richness of the Welsh language may be gained from
the fact that, whereas Johnson's English Dictionary,
as enlarged by Todd, contains about 61,000 words,
the first edition of Dr. Pughe's Welsh Dictionary
contained as many as 100,000 words.
Another great work in which he was engaged was
the transcription and editing of the three volumes
of the Myvyrian Archeology of Wales, a mine of
information on the early history of Wales. It was
published in 1 80 1-7.
As a number of the MSS. printed have been since
destroyed by the fires that have consumed so many
Welsh houses and their libraries, we may well be
thankful that the publication was then made.
One of the most disastrous of the fires which have
caused so much of Welsh literature to perish was
that of Llwyd's collection. Edward Llwyd, born in
1660, devoted his life to the accumulation of materials
relative to Wales. He visited Ireland, Cornwall,
Brittany, and Scotland in quest of MSS., and formed
a compilation of his collections in forty volumes in
folio, ten in quarto, and above a hundred in smaller
size. These were offered, after his death, to Jesus
College, Oxford, but owing to Dr. Wynne, then
Fellow of Jesus, having been on bad terms with
Llwyd, the college, by his advice, refused the offer.
They were then purchased by Sir Thomas Sea-
bright, of Beechwood, in Hertfordshire, in whose
library they remained till 1807, when they were sold
to Sir Watkyn Williams Wynn, Bart. Some years
afterwards the greater and more valuable portion of
these priceless documents was transmitted to London
to a binder. His premises caught fire, and the result
of Llwyd's life-labours was consumed.
Another disastrous fire was that of Hafod, near
Aberystwyth. This was a residence of the Johnes
family, and in the library was a large collection of
Welsh manuscripts on various subjects â€” history,
medicine, poetry, and romance. The house and
A PERISHED LITERATURE 243
library were both destroyed in a conflagration that
" The fire," says George Borrow, " is generally called the
great fire of Hafod, and some of those who witnessed
it have been heard to say that its violence was so great
that the burning rafters mixed with flaming books were
hurled high above the summits of the hills. The loss of
the house was a matter of triviality compared with that
of the library. The house was soon rebuilt â€” but the
library could never be restored."
Again, in 1858, the fine collection of Welsh MSS.
at Wynnstay was destroyed by fire. Thus a literature
perishes, and every effort should be made to print
Montgomeryâ€” Offa's Dykeâ€” The castleâ€” George Herbertâ€” The church
and its screen â€” The " Robber's Grave" â€” Story of John Newton â€”
Situation of Welshpool â€” The Severn Valley â€” Buttington â€” Parish
church of Welshpool â€” Cottage of Grace Evans â€” Escape of Lord
Nithsdale from the Tower â€” Powysland Museum â€” Castell Coch â€”
Cadwgan ab Bleddyn â€” Iorwerth ab Bleddyn â€” Ghost story â€” Guils-
field â€” The church â€” Old yews â€” Holy wells â€” Meifodâ€” Charles
Lloyd â€” S. Tyssilio â€” His story â€” His cook and the conger â€” Mathra-
fal â€” Meifod Church â€” Lake Vyrnwy â€” Anne Griffiths â€” The spirit-
stone â€” The wishing-stone.
THE luckless town of Montgomery has taken
a back seat. The railway runs at a distance
of two miles from it, and it is uncertain whether at
the station a visitor will find a conveyance to take
him to it. And at that station there is no hotel at
which a trap can be hired. A bus does, I believe,
make an occasional trip to it, but as it only now and
then finds anyone there wanting to go to Mont-
gomery it is discouraged and reluctant to go again.
Montgomery is out of the question as a centre,
but it would be a delightful corner into which to
creep from the swirl of business, curl up, and go
The active, vigorous life of the county has been
drawn away to Newtown and to Welshpool, and the
condition of Montgomery, to all appearances, is
hopeless, unless the line be continued from Minsterley,
in which case it will be put into direct communication
with Shrewsbury. It lies very close to the English
frontier, and Offa's Dyke runs along the edge of
Long Mountains, and through Lymore, close to it,
and that was the boundary set in the eighth century,
beyond which no Welshman was to pass. It is a pity
it was not to be a line of demarcation which every
Norman-English ruffian was forbidden to transgress.
Curiously enough, when Offa, king of Mercia, drew
this line he did not appreciate the importance of
Montgomery, and so left it to the Welsh ; but the
Normans perceived the advantages of such a position
in a moment, seized it, and constructed a formidable
castle therein. The ridge on which the castle stands
dominated the country round and must have had an
oppidum on it, or camp of refuge, from the earliest
time. Whether the .earthworks to the west of the
ruins belong to a prehistoric camp, or to the structure
built by Baldwin de Boilers in 1 121, is uncertain;
they go by the name of Ffridd Faldwyn, bear his
name, but have the look of having been old when
he was born. The castle had been accorded before
him by the Conqueror to Earl Roger de Montgomeri.
It has undergone siege after siege, has changed hands,
been demolished and rebuilt, and was finally destroyed
by the Roundheads after the siege in 1644, when it
had been held for the King by Lord Herbert.
The ridge rises steeply from the town clothed in
woods; the ruins themselves are inconsiderable. In
this castle, not then in ruins, according to Izaak
Walton, was born the saintly George Herbert, in 1593.
He was the fifth son of Richard Herbert, a younger
brother of the celebrated Lord Herbert of Cherbury.
In his fourth year his father died, so that, with his
brothers and sisters, he was left under the sole charge
of that excellent woman his mother, who subse-
quently married Sir John Danvers. He grew up to be
a good scholar, and became an attendant at court,
in expectation of preferment. But at length, weary
of such dancing attendance on court favour, he
retired into Kent, ;< where," says his biographer, " he
lived very privately. In this time he had many
conflicts with himself, whether he should return to
the painted pleasures of a Court life or betake him-
self to a study of divinity and enter into sacred
orders, to which his dear mother had often persuaded
him. At last God inclined him to put on a resolution
to serve at His altar." He was offered the prebend
of Layton Ecclesia, in the diocese of Lincoln, whilst
still a layman.
In 1628 he married Jane, daughter of Mr. Charles
Danvers, a near relative of his stepfather.
" Mr. Danvers having known him long and familiarly
did so much affect him that he often declared a desire
that Mr. Herbert would marry any of his nine daughters,
but rather his daughter Jane, because Jane was his be-
loved daughter. Mr. Danvers had so much commended
Mr. Herbert to her, that Jane became so much a Platonick
as to fall in love with Mr. Herbert unseen. This was a
fair preparation for a marriage ; but, alas ! her father dyed
before Mr. Herbert's retirement ; yet some friends to both
MONTGOMERY CHURCH 247
parties procured their meeting, at which time a mutual
affection entered both their hearts, and love having got
such possession governed, insomuch that she changed her
name into Herbert the third day after this first interview."
A few months after the marriage, the Earl of
Pembroke obtained for him from the King the living
of Bemerton, whilst he was still in deacon's orders,
but he was speedily ordained priest.
" When, at his induction he was shut into Bemerton
Church, being left there to toll the bell, as the law requires
him, he staid so much longer than an ordinary time before
he returned to his friends, that staid expecting him at
the church door, that his friend Mr. Woodnot looked in
at the church window, and saw him lie prostrate on the
ground before the altar ; at which time and place (as he
after told Mr. Woodnot) he set rules to himself for the
future manage of his life ; and then and there made a vow
to labour to keep them."
He died of consumption in 1632, aged 39.
It is remarkable that Wales should have given to
England two of her sweetest sacred singers, George
Herbert and Henry Vaughan.
The church of Montgomery, an interesting build-
ing with Early English arcade, is cruciform with
a modern tower at the extremity of the northern
transept. It possesses a superb carved -oak screen
with rood-loft and good stalls, but the quaint
misereres have been badly mutilated. The church
contains a good deal of Early English work, but the
east and west windows are Perpendicular.
In the graveyard, in a remote corner, is " The
Robber's Grave," a bare space even with the sur-
rounding ground, and it remains bare, although the
grass grows luxuriantly about it.
Fresh soil has been frequently spread over it, and
seeds of various kinds have been sown, but not a
blade for many years was known to spring there â€” the
soil remained sterile. Until recently the bare patch
was of the size and shape of a coffin, but of late the
surrounding grass has somewhat encroached ; never-
theless the coffin-shape remains. The date of the
grave is 1821.
The story relating to it is this. A widow named
Morris and her daughter occupied a farm called
Oakfield in the parish. The farmer, James Morris,
had been a dissipated, neglectful man, and had left
his wife and child in distressed circumstances. The
little estate had formerly belonged to a yeoman
farmer named Fearce, and Thomas, who now repre-
sented this family, hoped with his savings to be able,
when the Morrises were down, to recover Oakfield.
Jane Morris, the daughter, was a comely wench, and
a farmer of the neighbourhood named Robert Parker
had taken a fancy to her, but as he was much her
senior, she did not receive his addresses cordially.
Shortly before the death of James Morris, a young
man named John Newton had been taken into
service at Oakfield. He was a shy, reserved man,
but honest and hardworking, and with his energetic
help the widow's affairs began to mend, and the
prospect of a sale of the property became remote.
Moreover, Jane and John Newton fell in love with
each other, and the mother considered that the match
would be altogether what was best for the farm.
JOHN NEWTON 249
Both Parker and Pearce were incensed and dis-
appointed, and determined upon being revenged on
An opportunity for accomplishing this purpose
occurred. Newton had been attending a fair in the
neighbourhood, and had been detained by business
to a late hour. He did not leave till six in the
evening, and the night was one in November. At
some little distance from the town Pearce and Parker
awaited him, and after a struggle overmastered him,
brought him back into the town, and took him before
a magistrate, charging him with an attempt to rob
them on the highway. Newton was committed and
At the assizes he employed no counsel for his
defence, did not cross-question the witnesses, but
contented himself with solemnly protesting his inno-
cence. However, the testimony of the two men
Pearce and Parker was clear, positive, and unshaken.
They were men of respectability and repute, and he
was pronounced " Guilty."
When Newton was asked if he had anything to
say why sentence of death should not be pronounced
upon him, he repeated his assertion that he was guilt-
less. " Put, my lord," he said, " if it be true that
I am guiltless in this matter, I am not so in another
with which I am not charged, and of which none know
but myself. And I ask of Almighty God to bear
testimony to my innocence of the crime wherewith
I am charged, by not suffering the grass, for one
generation at least, to cover my grave."
Newton was executed and buried in this corner
of the churchyard, and his grave is the blank spot
Parker soon after left the neighbourhood, became
a dissolute and drinking man, and was killed by the
blasting of the rock in the limeworks in which he had
found employment. Pearce became low, dissipated,
and gradually wasted away.
Curiously enough, the English county border of
Shropshire does not follow Offa's Dyke south of
Montgomery, but stretches inwards a mile and three-
quarters in length, forming a tongue half a mile
A chain of camps extends north and south from
Montgomery above the Severn Valley.
The towns where there is real activity in Mont-
gomeryshire are Welshpool and Newtown.
Welshpool is a pleasantly situated little place
among the hills, about half a mile from the Severn.
It takes its name from the Llyndu, in the park of
Powis Castle ; but the Welsh name for it is Trallwng,
or Trallwm, " across the vortex "â€”that is to say, the
llyn, which tradition says will some day burst its
bounds and overwhelm the town.
On the west are the wooded slopes of Bron y
Buckley and Gungrog. The little stream that waters
the town is the Lledau.
The Severn for some miles above and below Welsh-
pool flows through a broad valley that is a dead level,
and stretches to the bases of two ranges of flanking
hills which start abruptly from the broad expanse of
river flat. That beyond the river is the Long Mynd
and then comes the Breidden. This stretch of level
THE PARISH CHURCH 251
is caused by the overflow of the Severn, which floods
it all at times, giving to the basin the appearance
of a tidal estuary.
North-east of Welshpool is the quaintly shaped
Rallt, with the steep side towards the Severn, and
dividing that valley from the basin in which stands
Below the town by Buttington was the scene of
a complete overthrow of the Danes by the allied
English and Welsh forces, in 894, under Ethelred,
Ethelm, and Ethelnoth, eorldermen, whilst King
Alfred was engaged in fighting another body of
them in Devon. The Danes had formed a camp
near the river on low ground, and the Anglo-Welsh
army surrounded it. The Danes were in such distress
that they ate their horses. Then they burst forth
from their camp and fought desperately. Several
thanes were slain, " and of the Danishmen was made
The parish church of Welshpool stands on high
ground, and was built about the year 1275. But very
little remains of the original church; the lower stages
of the tower, with its archway into the nave, and
an Early English window in the north gable behind
the organ are all. At the beginning of the sixteenth
century the nave was rebuilt, with a north and a south
aisle ; but in the eighteenth century the arcade on the
south was removed, and the outer walls rebuilt.
This gives to the church a lop-sided appearance
internally, as the chancel arch is thrown on one side
of the unusually broad nave. The fine rood-screen
was destroyed in or about 1738, when the parishioners
appealed to the bishop for permission to remove it,
because " a great number of the very common sorte
of people sit in it (under pretence of psalm-singing),
who run up and down there ; some of them spitting
upon the people's heads below." Hanoverian win-
dows and galleries were added, and the church made
as ugly as well could be. It has, however, been
taken in hand since, and made more decent. It still
retains a fine carved-oak roof in the chancel, supposed
to have come from Strata Marcella Abbey.
The key of the church â€” in Wales nearly every
church is kept locked â€” is kept at a picturesque little
black and white cottage at the east end, in which
once lived Grace Evans, who assisted Lady Nithsdale,
a daughter of the Duke of Powis, in effecting her
husband's escape from the Tower of London.
Lady Nithsdale wrote an account of the whole
affair to her sister, and in it she always speaks of the
humble Welsh girl Grace as " My dear Evans."
William Maxwell, fifth Earl of Nithsdale, had been
involved in the Jacobite cause, was taken prisoner,
and committed to the Tower. " As a Roman Catholic
upon the frontiers of Scotland, who headed a very
considerable party, a man whose family had signal-
ised itself by its loyalty to the royal house of Stuart
would become an agreeable sacrifice to the opposite
party," wrote Lady Nithsdale.
But one day was left before the execution. She
appealed to Parliament for permission to intercede
with the King for a pardon, and this was granted.
She flew to the Tower, and " I told the guards as I
passed by that the petition had passed the House â€”
I gave them some money to drink to the Lords and
to His Majesty."
But she had doubts that a pardon would be granted.
" I then sent for Mrs. Mills, with whom I lodged, and
acquainted her with iny design of attempting my lord's
escape, as there was no prospect of his being pardoned,
and that this was the last night before the execution. I
told her that I had everything in readiness, and that I
trusted she would not refuse to accompany me, that my
lord might pass for her. At the same time I sent to
Mrs. Morgan, to whose acquaintance my dear Evans had
introduced me, and I immediately communicated my
resolutions to her. She was of a very tall slender make,
so I begged her to put under her own riding-hood one that
I had prepared for Mrs. Mills, as she was to lend hers to
my lord, that in coming out he might be taken for her.
When we were in the coach, I never ceased talking, that
they might have no leisure to reflect. On our arrival at
the Tower, the first that I introduced was Mrs. Morgan
(for I was only allowed to take in one at a time). She
brought in the clothes that were to cover Mrs. Mills when
she left her own behind her. When Mrs. Morgan had
taken off what she had brought for the purpose, I con-
ducted her back to the staircase, and, in going, I begged
her to send me my maid to dress me ; that I was afraid of
being too late to present my last petition that night if she
did not come immediately. I despatched her safe, and
went downstairs to meet Mrs. Mills, who had the precaution
to hold her handkerchief to her face, as is natural for a
woman to do when she is going to take her last farewell of
a friend on the eve of his execution. Her eyebrows were
inclined to be sandy, my lord's were very dark and thick ;
however, I had prepared some paint of the colour of hers
to disguise his with ; I also brought an artificial head-dress
(wig) of the same coloured hair as hers; and I painted his
face with white, and his cheeks with rouge, to hide his
beard, which he had not time to shave. The guards, whom
my slight liberality the day before had endeared me to, let
me go quietly out with my companion, and were not so
strictly on the watch as they had been. I made Mrs. Mills
take off her own hood, and put on that which I had brought
for her ; I then took her by the hand, and led her out
of my lord's chamber, and in passing through the next
room, in which were several people, I said, ' My dear
Mrs. Catherine, go in all haste, and send me my waiting-
maid. I am to present my petition to-night, and if I let
slip this opportunity I am undone, for to-morrow will be too
late.' Everybody in the room, chiefly the guards' wives
and daughters, seemed to compassionate me exceedingly,
and the sentinel officiously opened me the door. When I
had seen her safe out, I returned to my lord, and finished
dressing him. When I had almost finished dressing my
lord in all my petticoats except one, I perceived it was
growing dark, and was afraid that the light of the candles
might betray us, so I resolved to set off. I went out lead-
ing him by the hand, whilst he held his handkerchief to his
eyes. I spoke to him in the most piteous tone of voice,
bewailing the negligence of Evans, who had ruined me by
her delay. Then I said, ' My dear Mrs. Betty, for the love
of God, run quickly and bring her with you; I am dis-
tracted with this disappointment.' The guards opened the
door, and I went downstairs with him, still conjuring him
to make all possible despatch. At the bottom of the
stairs I met my dear Evans, into whose hands I confided
Grace Evans managed a place of concealment for
Lord Nithsdale till he could be smuggled to the
Venetian ambassador's, and thence to Dover, dressed
as a lacquey, behind the ambassador's coach and six.
CASTELL COCH 255
There he was put on board a boat and conveyed to
The Powysland Museum deserves a visit. It con-
tains many objects connected with local history and
antiquities, among others a bronze bell of Celtic char-
acter from Llangystennin Church, Roman remains
from Caersws, and mediaeval from Strata Marcella.
But the chief object of interest in the district is
Castell Coch, the Red Castle of Powys.
This stands boldly out on a rock that has been
hewn into terraces. It is a stately Elizabethan man-
sion, but underwent injudicious handling by Sir
Robert Smirke, the architect, at a period when the
true characteristics of mediaeval architecture and that
of the Tudor period were not grasped. The walls
are older than the Elizabethan period, when it was
remodelled. It contains much that is worth seeing â€”
tapestries, old furniture, and paintings.
James II. raised William Lord Powis to a dukedom
after his flight from England in 1689. The second
Duke of Powis was implicated in the rebellion of
171 5, and was sent to the Tower. The dukedom
became extinct in 1748.
Cadwgan ab Bleddyn, prince of Powys, began to
build a castle here in 11 10. He and his brothers
Madog and Rhirid ruled in the three portions of
Powys. Filled with ambition, they combined to
attack South Wales, and drove away King Rhys,
who fled to Ireland, but returned, and in a battle
with the sons of Bleddyn the brothers of Cadwgan
were killed. He had, however, two more â€” Iorwerth
In 1 102 Robert de Belesme, Earl of Shrewsbury,
rebelled against Henry I., and induced Cadwgan and
his brothers to make common cause with him. King
Henry, however, opened secret communications with
Iorwerth, and by large promises bribed him to arrest
and deliver over his brother Meredydd to him.
Iorwerth did this, but when he appealed to Henry
for his stipulated reward the King contemptuously
refused to ratify his engagement, and had Iorwerth
seized and imprisoned.
In 1 103 Meredydd found means of escaping, and
returned to Wales. Then ensued the troubles with
Owen, son of Cadwgan, who carried off Nest, wife
of Gerald of Windsor, as has been related elsewhere.
The wily Bishop of Hereford entered into negotia-
tions with Ithel and Madog, sons of the deceased
Rhirid, and nephews of Cadwgan and Iorwerth, to
stir up civil war in Powys and Ceredigion.
Iorwerth had by this time also left his prison, and
had returned to Powys, and from Mathrafal issued a
proclamation against these turbulent princes. But
Madog, hearing that his uncle Iorwerth was at Caer-
einion, near Welshpool, with few attendants, stealthily
surrounded the building and set fire to it. Iorwerth
attempted to escape from the flames, but was thrust
back into them by the spears of his nephew's fol-
lowers, and perished.
Not long after, Cadwgan was looking at the works
in progress at Castell Coch, when Madog, with his
attendants, crept through the woods, fell on him, and
murdered him also.
In reward for having done to death his two uncles
CASTELL COCH 257
Henry I. received him favourably, and invested him
with lands and paid him a large sum of money. But
Meredydd, another uncle, remained, and in 1 1 1 1 he
entered the lands of his nephew Madog, discovered
his whereabouts by torturing one of his servants
captured him, and handed him over to Owen, son
of Cadwgan, who put out his eyes.
Owen would have killed him but that he and
Madog had previously sworn friendship and fidelity
to each other.
A rather curious ghost story attaches to Powis
Castle. It occurs in the autobiography of the grand-
father of the late Mr. Thomas Wright, a well-known
antiquary. It was told to Mr. Wright in 1780 by
Mr. John Hampson, a Methodist preacher.
Mr. Hampson, having heard rumours that a poor
unmarried woman who had attended on his ministry
had conversed with a spirit, sent for her and took
down her deposition. It was to this effect. She
was accustomed to get her livelihood by spinning
hemp and flax, and she was wont to go from farm