Penybont Presbyterian Church – Cemetery Committee

By coincidence while Freda was giving her talk on the significance of the Burial sites in our District, Richard Davies was meeting with people who have a direct interest in the maintenance and the continuity of Penybont Cemetery.  The following bulletin has been agreed as a summary of how they intend to go forward. Additional support from interested people would decrease the financial burden on this group of people and also make the longer term challenges more manageable.

“There are over 100 graves in Penybont Burial Ground and these remain important for families who live in the area, and for families who have moved away. It is also an important resource for the future of our community as a burial ground, and for the history of the district.

The funds that have supported the upkeep of the Burial Ground in Penybont ran out last year.

A number of families whose relatives are buried in the graveyard have met to consider their options for its future maintenance.

The options included closing the graveyard and leaving it to the Presbyterian Church of Wales to undertake minimal maintenance, or for the families themselves  to take responsibility for future maintenance and preserving the Burial Ground as an open resource for the community.

The families have committed £100 each, for this year, towards the maintenance of the Burial Ground. For the on-gong future this figure will be reviewed on an annual basis.

It is hoped that other people in the Penybont District will recognize this as a community asset and as an important link to the past history of this community.”

If you would like to support this community asset please contact:

Richard Daviea


Victoria Road

Llandrindod Wells



01597 822439


Penybont and District History Group Notes 5th March 2018 Meeting Main Topic: Local Gravestones and their Inscriptions – Freda Lacey

On the 5th December 2016 we had had a meeting about severe weather conditions and this meeting was held just after a similar bout of snowy weather to the ones described at that time. Geraint opened by congratulating the many members who made it through the snow to get to the Thomas Shop. It had been a severe period with intense cold followed by very heavy snow. Many members had been unable to make it. The A44 was still closed between Penybont and New Radnor, and many side roads remained impassable. The Mountain Rescue Team had been called out to an elderly woman with dementia living on the back road to Cefn Llys. Geraint said he was glad to see Derek as he had had a phone call from Neil who was worried about Derek disappearing into the Radnor Forest to feed his goats and sheep.

Geraint opened the meeting with a sad message.- Billy and Joy Davies, regular attenders at our meetings, lost their son recently at the age of just 42 years.

Main Topic: Geraint welcomed Freda to talk about the Local Gravestones and their Inscriptions, but asked her first to say something about herself.

Freda has a long term interest in gravestones and local history in general. She reflected on meeting a young man about 8 years ago who came into the Thomas Shop with a skate-board under his arm. He said he was Dutch and that he was ‘trespassing’ around Wales. Sometimes she sees herself as trespassing in Wales. She has now been in Radnorshire for 13 years, but comes originally from Waterford in Ireland where she spent the first 12 years of her life. She has lived in USA, accounting for shades in her accent, and for a time she lived as a bit of a wandering minstrel, living in France and Germany, before settling in Seattle for about 7 years. She feels a connection with Wales as her grand-mother and great grand-mother both came from Cardiff. However she did feel the need to apologise for the Irish rugby victory over Wales just a week ago!

An interest in both History and English underpins her interest in gravestones and epitaphs with their rich poetic links.

Freda wanted to start by thanking Patricia Munroe who had spent a whole afternoon helping Freda and giving of her enormous knowledge. Also she had a great deal of help from Mary and Richard Davies.

What immediately became evident was the huge nature of this task and Freda had to acknowledge that she would only be able to scratch the surface of the subject. She had also been struck by the dilapidated state of many gravestones. This was an issue that she would return to later in her talk.

Freda opened with a slide of a section of the poem by Linda Ellis:

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash.  What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.”

“The epitaph, or inscription at a grave or memorial in memory of someone deceased, exists for a variety of reasons and in a multiplicity of forms. While the use of epitaphs predates the modern era, the French thanatologist Philippe Ariès states that “the practice of marking the exact site of a grave by means of an inscription did not become widespread until the end of the eighteenth century” (Ariès 1982, p.78).

Grave markings usually act to provide information about the deceased, to memorialize, and to relay a message to the living. In the twenty-first century most tombstones contain some sort of biographical information about the deceased, including the name of the decedent, the date of birth, and the date of death. In addition to this information, many markers include an inscription in verse or prose upon a marker. There is clearly a memorial aspect contained in some epitaphs.” See:

Freda told us of some famous epitaphs that exemplify the tradition:

Spoke Milligan“I told you I was sick”

George Johnson (taken from a visit by Freda to Tombstone Arizona) – “Here lies George Johnson, hanged by mistake 1882, he was right, we was wrong, we strung him up, and now he’s gone

Herman Harband  1918– “My wife Eleanor Arthur of Queens, N.Y. lived like a princess for 20 years travelling the world with the best of everything. When I went blind she tried to poison me, took all my money and all my medication and left me in the dark. Alone and sick it is a miracle I escaped. I won’t see her in heaven because she is surely going to Hell.”

At this point Freda paused to ask the question of the members:

“What would you want as your epitaph?”


The Churches, Chapels, and Graveyards in our area are:

Rock Chapel, Pales, Corn Hill, Llandegley, Penybont, Cefn Llys, and Llanbadarn Fawr

Before going into the graveyards Freda felt it would be useful to examine who was living in the Parishes of Llandegley and Llanbadarn Fawr and this introduced to the group the concept of ‘middling people’ as one of the three classifications used in the census analysis of 1831.

The occupational statistics for Llanbadarn Fawr showed that:

Employers and professional were about 25%

Middling Sorts about 30%

Labourers and servants about 40%

Others about 5%

Whereas in Llandegley:

Employers and professional were about 15%

Middling Sorts about 45%

Labourers and servants about 30%

There was an interesting discussion about who these middling sorts might be and why there should be more in Llandegley than in Llanbadarn Fawr. It was generally accepted that the middling sorts were self-employed, self-sufficient, professional people rather than yeomen. It is a term somewhat interchangeable with Middle Class. There is a reference to middling sorts in Wales as:

“When the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland took root from 1800, there was a very real likelihood that Wales would be swallowed up by this Leviathan and would never again emerge in a recognizable form. Once more, however, the Welsh displayed considerable stubbornness and ingenuity in finding a niche within the notion of Britishness. From the mod-eighteenth century onwards the Welsh literati (mostly middling sorts) established a variety of cultural institutions designed to highlight the distinctiveness of Wales and to inspire a new sense of nationality.”

See: A Concise History of Wales; Geraint H. Jenkins – Wither Wales

In researching the statistics above a set of figures emerged that are particularly significant in the gravestones of the area. Infant mortality has been on the decline over the years but was very high in this area in times gone by.

Infant deaths in Powys in 1861  were 638; 1881 down to 424; 1891 saw a small rise to 435; 1911 down to 273; 1931 to 121; 1951 to 63; 1961 to 34; 1971 to 22; and in 2011 they were down to 3.

There was some discussion as to whether all child deaths were recorded. Geraint told us about the time the Council negotiated to have a sycamore tree removed from the Llanbadarn Fawr graveyard in order to straighten the road to Llandrindod Wells. Under the tree they found buried hundreds of child sized bones. He had arranged for them to be buried more respectfully, but there is no information about the circumstances of these children and a marker, or gravestone, for these children still does not exist.

Marion said that in times gone by baptisms would be carried out with 24 hours in case the child died.

  1. Rock Chapel


Freda’s visit to Rock Chapel in Crossgates highlighted the problem that would be repeated in all of the graveyards. The weathering of the stones has reached a point where the inscriptions have all but disappeared.  Geraint said that this was a serious problem for all of the custodians of graveyards and also that there were serious health and safety issues with stones that could fall on people.

Rock Baptist Chapel was built in 1770 and rebuilt in 1806, 1820 and again in 1867. The present chapel, dated 1867, is built in the Simple Round-Headed style with a gable-entry plan.

One of the Pastors was John Jones known as John the Rock who was instrumental in the development of the Tabernacle in Llandrindod Wells in1876.

Freda was drawn to the Gravestone of a John Bufton who was describes as a gardener in Penybont. She wondered if he was a gardener at Penybont Hall? There was reference on the stone to his wife who was ‘interred’ at Llanyre. Freda wondered if there was a difference between being buried or being interred. She wondered if the person might have been excommunicated? Geraint suggested that that might well fit with John Bufton one of our members present at the meeting.

Geraint said that it was not unusual for inscriptions to include people who were not buried at the site. This was particularly the case for people who died in the 1st World War who were buried in War Graves. An inscription was often put on the gravestone of their parents.

  1. The Pales, Quaker Meeting House, Society of Friends


Martin Williams has done a huge amount of work on all aspects of life at the Pales, including documentation of the gravestones. Traditionally gravestones in the Quaker tradition are uniform with the name, date of death, and the age at death. Freda did notice that some licence has been taken more recently with the addition of the name of the farm.

The graveyard is older than the Meeting House. The land was given for the purpose in 1673 at a time when Quakers were deprived of access to the Parish graveyards. The Meeting House followed in 1717.

The earliest burial record so far located is from 1692, that of Roger Hughes, the infant son of Roger and Catherine Hughes, of Llanfihangel Rhydithon. A somewhat tragic story then unfolds:

“The Burial Ground at the Pales is one of the oldest Quaker graveyards in Wales

1717, The Pales was built AFTER the burial ground!

Hughes, Mary

Died: 02/03/1900 Age at Death: Burial ID: pales150 Gravestone: No

Place: Rhayader workhouse

Hughes, Roger

Died: 01/06/1696 Age at Death: Burial ID: pales178 Gravestone: Yes

Place: Llanfihangel Rhydithon Inscription:

Details infant. 5th son of Roger Hughes.     From National Archives, Kew

Hughes, Roger

Died: 01/05/1692 Age at Death: Burial ID: pales176 Gravestone:

Place: Llanfihangel Rhydithon Inscription:

Details infant,Second son of Roger and Catherine Hughes , senior.    From National Archives, Kew

Hughes, Roger

Died: 01/09/1695 Age at Death: 0 Burial ID: pales177 Gravestone: Yes

Place: Llanfihangel Rhydithon Inscription:

Details infant. 4th son of Roger Hughes.”    From National Archives, Kew

For more on the Pales see:


  • Cornhill Methodist Chapel


Cornhill Chapel was built in 1843, in the Vernacular style of the long-wall entry type. It is the most modern of the cluster, but is now a only a ruin, ironically. On the A44 on the edge of the Radnor Forest it had a capacity for 70 people in this remote situation. Attendance does however show regular attendances of anything between 40 and 70 people. It closed in 1949, and 1990 the chapel had become a roofless ruin. The numbers of people relate to a different time and a different way of managing the land. Gwernargllydd Farm was over 2000 acres in the past and employed a large workforce who lived locally.

Simon Roberts who presided over Penybont Chapel also took services at Cornhill,           1857 – 1891.

Responsibility for the Chapel and Graveyard now rests with the Presbyterian Church of Wales (Headquarters in Cardiff). As such the graveyard is closed but they do carry out maintenance on the site a couple of times a year.

Many of the stones that appear in some of the older photographs are no longer on the site. They have probably been removed for safety reasons. The last burial was in 1945.

  1. Church of St Tecla, Llandegley


The Gravestones at Llandegley have been fully documented by the Women’s Institute. The folder with all of this invaluable information is however handwritten and therefore vulnerable. Freda highlighted the need to digitalise this information. (A project for someone?)

Freda was somewhat intrigued by descriptions of the village that described it as ‘affluent’, but the church as ‘tolerable’. (The affluence is probably more of a feature of the river than a comment on the wealth of the people!)

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales


“LLANDEGLEY, a parish in Presteigne district, Radnor; on an affluent of the river Ithon, adjacent to Radnor forest, 3 miles SE of Penybont r. station, and 7 WNW of New Radnor. It contains the townships of Swydd, Graig, and Tynlan, and part of the township of Llanvihangel-Nantmellan; and its Post town is Penybont, Radnorshire. Acres, exclusive of the Llanvihangel portion, 3,729. Real property, not separately returned. Pop., 382. Houses, 70. The property is much subdivided. A strong sulphureous spring is here, and has many summer visitors for using its waters both internally and eternally; and an inn is adjacent. A remarkable range of rocks, rich in quartz crystals, is near the churchyard. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St. David’s. Valne, £1 22. * Patron, the Bishop of St. David’s. The church is tolerable. There are a free school with £22 a year, and charities £11.

Acres, exclusive of the Llanvihangel portion, 3,729. Real property, not separately returned. Pop., 382. Houses, 70. The property is much subdivided. A strong sulphureous spring is here, and has many summer visitors for using its waters both internally and eternally; and an inn is adjacent. A remarkable range of rocks, rich in quartz crystals, is near the churchyard. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St. David’s. Valne, £1 22. * Patron, the Bishop of St. David’s. The church is tolerable….”

For further information on the village see:

Inside the church see was surprised to find that there were no plaques with inscriptions. She did however note the stained glass window with a dedication to Emily Whitehead who had given her time and money in supporting the poor of the Parish. The window itself depicts Elizabeth of Hungary who was canonised in 1225 for her charitable work, building a hospital and serving the sick.

“Elizabeth is perhaps best known for her miracle of the roses which says that whilst she was taking bread to the poor in secret, she met her husband Ludwig on a hunting party, who, in order to quell suspicions of the gentry that she was stealing treasure from the castle, asked her to reveal what was hidden under her cloak. In that moment, her cloak fell open and a vision of white and red roses could be seen, which proved to Ludwig that God’s protecting hand was at work.”

Freda made reference to Dr Evans who was associated with Llandrindod Hospital in the late19th century and is buried in Llandegley. Refer to our own Notes of September 2014 when Rosemary Hughes gives more details of Dr Evans and the beginnings of formal medical practice in the area.

There are a number of fine tombs in the Llandegley graveyard and this led to a discussion about the health and safely factors for these heavy stone pieces. Geraint mentioned having children crawling around alter stones which are hollow and can easily be knocked down accidently.

Richard remembered being involved in lowering a gravestone with others. The only way to get it to the ground safely was to count to 3 and jump back letting the stone fall.

The church was rebuilt in 1876 on the old foundations by S.W. Williams of Rhayader, who also rebuilt the screen, removing the singers’ gallery, and re-roofed the whole structure. It is generally thought that he added a chancel at this time although the church guide implies that there was a predecessor.  Following its collapse in 1947, the tower was rebuilt in 1953 using stone from Llwynbarried Hall, Nantmel.

Monuments: churchyard is densely packed with graves to the south of the porch and north of the church, but sparser to the east of the chancel. A couple of late 18thC (1796) tombstones lie between large yews on the southern boundary and one or two others are sited near the porch, but the majority of gravestones appear to be 19thC and many have flaking faces. There are numerous chest tombs with finely carved designs.

  1. Michael’s Church, Cefn Llys


The remote church of St Michael at Cefnllys, a little more than 2km to the east of Llandrindod Wells, is basically a medieval structure that has witnessed substantial post-medieval restoration. The 15thC screen is arguably its most interesting feature, while the font, piscina and aumbry can also be attributed to pre-Reformation times.

A piscina is a shallow basin placed near the altar of a church, or else in the vestry or sacristy, used for washing the communion vessels.

An ambry (or almery, aumbry; from the medieval form almarium, cf. Lat. armārium, “a place for keeping tools”; cf. O. Fr. aumoire and mod. armoire) is a recessed cabinet in the wall of a Christian church for storing sacred vessels and vestments.

After the Reformation and the Tridentine reforms, in the Roman Catholic Church the sacrament was no longer reserved in ambries; some ambries were used to house the oil for the Anointing of the Sick.

See:   and


Freda was struck by the many different spellings she found associated with Cefn Llys and also that it was misplaced on many of the old maps. Geraint said that because of the bends in the river map makers often put it on the wrong side of the river.

Elements of church are believed to date to the 13th Century, primarily the outline plan and lower courses of some walls, including perhaps the tower base; the round-headed south doorway looks early and could well be of this date, though conceivably it could be 17th Century.

Freda found the following interesting inscription by Mr. Middleton James …who resided at “The Court, Penybont”  who wrote a curious epitaph (taken from Patricia’s book)…inscribed on a tomb in Cefnllys Churchyard, but it was erased by someone in later years.  It ran thus:

“As I was passing by one day

And came to this burial ground

I found the pales all torn away

And the wall all tumbling down

Say I to myself, my ancestor’s dear

Whom I have never seen but

Who I know lie prostrate here;

These pales I will raise

And these stones I will uprear

And long may they continue

to be kept in repair.


Why it was written, and why it was erased raise some interesting questions for which we may never know the answers.

Some reconstruction work was carried out in 16th Century, including construction of porch and by analogy, the priest’s door.

More drastic rebuilding was undertaken at the end of the 19th Century. This work included rebuilding walls including much of tower

  1. Penybont Chapel and Graveyard


For details on the Chapel see our Notes 2nd March 2015 when Mary Davies talked about the Chapel in some detail.

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Penybont like this:

PENYBONT, a village in Llanbadarn-fawr parish, Radnor; on the river Ithon, and on the Knighton and Central Wales railway, 7 miles W N W of New Radnor. It has a station on the railway, a post-office under Rhayader, an inn, a suspension bridge, a Calvinistic Methodist chapel, and fairs on 12 May, 27 Sept., and 26 Oct. P. Hall is the seat of J.Severn, Esq.

Mary told us about Captain Robert Millar whose bravery led to a change in the law. He was, at the age of 38, Captain of the Canadian Star, a Blue Line ship that was torpedoed in a U-boat battle, and sunk in 1943. Robert stayed on board until all of the crew had been rescued and lost his life in the process. So many Captains were risking their lives by staying on board their vessel that the experience of Captain Robert Millar led to Parliament softening the requirement for the Captain to be the last person on deck. His death is remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial, and on his parents gravestone in Penybont.  Robert had been married in Swansea and his son lived in Windyridge in Penybont.

The circumstances of Robert’s death triggered the memory of Mary’s mother’s cousin, Tudor Thomas, who was also lost at sea when for the second time, during the 2nd World War, he was in a vessel lost at sea. Tudor is mentioned on his parents gravestone.

Another 2nd World War death was Lance Corporal William Cox who was a cook. He died in 1944 and was buried in Germany. His wife Violet May, who he married in 1940, was buried in Penybont graveyard in 2003.

Mary then told us about the Canadian son of Mrs. Presley from Aylesbury who had come to the village to see if he could find any details about what happened to his mother. Mrs. Presley was evacuated to Penybont but died within a month of arriving in the village. Steve, the local Registrar, was able to look up his records and found that she had died of a brain haemorrhage.  It is thought that she was buried in an unmarked grave near the entrance to the graveyard. The area is full of snowdrops and daffodils so she has flowers every year.

Another visitor to the village, this time from Blushing Eagle, Tucson, Arizona, found his relatives gravestone and, poignantly, there was reference to 4 children who had been buried. His relative, Simon Roberts, had been a preacher in Penybont and had lived at the Manse.

Without grave inscriptions and indeed legible gravestones and a knowledge of who is buried where, people who have that lived history and/or knowledge, graveyards and their rich knowledge of who lived in the area, will be lost to the generations to come.

  • Parish Church of St. Padarn, Llanbadarn Fawr


For details on the history of the Church see:

There is an excellent article about the Romanesque Archway at:

The doorway is described within the Church:

“The present church was constructed in1878–79 on the site of what seems to  have been a simple medieval church of nave and continuous chancel. Reused fabric can be seen in the walls around the lower parts of the doorway, and may exist elsewhere: no stones of the pre-existing British church have been identified. A Roman centurial stone found during demolition in1878, now reset in the west wall ofthe  po rch   inside, may have been brought here from a Roman building in medieval times. At near by Capel Maelog, stone from the Roman site at Castell Collen is thought to have been reused for the medieval church: Llanbadarn itself is less than three miles from Castell Collen. The elaborate doorway is thus almost the only recognisable remnant of an entire twelfth-century church on this site. Its  sculptured tympanum is  one of only two that survive from this  period in Wales. The main part of  the tympanum is in a light pinkish sandstone whereas the capitals are yellowish: these were both sourced from the Old Red Sandstone”.

Within this document is the following interesting episode featuring Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales)

“With reference to the pattern  of  ecclesiastical control, Gerald of Wales, who became archdeacon of Brecon in the mid-1170s records a particularly illuminating incident. Shortly after his appointment, perhaps seeking to establish his authority, he journeyed through Elfael and Maelienydd to Llanbadarn, ‘where he had resolved to hold a chapter’. He   had, however, been warned, on behalf of the dean and chapter of the   region, that he ought not to visit their churches in person. Instead he  should take care to act ‘in accordance with the custom of his predecessors, namely through his messengers and officers, and above all through the dean, of whom they spoke amongst themselves as their archdeacon’. He was also told that an ancient feud between his family and ‘certain nobles of those parts’ had been remembered, and that an  ambush was being prepared for him. The story of feud was dismissed by  Gerald, who believed that it had been ‘devised by the cunning motive of  those clerks who feared his coming’.

As they approached Llanbadarn, Gerald and his party were indeed attacked, and he was obliged to seek Refuge in the   church. He was able to get a message to the ruler of  Maelienydd, Cadwallon ap Madog ab Idnrth, and this resulted in the retreat of his attackers, where upon six or seven clerks ‘who after the Welsh fashion shared the church between  them’ submitted to his authority. It is probable therefore that Llanbadarn was a clas, in which members of a community of clergy—and  sometimes laymen—had hereditary shares in  the revenues of their church. Certainly Llanbadarn’s significance is indicated by Gerald’s decision to hold a ‘chapter’ there. It is particularly noteworthy that the   clergy of Llanbadarn, in common with others in Elfael and Maelienydd—places referred to by Gerald as ‘certain remote parts on the borders of  his archdeaconry’—were apparently traditionally hostile to the interference in their affairs of representatives of (Anglo-Norman) episcopal authority.”

.Freda opened with an aerial photograph of the wailed enclosure around the Church and the graveyard. It showed clearly the yew trees and the straightened wall that Geriant had referred to in relation to finding the children’s bones, see above.

John Marius Wilson 1870 -72 wrote of Llanbadarn Fawr:

“LLANBADARN-FAWR, a parish in Rhayader district, Radnor; on the river Ithon, 7 miles NE of Newbridge-on-Wye r. station, and 8½ WNW of New Radnor. It is divided into the townships of Brinhyfedd and Cellws; and it contains the village of Penybont, which has a postoffice designated Penybont, Radnorshire. Acres, 3,646. Real property, £2,708. Pop., 475. Houses, 79. The property is much subdivided. Penybont Hall is the seat of J.Severn, Esq. The living is a rectory in the diocese of St. David’s. Value, £268. Patron, the Bishop of St. David’s. The church has a S doorway of seemingly very early Norman work, with some curious carving in the tympanum; and is in good condition.”

It is thought that a church existed on this site from early medieval times but dates do not become certain until about 1176 when the visit of Giraldus Cambrensis, as above, gives some certainly to its importance. The Church was described in 1818 by Williams as having a small edifice and a single aisle. The Victorian Church that we see today was rebuilt in 1876 by Stephen Williams of Rhayader. A modern Font was designed for the new church and the Norman Font was relegated to the graveyard, but this decision was reversed when the quality of the Norman Font was more appreciated. The Font Cover dates from 1678.

Freda told about an inscription for a John Thomas, a draper, who worked at the Thomas Shop. Mary said that he was a good Chapel man but he died before the graveyard had been established in Penybont, and so was buried in Llanbadarn Fawr graveyard.

There are now over 100 gravestones at Llanbadarn Fawr.

Another grave connected with Penybont was for a Thomas Daviesd who had been Head a Gamekeeper for J.P. Severn, living in Llwyhir Cottage.  He had been a gamekeeper for Mr. Severn for 63 years and his gravestone has been put up by Mr. Severn in his memory. . He died on 17th July,in 1903, aged 83  and his wife who was also interred in this grave died in 13th March, 1910, aged 87. Popular at that time were religious inscriptions – “ Prepare to meet thy God” and “Thy will be done”.

Patricia Munroe who helped Freda in preparing for this talk has hand recorded all of the inscriptions on the gravestones. Again this hand written record needs to be digitalised for posterity.

There are some beautiful poetic inscriptions on graves in the graveyard, one example Freda read, “A loving father, a tender mother too, our faithful friends they both lie mouldering here, our loss was great, we did sustain, but hope that Christ has made our loss, his gain”…

1864 featured a number of tragic deaths, these were all linked to the making of the railway line. These also included young children – Betsy Ann Hill died 20th January 1864, aged 7 months. This could reflect the conditions that the railwaymen and their families had to endure in our bleak winters.  Other deaths recorded were: 27 April, John Symmons, Railway worker, aged 30, 24 May, Thomas Sharrock, Navvy, aged 48, 13 July, Alice Blackman, Railway hut, 1 month, 20th July Railway hut, aged 22, 22 July, Thomas Brassey, Railway hut, aged 50, 6th July, and in 1865, 3 February, Thomas Smith, Railway hut, aged 22 years.

Inside the Church there is a plaque to Elinor Evans who died at the age of 41 years, likely from childbirth fever  in 1809. She had five children all of whom died very youngin their infancy and/or who didn’t live past 2 years of age. Almost in an attempt to defy this, one of the children was called ‘Fortunatae’. She only survived a few days.  Elinor died two days before her daughter, Fortunata was Christened.  The plaque/description in the Church (almost opposite where the baptismal font is), describes in detail the particulars of these tragic deaths.  However, it was only in matching this information with the Church register of deaths and baptisms, that some errors became evident in the dates.  Whilst gravestone inscriptions are important records of dates and information, masons (or inscibers) sometimes did not have the skill at reading and may have made mistakes sometimes, their craft was in masonry, not inscription writing.

Geraint mentioned the Severn Family vault which is in the Churchyard. If you wanted to visit it you would go down some steps and enter a sizable room. Freda mentioned that she had not focused on the Severns, or any of the other landed gentry in the area in terms of gravestone inscriptions as there was significant information or research done on these people already.

Reference was made to the imagery of farmers digging out sheep in the snow. In 1767 an incident occurred that still haunts people in the area when 2 brothers and a cousin from Dolau went off into the snow to find their sheep and all three died in the snow.

Elizabeth talked about a hugely successful school project that had taken place in the Vale of Evesham when children took on research in terms of gravestones and inscriptions. The children had gained so much from graves that went back to 1693.

One inscription had this memorable saying:

“Repent ye now

For as I am

You shall surely be”


Freda finished her talk by encouraging people to visit and take an interest in gravestones. Geraint echoed Freda’s sentiment and encouraged members  more generally to take on research and be prepared to bring findings to our sessions.

Richard talked about the concern over the future of the Graveyard in Penybont. A working group has recently been set up to try to raise the funds and help in the management. 21 people have so far expressed interest.

Mary mentioned that in the past hay was made from cutting the graveyard and the hay went to feed Tom Price’s donkey!

Thanks was expressed to Jenifer, who was not present, and the work of the Family History Group  for the work they have done in recording gravestone inscriptions.

Marion worried about lowering the tone of the occasion with a nice inscription to Ken Lloyd:

“Here lies a lover of sleep”

Concern was raised over the Victorian gravestones that are all disintegrating. Geraint said the only thing to do with the best of them is to bring them inside the church. Geraint had got some brownie points for doing just that.

There are very few gravestones with the inscriptions in Welsh. We believe there are only 2 in Radnorshire, both are recorded by WH Howse, Radnorshire (page 303) as being in Rhayader. Freda mentioned that a colleague of hers, who is a passionate Welsh speaker and nationalist, had mentioned to her that some of the poetry or inscriptions on Welsh graves was almost impossible to truly appreciate as the poetic content would be lost in translation.

Geraint thanked Freda for an excellent talk.

Next month Andrew is going to give a talk on Burton House. The meeting is on the second Monday in April – 9th.

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.