey, rendered, segmented window heads, narrow crowded front. (2012) House 2 storey stone built in Victorian style with polychrome brick windows, sash windows, built from remains of previous. Remains of longhouse opposite, built c.1709, dwelling part ruin, barn part a shed, arrow slit vent holes, flat beams protruding through walls, brick archways. Small stone goose house at rear, entry only through 2 brick arched low entrances, built c.1860.
Some Field Names 1844:Cae issa, Coedcae, Caecwm, Cae sgybor, Cae canol, Wain newydd, Pencaemawr, Cae estafell, Cae gelly fedw.
Fate: Demolished and rebuilt 1896. Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Abandoned 1970s. Demolished & rebuilt 2006. Status 2012: extant as farm or house with land. Longhouse in ruins.
Notes: exact same named farm found in Cilybebyll, few miles SW, dating from 1500s.
Previous Tenants: 1728-41: David Llywelyn
1747-88, William Rees d.1788 (Margaret wi., John Howell brl.)
1788-00: Margaret Rees wid. d.1800
1801-50: Richard Owen (+Pensarn 1800-3)
1851: Samuel Griffiths
1861: Thomas Williams
1862: William Williams
1864: Anne Williams
1867-14: John Price
1915: Thomas James +David Williams
1931: William William Levi
Deaths & Herriots: 1788, William Rees, £2.2.0 1800, Margaret Rees wid., £2.2.0
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £3.5.0. 1734-00, £3.14. 1801-1816, £15.15. 1820-31, £13.13. 1839-15, £21.17.4.
Land Tax: 1798, £0.5.7. 1808, 0.3.9. Tithe: 1844, £3.0.6. Freehold Value 1915: £714.
Acreage: 1781, 64.2.23a. 1844, 68.3.4a. 1861, 66a. 1868, 69.2a. 1871, 60a. 1881, 120a. 1903, 69a. 1911, 38a. 1915, 88a.
Penrhiwgwys cottage SN 77164 11732 (Pentwyn Teg, 1835. Ty y Wain, 1847. Pentyle Gwys, 1861. Penrhiw Gwys, 1871. Gwys cottage, 1935. Pentre Ty Gwys, 2012). On the farmland of Penllwyn Teg, sub let to Griffith William, 1835-1847. William Owen, 1847-1867. Elizabeth Owen, 1867- 1880. Thomas Harries, 1881. Richard Owen blacksmith, 1882-1894. Margaret Davies, 1901. Willie Myers, 1911. Thomas Jones, 3rd Aug 1907.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
Pictures: School 1900 Ruins Ruins Ruins
Translation: Hen: old or former. Glyn: narrow valley. Uchaf: highest.
Name Variants: Hen Glin Icher, 1747. 1781-1845, various spellings of above.
Architecture: (1915) House: stone/tiled, 1 room, sunday school and cart shed. (1950) longhouse, broken into two parts, one storey with loft, stone, slate, stone lintels and keystone archways. (2012) only dilapidated stone walls and gables remain.
Some Field Names 1844: Caer efel, Croften bach, Cae dan ty, Widdol, Cae sgybor, Hane hwnt yr sgybor, Cae sarn, Cae ddu coed ucha, Wain cae henglyn, Pen cae rotin, Coedcae, Cae main, Cae mole, Cae hofog, Wern bwll.
Fate: Converted to a Sunday School for Capel Yorath from 1900-1930. Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Status 2012: Derelict. Abandoned or used as barn from c.1950. Land farmed from Henglyn Isha.
Notes: originally farmed as Henglyn farm, but split into upper and lower, prior to 1540s.
Previous Tenants: 1728-61: John Thomas (Griffith)(Thomas John s.,
David John neph. (s. of David Lewis), Daniel br.)
1762-69: William Evan
1770-75: Morgan Evan
1775-87: Daniel Thomas
1788-95: Mr Rees William
1799-12: John David Lewis (+Palleg Mill)
1813-14: John Lewis's son
1816: William Samuel
1821-22: Owen Hopkin
1823-26: William Morgan (+ Henglyn Isha)
1839+44: Gwilym David (d.14:5:1840 64y)
1841: Daniel Davies
1851: Morgan Thomas
1861: John Jenkins
1867-95: William Daniel (from Pensarn)
1896-15: Lewis Daniel (+ Pensarn & part Penybont)
(1901-30: Sunday School)
Deaths & Herriots: John Thomas Griffith: 12/1785
Annual Rent: 1728-41, £4.15.0. 1747-1805, £5.19. 1808-16, £22. 1820-3, £20. 1824-25, £40. 1826-31, £42.
Tithe: 1844, £2.12.5 Acreage: 1808, 85a. 1844, 92.21a. 1860, 58. 1906, 78a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1868 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
Pictures: Cottage 1972 Barns Cottage 2012
Translation: Hen: old or former. Glyn: narrow valley. Isaf: lowest.
Name Variants: Hen Glin Isha, 1747. Ishaf, Isha.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/thatch, kitchen, dairy, bed (1). Out: stone/slate, pigsty, beast house lofted (6), small barn. Steel/zinc french barn. (1972) 1 and half storey, rendered, iron roof, previously thatch roof. (2005) 18thC, Henglyn Isaf cottage is a small vernacular farmhouse exceptional to the region, rare survival. Grant of £21,000 for restoration 2005. Historic Buildings Trust. (2012) Main house one storey, stone built, modern restoration of older house. Cottage yellow painted holiday home, stone with red iron roof, stone lintels, multi paned small windows, pantry at rear. Cadw Building ID: 25951. Grade: II. Date Listed: 12 April 2001. Listed Buildings Description Under The Thatch Royal Commission Report
Some Field Names 1844: Coedcae issa, Cae du bach, Cae Sgybor, Caer glwyn y cae, Cae cefen y cae, Cae main, Cae y gain, Cae yr gelly, Wain caer efel, Widdol ucha, Wain henglin issa.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: Extant. Sheep farm, Daniel family, champion sheepdog trialist.
Notes: originally farmed as Henglyn farm, but split into upper and lower, prior to 1540s. Marsh fritillary butterfly habitat, countryside Council for Wales, 2005.
Previous Tenants: 1728-64: Evan Morgan d.1764 (William & Morgan s.)
1765-97: Elizabeth Morgan wid.
1798-08: William Evan Morgan d.1808
1809-31: William Morgan
1839+44: Mary Evans
1841: Mary Evans + Thomas Griffith
1851: Jonah David
1861+71+81+91: Owen Owen (sub tenant)
1867-75: John Thomas (from Penrhiw)
1876-78: Enoch Morgan (from Penrhiw)
1879-84: Rachel Morgan (from Penrhiw)
1891: Owen Owen
1901: John Evans
1903-15: David Williams (+Penrhiw + Tir Cae Mole)
Death Herriots: 1765, Evan Morgan £2.0.0. 1808, William Evan Morgan, £10.10
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £4.10.0. 1734-41, £5. 1742-1823, £8.4. 1903-15, £59.2.36.
Land Tax: 1808, 0.6.3. Tithe: 1844, £3.0.6. Freehold Value: 1915, £476.
Acreage: 1808, 94.3.8a. 1844, 90.2.35. 1860, 72a 1861, 30a. 1881, 75a. 1868 59a. 1881, 75a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
Translation:Tir: land. Gof: smith. Dwelling of the blacksmith.
Name Variants: Tyr y Gove, 1742. Tir y Gos 1747. Tir y Gove, 1747. 1781-1845 variant spelling of above.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, beds (4). Out: stone/slate, cart shed, beast house lofted (6), pigsty (2), calf cot, barn (2), beast house (6), stable lofted (3), boiler house. (1972) derelict, tall symmetrical house 2 storeys with porch and rear wing, polychrome brick dressings to front.
Some Field Names 1844:Coed caer gof, Coedcae main, Wain llwyn, Coedcae, Caer wain, Cae pant, Cae sgybor, Cae penllwyn du, Cae'r cethin, cae crwn, Caer olchfa, Cae hendy.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Demolished c.1980, land used for forestry and mining.
Status 2012: ruins may be concealed in woodland.
Notes: abundant horse and cattle shoes found in area. Described as a post medieval house in 1978 (CPAT). A blacksmith's shop was located at Penrhiwgwys Cottage nearby until at least 1860-1900.
Previous Tenants: 1728-41: Thomas William
1742-47: William Thomas s. (Hopkin William neph.)
1760: William Thomas wid.
1762-89: Morgan Daniel
(1766: Daniel William)
(1775-77: William Thomas wid.)
1791: Ann Daniel, wid.
1792-98: Richard Pritchard
1799-26: Benjamin Evans
1839+44: John Rees
1841: Gwenllian Rees
1851: John Daniel
1861-93: William Williams
1894-14: Thomas Williams
1915: William Morgan
Deaths & Herriots: 1775, Daniel William £4.0.0. 1791, Morgan Daniel, £4.0.0.
Annual Rent: 1728-41 £4.05.0. 1742, £5.0.0. 1760-1808, £5.4.0. 1821, £20.4. 1822-25, £30. 1826, £35. 1839-03, £45. 1915, £26.2.8. Tithe: 1844, £5.1.0. Freehold Value 1915: £1197. Acreage: 1844, 207.0.24a. 1851, 207a. 1861, 150a. 1881, 200a.
Previous Tenants: 1742, Samuel Williams (from Gilfach +Tir Canol) (Thomas Wlm Hopkin occupier)
1747-66, Daniel Williams (from Gilfach) (William Wlm & Morgan s.)
1767-90, Morgan Daniel (from Gilfach)
1791, Richard Pritchard (from Gilfach)
1792-1812, William Thomas Williams d.1812
1812 farmed from Tir Y Gof
Deaths & Herriots: 1775, Daniel William £4.0.0 from Morgan Daniel 1791, Morgan Daniel 1791. £4.0.0 from Daniel Williams
Annual Rent: 1742-1791 joint rent with Gilfach Hesgi 1792-95, £20. 1800-5, £21.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1899 1905 1918 1964 2012
Translation: Gilfach: sheltered spot. Hesgi: rushing river. Hoogi: sharp river.
Name Variants: Kilvach Hooge, 1742. Kilvach hogee, 1747. Gilvach Hesgi 1781. Gilvach Hogi 1791. Gilfach Hoogi 1800 +21. Gilfach 1814 + 1845.
Architecture: (1915) House: stone/slate & thatch, parlour, kitchen dairy, bed (3). Out: stone/slate, barn (2), stable lofted (3), beast house lofted (16). Stone/zinc boiler house, pigsty, cart house.
Some Field Names 1844: Cae canol, Cae pentwyn, Gorse fach, Cae urdd, Cae dan ty, Cae sgybor bach, Wain fawr.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Mentioned as empty in 1972. Probably demolished with opencast. Status 2012: ruins not evident.
Notes: The moiety of Tir y Gof and other land was farmed from here to 1808.
Previous Tenants:1728-41: Daniel William
1742-46: Samuel Williams for Gilfach, Tir Canol,
Tir Y Gof Moiety (he may have sublet these)
1747-62: Daniel William d.1775
1762-90: Morgan Daniel s.
1791-99: Richard Pritchard
1800-16: Mr Edward Martin
1820-27: Leyson Griffith
1831: Evan Griffith
1839: Owen Griffiths
1841-15: Evan Griffith
(1881: Margaret Griffiths)
Death & Herriots: 1775, Daniel William, £4.0.0. Marriages: 31st Oct 1778, John Harry, Languick & Gwenllian, da. Morgan Daniel £0.2.0. 2nd Dec 1778, John Morgan & Mary da. Morgan Daniel £0.2.0.
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £11. 1734-41, £12.05.0. 1742, £16.0 + Tir Canol, Moiety Tir Gof, Morgan Taylor + Cae Mole. 1760-88, £16.6 + Tir Canol And Moiety Tir Y Gof. 1791, £40. 1792-95, £20 with Moiety Tir Y Gof. 1800-25, £21. (with Tir Canol to 1808). 1826, £25. 1844, £31.15. 1851-61, £72. 1867-96, £31.15.2. 1897-15, £30.5.0 Gilfach only from 1808. Tithe: 1844, £3.5.0.
Acreage: 1781, 122.0a. 1844, 72.3.17a. 1851, 72a. 1868, 69a. 1871, 60a. 1903, 71a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1905 1964 2012
Pictures: Farmhouse 2012
Translation: Bryn: hill. Grainen: pebbles or from graen:corn. Or possibly mutation of garnwen: hill
of the white barrow. Bronze age barrows found nearby.
Name Variants: Bryn y Graynin, 1742. Brin y Gwinin, 1747. Bringrinen 1814. Bryn Y Granini 1821. Brin y grainen 1845. 1987, 2012 Bryn Grunin.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, bed (4). Out: stone slate/tile, boiling house, beast house, range (13), calf pen, barn (2), cart house, stable (3), ram pen (2). Steel/zinc french barn (4). Stone/zinc pigsty (2). (1972) 2 storey front range of two rooms with straight stair between, is narrow; 18th C. Thick back wall and straight joint show rear rooms added in 19thC, when front acquired present appearance, which is thoroughly Victorian, disguising the older house. (2012) Victorian house extant with modern render. Older stone built outhouses nearby.
Some Field Names 1844: Yddwen ucha bryn y grainen, Iddwen bach, Cae issa, Cwmbach, Cae cenol, Cae glaes, Cae cefn y cae, Quarter bach, Dairy fach, Ynis fach, Ynis fawr, Craig, Wai, Yourch, Cae llwyn, Cae mole, Cae betting, Coedcae, Wain Ucha.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Status 2012: Extant, farm and house.
Notes: Two bronze age barrows, Cae Garn, found near the site (CPAT). Took over Brynygroes farm (noted in 2005).
Previous Tenants: 1728-39: David William
1742-61: William David s. d.c.1764 (David s. & Elinor da.)
1762-23: David William s.
1824-51: Evan David
1861: Thomas Morgan
1867-90: Issac Price
1891-15: David Price
Deaths Herriots: 1764, William David £2.0.0. Marriage Amobr: 1765 Jane Samuel da. William David. £0.2.0. May 16th 1789 : William William s. of Samuel William & Elizabeth Williams da. of David Williams £0.2.0.
Annual Rent: 1728-41, £6.10.0. 1742-23, £7.14. 1824-26, £25. 1839-15, £38.18.8. Land Tax: 1808: £0.9.43. Tithe: 1844, £4.8.3. Acreage: 1808, 102.2.23a. 1844, 107.2.9a. 1861, 169a. 1871, 100a. 1881, 180a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
Pictures 2012: Farmhouse Farmhouse Carthouse Hay Rake Longbarn Earth ramp
Translation: Head of the alder grove.
Name Variants: Pen y Wern, 1742. variants with hyphens.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate kitchen, dairy, bed (2). Out: stone/slate, small barn, beast house (8), stable (3), coach house, pigsty. (2012) derelict. House 2 storey brick and stone, Victorian. Remains of stone longhouse with surviving earth ramp to loft. Remains of stone carthouse contains a rusting Victorian mechanical horse drawn hay rake & small forge.
Some Field Names 1844: Wain pen y wern, Coedcae, Wain yr pant, Wain fach, Hearn garn, Caer tyr du, Cae cefen y cae, Croften gifer, Gofer, Ynis, Croften felin, Cae sgybor, Cae garw, Tyle bach.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: farmhouse derelict.
Notes: Medieval evidence of a lime quarry and kiln near the farm (CPAT). Located very near the moor lands. 2012, has earth bank to the long barn hay loft, rare survival, see pics.
Previous Tenants: 1728-41: Rees William & Rich William
1742-60: Richard William d.c.1760
(Anne da. William Rich s. Richard Wlm. gs.)
1760-85: William Richard s. (Magdalene da.) d.1786
1786-09: Lewis William
1810-31: Owen Bowen
1839-44: Mary Bowen
1851-93: John Price
1894-15: David Williams
Deaths & Herriots: 1786, William Richard, , £2.0.0
Marriages: 1776, Elizabeth da. William Richard & William Thomas, 2s. 19th May 1781, William Evans, Llangattock & Anne da. William Richard, 2s. 30th Dec 1782, Griffith William s. of William Thomas (of Tir Y Gof?) & Magdalene da. of William Richard, £0.2.0.
Annual Rent: 1728-41, £8.15.0. 1742, £5.5. 1760-86, £5.9. 1788-05, £15. 1821-26, £28. 1839, £35.82. 1867-1877, £33.0.10. 1878-93, £32.9.10. 1894-15, £32.8.20. Tithe: 1844, £4.0.8. Acreage: 1844, 159.1.34a. 1851, 159a. 1861, 130a. 1871, 140a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
Pictures: Farmhouse Barns 1920s gambo
Translation: the land of Morgan Taylor. Possible it relates to a Morgan that was a tailor of cloth? Name Variants: Tyr Morgan Taylor, 1742. variants of name and occasionally Tyr. Also known as Tyhwnt (house to the side) from c.1841.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, bed (3). Out: stone/slate beast house (9), calf pen + range, barn, cart house, stable (3). Stone/tile, pigsty (2). Steel/zinc, hay shed (2). (2012) House restored Victorian, 2 storey, dressed stone, two chimneys, arched porch, stone lintels. Outhouses restored which may have been longhouses, stone keystones, lintels.
Some Field Names 1844: Coedcae y mynydd, Coedcae, Cae sgybor ucha, Cae urddol, Wern neider, Quarter bach, Cae glas, Craig, Wain goch, Yddwen, Cae yn gelly, Cae pant, Cae pentwyn
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: extant as farm or house.
Notes: rebuilt c.1850 (CPAT). Paired with Tir Cae Mole, same tenant, differing rents 1760-c.1900. Bought out Glasshalt farm in 1980s? A gambo from the farm was donated to St Fagans Folk Museum (picture above) dating to 1920, ref F84/223.
Previous Tenants: 1728-41: James John
1740-47: Samuel William (Gladis, Mary da. Samuel s.)
(John James occupier)
1760-69: Samuel Williams's wid.
1770-99: Samuel William jnr. s.
1800-16: William Samuel
1821-61: John Williams
1867-82: Hopkin Williams
1883-15: David Griffiths
Death Herriots: 1793, Samuel Williams £6.6.0. Marriage Amobr: 1765, Elizabeth da of Samuel Williams to Evan Thomas £0.2.0. 16th June 1785, Morgan William, Llangadoch, Camar & Margaret da. Samuel Williams. May 16th 1789, William Williams (s. of Samuel Williams jnr) to Elizabeth Williams da. of David William (Bryn Y Graenen farm), 2s. 18th June 1785, Morgan William, Llangattock & Margaret Williams da. of Samuel Williams jnr., £0.2.0.
Annual Rent: 1728-41, £5.0.6. 1742, £5.5.0. 1747-1803, £5.9. 1804, £15. 1805-8, £46.6 (with Tir Cae Mole + Cwm
Fforch Gwyn). 1821-6, £40 (with
T.C.M. + C.F.G.). 1839, £24.1.8. 1903-15, £12.1.8. 1867, £24.1.8.
Land Tax: 1808, £0.13.9 (with T.C.M. + C.F.G.). Tithe 1844: £2.10.5. Freehold Value: 1915, £623.
Acreage: 1808, 51.0.5a. 1844, 57.2.39a. 1868, 47a. 1906, 54a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
Pictures: Longhouse 1972 Longhouse 2012
Translation: Tir: land. Cae: field. Mole: possible mutation of moel: barren. Land of barren fields. Or from old Welsh: from Moledyc: praiseworthy. Name Variants: of the above. Teere y ka mole, 1742. Pen Cae Mole, 1987. Also known as Penyrheol from c.1850.
Architecture: (1915) House: stone/thatch, 2 room, 2 beds. Out: stone/slate, beast house (8), range, cart house, calf cot, pigsty, barn, hay shed. (1972) derelict longhouse. (2012) restored, holiday cottage, house part one storey with high loft, 2 chimneys, dressed stone, stone archways, lintels. Barn part added later, same, with less steep roof, loft entry doorway indicates earth ramp removed.
Some Field Names 1844: Cae yr glwyd y dur, Coed cae pen wyn, Coedcae, Croften fach, Cae yr wain, Caegarn, Cae danty, Fald, Cae pant, Wain cae mole, Cae llwyn du.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Mentioned as ruin in 1972.
Status 2012: rebuilt, extant as holiday cottage. Renamed Penyrheol.
Notes: Two bronze age barrows, Cae Garn, found near the site (CPAT). The ruins of its 17th C predecessor are near the current house (CPAT). Farmed jointly with Tir Morgan Taylor, but with separate rents, 1760-1804.
Previous Tenants: 1728-47: Samuel Williams, (he may have sublet).
(Elizabeth wi. Jane & Gladis, da.)
1760-62: Samuel Williams wid, from Tir Morgan Taylor
1762-69: Samuel Williams jnr s., paid by above
1770-99: Samuel Williams from T.M.T.
1800-16: William Samuel from T.M.T.
1820-51: John William from T.M.T.
1861: Morgan Morgans
1867-71: David Griffith
1872-01: Thomas Morgan
1903-15: David Williams (+Henglyn Isaf +Penrhiw)
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £6. 1734-41, £6.5.0. 1742, £6.15.0. 1760-1802, £6.19. 1803-4, £25. 1805-26 (see Tir Morgan Taylor). 1839, £31.17.3. 1867-80, £40. 1882-1897, £31.17.3. For 1903-15 see Penrhiw.
Freehold Value: 1915, £676. Tithe: 1844, £3.5.6.
Acreage: 1808-1915, 125.1.6a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1905 1964 2012
Pictures 2012: House Longbarn Carthouse
Translation: Dorwen: white slope (may refer to flooding streams) or corruption of derwen, oak. Tyle: old Welsh, dwelling. Garw: harsh. House on the harsh slopes. Name Variants: Dorwen Tyllegaru, 1742. Dorwen Tylu Garw, 1747. Dorwen Tyle Garwen 1781. Dorwen Tyle Garsco 1791. Dorwen 1814+45.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, beds (4). Out: stone/slate, barn (2), stable (3), lofted. Stone/zinc beast house, range (1), calf cot, cart house lofted, pigsty.
Some Field Names 1844: Wain fach, Cae durn blumen, Rhyd y corney yd, Cefen y wain, Cae newydd, Coedcae, Wain cae hwnt, Cae sgybor, Cae blaen y drwys, Cae wain y graig, Rhwn y gewydd issa, Bryn bach, Pant y wain.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Abandoned c.1990. Status 2012: Derelict.
Notes: On Llwyncwnstabl hill, directly East of the farm, scores of prehistoric and medieval ruins and round huts are found (CPAT). Furthest north into the moorlands of any farm in the district. Noted as a chattel lease, at will in 1781.
Previous Tenants: 1742-62: John William d.1772 (Noah Thomas, Thomas Morgan neph.)
1762-66: Richard Bowen
1767-87: David Richard
1788-90: Elinor Richard wid.
1791-99: Walter Price
1800-05: Elinor David wid.
1808: Richard David
1808-24: Richard Bowen
1825-44: Thomas Griffith
1851-61: Issac Price
1867-89: D.M.Morgan & W.Williams
(1871: William Griffiths)
1890-1900: Morgan Rees
1901-1915: Griffth Rees
Deaths & Herriots: 30th Nov 1772 John William, £2.0.0. 1786, David Thomas, £2.0.0.
Annual Rent: 1742, £4. 1760-1799, £4.4. 1800-08, £18. 1821-26, £21.
1839, £25. 1867-89, £29.12 1890-15, £25.
Tithe 1844, £3.5.6. Acreage: 1839-1915, 122a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
Translation: Head of the bridge or bridgehead (river nearby).
Name Variants: Tyr Pen y Pont, 1742. Tir Pen y Bont 1800. Penbont 1814.
Some Field Names 1844: Ynis, Croft Robert, Croft fain, Cae cuicka, Cae gwyn, Quarter bach ucha, Wern penybont, Wain fach, Croft galled, Caer wain, Cefen yr ynys, Cae taylor, Cae yr betting, Tyle bach, Coedcae.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Abandoned before 1850, land farmed from elsewhere. Derelict or barn on 1880s map. Land incorporated into Gelli & Pensarn for 1915 sale. Demolished and land used for forestry c.1970. Status 2012: ruins may exist beneath forestry.
Previous Tenants: 1728-41: Howell Thomas
1742-69: Daniel Thomas (Morgan Thomas neph. & John Morgan s.)
(David Thomas 1762+65)
1770-87: John Thomas (Daniel Thomas br.1786)
1788-04 Mr Rees William Esq
1805-08: Leyson Griffiths
1808-24: Thomas Griffith
1825-44: William Griffith
1867-90: Owen Owen
1893-95: William John Daniel
1896-02: Benjamin Thomas
1903-15: Lewis Daniel + Benjamin Jones (with Pensarn)
Alienation fee: 1788, John Thomas to Rees William, £2.0.0. Annual Rent: 1728-30, £3.2.6. 1734-41, £3.07.6. 1742-1808, £4.19. 1821-6, £15. 1894-02, £10. Tithe: 1844, £2.10.5. Acreage: 1844, 72.3.1a. 1868, 32a. 1906, 10a. 1911, 42a.
Maps: 1812 1819 1820 1844 1845 1878 1899 1905 1919 1964 2012
Pictures 2012: Drawing 1995 Farm Sign Longbarn Longbarn Farmhouse Farmhouse
Translation: old court on the hill. Or from Llysg: sledge cart or staff. So either a court, stables or foremans abode. Name Variants: Brynhenllysg, 1726. Bryn hen Lysk, 1742. Brin henllis, 1747. Bryn Henllisk, 1779. Brynhenllas, 1812. Brynhenllas, 1821.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, bed (3), box room. Out: stone/slate, pigs cot, boiler house, cart house, beast house range, calf cot, (6), barn, stable (3). Steel/zinc French barn. (2012) derelict. House Victorian. Longbarn, stone, keystones archways and lintels. High stone steps leading to upper floor. Maps from 1820 and 1845 do not indicate any evidence of a long barn, so may have been built with the newer house or additions made to each end of the carthouse. CPAT Archaeological Report No.126, 1995 D. Thomas
Some Field Names 1844: Wain berth ddu, Cwm, Plock, Cae pwll glo, Cae bryn mall, Bryn mole, Cae yr graig, Cae pen y bryn, Cae berth ddu.
Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Abandoned 1990s. Land used as open cast mine by 1960, trial
shafts noted in 1953, Brynhenllys mine below from 1888. Reclaimed as fields and forestry by 1970. Used again as opencast by Celtic Energy Wales Ltd from 1995, after fierce protest from
environmentalists, now reclaimed with green fields and a fishpond. The National Eviction Team (UKEvict) was responsible for removal of the Eco-Warriors, and a 'cartoon book' was published by Kate Evans documenting the events entitled "Battle For Brynhenllys" in the book "Copse" at Cartoon Kate.
Status 2012: Derelict.
Notes: jointly farmed with Waunllwyd to 1822.
Previous Tenants: 1728-78: David Howell d.1781 + Waunllwyd (David & Howell s.)
1779-02: William Owen sl. d.1803
1804-20: Ann William wid.
1821-31: Margaret Owen wid.
1839+44: Rees Owen
1841: Rees Williams
1851-83: Jonah Price
1884-91: Ann Price
1892-15: William Ambrose
Deaths & Herriots: David Howell, 1781, £2.0.0 Marriage: 14th July 1781, Jenkin Morgan, Languick & Ann William da. of William Owen.
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £2.15.0. 1734-41, £3. 1742-47, £7.7. 1760-79, £7.15.6. 1780, £20. 1805-8, £12. 1821-26, £20. 1839, £22.5.4. 1867-83, £29. 1884-1893, £22.16. 1894, £22.5.4. Freehold Value 1915: £616. Tithe 1844, £3.8.1. Land tax 1798, £3.5.7. Acreage: 1781, 166a. 1844, 82.2.29a. 1861, 61a. 1871, 78a. 1903, 64a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1845 1878 1899 1905 1918 1964 2006
Pictures: Farm 1995 Barn 1995 Barn 1995 Farm 2012
Translation: Waun: heath. Llwyd: grey or holy.
Name Variants: Tyr y Wain Llwyd, 1742. Tir y Lloydd, 1747. Wain Loyd, 1781. Gwain, Lwyd 1800. Gwaunllwyd, 1821.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, bed (4), box room. Out: stone/slate, stable lofted (7), beast house (4), beast range (8), barn (2), cart house, pigsty, shed. Steel/zinc French barn. (1972) 2 storey mid Victorian, rendered, crowded frontage. Suggest built in 1890s. (2012) house restored using bricks of older in the Victorian style. Older stone longbarn & house in yard.
Some Field Names 1844: Croften ucha, Cae main, Wain llwyd, Croft yr eithin, Cae pwll bach, Cae tyr du, Cae du mawr, Cae dun yr heol, Cae uchlawr ty, Cae uchlan yr glwyd, Pen yr graig, Cae mawr hwnt, Glan yr afon, Coedcae.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: See Brynhenllys. Derelict 2009. 2012 rebuilt as farm.
Notes: jointly farmed with Brynhenllys from 1742-91. Was used as stable for horses during mining period.
Previous Tenants: 1728-1781 see Brynhenllys.
1781-22: David William Owen (s. of Wm Owen)
1823-24: John Lewis
1825-50: Charles Price (d.1850)
1851: Margaret Price
1861-76: David Price
1877-93: Brynhenllys Colliery
1894-15: Thomas Price
(1881: Watkin Thomas)
(1891+01: Daniel Jones)
1950 Dan 'Coes Bren'
Annual Rent: 1742-1804 see Brynhenllys.
1805-8, £8. 1821-6, £20. 1839-15, 33.3.10. Tithe: 1844, £3.8.3.
Acreage: 1844, 86.3.13a. 1851, 168a. 1861, 78a. 1871, 87a. 1903, 107a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1899 1905 1918 2012
Pictures 2012: Mill 1980 Mill 1980 Mill Mill ruins ruins
Name Variants: Felin Twrch 1814. Melin Palleg 1901.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Mill Shut down c.1920. Converted to housing.
Status 2012: Houses extant and ruins evident in woods. Mill feeder stream diverted.
Notes: Extant prior to 1551. Rebuilt in in 1728, 1757, 1816. Twrch diverted 1728 & 2 Jan 1817. A communal coal powered oat dryer built 1773. Powered by river Twrch and Nant Gwys. In 1781, described as a Chattel lease, at will.
Previous Tenants: 1728-41: Thomas Williams
1747-60: John David (John, David s., Elizabeth, Elinor da.).
1761-74: John David Lewis wid.
1775-12: John David (Lewis?) s.
1813-16: Moses Bevan
1820-27: John Lewis + William Davies
1841: John James
1851: William John Thomas
1861: Griffith Griffiths
1867-93: Samuel Griffiths
1903-15: David Samuel Griffiths
Deaths & Herriots: 9th Aug 1780, Elinn Lewis, £0.5.0 John David's widow
Annual Rent: 1728-41, £5. 1760, £4.4. 1767-72, £4. 1773, £2.1. 1774, £5.1. 1775-1811, £4. 1812-16, £20. 1820-23, £30. 1824-65, £25. 1867-82, £34.1.0. 1883-93 £32.6.4.
Maps: 1844 1845 1878 1905 1919 1964 2012
Pictures 2012: Farmhouse 1972 Longhouse Longhouse, rear House
Translation: Tir: Land. Gelly: small wood/ copse or grove.
Name Variants: 1781. Tyr y Gelly 1821. Gelly 1845. Gelli 1987.
Architecture: (1915) House: stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, beds (4). Out: stone/slate, lofted beast house (5), 2 calf cot, stable (3). Pigsty, cart shed. Zinc barn. (2012) House restored Victorian, stone, two chimney, porch. Outhouse, used to be a longhouse, part demolished, dressed stone, keystones, lintels.
Some Field Names 1844: Wain y mynydd, Coedcae, Croft yr heol, Cae yr berth, Cae llog ucha, Cae yr gelly, Croft ty newydd, Cae dery, Wain fetwen, Traws tyre, Tyr draw ucha, Pencae sgybor, Caegain y bath, Wain fach, Cefn yr ynis.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: extant as farm and house.
Notes: appears on an indenture dated 1609 from John Lewis of Ffrwdgrech (near Brecon) (wife Johan) to son Thomas Lewis of Pant y Corrid (wife Cibyll), interesting that a family named Lewis still living there in 1760. Two bronze age barrows, Cae Garn, found near the site (CPAT).
Previous Tenants: 1609: John Lewis
1730: John Morgan
1734 -37: Morgan William
1738-41: Morgan Willam's wid.
1747: David Lewis
1760-61: Daniel Thomas
1762-64: Thomas Morgan
1765: David Rees
1767-69: Daniel Rees
1770-74: David Rees
1775-80: Daniel Thomas
1781: David Rees
1788-11: Mr Rees William esq
1812 William Williams
1813 David Rees
1813-38: Rees David
1839-61: Evan Evans
1871-14: Thomas Morgan (+ part Tir Cae Mole from 1903)
1915: William Morgan
Alienation Fee: 1788, David Rees to Rees William £2.0.0
Annual Rent: 1730, £3.2.6. 1734-41, £3.10.0. 1747, £3.19.0. 1760-65, £4.4. 1767-08, £3.19. 1821-26, £10. 1839-07, £21.1.8. 1908-15, £26.1.8. Tithe: 1844, £2.6.4. Freehold Value: 1915, £693. Acreage: 1844, 72.1.2a. 1851, 55a. 1861, 75a. 1871, 60a. 1903, 71.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1878 1899 1905 1919 1964 2012
Pictures 2012: Sign Farmhouse Old Barns
Translation: middle ground or halfway house.
Name Variants: Tyr Kennol, 1742. Tir kenoll, 1747. Tycanol 1814. Tircenol 1845.
Architecture: (1915) House, stone/slate, parlour, kitchen, dairy, pantry, scullery, beds (4). Out: stone/slate, cart house, double beast house, range, lofted (11), calves cot, stable lofted (2), pigsty (2). Stone/zinc barn (2). (1972) built in 1911. Older outhouse of stone, keystones, lintels. (2012) Victorian house extant, with modern extension. Older stone 2 storey barn with keystone arches.
Some Field Names 1844: Cae grosse, Cae canfaes, Cae banwen, Cae yr domen, Cae sgybor, Cae graig, Cae gwared, Wain goch.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915.
Status 2012: House and farm extant. Part of land Palleg golf course, opened 1965. Also tip on land.
Notes: jointly farmed 1742-1800 usually from Gilfach.
Previous Tenants: 1728-41: probably Samuel or Daniel Williams
1742: Samuel Williams for Gilfach, Tir Canol, Tir Y Gof moiety,
(he may have sublet).(Elizabeth wi. William & Morgan s.,
Gladis, Mary, Jane, da.)
1747-60: Daniel Williams (William & Morgan s.)
1760: Daniel Williams (from Gilfach Hesgi)
1762-90: Morgan Daniel (from Gilfach Hesgi)
1791-98: Ann Daniel (from Tir Y Gof)
1799 William Evan
1800-20: Mr Edward Martin. (from Gilfach Hesgi)
1821: Diana Williams wid.
1822-25: Moses Williams
1826-27: Samuel Williams
1831: David Jones
1839: David Rees
1841: Rebecca Rees wid.
1851: Morgan Morgans
1861: Richard Lewis
1867-87: Lewis Griffiths
1888-02: Hannah Griffiths
1903-15: J.S. Thomas
Annual Rent: 1791, £15. 1795, £18.18. 1823, £18. 1825, £18.18. 1826, £25.Tithe: 1844, £3.16.2. Freehold
Value: 1915, £814.
Acreage: 1844, 74.3.24a. 1861, 70a. 1868, 67a. 1871, 77a. 1881, 70. 1903, 67. 1906, 72a.
Maps: 1812 1844 1845 1899 1905 1919 1964 2012
2012 Pictures: Farmhouse Farmhouse Farmhouse
Translation: the valley of the white fork, referring to location on the fork of the fast flooding stream Gwys. Cilcet: from cilgit, narrow shelter. Name Variants: Cilcet, 1814. Cwm Fforch Gwys?
Architecture: (1915) House: stone/slate, kitchen, pantry, dairy, bed (1). Out: stone/slate, stable (2), beast house (4). Stone/zinc pigsty.
Some Field Names 1844: Glan yr afon, Coedcae penrhelin.
Fate: Private Sale by Lord Tredegar to sitting tenant, 22 Sept 1915. Abandoned 1980? Status 2012: Derelict.
Notes: many Mediaeval and Bronze Age sites found nearby. Described as having a chattel lease at will in 1781. & 91.
Previous Tenants: 1728: Gwenllian Morgan
1729-40: John Morgan
1735-6: Hopkin Thomas
1737-64: Thomas Phillip d.1764
1765-72: John William d.1772
1772-74: John Morgan
1774-00: John William d.1800
1801: William Samuel d.1801
1802-3: Edward Wilson
1804: Richard David
1805-16: William Samuel (with Tir Morgan Taylor)
1820-44: John Williams (with Tir Morgan Taylor)
1841: Issac Lewis
1851: Daniel Davies
1861: Ann Owen
1871: Daniel Powell
1867-70: Evan Thomas
1871: Daniel Powell
1872-01: Evan Thomas
1902: Jane & Benjamin Thomas
1903-15: William Morgan
Deaths & Herriots: 1765, Thomas Phillip, £0.5.0. 1772, John William, £2.0.0
Marriage: 27th Nov 1788, William Lewis & Catherine John, da. Of John William, £0.2.0.
Annual Rent: 1728-30, £1.0.0. 1734-47, £1.2.0. 1760-69, £1.2.6. 1771-00, £1.11.6. 1777-78, £3.3. 1804, £5.5. 1805-26 Joint rent with Tir Morgan Taylor. 1839, £10.2.6. 1867, £10.2.9. 1871, £30. 1872-1915, £10.2.9. Tithe: 1844, £0.15.0. Freehold Value: 1915, £224. Acreage: 1808, 26.1.3a. 1844, 29.3.23a. 1851, 29. 1861, 15a. 1871, 30a. 1903-15, 28.3.20a.
A.C.L.: Aberdare Central Library. B.C.L.: Brecon Central Library. B.C.M.: Brecknock Museum. Brit.L: British Library, London. C.C.L.: Cardiff Central Library. C.C.M.: Carmarthen County Museum. C.D.A.C.: Crickhowell District Archive Centre. CPAT: Clwyd Powys Archives. DYFED HER: Dyfed Archaeological Trust. G.C.A. : Glamorgan County Archives. GGAT: Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust. N.A.S.A. : Neath Antiquarian Society. N.L.W.: National Library Of Wales. N.M.W.: National Museum of Wales (Cardiff). N.P.G. : National Portrait Gallery. N.T.C.: National Trust Collection. P.C.A.: Powys County Archives. P.R.O.: Public Records, Kew. W.GRO.: West Glam Record Office. Y.C.L.: Ystradgynlais Central Library.
Manuscripts (N.L.W. Tredegar)
Manuscripts Penpont (N.L.W.)
Cilybebyll/Ethel Lloyd (N.L.W.)
D (N.L.W. Tredegar)
Manuscripts (N.L.W. Tredegar)
Bowen Evans, Solicitors (W.G.R.O.)
Plymouth Estate (N.L.W.)
Cilybebyll Deeds (N.L.W.)
Penpont Estate (N.L.W.)
Gnoll Estates (N.A.S.)
Maybery Collection (N.L.W.)
AES (N.L.W. Tredegar)
D (N.L.W. Tredegar)
W. Jones-Williams (N.L.W.)
WJ Price and Co (P.C.A.)
(N.L.W Shelves, North)
West Glam Records
M (N.L.W. Tredegar)
P (N.L.W. Tredegar)
Manuscripts (N.L.W. Tredegar)
Awbrey of Cantref, Llanddeti
Awbrey of Ynyscedwyn
Awbrey & Mansell, Llantrithyd
Walbeoffe of Llanhamlach
Williams of Llangattock
John Morgan of Fforchorllwyn
Walter Price, Glyn Llech
John Games, Llanfigan
John Morgan, Wenallt
Cilybebyll Estate (NLW)
DTM Jones Solicitors (N.L.W.)
Penpont Estate (N.L.W.)
Aberpengwm Estates (N.L.W.)
Tir Roger Estates
Books & Weblinks
Manuscripts (N.L.W. Tredegar)
Papurau Dr Iorwerth Hughes Jones (N.L.W.)
Manuscripts DTM Jones Solicitors (N.L.W.)
Edward Williams, Llangattock
Thomas Family Records (P.C.A.)
John Morgan Papers (WG.R.O.)
King John Charter to Breos re. Gower
Marcher War in Ystradgynlais
Patent & Close Rolls - Brecknock Rebellion
Inquisitions Post Mortem
Calendar of Petitions
Court of Chancery, Pleadings
The following legal documents have been datamined from the P.R.O. as being pertinent to the Awbreys & Williams and should contain further clues as to the Ystradgynlais, Palleg, Abercynrig & Llantrithyd stories. 95% have not been viewed, transcribed or translated by myself.
Games of Breconshire
Various Court, Parliament Papers Relating to Awbrey & Y'gynlais
Court of Augmentations
The following 3 books at the P.R.O. contain ref to lands granted in Brecknock c1509-c1625, but have not been studied, transcribed or translated by myself, and could contain useful information, although most have been extracted by Lloyd, Rees, Jones, Owen etc.
Leases, Settlements & Grants (N.L.W.)
Books, Articles, Theses (N.L.W.)
The Great Forest of Devynnock
Ffynnon Cynog (W.G.R.O)
Ynyscedwyn Ironworks (W.G.R.O)
Farms on South Palleg (W.G.R.O)
Lay Subsidy Returns
Early Christian Period
For Y'gynlais church see Advowson of Y'gynlais Church
Penllergaer Estate (N.L.W.)
MS Collection (C.C.L)
Court of Chancery, Pleadings (P.R.O.)
Court of Augmentations (P.R.O.)
Various Court & Parliamentary Papers (B.H.O.)
Books & Articles
Tudor Period For Portraits see Artwork
Tudor Awbreys For Portraits see Artwork / See also Wills / Court Rolls
Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) Newton
Katherine Phillips (1632-1664) Cardigan (friend of Mary Awbrey)
William Montagu (1618-1706) (husband to Mary Awbrey)
Pre Victorian Era For Portraits see Artwork
Roman > Early Christian Period
Artefact Identification (of Amateur Finds)
Sample of Court Leet Records
Houses, Work, Fairs
K, copyright and internet, two mutually exclusive terms. I am James M. Burton the author of this compilation of facts, text and ideas, intended as a non-profit research paper theorising the probable foundation date of Palleg Manor. I do not own any of the maps or the b&w photos, they have special copyright, as detailed on the documents themselves, and the relevant authority, which is the Crown. Mess with the Queen/King as you will. The farm photos were taken by myself in 2012. Although I have studied and cross checked my facts thoroughly, there is no guarantee that the whole of it is free from error, as I can only visualise the past with wide gasping eyes from the few facts left to us by those dedicated scholars of old who were masters of antiquarianism. I claim mastery of nothing but my own words, so use those at your discretion in any genealogical investigations you may will. Any issues or info, please contact email@example.com James M Burton Dec 2012.
Although the 95% of the work of compilation, document finding, transcription, deciphering, translation, editing and encoding was done entirely by myself from 2010-14, I must mention those who gave valuable leads, quotes and snippets of information to this thesis. To all the farmers on Palleg who were tolerant of access in my skittish tour and rusty Welsh. John Williams, historian on Palleg. Len Ley, historian on Ystradgynlais. Dr Myron Evans, living descendent of the princes of Wales. Mr Gary Valentine, metal detector. Martin Redwood, researcher of Williams, Llangattock. Morgan Llywelyn of Llangattock Court. The descendants of the Roger family, Tir Roger. The descendants of Pritchard, Yorath House. Sally Hyman historian, Llys Nini. Mali Craig of Glyncynwal for the Welsh cakes. Susan Hodge. The helpful library staff of Ystradgynlais, Cardiff, Swansea, Brecon, Aberdare, National Library of Wales, St Fagan's Folk Museum, Comeston Park, Neath Antiquarian Society, Crickhowell District Archive Centre, Powys, Glamorgan, West Glamorgan archives and all those who have uploaded the documents and information online.
|"I travelled back through memory of recent times to meet my ancestor. There upon his grave my conscience craved that I should write of the deeds of the dead. And so I set forth on my quest guided by the will of the Father through documents of old, travelling to greet the wizard in his sacred bower, finding the treasures buried along with the ancient guardians of Palleg. "Rise up" they say "rise up and shine a light on the battles we fought with river and stone and beast and foe through language untold and secrets onhold, our hearts on fire for the truth left in the cold".|
Researched, Compiled, Edited, Illustrated, Arranged and Published by James M. Burton © 2001-16