Theophilus Jones.

A history of the county of Brecknock. : In two volumes. ... (Volume 2) online

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The two former churches in the two Abergwessins were served by a monk from the Abbey of
Strata Florida, during the existence of that community. On the mountain road from Strata Florida
to Abergwessin, the point where Abergwessin first comes in sight is called Cae Pader, and believed
to be the spot whereon the said monk began to recite his paternosters on approaching the church.

The present Abergwessin church is cruciform, and early English in style ; the architect was Mr.
J. R. Withers. It has one stained glass window by Burlison and Gylls. The tower contains a peal of
six bells cast by Warner, and are inscribed "Llanvihangel Abergwessin 1871." Eglwys Oen Duw
church consists of a nave, chancel, and vestry, with central timber spire containing a peal of four
bells by Warner. The style is early English, and Mr. John Norton was the architect. There is
stained glass in eight windows by Clayton and Bell. The west window of five lights was put up by
Mrs. Alicia Thomas, widow of Mr. Evan Thomas, in memory of her son Henry Thomas and her
grandson Evan Llewe]!}^! Thomas ; the east window of three lights was put up by Mrs. Henry

The church and burial ground were consecrated September 14, 1875. The first incuni ent was
the Rev. M. E. Welby, who was succeeded by the Rev. W. Getliin Griffith, M.A., upon whose pre-
ferment to Llandefalle, the Rev. Thomas Jones was in 1902 appointed vicar. The joint living is
worth £200 a year net with residence and four acres of glebe. The population in 1901 was 247 ;
the rateable value £1,358, and the area 11,626 acres.

In the parish of Abergwessin there are two Nonconformist chapels, one in the village, "Moriah,"
built by the Independents in 1826, rebuilt 1867; and one in the Cnyffiad Valley, '" Pantycelyn,"
founded by the Baptists in 1806.


Tyr-y-cenfas, the property devised by William Thomas as a charity, was in 1873 let on lease
to Miss Clara Thomas for 14 years at the rent of £34 a year. This charity — (by some confusion


described in tne 1869 Commissioners Report as the " Ricketts " Charity) — is for the benefit of the
poor and to be distributed by the vicar and wardens of the parish. The will was proved in the
Consistory Court at Brecon on the 18th July, 1709, and the distribution was to take place on
Christmas Day and the 25th day of March yearly for ever.

The Evan Thomas of Llwynmadoc Charity is a sum of £5 yearly divided between ten poor
persons on Christmas Day armually.


{See Jones's notes on this family.)
Evan Thomas ap Meredith died 1676 —


Meredith ap Evan.

Thomas ap Evan (piu-chased Llwynmadoc from his brother).

Rees ap Evan.

Edward Thomas= Winifred Evans.

William Thomas of Tyn y dryscol
William, died s.p.

EvanThomas=(1) Elizabeth Walters.

(2) Anne Jones. Edward Thomas=Cath. Davii

Mary=Evan Lloyd. Anne J. Price

H. Thomas= Martha Gwynne.

Thomas Thon
died s.p.


Evan Thomas= Alicia Rankin
Bom 1778. | Bom 1787.
m. 1807. Died 1872.

d. 1832.

Evan Thomas was owner of Sully Estate, Glamorganshire,
Chairman Quarter Sessions 1823-1832.

Edward Thomas died
about 1800, mar. 1st Letitia
Price, 2ndly Anne Evans,

David Thomas, J. P. and D.L.
CO. Brecknock and Radnor,
Dep. Pay. General to the
Forces, built Welfield at
Builth, and left it to his
nephew David.

Evan Thomas.

David (B) — See below.

Henry Thomas=Cl
b. 180S.
m. 183.5.
d. 186.3.

iress of Thomas Thomas of
Pencerrig. co. Radnor and Llanbradacli
CO. Glam. Henry Thomas was Chair-
man Quarter Sessions Glamorgan 18,51
till his death 1863. A tomb to his
memory was placed in Llandaff
Cathedral by county subscription.

Charles Thomas:

(assumed the

surname of


Alicia^R. D. Jones
of Fonmon Castle

Chairman Q. S.
Glam. 1863-1886.

1 I

Anna=:J. Mary

Coke Fowler Jane

Ch. Glam. Emily

Q. S.

C. Evan Thomas was first

Chairman of Brecknock
County Coimcil 1888-1900.

Clara Thomas of
(Miss Clara Thomas built the new
church for the parish of Aber-
gwessin and carried through the
making of a new ecclesiastical
district carved from Abergwessin
and other parishes. She built
the chiu-ch for the new district
and provided it with a parsonage
and endowment.

Algernon Edmimd Llewelyn Owen.


Henry. Catherine


Davxd Thomas= Catherine Jones of
(died 1830). I Ystrad Walter.

Edward David bom=Arrabella Gowland

1808, of Welfield, I
Builth, J.P. and D.L.
Brecknock & Radnor.

David b. 1809,
m. 1839 Juha
Batt, had 12

childi-en. l

William bom

1811, m. A. E.

Jones left 11


Evan Pateshall

took name of

Pateshall, and

died 1885.

Mary m. H.
Powel Price,
Castle Madoc.

Edward David Thomas=

^69 Caroline Greenley
of Titley Court.

Edward Awbrey,
born 1872.

Evan Thomas
Colonel 7th.
Dragoon Guards

{For branches of this /amity, see Brecon, Llanigon, dhc.)
1 See "Mayor of Bruclvnock," for year 1876, in this work.



THIS parish extends to the boundary of Breconshire on the north and north east, adjoins Caerdi-
ganshire on the west, projects at one point to within two or three stone-throws of Montgomeryshire,
and has the Elan and the Wye, separating the counties of Brecon and Radnor on the east
and north east.

It is dedicated, according to Ecton, to Mwthwl. Where he or Brown Willis found out this
Saint we know not; from his garb he should seem to be British, but the Welsh will not acknowledge
him : in the Triads indeed, we have a personage to whom our very early ancestors own themselves
indebted for the art of building in stone and mortar, but he is supposed to live so soon after the
deluge that nothing but absolute necessity, and the want of an accredited, patron for the parish
would induce us to drag him from his obscurity. He is called Morddal Gwr Gweilgi, or Morddal
the man of the ocean, and though it would be too much to insist with pertinacity upon the existence
of such a person, it is by no means improbable that a stranger from the continent might have taught
the Britons masonry, that out of gratitude for the comforts he conferred, his memory may have been
revered, and that even a church was dedicated to him, though he lived before the Christian era.
From Morddal to Mwrthwl, a hammer, the transition is easy, and we then have a Saint for this
parish ; in what degree of estimation he is now held by the inhabitiants, we have no authority
to state.


The church is situated near the river Wye, not far below the Aber of the Elan, in latitude 52 20,
longitude 3 22, though not noticed by Adams. This is a dark low fabric, indifferently seated, and not
ceiled : in the church yard is a large stone about two yards in height, whether a Maen hir, or the
shaft of a cross, the top being broken off, is uncertain. A great part of this parish consists of lofty
hills, bogs and commons ; among the first is the Drygarn or Derwydd gam, (Mount Druid or Druid's
rock), part of which is in Llanvihangel Abergwessin, and may be seen from the Brecknock beacons on
a clear day. On the top of this are many Carnau or Carneddau, large heaps of stones, as there are
also upon a less elevated eminence not far from hence, called Gemrhiw.

On the road from Llandovery and Llangamarch to Rhayader, are seen stones placed irregularly
in the ground, which have given a common, partly in this parish and partly in Llanafan, the name
of Rhos saith maen, or Seven-stone common ; whether they are sepulchral, military or druidical remains, is
not known, but from the name of Rhos y beddau, the common of the graves, not far from hence,
nearer to the river Wye, it should seem they commemorate a battle, most likely that of Llechryd
and the slaughter in the flight of Riryd and Cadwgan.


Descending from these mountainous regions and approaching the banks of the Elan and the Wye
as they skirt this parish, the soil improves very much and some fertile and productive meadows
adorn their course, and we have here a continued succession of pictures than which nothing can be
more beautiful.

The river Elan which is lost in the Wye on the north eastern boundary of this parish, is nearly
as large as that into which it falls ; the name is indicative of the swiftness of its course, and signifies
a hind or fawn. Not far from the banks of this river, on the Breconshire side and near a farm
called Nant y car, some lumps of copper were discovered a few years prior to 1800, and many
attempts have been made to follow the metal but in vain ; its vagaries mock the efforts of art or
science, and have no similitude to the steady and uniform progress of the iron vein, consequently
the project, after much labour and considerable expense, at different periods, was at last abandoned.*


The will of Jeuan Philip ap Bedo coch, of this parish, dated in 1576, is curious, iasomuch as it
describes the customary mode of conveyance in the country previous to the general use of deeds.
" I give (says he) Tyr yn y gro issa, which I bought three score and two years agone of one Rees

1 Notwitlistanding the ill success of mineralogists in 1800, the veins in this country, in the time of Edward the First
and Second, were thought of very considerable imiJortance ; in the seventh of the first named monarch's reign, a commission
issued, " De minera infra Ballivum de Built cominissa Hoclo filio Meuric ; " and in the same year, Howel ap Meuric, then
being the king's bailiff, and having the castle and manor of Builth, demised to him at one thousand pounds a year, and
had the care of the minerals in the county for the king's use ; similar commissions follow in the succeeding reigns. — Ayloffe's
4-niient Chqrters ; Rqlls in the Tower, &c.


David ap Gwylym, after the maner accustomed in the sayed time, in the presence and oversight of
foure neighboiirs, namely John Bedo ap David, Morgan David ap Morgan, Bedo ap Rliys Chwith
and Pliilip David ap Meredydd Goch, to my oldest son, John ap Evan Philip, &c." The name of
Bedo, which was formerly frequently heard in this parish, is a synonym or abbreviation of Meredith,
and was afterwards altered or anglicised by those who went to reside to England, into Bedoes and
Bedward, though this latter word is sometimes from ap Edward. In 1612, Owen ap Jeuan Bedo,
one of the descendants of the above testator, gives Troed Rhiw'r Aethnen or aspen-tree-hill foot,
to his brother, Hugh Bedoes of Stretton, in the county of Hereford, clerk. Lelo was also a common
name here, if not peculiar to this parish, it was a cant term for a fool or an idiot, but as we have
before observed, this was no objection to its adoption or continuance ; on the contrary they retained
it with an unaccountable pertinacity. In 1626, Evan Meredith ap Lelo gives lands to his son in
law, John Storre, clerk, then vicar of Llanwrthwl. Here the grandson preserves the name, but this
is nothing ; in a few years afterwards, Thomas David ap Evan Meredith Lelo occurs, where the
favourite appellation follows to the fifth generation. It is still known in Herefordshire and is some-
times altered into LilwaU. There were no families of note or coasiderable wealth in this parish
in 1800, but a few years before that, WiUiam Powel, esq., who was sheriff for the county in 1775,
resided at Ystrad, a house pleasantly situated on the banks of the Wye, but there being" no bridge
over the river near it, he was drowned in attempting to cross the ford in a flood ; his son soon
dissipated the property and sold Ystrad to Mr. Penry Price, from whom it was purchased by James
Watt, esq., one of the partners in the opulent and enterprising firm of Bolton and Watt of


This vicarage, which has been once augmented by Queen Anne's bounty by lot, 1870, £200, but
has neither parsonage or glebe attached, is in the collation of the bishop of Saint David's ; tlie
impropriate tythes belong to the prebendary of Llanwrthwl, in the college church in Brecon, the
present (1800) lessee is the heir or devisee of the late Michael Cope Hopton, esq., who had them
with the rest of the Pennant property, with the owners of which estate the lease has continued,
being renewed at the usual periods from the year 1559, when Meredith Morgan, chancellor of Saint
David's, before named, was prebendary of Llanwrthwl, who first demised them to his son and grandson,
from the latter of whom they were obtained by the same fraud that his mother got possession of
Pennant for her second husband, Meredith Lewis.

This living is called Lanuchul in Pope Nicholas's taxation, and is valued at 51. Gs. 8d., tenths
10s. 8d. The annual value, certified in the time of Queen Anne, was 20Z. Os. Od. : it remains charged
in the king's book at 9/. 125. Ud. ; pays to the archdeacon 3s. id. annually for procurations, and
the register goes back to 1713.


According to Rees, in his Welsh Saint's, Llanwrthwl is dedicated to Gwrthwl, a saint of the
latter part of the 7th century, as to Avhom he gives no further information. The church was re-
built in 1875 by subscription at a cost of £1,880, and is a small plain edifice of stone, consisting of a
chancel, nave, and a one-bell turret. The font is said to be of the 12th century. There is a
mem.orial window to the memory of Rev. John Eagles, M.A., and this was erected about 1874 by
his daughter, Mrs. Graham-Clarke, of Erocester Manor, Gloucestershire. The " Maen hir " in the
churchyard is said to weigh upwards of six tons.

The area of the parish is 20,168 acres, of which 123 acres are water ; and the rateable value,
£3,532 ; the population in 1901 was 1785.

At Nant y Car there was a lead mine on the mountain land, and a considerable plant was
erected and the mine worked until 1890, when it was sold by the Lord of the Manor of Builth to
the Birmingham Corporation, to be discontinued, in order to insure the purity of the water henceforth
to be obtained from this valley for the use of the City of Birmingham.

Doldowlod Hall, the magnificient seat of James Miller Gibson-Watt, Esq., J.P. (see History of
Radnorshire), stands in extensive grounds, and commands splendid views of the neighbourhood.
Another seat is Glanrhos, the property of Leonard J. CTraham-Clarke, Esq., M.A., J.P.

The benefactions to this parish include the following: Edward ap Evan by will dated 1648 gave
to the poor of this parish for ever, a messuage called Caer-llan, to be distributed on October 24
annually ; this is of the yearly value of £8. Hugh Phillips, by will, charged his property Tydden
a Thir Isson Milo, and Tydden a Thir y Talwyn Yoldoge (as given in the Charity Commissioners Report),


with the payment of £3 yearly to the poor ; this property is now called Bronviddie, and forms part
of a farm called Llanerch fallen. Owen's charity is the interest of £100 left by Margaret Owen
to be divided amongst the poor.

A public elementary school was built in 1880. The parish is on the Radnorshire border, and is
half a mile north from Doldowlod railway station, and two and a half miles from Rhayader.

The living is a rectory in the gift of the Bishop of St. David's, and in 189.5, the Rev. John
Y. Evans was instituted to it. In 1900 it was valued at £100 gross or £85 net, but in 1906 it was
returned as of the net yearly value of £200 with residence.


DATES OF p^T,p„^,


incumIInts. patrons.


1569.— Bishop of Saint David's


1613.— Bishop of Saint David's.


WiUiam Huet.
Hugh ap Meredith.
Meredith Harris.
Jolin Storre.l
James Thomas. 2
Evan James.
David Williams.

1715.— Ditto.
1733.— Ditto.
1789.— Ditto.

Charles Williams.
Jacob Wood.
Rice Price.

1646. — Bishop of Saint David's.


1713.— Bishop of Saint David's.

1886.— Ditto.
1895.— Ditto.

J. H. A. Griffiths.
John V. Evans, B.A.


Llanafan Uain ofer,


Graig olen

A'r grug a welir,

A llwyni tew w llanw'r tir.

Llanavan full of hills, whose plains
Are trod by none but idle swains.
On high, grey rocks and heath are foimd
Below, thick brakes conceal the groimd.

THUS sung the wags of former days, but if the satire was ever just, the face and appearance
of the country has since materially altered for the better and cultivation, though it cannot
remove the hiUs, has cleared many of the brakes in the valleys.
The church is situated upon an eminence, and is dedicated to Avan or Avanus, a bishop and
martyr ulll^no^\^l in the English church history, but acknowledged and noticed in all the MS. pedigrees
of the Welsh saints ; according to some he was the grandson or great grandson of Cjoiedda Wledig
king of Britain, and as others, the first cousin of Saint David. Geraldus Cambrensis relates a miracle
which happened on the profanation of his church: "In the time of Henry the First (he says) one
of the lords of Radnor, coming into tliis country to hunt, placed his dogs in the church of Saint
Avan, called in the British language Llanavan, for a night, and he also most irreverently slept in
the church with them ; but when he got up early in the morning, as hunters are accustomed to do,
the dogs were mad, and he being blind was led out by the hand. He lived many years in this
state, but upon making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem he was restored to sight ; whereupon he went into
the holy wars, and in battle with the enemies of the Christian faith, he spurred his horse and rushed
boldly into their thickest ranks, thus honourably concluding his life."


Whether this signal interposition of providence, in punishing a conduct, certainly highly repre-
hensible, and the subsequent restoration to sight, be true or not, it seems to be clear that in very
early days a bishop called Afan, Ifan, or Jeuan (for the word is written thus differently) gave name
to this parish, yet the difficulty is to ascertain the period in which he lived. Cynedda Wledig who
is said to have been a nephew, a sister's son of Helen, the wife of the Emperor Constantius, must
have lived about the year 330 or 340 ; the see of Saint David's was not formed until about the year
577. Now this leaves a period of upwards of two hundred years for three or four lives at most ;

1 William Storre, clerk, was promoted to the rectory of All Saints in the pavement in the city of York, by Queen
Elizabeth, in 1594, and died in 1606.— Drake's Hist, of York.

2 He was ousted by the sober propagators of the gospel, for the alleged crimes of drimkenness and simony, after which
the living was vacant for eight years ; he was restored in 1660. — Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy.


the same objection lies to the accuracy of those MSS. as to Saint David, who must have been a
contemporary, if not of one generation later than Avan, so that probably the names of several of his
ancestors have been lost or omitted in his genealogical table, yet even this will not remove the
difficulty as to Avanus the bisJiop, whose see either consisted of his parish alone, or it must have been
in vithibns. Neither history or tradition have placed him as the predecessor or coadjiitor of Saint
David, nor is he named, to the best of our recollection, in any list of British bishops of that time ;
he must therefore in our opinion, however it may detract from his anticjuity, submit to be brought
down several centuries lower, and be considered as the bishop Jeiian,i in Brown Willis's List of
the Prelates of Saint David's during the tenth century, who was preceded by Nathan and followed by
Angustell or Ar-n-^^stl : he is there said to have been bishop for one day only, and is supposed to
have been murdered by the Danes in one of their irruptions into Wales, in a meadow on the Whefri
side, not far below the vicarage house, where a maen hir of about six feet high was placed and still
continues to preserve the memory of that flagitious deed.

The church is of considerable length, and consists of one aisle or nave not ceiled, partially flagged
and irregularly seated ; on the west end is a heavy tower, containing five bells ; there are no curious
or ancient inscriptions within the walls, though several of the vicars of Llanavan are said to be
buried under a tombstone below the communion table. In the church yard is the tombstone of the
saint, on which are the following letters or characters cut in the stone,


This stone is of an extremely hard and durable texture, the surface does not appear at all worn,
nor does it scale off in lamina, and the letters are deeply cut into it and perfect. It is an oblong
square, six feet ten inches by two feet eight, and about six inches in thickness ; a dry wall has been
built under it which is occasionally repaired, and at present (1800) it looks like what are called the
altar tombs, commonly seen in churches and cemeteries, so that it may be doubted whether this
was the precise spot, as it certainly was not the manner, in which it was originally placed. ^


Between two and three miles north of this church, on a boggy common called Rhos y capel,
was formerly a chapel, probably appurtenant to this parish, which apjaears in Saxton's maps published
between 1574 and 1579, said to have been then known by the name of Kethitalgarth or rather Gelli
Talgarth, the forest of Talgarth, and in the ancient surveys of the manor, the forest of Tal Ifan or
Tal-Avan ; though a MS. pedigree of the descendants of Elystan Glodrydd, seen by Theo. Jones,
describes Owen ap Jeuan Bedo, jvho lived in the beginning of the seventeenth century, to be of Gelh
Talgarth in Lanfihangel brjm pabuan, from the boundary of which parish it certainly was not very
far distant, and perhaps part of the forest may have extended to the latter precinct. Among the
appurtenances of the church of Llanddewi'r cwm, granted by Peter de Leia to the priory of Brecon,
is a field in this parish near the church, where there is a small mound, perhaps the ruins of a mansion,
called Lle'r prior, the Prior's place, and a tenement called Wcrn y mynach or Monk's wood. In
the same map of Breconshire by Saxton, the chapel of Llj'sdinam, in the parish of Llanavan vawr,
nearer the Wye, and about one mile further to the north east, that of Gelli Talgarth appears to
have been in his time standing, though both of them now (1800) are entirely dilapidated ; the same
fate seems to threaten the mansions in this parish, formerly the residence of opulence, the seats of
hospitality, the never failing resources of comfort to the stranger and the traveller, the plentiful
granaries of the indigent ; and if the shades of the possessors of Ty mawr and Brynioiau, two or
three hundred years ago, were now permitted to revisit their dwellings, they might be supposed to
exclaim, in the pathetic language of Lljrwarch hen,

Ystafell Cynddylan ys tywj'U heno

Heb dan Leb ganwjll !

Cold and gloomy is th

Without fire without


Cribarth also, which about a century ago, was inhabited by a family of some note, of the name

1 Jouan has been since corrupted into Evan, Ivan and Jolm ; the latter sound is peculiarly ofiensive to the ears of
Wolshmon, who pronounce the I when it occurs, as in John, George, &c., by Si, Sion, Siors, &c., the name of the Evangelist,
is not soimded in \\'elsh, as in the English name of a female, but as I-o-an.

2 Mab y ClochyddjTi or the Sexton's son, a poet who flourished in tho latter end of the fom-teenth centiu-y, is said
in a MS. of Llwyd's, in the Ashmolean museum, (as we are informed by Mr. Edward Williams of Flemingstone) to have
been of this jiarisli, and to have been tho samo witli Macclaf ap Llywarch, tliough lie has given tho two names in his
catalogue of British WTiters. Jlab y ClochyddjTi «Toto a poem in praise of Gwenhwyfar, vdie of Hywel ap TydjT ap Gryffith,
inserted in tho first vol. of the My). Arch.' p, 510.


of Jones, now extinct like tlie two former, has long ago been converted into a farm house, the build-
ings decaying, the garden and courts before the houses neglected, and above all, more than half the
windows stopped up. Whenever this melancholy mark of poverty, this too public and certain

Online LibraryTheophilus JonesA history of the county of Brecknock. : In two volumes. ... (Volume 2) → online text (page 46 of 54)