History

I am interested in adding to the information on the recent history (ie within living memory) of Llangadog. In particular, if you, or someone you know, has memories of individuals who live or have lived in the village during the last 100 years or so, or of buildings that have now vanished or changed in their use, or of significant events, I'd love to hear from you. Please contact me via the messageboard, or by email - message@llangadog.com or pop in to see me at the Post Office (alternate Tuesdays, from 11am to 12 noon).

Peter Berry

 

Mural | Ancient History | Celts and Romans | Saints of the Celtic Church | Watcyn Wynn’s Academy | The Tythe | Influential Preachers | Murders and Disasters | Social History | The Gentry | Industry | Woollen Mills | Shops and Public Houses | Market Day | The Cobbler's Trade | Rebecca Riots | Llangadog's Past Recalled

Article by Rhobert ap Steffan about St Cadog in Brittany

Cambria Archaeology have many fascinating pages concerning the archaeology and history of the Llangadog area on their web site. You can view the links to the individual pages by clicking here.


You will find a collection of recollected memories on this website, not an academic thesis. We continue to gather information about the area and the people who have lived here and we welcome any contributions or references you may have.

Mural
An overview of the history of the area can be gleaned in a mural created by local artist Andrew Evans, assisted by pupils of Llangadog School. The mural is to be seen in Llangadog Community Centre and was sponsored by Balchder Bro.

A good description of Llangadog village and the locality is to be found on www.genuki.org.uk (opens in a new window)

Ancient History
Detailed knowledge of evidence concerning the earliest people who lived in the area is to be had from Cambria Archaelogy(www.cambria.org.uk)(opens in a new window). The area is rich with prehistoric sites. The earliest artefact recorded is a flint hand axe from the Paleolithic era (250,000BC – 10,000BC). More noticeable geographically is the evidence of five hillforts in the Llangadog area, the most significant being Garn Goch which can be clearly seen from the A40. There it is possible to walk in the footsteps of our forefathers and look at the same view that they gazed upon.

The Celts and Romans
The Romans settled here just as they did in other places, and evidence of domesticity can be seen on Garregfoelgam farmland named Llys Brychan. The remains of the underfloor heating has been unearthed there. Perhaps members of a mixed Romano-British family were the rulers of the area, or that the Romans settled on land once important at the time of Brychan Brycheiniog. Brychan was the king of Brycheiniog with land stretching down to the Towy.

The remains of Castell Meurig sit above the Common. It was built on an ideal site to protect the ford at Glanrhyd, and one can imagine the wooden castle on its impressive motte and bailey, with its soldiers keeping a close eye on the surrounding area.

The Saints of the Celtic Church
Cadog or Catwg was a fifth or sixth century Abbot, Bishop and Martyr, possibly one of Brychan Brycheiniog’s descendants (some historical notes say that he was the son of Gwynllyw, King of Gwynllywg, whose wife was Gwladys, daughter or granddaughter of St.Brychan, King, Confessor. Brychan’s father Anlac was possibly Captain of one of the Iridsh Goidelic bands who invaded and occupied Carmarthen, Pembroke and Brecknock from time to time.)

He founded Llancarfan Fawr Monastery in the Vale of Glamorgan and a number of churches are to be found in the nearby counties bearing his name. He travelled further afield as well, and St Cadog churches can be found in Cornwall, Brittany and Scotland.
The church was renovated a great deal in 1888-9, but 60% of its fabric remains considerably older. It is one of the oldest in the Diocese of St David’s. It was known as Llangadog Fawr, and there were three Chapels subordinate to it, Llanddeusant, Gwynfe, and Capel Tudyst.

Tudist Ceidrych Lliam (Caesiencyn)
Dewi Cadog, Llain Dyrfal – Teyrnfael (i.e. Saint David’s teacher)
Elli – Gwernellyn
Braenan
Sefi – Hefin
Savinus – (half Welsh) Llansefin
Guto ap Gwynfor makes several propositions about others as well: In ‘Buchedd Samson’, an eighth century script, mention is made of Saint David being educated in Dingat House, Llandovery. Cannon Doble refers to Llanddeusant area, mentioning it as ‘Lle Gwyn’ (Fair Place) – that is, Gwynfe and Gwenllan.
A road from the Comin and past Devannah Farm to the river is called Rhydsaint, in other words, the road taken by saints. Look carefully and you will notice that the hedges of this lane are significantly wider than the road itself: evidence that it was at one time more important than at present.
Caesara – Caesarn (road)
More saints are named in this area than in any other part of Wales.
Rhyw y Dannan – Rhyw Adamnan – Rhuadymôn (author of Buchedd Columba)
Bledru ap Cadifor is mentioned in the twelfth century. His father owned much land in Carmarthenshire. He is buried in Llangadog church. He married a Gwynfe girl and lived in Bethlehem. The old name of Glantowy was Llannerchbledru. Gwyn ap Williams suggests that he was Bledricws Latimer, the interpreter who spoke on behalf of the Welsh with the Normans. It was he that was responsible for recording the Arthurian chivalric literature of the time.

Watcyn Wynn’s Academy
An academy offering training for priests was established in a building in Back Way (later becoming the Church Hall, and now a domestic dwelling). Watcyn Wynn incurred the displeasure of the locals when he made the decision to move the college to Gwynfryn in Ammanford. Indeed, people were furious at the loss of income. A special meeting was held in Queen’s Square during which Watcyn Wynn’s effigy was set alight – to no avail.

The Tythe
Great was the protest against the tythe: Gwynfe church was filled to overflowing with locals and Brynaman colliers who had walked the whole distance over the mountain in order to attend the meeting. For all the discussion, the decision was made to pay the tythe.(William Thomas, Gwynfe). Most of the inhabitants and miners of Brynaman came from Gwynfe and Dyffryn Ceidrych. During the great strike Brynaman survived with the food supplied by the Gwynfe farmers. For many years a daily bus service travelled over the Black Mountain between the two villages since the demand was high. (A link can be heard in the dialects today: verb endings -ws and –odd ar often used within the same sentence – “Rhedws i lawr yr heol a cwympodd e.”

Influential Preachers
David Davies – The Silver Trumpet (his grave is to be found in Bethlehem). It was he who made ‘yr hwyl’ fashionable.
Comprehensive biographies of local ministers were compiled by John Davies, Cardiff.

Murders and Disasters
But not all members of the community were saints; there are reports of murders, with one unfortunate murderer (William Williams 1768) succeeding to escape to France and live there as a teacher. The preacher Rees Thomas Rees (1817) was less fortunate and 10,000 people watched his execution.

More recently a disaster occurred on the railway at Glanrhyd. In 1987 after a weekend of continuous rain and widespread flooding along the Towy Valley, a railway bridge collapsed as the early train was crossing. A coach sank into the swollen river and three passengers and the driver were drowned before they could be rescued.

Social History
George Borrows visited Llangadog area on his journey through Wales. His account of conversations with the people he met on his way past Capel ‘Gwynfa’ are most entertaining.
http://www.red4.co.uk/ebooks/wildwales/chapt98.htm (opens in a new window)

The Gentry
As in all areas, there are the remains of the grand houses of the well-heeled: the Lloyd family of Dan-yr-allt, the Lloyds of Glansevin and Mandinam; the estates of Abermarlais, Glanyannell and Llwyncelyn. (Information in the National Library)

Industry
There is much evidence that the area has been farmed from the Middle Ages: references to corn mills and farmsteads, and the strip field system can be seen by Felindre. Felindre was also given the right to hold an annual fair in 1383.

In such an area it is obvious that farming continues to be the main industry, though many other businesses operate from local farm buildings today. There was a variety of other ways for locals to earn their living: lime quarries and other mines on the Black Mountain, lead and silver mines on Cae Sara land, woollen mills, public houses and shops so that accommodation and victuals could be provided for the inhabitants and drovers who rested here on their way to Gloucester and other midland towns. A number of blacksmiths worked in Cwrtyplas alone in order to prepare cattle and geese for their long journey.

Woollen Mills
Miss Julia Jones recalls many fond memories of her father and the woollen mill that continues to be home for her family. Many examples are still to be had of the blankets that were woven at the mill.

Another mill is to be seen by the Three Horseshoes, but the patterns woven and the width of the blankets are different there.

There are a number of other mills in the area, but wool was not the only produce. For example, Glansevin Mill was chiefly for grinding corn. Brân Mill was adapted to produce electricity.

Shops and Public Houses
Practically every building near the village centre was a shop or a hostelry at the start of the last century. Some post cards and recollections of the oldest inhabitants are proof of this, and at the time of the drovers there was a demand for all these businesses. Since the 1950’s there is mention of a dozen public houses still operating. In 1985 six were still opening their doors each night – The Red Lion, Plough, Castle, Black Lion, Carpenters and Telegraph. Although one or two have been closed for short periods since then, all remain in business but for the Plough.

Market Day
A market used to be held for farmers on Tuesdays until quite recently, and two banks, Barclays and National Westminster, were open, the former in a small building that is now part of the Carpenters Arms, and the latter in the Morgan family’s front room (Paper Shop and Post Office); locals used to queue along the hallway before crossing the threshold and completing their financial business. Fairs were held frequently throughout the year, and their dates were published in agricultural diaries.

The Cobbler’s Trade
At the turn of the twentieth century there were two cobblers here (one shop is now part of the Carpenters’ Arms, and the other was in Leicester House). Dennis Edwards, the last cobbler, died in April 2005. He was a kindly, cultured individual, involved in all things poetic and musical. There are pictures of him as a child and in his workshop on the Historical Photos page.

He used to cycle up to Llanddeusant to work when he was young; how there was at least a dozen cobblers helping his father in the workshops of Leicester House making hobnailed boots for local farmers. The more recent demand was for repairs, but a number of old friends would call by the workshop for a chat or to discuss poetry with the old cobbler who was always so ready to greet everyone.

His father, David Tom, was the oldest of 15 children; his father was the keeper of Dolau Cothi estate; his mother, Margaret, was the daughter of David Lloyd, the smithy at Manordeilo. David Tom was taught his cobbling skills in Newcastle Emlyn. In 1902 he joined Rhys Thomas who had built Leicester House in Llangadog. Their chief work was making hobnailed boots for the local farmers. The uppers were prepared upstairs, then thrown downstairs where they were handsewn. Cip and pigskin (the toughest leather) kept the feet dry. The cobbler had to use a leather glove on the left hand since the thread was strong and unpleasant to the skin. The ‘horseshoes’ used on the base of the boots came from the two Llangadog smithies, William Meredith and Johnny Lewis. His son, Dennis, was born in 1920 in Gwestfa, Manordeilo and during the same year his father took over the business. The boy used to spend hours in the workshop watching the workers, and claims he learned to read ‘Rhodd Mam’ at the cobbler’s bench.

At fourteen years of age he was ready to leave school and start five years’ apprenticeship with his father. His first task was to take a shoe apart. His father went to serve a customer in the shop and in no time at all the shoe was in bits. “I had no idea how to put it all back together again!” However, his father was a good teacher and in no time at all had rebuilt the shoe. By this time there were another four cobblers also working for the firm.

From 1941 Mr Edwards served his time in the Air Force, fighting in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. His closest friend was a specialist in window dressing and during free time the two would visit local towns and finding the local cobbler’s shop. He particularly recalled the skill of the Italian shoemakers and the fine leather used by them.

On his return to Llangadog in 1946 the workforce was down to three, and before long it was he and his father who ran the business. Wellingtons became the vogue, being waterproof up to the knee, light and so easy to wear. In 1950 Mr Edwards took over the business although his father still helped until his death in 1962 at the age of 80. Mr Edwards himself continued working almost up until his death. He continued to adapt to the needs of his customers: “Most of my work is glueing trainers that seem to fall apart rather easily.” He also repaired handbags and horse harnesses. He did not repair saddles since the skills and machinery were different. Similarly, he would not repair rock- climbing harnesses since specialist skills were needed to accomplish work of such responsibility.
(compiled by Llinos Thomas and Nicola Wrigley Year 6, as part of a school project, 1998. For pictures and more, visit Llangadog School website at www.ysgolccc.org.uk/gadog ) (opens in a new window)



Genuki Llangadog Page (opens in a new window)

Rebecca Riots
The distances between tollgates along the turnpike roads were short and the poor farmers and drovers would be caught many times as they travelled through the area or going to fetch lime from the limekilns up in the mountains – and again on the return journey.
Rebecca and her friends were active here too in their attempts to protest against the inustice of the tolls.Mention is made of a Rebecca meeting being held in Cefncwm yr Orllwyd, that is, Cefn Coed (by Cwmsawdde).
On the eighth of December, 1843 at Waunystradfeiris a report was made, “This was the fifth attack. The gate was broken and the windows of the newly rebuilt toll house were smashed.”
The investigator, Thomas Campbell Foster, refered to "secret night meetings in the hills around Llangadog."

(For more information, contact Bro Beca, St.Clare)

 

Llangadog's Past Recalled

The following extracts are from letters and other items collected by Theresa Haine some years ago. We'd love to hear from others who remember Llangadog from earlier times.

Letter dated 10th November 2000

“...... I wanted to write to you because you live in Llangadog and I spent a lot of my childhood there. We did visit once in 1972 on our way to a holiday and there were still some people there who knew me, at that time the village seemed unchanged.

“I was brought up there by my uncle William T Lawson who was the doctor and we lived in Church House. I moved in there aged 3 in early 1934 and we were there right through the war till 1946, though I was packed off to boarding school. My uncle was much loved in the district and seemed to run a one man social service. He had been in practice previously in Brynamam and when any young woman got pregnant from the numerous troops who were billeted in places like Abermarlais, he would smuggle her over the mountain until the child was born and adopted, and she could come back unsullied to Llangadock (as we called it then). When I heard ‘Under Milkwood' it really seemed a twin village to the Llangadog I knew.

“If I can remember aright wasn't Llwyncelyn a moderate sized country house up the first road on the right after one had crossed the Sawdde going towards the station? If so I believe the owner at that time was a very glamorous French woman who I thought was the widow of an RAF pilot.....”

­----ME, Keswick

 

Letter dated 25th November 2000

“Thank you so much for the photographs of Llangadog. It was lovely to see how well Church House was still looking. I know maintaining it in our day was a considerable problem. It is a very large house if Mrs Walters is living there alone. My Uncle and Aunt had a Cook and a maid throughout the war and I can count nine rooms which were used as bedrooms at the time, and there was one wing of the second floor which had a few rooms but which was considered unsafe. I recognise the other photos of the village showing it unchanged except for a few shop names. Sadly my uncle had to retire because my aunt became unreliable and as a GP he needed to have someone on duty to receive calls. The maids went as soon as they were not liable for war duty. The picture of the Sawdde is absolutely beautiful and I recall being put out to one of the local characters to learn to fish there. I spent hours dangling a line in the stream to no avail and he would nip round the corner and come back with a creelful. Something to do with fish paste as bait I fancy!

“I remember a garden party at the vicarage in Mr Titus' day and children from the big houses were there too. That would be Abermarlais and Dan y rallt, during the war the latter was taken over by a Jewish boarding school from Brighton and got burnt down. Abermarlais became an army camp for troops doing live ammunition training on the Black Mountain. Mr Williams the Mill (on the upper Llandovery road) used to make the electricity and it was highly erratic, so we always had to keep a supply of candles ready to rush into church when the lights failed. Electricity cost a shilling a unit so we only had 40 watt bulbs and as few of those as possible. Come to think of it a lot of things were erratic. Mr Daniels ran the post office and operated the telephone exchange until he fell asleep. Our phone was Llangadog 21.

“I am just about 10 years younger than Dennis Edwards so I expect he was called away during the war. My first memory would be running in races for children at George V's silver jubilee when the village made great celebration. In fact it was very good at celebrations and during the war raised money for war purposes to a level far above its size. It was able to adopt a destroyer at one of the weeks of fund raising. The other celebration was the Easter Monday Races held on the fields just behind Church House (across the Brain?). Horses came from far and wide, especially those who for one reason or other had been barred from the Turf! On one occasion there were only three runners and the rider of one fell off; the other two had to stop and consult because the faller was the one which was supposed to win!

“Does the village still hold an eisteddfod? That used to be a highlight of the year and drew people from far a field and had a high reputation (unlike the races). My aunt was an unmitigated snob and wouldn't let me go to the village school, so I was educated by my grandmother under the PNEU system until I could be sent away to boarding school. My school uniform was shorts even at age 16 and as my aunt said I had to be proud of it and wear it in the holidays I was a butt of ribald comment if I went out in the village, consequently I have no memory of people of my own age in Llangadog. One incident remains vivid in my memory. There were two butchers in the village Francis Morgan, and Willie Morgan, unrelated I think. One day I was seeing my sister off at the station and just before the train pulled out Willie Morgan leaned out of a nearby window and called me over. In a low voice he said, ‘Michael bach, will you tell Mrs Howells the Plough that I've left my teeth on her mantelpiece?' I think I was seven! I don't know if the Plough is still functioning as a pub. It used to be just a few yards up the common road from the square. I believe my Uncle managed to help her retain her licence when the constable found her trying to get into her own pub .through the window!! The constable was no angel either because he bred budgies. I gather you can breed budgies to different colours, and sometimes they can pick up special colours through their food, but to enhance their beauty and hence their value, our constable used to dye them and of course it washed out if they went near water.

“Well I should not bore you too much with my memories of long ago but they come flooding back when I see the village, and I must say it was a community of real character. It was another world and another life. The war was hanging over most of it though we were not really bombed at all.......”

----ME, Keswick

From The Post, December 2001/January 2002

Llangadog Revisited

“Mrs Gwyneth Williams, Bryniago had a pleasant surprise recently when a knock at the door brought her face to face with a lady she had cared for as an evacuee, and had not seen for nearly 60 years.

“As well as having a baby son of their own, Mrs Williams and her late husband, Bertie, took in and cared for Marjorie Woolbridge and her sister Violet who had initially been cared for by Mr and Mrs Leslie Bryer at ‘Welcome'.

“Mrs Marjorie Coston, now living in Bognor Regis, had wished for a long time to revisit Llangadog, and so, together with her sister-in-law, Mrs Chris Woolbridge, they travelled the long journey and were, in their own words ‘over the moon' to find some of the people who remember them as evacuees. Jeff Bryer - who accompanied them through the village to visit Mrs Williams where they had a long talk of days gone by - showed them photographs, from which Mrs Coston was able to point out her brother. She had vivid recollections of many of the shops and buildings of that time, but sadly are no longer in existence as such.

“Her memories go back to arriving at the then YMCA Hall, far away from their own homes and families to live with families they had never met. One lady teacher accompanied the children from London, but they only attended school 2 or 3 days a week which was probably due to the shortage of space in the local CP school. Mrs Coston has returned home feeling ‘over the moon' at her ‘step back in time', and promised that her next visit will last longer.

“A warm welcome back awaits her and her family, and hopefully Llangadog will be a Mecca for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

---- AE

 

We would be pleased to hear from anyone who was an evacuee in Llangadog during the 1940s and/or who can remember the “shops and buildings of that time, but sadly are no longer in existence”. Photos, postcards and other pictures would also be most welcome.