Corwen - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
CORWEN, a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Edeyrnion, county of Merioneth, North Wales, 10 miles (S. by W.) from Ruthin, and 194 (N. W. by W.) from London; containing 2129 inhabitants. The name of this place signifies "the white choir," or, as others suppose, Corvaen, meaning a stone in a circle, from the cross in the churchyard, which probably existed before the church. On the invasion of North Wales by Henry II., in 1165, that monarch advanced at the head of his army to the Berwyn mountains, near this town, where he was met by the combined forces of the Welsh, consisting of the entire power of North Wales, under the command of Owain Gwynedd and his brother Cadwaladr; the forces of South Wales, led by the gallant Rhŷs ab Grufydd; those of Powys, by Owain Cyveilioc and the sons of Madoc ab Meredydd; and the men of the country between the Wye and the Severn, by their two chieftains, the sons of Madoc ab Ednerth. These exerted themselves with so much vigilance and activity in cutting off the supplies of the English troops, and in harassing them by skirmishes, that Henry, unable to compete with the resolute spirit of the Welsh and the unfavourableness of the season, deemed it prudent to retire with his forces, and for a time at least to abandon the project of subjugating the principality. The English monarch took up his position on the ridge of the Berwyn chain of mountains, and the Welsh occupied a strong intrenchment on the steep declivity of a hill on the opposite side of the vale. This camp, called Caer Drewyn, was of a circular form, and was defended by a single wall: there were two entrances, near the north-eastern of which was an oblong square, strengthened by a ditch and a wall: within the area are several strong buildings, together with cells in the walls themselves. Remains of the works are yet visible, consisting of a circle of loose stones, about half a mile in circumference, and the foundations of the buildings. This strong post is also said to have been occasionally resorted to by Owain Glyndwr, whose magnificent house on the Dee was situated about four miles from Corwen, on the eastern side of the road to Llangollen, where part of the moat by which it was encompassed is still visible, being almost the sole relic of that noble and extensive pile, which was surrounded with every convenience for the exercise of unbounded hospitality: at a short distance from its site is a mount of considerable size, supposed to have been the station where a watch was kept.
The town is pleasantly situated on the southern bank of the river Dee, on the great road from London to Holyhead and Dublin, under a rock at the foot of the Berwyn mountains, and in the rich and beautifully diversified Vale of Edeyrnion. About half a mile to the south-west, on the line of the Holyhead road, the Dee is crossed by a handsome stone bridge of three arches, the view from which, both up and down the vale, is exceedingly pleasing, especially upward, where the river assumes the appearance of a glittering lake, skirted on each side by luxuriant meadows and thick inclosures. Upon the Berwyn mountain, behind the church, is a place called Glyndwr's Seat, commanding a charming prospect; and from this spot it is superstitiously reported that Owain threw a dagger, which, falling upon a stone, formed in it an impression of its whole length, half an inch deep: this stone is now in the south wall of the church. There is a weekly market on Friday for corn and meat, which are pitched in the open street; and fairs are held on March 12th, May 24th, July 14th, October 7th, and December 20th, for the sale of horses, horned cattle, &c. The powers of the county debt-court of Corwen, established in 1847, extend over nearly the whole of the registration-district of Corwen. One of the bridewells for the county is situated at this place, under the care of the constable. The parish is very extensive, being eleven miles in length, and from three to four in breadth, and comprises 12,646 acres, of which 1744 are arable, 3590 meadow, 700 woodland consisting principally of larch, oak, and fir, and 6612 acres common. Besides the Dee, the parish is watered by the Alwen; and it contains Rûg, the seat of Colonel Vaughan, lord of the manor, and Rhagat, the residence of Edward Lloyd, Esq. Rûg anciently formed a lordship, and is memorable for the treachery practised on Grufydd ab Cynan, King of North Wales, who, after his victory at Carno, in the year 1077, was inveigled to Rûg by the artifices of Meirion Gôch, by whom he was betrayed into the power of Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, and Hugh Belesme, Earl of Shrewsbury.
The living consists of a sinecure rectory and a vicarage, the former rated in the king's books at £15. 5. 10., and the latter at £7. 1. 3., and both in the patronage of the Bishop of St. Asaph. The tithes have been commuted for two rent-charges of £409. 9. each, payable respectively to the rector and the vicar; the rectorial glebe contains six acres, valued at £6 per annum, and the vicarial twenty-four acres, valued at £10: the vicar has a house. The church, dedicated to St. Sulien, is a cruciform structure, chiefly in the Norman style of architecture, with a square tower at the western end: the east window is lancet-headed. Under an arch on the northern side of the chancel is the tomb of one of the early vicars, named Iorwerth Sulien; it represents in relief a figure habited in priestly robes, and bears in old characters the inscription, "Hic jacet Iorwerth Sulien, vicarius de Corvaen: ora pro eo." In the south wall of the church, on the outside, is the stone before mentioned as bearing the impression of Owain Glyndwr's dagger. In the churchyard stands a curious cross, consisting of a square upright pillar of one entire stone, ornamented at the top, and inserted in a flat circular stone, which rests upon four or five rude smaller ones. Built in the porch is a rude pointed stone, called Carreg y Big yn y Vâch rewlyd, "the pointed stone in the icy recess," of which it is fabulously related, that every attempt to erect the church on a different site having failed, the founders were directed by a supernatural power to the spot where this stone stood. At Rûg is a private unendowed chapel, supported by Col. Vaughan, in which the English service only is performed. There are places of worship in the parish for Calvinistic Methodists, Wesleyans, Baptists, and Independents. A Church school for boys, and a similar school for girls, are kept in separate parts of a large school-house, and are each supported chiefly by subscription. The former is aided by a bequest of £4 per annum by a member of the Salusbury family, formerly owners of the adjacent domain of Rûg, who have been great benefactors to this place, and one of whom also bequeathed funds for clothing a certain number of boys annually. In the boys' school, six of the scholars pay from 2s. to 4s. 6d. per quarter; and in the girls' school, each scholar pays 1d. a week. A British school for boys and girls, established in 1845, is supported by subscription, and payments from the children; and the parish contains about ten Sunday schools.
Situated behind the church, on the south of the churchyard, is a kind of college, at first designed for the support of six widows of clergymen who die possessed of cure of souls in the county, but which recently has been also opened to the admission of the widows of curates. It is a substantial stone building, of six rooms below and six above, with a brewhouse at the end of the building, and a plot of gardenground; and was erected and endowed in 1750, under the will of William Eyton, Esq., of Plâs Warren, in the county of Salop, who died about 1710, and directed that the charity should have effect upon the death of his lady. The income amounts to about £107, arising from different farms and tenements in Denbighshire. There are but few claimants, and the college is never fully tenanted, so that the amount paid to the residents is greatly increased: only two of the apartments are now occupied, each of the inmates receiving £40 per annum. Six small almshouses, inhabited by as many poor families, are also situated in the town, adjoining the churchyard, and connected with these is another small house, the rent of which is appropriated to their benefit; all being kept in repair by Colonel Vaughan, who has the selection of the inmates. There are various pecuniary bequests for the relief of the poor, including one of £400, by Mrs. Lumley Salusbury, for clothing eight poor women of this parish, two poor women of Gwyddelwern, and two of Llangar; a bequest of £200, by Roger Salusbury, for clothing six old men and twelve children; one of £150, by Mrs. Jones, for the benefit of thirty decayed families; and bequests of £75 by Hugh Jones, £50 by William Jones, £20 each by Roger Jones, the Rev. Mr. Humphreys, Mrs. Maurice, and Mrs. Wynne, and £10 each by David Jones, Jane Jones, and Robert Parry, for distribution among the poor. The poor-law union of which this town is the head, was formed Jan. 7th, 1837, and comprises the following fourteen parishes and townships; namely, Corwen, Bettws-Gwervil-Gôch, Gwyddelwern, Llandrillo, Llangar, and Llansantfraid-Glyn-Dyvrdwy, in the county of Merioneth; Llanvihangel-Glyn-yMyvyr, in the counties of Denbigh and Merioneth; and Bryn-Eglwys, Cerrig-y-Druidion, Glyn-Traian (in the parish of Llangollen), Llanarmon-DyfrynCeriog, Llangwm, Llansantfraid-Glyn-Ceriog, and Llantysillio, in the county of Denbigh. It is under twenty-three guardians, and contains a population of 15,098, of whom 9686 are in Denbighshire.
Near the elegant mansion of Rûg is a well, called St. Sulien's, the water of which is efficacious in the cure of rheumatic complaints. On one of the Berwyn mountains, called Moel Verma, in the parish, an urn of earthenware, containing human bones, and now in the possession of Colonel Vaughan, was discovered some years since.