Penybont and District History Group Notes 3rd September 2018 Main Topic: A History of Rock Baptist Chapel – Revd. John Davies

Derek opened the Meeting welcoming everyone back after the summer break. As Geraint was present, Derek made a brief reference to the fact that Rosemary, Geraint’s wife, passed away last week-end, and to compound the challenges faced by Geraint, his daughter had had a heart attack about 3 weeks ago and is currently in a coma. Rosemary had given a talk to the group 1st September 2014: “A History of Medicine and Social Care in the Penybont Area given by Sister Rosemary Hughes S.R.N.  A card signed by members present was given to Geraint.

Derek also told the group that Richard Davies had had a ‘mild’ stroke a few days ago and Mary was unsure about how he was doing due to the fact that there were no Consultants on duty over the week-end. A card was signed by members to be sent to Richard.

Derek told of a coach visit from Carmarthen to the Thomas Shop. An elderly man had approached him during the visit to say that he had taken part in the Trotting Race Day in Penybont 66 years previously. He was not on horseback however but in a motorbike sidecar. He said that at that time the horse racing was combined with motor bikes.

Geraint then introduced our speaker, Revd. John Davies. Despite everything going on for Geraint he wanted to introduce John who he described a close friend who had done a lot for ecumenical Church activities locally. In particular John has had a very close connection with the Parish Church, Llanbadarn Fawr. John lives in Llanidloes and to serve the Rock he travels regularly to the area. Rock Chapel has been very closely tied up with the history of the village and, in the not too distant past, there were over 100 in the congregation. Geraint referred to the 2 Deacons of Rock Chapel who were present describing them as ‘acolytes’ – Ray Price, who of course lives here in Penybont, and David Davies. The importance of David to the Rock was highlighted by Rosemary when she heard David Davies (the Brexit Secretary) had resigned, Rosemary’s response was: How will the Rock manage?!

Main Topic: History of Rock Baptist Chapel (Based on Notes provided by Revd. John Davies)

John opened by acknowledging the health problems and the sad loss of Rosemary. He himself has his own health challenges as he is waiting for Heart surgery.

History is clearly a passion for John and he started his talk with a few quotations:

Viscount Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805 – 1859, an advocate of liberal democracy in France, and also America,  said: ‘ When the past no longer illuminates the future the spirit walks in darkness’.

George Santayana, 1863 – 1952, was an American atheist, with a Spanish passport who said: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ George remarkably supported a number of philosophical writers including Bertrand Russell, whose views he fundamentally rejected.

Cicero, 106BC – 43BC, the Roman Statesman and Philosopher, of whom it was said, “the influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any language”, said: ‘History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illuminates reality; it vitalizes memory; it provides guidance in daily life; and brings us tidings of antiquity.’

R.G. Collingwood, 1889 – 1943, an English philosopher, historian and archaeologist wrote: ‘The value of history is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.’

John himself added that in talking to us, as a History Group, he assumed we are all here because, like those writers, we believe that history is important for us to understand where we are now, and to learn from the past so that as we move forward, hopefully we will not make the mistakes of the past.

John explained that he would start with a brief outline of his own life and how he came to be Minister at Rock Chapel, before taking us through the history of the Chapel, and, while taking us through the History of Rock Chapel, he would tell a few short stories – Faded goods; the Scotsman playing his bagpipes; the miser and his money; etc.

At this point John looked up, and spotted Holly, and remembered her singing so beautifully in Rock Chapel.

  1. John’s Story

John comes from a long line of Ministers. His Great-great grandfather was noted for his ministry, and for his 18 children. His grandfather had just 2 children but both joined the ministry. He was born in Cardiff where his father, Penry Davies, was a Minister. Around the time of John’s birth, his father became seriously unwell and was determined to get out of Cardiff. John, at 2 yrs. old, moved to Sarn, just outside Newtown in the Parish of Ceri, where his father once again became the Minister. Sarn Chapel also has an interesting History: see:

It was then on to Ewyas Harold in Herefordshire, at the age of 11yrs, which is within the Golden Valley. This is a Welsh Marches community that shares some Norman history with Cefnllys.

John felt called to the Ministry at the age of 15yrs and was taking services before his 16th birthday and was commended for Ministerial training by the Hereford and Gloucester Association. In 1961 the family moved to Walsall in the West Midlands where John’s father served for 12 years as Minister. John did his A’ levels in History, English and Latin and sat the entrance exam for SWBC.  So in 1963 John embarked on 7 years training in Cardiff taking a BA (Hons) degree in Philosophy, Classical Greek, and Hebrew and Semitic Languages (15 three hour exams). Not satisfied with the 15 exams he embarked on postgraduate study for his B.D. – this involved a further 21 three hour exams. He then stayed on for a further year to complete a Master’s Degree in O.T. work.

During these 7 years of study John would be expected to study Pastoral Care and Baptist History, and then be sent out each Sunday to preach around South Wales. On one of his summer ‘breaks’ he did a further 3 months of study in Zurich, Switzerland.

John’s first calling was to the Rhondda where he spent 4 very hard years serving 4 churches in the Valley. In his last year John added to his qualifications and studied for a PGCE with a view to taking up a part-time teaching post to supplement his Ministerial salary, which was very little at that time. Now married to Glain, and with a baby daughter, and no Health Visitor’s jobs in the Rhondda, John decided to apply for a job as Head of RE at Llanidloes High School. He had a somewhat formidable interview, faced by 20 governors, but he was offered the job. John was to each at Llanidloes High School for the next 23 years. Alongside his teaching commitments John supported churches across Mid-Wales in any way he could. He had oversight of Newchapel and Cwmbelan for a number of years. He became fully integrated into the Llanidloes community becoming a Town Councillor in 1985, and served as Mayor from 1992-4. He was a governor of the Primary school and ran a junior football team for a few years. With his teaching and ministerial duties it was not surprising the John was appointed to County Committees including Powys SACRE (Powys Standing Advisory Council    on Religious Education). In addition to his teaching commitments, teaching up to and including A’ levels, John marked GCSE and A’ level papers for a few years. He took full school assemblies for 9 years, which meant conducting a short act of Christian worship for 650 eleven to eighteen year olds.

In 1997 John became mentally and physically exhausted under the pressures of having a headmaster who had no time for RE (hence the reason for taking the school assemblies, and when he discontinued A ‘level RE, John took early retirement. Eventually John was able to start taking services again and had oversight of the Congregational Chapel in Llanidloes for a year. It was then that John was approached about becoming the Minister for Rock and Dolau. John has always attempted to serve these churches to the best of his ability and it was not long before he was presiding over weddings and funerals in other churches in Radnorshire, including virtually all the funerals at Rhayader Baptist Church. During this period John became Superintendent of the churches in Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire, a post he held for 5 years.

  1. History of Rock Chapel

In thinking about Rock Chapel we must look back over 300 years or so and look briefly at the period that gave rise to the Rock and the Baptists in this area. The 16th and 17th centuries were centuries of turmoil and especially for religion. Henry VIII broke with Rome and established the Church of England and this brought Reformation ideas from Europe to Britain. During the 1530’s Henry destroyed the monasteries in Britain, including the Abbey at Abbeycwmhir. During the 17th century there was a great religious ferment in the country; as at one time RC was popular; then Protestantism, in the guise of the Church of England, was in vogue; then the Puritan and Separatist groups, during and after the Civil War; then back to the C of E; back to RC; and then Protestantism in the form of Non-conformity took hold.

When the Monarchy was restored with Charles II, in the 1660’s, draconian laws, known as the Clarendon Code were passed.

“The Code was named for Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, who was Charles II’s Lord Chancellor. Clarendon enforced the laws despite his personal opposition to many of the provisions of the Code.

Corporation Act (1661)

This first of the four statutes which made up the Clarendon Code required all municipal officials to take Anglican communion, formally reject the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. The effect of this act was to exclude Nonconformists from public office.

Act of Uniformity (1662)

This second statute made use of the Book of Common Prayer compulsory in religious service. Upwards of 2000 clergy refused to comply with this act, and were forced to resign their livings.

Coventicle Act (1664)

This act forbade coventicles (a meeting for unauthorized worship) of more than 5 people who were not members of the same household. The purpose was to prevent dissenting religious groups from meeting.

Five-Mile Act (1665)

This final act of the Clarendon Code was aimed at Nonconformist ministers, who were forbidden from coming within 5 miles of incorporated towns or the place of their former livings. They were also forbidden to teach in schools. This act was not rescinded until 1812.

Effect of the Code

The Clarendon Code effectively ended any possibility of the Anglican Church and Nonconformists coming together under one religious and social banner. The religions of Britain were deeply polarized, and religious intolerance would be an ever-present feature of British life for at least the next century.”

This meant that people who did not attend communion regularly in the C of E, or who were caught preaching, could be fined, have property confiscated, and even be imprisoned. It was not until 1689, after William of Orange and Mary, became King and Queen, in 1688, that the Toleration Act was passed.

“The Toleration Act 1689 (1 Will & Mary c 18), also referred to as the Act of Toleration,[3] was an Act of the Parliament of England, which received the royal assent on 24 May 1689.[4][5]

The Act allowed freedom of worship to nonconformists who had pledged to the oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy and rejected transubstantiation, i.e., Protestants who dissented from the Church of England such as Baptists, Congregationalists or English Presbyterians, but not to Roman Catholics. Nonconformists were allowed their own places of worship and their own schoolteachers, so long as they accepted certain oaths of allegiance.

The Act intentionally did not apply to Roman Catholics, nontrinitarians,[6] and atheists.[7] It continued the existing social and political disabilities for dissenters, including their exclusion from holding political offices and also from the universities. Dissenters were required to register their meeting houses and were forbidden from meeting in private homes. Any preachers who dissented had to be licensed.”

This made it a little easier for Non-conformists, or separatists as they were sometimes called. They wanted to get back to Bible Study and worshipping as they thought fit.

In 1646 a young man named Hugh Evans, whom it is thought hailed from Llanyre, went on a preaching tour of Radnorshire. He had spent some time in Worcester, training to be a clothier (outfitter). He moved to Coventry where he became a member of the Baptist Church in the city. He later became a student under the guidance of Jeremiah Ives, Minister of Old Jewry, in London.

“EVANS , HUGH (d. 1656 ), General (i.e. Arminian) Baptist .

Details of his early life are wanting; some years before the Civil War he was clothier’s apprentice at Worcester . He moved to Coventry and ostensibly made a visit to London to see Jeremiah Ives , minister of the Old Jewry Arminians , and both proceeded to Wales (about 1646 ), full of the new gospel of general redemption but close communion. Their sphere of labour was mainly in Radnorshire — the parishes of Llan-hir , Cefnllys , Nantmel , Llanddewi Ystradenny — but included districts across the upper Wye in Brecknock . Ives returned to England , but Evans went on propagating his doctrines, aided by half-a-dozen other preachers , till his death in 1656 . These Arminians were fortified by a confession of faith drawn up in the Midlands in 1651 , but applying also to Wales , and by the salaries paid some of their preachers as itinerants under the Propagation Act of 1650 (one of them, John Prosser , was for a time Puritan schoolmaster at Talgarth ). But the Quaker invasions wrought sad havoc in their ranks; a Quaker named John Moon made a vicious attack upon the Arminian Baptists of Radnor in a pamphlet; and it is in a vigorous rejoinder by two followers of Hugh Evans — The Sun outshining the Moon — that we get the most authoritative account of the dead leader’s life and activities.”

Both came on a preaching tour of Radnorshire, but when Jeremiah returned to London, Hugh remained, giving up his material prospects. He preached in the area for some 10 years. He established a congregation of Baptists at Cwmfaerdy, near Abbeycwmhir, with some of his followers arounf 1660. Cwmfaerdy was built by the monks of Abbeycwmhir. Hugh Evans was essentially a General Baptist who followed Arminian views and believed in general election as opposed to Calvin’s particular election.


Election refers to the concept of how people are chosen for salvation. Calvinists believe election is unconditional, while Arminians believe election is conditional.

Calvinism: Before the foundation of the world, God unconditionally chose (or “elected”) some to be saved. Election has nothing to do with man’s future response. The elect are chosen by God.

Arminianism: Election is based on God’s foreknowledge of those who would believe in him through faith. In other words, God elected those who would choose him of their own free will. Conditional election is based on man’s response to God’s offer of salvation.”

Vavasor Powell, another evangelist who spent much time preaching at Garthfawr in Montgomeryshire was a Particular Baptist (Calvinist). Hugh Evans faced great persecution from the Quakers at the Pales. John Moon wrote a scathing article about him which was answered by 2 articles by John Price of Maesygelli, Nantmel, and William Bound of Garthfawr, who were great supporters and helpers of Hugh Evans.

“Welsh Quakerism

In the north of England George Fox was very successful in his pilgrimages recruiting people to the ‘Children of Light’. A Welsh convert, John ap John of Ruabon, returned to his native land determined to spread the word. By bringing in well known English Quakers he converted many Baptists, and in 1657 he toured Wales with Fox himself preaching to thousands. Many were recruited into new congregations, but Fox met with hostility also and he was convinced that there were murderous plots being hatched against him in Brecon.

Welsh Quakerism at this time was a militant creed, antagonistic towards the established church and willing to confront its opponents. Quakers would interrupt church services, refuse to pay tithes,or doff their hats to their ‘betters’. This challenge to secular authority brought them into direct conflict with the authorities, and many were locked up. Puritans from other sects resented their success and violent clashes were not infrequent. Vavasor Powell took on leading Quakers in Radnorshire in public debates.”

It is not known where Hugh Evans was buried, but on his death a member of the congregation, Henry Gregory, who had a farm at Llanddewi Ystradeny came forward and was encouraged to lead the church at Cwmfaerdy. It is possible that Henry Gregory may have been imprisoned for a time, but he certainly suffered greatly for his preaching. On one occasion his persecutors took all his cattle except one, they left one as a mockery to him so that his children could have milk. Not long afterwards they stole the remaining cow when Henry was away from home. Members of the congregation came to the family’s aid. It would appear that all his persecutors met tragic ends to their lives!

The Toleration Act of 1689 meant that all meeting houses had to be registered in the court of the Bishop or Archdeacon. Henry Gregory died in 1700. He had by then several assistants in ministry: Peter Davies and Thomas Evans of Pentre (Newbridge); and Francis Davies from Cwnfaerdy. One of Thomas Evans’s sons, Caleb, also preached, and one Francis Davies’s sons Nathan (a wild lad who had a dramatic conversion) became a leading minister at Cwmfaerdy, with Caleb assisting him. Nathan was ordained in 1703. Caleb lived near Pentre and looked after the group living in that area who all belonged to Cwmfaerdy fellowship.

About 1717 there was a huge split as one member of the Pentre Group stole an employee from a member of the Cwmfaerdy Group. It was not until 1721 that this rift was healed with support from the Association. The Cwmfaerdy Group then moved to Rock in that year when Stephen Price, a member at Cwmfaerdy, donated the building there for worship. It was described as a ‘tenement in a country place’: part of it was fitted up for a ‘meeting house’, with the rest being a ‘dwelling house’. There was also a stable, a garden for the house and for a graveyard, and the site included a 2 acres of land. He also gave £100 to maintain a Minister.

Nathan Davies died in 1726 and was buried at Rock, and by 1727 there was a further split with Pentre. There was at this time some uneasiness between the 2 groups over the £100 that was meant to mantian the Minister. Rock claimed the £100, but Pentre claimed £40 of this as Stephen Price, during his lifetime, had paid part of the interest on the money to them. The matter was eventually settled with Rock having £60 and Pentre £40. Later, when the cause at Rock weakened, due to lack of English preaching, the £60 was taken to Dolau, and it is said that it was used to help buy New Inn Farm for the benefit of Dolau. The upshot of this was that Rock lost the whole of the £100. Stephen Price died in 1743 and was buried at Rock. Caleb Evans was also buried at Rock.

Following the death of Nathan Davies the new Minister at Rock in 1727 was Roger Walker who came from Herefordshire and bought Dolau Farm in Nantmel. He registered this property as a meeting house for Baptists. Despite this he married Nathan Davies’s daughter, and she taught him Welsh so that he could preach in the Welsh language. He lived at Rock House, and his son farmed Dolau Farm towards the latter part of his life. In his Will he insisted that his son should build a Chapel for the Baptists in Nantmel to worship in opposite Dolau Farm. He died in 1748 and was buried at Rock. Roger Walker’s assistant, Thomas Davies, took over from him at the Rock. Seven years later, in 1756, he decided to move to a farm in Monmouthshire, but when he went to visit the farm he became ill and died before he could move there. John said that by reputation he was not liked as a preacher, but was a worthy Minister.

In the same year Richard Davies of Rhayader, who had been a Presbyterian but became a Baptist, came to Rock as Minister.  He resigned in 1768 because many of the members felt that their Minister was leading a life of immorality. At this point the Rock members started to worship at Dolau, in the recently built chapel(1761), under the ministry of Rev. David Evans. After a time James Griffiths of Esgairewy Farm, an assistant preacher, began taking services at Rock, and in 1800 David Evans, the son of David Evans of Dolau, became Minister for Rock and Dolau. He was instrumental in building a new chapel at Rock, built entirely of wood, in 1806. It was a barn-like structure in appearance. David Evans extended the chapel in his later years, lengthening it and adding a second gallery. It had a low roof and small windows. David served Rock and Dolau diligently and also established causes at Bleddfa, Llanddewy, Pilleth, Presteigne, Rhiwe, and Kington. He also went on preaching tours of North Wales establishing groups there. Added to all of this he was a famer who travelled around on horseback. After his death, in 1828, Rock and Dolau agreed to separate. They had both grown such that the members needed their own Minister.

Rev. James Jones became the next Minister at Rock in 1829. He had been brought up at Brondrer Fawr Farm near Bwlch-y-Sarnau. Rev. James married Mary Jones of Oldcastle Farm where they lived for a while before occupying Coedmawr Farm in Bettws and finally settling at Lower Trelowgoed, Cefnllys where they rented the property from Rev. James Donne, an Anglican Vicar. James Donne later became a Baptist and worshiped at Rock.

Mary Jones sadly died suddenly before James undertook his ministry in 1814. They had 4 children. In 1818 James married Charlotte Meredith, of Rhyleen Farm in Penybont. They were happily married for 42 years and had 3 children. James served Rock faithfully for 32 years and preached at Franksbridge, Cwmgwillim, Newchurch, Gladesbury, at Himms Farm in New Radnor, Bleddfa, Llanfiangel-Rhydithon, and Llanddewy Ystradenny. One of their children, John Jones, was encouraged in his preaching by Rev. James Donne, at Trelowgoed Farm, and became Minister at Rock.  The family moved to Rock in 1843 after a cottage was built for them. The old thatched house had become dilapidated and, having had a few legacies left to the Chapel totalling £80, the new cottage was completed in 1842. It has been described as a small, and not very serviceable manse. The annual interest on the £80, of £4 was paid to the Minister. James Jones died in 1860. His son John who had studied for the ministry at Pontypool Baptist College, and was Minister at Towcester, struggled to get back to Rock for his father’s funeral, and was rewarded by being offered the Minister’s job at Rock. He turned down this opportunity as the decision to offer him the post was not unanimous.

In 1861the Rev. W. Evans, who had just recently left the College at Pontypool, became the next Minister. When the new Minister started at Rock his wife found the house to be too isolated and hated being there alone when her husband was away. They only stayed at Rock for 4 months. John Jones was again invited to become Minister and this time accepted the Call. He lived in Kington for some of the time as he found the cottage too small for their family of 5 children. His wife, who was somewhat frail, ran a school for girls to supplement the Minister’s meagre salary. Sadly she died when she was just 39 years in 1864. John persevered in his ministry, travelling around on horseback from Kington and over the Radnor Forest. In 1866 it was agreed to take down the old Chapel and rebuild it. When a Thomas Pugh of Glanithan, and a member of Rock, died he left £50 towards the building of the new Chapel. The foundation stone was laid in 1866 by Mr. Chapman, who was secretary to the company building the Central Wales Railway. He was extremely helpful in getting the materials to Penybont by rail. A special service was held on 13th and 14th June 1867 to celebrate the opening of the new Chapel. It was then decided to enlarge the Minister’s house and in 1867 John Jones and his family moved to Rock. The cost of the extension was £600. John Jones had raised most of this money himself on his travels through seven counties in Wales and 12 counties in England. James Griffiths, of Cefn-y-Coed Farm, a faithful member of Rock, had had the original deeds for Rock, but the house burnt down and all the paper work was lost. A new trust deed was drawn up by John Jenkins, a solicitor from Llanidloes, in 1872. A dispute emerged between John Jones and the Trustees over the grazing of his horse in Chapel field and renting Chapel House. In the end the dispute was settled when John agreed to pay £10 a year to cover his rent and grazing for the horse.

James Griffiths, as above, held services and started a Sunday school at Cefn-y-Coed Farm, and with help from John Jones the Sunday school flourished. Eventually the school was moved to Rock and in 1892 there were 124 scholars attending the Sunday school. In 1873, with help from A. Walsh MP, J.P. Severn of Penybont, S.C.A. Williams of Rhayader, and some money from the Bible Class, John Jones established a Library at Rock, the first such facility in the area. There were 1159 books in the library and each family that used the facility paid 6d per year. John Jones ended his ministry in June 1891, and he died in 1907 having established the Tabernacle Baptist Chapel in Llandrindod Wells. He was greatly loved by people throughout the area.

In 1892 Rev. John Roberts served Rock and Howey until 1894.

In 1895 Rev. David Thomas from Haverford West served Rock until 1899.

In 1904 Rev. William D. Young became Minister and he served until his death in 1922. One of the people that he baptised at Rock, Richard Jones, became a Baptist Minister.

In 1923 the schoolroom was built to accommodate the increasing number of children attending Rock.

From 1925 until his death, in 1927, Rev. David Morgan Davies was Minister at Rock.

In 1930 Rev. Fredrick Legge, a former student of the South Wales Training Institute, became Minister at Rock. The work thrived under his ministry, but he was called to serve in Nottingham in 1933.

Between 1933 and 1939 Rev. P.L. Philipps was Minister at Rock.

In 1940 Rev. Evan Richard Jones came to Rock from Bwlch-y-Sarnau. Unfortunately his ministry was very short and he died in 1941. His son Islwyn, who is now 95 years, is a resident at Spa Residential Home in Llandrindod Wells. He is still a Deacon at Rock.

In December 1942 he Rev. Hugh Price Jones was ordained and inducted to ministry at Rock. He had attended Ilston Preparatory College in Swansea. On 1944 he accepted a call to Water Street in Port Talbot. During his time at Rock his wife passed away and he married one of the daughters of Mr. C.D. Venables.

In 1946 Rev. Trevor Dacey became Minister and worked faithfully until 1952 when he resigned the pastorate.

In 1954 Rev. Hector Jones became Minister at Rock until 1972. He was Welsh speaking, coming from Kidwelly area of Carmarthenshire, and had worked in the coal mining industry for 20 years before entering the ministry. He was President of the Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire Baptist Association 1969 – 1970. He was a greatly loved Minister in the area. He passed away in 1977 having gone to live with his daughter and her family in Manchester. His daughter is still a member at Rock albeit she is still living in Manchester. John was able to say that he knew Geraint Hughes had a great respect for Hector because they served together in Crossgates, and the two churches , Llanbadarnfawr and Rock, have worked very closely together ever since, if not before.

In 1972 a call was given to Rev. Michael Shepherd to come to Rock from Resolven. He accepted the invitation and served Rock and Bwlch-y-Sarnau until 1976. While in pastorate he also worked for ‘Help the Aged’ and in 1976 he resigned the pastorate to take up a post with the Probation Service.

Between 1976 and 1992 there was no Minister at Rock although the Chapel was served once a month by Rev Maurice Heath of Tabernacle Llandrindod Wells, who conducted communion services at the Chapel. Other Ministers, including John himself, would take services on Sunday afternoons.

John has been going to Rock since 1976 before taking up the Pastorate at Rock and Dolau.

In 1992 Rev. Michael Jones, who was the son of Rev. Hugh Price Jones, became Minister at Rock. He came to Rock from the South Wales Baptist College in Cardiff where he trained for the ministry. Hugh came back to Rock in 1992 to celebrate 50 years in the ministry. Michael resigned in 1999 to take up a pastorate in Wiltshire. He has since retired and moved to Bury St. Edmunds.

Rock has had a strong Sunday school over the years with Sunday School Anniversaries being one of the highlights of the year. It also has had a vibrant Sisterhood for many years with ladies raising a lot of money to help the Chapel. When John started they used to have a Sale of Work in the old school in Crossgates, but after a few years it was discontinued. They held Sankey evenings until about 2 years ago at Rock with some wonderful soloists and instrumentalists taking part, sadly as the Church has weakened these have also ceased. During John’s time at Rock, he has been very involved in CYTUN (Christian Unity Efforts in Wales) and they have held services at Rock from time to time in conjunction with CYTUN. One of the highlights of the year for John and for the congregations of Rock and Dolau were the ‘pilgrimages’ to places of religious and historic interest. The group have been to St Mary’s Church at Pilleth and on to the Judges Lodgings for tea, Capel-y-Fin, Mary Jones’s Church at Abergynolwyn, and many others. Rock has experienced the best and worst of times, but earlier this year it was thought that it might have to close, with an aging congregation and no officers in post. At present John is holding the Secretary and Treasurer positions as there is no one able or willing to take up these responsibilities. However, it is hoped that with local support it will be possible to carry on after the end of this year, albeit John will be stepping down after 19 years of service. Rock has one of the best kept cemeteries in the area, thanks to the hard work of the caretaker. John finished by reminding us that the views from Rock are still wonderful.

Questions and Comments

Elizabeth asked about the American connection as she knows of people in North Carolina who trace their roots back to Radnorshire. John knew of the link but had not explored this dimension. John did get a number of people coming to Rock in search of their ancestors.

Marion said that the Quakers had gone out first and Baptists often followed. Many Baptists settled in Pennsylvania alongside the early Quakers.

There was a question about when the Welsh language might have died out at Rock. John said that it stopped being the language to preach in around 1850.

There was some discussion about Hector Jones as many of the members had distinctive memories of him.  Geraint remembered him fondly and saw him as a pioneer bringing the Churches together. One member saw him as ‘fearsome’ but Judy remembered how he had calmed a distraught child.

There was some discussion about the decline of the church/chapel, the loss of Christian values.

It was felt that TV was a culprit; members could remember when they would go to Chapel 3 times on a Sunday.

One member felt that it was the Forsyth Saga that had the biggest impact.

Derek showed to the members a Poster for a Rock Chapel Anniversary event and one member told the group how much, as a child, she had looked forward to these events. It really was the highlight of the year. Members remembered getting a new dress to go, they were very special times.

Geraint thanked John for a most excellent talk.

Next Meeting will be on 1st October at 10.30 a.m. at the Thomas Shop.

Maureen Lloyd will be talking on the topic of: ‘From Waste to Farm: – Encroachment and Enclosure in this locality’














Penybont and District History Group Notes 2nd July 2018 Meeting Main Topic: A Walk Around Cefnllys Castle – Led by Rev. Geraint Hughes

About 20 people gathered at the Thomas Shop and Geraint gave a short introduction to the history of the Castles at Cefnllys.

Dinieithon Castle, the Citadel above the Ithon, or even the Old Cefnllys Castle, was, according to the historical records at a site a 1 mile north of Cefnllys.  Built by Ralph de Mortimer, in 1090, one of a long line of Mortimer Marcher Lords, it was destroyed by Madog ab Idnerth around 1130. There was some discussion about the use of the term ‘Citadel’ for this site, when this word would better describe the aspect of the Cefnllys site. There are also questions that can be raised about whether, or not, there had been older castles on the Cefnllys site.

An understanding is however that the early castle having been destroyed might have been rebuilt in 1165, as there was a reference to the Castle in 1179.

The alternative view is that there may have been an older castle at Cefnllys, and that the early name for this castle was Dinieithon. Certainly the Cefnllys site located high up above the Ithon, and almost surrounded by the river, and it is much more suited to the name than the site that is marked on the map as Dinieithon.

In 2006 the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales published their findings on Cefnllys Castle.

In this document Brown and Pearson give considerable detail about the Geography and History of the site with many diagrams and pictures. Also worth reading is:


The Cefnllys Castle site is situated on a mound known as Castle Bank in what was considered quite a strategic position high up above the Ithon at about 1000 feet. The river swings around Castle Bank on three sides with steep slopes up to the top. It would appear that the site might have been popular with the Welsh prior to the 12th century but it was the English, the Mortimer’s, a Norman family and Marcher Lords, that made the most use of it in trying to tame the ‘marauding Welsh bands’ as referred to in a letter written by the Bishop of Hereford to King Henry lll, in 1263.

It was however in 1241 that Ralph Mortimer, having been given rights over Maelienydd by King Henry lll in the previous year, and following the death of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, who began to assert his authority over the area. This move away from Welsh Princes’s authority in Maelienydd did not go down well with local inhabitants and a rebellion was led by Dayfydd ap Llywelyn of Gwynedd.  This attempt to restore Welsh sovereignty failed. As part of consolidating his hold over Maelienydd, Ralph built the first of the Cefnllys castles in 1242.

Llywelyn ap Gruffudd did not consider this the end of the matter and by 1267, having regained, and destroyed, Cefnllys Castle, after a siege, from Roger Mortimer, Llywellyn had control over Maelienydd, agreed with the new King Edward l, Roger was allowed to repair the Cefnllys Castle. This only led to further friction as Roger interpreted this act of conciliation as an opportunity to build a much more substantial castle.

By 1282, when Roger died and his heir Edmund took over control of the castle, there was considerable dissatisfaction with the meddling of the Mortimer’s in lives of the people in Maelienydd. In 1297 Edmund decided to try and reduce tensions by allowing for the traditional rights of the area to be managed under the court at Cymaron, provided that there was no future dispute over the demesne of the castles at Cefnllys. Edmund died in 1304 allowing his son Roger, a minor, to take control. Roger however lost his rights 1322 when he backed a rebellion against King Edward ll by Thomas Earl of Lancaster. At this point the King turned to Gruffudd ap Rhys. Roger was imprisoned in the tower, sentenced to death, then given life imprisonment, and subsequently escaped. In 1326 Roger defeated the King and regained possession of his lands. This was short lived when he in turn was defeated and beheaded in 1330.

In 1331 the King gave back Cefllys to Roger’s son Edmund, who promptly died by 1332. His widow Elizabeth was, with her subsequent new husband William de Bohun, then took over the management. Under Elizabeth’s patronage there is reference to Cefnllys town and a blacksmith making shackles for the prison. She died in 1356 and everything past to her son Roger, who in turn died by 1360 in France.

Philippa, Roger’s mother, was given charge of Maelienydd later in 1360, and she held this until her death in 1381. Roger’s son, Edmund, also died in 1381, in Ireland. Edmund’s son, Roger was a minor and was unable to take over the responsibilities until 1394. By 1398 he had also met his death in Ireland.

The twisting fortunes of the Mortimer family continued with Roger’s son Edmund being a minor. In 1401 the Welsh rebels were again active with Owain Glyndwr leading the way. There were reports of Cefnllys being burned and wasted but this is not clear. Edmund died of the plague in 1425 leaving no heirs. The castle then came under Richard, Duke of York, a nephew, and yet another minor.

Richard did not gain responsibility until 1432 but when he did it was through Edmund he increased his claim on the throne of England, a claim that in part triggered the War of the Roses. Richard failed to become King and has his lands and titles withdrawn in 1459. However, his son became Edward IV in 1461, just after Richard died the previous year, and Cefnllys, along with the other estates, became Crown Land.

It was during Richard’s period that the management of Cefnllys castle and the responsibilities for local courts changed from ‘English’ imposed system to a system managed by ‘Welsh’ people. Wooden Halls were built onto, or adjacent to, the Castles for administrative purposes. The constable of Cefnllys and receiver of Maelienydd, Ieuan ap Phylip and his wife, Angharad had had such a Hall added to Cefnlys and the poet Lewys Glyn Cothi wrote a poem in praise of this facility. The actual date of the poem is uncertain and it could have been written any time between 1432 and 1483. He describes a white building with eight sides, suggesting that there was an octagonal or multisided tower.

With Cefnllys becoming Crown Property it was not long before the castle was being described as ‘ruinous’ in 1493, and ‘now done’ in the early part of the 16th century.

The Walk

It was a gloriously hot day in July when we set off, almost too hot. Geraint had gained permission, although not strictly necessary, from Ray Collard, and Phillip Kendrick (known to Geraint as The Squire).

Stopping just short of the Neuadd we went through a gateway on our right. Evidently the path, which originally went close to the Neuadd but now deviates and goes around the house and garden. The Neuadd had itself been a place where courts were held in a period between the Castle, as the centre of administration, and the court sessions being held in Penybont.

Across the fields and down in a valley was a house with a bell-tower, this had previously been a private school. Access to it was very limited, only tracks seem to go there. The school was run by a Rector in the 1700’s.

The walk to the Castle was not very far and gentle to begin with before rising steeply to the castle. We approached it from the north-east and came to the site of the older castle first. This is described as having a bailey and a keep with three rooms. Drifting over to the newer castle with its more dramatic features in the area where there had been an octagonal tower exposed fantastic views across the whole basin enclosed by the hills around. Penybont, Llandegley, and the Radnor Forest. It was very difficult to get your bearings as the River Ithon winds its way through. The Neuadd, which seemed quite far away from the Castle, turned out to be very close to the acknowledged settlement around St. Michael’s Church. This gives credence to Geraint’s view that the settlement of Cefnllys Town extended round to the Neuadd.

Penybont was almost obscured by trees and so and this led to lots of questions about the 360 degree landscape. It was very easy to see why this position provided a vantage point that was easy to defend. Conversely it did lend itself to siege as obtaining water was clearly a  challenge. On top they had to rely on rainwater or else carry it up  from a well at the bottom of the slope. In 1403 there were 12 spearmen and 30 archers defending the Castle. Happy Valley, or Bluebell Valley could be easily seen to the south west where an old road would have taken travellers to Builth.

Despite the fact that access was a challenge two stories were recounted:

Cattle were driven up to the Bailey of the Castle to protect them from rustlers;

Geraint, in his younger days, led processions up to the Castle on Palm Sundays when a cross was carried from St. Michael’s Church. A couple of the members had very happy memories of these events.

The lands associated with the Castle were known as the Park and they extended quite widely out from the Castle. A map showing the extent of the Park can be seen at:

Radnorshire Society Transactions 2016 has also got diagrams of the Castle, Park, and Fishpools.

The Borough of Cefnllys is discussed in:

Geraint’s owns a piece of land in the edge of the Park and it was almost possible to see his sheep from where we were sitting. Close to this land were the old fish ponds that would have produced food for the Castle. This was our next stop on our tour of the area. We went by car as there was no easy direct route to walk. Just as the road through Bryn Thomas branches to New Radnor, and on the higher side, there is a large dip in the ground for the holding pool, and then on the other side of the road a series of small depressions in the ground for the fisheries. It was muted that there may be funding available that could restore the fishpools.

All were extremely grateful to Geraint for leading such a great walk and for arranging to have such wonderful weather!

There is no meeting in August, so out next session will be:

“The History of Rock Baptist Chapel” with Revd John Davies on 3rd September 2018 at 10.30 a.m. in the Thomas Shop.

Penybont and District History Group Notes 4th June 2018 Meeting Main Topic: “Entrepreneurial Flair in Penybont, Cefn Llys, and Llandegely area” – Led by Derek Turner


 It was good to see Geraint back with us this morning, albeit Rosemary is still not very well, and she is still in Hospital.


Geraint explained that Marion, who was due to give the talk on the Friendly Society this morning, had had to go to a funeral in Poland where she had been requested to give the address. She will be asked to give her talk in next year’s programme.


Geraint thanked Derek for stepping in to the breech and for taking on an area that has not been previously covered by the group. He pointed out that any research has only been done in the last couple of days.


Main Topic: Entrepreneurial Flair


Derek thanked Geraint and explained that most of his material came from Geraint. He did not intend to give a ‘talk’ but hoped that, as a group, we could begin to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the businesses that once flourished in our area.


Derek explained he would not be covering farming as this was a topic to be covered in its own right at some time in the future. He would also not be dwelling on the previous entrepreneurs connected to the Thomas Shop, Burton House, and the Post Office on Penybont.


There are two main sources of information:- Geraint’s booklet, Penybont; and a Worrall’s Gazetteer that Geraint has placed in the History Group cupboard at the Thomas Shop. Derek hoped that the Group would be a 3rd source that we might be able to draw upon.


  1. Geraint’s Booklet:- “Penybont – A Village History”


Geraint had interviewed Evan Richards, now deceased, about life in Penybont and Llandegley in the 1920’s. He Evan to picture walking through from his home, Waenygroes, along the Blacksmith’s Lane , up through Penybont village and on to Llandegley.


At Ffosybontbren Jim Morris was a Wheelwright at Caely. At Ty Newydd Mrs Stephens sold paraffin. Next door to Mrs Stephens was the Blacksmith’s where Tom and Bill Price worked.


Two doors down from the Blacksmith towards the bridge lived Mr. and Mrs. Tom Stephens who had a shop selling fruit , flour and other provisions. Mr Stephens also repaired clocks. In later years this shop would be referred to by people, who were children at the time, as a ‘sweet shop’.


Reaching the main road and across is Bank House where Mr. and Mrs. Glyn Thomas lived. Mr. Thomas was a builder.


Coming across the Bridge the fields behind the Chapel were owned by the Thomas Family, of the Thomas Shop, and Jack Thomas had a poultry farm. Coming along the road past the Chapel in the 2nd of the terraced cottages were Mr. and Mrs. William Davies. Mr. Davies was an agent for Fosters the Seed Merchants, but he also had a building beyond the Post Office where he stored his products, and he also took over the deliveries of coal from Penybont station.


In the next house, the last of the terraced cottages on this side of the road, were Mr. and Mrs. Scandrett who had an Ironmonger’s shop. They had recently taken this over from Mr. and Mrs. James. Geraint was able to tell us that Mr. and Mrs. Scandrett later moved their business into Llandrindod Wells.


In the terraced houses on the other side of the road lived Mr. and Mrs. Bufton who kept a shoe sales and repair shop. In another of these terraced houses lived the Miss Morrises and their brother John. John was a delivery driver for coal from Penybont Station.


The Thomas Shop comes next where there was a grocery store, draper’s shop, gentleman’s outfitters, tailors, and Jack’s Chicken Farm that was sending day old chicks to London on the train.


Across the road from the Thomas Shop was the Bank Manager and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas. The Midland Bank was just two doors up from there on the corner where the road branches to Dolau.


After the Severn Arms and the village green, now where the garage is, was the Market. Mr. R.P. Hamer ran a monthly  stock-market.  The monthly stock market was expanded in the early 30’s with stock pens and auctioneer’s office. Campbell and Edwards took over the market in 1947. The site was used for the May Fairs held on May 13th. Evan remembered being hired as a farm labourer there on three occasions.


On the other side of the road was the Post Office, which, at this time, was run by Mr. and Mrs. Ted Bufton. Behind the Post Office is Sunnyside where Mr. Tedstone, the mason, and Mr. Drew, the carpenter lived.


The Police Station came next, Constable Ingram, policing the whole area on his bicycle, and his wife lived there.


Coming out of the village we come to Bailey Mawr where John Mills and Albert Oakley ran a Haulage business that picked up goods from Penybont Station and took them to the farms in the area.


Mr. Oakley, from Llandrindod Wells, ran a market garden opposite Carnau.


At the Ffaldau we find John Abberley living with his mum and dad who had a dairy round, we will hear more from John below.


A bit further up the road was Login, now gone, where Mr. and Mrs. Jack Jones lived. Jack was a postman and part-time butcher.


As we come into Llandegley we find Mr. Walter Jones in Church House. Mr Jones was a shoe maker.


A few doors down is Primrose Cottage. At that time it had been two cottages. In the first one was Mr. Boulter who killed pigs and sold paraffin.


Burton House was then occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Watkins who ran a Post Office during the 2nd World War.


Two businesses were to be found in Tynllan Yard.  Mr. Davies was a Blacksmith who lived at Cow Hedge. Mr. and Mrs Evans lived at Mill Cottage near the sulphur well had a Carpenter’s Shop.


Evans journey mentions other people along the way but the range of businesses is quite extraordinary through present day eyes, and while some like Mr. Tedstone, the mason, and Mr. Drew, the Carpenter, worked for the Estate at Penybont Hall, there are over 20 businesses or craft’s mentioned.


Geraint also interviewed John Abberley who talked about how the change started to happen shortly after the period so eloquently described by Evan. He tells us how, as we approach the end half of the 20th century, his mother could say that in Llandegly she did not even have to venture out of her home as delivery vans came to the door regularly. Some tradesmen, such as Mr. and Mrs. Scandrett, the Ironmonger in Penybont, after moving across the river to Tom Price, the Blacksmith, they again moved to set up their business in the bigger town of Llandrindod Wells. It was however these deliveries that heralded the end of the village shop in small villages such as Penybont and Llandegley.  John’s family were also in the delivery business, delivering milk, potatoes and eggs around Llandegley and Penybont. Fish and vegetables came every Friday from Rhayader; the bakery at Crossgates delivered bread twice a week; Mr. J.O. Davies delivered bread and groceries, initially from the Fron, but later from Llandrindod; more bread came, all the way from Alfords, Newbridge,  twice a week, and John remembered particularly the hot cross buns that would be delivered on Good Friday; Tuesdays and Fridays saw Mr. Idris Hughes arrive with his mobile butcher’s shop; coming from the opposite direction Arthur Williams, from New Radnor, sent a van with groceries, clothes, batteries, wireless parts, and he took orders for tailor made clothes; there was even a delivery from the Ironmonger in Llandrindod, Coombes, who brought paraffin and other ironmongery items every Friday; Nicholls of Llanddewi delivered groceries on a Thursday but they also bought eggs and rabbits.


In his section on ‘Businesses Old and New’ Geraint covers a number of the businesses that we have already mentioned and some, like the Old Mill at Llandegley, that had already stopped operating. In a more self-sufficient era local farmers would bring their grain to the Mill to be turned into flour and animal feed.


Geraint reminds us that the Blacksmith’s building at Tynllan is still there, and that it retains some of it’s features.

While the shoemaker’s building has become a private house, David Jones, the shoemaker, has left detailed records of the customers he served but also the accounts relating to the hides he bought from local farmers.


There is more detail on the Market at Penybont which needs to be the subject of one of our sessions in the future.


There is a wonderful poster photographed and in Geraint’s book that says:


(Distant about four miles from Llandrindod Wells, three of which can be travelled on the Central Wales Railway)



Upholsterer and Furniture Dealer,


Begs to invite the notice of persons about to furnish to his stock of General Ironmongery, Upholstery, Cabinetry, and HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, and to ask an inspection thereof previous to purchasing at any other place. The goods in each department have been selected with great care from the stock of the best manufacturers, and will be sold at the smallest remunerative profit.


Thomas James was listed as a maker of clocks in 1945 edition of ‘Clock and Watchmakers of Wales’ – Iorwerth C Peate. This document is now in the National Museum of Wales.


Bill Brown, who has contributed so much to Penybont, had a hand in the start of the Garage, or Penybont Service Station. A Nissen hut was in the Common was moved by Bill to house cars at the Severn Arms. He later sold it to Jim Gadd who developed it as a garage, but was subsequently run by Mr Lewis from Dolau Vicarage. When David Elway took the site over he rebuilt the building as an antique centre before Robert Lewis turned it back into a garage.


What is now the Powys Highways Depot had previously been developed by Fosters the Seed Merchants from Leominster. They had previously been based at the Thomas Shop in the black, feather board, wooden building on the roadside. It is understood that they moved from the Thomas Shop because of the regular flooding that occurred in the village when the Ithon burst its banks and cut the corner flooding across the road through their building and the cottages.

Fosters had a significant presence in the village employing 10 local people, and running three delivery lorries. Dilwyn Powell was the Manager. The Highways Dept. of Powys CC took over the site in the early seventies.


As we saw above, coal was an essential fuel and having the railway station in Penybont meant that deliveries were planned from here. Jack Morris, and later A.N. Edwards operated from here. Later coal deliveries were managed from the garages, at the Post Office, by Bill Davies.


Before leaving Geraint’s book, it is worth mentioning his interview with Tom Price, the blacksmith. Tom describes that in the thirties there could be 3 or 4 horses waiting to be shod at any one time. After 1940 there were noticeably fewer horses and the challenge was to keep farm machinery going. Tom remembered vividly the urgency with which machinery needed to be repaired. The use of the machinery being seasonable when a piece broke it did need to be repaired at once. It has been sad to see the smithy not used since Tom was forced to retire, and has subsequently died. The good news is that there is now a possibility that it will be brought back to life in the not too distant future.




  1. Worrall’s Gazetteer 1871

Once again it was Geraint who introduced us to the Worrall’s Gazetteer. He was able to tell us that these were produced regularly and that they listed businesses, and other significant activities, across Britain. We only had access to the 1871 edition, but Geraint felt that there was an interesting piece of work for someone to look into these documents and track the changes over a period of time. The National Library for Wales has, Geraint believes, archived the complete set.


This edition entitled “PENYBONT” relates to a wider area than we currently cover:- Abbeycwmhyr, Llananno, Llanbadarnfawr, Llanbadarnfynydd, Llanbister, Llandegley, Llanddewi-Ystradenny, and Llanfihangel-Rhydithon.


The information starts:


“Penybont is an important village situated in the parishes of Llandegley and Llabadarnfawr, about 1½ miles from the Penybont station of the Central Wales Railway, and about 5 miles from Llandrindod Wells.”


It is of interest to note that Evan Evans was the Postmaster at the time, and that letters to all of the above villages “should be addressed “Near Penybont, Radnorshire”


A sign of the changing times indicates that the nearest Telegraph Office was at Llandrindod Wells.


The Businesses within our own area mentioned in the Gazetteer are:


Grocers Shops:

Llandegley – John Evans

Llandegley – Ann Hughes

Penybont – Evans Evan

Penybont –  William Scandrett

Penybont – William Thomas


Inns and Hotels

Llandegley – Burton Arms – John Thornhill

Penybont – Severn Arms – John Wilding

Penybont – Builders Arms – Ann Jones


Boots and Shoe Makers and Repairs

Llandegley – David Jones

Penybont – Edward Bufton



Llandegley – John O. Watkins



Radnorshire Coal, Lime & General Supply Co. Ltd. Penybont Station – Jas. Hamer Junr, Agent


South Wales Merchantile Co. Ltd. Penybont Station – John James, Agent



Penybont Station – Frederick Trantrum, Station Master



Llandegley – Richard Jones

Penybont –  Richard Phillips



Penybont – Thomas James (and dealer in oils, paints and colours) plus Furniture Warehouse, Sadler; Watchmaker, Jeweller, Etc



Penybont – Thomas Burton


This, of course does not include the Farmers who are also listed. How farming practice has altered over the years is probably another separate piece of work that needs to be researched.


Of interest are the number of ‘Private Residences’ that are also listed, only 6 are listed in Penybont, with 2 at Penybont Hall, and none in Llandegley. Everyone else in the community, presumably, were in rented accommodation.


  1. Additional Information from Members present


Jean’s Great Aunt was Mrs. Bufton, as referred to above. Mr. and Mrs. Bufton lived in the last of the terrace houses going out of the village towards Crossgates on theThomas Shop side of the road.

In the house occupied by Steve and Luanne Price where the Ironmonger, Mr Scandrett, had his shop is a partition behind which is the shelving for the old shop.

At Ty Neuydd there were steps down to the cellar. One of the Barker twins, Mrs Ruell, missed her footing and fell into the cellar and subsequently died due to the fall and her injuries.

There was a suggestion that Brynithon had been a Smithy at one time. The District Nurse, Nurse Gittings, occupied Brynithon for some years before moving across the road.

The Police Station cells have been unoccupied for many years, but remain intact at the back of what is now a house.

Neil mentioned that there was a shoe maker at Glaneravon near the River Mithyl.

Mary remembered ‘segs’, little metal studs, being attached to the heals, and soles, of shoes to make them last longer.

In discussing the Mill, Neil remembered living there. His grandfather was a carpenter and did not manage the Mill.

There was a memory of Tom Price Senoir holding Boxing Matches at the smithy – no one could put him down!

Bill Bridgewater delivered every day from Crossgates.

Patricia mentioned that in her previous work on the census figures, frequent references to dressmaking as a cottage industry.

A number of members talked about the challenge of getting an invoice from Tom Price. Geraint said that he only sent out bills when he needed a bit of money. This could often be years after he had completed the work.

Tom had told Geraint, following the repair of a gate, to put the payment in the Church collection, only to find that Tom was the sideman with the collection plate.

Geraint referred back to Ray Price’s comment about the time when he closed his business at the Post Office and had a number of customers who had run up credit with him. Everyone repaid him within 2 years. He also made a comment to a customer who said he might not have 50p to pay him credit. Ray told him that if he would diddle him for 50p he did not need his custom!

Nichols included within their delivery servicing on battery accumulators. There was considerable concern over the management of the acid in these heavy items.

  1. Summing-up


Geraint was interested to note the way in which the life of the community had changed as reflected in the changes over time that have been illustrated in the business has been conducted.

When we think that before 1730 there was no village at Penybont, the Parish centres were Llanbarnfawr and Llandegley. Previous to that there has been reference to a commercial centre at Cefn Llys that had both town and market charters by early in the 14th century. By 1871 there were 18 businesses central to community life in Penybont and Llandegley. There was a consolidation of these businesses, albeit the Mill had already gone, as we move into the first quarter of the 20th century with some businesses expanding during this period as Penybont, in particular provided some services for Llandrindod Wells. Gradually however there was a shift as Llandrindod began to provide services. The Ironmonger moved to Llandrindod and the Thomas Shop had already opened to Mid Wales Emporium.

The low price of petrol and motorised transport led to the development of delivery services and this accelerated the decline of village shops, even before the advent of supermarkets.

When we arrived in Penybont in 2000 the Post Office was the only shop left. The Market was still operating, but within a few years both had gone. Currently the Severn Arms, Midway Nursery, and the museum/café at the Thomas Shop are all that remain of that previous infrastructure. Newer initiatives have sprung up such as the roadside food outlet and sales of plants from the gate. On-line opportunities have already begun to have an impact on Llandrindod and the constancy of change. Asda are a frequent visitor to the village bringing groceries all the way from Merthyr Tydfil.

Next Session: Walk to the top of Cefn Llys, Monday 2nd July. Meet at the Thomas Shop at 10.00 a.m. for coffee and then travel by car. Quite a steep walk!





Penybont and District History Group Notes 7th May 2018 Meeting Main Topic: “The Ormathwaite Family History” – Shirley Morgan


 Derek opened the meeting with an apology from Geraint and Rosemary. Rosemary is in Hospital having tests done and Geraint is visiting her each day. A lot of concern and best wishes for Rosemary and Geraint was expressed.


Derek mentioned that BBC Bargain Hunt had filmed in the shop last week-end and he would let members know when this would be on the TV.


Caroline Phillips was a new member to the group but not new to the village. Neil remembered Caroline from his school days, and vis versa.


Derek welcomed Shirley back to centre stage and Shirley reintroduced Alice, her technical helper and granddaughter, who had come with her mother Abigail.


In preparation for this talk Shirley remembered fondly an inspiring History Teacher, RCB Oliver. At the time she did not appreciate that he was also an Historian of some repute. He wrote a book, much referenced in these History Group Notes, “The Squires of Penybont Hall” that covered the time of the John Price, the marriage of his daughter Mary Ann to John Cheesement Severn, the developments of Percy Severn and his sister’s, Sarah, Emily Augusta, and Julia, and finishing with the Whitehead’s who inherited the estate following the deaths of the Severn’s who produced no children. Major General  RC Whitehead inherited through his mother, Sarah Augusta, who was the step sister of John Cheesement Severn.

RCB Oliver indicated that he intended to write a book on the Ormathwaite family who purchased Penybont Hall Estate in 1919. The book was never written which, as Shirley pointed out, would have saved her doing all the research! Initially she thought there might be very little to say but as she dug deeper and deeper there proved to be more than enough material.


The Baronetcy is Ormathwaite, (the name taken from the village of this name in Cumbria, where the family originated) but the family name associated with this is Walsh. There were 6 Barons between the years 1868, when the title was awarded, to 1984, when it died out. As a starting point Shirley chose to start with:


John Walsh  (1726 – 1795)


John Walsh is remembered for 3 reasons:-


  1. East India Company

John was secretary to Lord Robert Clive of India. The East India Company had originated in 1600, when it was granted a Charter by Elizabeth 1st , as the “Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies”. It started with a group of Merchants in quite a small way and quite late to trading in this area. It did however capitalise on its trading opportunities and by the 18th century it dominated the global markets in tea, textiles and opium. To protect its growing interests in land management and trade it developed an enormous army, bigger than the British Army, of about a quarter of a million troops. The army was largely based at Madras, Bombay, and Bengal. In 1757 Robert Clive’s army defeated an army of insurgents leading to the East India Company taking over full administrative powers over its territories, including the right to levy taxes. The East India Company increased its interests in India and ruled over most of the sub-continent until 1857 when there was an Indian uprising. In 1858 the British Government took over from the Company which was replaced by the British Raj until 1947.

Walsh was related to Clive through marriage and worked very closely with him as the paymaster in Bengal, but he was trusted by Clive to return to England to lay Clive’s plans, for the administration of Bengal, before the Prime Minister.

  1. Land Acquisition

After making a vast fortune of about £140,000, as a result of his work alongside Lord Clive, he returned to England and set about acquiring land and securing a seat of influence in Parliament. Among his purchases were Warfield Park near Bracknell and about 4300 acres in Radnorshire. This latter acquisition  included Cefn Llys, and the Coed Swydd Estate in Llanfiangell, and quite a few properties in Llanddewi, including Llanddewi Hall. Land and Parliamentary power gave Walsh influence but it was also a way of buying into British aristocracy.



  1. Science

Walsh was something of a polymath. He was particularly interested in the birth of electricity, and is reputedly the first person to carry out serious experiments with electric eels. As a result of this work he was made a Fellow of The Royal Society. He received many honours in this capacity before he died, unmarried and childless.

John Walsh’s estate was left to his niece, Margaret Fowke, but there were important conditions. Margaret, and her husband, Sir John Benn, were required to change their name to Walsh. The other significant condition was that the Estate should pass to Sir John and Margaret’s eldest son in his coming of age.



Sir John Benn/Walsh (1759 – 1825) and

Margaret Fowke/Benn/Walsh (1758 – 1836)

Margaret’s mother, Elisabeth Walsh married Joseph Fowke in India. Sir John and Margaret had no difficulty with the terms of John Walsh’s will and duly changed their name to Walsh, by Royal Licence. Sir John also served in India and made £80,000 from trading in just a few years. Textile trade had declined due to the industrial revolution, but trading was still strong in tea, spices, and opium.

He was made a Baronet in 1804, having been High Sheriff of Radnorshire in 1798, and an MP for Bletchingley between 1802 and 1804.

Sir John did not invest in land, like John Walsh, but he invested in mortgages and Government stocks.

Margaret was the dominant person in the marriage and her diaries, which are in the Welsh Archives, show her to be an intellectual who travelled widely. She had a particular interest in astronomy that had been cultivated by her uncle, who brought her up. She in turn shared this interest with her son.

Having changed her name she distanced herself further from the Fowke family. She was embarrassed by the activities of her brother Frank, and her father, Joseph. Frank was ‘disinherited’ by his uncle because of his “indulgence and irregular pleasures’ in India that he also tried to continue on his return to England. Her father, like other, made a fortune in India, but then proceeded to lose it all at the gambling tables in London. Joseph also fathered and illegitimate daughter, Sophie, who was introduced to society. In order to avoid contact with Sophie, Margaret stayed in France for the season in 1789.

The Fowke family downfall was chronicled by Margaret’s son, John in a handwritten memoir that was meant to be private. It is now available online!

John Benn Walsh 2nd Baronet and 1st Lord Ormathwaite 1798 – 1881 married Lady Jane Grey 1803 – 1877

John was born at Warfield Park in Berkshire, which he regarded as home for the whole of his life. Hi was the only son of his parents, as above. He had estates in Ireland and Radnorshire where he took a keen interest in their management. He inherited the Baronet from his father in 1825, becoming Sir John and got married in the same year to Lady Jane, the youngest daughter of George Harry Grey, sixth earl of Stamford and Warrington. Also in 1825, John was High Sheriff of Radnorshire – a busy year.

John was described as an ardent politician and wrote significant political papers including: 1. ‘The Poor Laws in Ireland,’ 1830. 2. ‘Observations on the Ministerial Plan of Reform,’ 1831. 3. ‘On the Present Balance of Parties in the State,’

He became an MP for THE Borough of Sudbury in 1830 and was the MP for Radnorshire for 28 years from 1840.

On 11th August 1842, John was sworn in as Lord-Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum (Master of the Rolls) of Radnorshire. On 16th April 1868, he was raised to the peerage as the first Baron Ormathwaite.

It was his writing and intellectual capacity that marked John out. He wrote a book entitled “Astronomy and Geology compared” in 1872 that is still in print today.

He remained close to his mother all his life and Warfield Park always remained dear to him because of her links with it. He said of his mother, “The word reserve is unknown between us”.

John died in 1881at Warfield Park and was succeeded by his eldest son Arthur.

Arthur John Walsh 1827 – 1920 2nd Lord Ormathwaite

Lady Katherine Emily Mary Somerset (1834–1914)

Arthur was very different from his father and grandfather! He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, and married Lady Katherine Somerset, daughter of the Duke of Beaufort. They had 7 sons and 3 daughters. Arthur’s interests did not lie in intellectualism, but in hunting and shooting. He kept a hunting lodge in Scotland and thought nothing of going off there leaving his wife and the children in Radnorshire.

The expansion of the family estates over the last 3 generations also came to a crashing halt when gambling debts accumulated and he had difficulty in maintaining his large hunting lodge. Since 1850 he had been borrowing against his expected inheritance as security, but, by 1881, this was beginning to catch up with him. His diaries were very different to those of his father; they covered his domestic and military duties, the London season, and shooting parties. The Ormathwaite papers include a letter about leasing a Shooting Lodge in Scotland, and an invitation to become President of the Llandrindod and Central Wales Hare Coursing Society. In 1880 he bought Eyewood at Titley, but from 1881 onwards the papers refer to sales rather than acquisitions.

Despite this, he was very prominent in public life. He was in the Lifeguards and an Honorary Colonel of the Third Battalion South Wales Borderers. He was MP for Leomonster 1865 – 68 and then for Radnorshire 1868 -80. He was Lord Lieutenant  of Radnorshire 1875 – 95, a JP, and Chair of Radnorshire County Council.

Newspaper reports show him to be interested in local affairs in Radnorshire. In 1889 he was among the welcoming party for the visit of Lord Randolph Churchill, who was visiting Newtown. In February 1894 he gave an interview to the Cambrian News regarding the condition of Cefn LLys Church. Tithes were being paid to Archdeacon de Winton but so services were being held. He was concerned, but did not want to be drawn into the argument. It is notable that even though he was so prominent in public life, he and his wife were regular visitors to Llanddewi School, where Lady Ormathwaite listened to readers and examined needlework.

The mid 90’s saw frantic efforts to keep the creditors at bay. Furniture, plate and farming implements were sold, but the inevitable could not be delayed and in September 1895 he was declared bankrupt. At the Hearing in London he was described as being late of Eyewood, Hereford, and Llanddewi in Radnorshire. Gross debts were £200,876, assets £932. In 1895 Warfield was sold and he was given a lease of seven years in the Keeper’s Cottage at Eyewood. His solicitor said in his defence that his debts were due to heavy expenditure on his property at Eyewood. However, the Gwyer family, who bought Eyewood, said that it was in a very run down state when they bought it.

As a result of this it would appear sadly that Lord Ormathwaite withdrew from public life. He resigned his post as Lord Lieutenant of Radnorshire in the same year, 1895, a post that he had held for 8 years; and in the same year he stepped down as Chairman of the Quarter Sessions; and then in 1896 he resigned as Chairman of Radnorshire County Council.

On a brighter note, Arthur’s contribution to Public Life in Radnorshire was celebrated at a luncheon given in his honour at the Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne, when a portrait of Lord Ormathwaite was presented to the County of Radnorshire. Sir P.C. Milbank MP presided, supported by Lord and Lady Ormathwaite and most of the County Gentlemen. The portrait was hung behind the chairman and bore the inscription – “Arthur Walsh, Second Baron Ormathwaite, Lord Lieutenant of Radnorshire 1873 – 1897, Chairman of the Quarter Sessions from 1887 – 1895, Chairman of the County Council 1889 – 1896”.

The portrait was painted for the County of Radnorshire by Herman G. Herkomer a celebrated portrait painter. The picture is an excellent one and was included in an exhibition in London before being hung in Shire Hall.

Lord Ormathwaite was cheered on rising and said that he had always devoted his poor abilities to the good of the County. Cheers were given for Lord and Lady Ormathwaite and by all accounts he was a popular figure in the County.

Arthur lived to a ripe old age and saw his estate reduced by stages. The Radnorshire estates were not saleable in 1920 so they were retained until 1945 when 5,222 acres in Llanddewi were sold at the Severn Arms. It included The Hall, Old Mill and cottages, and Dolwen Wood. The bulk of the estate was bought by NSK Pugh.

Arthur Henry John Walsh, 3rd Lord Ormathwaite 1860 – 1937

Lady Clementine Frances Anne Pratt 1870 – 1921

We know more about the 3rd Lord Ormathwaite than any of the others because he wrote his autobiography: – “When I Was In Court”.

His book gives us a glimpse into the world of the aristocracy at a point in history when their power was in decline. We see a man who is frantically trying to hold on to the standards and values of the past. He begins the book with the words:- “I was born a snob”!

He goes to great length to explain his pedigree on the Walsh and Somerset side. He was the oldest of 10 children and he describes his childhood as happy, despite being short of money.

From an early age he showed a desire to make contacts and to progress socially and to his benefit, and providence was on his side as he progressed through life.

He was at Eton for only a term when he caught a cold that turned into bronchitis, so it was decided that he and his mother should go to Cannes for his recuperation. They had only been in Cannes a week when his mother put a candle too near the mosquito net and set the hotel on fire. The proprieter was too pleased and when his mother was presented with a large bill, she was until to pay. It was particularly providential that Edward, Prince of Wales, was also in Cannes and heard of their misfortune and offered his services to get them off the hook. Arthur as a consequence met the Prince of Wales, and future King, and this would serve him well in future years.

In 1877 he spent 8 months living with a family in Germany where he became fluent in German. He already had learned French from  French Governess, and was now ready for a future role at Court.

In 1878 he joined the lifeguards and was chosen to lead a parade in honour of the Prince of Wales. After attending the social celebrations, Srthur records that Edward gave him an invitation to Sandringham. “Thus began – if I might venture to say, a friendship that survived over many years”. However, he admits that life on the Guards was rather expensive and that he was constantly up to his eyes in debt.

In 1881 we have seen how the family fortunes began to decline after the death of Arthur’s grandfather. While they were settling on the Hereford Radnor border near Titley, Arthur was progressing well on the social scene of the 1880s. He says he was living with his friends, the Rothschild’s, and he describes the famous musical gatherings of the Prince and Princess of Wales. He namedrops constantly in his descriptions of the people who were present: – Gilbert and Sullivan; Nellie Melba; Madame Patti; and Tosti. Life for Arthur seemed to be a constant round of house parties, visits to the opera; and racing and shooting parties.

In 1885 he was asked to stand as an MP for Radnorshire. He was elected, but regretted not taking enough interest in the proceedings of the House of Commons. He only made one speech during the whole time he was there, but he enjoyed the importance it gave him in Radnorshire. He seems to have been more interested in the acquaintances that he made amongst the MPs across all parties, rather than political business. Home Rule for Ireland was at the forefront of political  debate and Arthur complained bitterly about the long sittings. He dies say that Lloyd George was one of the most agreeable of men, apart from his politics. His political career came to an end in 1886, and he said he was glad it was all over.

During the 1890’s he bcame more involved in the Royal circle after helping to organise Queen Victoria’s visit to Llangollen. In 1889 he became engaged to Lady Clementine Pratt, but he states that there were difficulties due to ‘financial complications’. His appointment as Equerry to the Duke of Clarence was cut short due to the untimely death of the Duke. He did continue to develop his relationship to the family of Princess May of Teck, but admits that his connection with Court was ‘dormant’, and he had no post to go to, and did not belong to any household.

After the death of Queen Victoria, things began to look up for Arthur. The new King, his friend now Edward V11, and Alexandra ran a very different Court. Arthur was appointed as a Gentleman Usher and then Master of Ceremonies, and thus began a long period of service at Court. Life was now full of organising State visits by foreign dignitaries, State dinners, and accompanying Edward and Alexandra on their tours around Britain. Another perk, that came with the job, was a visit to Marienbad on the Czech Border, a magnet to the rich and famous. Rules were strict – early nights, no alcohol, frugal meals, etc.

In 1910 Edward died and Alexandra invited Arthur to the death chamber, and invited him to kneel and pray with her by the Kong’s body. She told him how fond the King had been of him, and they wept together. He played an important role in the funeral arrangements and in particular the arrangements for the Royal Heads of State from across Europe. It is well known that Edward’s lifestyle had not been morally upright, but Arthur made no allusion to this, and the Royal Court was described as a happy one.

The Coronation of King George V was the next big State event. It would prove to be the last gathering of the crowned heads of Europe. Princess May had been married off to George and was crowned as Queen Mary. It was Queen Mary who had such a profound effect on the child who was to become our present Queen. The Coronation involved much pomp and ceremony, and the organising of Balls and State visits around Britain. After the Coronation, Arthur records that he and his wife took a small house in Llandrindod where they joined shooting parties and visited the families of tenants who are “the most delightfully warm hearted people I have ever met, and they have always shown a loyal hearted devotion to my family.”

1914 was memorable because his much loved mother died, and he was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Radnor, as were his Father and Grandfather.

During July, that year, Arthur had a chance to visit Marienbad. On 25th June the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated by a Serb terrorist. Arthur did not think that this was anything to worry about so he carried on. The view in London was however very different and he was advised by the Foreign Office to return immediately. As an escapee he met up with Mrs Rothschild and Lady Wolverton and their entourage. Arthur became the unappointed leader of rather unusual group of escapees.  The journey was chaotic and confusing, their luggage was left on the platform, despite the payment of a large tip. There was a great amount of officialdom at every border. Stations were crowed with soldiers who were going to join their regiments; there were no refreshments available; and they were even obliged to carry their own hand luggage! The ultimate indignity was having to travel 3rd Class – totally unheard of in their privileged lives. When they arrived at Ostend there were huge queues waiting to try and catch the boat to Dover. Arthur had an idea to beat the queues – “the idea of a little bribery occurred to me” – he said “While talking to the official in charge, I cracked some £5 notes, and it paid off”.

During the War his role changed greatly and he described life as a nightmare. The Zeppelin raids were horrendous and Arthur states: “One can only pray that calm and common sense may prevail and that we shall never again experience those awful years 1914-18. (Arthur died in 1937)

Arthur gave an insight into the lives of the King and Queen during these dark days:- “King George and Queen Mary earned the everlasting admiration of their people by their unstinted service during the War”. He paints a picture of a happy and contented Court – a picture of the Royal Children that did not include Prince John, the Lost Prince.

1920 was a momentous year in Arthur’s life. His father died at the age of 90, so he now became the 3rd Baron Ormathwaite. His father’s death caused great upheaval

As the Will had been made 40 years earlier, and before Death Duties had been introduced. As a consequence he had to oversee the sale of the Cumbrian and the Irish Estates. The Radnorshire estates were considered unsaleable so they were not sold until 1945. Arthur resigned his Royal Post, and in recognition of his service he was awarded a Knight Grand Cross of the Victoria Order.

At Christmas/New Year 1920/1, he and his wife decided to host a Christmas Party. Sadly, Clementine became ill and was unable to enjoy the celebrations. She died of Encephalitis on 13th January. At this point Arthur finishes his autobiography and says: “Virtually I died when my wife died.” He resigned as Lord Lieutenant in 1922, and died in 1937. There were no children of the marriage.

George Harry William Walsh (1863 – 1943)  4th Baron Ormathwaite

As Arthur’s younger brother, George Harry William Walsh succeeded to the title in 1937 and became the 4th Baron. From 1890 -93 he had assisted the Governor General of Canada. His career also included biting a captain in the Imperial Yeomanry, later the Grenadier Guards, and he served in the Southern African     War 1899 – 1901. He settled in Radnorshire and served as a councillor on Radnorshire County Council. He had no family to succeed him when he died in 1943.

Reginald Walsh 1868 – 1944  5th Baron Ormathwaite

Lady Margaret Jane Douglas-Home (1908 – 1940)

Reginald, as the youngest of the brothers, had not expected to inherit the title and become the 5th Baron, in 1943, to die in 1944. He had served in several diplomatic posts – Secretary to the Governor of Mauritius, Her Majesty’s Consul to Greece 1899 – 1906, and to New York 1908 – 11. He served as a Captain during World War 1. It was a few years after the War that he and his wife bought Penybont Hall following the death of Mrs Whitehead in 1926. The couple had 3 children. Reginald died in 1944.

John Arthur Charles Walsh (1912 – 1984) 6th Baron Ormathwaite

John Arthur succeeded his father Reginald in 1944, and was a familiar figure in Penybont as he came to live here as a bachelor, with his two sisters, in Penybont Hall from 1950. Betty Morris’s husband was the Estate Manager and worked closely with John Arthur. He admitted straight away that he did not have a clue about farming. His approach on a day to day basis was to turn up for work on the farm and ask:” Well, what are we to do today?”

John’s younger sister, Jane Emily, also did not marry, but the youngest of the three children, Anne Elizabeth did. Neil remembered that she married Peter Edward Bromley-Martin and that there were step-sons. As step sons they did not succeed to the title and the Ormathwaite lineage died out with John when he died in 1984.

The family are remembered in the area: There is a  family grave at Cefn Llys, the Walsh Arms, former public house at Llanddewi Ystradenni, is a dominant building in the village, and there is reference to the Walsh family on the clock-tower in Rhayader.

Elizabeth, in discussion, said that John Walsh was reported to have said that the Rev. Pugh should be ‘defrocked’ after he was caught poaching.

By contrast the Vicar of Cascob, WJ Reece, published a series of sermons that were dedicated to John Walsh.

He was also said to have given the land to build the vicarage in Dolau.

Derek thanked Shirley for a most excellent talk that not only gave the history of the Ormathwaite family but a large chunck of history around Europe and beyond.

Marion is to give the next talk on the history of Friendly Societies.




Penybont and District History Group Notes 9th April 2018 Meeting Main Topic: “A History of Burton House, Llandegley” – Andrew Willemsen

Richard opened the meeting on behalf of Geraint and Mary. He introduced John Farmer who is ancient of the village. Richard made reference to his time in the village as a signalman at Penybont Station. Having attended local schools at Llanbadarn Fawr, done his time at Penybont Station he progressed to mainframe computers. Later he became a college teacher of PCs and digital cameras. He has even developed programmes that can restore old photos. He has now turned this to good use within his home community of Wellington where he has spear-headed a very active local history group and website. The website has many, many photos and maps of life in Wellington over time. He is particularly keen to get young people involved in managing the photos and the website.

Main Topic: Andrew Willemsen –  History of Burton House, Llandegley

Andrew confessed that he had had very little interest in History when he was at school, in fact he hated it and gave it up at the first opportunity. His move to Penybont from London to a house with about 400 years of history he thought of as the sort of thing that can happen when you get married.

His interest in history was sparked by his sister who had started reseach family history and as he saw what she was up to he got interested as the problem solving element appealed to his technical, website design background. The house then became the focus and led to him standing nervously in front of the group today.

Andrew started with three slides:

Burton House and St Tecla’s Church, date unknown:

1. House and Church

1706 – Built

[Image 1]  The original size of the house was a lot smaller than it is now:

2. ScaleMap

[Image 2]  Original timber framed internal wall:


Samuel Burton of Vronlace

The house was almost certainly built and owned by Samuel Burton of Vronlace, who died on 12 March 1724 leaving his estate to his only son Edward Burton (who was born at Vronlace in 1701).

[Image 3]  “Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland” (vol 4) by John Burke (1838)

Thomas Burton, who died 1696, leaving by Deborah his wife, sister to Thomas Woodrolfe M.D., who died 1710, aged 81, two sons:

  1. Samual Burton, of Vronlace, in the County of Radnor, died 1724, having married Elizsbeth, daughter of Thomas Mime, of Lawton’s Hope, in the County of Hereford, leaving one son, Edward Burton of Llandewy, County of Radnor, who married Mallet, inly daughter of Richard Stedman of Strata Florida, and dying without issue, 1774, bequeathed his estate of Llandewy to his namesake Edward Burton, third son of the late Robert Burton, esq of Longnor, from whom it has reverted to the Rev Robert Lingen-Burton, his only surviving son.
  2. Thomas Burton, DD, Canon of Christchurch, Rector of Burthorpe,

[Image 5]  It is possible that Burton House became an inn at that time, but there is no direct evidence for this.  There is certainly no mention of an inn in Llandegley in Carey’s New Itinerary, which does however list the Fleece Inn in Penybont (now the Severn Arms):


Edward Burton of Llanddewi

In 1726, Edward Burton was High Sheriff of Radnorshire, and shortly afterwards purchased land in Llanddewi and moved to Llanddewi Hall.  Edward was also a churchwarden at Llanddewi Church, a magistrate, and in 1768 one of the commissioners for the Land Tax in Radnorshire.

Edward did not have any children, so when he died on 7 June 1774 his estate (which included several properties in Llandegley) was bequeathed to his relative Edward Burton of Shrewsbury (who was only 17 at the time) to keep the land in the Burton family.

Llandegley Spa

In the late 1700s, taking the waters at Llandegley had come into vogue, due to the presence of a strong sulphurous spring and a chalybeate spring.

[Image 4]  “Journey into South Wales in the Year 1799” by George Lipscomb (1802):

“The road soon brought us to the village of Llandegles: and a painted post on the right hand pointed to Llandegles Wells.- a suphureous vitriolic water, which arises in a field near the road.  The spring is immediately conducted into a small building, now dilapidated, in which is a reservoir, which serves as a bath for a few persons who resort hither.

The water is covered with a brown scum, is of very dark blue, or rather blackish colour, and emits a strong and most abominable stench, as of rotten eggs.

Its taste is not, however, so disagreeable as might be expected, the impregnation of the vitriol being but slight.”

Edward Burton of Shrewsbury,

Edward lived in Shropshire for most of his life.  His father was High Sheriff of Salop.

In 1789, Edward married Dorothy Blakeway and they went on to have four children.

Edward was a Major in the Shropshire Militia, and in 1802 the Mayor of Shrewsbury.

Llandegley Wells and Inn

[Image 6]  At about the same time, the first evidence of an inn in Llandegley comes in “The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales, from Materials Collected During Two Excursions in the Year 1803” by Benjamin Heath Malkin (1804):

 “The village of Llandegles consists of very few houses, but those few are rather interestingly placed: while the obliging manner of the people, in furnishing local information, with a degree of intelligence rather superior to what might have been expected from their condition, almost make a stranger regret, that the accommodations of the little inn are insufficient to admit of his lengthening of his visit. I have more than once remarked the decency of manners, approaching almost to politeness that distinguishes the lower classes of inhabitants of the principality. I do not know that Radnorshire yields to any other county in this particular; and the attentions an Englishman experiences are not less acceptable, for being proffered in the English language. The address of the host and their families, both at New Radnor and at Llandegles, but particularly at the latter, was highly to their credit, though in both cases they were very small farmers, with very little besides civility to offer the guests. Here especially, and in a very considerable degree elsewhere, I observed the grace with which the women perform the office of attendance at table, always presenting any article demanded with that sort of self-collected obeisance, so much noticed by travellers through France in damsels of the same description. In both cases this superiority of deportment, is probably acquired by the universal and frequent practice of dancing.”

[Image 7]  And an item in the Hereford Journal of July 1811 reads:

 “Llandegley Wells, Radnorshire

The Public are respectfully informed that these Wells have been of late frequented by many gentle families, and great benefit has been derived from the use of the waters both in Drinking and in Bathing.

The strong minerals and other properties they possess, give them peculiar efficacy in all Scorbutic and Eruptive Complaints, and when combined with the fine air in the country in which they are situated, cannot fail to render these Wells highly interesting and beneficial as a place of public resort.

N.B. Those who may have occasion to visit  this salubrious spot, may be very comfortably, and commodiously accommodated with Board and Lodgings, by William Parton, who is constantly provided with a good Larder, and excellent Ale and Spirits.

Llandegley Wells, July 1st 1811”

[Image 8]  The next summer a follow-up item appears in the Hereford Journal:

“Llandegley Wells, Radnorshire

William Parton respectfully begs leave to return his sincere thanks to Friends and the Public in general for the very liberal encouragement and support he received last season, and to inform them, that he has lately fitted up his house in a comfortable and more commodious manner, and hopes by assiduous attention on his part, and the known Celebrity of the Waters (from the great benefit many Genteel Families and others received by their use) combined with the salubrity of the air of the County in which they are situate, that Llandegley Wells will prove highly beneficial and interesting as a place of public resort.

N.B. The Inn is adjoining the direct Post road from London to Aberystwyth is distant from Kington fourteen miles and Rhayader 12. Neat Post Chaises, able Horses, and careful Drivers.

Llandegley, June 22, 1812”


[Image 9]  By 1824, the Inn at Llandegley had a new landlord – Robert Bolter.  To put the “reduced fare” of 1 shilling per mile into context, the typical wage of an agricultural labourer in this part of the country at the time was about 2 shillings per day for men and about 1 shilling per day for women.

“Llandegley Wells, Radnorshire

Robert Bolter

Respectfully begs leave to return his grateful Thanks to Friends and the Public in general for the great encouragement and support he received from them last Season, and to inform them, that his house is fitted up in a Comfortable and more Commodious manner, and hopes by assiduity and attention on his part, and the known Celebrity of the of the Waters (from the great benefit many Respectable Families and others received by their use) combined with the salubrity of the air of the County in which they are situate, that Llandegley Wells will prove highly beneficial and interesting as a place of public resort.

N.B. The Inn is adjoining the direct Post road from London to Aberystwyth is distant from Kington fourteen miles and Rhayader 12. Neat Post Chaise, able Horses, and careful Drivers, at reduced Fare of 1 Shilling per Mile.

Llandegley, June 5, 1824”


Burton Arms – part 1

[Image 10]  Mr Bolter is also mentioned in “The Cambrian Balnea: Or Guide to the Watering Places of Wales” by T J Llewelyn Prichard (1825) along with the earliest mention I can find of the Burton Arms:

 “Llandegley Wells

The Inn here is called the Burton Arms, from the proprietor Edward Burton Esq. of Shrewsbury, kept by a person named Boulter. As to the assiduities of this Inn, with the good manners and character of the people, I can myself bear witness, with the addition, that the accommodations are very superior to those above described, and the ‘little Inn’ is larger and kept by different people. The rader maybe assured that a few visitors who may wish to drink these waters and reside awhile, may be very creditably accommodated at the Burton Arms, or Llandegley House, as they sometimes call the inn. Mrs Boulter is not only very obliging, and her fare good, butshe possesses considerable capacity for making her visitors comfortable; and it is to be regretted that so good a manager has not a better field to exert her talents in.

If the proprietor of Llandegley, chose to build and adorn the place a little, it could not fail of becoming the resort of the fashionable and the ailing.”

The reference to “above described” refers to a quotation lifted from the Benjamin Malkin book shown in an earlier slide, where the author complains that the “accommodations of the little inn are insufficient to admit of his lengthening his visit”.

[Image11]  Murder in Llandegley reported in the Hereford Journal on 12 January 1825:

 “Singular Occurrence – A correspondent states, a short time since two women were returning home from a friend’s house, in crossing a field belonging to the Burton Arms Inn, the footpath, and the one accidently stepping into a bog and lost her patten: the next day her husband went to look for it, when to his great surprise he discovered a human skull and several other bones. A Coroner’s Inquest has been held on the remains, and an eminent surgeon was present, who stated his belief that a murder had been committed on some person unknown, but how long since or by whom appears to be enveloped in mystery, except compunctions of conscience should cause the perpetrator of the horrid deed to confess the crime, before he shall be summoned to appear before that dreadful tribunal to all those ‘’who forget God.’’’

Edward Burton of Oxford

[Image 12]  On 18 April 1827, Edward Burton of Shrewsbury died, and the Burton Arms was inherited by his eldest son Edward Burton of Oxford.  This Edward was a theologian and chaplain to the bishop of Oxford.  In 1829, he became regius professor of divinity at Oxford University.  Although he was married, he did not have any children.


Burton Arms – part 2

[Image 13]  Life continued at the Burton Arms, although by 1829 William Phillips was the landlord:

 “Burton Arms Inn, Llandegley Wells

Half-way between Kington and Rhayader on the way to Aberystwyth


The new occupier of the above mentioned Inn, respectfully announces that he has made it much more Comfortable and Commodious, than it ever was before, and that in consequence, he hopes for increased Support.

N.B. DINNERS DRESSED by experienced Cook.

An elegant new Post Chaise, with able horses, and most capable Driver. – POSTING at reduced price of SIXTEEN PENCE per Mile. June 11 1829

Benjamin Scott

[Image 14]  The Burton Arms not only provided accommodation for people visiting Llandegley Wells, but also for those travelling on to the coast.  One such person was Rev Benjamin Scott, a vicar in Warwickshire, who was on his way to Aberystwyth in the summer of 1830 with his second wife, who was expecting their first child.  Unfortunately, Rev Scott became ill while travelling through the Radnor Hills.  They managed to get to Llandegley and came to the inn, but discovered that there was no medical aid within ten miles of the village.  However, Mrs Scott happened to meet a retired doctor from Ireland on the stairs, who was also staying at the Burton Arms.  Despite the efforts and care of both this doctor, and later the local doctor from Presteigne, Rev Scott died on 13 August 1830.  His death was reported in several newspapers, and he is buried in St Tecla’s Church – there is a plaque on the church wall behind the water butt.


At Llandegley, Radnorshire, Rev. Benj. Scott, Vicar of Bidford and Prior’s Salford, Warwickshire.

On the 30th ult died at Llandegley, Radnorshire, after a short but severe illness, aged 42, the Reverend Benjamin Scott, M.A. Vicar of Bidford and Salford, Warwickshire; youngest son of the late Rev. Thomas Scott, Rector of Aston Sandford, Bucks.”

[Image 15]  Benjamin’s father was Rev Thomas Scott, who was a friend of John Newton, and who wrote a commentary on the whole Bible (Andrew has a copy for those interested, kindly loaned by Rev Thomas from the Baptist Church in Llandrindod).  Benjamin’s nephew was the famous architect George Gilbert Scott.


Burton Arms – part 3

[Image 16]  By 1834, the Burton Arms had been enlarged by William Phillips the landlord, and now offered hot and cold baths:

“Llandegley Wells, Radnorshire

Burton Arms Inn

William Phillips begs to inform his Friends and the Public, that the above Inn has lately been considerably enlarged and improved, and is now ready for the reception of Visitors; and at the same time that he returns thanks for past favours, he hopes to merit a continuance of them by moderate charges, and the utmost attention to the comfort and accommodation of those who may visit his house.

There are two Mineral Waters, the one Sulphureous, the other Chalybeate, which are powerful, and much approved by the Faculty;- W.P. provides hot and cold Baths. A neat Post Chaise kept.

Llandegley is distant one stage from Presteign, on the road, from thence to Aberystwyth.

Presteign May 24, 1834.”


[Image 17]  Some of the guests would have arrived on the Prince of Wales coach, which ran between Cheltenham and Aberystwyth – taking 14 hours to make the journey:

“From Cheltenham, through Gloucester, to Aberystwyh, IN ONE DAY


The Public are respectfully informed, the above Coach has commenced running from the PLOUGH HOTEL, CHELTENHAM

And will continue to leave from the above Office every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, at sic o’clock during the season, through Ledbury, to the


Where it will arrive at a Quarter before Eleven o’clock from whence it will proceed to Presteign, Llandegley, Penybont (Nr Llandrindod Wells), Rhayader, Llangerrig, Pont Erwyd, and arrive at


The same evening at eight o’clock, will return from theTalbot Hotel at Six o’clock the alternate morning (Sunday excepted) and will arrive in Cheltenham the same evening at eight o’clock.  – One Coach throughout.

N.B. Persons may look themselves at the Bolt-in-Tun, Fleet Street. LONDON, leave in the evening, and arrive in Aberystwyth the following day.

Performed by NEYLER, and DANGERFIELD, MORRIS, and PHILLIPS and Co.

June 10, 1834”

This was the golden age of Llandegley Wells, with word of the sulphurous spring reaching London, and various experts coming to perform scientific tests on the waters.

[Image 18]  It was also a time of change for the Burton Arms.  First, in January 1836, Edward Burton of Oxford died, and because he was childless, the Burton Arms was inherited by his brother, Rev Robert Lingen Burton.  Second, in 1838, there was a change in landlord, with James Griffiths taking the helm.  Third, in 1839, the Burton Arms was put up for sale, along with the mineral springs, Llandegley Mill, three farms and Pound House (which was occupied by John James at the time):

“Lot 2 Very valuable, highly picturesque ESTATE, in and surrounding the village of Llandegley, in the very improving neighbourhood of Penybont, and through which the Radnor and Penybont Turnpike Road runs, consisting of a first rate Inn and Bathing, called the Burton Arms, and the celebrated Mineral Water, called Llandegley Spa, and three farms in a ring fence, containing together by admeasurement, 286A, 3R, 28P, or thereabouts, called respectively, VRONLLACE, the INN FARM, and TYNLLAN, all of which have very valuable and extensive rights on the Common on Radnor Forest, which bear an additional value from the circumstance that the whole Estate abuts upon the Forest at a most convenient and beautiful place. And also a WATER CORN MILL, called Llandegley Mill, and a cottage, called Pound House.”

[Image 19]  Meanwhile, Mr Griffiths was not afraid of marketing what he had to offer, getting quotes such as “the accommodations at the Burton Arms are excellent”, “the worthy host is indefatigable” and “a first rate inn and bathing house” into the local press.  He described the Burton Arms and the mineral springs as being “amidst beautiful and romantic scenery and the most salubrious atmosphere” and “these powerful, safe, and efficacious waters contain all the valuable properties of the most celebrated springs for the speedy cure of all scorbutic and cutaneous disorders, relaxation of the stomach, gravel and stone, and all chronic disorders, the nervous system, etc.”


The valuable Medical Springs of Llandegley, so highly spoken of and recommended by the Faculty, for the immediate restoration of Health and the prolonging of life, and enjoyment.



Six miles from Llandrindod, two from Penybont, on the high road from Hereford to Aberystwyth

Has completed the fitting up of the above Establishment for the reception of Visitors needing the beneficial properties of these valuable Waters and Baths, by residing on the spot. The domestic arrangements are studied with the view of combining all the attentions, the comforts, the conveniences, and the moderate expenses, which the Visitors could enjoy at their own homes. The purity and freshness of the provisions (which is a first essential), and the produce chiefly from the FARM and GARDENS attached, the healthy and salubrious atmosphere, the beautiful romantic scenery of the neighbourhood, with the advantage of these Springs which contain all the mineral tonic of the most celebrated Springs of this country or of the continent, will render the Burton Arms desirable, delightful, and a economical residence for the summer months.

Wines, Spirits, and Malt Liquors, of the finest qualities. Several fine Fishing Streams in the neighbourhood.

The London, Hereford, and Aberystwyth Coach daily. Lock-up Coach House, etc. etc.

[Image 20]  As well as a daily mail coach service there is a Sovereign London and Worcester Coach every other day bringing visitors to Llandegley.  Two of these visitors are listed in the 1841 census as Mary Stanly and Elizabeth Stanley.  Five servants are also listed, along with Mr Griffiths and his wife:


[Image 21]  By 1844, the Burton Arms had once again been made larger, and Mr Griffiths is still marketing it with vigour:

 Restoration to Health and Summer Recreation combined, in a visit to:




Two miles from Penybont on the High Road from London, Cheltenham, Hereford, and Worcester to Aberystwyth.

The increasing repute of these powerful, safe, and efficacious Mineral Waters, and the many authenticated instances of the complete and permanent cures in cases of Rheumatism, Disorders of the Nervous Functions, Cutaneous and Scorbutic Affections, Relaxation of the Stomach, Gravel and Stone, has induced the Proprietor



To make additional accommodation, and united to the most economical charges (which have given such unqualified satisfaction) to render it to Visitors all the comforts, wants, and conveniences, and, at the same time, the expenses of a home.

The enchanting scenery around, embracing the most enchanting views of South Wales, and the invigorating and salubrious atmosphere, together with pure and substantial provisions (supplied from the farm attached)  form a combination of the benefits and enjoyments to the invalid in search of health, or the tourist of pleasure.


Wines, spirits, and liquors of the best of kinds.

The London, Cheltenham, and Aberystwyth Mail passes daily.

The SOVEREIGH London and Worcester Coach, every other day


In 1845, a railway was proposed from Kington to Rhayader through Llandegley, but this was never built.  Instead, 20 years later, a railway was built from Knighton to Llandrindod, which would help seal the fate of Llandegley Spa and the Burton Arms.

[Image 22]  James Griffiths passed away in March 1847:

12 After a lingering illness, borne with christian fortitude and resignation, in his 52nd year, Mr. James Griffiths, of the Burton Arms Inn, Llandegley, Radnorshire. His mild temper and kind disposition endeared him to his family and friends, by whom he is sincerely regretted, and obtained for him the universal respect of all who knew him.”

[Image 23]  Thanks to Mr Griffiths, the Burton Arms had a very good reputation.  Here is an extract from “Cliffe’s Book of South Wales, Bristol Channel, Monmouthshire, and The Wye” (1848):

 “About two miles and a half further on is LLANDEGLEY, where there is a much frequented Spa. One Spring is strong Chalybeate, and the other is powerfully impregnated with sulphur. The hamlet contains an excellent little Inn, “The Burton Arms”. On the north-east is a lofty group of mountains called Radnor Forest, one of which is 2163ft high. There is some fine rock scenery near Llandegley, from which beautiful spar can be obtained.”

James’ wife Maria continued to run the inn, and was joined in 1848 by her new husband Thomas Griffiths Esq (a surgeon from London) who she married on 5 July.  Unfortunately, the marriage was very shortlived as Maria died less than three months later of consumption.

1848 also saw a change in ownership of the Burton Arms, when Rev Robert Lingen Burton finally sold the inn (after putting it on the market 9 years earlier) to John Owens of Trewern.  Mr Owens also purchased Vronlace, Tynllan, Llandegley Mill and the spa.

[Image 24]  It seems that Thomas Griffiths no longer wished to be an innkeeper after his wife’s death (or possibly after the change in ownership) as on 17 March 1849 the following advert appears in the Hereford Times:




Of Kington begs to make known that he is instructed by Mr. T. Griffiths, who is retiring from business

To offer for unreserved Sale by Auction

On the Premises,

At the BURTON ARMS INN, LLANDEGLEY, IN Tueday the 20th day of MARCH, 1849, and following days ……..

The Sale to commence twelve o’clock each day.”

It took over a year to sell the contents of the Burton Arms – there can’t have been much of a market for goose-feather beds and Spanish mahogany furniture.

[Image 25]  By June 1850, the Burton Arms had a new landlord – Thomas Alford:


Two miles from Penybont, on the high road FROM Hereford to Aberystwyth



Having taken THE BURTON ARMS COMMERCIAL INN AND BOARDING HOUSE, respectfully invites the attention of those who stand in need of health of body and vigour of mind, or wish for recreative retirement during the summer months amidst beautiful and romantic scenery.

These powerful safe, and efficacious Waters, contain all the valuable properties of the celebrated SPRINGS for the speedy cure of Scorbutic and Cutaneous Disorders, Relaxation of the Stomach, Gravel and Stone, and all Chronic Diseases, Nervous System, etc.




The London and Aberystwyth mails pass daily.”


[Image 26]  The 1851 census reveals that Thomas and his wife ran the Burton Arms with help from their daughter, an ostler and a house servant – and they had one visitor:


[Image 27]  Thomas Alford only lasted two years – in 1852, Philip James Junior took over:





Delightfully situated on the Mail-road from Knighton to Aberystwyth


Having Entered upon the above Premises, begs to announce that he has made such Arrangements for the Comfort of Gueasts as he hopes will secure to himm the Patronage of parties wishing to avail themselves of the those far-famed MINERAL WATERS, AND IS DETERMINED TO COMBINE Moderate Charges with the most Assiduous Attention, keeping none but the best Wines, Spirits, Malt and other Liquors.

Excellent Bed-rooms and private Sitting-rooms

Mail and other Coaches pass daily.

Card of Terms will be forwarded on application.”

[Image 28]  Less than two years later, in January 1854, Philip James Junior moved to the Severn Arms, and his father – also called Philip James – became the new landlord:

ROYAL OAK INN – FAREWELL SUPPER – On Friday evening last, about sixty friends of Mr. Phillip James, the respected landlord of this old-established inn, invited him to a supper on the occasion of his being about to remove to the Burton Arms Inn, Llandegley Wells; his son, who occupies this house, having taken the Severn Arms Hotel, Penybont.  A highly respectable company sat down to an excellent repast; after removal of the cloth, the healths of Mr. and Mrs. James were given by the Chairman, amidst enthusiastic cheering. Mr. James returned thanks  in a brief but feeling address, for himself and his worthy partner; he could not adequately state how he felt the kindness uniformly manifested towards them during a sojourn of upwards of twenty years. The harmony and conviviality of the meeting was kept up to a late hour.

[Image 29]  Philip James Senior did not stay very long either – in 1856 the Burton Arms was advertised as to let, although Mr James did not leave until 1859:



To be LET, and entered upon at Lady-day next, the above INN, with or without  about 13 Acres of Land: the coming-in tenant will be required to take to the fixtures at a valuation.

For particulars apply on the premises, or to Mr. JOHN OWENS, Trewern, Llandegley. Satisfactiry reasons will be given for the present tenant giving up.”

[Image 30]  The Burton Arms, as well as being an inn, was also put to a variety of local uses, for example, the doctor giving out prescriptions and farm auctions.  It was also the location of an inquest in 1857, where the owner John Owens seems to have a conflict of interest:

“LLANDEGLEY. – SUDDEN DEATH. – An inquest was held on Friday, at the Burton Arms, before R. Wood, Esq., Coronor, and a respectable jury (Mr. John Owens, Trewern, foreman), on the bidy of Edward Parton, mason, late of Kington, in his 70th year. It appeared from the evidence that the deceased went to work as usual on Tuesday morning  the 1st of September, in building a mill for Mr. John Owens, Trewern, apparently in a perfect state of health, but had not been long at work when he fell on the floor of the works, but life was quite extinct. The jury returned a verdict of “Died by the visitation of God.””

[Image 31]  In 1859, Philip James Senior put his furniture and livestock up for sales, and a couple of months later the licenses were transferred to Edward Jones of Llanfihangel Nantmelan:




(Late of the Lion Inn, Llanfihangel Nantmellan)

Begs to thank his Friends for their support during his residence as above, and desires to solicit their patronage in his undertaking at the BURTON ARMS COMMERCIAL INN AND BOARDING HOUSE, LLANDEGLEY, where he hopes, by assiduity and attention to his guests, combined with moderate charges, to secure public patronage.

Genuine Wines and Spirits, Malt and other Liquors;

Good Stabling and Lock-up Coach houses.”

[Image 32]  Despite the high turnover of landlords, visitors were still coming to Llandegley for the mineral spring, as evidenced in “A Handbook for Travellers in South Wales” (1860):

“On the opposite descent lies Llandegley, and near it a strong sulphur spring, much frequented during the summer for drinking and bathing (Inn: Burton Arms). Near the churchyard is a singular range of ricks abounding in quartz crystals.”

[Image 33]  On 17 October 1860, Edward Jones’ daughter Elizabeth married William Ingram at Llandegley, and the 1861 census shows them to be running the Burton Arms, Edward having died:


William Ingram became the sixth landlord in the 13 years since the death of James Griffiths, and the aspirations of Mr Griffiths to run a high-class establishment with goose-feather beds seem to be now somewhat diminished, with just one servant now being employed.

In 1865 the railway station at Llandrindod Wells opened.  Together with the enclosure of the common in 1862, which enabled the construction of new streets, hotels, shops and houses in Llandrindod Wells, this accelerated the demise of Llandegley Spa, and the Burton Arms.  No adverts for either the spa or the inn appeared in the 1860s and 1870s, the inn seeming content to put up travellers whose destination was further into Wales.

[Image 34]  William Ingram was still the landlord in 1871, now with two servants – a farm servant and a dairy maid – and a lodger was staying at the inn:


[Image 35]  Despite the railway opening, there were still coaches running along the main road, taking both tourists to see the sights and also locals.  A traveller in 1875 describes a new coach service from Llandrindod to Kington changing horses at the Burton Arms, which had a flag saying “Success to the coach” above the door:

 “We change horses at the village of Llandegley, at the Burton Arms Inn and Boarding House, for here are sulphur and chalybeate springs, public baths, visitors, and all the reat of it, only on a small scale, the Burton being a Pump House hotel of very diminutive proportions. Over the door is suspended a flag of red, white, and blue, bearing the motto: “Success to the coach.” Barely three minutes are occupied in changing horses.”

[Image 36]  But Llandegley Spa was “utterly neglected” according to the Yorskhire Post in 1876:

A great many attended at the Communion service, after which there was a luncheon at the schoolroom provided by Mr W. Hughes, of Burton Arms, Llandegley Wells, whose catering gave every satisfaction.”

[Image 37]  1876 saw the re-opening of St Tecla’s church following its restoration.  After the service, luncheon was provided in the schoolroom by the landlord of the Burton Arms, who was now William Hughes:


[Image 38]  William is still the landlord in 1881, although his children seem to be occupying most of the rooms in the Burton Arms, together with a servant and a boarder:


[Image 39]  A map of Llandegley in 1889 shows the Burton Arms, the sulphur spring, the mill and the new vicarage:


[Image 40]  By 1891, the Burton Arms had another landlord, Charles Daniel Norton.  This time, there were no servants or guests mentioned:


[Image 41]  Charles was a dab hand at breeding pigs – this is from the Penybont show in 1892:

 “Class 38, – Best sow of any breed, 1, £2 G D Norton, Burton Arms, Llandegley; £1, F L C Richardson,…”

[Image 42]  However, at some point between 1892 and 1894, the Burton Arms shut its doors to the last paying guest, and became a private residence called Burton House.  The new occupier, as mentioned in the 1895 Kelly’s Directory was Thomas Lewis Wishlade, the county road surveyor.  In 1881, Thomas had married Mary Jane Watkins of Vronlace.  Mary’s mother was Margaret Owens, who was the daughter of the John Owens who had purchased the Burton Arms back in 1848, so the ownership of the inn remained in the Owens/Watkins family, as it would continue to do for another 110 years.  Here is the 1901 census:


This brings to a close the 19th century, a hundred years that saw the rise and fall of Llandegley Spa, and of the Burton Arms Inn.

Both Richard and Geraint thanked Andrew for his excellently researched talk. Geraint said that this was the type of detailed research that the group had been formed to undertake.

Jennifer referred to last month’s talk on the Gravestones in the area and mentioned that the Radnorshire Family History Group had completed a lot of work on gravestones around the County.

The next talk on 7th May will be on the Ormathwaite Family with Shirley taking the lead.

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.