Penybont and District History Group Notes 5th December 2018 Meeting Main Topic: New Angels on Penybont – Julian Ravest

After a safety briefing from Derek it was standing room only when Geraint welcomed Julian Ravest to give his talk in the work he has been doing with his new professional drone he bought expressly to photograph archaeological sites as a volunteer to CPAT. We are extremely fortunate that Julian has specialised in Radnorshire and has agreed to talk on the area around Penybont.


Julian lives in Llandrindod and, as a relative new-comer to the area he has found that the drone has given him an interest that has engaged him in the history, archaeology and geology of the area. The inspiration for his talk came from the book “Radnorshire From Above”, by Chris Mussen, and his own interest in all matters ‘tech’.


Aerial photography from an aircraft has advantages in that the landscape can be seen within its broader context. The drone has different advantages in that it can take multiple photographs  from different heights and can get quite close to areas of interest. Because the cost is so low it is possible to go back to sites to take more photographs . The challenge is to take photographs in the right weather conditions and at the best time of the day. For this latter point most of the photographs are taken when the sun is low so that the features are shown up most clearly in the shadows they cast.


Note: Julian has given me a sample of his photographs, and where possible I will refer to these by number. The photos can be found in the History Group cupboard.


The opening picture gave a very clear picture of Penybont Village. Julian pointed out later in his talk that as well as bringing out archaeological features these photos also record clearly the countryside as it is now.


  1. Rhos Swydd Common


  1. Roman Road


Julian showed impressive photographs of the Roman Road as it crossed Rhos Swydd (Penybont) Common. The initial one showed a section close to the village, and then at different stages right across the Common and showing how the Road crossed the current road along the hedgeline of a field to re-join the current road as it heads off towards Dolau and presumable Mortimer’s Cross.  The detail in the photographs even highlights the way in which the roads were constructed showing a raised area in the centre with ditches on either side.

If we compare photograph 3 with the photographs from previous aerial or satellite photography as at:; the clarity is very evident.


More discussion of the Roman Road can be found in our previous Notes at:


and in:


  1. Ridge and Furrow


A series of photographs demonstrated the extensive nature of ridge and furrow cultivation on the Common. Photographs 3 and 4 show two different types of cultivated areas to the left of the road, as you drive towards Dolau away from Penybont; in 3 the lines of the furrows are very straight, whereas in 4 they show the distinctive S indicating where the plough turned to do another run. In some of the photographs it was even possible to see how sections of the cultivated areas were divided into groups. It was interesting to see how the ant hills are arranged in lines following the ridge and furrow pattern. It was pointed out that on frosty mornings these details are highlighted to the naked eye on many parts of the Common.


More information on the cultivated areas can be found in our Notes of 5th October 2015, as above.


  • Quarrying


In photograph 3 a very substantial pathway leads to the quarry (not shown). It was suggested that this could even have been a tramway, but this led to a question about who could give permission for extraction from the quarry. The Common is owned land and in these times it would have been the Squire who would have the quarrying rights as opposed to the Commoners’ rights to graze on the land.



  1. Burial Site


Taking a line across from the ‘ring of trees’, sometimes known as the ‘fairy ring’, towards the road and just over a path is a Barrow, probably dating back 3 to 4000 years ago.

  1. Settlement


All of the evidence of human activity on the Common dating back over several millennia was highlighted in photographs taken of the part of the Common across the A488. In our October notes we discussed Caertwch. Julian had a photograph of the platform that we were most sure of. This came up as a very distinct B shape.

As well as referring to our October 2015 Notes you can also get information at:


  1. Military Activity


Julian then took us back across the road to the area just below the ring of trees and to a raised area that suggested human activity. When it was suggested that there might have been military activity here the activity of the 20,000 troops based on the Common during World War II, and leading up to D-Day, that this just might have been an area for practicing with hand grenades.

  1. Coed Swydd Common


A dramatic photograph opened up further discussion about human activity on the Commons around Penybont. Photograph 9 shows an ancient fortified structure lying within the bracken on top of Coed Swydd Common.  Julian hopes to go back when the bracken has died back to see more of what appears to show mole drainage in this area. There was some discussion about this as Coed Swydd is a very dry area? Another photograph showed one of the many rabbit warrens/pillow mounds that are a feature of this Common. Julian was able to tell us that, while the one in the photograph was a circular feature, all but one of the other pillar mounds were rectangular.

  1. Llandegley Rocks


Julian then took us on a walk up Llandegley Rocks and along the ridge. As an area not at yet studied by the members, it is also an area well known and loved by many of them.

The first photograph showed the path leading up to ‘Pearl Rock’ that started from a gate at the back of the Church in Llandegley. This shows quite substantial boundaries between the fields and common land.

The next photograph (7) raised more questions than answers. It highlighted a long stretch of stones in a straight line with gaps along the way. It has been suggested that this might be an unfinished Hill Fort, boundary or an enclosure but Julian is more sceptical it gives the impression of being associated with a half-hearted project. It was difficult to see any relevance to the area around. One of the members, with tongue in cheek, wondered if it might be part of Llandegley International Airport.

This feature raised one of the other special features of drone photography and archaeology in general. The drones identify many new features that clearly have been created by human activity but it can be impossible, without major other work being done, to know what and when this activity took place.

Julian did identify Cairns that showed bronze age activity some 3000 years ago, and a bronze age hut that appears to have been marked in the wrong place on maps – about 50m away.

Moving along the Rocks Julian came to Graig Farm (Number 8) and once again speculated that there is some evidence of a fortified structure above the farm.

Most members would have known about the Hill Fort on Llandegley Rocks but Julian’s photographs of this site did not disappoint. Close to the path up from the Church in the village this is a faily typical Iron Age hillside Fort of about 500 BC. The two stages of development were pointed out by Julian. Adjacent to the Fort is another Bronze age burial site.

  1. Cefn Llys


Julian then took us to Cefn Llys that has contributed so much to the history of this area.

It is worth looking at the Clwyd-Powys document for some background information:

Within our own Notes there is reference to Cefn Llys in our Field Visit, ‘Skulls, Dragons and Skulduggery’ on 1st June 2015; and again in Marion’s review of the Castles in the Ithon Valley, 3rd November 2014.

  1. The Chartered Town, Market, and St. Michael’s Church


Photograph 10 shows St. Michael’s Church in the centre of an open area under the Castle. As a settlement it is really quite small. Some of the landscape has been obscured of detail by more recent drainage activity, but there is evidence of platforms. On the southern slope there is evidence of ridge and furrow cultivation.

Julian was somewhat bemused by the size of the settlement as seemed to be more of a village or even a hamlet than its classification as a Town that was given a Town Charter in 1304 and a Market Charter in 1297. Geraint wondered if part of the settlement was closer to the Neuydd.

In the church yard Julian had measured the girth of one of the yew trees – this suggested that the tree was at least 500 years old.

Tracking down towards Shaky Bridge there is ditch and evidence of earthworks. Julian found this area very difficult to photograph due to the surrounding trees. As mentioned above the key to getting good photographs is the angle of the light. Here it is simply not possible to get the results he would like. The generally accepted explanation was of a Mill Leat with the site of the old Mill being near the bridge.

Julian also showed images of what appears to be a sunken path next to the burnt mound in the field next to the village site. The attribution of “burnt mound” is from original OS survey and has not been subsequently endorsed.

  1. Cefn Llys Castle


Photograph 11 shows the top of Cefn Llys with the Castle and the two sites that were developed by the Mortimers, one in 1246, and the second building 1267. The Castle was completely destroyed in 1406 by Owain Glyn Dwr as he battled for supremacy over the Mortimers. For more details see:

It is probable that, while the Mortimers are given credit for the Castles, there may well have been an Iron Age fort here.

There is evidence of cultivation with field divisions, and building platforms within the curtilage of the castles.

Julian noted one difficult narrow steep path leading to the eastern side of the northern castle of unknown purpose given the much better route to the eastern entrance.

An interesting debate then occurred when Julian suggested that the SE slopes up to the Castles could be the site of a vineyard. Excitement grew when Julian suggested that could be the only site of this kind in Wales. Marion was not so sure as she would have expected terracing. What did emerge was that the soil in this area could be volcanic and therefore more fertile than the Silurian soil conditions that are more common in the wider area.

With this discussion ringing in our ears Geraint thanked Julian for an excellent talk and an introduction to the wonders of drone technology.

Geraint reminded members to come in sombre dress for our next meeting which will be on local gravestones.

Julian drew attention to the CPAT talks that are coming up soon that Members might be interested in.

Subsequent to the meeting a most interesting debate continued about Julian’s idea for a vineyard. The following discussion which was pursued using email and throws some further light on the subject:

On 06/02/2018 16:00, Marion Evans wrote:

Dear Julian

 I was very interested in the talk you gave to Penybont History Group yesterday. I can see that drones will be an extremely interesting addition to archaeological research.

 As you will have noted, I was a little surprised at your ideas of vineyards at Cefnllys. It is not of course impossible, although I think it will take quite a lot of evidence to convince. I did not push my questions too hard as ours is a friendly group and, as Geraint noted, I should not have wanted to spoil the fun of the idea of Chateaux Cefnllys……………

 Nonetheless, here are some of my thoughts. I hope they will help with your further research.


 Vines will grow in any soil as long as it is well drained and you can produce wine as long as there are enough warm days in early spring and autumn. The terroir affects the taste of the final wine but not the ability of the vine to grow.

 While it is true that some wine is grown on very steep slopes – eg Rhine/ Moselle region – these are usually terraced with vines being individually staked so that workers can tend them horizontally across the lines. The terracing also allows for the collection of steep slope soil erosion – which can then be put back on the terraces.( This is slatey stone in Rhine/Moselle). The terracing is also a safety feature as such steep slopes can, and have, led to loss of life. Additionally, while wine is produced from these slopes, it is dependant on the reflected sunlight from the wide Rhine and Moselle in the steep valley bottoms below. (You noted that around this time we were in the medieval warm period. This is thought  to have been roughly between 950 and1250 – with a peak between 950 and 1100. Temperatures are not thought to be as high as now but I accept that this may have helped matters.)

 Your pictures do not show any sign of terracing, and even given medieval approaches to the life of a working man, I cannot see why you would not bother to terrace if the angle of the slope would allow it. Moreover, you indicate that the vertical lines down the slopes are field boundaries. If they are indeed boundaries, then I cannot see why they would be there for vineyards at this early period. Grapes and the subsequent wine would undoubtedly belong to the lord of the castle – and not for consumption by, or a cash crop for, the peasantry.

 The history

We know that there were vineyards in Roman times – although the temperature was such that most of them probably produced verjus rather than wine. After the conquest wine production seems to have increased and Domesday notes 46 vineyards south of a line from Gloucestershire to Ely in Cambridgeshire. There are none recorded by that record above this line and most historians the dismiss individual reports that argue for 2 or 3 above this line – but it is always possible. We would, of course, have been above that line.

 The dating for an argument with reference to the medieval warm period seems out. If the climate was cooling again by 1250 – then the date of the first documented post conquest work of 1246 to 1260 doesn’t support that thesis. Cefnllys could possibly have had it’s own microclimate – again not impossible but difficult to prove. Moreover, the marriage of Henry 11 to Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152 led to the negotiation of trade agreements with Bordeaux and easy access to cheap reliable wine. I agree that we are a long way from the coast or an easily navigable river – but this wine was transported all over the country and was welcomed and prized.

In addition, we need to consider the confounding factor of population growth. In the 300 years of the medieval warming period, the population of Northern Europe tripled – meaning that land use must be maximised. This was a time of rapid advances in agricultural methods, and innovation was encouraged by Henry 11nd and subsequent monarchs. It was essential to use the land to produce more food than ever before and putting land to vineyards would not have been best use, or encouraged. (The monasteries, of course, were a law unto themselves !!) You could, of course, argue that this is why the steep slopes were being used but – given that this type of viticulture uses 7 times the amount of man hours than less precipitous vineyards – it’s a hard argument to convince with.

  I hope this helps




From: Julian Ravest

To: Marion Evans

Sent: Tue, 6 Feb 2018 18:02

Subject: Re: Vineyards at Cefnllys ??

Dear Marion,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply, I very much appreciate it.  My conjecture, and I hope I did not put it forward with any higher authority, was intended to provoke and be a devil’s advocate to elicit other views – hence I am grateful for your taking the trouble to reply at length.  I really cannot prove vineyards, I put it forward as credible option in the absence of other likely explanations.  There are many puzzles at the castle and the village which may never be fully resolved without excavation or even then. 

I concur with a lot of what you say, though I had understood that the medieval climate optimum extended to around 1350, I stand corrected.

My best wishes,



On 12 Feb 2018, at 10:02, Derek Turner

Hi Marion

 Thank-you for keeping me in the loop with the discussions and your thoughts on the Vineyard. Can I insert these thoughts into my Notes as they give much more insight into the question?.

 Can I add a point that came up in the session we did on Penybont Common about the soils. Joe Botting the local Geologist would say that the soils are primarily the very poor Silurian shale from a 420 million years ago, Llandegley Rocks are the older Ordovician  rocks dating to about 450 million years ago.

 Many thanks




To: Derek Turner


Yes the geology is important. Stephen tells me that vines are rarely grown down hill on steep slopes because of erosion problems and the only reason not to terrace would be if we had clay subsoils as this might lead to pooling and lack of drainage. There are no clay subsoils at Cefnllys.

On the question of Silurian shales. That’s what we have in Walton basin and you have in Penybont but I read in the Cranfield reports that in the east Llandod/Builth area it was mostly Ordovician plus igneous quartz outcrops. I think you should mention the three. The critical thing though is that we don’t have volcanic soil as stated- this is caused by volcanic ash and not igneous quartz deposits.

I also had another thought. Why would you plant vines on your most defensive slope? Would this not give purchase and/or cover to aggressors?

Plus, vines are unlikely to have happened after cooling temperatures as once we get to 1348 we have severe manpower shortages because of the Black Death.

I think that the critical thing about this discussion is analytical use of sources. We have no archaeological or written record to support or deny Julian’s thesis. But as we are in the historic period we are not dependant on missing archaeology to make judgements of likelihood.

Hope this helps



From: Marion Evans



From Marion to Julian

I don’t know what was going on, so it is an interesting mystery. There is a lack of dating information – although the listing schedule for Cefnllys envisions the enclosures etc to date from after the castle period. Plus, in the 15th century, we know that a large house was built  to house the administrative and managerial grandee – Ieuan ap Phylip. The listing schedule again refers to this and says – ‘the grand late medieval hall-house referred to by Lewis Glyn Cothi probably stood in the saddle of the summit between the two castle sites, where traces of three substantial and apparently later rectangular structures are visible within a lightly embanked enclosure. It is unclear whether any of the earlier buildings were still in use……..’

The geology is, of course, very important and the area has been closely mapped – although, I don’t know whether the augers actually went down on the top of Cefnllys itself . But, I imagine so, as the LandIs info distinguishes between quite small areas. For example, leading out from Penybont and stretching out to Cefnllys, you have free draining flood plain soils. But at Cefnllys the soil is given as very shallow acid soil over igneous acid rock – except, as I note below, in the area immediately below and around the citadel where a deep bed of manmade humus is found. As it can take up to a thousand years to produce a very deep bed of this kind – it may be evidence for pre-conquest Brythonic activity at this site. I am looking for a contact to ask about the actual depth here.

Your picture is very interesting and I would have thought well worth a revisit. I will keep you in the loop if I get any other info.




From Julian to Marion,

I like the responses, from which I gather that vineyards are unlikely.  Since the banks on that slope are clearly not natural, what was going on?  I don’t think that there has been any excavations on the castle or village, most interpretations being made from ground level observations and from aerial photographs taken at higher altitude from light aircraft or RAF photos, set against the background of historical documentation. I like the idea of bringing in geological evidence. Has there been any auger work done on the castle or village?  It is very exciting how there are now so many more techniques available for exploring sites.

I have quite a few photos of the castle and village which I can make available If anyone is interested in investigating the sites further.  I am hoping to take more images of the fields to the north when the opportunity arises though I am not optimistic that they will show much of interest.  I attach one of the few photos I have of those fields.  Not very conclusive but they do seem to suggest some marks of ploughing including “S” form. – enough to justify a visit to photograph under optimum lighting.  I also want to photograph the western slopes without bracken cover.




Penybont and District History Group Notes 6th November 2017 Meeting Main Topic: Water Mills of Radnorshire – Alan Stoyel


Geraint welcomed a very large group to the meeting. Sadly there were so many that 2 people were unable to stay for what would turn out to be an excellent talk on the subject of Watermills. We were privileged to have Alan Stoyel to talk to the group. As a national ‘expert’ he has written extensively on the subject. Elizabeth had kindly invited him to speak and she introduced him to the group. Alan now lives in Kington but his origins were in Kent.


Some of his publications include:


The Windmills of Thomas Hennell


Memories of Kentish Watermills: The Rivers Cray and Darent (Landmark Collector’s Library)


Images of Cornish Tin (Co-Author Peter Williams)


Perfect Pitch – The Millwright’s Goal: Aid to the Interpretation and Dating of the Working Parts of Watermills and Windmills


Bindon Mill and Mill House, Wool, Dorset: Analysis and Assessment of the Buildings and Mill Machinery (Research Department report series)


There is also an on-line catalogue at:


Alan took us through an extensive number of pictures of Mills pointing out features that relate to the period they were built, and describing the mechanism/water system that applied to each of the Mills. Unfortunately this blog cannot do justice to Alan’s talk and may come across as a list, and without the pictures! It will, I hope however, show the wide range of Mills that once were the heartbeat of the community here in Radnorshire.


Monaughty Mill has been converted into a house and the mill-stone can be seen as a feature in the garden. At another waterwheel site at Monaughty the threshing machinery was driven by a long rotating shaft. Said to have been a ‘bit lethal’! Picture at:



Bleddfa Mill is a three story building containing some fine 18th century machinery. An important feature is the very wide loading door. There is a brief reference to this mill at:


Bettws Mill demonstrates a good example of a leat which can be still seen. As a corn mill it probably had a roasting kiln at one time. See:


Parkstile Mill west of Kington has an oatmeal roasting Kiln


Argoed Mill has the loading door, as above and an aqueduct at the rear. It once had a 26-foot waterwheel. There is also a kiln which Alan feels was adapted for the purpose. See:


Tregoyd Mill has an ‘overshot’ wheel, using the weight of the water to do the turning. In this type of wheel the head of water is more important than the volume.


To get diagrams and explanations of the different types of wheels see:


Mortimer’s Cross Mill is a breast-shot wheel – in this system there is a high volume but the head is low.


In more recent times some Mills have been converted to efficient turbines but some of the water mills were themselves extremely efficient. The High Breast wheel where the water enters about ¾ of the way up the wheel was very efficient. The estate at Abbeycwmhyr operated a turbine-driven Saw Mill.


The mechanism for different wheels was generally quite similar. The water wheel would turn the pit wheel and in turn a number of gearing wheels could get the spin of the wheel up to high speeds in order to turn a central shaft. Several mechanisms could often be run off the same shaft.


There is a short article on the water corn mills of Radnorshire in the ‘day out in Powys series’ at:

Contributed by Geoff Ridyard of the Radnorshire Society


A further article by CPAT:


Later industries were mostly involved with the processing of agricultural produce, and generally involved the use of water power. Two early water corn mills are recorded at Hay in the 1330s, one being mentioned in the 1340s as operating on a leat diverted from the Dulas Brook. Numerous other mills are recorded, many for the first time in the later 18th or early 19th century, including the following: one on the Cilonw at Llanigon; one at Llowes using the stream in Garth Dingle; three mills on the Clyro Brook, Pentwyn Mill, Paradise Mill and Clyro Mill itself, to the south of the village which ceased operating in about the 1920s; Little Mill, east of Maesllwch, operating on the stream running through Cilcenni Dingle, first mentioned at the beginning of the 17th century; at least four mills on the river Llynfi at Glandwr, Pont Nichol mill, Porthamel and Three Cocks; Trebarried Mill on the Dulas and at Felin-newydd on the Triffrwd, a tributary of the Dulas west of Bronllys. The history of some of the mills is reasonably well documented, though little is known of some of the others, such as former in Felin Cwm on the Nant yr Eiddil south of Talgarth. Only one corn mill within the historic landscape area was sited on the Wye itself, a mill by the bridge at Boughrood, though a water-driven sawmill was built on the north bank of the Wye at Glasbury. The function of some of the mills changed through time. Talgarth Mill, for example, is thought to have started as a weaving mill, but was later used as a corn mill and then as a mill for animal foodstuffs, and finally ceasing operation in the 1970s. In a similar way, Tregoyd Mill began life as a corn mill but was converted to a sawmill which operated between about 1920-60. The water supplies to many of the mills were poor or seasonal and many ceased operation in the later 18th to early 20th centuries due to competition with mills elsewhere once better road transport available. By 1900 only about six or seven water corn mills remained in operation in the area, at Clyro, Talgarth, Three Cocks/Aberllynfi, Hay, Llanigon, Trebarried, all of which ceased to be used for milling corn during the first few decades of the 20th century.


Water power was also harnessed at an early date to power fulling mills, which had hammers for beating cloth after weaving in order to clean and consolidating the fabric. A handful of these mills are recorded in the area in the 14th century including one in the parish of Glasbury, one in Bronllys, probably on the Dulas, one in Hay, probably on the Dulas Brook, and one in Talgarth, probably on the Ennig. Some of the fulling mills had probably already disappeared by the end of the medieval period, although a mill at Bronllys continued in operation until the 1760s. Several paper mills were built on the Dulas Brook, one near Llangwathan and one near Cusop, both of which were probably short-lived and had probably ceased production before the end of the 19th century. Water power was occasionally harnessed for use on farms. Old Gwernyfed Farm included a water-powered threshing barn installed in 1890s, fed by leat.


A number of 18th- to 19th-century stone mill buildings survive, as in the case of Talgarth Mill, some of which have been converted to other uses, as in the case of Llangwathan Mill. Tregoyd Mill is one of the few mills within the historic landscape area which retains former machinery. Traces of ancillary structures such as weirs, leats and millponds have survived in many cases, even where the buildings themselves have fallen into disrepair or have been demolished”.


The Mill at Bleddfa has very nice 18th century machinery that shows how the different controls  manage the separation and speed of the stones and at the same time the amount of corn passing through the stones.


At Rhoscoch Mill a listed building:

When it was Listed in 1995, Rhos Goch Mill was described as an unusually well-preserved watermill with its machinery intact. It had worked until the 1950s, one of the last Radnorshire mills to do so. It was a combined mill and mill house of two storeys, built of rubblestone with a roof of stone tiles. It had an overshot iron waterwheel on a wooden axle, a cast iron pit wheel, cast iron wallower and spur wheel on a wooden upright shaft, and there were two pairs of French burr stones.


“The best and most popular stone ever discovered for grinding wheat into white flour is the French Burr. This stone is a freshwater quartz and was quarried at La Ferte sous Jouarre near the town of Chalons in the Marne Valley in Northern France, the stone from this district became world famous. The remarkable thing about this stone from La Ferte sous Jouarre was that it was only found in small pieces ranging from about 12 to 18 inches long, from 6 to 10 inches wide, by 5 to 10 inches thick, usually embedded in layers of clay. There were sometimes pieces of a larger size, but none large enough to make a complete millstone of the usual size 4 feet to 4 feet, 6 inches diameter, so that the French millstone of popular size, had to be built up. One reason why French stones were so successful was their high percentage of porosity. Some pieces were simply a mass of porous cells and as the stones wore away, new cutting edges appeared which could be worked without being refaced or redressed. Other pieces of La Ferte sous Jouarre stone were extremely hard and of close texture. The more porous pieces of stone were often light brown in color and called “nutmeg” burrs. The hard, close textured pieces were usually of lighter color and called “white” burrs. French stones produced a whiter flour from wheat because the extremely hard nature of the stone was far less abrasive than any other stone used. An abrasive stone tends to shred the outer part of the grain of wheat, the bran, into a powder. This fine powdered bran dresses through the fine mesh silk or woven wire of the flour dressing machinery or bolters together with the white part of the wheat meal and the flour thus produced is of a darker color.”


The Three Cocks Mill has some millstones outside which come from the Penallt area of the Wye valley. These stones show where ironwork was fixed in the central part to enable the stone to turn. The pattern of this ironwork can be used to date the stones. The patterns in a millstone at Mortimer’s Cross suggest that it is older than the mill, i.e. earlier than about 1750.


French burrs were the best millstones. These were made using many stone blocks, jointed with plaster of Paris and then clamped together by bands of steel.


Rhayader Mill is shown on:

It had two Water Wheels. One had a single-step drive to the millstones, as was used in Roman times.


New Mill at Presteigne has been converted into a house but it includes the machinery in the Drawing Room, and the vertical shaft can be seen in one of the bedrooms. More information can be found at:


Boughrood Mill still has the basic machinery inside and 1 wooden water wheel. More information about this and othe Corn Mills can be found at:


A mill at Aberedw is a former corn mill that has been converted into a domestic house. A picture was shown of the mill during conversion to a house, with discarded machinery on the ground outside.


Alan was somewhat sad about the Rhosgoch Mill which had been well preserved but is now in quite a state. At one time the owner had been quite antagonistic to Alan and other people concerned about the preservation of the Mill. It is currently being converted quite sensitively. It was one of the last Mills in Radnorshire to still be working and only stopped operating in the 1950s.. There was a mill and two storey mill house built of rubble stone. The roof was made with stone tiles. It has an overshot iron waterwheel on a wooden shaft, a cast iron pit wheel, cast iron wallower and spur wheel on a wooden upright shaft, and there are two pairs of French burr stones.


The Mill at Hundred House is a Grade 2* building that has been converted into a domestic building but Alan has not been inside to see the results of this work. One of our members’ grandfather was the miller at this Mill.


Coed Trewernau Mill is a remarkable survival. The ancient mechanism can be seen:–_NO7M%252C_&usg=__OAdZ-d-qRvGdHT3hYi56lQgECRw%3D&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjcloPJ9MzXAhUIBsAKHd33DU8Q9QEIRTAF#imgrc=DpGl5a_58ub3aM:


It has a very old domed millstone.

Neil confessed that he had had the Bible and a cupboard from Sam Brown who was at the mill.


The Mill at Discoed, known as Walk Mill, was a ‘fulling mill’ for felting woven woollen cloth. There were once in addition: Dye-House, Carding and Spinning machines, Weaver’s Looms, with Drying Racks and Workman’s Cottages. They specialised in felted blankets for insulation purposes. For more detail see:


There was another Woollen Mill at Knighton – Silurian Mill, A detailed article on this Mill can be found at:


Another use of Water power were the tanneries. There was a Tannery in Presteigne, for details see:


The Rhayader Tannery is now at St. Fagans in Cardiff.


Another use of the water wheel was to drive a Saw Mill. Court Farm Mill at Evenjob was a saw mill with a waterwheel by Meredith at Kington. For more details see:


Alan finished his excellent talk at this point and Geraint thanked him on behalf of the group.


Alan was asked about Paper Mills which is a particular interest of his. He has not come across any in Radnorshire but there were 4 such mills in Herefordshire.


There is a suggestion that a Silurian Paper Mill did exist at Knighton, see:


Alan was asked about Talgarth Mill which was of course restored thanks to funding that came through the Lottery in conjunction with a BBC television series. Alan had reservations about the authenticity of the restoration, but it is at least now a working Mill. See:

Neil Richards is from a family of Millers who were involved locally at Llandegley and at Howey. Information on Llandegley Mill can be found at:

There is a picture of Howey in:


Patricia formerly lived at Trelowgoed Mill which has a clearly defined leat and some features in one of the bedrooms. More information at:


Alan was asked about the early history of Mills and he told us that the Romans introduced them to Britain.  The article by CPAT gives a fuller history but it also has a comprehensive list of Mills in the area.


In Bedfordshire there were some extremely powerful mills, one with 8 pairs of millstones.


John A had no memory of the Water Mill at Llandegley except to say that the metal in the mechanism was taken for the war effort in 1939.


There is a Welsh Mills society which can be contacted through:


Finally Jackie Smith lives at Haines Mill at New Radnor. Alan had been to visit but he saw Eric who showed him round. Jackie welcomed him to visit again. For information see:


Geraint, after thanking Alan again, reminded members that we would meet again on 4th December 2017 when Lizzie Evans will give a talk on the Myths and Legends of Radnorshire.





Penybont and District History Group Notes 2nd October 2017 Meeting Main Topic: History of Penybont Station – Mary Davies & John Watmore

Geraint welcomed newcomers to the meeting. A group had come especially for the Main Topic – the Penybont Station Group. Much praise was given to this group for the work they have put into making the Station Garden so splendid.


Geraint also welcomed Denis Abberley with the noteworthy comment that the two brothers,  John and Denis, sat at opposite ends of the room.


Geraint mentioned that our next meeting would be about the Water Mills in the Area by Alan Stoyel on 6th November.


Geraint handed the baton to Mary who in turn introduced John Watmore who would be delivering the 2nd half of the talk. John had come from Chepstow but he had previously lived in Station Cottages.


Mary has now moved out of the village and is settled in Llandrindod Wells. She was however born in the ‘best room’ at the Thomas Shop. Living in London Mary has memories of visiting her grand-parents and going by train to visit her Nain and Taid.


She particularly remembered the excitement growing as they entered Penybont Tunnel – ‘nearly there’, and smoke in the carriage. Another of Mary’s memories was looking out of the Thomas Shop window and watching the cattle walking up the road from Penybont Station to the auction yard every week – more excitement. In thinking about the cattle she pondered the fact that the word ‘cattle-truck’ has disappeared from the language. Now they are only seen in ‘train-sets’.


A memory from London was the chickens sent to us for Christmas. Mary’s Uncle Jack ran a chicken farm from the Thomas Shop and the chickens were a very welcome treat each Christmas. Mary’s only specific memory however was that occasionally they might have a chicken that had ‘gone bad’. It is perhaps unfortunate that this is her main memory of this Christmas luxury.


Penybont would not have had a station if it had not been for the entrepreneurial flair of John Price, that man again! In 1755 he built Penybont Hall and through his influence  he impacted on the prosperity of the whole community. As a Trustee of the Radnorshire Turnpike he arranged improvements on the roads between New Radnor and Rhayader. No doubt he would have supported the comong of the railway but it was sometime yet before this would happen.


In 1804 Benjamin Heath Malkin, a writer and associate of the poet William Blake, when travelling in Wales, wrote that there was no post chaise (a travelling carriage that could be hired to go from one staging post to the next) in the County of Radnorshire, except at Rhayader.


By 1807 there was ‘regular communication’ open across the County due to the post horses at Penybont and a Mail coach system. By this time the Post Office was distributing mail across the country and Penybont would see a mail coach from London came through Penybont 3 days a week , and from London to Rhayader once a week.


In 1829 the coach from Welshpool to Llandrindod, called the Royal Dart, took just 7.5 hour!


Inevitably with the coming of the railways there was railways going to be competition with the road network. Nowhere showed this more clearly than the intersections that occur at Crossgates.The A44 crosses “the A483 very close to where there would be a railway crossing. Years later the Rev. Dr Jordan wrote in his book about Llanbadarn Fawr that the four main roads in the County joined one another inly a short distance from the Church”. He refers to the railway – by then the London Midland and Scottish Railway – as “being near the Church School and intersecting the village of Llanbadarn”. Mary felt that he was anticipation his congregation swelling due to people being able to travel to the area more easily.


In 1834 Johm Cheesement Severn, who had married John Price’s daughter, Mary Ann, in 1811, and had succeeded his father-in-law as a Trustee of the Radnorshire Turnpike Trust, built a new road from Crossgates to Penybont. The old road ran very close to the Hall and John Cheesement Severn had it moved to its current position. He had to pay for the re-routing of the road himself as the land near Bank House was very steep and know locally as ‘the Squires pItch’.


Traffic on these roads peaked in about 1837. In 1840 the Severn Arms was advertising Post Chaises, Flys (one horse hackney carriages), and gigs (2 wheeled, one horse carriages) could be supplied. At short notice, with “steady horses and careful drivers”!


Tolls were established by the County  Road Board as a way of improving the roads. But by 1845 the excitement had shifted to the possibility of rail travel. A suggested railway link from Hereford would take in Kington, New Radnor, Penybont, Rhayader, and on to Aberystwyth, would be called the Silurian Line.  This came to nothing in the end because of the expense of taking the line through the Radnor Forest.


When in 1854 building began in the Kington Railway Station a public holiday was declared in the area.


Markets for the Welsh Black sheep in Mid Wales and Cardiganshire opened up when the line between Leominster and Kngton opened in 1857. Farmers for the first time had access to the London markets.


Church Bells rang out in Knighton in 1858 when an extension to the railway was announced. Later in the year the Brass Band greeted the arrival of railway engineers!!


Construction of the railway took a significant step forward when the Commons were enclosed in 1862 releasing land for buildings and the railway.


With work started on the line past Penybont, and with the start of major building works in Llandrindod Wells, trade in the shops in Penybont was very good and shop-keepers became quite prosperous at this time.


John Percy Severn, son of John Cheesement Severn, happened to be a Director of Central Wale Railway, and he used this capacity to ensure that the railway did not come too close to the Hall. He gave land, part of Cwmtrallwm Farm, for the construction of the Station, in 1862, about half a mile from the Hall towards Crossgates which has meat that the Penybont station is situated even further from the village.


When on the 10th October 1864, the line between Shrewsbury and Penybont opened, the station was known as Crossgates Terminus. The journey from Llandrindod Wells to Euston Station in London  was 5¼ hours. The station was later renamed Pen-y-bont, the ‘correct’ spelling of the name, and the only way you will find the station in the internet timetables today.


Mary reminisced about Penybont tunnel which always filled her with excitement as a child. It meant she had almost reached her destination to spend her holidays in Penybont. The line through the tunnel was a single track. The construction was carried out by Messrs Hattersley and Morton. Mr George Morton, who was a railway engineer, was living at Grove Villa, which is situated by the bridge, nearest to the garage. The London and North West Railway Company were responsible for the development of the line which cost £12,000 per mile. It was the Company who owned Grove Villa, and Miah Lewis has said that the buildings were used for parcel storage. When the Villa was sild in 1919 the particulars of the sale mentions stables and a slaughter house.


In 1865 the section to Llandrindod was opened and the station was initially known as Llanerch Halt.


Also in 1865 an article in the Hereford Journal that suggested that the Directors were thinking of abandoning the Central Wales Line. The motivation of the Directors was to link the industrial sites with the minerals to be found in South Wales, they were not so impressed by the beautiful scenery to be found all along the line.


By 1868 the whole line between Shrewsbury and Swansea, 121.5 miles, had been completed. The early boom that accompanied the linking up of South Wales with the industry of  the Midlands, providing access to the fashionable Spas, started to decline as sea bathing became more and more popular.


The line was double track through Llandrindod but at Penybont  there was a wagon layby on the ‘upside’ of the track, and on the ‘downside’ there was a goods yard.  The tunnel at Penybont is 404 yards long.


There were a couple of other schemes to expand the line, but these never materialised.


It took more than 30 years to complete the line and Mr Morton said that having successfully engineered his way through Radnorshire, he could now contemplate working anywhere. They had estimated it would take 2 years to build the line between Llandrindod and Llandovery, but  it was not an easy route, and actually took 8 years to complete.


Amidst all this excitement stagecoaches were by this stage running regularly to and from Radnorshire. They were however very slow, achieving speeds of no more than 4 m.p.h. This contrasted with the same coaches on English roads that made the dizzying speeds of 6 m.p.h! Once the railways had become established, in the 1870s, road traffic started to decline.


Before 1889 five different companies were involved in the Central Wales Line, these were then amalgamated into the North Western and Great Western Railways. This survived until 1948 when British Rail took charge.


It is difficult to imagine today, but in the early part of the 20th century 20 trains passed through Penybont on most days. To manage this there was a staff of 12 people including a station master, 3 signalmen, porters, and clerks.


The station yard had animal pens, and the manure probably helped to keep the station gardens looking resplendent.


The line, by 1911, had 18 up and 19 down passenger lines and a stop would be made at Knighton for a ticket inspection. The station at Builth Road became very important as 70 men were employed to maintain the rolling stock. This was a significant source of employment in the area.


Mary had memories of a yellow cab, with a triangular shape, at the front of the train – “passenger luggage in advance” and wondered if anyone else could remember this.


The 1920’s saw hard times and Councils had very little money to the extent that the bridges over the railway were not maintained. A local bus service, Crosville Buses, the passengers at  Penybont and Llanyre had to get off the bus and walk across the bridge.


Secondary education was dependent on the trains at Penybont. Mary remembers her family members having to walk to the station to get the train to go to school.  This of course was easier than for many children who might have had to walk several miles to go to school.


The 1939 – 1945 War brought additional activity to the trains. The movement of troops, families and evacuees brought people to stations all along the line. There was an Officer Cadet training unit at Llandrindod Wells.


Mary’s father stayed in London during the war, but her mother was evacuated to Penybont. Somehow or other her mother had 3 children during the war, her sister, her brother, and herself, despite only meeting up with her father on three occasions during the period of evacuation!


After the War, in 1948, as mentioned previously, British Rail was launched, but it was in 1962 that Beeching changed the way the system would be run.


In 1964/5 Penybont became ‘singled’, and a year later freight traffic was stopped. The name changed to the ‘Heart of Wales Line’ in the hope of attracting tourists. The station was no longer staffed, and the station became a ‘request stop’ – a charm all of its own.


At about the same time the last steam train passed through Penybont on its way to York, from Swansea.


Some people from Penybont who were part of Penybont Station included:


Bill Middleton who was  cook in World War 2 for an infantry regiment, He became secretary of  Ithon Road Chapel and his connection with Penybont Station started as a signalman latterly becoming Station Master.


Mike Fussell from Upper Graig

Gordon Morgan

Tony Williams was a relief signalman at Llandrindod Station

Charlie Thomas, who was born at Rhos, Llandegley, was a gunner on HMS Centurion. It is said he missed the train as he was having a pint in Builth.


No talk on the Heart of Wales Line would be complete without a reference to Kelsham and his brother who are currently stationmasters/ticket suppliers to most of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They bought the station 18 years ago and have been able to provide the most amazing service to local people and people who phone in from all over the country.  Their knowledge of the network is quite extraordinary.


Mary then introduced John Watmore to the group.


John’s Grandfather was Rev. Charles Donald Venables, he lived at 5, Station Terrace. He was a first class Signalman and a Presbyterian Clergyman.


The family tree that led to John and his siblings is:


Charles Donald Venables   87yrs  1893 – 1980  and Winifred Ellen Venables   64yrs   1893 – 1957 had four children: Winifred Margaret (1918 – 2002) who married WALTER WHATMORE (1917 –  1984); Nell who married Jack Jackson; Edith who married Rev. Hugh Pryce-Jones; and Milton who married Dolly.


Winifred and Walter had five children:  Sheila Ann b 1/12/42; John Milton b 17/01/44; Jean Diane b 1/04/47; Joy Elizabeth b 03/03/50; Sylvia Jane b 16/02/63.



Sheila and Joy (who now lives in Crossgates) were in attendance for the talk and John felt sure that Sheila, his older sister, might put him right on some of the finer points. (This did happen more than once, but John felt he did get one back later in his talk). Sheila and John were born at 5 Station Terrace, but the family then moved to Llandegley, to Primrose Cottage, where Joy and Sylvia were born.


One of the main duties of the Signalman was to manage the exchange of the Staff with the fireman on the train. Trains could be travelling up to 50 m.p.h.  Only once did the exchange  not happen and the train had to stop before entering Penybont tunnel. The Staff was eventually found under the train and they were only then able to proceed.


More detailed information on the history of the line can be found in:

Craven Arms to Llandeilo: The Heart of the Wales Line (Country Railway Routes) (Hardcover); by John Organ (Author) 


It was the Stationmaster who was in charge, he lived in 1 Station Terrace. This was a detached house indicating the higher status. As children we would always look to see if the Stationmaster was in his house. While he was otherwise engaged, we children could get up to all kinds pf mischief. Some children would like to play in the cattle trucks and jump from the grain silo. On one occasion Gordon the Porter found us on the way to Swansea and we knew we would be in trouble when we were taken from the train in Llandrindod to face the music with the Stationmaster.


John’s father, Walter, and mother, Winifred got married during the war. His father was an electrical engineer and Sargent in the army. They moved to Primrose Cottage and then to Aston, Birmingham.


A survey of Penybont Station was carried out in 1903 and John showed a diagram of the station. It had the double track, goods yard, a crane, 40 waggons, pens for all manner of livestock, a signal box, and he red and white signals for the two lines. The signal on the ‘up-line’ from Shrewsbury was quite difficult to see. The bridge was a great place to get views of what was going on at the station and the steam trains as they sped through.


Every week day a shunting engine would travel from Craven Arms to Builth Wells and stop at every Station, to deliver or collect goods from the sidings. This involved  loading and unloading vari0us goods and repositioning the wagons on the sidings. Penybont had 4 lines of Track for this purpose including one  which went into the  main storage shed. The “Shunter “ called at Penybont at 12 midday going south and at 4pm returning to Craven Arms. Quite often The Engine Driver asked if I would like a ride on the engine whilst he shunted the wagons up and down.


  The Penybont Station of the fifties was a bustling hive of activity. Up to 60 trains a day would pass through..Coal Trains from the mines…Mail Trains delivering post to all parts of Wales, the Midlands and the North of England (and Penybont)….Fish Trains  from the south Wales Docks…….Troop Trains transporting Soldiers to and from Training Camps…..Steel Trains carrying  bulk metal to the North …….Milk trains delivering the countryside  harvest to the cities of Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool ; to say nothing of the  Passenger trains which connected  Mid Wales to all parts of the UK.

It was a living  community where Local Farmers  brought their animals to be transported to Market, and called to collect their  serials and foodstuffs  for the farm, and the machinery to operate it. Penybont in those days was part of, and a contributor to, a countrywide service and communication system.


 It was also a place where local, and visiting young children could play, and have the time of their lives.


John shared with us his particular memory of the day when one of the engine drivers asked him if he would like a ride on the train. He went on to have several trips, which he described as ‘heaven’.


Geraint thanked both Mary and John for an excellent morning. He reminded the group that the nesxt meeting would be on 6th November, when Alan Stoyel will talk on the Water Mills of the area.




















Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 3rd July 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: Walk from Castell Crug Eryr to Blaen Edw with Derek Turner, Ginny Guy, and Maureen Lloyd

The History Group met at the Thomas Shop and, after tea and coffee were served, Derek welcomed Geraint by way of a change. Geraint was not well enough to join the walk and the group wished him a speedy and complete recovery. Geraint reminded members that there would be no meeting in August and that the next session would be on the 4th September 2017 at 10.30 a.m. in the Thomas Shop. Derek will be talking about the Pales Meeting House as part of the 300 year anniversary of the founding of the Pales.

After making arrangements for the 5 mile journey along the A44 to Gwernargllwydd Farm, the group reassembled in the field that holds the ‘Eagles Mound’ / Castell Crug Eryr. It was a bright, blowy July morning as we assembled on the site of the Castle with the fantastic views down and through the Edw Valley, up over Llandegley Rocks to the Cambian Hills, and even down towards Brecon. It was a perfect morning for a walk. A few members elected not to walk and they made the journey from Crug Eryr down to Blaen Edw by car.

From the Motte we were able to see Blaen Edw and to track our journey down and back up through the piece of woodland owned by Liz and Derek. The journey would track through several History Group talks we have had on a variety of different subjects, but also take in some new findings.

  1. Castell Crug Eryr (The Eagles Mount)

When Marion led the talk on the Castles of the Ithon Valley, Crug Eryr, not being in the Ithon Valley, was not covered. It is however very similar in style to the ‘Welsh Castles’ as described by Marion. Most are high up on top of a hill which gave great strategic advantage, and they were easy to defend.

The origins of Castell Crug Eryr are not entirely clear. Some date it from around 1150 AD but others suggest that fortifications could have been here from a much earlier period. It clearly had some strategic significance in the latter half of the 12th century as it was visited by Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis), who was accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Baldwin, when the set out on a pilgrimage to recruit for the Crusades.

“Gerald of Wales records the visit in 1188 of Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury to what he calls ‘Cruker’ Castle, during the recruiting trip around Wales for the crusade. The party spent two nights at Crug Eryr after their visit to Radnor Castle, where they had been joined by Rhys ap Gruffudd, Prince of Deheubarth (‘The Lord Rhys’) and his son in law Einion o’r Porth Prince of  Elfael, son of Einion Clud, who had married Rhys’s daughter Susanna. At twilight on Saturday 5th March Maelgwn ap Cadwallon, Prince of Maelienydd and son of Cadwallon brother of Einion Clud arrived at Crug Eryr.  Gerald records that the Archbishop spoke with the Prince and he is said to have been signed by the Cross, as his cousin Einion o’r Porth and The Lord Rhys had done before him. The party then headed to Hay on Wye on Monday 7th March.”

You may want to refresh your memory here with Jennifer’s talk on “Elystan Glodrydd and the Princes of Maelienydd”. Elystan’s off-spring not only held many of the Princedoms in Wales but they have also populated positions of importance across Britain.

In discussion one of our members, Gill, raised an interesting point as to whether there could be another meaning to ‘Eryr’. A close relative to this word exists in an older Welsh Language which has the meaning ‘boundary’. So another possible meaning could be a castle mount that defines a boundary. We might need to look at the boundaries within ‘Rhwng Gwy a Hafren’ ( the land between the Severn and the Wye) that divide Maelienydd and Elfael to see if there could be merit in this theory?

From the Motte two of the three roads that have characterized this area could be seen. The current A44 road could be seen twisting around numerous bends, and below it the track that was the former road. The old road came passed the farm at Gwernargllwydd and rose so steeply that the Turnpike Trust changed the route to ensure that the Post got through. The date of the change is still not know to us but Ginny had access to an 1830 map that already had the new road in place. The challenge to the Turnpike Trusts to ‘get the Royal Mail through’ can be seen featured in the talk we had on the Post Office:

Hidden in the trees, on the castle side of the old track, is a third road, the Drovers Road, as described by Colin Hughes in his talk on the Drovers in Radnorshire. This is the route from Strata Florida through Abbeycwmhyr; coming up through Crossgates, Penybont and Llandegley; up and over the Radnor Forest by ‘Water Break Its Neck; down through New Radnor and on into England.:

What a lot of history from one vantage point!

  1. Trackway down to and including Settlement

From the Castle there was an increasing steep and gullied road down to a quarry that appeared to have a number of badger set holes high up in its face.  The 2500 acres of the farm had 5 miles of track within it, but this is an ancient track that appears to provide a link to what was our next surprise.  Part of a circular settlement could clearly be seen on a flat area of ground. Ginny had found some aerial photos of this which highlighted a circular enclosure that had been cut off across its diameter at some point in history- possibly then a hedge line and then beyond this a previously ploughed area. The nature of the markings on the land would suggest that this is an older settlement  than the Castle – possibly Iron Age. No Archaeological investigations have been carried out to date. An even better example of the settlement was to be found in the adjacent field, separated by a small recent woodland plantation. Here at least two houses could clearly be seen. Overall there is evidence of a significant settlement here from early times. It is worth reflecting that even in relatively modern times 25 people were employed on the farm. A nineteenth century map that Ginny had found also referred to three separate farms in this area that have completely disappeared. What looks like a ‘timeless’ landscape has seen extraordinary changes over the centuries.

The relationship between the settlement and the Castle is unclear. In the case of Cefn Llys Castle, (in Marion’s talk as above), which took over in significance from Crug Eryr in the next century, a settlement was clearly linked to the castle. Here it is less clear. In this case it would seem that the settlement may have pre-dated the castle. What the relationship was to the Castle is unknown and even whether they coincided historically remains a mystery.

  1. Blaen Edw Spa

We then took some of the farm tracks down to the site of the old farm house at Blaen Edw, which has now been demolished, then up past the new house, and down to the Spa hidden in a small wooded area by the main track and beside the Edw ‘stream’. The Spa is a stone relic, and while the roof and much of the walls have collapsed there is the clear outline of the Spa. Ginny  explained that the sulphurous waters were mainly used for skin complaints, and so the spring emerging by the river was at one time contained within a shallow bathing pool. The only remains today are the ruins of the stone hut built to shelter the pool. This stone building probably dates to the mid C19 and was a replacement for an ancient timber and thatch shelter as described in ‘The Cambrian Balnea’, published in 1825.

A newspaper article, written on 30th September 1967 by Cynric Mytton Davies, in the Express and Times Gazette, was circulated. This included a picture of the Spa complete, and also a picture of the old Farm House, which it describes as “one of the loneliest houses in Radnorshire”. The content of the article is as follows:

Blaen Edw – the Mini-Spa

Mr C.J. Prosser, Secretary of the Kilvert Society, has discovered a min-Spa!

It came about through explorations in the upper valley of the Edw, which was the country of his wife’s people. The house they wanted to discover was the one of her great-grandparents had lived, which was Blaen Edw, an extremely remote and isolated farm, which is among the headwaters of the Edw. They found it – and to their amazement discovered a miniature spa.


Blaen Edw is situated in an angle between the Penybont road and the Hundred House road, where they diverge at the Forest Inn, a piece of country that is very difficult to reach. When you come to it, it’s a tangled, almost secret terrain of low lying sodden fields and bogland, silent patches of woodland and everywhere rivers and streams.

To get to Blaen Edw you have to go first to Gwernarglwydd, the big farm at the foot of the escarpment where the bends start after you leave Llandegley.

Gwernarglwydd means The Lord’s Moor, but which the early Welsh lords gave it the name. It belongs to Mr G.S. Thompson, who lives a Towcester, and Mr Archie Lloyd farms it.

Gwernarglwydd and Blaen Edw comprise more than 2000 acres. I asked one of the men if anyone remembered Blaen Edw being occupied and farmed, and he said that someone lived there until about nine years ago. But he could not recall anyone having recourse to the sulphur spring.

No Clues

Blaen Edw is a difficult house to date for it has so little in the way of architectural features for clues, but it seems to be early Georgian or perhaps even Queen Anne.

Structurally it was in good repair as were the farm buildings opposite – good solid stone barns and byres.

The big rooms have solid flagged floors, solid ceiling timbers and elaborate Victorian grates.

The stairs had once been magnificent and had a lovely arch at the turn, but they had decayed badly. All the upper rooms were decayed and the attics and staircase leading to them looked beyond rehabilitation.

The spa was a little way from the house, across a field and alongside the river.

But we found the spa easily. There was a small stone building with brick dressings, but very dilapidated. Inside the floor was a mass of rubble, and a deep trough about four feet by one and a half, was chocked with debris. But the source was still trickling, filling the whole building with a perfectly horrible smell of rotten eggs. This was indeed a Sulphur spring!

Obviously people use to come here, and we got the impression there may at one time have been a little drinking garden below a mound, in the shade of rowan and alder-buckthorn trees. But how did people get at it, and did they stay at Blaen Edw farmhouse?

Mr Prosser said that there had once been a road from Franks Bridge through Cwnaerdy, but it no longer runs through. In any case it would be about four miles long. The only approach now is through Gwernarglwydd. And it is impossible to cut a new road by any other shorter route beause you are faced with the steep escarpment along the main road. Blaen Edw is indeed virtually inaccessible by any route.

The owner, Mr Thompson, in a response to a letter asking for information, said his great-uncle, Major Samuel Nock Thompson, of Newcastle Court, bought the property from Sir Herbert Lewis, of New Radnor sometime between 1910 and 1915.

He said Sir Herbert had great confidence in Blaen Edw Spring and regularly took course of baths there. He was the last person known to use the bath, and on these courses of treatment used to stay at the farm house.


Major Thompson had the spring water analysed when he acquired Blaen Edw and the analyst’s report was very favourable. He seriously considered bottling the water and marketing it, but nothing came of the idea. But he would take the waters himself, drinking a glass from the spring whenever he past near the spa house. Occasionally he managed one of his guests to try it, but none of them ever came back for a second glass!

Another man with personal memories of Blaen Edw and Gwernarglwydd is Mr Fred Brown, licensee of the Severn Arms Hotel at Penybont, for his family lived there from 1920 till1933 and he lived there with them until he went to Brazil in 1929.

He says the spa-house was dilapidated when they went to Blaen Edw, but visitors still kept coming for the waters. They were not local people. One he remembers came from Leominster, but others came from much further afield. Many of them brought stone jars to fill with water.

One of the visitors had a skin complaint, while another suffered from rheumatism. Both believed that the sulphur waters were efficacious for curing these ills. But none of them ever used to bath. Mr Brown couldn’t date Blaen Edw farm house any more precisely than we had been able to, but he agreed that it was most probably built at the beginning of the 18th century. But he mentioned something we hadn’t found, and that was a pool that teems with wildfowl between the farm and Llandegley Rocks, hidden from sight at the farm by a ridge.

I asked him if he had ever seen a white dog which I have been told haunted Gwernarglwydd, but none of his family had ever seen or heard him. But he had found the stone circle which I had failed to locate on an earlier expedition.

Howse makes a brief reference to Blaen Edw, so does Jonathan Williams, but neither gives anything of the history of the house or spa. Apparently Llandegley Spa had a vogue in the late 18th century, and at one time almost as well known as Llandrindod – though that seems unlikely.

Mail coaches stopped at the Burton Arms and people stayed there to take the cure, so perhaps Blaen Edw flourished in the same period, But it seems strange that nothing of its history has survived.”

A question to Ginny, who had given the talk on Llandegley and Blaen Edw Wells, gave rise to a discussion about Llandegley Geological Faults.

Ginny then explained that water could travel miles and miles from distant areas, more or less latterly along volcanic plates, until they hit upon an fault and a possible way out. As we learnt in the session on the Archaeology of Penybont Common, the Ordovician Rock that forms Llandegley Rocks is a very ancient rock (450 million years old). It has fissures within it that lead to the waters being able to escape from their underground channels. It is hit and miss as to which of the mineral salts are present in the particular water that emerges at any place.


At different times, in the 18th and 19th centuries people tried to make businesses from the waters that emerged on their land. There are tails of people coming to Blaen Edw but there were few ‘home comforts’ at either Gwernarglwydd or Blaen Edw farms.

  1. Walk back and Drovers Road

The walk back up from Blaen Edw rose very sharply initially, but at the crest of this initial hill we had views back over Gwernarglwydd, that were glorious, with the 2500 acres spread out in front of us. We were treated to the site of 2 Welsh Cob mares, each with a foul, and very handsome they looked.

Rather than walking around the farm we branched right and then left towards the woodland under Castell Crug Eryr. The contrast between the open pasture and the dense woodland was dramatic.

The walk had taken a little longer than expected and so most of the members took the very steep track through the wood back to the A44. A few dipped under the trees to see the beautifully preserved Drovers Track.

Hope the summer goes well for everyone and that we see you all on 4th September for our next meeting – “300 years of The Pales” when I hope to have prepared something of interest.

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 5th June 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire – Andy Johnson

Geraint started by welcoming Andy and Karen Johnson, of Logaston Press, and thanking them in particular for the contribution that they had made to the history and culture of the local area by publishing an extraordinarily rich set of books.

He then welcomed 2 new members:

Rita who he had not seen in years, remembering her as a ‘little girl’, she now lives in Bishop’s Castle – ‘Welcome home!’

He then welcomed Sharon Mills from Cefn Bronllys Farm, Llanddewi. Sharon was originally from Knighton, and teaches part-time in Newtown.

Geraint then turned his attention to the ‘leasehold acquisition of the cupboard in the Laundry, at the Thomas Shop, which will now formally be available for the sole use of the History Group. He went on to announce to the assembled members, and in front of Rosemary, his wife, that she is formally required, at the ‘end of his day’, to re-locate the piles documents, and other materials, in the said cupboard. Neil Hilliard asked about cataloguing and found himself volunteered to head a team of archivists to catalogue the contents of the cupboard! Elizabeth Newman agreed to assist on team. The suggestion that ‘Neil R’ should assist was formally rejected by Geraint saying that: “While there were many things that Neil could assist with, this was not one of them!” Neil’s response was: “And you were once a vicar!”

Mary was asked if she had any matter to bring to the meeting, and she said she was particularly looking forward to trying out the ‘walks’ in Andy’s book and getting some exercise.

Derek then proceeded to confuse everyone about the proposed walk for next month, explaining that having chosen, with Ginny and Maureen, a suitable sunny afternoon to do a ‘recce’, the heavens opened and they only managed to visit the Castel Crug Eryr site. The plan for Monday 3rd July is to meet for coffee at 10.00 a.m. at the Thomas Shop, when all will hopefully be made clear, and then proceed to the beginning of the walk by car.

Main Topic: Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire Andy Johnson

Andy started by saying that he would say something about the history of the Logaston Press before going on to talk about the specific book – ‘Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire’.

He explained that from a very early age he had had a dream of finding a derelict farm and ‘doing it up’. At the age of 13 he visited Herefordshire, from his home in the south-east, and immediately thought that this would be the place where he might one day fulfil his dream. And so it happened, in his mid-twenties he sold a property in the south-east and acquired, from Mr. Jones, a cottage with some ground at Logaston. All the advice he had been given from his friends about taking on the farming life was: “Don’t do it!” But he did it anyway. He decided to ‘have a go’. Living in Herefordshire he quickly became interested in the history of the area and, in walking through the beautiful countryside, he started to explore. The difficulty was that there were almost no books that linked the history and walking. Sitting in a cold building in winter evenings in front of an open fire he started to research, and make notes. Talking to the people in Almeley he became aware that hardly anyone had any idea about how to read a map, and that footpaths in the County were very poor. And so a book emerged; ‘Walks & More; a Guide to the Central Welsh Marches’, 1985.  He knocked it out on an old typewriter, and found a printer in Worcester. Marketing the book became frustrating, and writing to publishers did not elicit any responses, so Logaston Press was formed. People started to hear of Logaston Press and approach him with ideas, including Geoffrey Hodges, a history teacher from John Beddoes School. Logaston Press began to publish circa 2 books a year. Farming was not paying the bills and after Andy took a 2 year contract with the County Council to manage a programme for people with Learning Disabilities, he jumped to 18 books in a year, and the business was formed. Karen was running a 2nd hand bookshop in Weobley at this time and was looking for something new. She joined him in running the business, and before long they got married. They enjoyed similar pursuits and ’Walking in the Old Ways of Herefordshire’ with 52 walks, one a week, emerged. The challenge in writing this book was to spread the walks around Herefordshire, to find walks that were open and accessible; and walks that also took in a variety of aspects of history, and were visible (not behind a hedge). Fortunately there were many features including an Iron Age farmstead; a canal; and sites with connections to the different wars. Unexpectedly they found that people used the books in different ways. Somebody who lived in Herefordshire but barely knew Ross used the book to explore the town and its surrounds; someone who had lived unknowingly close to a Saxon wall used the book to explore their own local area; people used the book in ways that suited them.

Having done Herefordshire they turned to Radnorshire which was equally loved and enjoyed. History was however more complex. There were less physical structures, very little stone work. Visible history was generally around the edges and half of the walks reflected this. The history that became interesting and different in Radnorshire was the ‘pre-history’. It was sometimes difficult to discern if a feature was a stone circle or remains of a burial chamber. Examples were often difficult to find amongst the heathers and gorse in the landscape. Often sites had not been excavated so very little was known. The Walton Basin was classically difficult – hugely exciting but often nothing to see. What they tried to do was to give people an opportunity to reflect on what it would have been like in 2000 BC. The Palisade at Walton is the 2nd largest in Europe, with a 1½ circumference covering 35 hectares. Standing there now there is almost nothing to see, but what they have tried to convey is: – What would it have meant to people of the time? They have tried to create a sense of ‘wonder’. They have also been able to connect the walks with the archaeological finds, and for example at Walton there have been a number of excavations over the period, and excavations that relate to different periods of history. Twm Tobacco’s tomb with its plaque in the hills above Painscastle/Aberedw has excited a similar sense of wonder. Was it connected to the import of ‘tobacco’; connected to the ‘Rebecca Riots’; was it to commemorate a Shepherd? No-one knows!  Near Llanfiangel nant Melan there are two farmsteads (Lluests meaning upland pastures) ‘Black Yatt’ and Pant Glas, that have  interesting histories. In the 17th and 18th Centuries adjacent landowners sought to establish claims and rights to open hillsides. These were arbitrated by the court leets to establish occupation between the 15th May and 15th August. Pant Glas is still occupied whereas Black Yatt was blown up in the making of “It Happened Here”, a film depicting what might have happened if a German Invasion of Brittain had been successful in 1944.

The most recent Radnorshire book is “Early Birds and Boys in Blue – A Century of Radnorshire Aviation” by Phillip Jones, which, like “Walking the Old Ways of Radnorshire”, is available at the Thomas Shop. Phillip Jones is an avid researcher and the big problem with him was to stop him at a point when a book might be published. He has covered in this book almost everyone who was involved in some way with early flying in, out of, and into Radnorshire. The first plane to land in Radnorshire was on its way to be the first plane from Britain to land on Irish soil, a Bleriot XI flown by Corbett Wilson, and which incidentally hit a hedge at Logaston on the way. The plane was refuelled with a mix that included ‘castor oil’. Within a few miles of Logaston it had to make an emergency landing in a field in Radnorshire, not appreciated by the farmer, as they had used the ‘wrong’ sort of castor oil! Once again they refuelled the plane made a detour from crossing via Holyhead and made the journey successfully from Fishguard.

Also featured in the book are the exploits of Reginald Percy Bufton who had an adventurous career in the RAF, and one that also included importing tropical fish by strapping a water tank close to the engine of the plane!

Andy and Karen are about to embark on a new phase in their life. They have identified some people who they believe will take on Logaston Press in the spirit that they have run it. Andy and Karen have things and places to explore. Andy has a particular interest in, the controversial and influential, Sir John Oldcastle, a son of Ameley, 1378 – 1417. He had several claims to fame:

  • His friendship to Prince Hal – later to be Henry V
  • His military career
  • Member of Parliament
  • A member of the Lollards, a political group that sought Protestant type changes within the Roman Catholic Church
  • As a Lollard he initiated rebellion, was indicted, reprieved by the King, continued to forcibly promote his views, was sent to the Tower, escaped, and eventually hung, drawn and quartered.
  • His name was adopted by Shakespeare and then changed to the infamous Sir John Falstaff.

Andy hopes to find the time to ‘write’! Don’t we all!

After a number of questions relating to footpaths, that included:

  • The relative merits of going through a field with a ‘friendly bull’ to a field with a furiously protective cow with a calf
  • How the racial prejudices of a Parish Council contributed to their objection to opening footpaths
  • A how Colonel Zog managed to get farmers to consider rights of way when threatened with the imposition of a 3 metre strip created by a Combine Harvester

Elizabeth Newman was asked by Geraint to express our thanks to Andy and Karen for a most informative session. Elizabeth thanked Andy not only for the talk but for the contribution that he and Karen have made to the local area. The books go all over the world bringing Hereford and Radnorshire to a wide audience. She had been particularly pleased that he had used Radnorshire in his titles and not ‘Mid Wales’. Radnorshire has an appeal way beyond the non-specific alternative. She also mentioned the invaluable work that Andy and Karen had initiated by involving offenders in the environmental work of restoring and maintaining footpaths. Thank-you.

Next Meeting will be at 10.00 a.m. Monday 3rd July for the Walk.

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 1st May 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: The 1919 Sale of the Penybont Estate – Shirley Morgan

Geraint welcomed Mike Fussell from Upper Graig – Mike unfortunately received a telephone call at this point and was called away.

He also welcomed Gordon Morgan, Richard’s brother.

There was a surprising large turnout considering it was the Bank Holiday Monday!

Jennifer mentioned a Family History event that will be held on the 18th May at 7.00 p.m.

In introducing Shirley once again to the group he also welcomed Alice who had come as Shirley’s ‘technician’ to manage the powerpoint presentation.

Main Topic: The 1919 Sale of the Penybont Hall Estate

Shirley started by telling us that there have been 3 sales over the years affecting the size and scope of the Penybont Hall Estate. Shirley said that she would be focusing on just the one as there was so much material to cover in the 1919 sale, Future talks might well look at the subsequent sales in 1926, and 1945. Catalogue’s for the sales were present as Richard Morgan had brought copies of all three.

As a preliminary exercise Shirley asked the members to visualise an acre. Humphrey was able to put it in perspective as it is the size of a football pitch (4840 sq yds).

The auction was held in the Iron Room in Penybont and as an event it was very different to auctions of today. There was a sense of enjoyment and participation that went beyond the bidding process. As we shall see later in Shirley’s talk the proceedings were often punctuated with spontaneous applause!

In conducting her research Shirley has had access to the catalogue that was used on the day but none of the copies still include the detailed map that they would have had as part of the defining information for prospective buyers. Even the catalogue in the Powys Archives does not have the maps.




In order to understand the reasons underlying the sale of the Whitehead Estate in 1919, we have to take a look at some of the things that were going on in Britain at that time. The country was still reeling after the expensive and traumatic war, and the rural community were feeling the effects of  cheap foreign agricultural imports. Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget of 1909 had introduced unprecedented taxes in Britain’s rich and landowning communities in order to fund social welfare programmes. During Victorian times the vast wealth of the ‘landed gentry’ was hardly taxed at all, but although the Land Valuation Tax did not really take off, it did generate huge controversy:

“The Tory cry is – ‘Hands off the land!’

The Liberal policy is – Taxation of land values and the best use of the land in the interests of the community!”

However, the introduction of the ‘Super Tax’ on the wealthy, and the increase on ‘death duties’ meant that ‘the sun began to set over the British Aristocracy’:

“A ‘super tax’ (or surtax) of 6d in the pound was to be levied on incomes over £5000 (payable on the amount by which incomes exceeded £3000).

In addition, there were steep increases in ‘death duties’ which had been introduced in 1894.”

This was the first budget that had at its core the ‘redistribution of wealth’ and was initially blocked by the House of Lords.

“They are forcing a revolution and they will get it – who made ten thousand men the owners of the soil and the rest of us trespassers in the land of our birth.”

Ironically it was the Coalition Government, Headed by Lloyd George that repealed the Land Tax!

However, in Penybont the owner of the Penybont Estate, Mrs Sarah Whitehead, was undoubted feeling the effects of these taxes when, in 1919, part of the Estate, of some 24,000 acres, that had been built up initially by John Price (who we now know quite well from his exploits as Shop-Keeper, Publican, Banker, High Sheriff, and Trustee of the Turnpike Trust), was put on the market. The Estate was extended  by John’s son-in-law, John Cheesement Severn, who we have also come across before, and who was a London Barrister. He was known to have been buying up land, which was relatively cheap, in the Penybont area from 1808. He had become acquainted with the area through his step-sister Sarah Augusta, who had married Edward Rogers of Stanage. In 1811 John Cheesement married Mary Ann Price, John Price’s daughter, who, despite the nature of her ‘illegitimate’ birth, had inherited her father’s vast fortune and Estate. John Cheesement also gained land through enclosure, though in practice this was not enforced as harshly as in many places, on the poor tenants of Penybont. After the death of John Cheesement, in 1875, his son, Percy Severn, became the Squire of Penybont. He carried out improvements to the Hall and lived the life of the ‘Country Squire’ at Penybont Hall. At this stage Percy, and his three sisters, Sarah, Emily Augusta, and Julia, were all middle aged, unmarried, and childless. Sarah died in 1891, Percy in1900, Emily Augusta in 1906, and finally Julia in 1907. With no children in direct line to inherit the Estate passed to the line followed by John Cheesement’s step sister, Sarah Augusta and Edward Rogers, and to Major General Robert Children Whitehead (The Widowed Sarah Augusta later remarried to Rev. Whitehead.)

The Major General had a long military career in the Crimea, India, and South Africa. He retired in 1892 and settled at the United Service Club in London. He was 73 years old when he inherited the Penybont Estate, and he had recently married an ‘employee’ at the Service Clup who was 25 years his junior, Sarah Jones. The Major General was only able to enjoy his inheritance for a few years as he died in December 1910. Apart from a small annuity, which he left to his brother, the entire Estate passed to his wife. The Estate at that time was valued at £116,000. Following on from the considerable charitable works of the Severn’s, Sarah continued this tradition. She was not always present at the Hall, and the 1911 census shows only a skeleton staff at the Hall and Mrs Whitehead is not recorded as being present.

The Estate was not immune to the problems that beset every aristocratic family in the land. The auction houses were flooded with the sales of estates, and so it is not surprising that by 1919 a portion of the Penybont Estate came up for sale. An advert was placed in the Brecon and Radnor on the 18th September by the Hamer Family as Estate Agents/Auctioneer. This advert was headline news taking the whole of the front page of the paper. The two subsequent sales saw a decline in the significance of the Estate – in 1926 the advert was a ½ page, and in 1919 it was much smaller again.) The Hamer family had had 3 generations as Agents to the Estate and they were now prominent Bankers.

A very detailed catalogue was  produced containing the details, including the acreage, of the 42  properties up for sale. This would have meant a careful survey needed to be carried out across the area, which included farms in the Parishes of: St Harmon, Abbeycwmhir, Llanddewi Ystradenni, Llandegley, Cefn Llys, Llangunllo, Painscastle, Michaelchurch, and Lyonshall.

The general notes at the front of the catalogue highlighted the ‘excellent grouse shooting and fishing rights’ at the St Harmon properties. It is interesting that the catalogue draws attention to this because of their altitude and extensive watershed, ‘lots 1 & 2 had been looked at under the London Water Bill as being suitable sites for reservoirs – they still are!

A sale was only accepted if a deposit of £10 was transferred at the signing of the Contract. The Buyer was responsible for arranging and paying for the conveyance – possibly the first time many had had to engage in the services of a solicitor.

In addition to the deposit Buyer’s had to agree that all disputes over boundaries would be settled by the auctioneers, and that their decision would be final!

The Brecon and Radnor for the week following the sale printed a report as follows:

“On Wednesday afternoon Messers Campbell and Hamer were announced to offer about 9000 acres comprising the outlying portions of the Penybont Hall Estate, by auction, by directions of Mrs Whitehead who succeeded to the Estate in the death of her husband, the late General Whitehead, who was the heir of the late Mr J Percy Severn. The agent/autioneer Mr James Hamer, and the Solicitor, Mr H Vaughan Vaughan offered several farms to the tenants at reserve prices, which were very low. Further Mrs Whitehead intimated to each tenant that she was prepared to leave mortgages on each farm charging 4½% in such sums as were agreed upon. This generous offer was received with great gratitude by the tenants, and prior to the sale. 16 tenants bought their farms prior to the sale and further tenants purchased them at the auction and subsequently.

As the auction was getting under way, Mr Campbell said that he had been asked over and over again why Mrs Whitehead was selling this part of the Estate. He was sorry to say that she did not enjoy the best of health and did not want to be worried with the cares of property more than she could help, and her idea was that by selling the outlying portions of her Estate, wht remained would be more consolidated and earier to manage. He did not believe that there had ever been a better family in the County, or in any other county, than the Servern family (followed by applause), and the late General Whitehead and Mrs Whitehead had fully upheld the noble traditions of the Servern family (more applause). The Estate had been exceedingly fortunate in its Agent, Mr James Hamer, (again more applause) and better relations between tenant and agents could not exist, than what existed in this instance. (Yet more applause) It had been Mrs Whitehead’s wish that tenants should be given first chance of purchasing, and 16 farms had been purchased by the tenants. (Even more applause) Sime of the farms had been rented very much below their true value and the reserves were very low.

£30,000 was raised through the sale!

Shirley then took us on a tour of some of the farms that were sold in the auction. She took us round Llandegley rocks taking in The Ffaldau and round the Rocks and back to Rhos House. Shirley had physically gone on this tour and had interviewed many of the current residents, and also taken up to date photos to compare, where possible, with the photos of the time of the auction.

  1. Caedildre

The building is no longer there, the walls can only be seen from an aerial photo. The building was nocked down to build a bungalow. It had been a traditional long-house and dairy. The tenancy covered 52.61 acres and was bought by the Council for £1000. A Morgan family rented it and coincidently a completely different Morgan family have it now!

  1. The Ffaldau

It was sad that John Abberley was not present as the Ffaldau was his childhood home and the centre of many stories associated with his father’s dairy business. Shirley remembered the milk being delivered to the school when she was a child. One of her particular memories was getting a lift with the milk one morning on the way to school. Her bike had just had a puncture. The current house is much altered from the original which was rented at £60 per year.

Shirley then took us along the Graig Lane to three properties all with Graig in their title:- Graig (Mills); Graig (Price); and Graig (Hughes)

  1. Graig (Mills)

Bill Davies had the Mill and it comprised of 100 acres. It was rented at £65 per year. Jason lives there now and sadly in a recent tragedy he lost both of his parents in very quick succession.

  1. Graig (Price)

This was an 84 acre plot at £55 per year rent.

There is now a tree growing through the building.

Shirley told us about Stan and Alan Price who set off to deliver butter to her home on a scooter. One of them had his foot down all the way and his shoe was completely worn away when they arrived. They then discovered they had forgotten the butter! They were however welcomed with open generosity. They were fed tea and cake before setting off home again!

Stan joined up for the War and became Batman to Major D. Jones. He saw a lot of suffering during the War.

Alan did not join up, he was the local ‘butcher’ and specialised in pigs. Neil was able to tell us the he, Neil, has the set of knives that Alan used. He had a set of knives with black handles which he would roll out to select the one he needed for the job at hand.

  1. Graig (Hughes)

Now known as ‘Upper Graig) and Mike Fussell, who was mentioned above, now lives there. It was 143 acres and also rented.

Shirley had a picture of the building that was taken in 1940’s.

  1. Bwlchycefn

The plot was 324 acres. The current house was built in 1901 and it replaced a cruk-house where strays were taken in. Ivor Hughes died at Shirley’s House and so she had a lot affection for this place. His second wife brought Shirley into the world and was the ‘most delightful lady’. Ivor sin jack was a founder member of Young Farmers and his dedication to the organisation led to a building being named the Jack Hughes Centre. Robert and Doreen Owen, who are descended from the Hughes family are still farming, have Bwlchycefn now and they are still farming.

  1. Bwlchllwyn

Moving along towards Hundred House this plot was 169 acres and id did not reach its reserve.  It is now a holiday cottage.

  1. Waen Arthur

There is no trace of this plot now at all. There are records of children who came to the school but with no roads or access it is not surprising it has disappeared.

  1. Nursery Cottage

This is just off the Hundred House Road, quite close to where Shirley used to live. A Mrs Mansfield lived there, she was considered quite eccentric – she kept goats! Shirley wondered if there was something else in the milk – she did not have any more.

It is now very well kept.

  1. Sunnybank

Coming back around we come to Dilwyn Powell’s old family home. Shirley can remember camping at Sunnybank and Neil’s wife who also camped particularly remembers the thunderstorms. They camped next to the sheep wash pool.

Sunnybank’s front door was always open in Dilwyn’s Parents time. His father was often there ready to receive any news that might be passing. They were known for the New Year’s day ‘Gifting’ tradition. They would shut the door when the singing started.

  1. Rhos House

Sold for £300 with 3.1 acres. Shirley did not know if it was sold to the tenant but Neil, who lives more or less next door said he would find out.

Gareth who lives there now follows on from his great-grandfather. Gareth used to deliver gas throughout the area in the past, but he has not changed the house at all over the years.


Shirley wondered whether the ‘social revolution’ proved to be a success. Owning your own small farm gave status and prestige, but times to follow in the 20’s and 30’s were very tough. Shirley referred to a couple of books that underlined the challenges of the period.

  1. Haber Nant Llan Nerch Freit: by George F. Lewis (Gwen’s brother)
  2. The Valley by Elizabeth Clarke (Shirley’s husband used to service Elizabeth Clarke’s husband’s car)

Neil said that even 20 years ago ewes couldn’t be given away!

Geraint thanked Shirley for an excellent talk.

As indicated in the Notes for April at our June meeting on the 5th June Andy Johnson will talk about ‘Walking in Radnorshire’.

Penybont and District Local History Group Notes 3rd April 2017 at the Thomas Shop Main Topic: History of New Radnor Marion Evans

Geraint welcomed what he suspected was the entire population of New Radnor!

Derek mentioned that plans were well under way for the walk in July.

The Next Meeting on the 1st May will be in the Sale of the Penybont Hall Estate. Shirley, who will be giving the talk indicated that there is too much information to cover all three sales and that she will be concentrating on the 1919 sale.

Geraint mentioned two sad losses that had occurred recently in the Village.

One of our members, Marlene Carpenter died, our thoughts were with Chris.

Also tragically the Haslock family had lost, in a cycle accident abroad, Anna’s partner. A loss of ‘international’ significance, that has brought great sadness to the community. Anna had been one of the artists who had previously had premises within the Thomas Shop complex.

After a moment of reflection – we moved on to the Main Topic:

Marion Evans – “A History of New Radnor”

New Radnor a TOWN in Radnorshire!!! Barely a village, but because of its strategic importance, it has been understood to be a Town. Marion emphasised that she will talk on ‘A History …’ and not ‘The History ….’ As, within much of the writings, there is considerable supposition, much is still unknown, and many commonly written about facts, are clearly wrong.

The site of the Norman Castle is the most significant feature but the area and the fortifications were important long before the Normans arrived. The site overlooks the fertile Walton Basin that has, as we know from a previous talk, has a 7000 year history of agriculture and settlement. On the other side of the castle is the gap that leads into the Radnor Valley. New Radnor provided a strategic defensive position albeit that this was not the typical Welsh Hillfort site, New Radnor provided something different. Nothing much is left of the old fortifications but there was a dyke running along the line from the Vron Fram to Water Break It’s Neck Waterfall. It is unclear whether the dyke kept the ‘Welsh Out’ or the ‘English In’. Summergill Brook was another boundary which as its name suggests became an underground stream during the summer months.

Following the death of Hywel Dda in 948, and a settled period for most of Wales, his descendants fought over territory and New Radnor was destroyed in 991 AD.

Meredydd (ab Owain), grandson of Hywel, and Prince of North Wales, succeeded for a time in forcibly usurping the sovereignty both of South Wales and Powys, dispossessing of his territories his nephew Edwin (ab Eineon ab Owain), great-grandson of Hywel, who in his difficulties obtained the assistance of an English force. With the aid thus received, Edwin drove back Meredydd into his district of North Wales; but the latter recruited his forces with such rapidity that in the following year, 991, he invaded the possessions of Edwin, spoiled the district of Glamorgan, and destroyed the town of New Radnor.”

In 1064 a wooden castle is attributed to the Saxon, Harold. Following the defeat of Harold by William in 1066, William built many motte and bailey castles across the country with the biggest concentration along the Welsh Marches. As in other places it is likely that the Castle at New Radnor replaced existing fortifications. In earlier times there would probably have been a settlement under the Castle, the beginnings of New Radnor, or Maesyfed.

It remains unclear who built the Norman castle, or exactly when. It is understood that Philip de Braose, in 1095, had responsibility for the Castle. When Archbishop Baldwin and Giraldus Cambrensis were welcomed by Rhŷs ab Grufydd, Prince of South Wales, to start their Welsh campaign to recruit for the Crusades in 1188, they chose New Radnor as their starting point. This would suggest that there was a community of some standing at this time. Life in New Radnor itself however was about to become more turbulent as in 1194 Rhys, as above, was deprived of his land and territory by the Norman, Roger Mortimer. By 1196 Rhys had gathered an army together and took the Castle at New Radnor. Mortimer returned, but after a fierce battle, Rhys routed the Normans. Marion had visions of the people leaving their homes in Syria when she considered the ups and downs of life in Radnor over the next 80 years. In 1216 the Castle was destroyed by King John when  Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of North Wales, refused to support the King. By 1231 King Richard had left the Marches in the protectorate of Hubert de Burgh when Llewelyn attacked and destroyed Radnor Castle. The Castle was rebuilt in 1233 by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, but was again destroyed in 1263 when Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales, and the two sons of the celebrated Simon de Montfort, attacked and destroyed the Castle. It was again rebuilt but its final demise came in 1401 when Owain Glyndwr sacked the Castle in an offensive that also saw the destruction of the Abbey at Cwm Hir. There are some references to a castle beyond this period but it seems likely the a decline in its fortunes seems to have followed Glyndwr’s visit and the brutal execution of 60 people who formed the Guard. In 1538 there was ‘not much of the Castle’.

The Town itself, largely thatched, was laid out in a grid pattern by the Normans as was typical of the medieval period. Other towns locally and further afield were built to the same system, including Ludlow and Cefn Llys. Marion had to confess that she had never thought she would settle in New Radnor, which she described as a ‘failed town’, with an ugly church and war memorial cross, despite its size. Despite these shortcomings New Radnor did become the ‘County Town of Radnorshire’ in 1536, albeit it was no bigger than it is now. It did however have a gatehouse that could be converted into a prison – having a prison does now seem to have been the key to New Radnor’s position within the Shire. In 1562 Queen Elizabeth granted the Borough status with 25 Burgesses within an area of 28,000 acres. Only the Burgesses had the vote at this time.

1645, when Prince Charles visited Bush Farm after the Battle. The poverty of food he found at the farm led him to rename it Beggar’s Bush. The story has its origins as related in:

The Diary of Sir Henry Slingsby (p.167-8):

“In our Quarters we had little accommodation:: but of the places we came to, the best at old Radnor, where the King lay  in a poor low Chamber, & my Lord Linsey & others by the kitchen fire on hay: no better were we accommodated for victuals; which makes me remember this passage; when the King was at supper eating a pullet and a piece of cheese the room outside was full, but the men’s stomachs empty for want of meat; the good wife troubled with continual calling upon her for victuals, and having it seems but the one cheese, comes into the room where the King was and very soberly asks if the King had done with the cheese, for the Gentlemen without desired it. But the best of it was, we never tarried long in one place, & therefore might the more willingly endure one nights hardship, in hopes the next night might be better” [spelling modernised].

In 1731 a new charter was granted to the Town albeit there were now only 7 Burgesses. The status of New Radnor was important not just to the inhabitants and particularly the Burgesses who could raise Taxes, but to the two MPs who were elected, one to represent the Town, and the other to represent the Borough. These MP’s were not from New Radnor, or even Radnorshire, but they lobbied to keep their positions right up to the 19th century. An analysis of these MP’s contribution to Parliament showed that nothing of importance was ever brought forward by these MP’s.

These Acts of Charter are summarised in:

“The government is vested by the charter in twenty-five capital burgesses, who must be selected from burgesses resident within the borough. It is their duty to elect from among their own number, annually on the first Monday after the feast of the Holy Cross, a bailiff and two aldermen, who act as magistrates for two successive years. They also elect a recorder, who holds his office for life. There are thus seven magistrates, who preside both at the quarterly and the petty sessions, and act within the limits of the borough, to the exclusion of the county magistrates, in all matters, and with respect to all crimes and offences not punishable by death. They are assisted by a town-clerk, a coroner, two chamberlains, and two serjeants-at-mace; and are empowered to levy on all property situate within the limits of the borough a rate of the nature of a county rate, out of which the town-hall and gaol, the borough bridges, and all other lawful corporate expenses, are provided for. The charter requires them to hold a court weekly for the recovery of debts and the determination of pleas not exceeding 40s.: at this court the bailiff presides, assisted by the town-clerk. The petty-sessions are held every Monday.”

The general shift towards Presteigne being the Town responsible for Administration is also documented in this document:

“This borough returns a member to parliament in conjunction with the boroughs of Knighton, Rhaiadr, Cnwclas, and Kevenlleece, to which the town of Presteign with a large adjoining rural district was added by the act passed in 1832 to “Amend the Representation.” The right of election, heretofore vested in the burgesses generally, is now, by the act just mentioned, vested in the surviving members of the former constituency, if resident, and in every male person of full age occupying either as owner, or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or premises of the annual value of not less than £10. The number of voters within the limits of the borough of New Radnor, in 1847, was 137; and the total number of voters, including the contributory boroughs, 515.”

Kevenlleece, or as we know it Cefn Llys, became a ‘rotten Borough’ as in due course it had no Burgesses. New Radnor also failed as a Town and Borough. The early significance of its strategic position became less important and the Town simply failed to grow. In Radnorshire, Presteigne established itself through the Court, and Kington thrived as a market town just a few miles away. Kington did have 4 markets in the year including: Cattle, Horses, a Winberry Fair, and a Goose Fair; but these had gone by the end of the 19th century.

Marion related a story that has its origins around the Battle of Naseby, in

Moving towards the 19th/20th Centuries, as well as the Markets, Marion was able to tell us about the 5 pubs: The King’s Arms; The Oak; Ludlow Arms; The Eagle; and the Cross Inn. New Radnor was on the Drover’s route, and from one of our earlier talks the route from Strata Florida, through Abbeycmwhir, and on to Penybont, over the Radnor Forest down into Hereforshire by way of New Radnor.

In 1876 the trains did come to New Radnor on the Eardisley Line. The opening was described as a ‘massive’ event, with a roasted Ox luncheon at the Eagle, a band, and fireworks. The line was not however a success commercially and closed in 1951, even before Beeching could do the honours. It had been hoped that the line might extend to Aberystwyth but that never happened. The Railway Station became the Post Office following closure.

Turning her attention to the Monument, Marion had to confess that though she thinks it is fairly hideous, she has become more affectionate towards it as it now signals that she has arrived ‘home’. Extraordinarily it was built by ‘grateful subscription of the people’ following adverts in the London Times and was built in honour of The Right Honourable Sir George Cornewall Lewis Bt who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer (1855 -58) and Home Secretary (1859 – 1861)! (His father Sir Thomas Franklyn Lewis from Harpton Court had been MP for New Radnor and we referred to him in a previous talk on the Postal Service.) The original plan had been to site it on the mound in a prominent position, an awful thought!?

Having spoken out against the Monument, Marion dealt with the Church, which also offends her senses. Unlike Old Radnor Church that has been unchanged over the centuries, the Church in New Radnor was rebuilt.

The church was erected in 1843-45, ‘an extreme case of unsuitable rebuilding’ according to Haslam.”

So Marion is not the only one with reservations about the Church architecture!

The decline in facilities available within New Radnor is similar to many other rural small towns and villages, like Penybont. With only one shop, the Picture Framing business of Michael Capstick, and a mobile Post Office left, as well as the pubs mentioned above there were 6 or 7 shops, including, a dressmaker, grocer, butcher, bakery, forge, and a cycle shop. A feature of the village has been its musical links and through the Partingtons, and others, there was a connection with the Halle Orchestra that has led to free concerts, and while this may not be quite on a par with what it was in the past, the is still a musical tradition that persists.

Geraint contributed that in 1745 Welsh was still spoken in New Radnor but that by 1810 no Welsh was spoken.  As indicated above, and in previous records, there were some strong links  between Penybont and New Radnor when the Turnpike Roads were being developed at the beginning of the 19th Century. One of the former vicars of New Radnor, Dean Merryweather, was referred to by Geraint as ‘another doggy vicar’ – no other information given!

Geraint thanked Marion for yet another excellent talk.

The next meeting has already taken place whe Shirley Morgan gave a brilliant talk on the Sale of the Penybont Estate. So our very next session will be on Monday 5th June when Andy Johnson will be talking about Walks in Radnorshire.