More Towns and Villages
This village on the well-used B road that links Fishguard to Narberth and the A40, had the unenviable reputation, just a few years ago, of being one of the most deprived communities in Wales. But now it has had something of a resurgence, and has two stores and two garages, and a busy primary school as well, to serve a scattered rural population.
It is effectively the "gateway to Mynydd Preseli" for travellers coming up from the south.
The church, with a strangely disproportionate rectangular tower, is not particularly lovely to look at, but inside the church door there are two ancient inscribed stones, one of them made of spotted dolerite. The churchyard is raised and circular, and is probably a burial site of Bronze age origin. Not far away is the interesting old house called Temple Druid. The Maenclochog railway tunnel became famous after WW2 when it became known that it had been used (in conditions of extreme secrecy) by Barnes Wallis and the RAF to perfect the bouncing bombs which were later used successfully in the Dam Buster raids.
Trecwn is located at the entrance to the most spectacular valley in Pembrokeshire -- but it has been closed to public access since 1938. The history of the old village in the 18th and 19th centuries is linked with the Vaughan family and then the Barham family, who occupied Trecwn Mansion and ran a sizeable estate. Admiral John Vaughan was a supporter of the Methodists, and John Wesley visited and preached here on several occasions in 1777-84. The Barhams funded the building of the Barham Memorial School in 1877. It closed in 2001 following the closure of the armaments depot.
The Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Trecwn was commenced in 1938 as a storage and distribution depot for naval mines, and it was reputably never located by the Luftwaffe during WW2. It subsequently handled all types of naval munitions and in its latter years some RAF missiles. The depot employed between 400 and 500 staff. To0 provide for them and their families, three housing estates were built in the village. The houses are mostly still occupied, with the exception of the depot commandant's house which is quaintly named 'Ordnance House'. The depot continued to operate through the cold war until the early nineties when it was placed on a care and maintenance basis. In 1998 it was sold for £329,000 to Omega Pacific, an Anglo Irish consortium.
Omega Pacific at first proposed that the tunnels could be used for storing low-level nuclear waste -- but unsurprisingly that plan was shelved owing to public opposition. In 2001 German company EBV suggested using the site for weapons reclamation -- but that plan fell by the wayside too.
The tunnels and railway tracks are largely intact. However, the site is entirely surrounded by a secure steel fence topped with barbed wire, which runs along both sides of the valley, for a distance of three miles. On the valley floor, a private road 2 miles long brings you from the main gate with the usual guard facilities and a weighbridge to the other entrance close to the village of Llanychaer. The main buildings at the Trecwn end are the staff facilities and canteen, and secure and reinforced factories used originally for the testing and handling of munitions. There is a large boiler house for the production of steam which was once piped on the surface to various buildings around the site.
Trecwn was a community in its own right until 2007; however, the population decreased significantly from 366 to 260 in the years 1980 to 2006, and it was merged into the community of Scleddau.
The village of Cilgerran owes its origins to the castle, built on a rocky spur high above the River Teifi. This is the castle from which Owain of Powys is said to have abducted Nest in 1109, although at that time it would have been a wooden structure. Originally in Cantref Emlyn and under the control of the Welsh princes, Cilgerran came under Norman control, but the Welsh under the Lord Rhys regained control and held it between 1164 and 1223. By 1204 the town was beginning to grow, with 22 taxpayers recorded in around 1220.
In 1223 William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, sent the Welsh princes packing, and his heirs ruled until the late 15th century. The Lordship of Cilgerran was established and administered until it became the Hundred of Cilgerran in 1536. It was a marcher borough; George Owen, Lord of Kemes, described it in 1603 as one of five Pembrokeshire boroughs overseen by a portreeve. Although the town remained small it was considered one of the main market centres in Pembrokeshire in the early 17th century, with mainly Welsh demographics.
The principal occupations throughout Cilgerran's history were farming, salmon fishing and slate quarrying. Most slate was quarried in the Teifi gorge, and many of the houses in the town were built from this stone. The town was renowned for the quality of the slate carried by river barge and exported through the port at Cardigan. The industry peaked in the late 19th century, partly supported by the coming of the railway in 1869. The town's market ended in the early 20th century, there was no further quarrying after 1936.
The form of the present castle may well reflect that of an earlier earthwork castle. The headland is cut off by a bank and ditch which encloses an outer ward, probably the original bailey. The ditch can still be seen. Some 20m beyond the outer defences, a deep rock-cut ditch encloses the inner ward, which William fortified in stone with two formidable round towers and a strong gatehouse. The round towers are the most impressive feature of the castle ruins, which are open to the public.
St Nicholas is a peaceful village at the edge of the Pen Caer peninsula. The church -- greatly Victorianised -- stands on a raised mound which looks as if it might be prehistoric in age. There is a grave slab in the church which is dedicated to an Irish Christian princess from the Dark Ages.
There is no Rectory or Vicarage in the village -- but there is something rather rare, called a Parsonage!
A ramshackle and charming village (Treamlod in Welsh) built round a raised circular churchyard which looks as if it might be a prehistoric sacred site. (Many early churches were built on prehistoric burial mounds -- in other words, on sites that were already revered at the time of the introduction of Christianity.) The most interesting thing about the church is the massive squat castellated "Norman" tower which would not look out of place if it were built into one of the Pembrokeshire castles. It was given its final form in the 1400's. This reminds us of the fact that Ambleston was, in the Middle Ages, on or very close to the Landsker -- the line which divided the Norman-colonised south of the county from the more rebellious north, which remained largely under the control of the Welsh princes and the Bishop of St David's. But there were many ferocious raids back and forth -- hence the need for fortified churches which could act as the last places of refuge, if needed. In contrast, the great majority of the parish churches of the Welshry do not have towers, but simple bellcotes instead.
The name Crymych translates into English as "crooked stream", referring to the River Taf which rises in the high ground above the village and takes a sharp turn in the valley at the north end of the village. First mentioned in 1468, Crymych has for centuries been an area of livestock farming.
Other than the Crymych Arms public house (dating maybe from 1812), little existed at the spot before the extension of the Whitland and Taf Vale Railway to Crymych in 1874. The community then grew rapidly as a service and transport centre for the surrounding uplands; and it acquired a reputation for being "the Wild West of West Wales", reflected in the tongue-in-cheek appellation of Cowbois Crymych by which residents are sometimes known. As far as the people of South Pembrokeshire were concerned, Crymych was populated by "the mountain men."
A regional livestock market existed in the village for many years; a new purpose-built site was developed north of the village, also accommodating a number of other traders. Crymych Market Hall was opened in 1919; with a present seating capacity of 250, it was built as a result of the formation of the Market Hall Company Ltd in 1911. During World War 2 it functioned as an evacuee centre, a shooting range for the Home Guard and a social centre for American troops stationed locally while they trained in the Preseli Mountains.
Crymych's status as 'capital' of the Preseli was confirmed in 1958, when Ysgol y Preseli secondary school was opened. In 1996, it became Pembrokeshire's first Welsh-medium comprehensive school and the number of pupils on its roll has doubled since its launch. In spite of a large influx of English immigrants to the area since the 1970s, Crymych retains a strong identity based on the Welsh language and Welsh culture.
The name of this village (on the old road from Eglwyswrw to Cenarth) comes from the Welsh word for buzzard, "bwncath". It was recorded on a pre-1850 historical parish map as in the parish of Llanfihangel Penbedw in the Hundred of Cilgerran. The old parish church, which dates from 1325 or earlier, was restored in 1859 but fell into disuse in the 1970s. Part of the village lies in Capel Colman parish.
The Boncath Inn (formerly Tavern) has stood here at least since 1862. Boncath developed into a larger settlement when the Whitland and Taf Vale Railway was extended to Cardigan in 1885. The railway station, opened in September 1886, was a two-platform stop between Crymych Arms and Cilgerran Halt on the Whitland and Cardigan Railway, known as "Cardi Bach". The line was closed due to the 1963 Beeching Axe and the station building became a private residence. Now, with just one shop to serve the community, the village maintains a relatively prosperous appearance.
Cenarth lies near the junction between the three counties -- Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire. The ancient parish extended for 5 km south of the river, and included the town of Newcastle Emlyn.
The River Teifi at this point emerges from a deep ravine over a ledge that produces a spectacular waterfall when the river is in full spate and this attracts many visitors throughout the year. A dramatic painting of the falls was made by Frank Miles and is now at Nottingham City Museum; but since this is a photographers' and artists' paradise there are in truth many wonderful portrayals of the falls and the adjacent bridge.
Cenarth Bridge was built in 1787 by William Edwards of Eglwysilan and his son David. The bridge features their trademark series of circular holes that allow the weight of the structure to be reduced without losing strength -- and also allows extra water to pass through at times of exceptional floods.
Other visitor attractions are a seventeenth-century flour mill and the National Coracle Centre. The parish church is dedicated to the local saint, St. Llawddog. Although the present building is relatively modern, it is on an important ancient site, and there has probably been a church here since the Age of the Saints.
Letterston is a long stretched-out village which has grown bit by bit as a result of ribbon development. But it does not follow the main A40 road -- rather, it runs perpendicular to it, with one part on the road to Castlemorris and the other on the road to Little Newcastle and Puncheston. Because of its easy access to Haverfordwest and Fishguard, there has been a lot of recent growth in the village, and it maintains a range of services which most other smaller villages have lost.
There was once an important railway junction here, where the GWR joined the older North Pembrokeshire and Fishguard Railway. The main platforms and sidings were at the eastern end of the village, and are now almost lost except for those with a practised eye.
The church is Victorianised (1881) and somewhat austere, with surprisingly small windows and a minute bellcote containing a bell that has to be rung by pulling a rope on the outside! Inside, there is a bit of a surprise -- a wooden balcony at the end of the nave, reached via a wooden staircase.
A small village (Casnewydd Bach) not far from Letterston, chiefly notable for its extensive village green. Although there are a number of new buildings, it appears that the village has fallen on hard times, and there is no longer a village shop. The famous pirate named Barti Ddu (Black Bart or Bartholomew Roberts) hailed from these parts, and he is commemorated on a memorial stone on the edge of the green. He lived from 1682 to 1722. He was one of the most successful pirates of all time, taking over 470 vessels as prizes and accumulating a vast fortune in the process. He is reputed to have invented the Jolly Roger or joli rouge -- and like most of the swashbuckling pirates of the time he enjoyed a short life and a jolly one, until the Royal Navy caught up with him off the coast of Africa.
There is virtually nothing left of this "lost village" apart from a farm and a couple of houses, and the local council has not even bothered to put up road signs to tell you that you have either arrived or departed. The Victorianised church and churchyard are on a spur high above a deep wooded valley that runs down towards the "lake" of Llysyfran Reservoir. The landscape hereabouts is not often visited by tourists, but it is very beautiful. Below the churchyard there are traces of an Iron Age fortified settlement, and there seem to be at least two other earthworks in the vicinity. There was also reputedly a healing or holy spring (called Bernard's Well) which used to attract pilgrims.
This little hamlet on the Haverfordwest - Cardigan road is chiefly notable for its charming chapel. It's very old, tracing its origins to 1754, in the early days of nonconformity in Wales. It has been substantially rebuilt and enlarged since then.