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A brief history of Llanarth

Alma Street - the A487 main road before the road was widened and the Penybont Hotel on the right was demolished

Llanarth is an ancient settlement, among the oldest in Ceredigion. Set just inland from the Cardigan Bay coast, it is centred on the crossroads formed where the A487 coast road meets the B4342 to New Quay (or formerly to Llanina).

The age of a community is usually best recorded by the date when its church was established. There is record of a stone church being built in Llanarth between 1200 and 1220 to replace an earlier wooden church. Within St. David's Church is an even older relic; the inscribed stone cross, sometimes known as the Cross of Girhurst or the Cross of Girhiret - named after an Irish chieftain of the ninth century. Some researchers believe that it also bears earlier inscriptions in Ogham - an ancient form of writing found on only two stones in Ceredigion and dating back to the fifth century.

Also in the church is a late Norman font - possibly dating back to the 1200s. This lead lined font - long since replaced by another, is supported by four carved lions at the base. 


Early maps, like those above show Llanarth with various spellings - Seller spells it as 'Llanarche' in 1701 and it is frequently seen as 'Llannarth'. Llanarth was certainly well established long before neighbouring New Quay or even Aberaeron ever existed.
A few notable old buildings from this time still survive in the Llanarth area. One of the most significant is Wern Newydd or Plas y Wern, parts of which date back to the fifteenth century.


Plas y Wern was certainly there in August of 1485 when The Earl of Richmond, later to become Henry VII, stayed there just down the road from Llanarth to New Quay at Gilfachreda. This was on the second night after he landed at Dale near Milford Haven. According to Samuel Lewis in ' A Topographical Dictionary of Wales 1833': "he was hospitably entertained by Einon ap Dafydd Llwyd, on his route through this county to Bosworth Field." He was marching through Wales to meet Richard III's army at Bosworth Field where Richard was killed. The Earl went on to London to be crowned Henry VII.


Another Historic house in the Llanarth area is Plas Llanina, once the home of Ernestus Musgrave, who fled here during the Civil War before 1630. later the estate belonged to the Jones family who were educated at Motygido Academy. A member of that family married Captain Longcroft of Havant in Hampshire, the Excise Officer for this part of the Cardiganshire coast. After several other owners, Plas Llanina was purchased by Lord Howard de Walden in the early 1940's.It was here at that time that Dylan Thomas was a frequent guest, writing in the solitude of the 'Apple House' at the end of the garden (see Dylan Thomas' Life Story)

Motygido Farm in Llanarth also has historical significance. The first record we have found is from the year 1587 when the farm belonged to David Thomas David ap Watkin of Nantgwynfynydd and tithe was paid to the Manor of Caerwedros.
We next find Motygido recorded in the will of Hugh Pryce Pugh, Gentleman dated January 3rd 1722 when both Motygido and Goytre farms were left to his wife Margaret for (the remainder of) her life, and then on to John Pugh, his second son born in 1689 on Ash Wednesday - February 23rd, later to be a classical scholar who is said to have spoken fourteen languages and who was a curate of Llanllwchaiarn Church and later of St David's at Llanarth. Hugh Pryce Pugh's first son Rees was left just a guinea and an Oak tree, as a settlement had probably already been made on his marriage.

The Rev. John Pugh founded one of the earliest schools in West Wales at Motygido in the 1730's. The Rev Pugh's Diaries which record day to day events and expenditure of both the farm and the school are now in the collection of the National Library at Aberystwyth. there was no other school in Llanarth until the 1840's.

In the eighteenth century, many residents of Llanarth were Farmers, but many also worked as part-time Fishermen during the Herring season at Aberaeron or New Quay, or in the shipbuilding industry at New Quay and Cei Bach. The first recorded vessel built at New Quay was the 24 ton sloop 'Thomas and Mary' which was launched in 1779. Between 1800 and 1820, 31 ships were built at New Quay, most of which were sloops. Later in the century, the shipbuilding industry became very important in the area with as many as three hundred persons being employed at Traethgwyn and Cei Bach. Interestingly a 30 ton boat was built at Llanarth in the 1850's. Owned by 30 Llanarth residents, the boat was built by Dafi Davies. It is not recorded how the boat was transported to the sea for launching!

In 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' Samuel Lewis writes in 1849: LLANARTH (LLAN-ARTH), a parish, in the union of Aberaron, hundred of Moythen, county of Cardigan, South Wales, 13 miles (N. W. by W.) from Lampeter; consisting of two divisions, North and South, and containing 2421 inhabitants. The Earl of Richmond, afterwards Henry VII., on the second night after his landing at Milford Haven, encamped his forces at Wern Newydd, in this neighbourhood, where he was hospitably entertained by Einon ab Davydd Llwyd, on his route through the country to Bosworth Field. The parish is of considerable extent. It is pleasantly situated on the turnpike-road leading from Cardigan to Aberystwith, and is intersected by the river Llethy, which falls into Cardigan bay at Llanina. The surface is boldly undulated, in some parts mountainous; the lands are partially inclosed and in a good state of cultivation. The surrounding scenery is strikingly varied by picturesque dingles and sterile mountains; and from the higher grounds some pleasing and extensive views are obtained over St. George's Channel. Neuadd Llanarth, anciently the seat of the family of Griffiths, is now a spacious modern mansion. Fairs are annually held in the village on January 12th, March 12th, June 17th, September 22nd, and October 27th, for horses, cattle, and merchandise.

The living is a vicarage, with the perpetual curacy of Llanina annexed, rated in the king's books at 4. 18. 1.; patron, the Bishop of St. David's. The tithes of the parish have been commuted for 303. 8. 4. payable to the bishop, 151. 14. 2. to the vicar, and 4. 17. 6. to an impropriator. The church, dedicated to St. Vylltyg, is a venerable structure, consisting of a nave and chancel, with a lofty and substantial tower, and is situated on the declivity of a high hill: in the churchyard, a little to the north of the church, is a stone four feet and a half in height, and two feet ten inches in breadth, bearing a rude cross, and having an inscription, which, however, is so much obliterated as to be illegible. There are places of worship for Independents, Calvinistic Methodists, and Wesleyans; a Church day school; and five Sunday schools, one of them in connexion with the Established Church. In the parish are the remains of an extensive encampment called Castell Moyddyn, but no account of its origin has been preserved; and on the farm of Peny-Voel is another, called Pen-y-Gaer. Of Castell Mabwynion, also in the parish, which was allotted by Prince Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, in his partition of the reconquered territories in South Wales, in 1216, to Rhŷs ab Grufydd, there are not any remains, neither is the exact site of it known. There is a tumulus of earth, called Crg Gch, on an extensive common here.

Many gravestones in Llanarth, Llanllwchaiarn, Gilfachreda and Pencae record the fate of Sea captains and sailors who perished at sea in the nineteenth century. A notable example is that of Captain A. Enoch of Alma Crescent, Llanarth, who drowned in December 1867. He was Captain of the Brig 'Gertrude' on the voyage from New York to Oporto. His gravestone, shown on the left is in the churchyard of St. David's, Llanarth. In the last half of the nineteenth century, the older clom-walled and thatched cottages of the area were largely replaced with stone buildings with slate roofs. This was true of the first 'National School' in Llanarth which started in the 1840's and is noted in an OFSTED type report of the time as being in a 'miserable cottage with a floor pitched with pebbles and a thatched roof out of repair with no ceiling or fire.' The pupils, the report stated, were woefully ignorant' - probably because the authorities insisted they be taught in English, which they did not understand! The old school stood close to the Church above where 'Garth Villa' now stands and was replaced in about 1860 by the building  which has now become the Church Hall.

Not only were many of Llanarth's past residents Sea Captains and Sailors who sailed on ships out of nearby New Quay and Aberaeron, while others were farmers in the many small farms of the area. There were also weavers, fullers, tanners, corn millers, blacksmiths, carpenters, clockmakers, masons, shoemakers, tailors, candle makers, stocking knitters, thatchers, mole catchers and dressmakers. 

Grandfather Clock made by David Rees of Llanarth - Click on the photo for a larger image of the clock face.
Grandfather Clock made by Evans of Llanarth - Click on the photo for a larger image of the clock face.

Clockmakers in Llanarth:  David Rees was a clockmaker born in Llanarth. In 1818 he married Mary born in Bangor in 1819. David Rees lived in Tanyard House - in front of the Tannery which was in the centre of Llanarth Village, but which was demolished when the road was widened. The location would have been approximately facing the location of the present village shop and butchers.

We are grateful to Jan Van Hermelen of Nieuwegein, Holland for sending us a photo of his Llanarth Grandfather clock shown on the left above. Click on the photo for a larger image of the clock face. The painting on the clock is by Jn. D. Jones and shows buildings that we do not recognise as being local to this area. The eyes of the lion move from side to side.

By a strange coincidence, we have also received the photo of the second clock from Holland. We are grateful to Thea Arts-Huijs for sending it. This clock was made by N (?) Evans of Llanarth, and the clockwork mechanism was made by Walker and Hughes of Birmingham who also made clock dials between 1811 and 1835.
Both of the clocks above were probably made about 1830.

The Rhydyfuddai Pioneers - Russ Davies of Comanche, Texas has created a website about a family from Rhydyfuddai, Llanarth ( on the B4342 towards Mydriolyn before the Bardsey View caravan park) . His Davies family also lived in Rhydyfuddai from about 1880 until recently, though there is no known connection to this branch of the Davies family.

On the first page of his website he writes: 'Rhydyfuddai is the name of a small group of houses near Llanarth, Ceredigion (formerly Cardiganshire), Wales. In the mid 19th. century members of the Davies family of Rhydyfuddai emigrated to Ohio and Minnesota. They were soldiers in the American Civil War, were involved in fighting the native Indians of Minnesota, and, as guards, witnessed the largest mass execution in American history. Fortunately, the son of a family member maintained two notebooks in which he recorded the reminiscences of his father, Henry Hughes, and his uncle Thomas Y. Davies. This is their story recorded in their own words one hundred years ago. The story contains many anecdotes, some amusing, some sad, depicting the life of the family in both their old and new homelands. ' Click here to visit the The Rhydyfuddai Pioneers website.


Siani Pob Man 1834 - 1917 - Siani Pob Man is something of a legendary figure in the area. Born Jane Leonard at Bannau Duon Farm, Llanarth, she lived in a dilapidated thatched cottage at Cei Bach Beach. Her income was mostly derived from selling eggs - though locals didn't like them as they were said to taste of seaweed. They were all however, nice and brown, as she soaked them in tea to make them more attractive. Visitors called her 'Siani'r Ieir' - 'Siani of the Hens' due to the fact that she named each hen. Jonathan was her prize cockerel and others were named Bidi, Kit, Richard, Ruth and Charlotte. She kept up to thirty hens at a time.
She wore a red and yellow handkerchief over her head that held a battered trilby hat in place, a black dress with red stripes, red and white patterned shawl and clogs on her feet. She was very popular with the tourists, so popular that postcards of her photograph were published - the photo on the right is from a postcard.
Siani was quite canny and played on the fact that some visitors thought that she could tell their fortune, she charged them a penny for a reading. If she thought they were making fun of her, she would chase them, throwing stones and hurling abuse, she had a sharp tongue when needed. She held court outside her cottage, where she sat smoking a pipe, talking to her chickens, singing rhymes, reciting sermons and telling fortunes. Colliers from South Wales were especially fond of her and always called when they visited New Quay. For a piece of tobacco, she would sing her favourite hymn, 'Ar fr tymhestlog teithio 'rwyf'.

Cae Martha - Who was Martha? - Martha Evans was born at Rhydfuddai, Llanarth, in 1870. She died in April 1939 and was buried at Pencae. She was unmarried and was a seamstress by occupation. Martha lived with her sister, Sarah, at Derlwyn, Llanarth. Sarah died in 1936 and was also buried at Pencae. 
The sisters owned the field opposite Derlwyn. This was adequate for providing fodder for their one cow. They also kept one pig and a few hens - a traditional way of life. Sarah did most of the 'farming' - churning butter, caring for the animals, etc., whilst Martha preferred 'people, papers and books'. She helped with the Chapel, especially, the Sunday School. Their field eventually became known as Cae Martha in an area where every field had a name. It is today known as the 'Cae Martha Estate'.

The Penybont Hotel in Llanarth - long since demolished

T. Ll. Evans Bacon Factory and Slaughter Yard Castell-y-Geifr Llanarth