banks - especially those
alongside ancient lanes are a natural haven for wild flowers. Here they
without fear of ploughing, herbicides or other disturbance. They may be
in the summer as rampant growth narrows the lane, but they often have
set their seed ready for growth the following year. They survive in
to a very narrow and very well protected meadow.
of the flowers are relicts
of the old meadows and woodlands, but a few are more recent; relative
remaining as clues to a way of life long gone, and to individuals and
West Wales a little country
lane leads only to Goitre and Motygido Farms near New Quay. The lane is
its road surface deep set between high banks. Today the banks are
topped by a
well trimmed hedge of Ash, Sallow, Dog Rose and Hawthorn. The hedge
field - a very ordinary field of Rye grass with grazing sheep. There is
on the other side of the hedge to suggest that at any time things were
different; nothing at all to mark the field as unusual. However, among
Stitchwort and Red Campions of the road side bank is an improbable
gold; a garden Lily tenuously hanging on in isolation among its more
many it is just another
wildflower, but in reality it is more - much more. For this flower is a
survivor; a solitary reminder of past times, and an indicator that this
once a very different place.
closer look at the plants in
the bank turns up two more species that don't belong there. No more
metres from the Lily is a large clump of red flowered Sedum, a plant
the Lily is normally found in gardens. Close by, among the Hawthorn and
are the swelling fruits of a Gooseberry.
|The question begs: why should a
cultivated Lily, a Sedum and some Gooseberry plants be growing in a
hedge some considerable distance from the nearest habitation? The Lily,
later discovered, is a survivor; a reminder of a garden that no - one
remember. To find out more, we must look back into history, to a time
was very different.
little research reveals why
these flowers are here. It tells us why the lane turns through so many
and how the landscape has changed in both its use and appearance. Years
field above the bank contained a home and a small farm. Across the lane
another field were two more houses. Where the sheep graze today,
country folk once lived out their lives.
of the answers can be found
in the National Museum of Wales, where, on the Tithe map of 1840 can
seen a cottage with the name Rhyd - y -Pynau. So who lived there, and
this home disappear? The census records give us at least a few of the
census for 1861 tells us who
lived in the cottage. It was the home of David Jacob, 67 years old and
1794. He is listed as a labourer living with his wife Ruth, and his
Mary aged 42. There was another daughter Catherine 28, a grandson
Shoemaker's Apprentice aged 16 and five year old John - presumably
Grandson. Quite a house full.
a little imagination we can
picture the quaint little home standing in its cottage garden with
vegetables and flowers, and with chickens scratching in the dirt.
Jacob and his family were
probably proud of their garden, and would have gained pleasure from
lilies. They had been planted along the road, and would have been the
thing seen by both visitors and passers by alike. They required little
could be guaranteed to flower year after year. Little could he know
still be adding a splash of colour to the roadside one hundred and
thick cob walls and tiny windows, the cottage would have been dark and
cramped. Like most of the homes in the area at the time, its roof would
have been thatched.
A few cottages of this age still remain in Gilfachreda, 'Rose Cottage'
close to the old Mill, and 'Doldeg' (on left) in the back garden of 'Ty
Rhos Mair' are both of stone and cob construction with thatched roofs
remaining beneath the protective covering of corrugated
iron (Rose Cottage has been re-roofed in slate since this was written).
Candles or oil lamps provided light. The cottage had no plumbing, nor
was there a spring. Ruth and Mary Jacob would have carried their water
from the nearby stream in buckets.
At one end of the building a constantly burning open fire would have
given both heat and light, its smoke rising past the old iron kettle
into a blackened hazel branch and lime plaster canopy before passing
out through the short clay-lined chimney. Broth may have simmered in a
big iron pot, maybe cawl tato - nothing more than potatoes, herbs, hot
water and a little salt, although the occasional chicken, rabbit or
local fish would have found its way into the pot. There would have been
some iron pots and a wooden settle beside the fire. It is likely that
at the back of the main room a partitioned area boarded with pine
planks enclosed the head of the family's bed, while a loft above in the
angle of the roof provided a sleeping area for other members of the
family. Examples of this arrangement can be seen in 'Doldeg' and in the
reconstruction in the Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth.
|| Lodged in the rough branches supporting the gorse
and wheat thatch there may have been a single small shoe - a token for
good luck at the time. The photo on the left shows a tiny shoe found in
the roof at 'Doldeg' (measurement in cms).
years later in 1851, the records show us that only three of the family
remained at the house, Grandfather David, continuing his labours at 77,
his Daughter Catherine still unmarried and her son John, now at the age
of 15 a Tailor's Apprentice.
By 1881, the records show that the Grandfather had died, and
the Householder was now his daughter Catherine, living with
her niece Margaret Evans aged 13. We can only speculate that
John had gone elsewhere to continue his Tailoring - possibly
to Aberaeron or further north to Aberystwyth.
is an unusual name in the
area today, with only three entries in the South West Wales telephone
We can only guess that had his wife given birth to sons - or at least
who had lived, then Jacob could well have been a more common name today
the locality, the
disappearance of small houses is nothing unusual. Just a mile to the
the track into the valley of Cwm Gido south of Gilfachreda, a dozen or
small homes remain in the woods as nothing more than piles of tumbled
Research into the old records tells us who lived there, their ages, and
||These bottles -
similar to pieces found around the ruined cottages in Cwm
Gido are the type of English Ale and Porter bottle used by
there were once small
fields and gardens there is now dense woodland where carpets of early
push through the moss, and where Ferns flourish in the dampness. There
evidence of their garden plants today, just some raspberries, a few
bushes and the occasional Gooseberry.
The photo shows some fragments
of glass, pottery and porcelain recovered from around the ruined
cottages in Cwm Penrhiwgaled. At top left is the base of a free-blown
ale or porter bottle similar to those above and below it the base of a
tiny clear glass medicine bottle. The fragments of pottery all date
from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
forestry work has turned
over soil to reveal fragments of long buried pottery. We have found
delicate hand painted porcelain and pearl ware, clay crock and heavy
shards of thick black glass from Ale and Porter bottles; tantalising
the lifestyles of the long dead residents of this tranquil
Why have the families gone? No
doubt there were changes in land ownership and usage, a reduction of
force due to mechanisation, rising
rents, old houses
dilapidated and past repair, new styles and a beckoning modern
lifestyle for the
new generation in the towns and cities.
Then there was the Great War;
young men going away and not coming back. There was also the lure of
the sea for
so many young men in the New Quay area. For whatever reason, all the
the upper part of the valley fell into disrepair. What had been a
community in the early part of the nineteenth century is now no more
a few mossy boulders and some tumbled
Most of the farms of the area
remain, some almost unchanged for the last hundred years or more; the
larger buildings and greater acreages continuing to provide for the
resident families. Such cannot be said for the scattered smaller
country cottages of the labourers, and the host of crafts people that
were essential a hundred and fifty years ago. Many of their homes -
like that of David Jacob, have not stood the test of time and have
either become dilapidated or disappeared entirely. All that can be seen
are the few surviving plants of the garden.
Were it not for the Lily, who would be thinking about the Jacob family
2003 Rod Attrill