Montgomeryshire - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
MONTGOMERYSHIRE, an inland county of North Wales, bounded on the south-east, east, and north-east by the English county of Salop, and a small detached portion of Denbighshire; on the north, by Denbighshire; on the north-west and west, by Merionethshire; on the south-west, by Cardiganshire; and on the south, by Radnorshire; the two latter counties forming part of South Wales. It extends from 52° 21 to 52° 51' (N. Lat.), and from 3° to 3° 54' (W. Lon.); and includes an area, according to Evans' Map of North Wales, of 491,600 statute acres, or about 768 square miles. Within its limits are 13,653 inhabited houses, 888 uninhabited, and 34 in course of erection; the population is 69,219, of whom 34,283 are males, and 34,936 females. The annual value of real property assessed to the property and income tax, for the year ending April 1843, was as follows: lands, £258,068; houses, £54,092; tithes, £20,313; manors, £325; canal property, £5121; quarries and mines, £432; other kinds of property, £2735: total annual value for the whole county, £341,086.
At the period of the Roman invasion of Britain, this county, in common with nearly all the rest of North Wales, was included in the territory of the Ordovices. Under the Roman dominion it contained the station Mediolanum, considered by Sir Richard Colt Hoare and most other antiquaries to have been situated in the vale of the Tanat, or that of the Vyrnwy; and there are supposed to have been other establishments of this people, at Caer-Sws in the vicinity of Newtown, at Machynlleth, and at the Gaer near Montgomery. The Roman roads were, the Via Devana, which, from the station Nidus, at Neath in Glamorganshire, crossed the county in its progress to the station Deva, at Chester; and a branch of the southern Watling-street, which crossed the northern part of the county in its way to Segontium, the present Carnarvon: besides which, there were several vicinal ways.
On the partition of the sovereignty of North Wales, about the year 876, by Rhodri Mawr, or Roderic the Great, among his three sons, Montgomeryshire was comprised in the kingdom of Powys, the seat of the government of which was originally established at Pengwern, the present Shrewsbury. Afterwards, on the native Britons being driven from the plains of Shropshire into the mountains of the principality, by the victorious arms of the Mercian monarch Offa, the seat of government was removed to Mathraval, near Meivod, in the beautiful Vale of Vyrnwy. Henceforward the sovereignty was called indifferently the kingdom of Powys, or of Mathraval; and its extent was still further diminished by the invasions of the Mercians, whose warlike leader raised a conspicuous barrier between his newly-acquired territories and those still possessed by the Cymry, which barrier included in the Mercian kingdom the eastern part of the lands at present forming the county of Montgomery. Numerous were the excursions made from Mathraval across this boundary by the Princes of Powys, in their attempts to recover their former dominions, and in predatory expeditions. During the reign of Alfred the Great of England, an army of marauding Danes, under the command of the celebrated piratical leader Hasting, in 894, extended its ravages into this county, and advanced to the village of Buttington, the Butdigingtune of the Saxon Chronicle, in the vicinity of the present town of Welshpool, where, receiving intelligence that an English army was approaching to oppose them, they intrenched themselves on both banks of the Severn. Ethelred, governor of Mercia, two other aldermen, and the king's thanes, residing in the strongholds which he had erected, with the people summoned from the east of Pedridan, the west of Selwood, the east and north of the Thames, the west of the Severn, and some parts of North Wales, invested the camp of the Danes for some weeks, and reduced them to such extremity that they were obliged to eat the flesh of their horses. Roused by their sufferings to furious action, the North-men made at last a desperate attempt to break from their prison, and, throwing themselves upon the Anglo-Saxons, who formed the eastern part of the blockade, after a warm action, in which several royal thanes perished, the greater number achieved their escape, and hastened eastward to the coast of Essex without further molestation.
The kingdom of Powys, after the Norman conquest of England, became a principal object of attack to the foreign adventurers. One of these, named Baldwyn, swore fealty and did homage to William the Conqueror for this part of Cambria, which he promised to secure by force of arms; and having partially accomplished his purpose, he erected a fortress, which formed the origin of a town called by the Welsh, after his name, Trê Valdwyn, or "Baldwyn's town;" whence the county derives the name, which it still bears in their language, of Sîr Drê Valdwyn, or Swydd Drê Valdwyn. This castle, however, must have soon fallen into the possession of the Welsh, since Roger de Montgomery, who for his services had been created by the Conqueror Earl of Arundel and Shrewsbury, and had received a license to conquer from the Welsh to the west of the Severn, entered Powysland a few years after with a powerful body of forces, and took the castle and town of Trê Valdwyn, which he fortified anew in his own right. He then gave the place his own name of Montgomery, which it has ever since retained, and communicated to the county of which it is the ancient chief town.
A circumstance that facilitated the conquests of the Norman barons in this quarter, was the subdivision of Powys between two of the descendants of Mervyn, son of Roderic the Great, into Powys Vadoc and Powys Gwenwynwyn, the former comprising the northern, and the latter the southern part of the original sovereignty: these again afterwards became subdivided among the descendants of those two princes. The year following the capture of Trê Valdwyn castle, the Welsh, mustering all their strength, retook it by a coup de main, plundered the town, and desolated the surrounding country. The fortress was again repaired and strengthened by William Rufus, who, to put an end to the depredations committed by the Welsh forces under Grufydd ab Cynan and the sons of Bleddyn ab Cynvyn, led an army into the Marches, but was compelled to withdraw it with great loss, after throwing succours into Montgomery Castle. This castle, on the retreat of the English, was immediately beleaguered by the Welsh, who, having made a vigorous siege, at last took it by storm, and levelled it with the ground. The Norman arms, however, soon afterwards again prevailed, and the castle was rebuilt by the Earl of Shrewsbury. In 1080, Grufydd ab Cynan, laying just claim to the throne of North Wales, or Gwynedd, and landing a large army of mercenaries in Pembrokeshire, was joined by Rhŷs ab Tewdwr, Prince of South Wales, and their confederated armies marched northward against Trahaiarn, the usurping prince, whom they encountered on the hills of Carno, in this county, where they defeated his forces, and slew Trahaiarn himself, in a most sanguinary conflict.
In the year 1191, in consequence of various depredations having been committed by the Welsh on the inhabitants of the Marches, Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the absence of Richard I. in the Holy Land, besieged Castell Côch, now Powis Castle, near Welshpool, which he took after a vigorous resistance; and having left in it a strong garrison, he returned to England. The fortress was retaken by Gwenwynwyn, prince of this part of Powysland, in 1197. That chieftain, disapproving of the conduct of the Prince of Gwynedd, submitted to become a vassal to King John, holding his territories in capite of the English crown; and after the succession of his son Grufydd to the government, the fortress of Castell Côch was taken and dismantled by Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, in the year 1233. Henry III., having rebuilt Montgomery Castle in 1223 on a new site, committed it to the custody of Hubert de Burgh; and while in the possession of this governor, it was besieged by the Welsh, but relieved by an English army. A great number of Welsh, taken prisoners in one of their predatory excursions, in 1231, having been put to death by the English, Llewelyn, in retaliation, took and burned this fortress, putting the garrison to the sword. In the great revolt under Owain Glyndwr, after repeated successes obtained by the Welsh, this chieftain assembled the states of Wales at Machynlleth, on the western border of the county; and by that assembly his title to the principality was solemnly acknowledged.
During the civil war of the seventeenth century, Montgomery Castle was garrisoned for the king by Lord Herbert of Chirbury, who, on the approach of Sir Thomas Myddelton, in September 1644, surrendered the fortress without opposition, and joined the parliament. In a short time, the royalist forces conducted by Lord Byron approached Montgomery, and obliged the army of Myddelton to make a precipitate retreat to Oswestry, leaving Lord Herbert, who had thus changed sides, with a slender and ill-provided garrison to defend the castle, the siege of which was immediately commenced by the royalists. Meanwhile the parliamentarian army, being reinforced with troops led by Sir William Brereton, Sir John Meldrum, and Sir Thomas Fairfax, marched back to the reilef of this important post, though even now much less numerous than the royalist army, the latter amounting to about 5000 men, and the other only to about 3000. A general engagement ensued on the 18th of September, in which the parliamentarian forces at first gave way, but rallying with desperate valour, they at length gained a decisive victory, and the main body of the routed troops was pursued towards Shrewsbury. Lord Powys, on the breaking out of the civil war, had garrisoned Castell Côch, or Powys Castle, for the king; but it was taken by Sir Thomas Myddelton, in October 1644.
Prior to the passing of the act 6th and 7th of William IV., c. 77, Montgomeryshire was in the dioceses of St. Asaph, Bangor, Hereford, and St. David's, the whole being included in the province of Canterbury: under that act it forms, or will form, part of the dioceses of St. Asaph and Bangor only. It comprises the deaneries of Cedewen, Cyfeiliog, Pool, and Arustley; and the total number of parishes is fifty-four, of which twenty-six are rectories, eighteen vicarages, and the rest perpetual curacies. For purposes of civil government it is divided into the nine hundreds of Cawrse, Deythur, Llanidloes, Llanvyllin, Machynlleth, Mathraval, Montgomery, Newtown, and Pool. It contains the boroughs and market-towns of Montgomery, Llanidloes, Llanvyllin, Machynlleth, Newtown, and Welshpool; and the market-town of Llanvair. One knight is returned to parliament for the shire, and one representative for the contributory boroughs. For many years prior to the passing of the act of 1832, for "Amending the Representation of the People," Montgomery was the only place that exercised the elective franchise, all the rest, with the exception of Newtown, which is a newly created borough, having discontinued to join in sending a member to parliament. The member for the shire is chosen at Montgomery or Machynlleth, according as the county court is held at either of these two towns next after the issuing of the parliamentary writ; and the polling-places, according to the Boundary Act, are Montgomery, Llanidloes, Llanvair, Llanvyllin, and Machynlleth. The county is included in the North Wales circuit; the spring assizes are held at Welshpool, the summer assizes at Newtown, and the quarter-sessions alternately at those two places: the county gaol and house of correction are situated at Montgomery. The county comprises the entire poor-law union of Newtown and Llanidloes, the greater part of the unions of Machynlleth and Llanvyllin, and very small portions of those of Dôlgelley, Atcham, and Clun; also the greater part of the incorporation of Forden, formed at the close of the last century.
A large portion of the surface consists of wild and sterile mountains. The highest of these are in the south-western part of it, in a line extending from Pumlumon, or Plinlimmon, just within its south-western boundary, northward between Llanbrynmair and Carno, and by Llyn Gwyddior, into Merionethshire. This is the parting ridge between the rivers flowing eastward, and those taking a contrary direction. The most extensive and fruitful vale is that traversed from south-west to north-east by the river Severn, which has its source in the southern part of the above range, and as high as Llanidloes ceases to be a mountain torrent, taking its course thenceforward through a delightful valley, more like the large vales of England than those stripes of cultivation by which the mountains of Wales are generally intersected. Numerous villages lie scattered beneath the hills in this fertile district, and the banks of the river are adorned by numerous gentlemen's seats. Montgomery lies a short distance eastward from the river, which bending northward, the vale greatly expands in front of the isolated hills of Breiddin, while the stream flows within about a mile of the superb groves, lawns, and terraces of Powis Castle, and becomes navigable at Pool Quay, three miles below Welshpool. From Llanidloes down the vale to Newtown, and thence to this point, the changing scenery is exceedingly fine. The valleys to the north of the Vale of Severn are much less extensive and productive; those of the Vyrnwy and Tanat, however, are fertile and highly picturesque, and are watered, the former by rivers descending from the above-mentioned parting ridge on the west of the vale, and the latter by streams from the Berwyn range of mountains, which, commencing near Chirk Castle, in Denbighshire, occupies the northern and north-western parts of this county, in its course south-westward to the coast of Merionethshire. The Vale of Dovey, which, situated in the westernmost part of the county, extends from northeast to south-west on the western side of the parting ridge, is distinguished for its fertility and highly interesting scenery.
An eastern and southern range of mountains begins on the north-east, with the Breiddin hills, on the eastern side of the Severn, on the border of Shropshire, and includes the Long Mountain as far as Nant-Cribba. Hence it extends by Montgomery Castle, and forms the Kerry hills, which occupy the south-eastern side of the county, and along the summit of which is carried the boundary line between Montgomeryshire and the counties of Salop and Radnor, and between North and South Wales. It afterwards comprises the Llangurig mountains, and terminates in the naked summit of Plinlimmon, rising to an elevation of 2463 feet above the level of the sea: this grand height is environed by various other heights of less elevation, of which the Biga mountains form a line of high table-land on the northern side of the valley of the Severn, which is here somewhat narrow. In the Severn range, thus extending along the east and south sides of the county to Plinlimmon, Breiddin Hill rises to the height of 999 feet above the level of the Severn; the Long Mountain, to 1330 feet above the level of the sea; and Llandinam Mountain, to 1898 feet above the same level. Two others of the most distinguished summits, respectively called Moel-y-Golva and Cevn-y-Castell, form a group with Breiddin Hill; the former, in the shape of a vast rugged cone, attaining an elevation of 1199 feet above the sea. Breiddin Hill is crowned by a lofty obelisk, erected in commemoration of the naval victories of Admiral Lord Rodney. The general character of the Severn range is, a regularity of outline, gradual slopes, and rounded summits, indicating the soft nature of the rocks of which the hills are composed; while the surface is uniformly covered with herbage, that supports numerous flocks of small sheep. The vegetable produce of the Berwyn range is, fern and furze, or gorse, upon the lower and drier outskirts; heath upon the loftier summits; and rushes, with a variety of mosses and alpine aquatic plants, on the wet slopes and hollows. Isolated hills and rocks rise in almost every part of Montgomeryshire that is not occupied by the principal ranges abovementioned; of these, the Carno mountains form a proudly pre-eminent group, nearly in the centre of the county. The narrow and rocky valleys generally have their sides adorned by hanging woods. In the western and south-western districts are various small lakes, the sources of rapid streams.
With regard to climate, the hills are particularly bleak, and are for the most part exposed to the full effects of cold easterly winds. In the narrow valleys the wind is frequently boisterous, but the climate is highly salubrious, and instances of longevity are numerous. Of the westerly winds, which prevail, on an average, during nine months of the year, the strongest are those that blow from the south-west and north-west; the north-west wind is here termed Gwynt y Creigiau, in allusion to the high mountains of Snowdon and the Arans, from which it rushes into this county. The easterly wind, which prevails during most of the other three months, is called Gwynt Côch y Mwythig, or the "red wind of Salop," as it effectually checks the verdure of spring, and converts the green blades into reddish husks.
The dry argillaceous mountains have generally a thin light peaty soil, with a substratum of hungry light mould tinged yellow by oxyde of iron; the Berwyn range has on its loftier summits a shallow peat resting upon clay or rammel, and, on springy slopes and hollows, various depths of peat. A ferny soil, or hazel mould, is common in different places, more particularly on the sides of the inferior hills, where it produces naturally fern, broom, and the larger ulex, or gorse, together with various kinds of underwood. The till, or hungry light soil, tinged as above mentioned with oxyde of iron, is also often found on the slopes of the smaller valleys. The same valleys, however, produce abundant vegetation of a more valuable kind, and are enlivened by rich corn-fields and meadows: these vales, more especially in their higher recesses, and on their declivities having a southern aspect, frequently possess light soils, consisting of various admixtures of sandy loam, pebbles, broken shale, peat, &c.; and in their lower levels, free loams, well adapted for the general purposes of tillage. Free loams also abound in the greater portion of the Vale of Severn, and in some parts of the Vales of Vyrnwy and Tanat. The finest arable land in Montgomeryshire is on the eastern side of it, bordering on Salop, where agriculture is conducted on the more improved systems, and the management of farms differs but little from that practised on the adjoining lands in England: the soil here consists of strong loams, well adapted for the culture of wheat or for permanent pasture, which occupy the lower parts of the Vales of Severn and Vyrnwy, with their outskirts. The soils of the eastern parts of the county, beyond a line drawn from the Llanymynech lime-works, at the south-eastern extremity of Denbighshire, south-westward by Guilsfield, Powis Castle, Nant-Cribba, &c., to the border of Radnorshire, are of a brown colour.
The middle, western, and south-western parts of the county, owing to their elevated exposure and the ungenial nature of the soil, are unfavourable to the growth of corn; so that only about 60,000 acres are under tillage, including about a third of the vale lands, which produce a considerable quantity of grain for exportation. Fallowing is practised on the strong soils of the Vales of Severn and Vyrnwy. The kind of corn in most extensive cultivation was oats, but since the close of the last century it has been wheat, the quantity of which has greatly increased; much of the former, however, is still grown, chiefly on the uplands. The proportion of barley has also, like that of oats, decreased. Rye is occasionally cultivated, principally on the hills, where it is generally the first crop on the new inclosures, after paring and burning. Wheat is most often cut with the reaping-hook, though sometimes with cradled scythes; oats and barley, usually with naked scythes; and light crops of every species of grain are now cut with the naked scythe, in preference to the more tedious mode with the sickle. Peas, which were once much grown in the valleys, are now cultivated only on a small scale; beans are scarcely ever to be met with. Turnips are generally raised, as also are potatoes; and small lots of mangel-wurzel, by the best farmers, on kindly soils. Hemp gardens, which were formerly attached to almost all the cottages in the eastern part of the county, are now seldom seen. The most common artificial grass is red clover, to which white Dutch, trefoil, and rye-grass are sometimes added; but the improved system of using the new artificial and natural grasses is yet unpractised in this county.
The quantity of productive grazing-land is about 180,000 acres. Those portions of it situated on the eastern side of the county are almost wholly appropriated to the dairy, much of the produce of which, both in butter and cheese, is sent to the markets of Shrewsbury, Chester, and Bridgnorth. The latter article is generally made like that of Cheshire, though sometimes like Gloucester cheese; annatto is used to colour it in the lowlands, but seldom in the uplands. The principal object of the farmer, in the hilly districts, is the rearing of cattle to be fattened in more fertile parts of the island for places requiring a large supply: the Vales of Severn and Vyrnwy are almost the only districts in which the pastures are rich enough for fattening cattle. Meadows artificially irrigated are common in situations convenient for the purpose. Lime is carried as a manure to a distance of thirty or forty miles into the county from the Porthywaen and Llanymynech rocks, near its northeastern confines: the stone itself, and coal for burning it, are also conveyed by the Montgomeryshire canal to Welshpool, Berriew, Newtown, and other places, where many kilns have been formed on the wharfs, producing, when in full employ, from 400 to 600 bushels of lime each daily. Among the agricultural implements, the "Lummas plough," a variety of the Rotherham, is the kind of plough which has been in common use; the Scotch kind is also much used on level land. The improved iron ploughs, however, are being extensively introduced; with the various rollers, drills, threshing-machines, &c., of the day.
The cattle of the uplands are of the common small sort; in the vales they are of a larger and superior kind, and those reared in the Vales of Severn and Vyrnwy are much esteemed by the graziers. The native breed of the county is shortlegged and usually of a red colour, with black faces; but a kind that has of late years become very numerous in the Vale of Severn is long-legged, and of a light brown colour, except their faces, which are white: they are said to have been brought originally from Devon. The Herefordshire cattle, with white faces, are also much in demand. The most remarkable breed of sheep is that peculiar to the Kerry hills, almost the only kind in North Wales which produces perfect wool, that of every other being more or less mixed with coarse long hairs, called by the manufacturers hemps. The characteristics of this breed, which is without horns, hardy, and comparatively tame, are, large woolly cheeks, white bunchy foreheads, white legs covered with wool, and a broad beaver-like tail; their whole form, however, falls short of compact symmetry. The average weight of their fleeces is one lb. and a half; and that of their carcases, when fat, from ten to fourteen lb. per quarter. The Kerry hills, before their inclosure under an act of parliament obtained in 1797, are said to have generally pastured in summer about 12,000 of these sheep, besides horses and cattle. A black-faced and particularly fine-woolled race of sheep is bred upon the Long Mountain, near Welshpool, and on the other hills, on the English border, stretching thence northward to Wrexham, in Denbighshire. The other hilly parts of the county are occupied by the small ordinary kind of mountain sheep, which weigh from seven to twelve lb. per quarter, and yield fleeces of from three-quarters of a lb. to one lb. and a half. These various breeds of sheep have in some instances been intermixed, and different varieties from several parts of England have been introduced by individuals into the inclosed districts: among these the South Down sheep are the most numerous.
In the hilly parts of Montgomeryshire great numbers of very small and hardy ponies, commonly called merlins, breed promiscuously, and range the mountains until they are three years old, when they are brought down for the first time, and driven to fairs, without being trained, like flocks of cattle or sheep: the place of sale generally exhibits a scene of great activity and violent exertion, since each that is purchased, being immediately seized from among the untamed herd, displays all the restlessness of its wild character. Numbers of these small animals are employed in their native districts, more particularly in conveying the produce of the manufactures of the county to market; and they are unrivalled in the agility with which they climb the slippery ascents of the mountains. There is also a breed rather larger than these, which are hardy, handsome, and active; and the vales of the county have long been noted for an excellent breed of horses, the superiority of which is to be attributed to the introduction of some blood horses from Spain into this part of the country, by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; or, as others say, to the circumstance of a stud having been kept by Queen Elizabeth at Park, near Caer-Sws, in the Vale of Severn. Many good draught horses, for the coach and the wagon, are sold into England.
Orchards and gardens are numerous in the vale lands on the eastern side of the county, but all attempts profitably to establish orchards in the more elevated regions have hitherto failed, the blossoms being seldom preserved from the effects of late frost; and even should the trees escape the paralyzing effects of easterly winds, the cold and wet, so frequently experienced during the summer months, render the flavour of the fruit much less delicious than that ripened in more favourable aspects. In plentiful seasons a few farmers make cider or perry for their own consumption.
Montgomeryshire has ever been distinguished for its woods; it is still the best wooded county in North Wales, and one of the best in the island in proportion to its extent. Its timber, about a century ago, was so abundant, that the fuel of a great part of the district consisted almost entirely of the best species, namely, cleft. The first sale of timber from the county for the use of the navy was from Abertanat wood, on the confines of Shropshire, about the year 1730; and was followed, about 1750, by others from the woods of Powis Castle park, Aber Naint, and Trêv-Edryd; since which time Montgomeryshire has contributed annually to the supply of the navy and for building merchant-vessels. About the year 1770, the size and quality of the Montgomeryshire oak were so well known and esteemed in the dock-yards, particularly those of Plymouth and Deptford, that a great competition arose among the buyers, which raised the price above that of timber of the same kind produced in almost any other part of the kingdom: this rivalry, however, subsided about the commencement of the present century. Owing to the constant demand upon the county, the extent of its woods gradually lessened until within the last fifty years, when planting, which before that period had been adopted only by a few spirited individuals, first began to be practised on a large scale by many proprietors. There are nursery gardens for forest-trees near Welshpool, Newtown, Montgomery, Meivod, &c.
The extent of waste land has been greatly diminished by the four following inclosures: viz., that of Strata Marcella, Tîr-y-Myneich, and Deythur or Deuddwr, amounting to about 2600 acres, under an act passed in 1788; that of Plâs Dinas and Mechain Iscoed, about 5000 acres, under an act in 1789; that of Cedewain, Hopetown, and Overgorddwr, about 15,000 acres, under an act obtained in 1796; and that of the Kerry hills, about 20,000 acres, under an act in 1797. Before the allotment of these commons, about one-half of the county was reckoned waste, and there yet remain nearly 200,000 acres of this description of land, notwithstanding that various other extensive wastes have since been inclosed, some by acts of parliament, and others by common consent of the parties interested, such as the lordship of Arwystli, Mechain Uwchcoed, Llanvyllin, Caer-Einion Uwchcoed and Iscoed, and Teirtrêv. Many of the uninclosed hills have a good depth of soil, and are covered with moss, fern, and grasses to their very summits; but the higher mountains, abounding with turf, can hardly be more advantageously applied than in pasturing in summer a hardy race of sheep, and affording fuel to a district where wood is scarce and from which coal is very distant. As a great part of the low land in the manors of Strata Marcella, Tîry-Myneich, and Deythur, above mentioned, was subject to frequent inundation by the sudden overflow of the rivers Severn and Vyrnwy, especially the former river, a clause of the act for their inclosure enabled the commissioners to make embankments to keep the floods within a proper limit. These, with the whole inclosure, were completed at an expense of nearly £26,000. Commencing on the Severn, a little below Pool Quay, they are continued to Cymmerau, at the junction of the two rivers, and thence extend for some miles along the course of the Vyrnwy towards Llanymynech. The banks have been repeatedly broken down in different places by flood waters descending with irresistible force from the mountains. The chief articles of fuel in the county are, coal imported by the Montgomeryshire canal, and peat in the mountainous districts, where the former article cannot be conveniently procured; the little wood now burned as fuel consists merely of the waste pieces and small branches.
The mineral productions of the county are various, though not of the first importance. The mountains are almost entirely composed of argillaceous schistus; but in those of the Berwyn chain are ranges of primitive rocks. Breiddin Hill is chiefly composed of greenish serpentine; and Moel-y-Golva, its south-western extremity, contains some burr for millstones: a soft shale, however, is the chief component of the whole of the Plinlimmon (or great southern) range, and of the hills as far north as the Vale of Vyrnwy, though in some places beds of a more compact and regularly stratified stone are found, and quarried for flooring, gravestones, &c. Slates, for the roofs of houses and other buildings, are obtained in the Berwyn range, chiefly at Llangynog, where are two extensive quarries, from which about a million of slates are sold annually. Those here raised are strong and durable, but quartzose veins pervading the whole rock from which they are taken, they exhibit a coarser surface than those of a more homogeneous composition. The Llangynog slate resists the action of sulphuric acid for ten days. Some of the slabs contain beautiful cubes of mundic. It is worthy of remark, that the strata of these quarries, and of the whole north-eastern part of the Berwyn range, dip eastward; while south-westward from the deep ravine called Bwlch Sych, in the parish of Hîrnant, about three miles south-west of Llangynog, they incline westward. The slate range extends in this direction by Llanwddyn, where quarries have been opened, to Dinas-Mowddwy, and other places more westward, in Merionethshire. The Plinlimmon mountains are not distinguished for either the abundance or the richness of their ores: lead-ore is raised on the Berth-lwyd and other estates near Llanidloes, and at Esgair Hîr, on the border of Cardiganshire, near the copper-mine called Esgair Vraith. This copper-mine is on a north and south vein of sulphate of copper, which forms a tangent with the east and west lead-vein of Esgair Hîr. Another lead-mine is that of the Berwyn range at Llangynog, producing the species of ore called galena, or potters' ore. Its produce for many years during the early part of the last century was not less than 4000 tons annually; the vein stretched from east-by-south to west-by-north, and was one of the richest ever discovered in Britain. At length, on being pursued eastward, the vein proved quite barren; and on the workmen following its dip westward, the work became inundated, and was consequently relinquished. Early in the present century this mine was let on lease by the proprietor, the Earl of Powis, to a company, who, at a great expense, drove a level beneath, and resumed the working of the original vein, which runs through a coarse argillaceous schistus. At Craig-y-Mwyn, near Pistyll Rhaiadr, to the north of Llangynog, is an ancient lead-mine; and at Dylivau, to the west of Llanbrynmair, is a very considerable work of the same kind. Near the site of an old British smelting-hearth, at Dôl-y-Velin-Blwm, near Llanvyllin, numerous pieces of lead-ore have been found, and collected by washers, to the amount of many tons. The total produce of the lead-mines in Montgomeryshire, in the year 1847, was 980 tons of ore, of which the Llangynog mine yielded about one-tenth. In an angle of the county, at Coedwae, on the border of Shropshire, coal is obtained from a few pits capable of producing about twelve tons per day; it is of a pleasant, though swift burning kind, its inflammable carbon being combined with more maltha than bitumen. A small tract of dark-coloured argillaceous limestone extends in a south-western direction from its commencement in the Porthywaen limestone rocks into Powis Castle park; this kind, however, is not burned. On Plinlimmon mountain is found granite; also the granitell of Kirwan, composed of quartz and shale; siliceous and schistose porphyry; and great quantities of pure quartz. Barytes, united with vitriolic acid, exists at Gallt-yMaen, Llanwyddelan, and Llangynog.
Two important manufactures are carried on in Montgomeryshire, viz., of flannels and webs, the pieces of which, displayed on the tenters, form a singular contrast with the verdure of the vales, through which is heard the monotonous sound of looms, fulling-mills, and other machinery. The flannel manufacture of North Wales is confined to a district occupying the middle and southern parts of the county, which lie contiguous to the Severn and its contributory streams, from Llanidloes to Pool Quay; and to the Dovey and its contributory brooks, from Dinas-Mowddwy in Merioneth to Machynlleth. Formerly the whole manufacture was performed manually by the farmers and cottagers in their own houses; but now they are aided by machinery, great numbers of carding and spinning machines having been erected on the different streams. There are also factories on a larger scale at Newtown, Llanidloes, Machynlleth, Welshpool, &c., some of which employ 100 weavers. The Montgomeryshire flannels are seven-eighths of a yard wide, and each piece generally from 100 to 160 yards in length; those of a finer sort are sometimes as much as 242 yards long. They are three times bleached under the hammers of the fulling-mill, the first time with urine, the second with fullers'-earth, and the third with soap: the fullers'-earth is brought by sea from London to Chester, and thence by inland navigation. The nap on these flannels is raised by carding, and by the adhesion of the several foldings when the pieces are laid in a particular manner for the purpose: its texture is particularly soft, owing to the quality of the wool, which renders the flannels well adapted to be worn next the skin even of the most delicate invalid. The principal manufacturers are the wholesale venders of their own flannels: the farmers and cottagers, who still make them after the old method, were formerly accustomed to take each his own manufacture to meet the Shropshire and other drapers at the Welshpool flannel market; but the market at Newtown has quite superseded that of Welshpool, a commodious flannel-hall having been erected at the former place by shares, in which the market is held, as it was at Welshpool, every alternate Thursday. The Rochdale "stoved white Welsh flannels" are very different from the produce of the principality, having their warp sized in the weaving, and being afterwards stoved with brimstone: owing to their being drawn finer in the thread than the coarseness of the wool will admit of, they also generally appear threadbare; and the length of each piece never exceeds forty yards. One of the three districts in which webs, or, as they are called by the London drapers, "Welsh plains," or "cottons," are manufactured, is the town of Machynlleth, with the Vale of the Dovey, in this county: the article is a coarse kind of thick white woollen cloth, made in pieces from 90 to 120 yards long, and seven-eighths of a yard broad, two of these pieces constituting a web. The webs of this county, as of Merioneth, are styled "strong cloth," to distinguish them from those of the Glyn district, near Oswestry, which are termed "small cloth," because the pieces are about oneeighth of a yard narrower, though of the same length. The principal exports from Montgomeryshire are, store cattle and sheep; raw wool; flannels and webs; ores of lead and copper; oak-bark for tanners; alder and birch bark for dyers; timber for the navy, and poles for the South Wales and Shropshire collieries; slates; grain, flour, and oatmeal; mutton and bacon, butter, and cheese. The chief imports are, coal, lime, and limestone; groceries, and other ordinary shop goods.
The principal rivers are, the Severn, with its tributaries the Vyrnwy and the Tanat, all of which descend eastward from the mountain ridge running across the western part of the county; and the Dovey, or Dyvi, flowing westward from the same ridge. The romantic Wye, also, has its source on the southern side of Plinlimmon, in the county; but, pursuing a south-eastern course by Llangurig, soon enters Radnorshire. The Severn rises in a powerful stream from a chalybeate spring on the eastern side of Plinlimmon, at the distance of about a mile from the source of the Wye; and, as a mountain torrent, descends eastward towards the town of Llanidloes, under the name of Havren, traversing the narrow valley called Glyn Havren. In the early part of its course it is joined by the streams of the Bâchwy and Glâslyn, formed by the waters of the numerous springs dispersed in the surrounding mosses; and near Llanidloes it forms a junction with the Clywedog. It now loses the violence of its character, and taking a north-eastern direction, flows through a broad and pleasant valley, by Newtown, and within a mile and a half of Montgomery; receiving the waters of the Miwl at Abermule, and of the Rhiw at Berriew, or Aber-Rhiw, besides smaller rivulets. From Berriew it pursues a north-north-eastern course to Welshpool; at Pool Quay, a little below that town, it becomes navigable, and afterwards assuming an eastern direction, it flows onward in a deep bed, until, being joined from the north-west by the Vyrnwy, it enters the county of Salop.
The Vyrnwy has its source in two branches rising in the parting ridge, one in the vicinity of Bwlch-y-Vedwen, near the confines of Merionethshire, that flows eastward by Llanvair, below which town it suddenly turns to the north-east, and enters the Vale of Meivod; and the other near Llanwddyn, that runs eastward till it meets the former branch at Mathraval. After this junction it is designated the Vyrnwy, and takes a north-eastern course until near the northern confines of the county, when it as suddenly assumes an eastern course. Then, forming a confluence with the Tanat, it becomes the north-eastern boundary of the county, and so continues to its junction with the Severn, first separating Montgomeryshire from a detached portion of Denbighshire, and afterwards from Salop. This river is navigable during several of the winter months as high as Llanymynech; and is particularly distinguished for the abundance, variety, and excellence of its fish, as also are its tributaries. The principal of these, the Tanat, which has its source in the Berwyn mountains, towards the northern extremity of the county, is joined, a little below the village of Llanrhaiadr-yn-Mochnant, by the small river Rhaiadr, which descends from the same mountainous district along the confines of Denbighshire, and forms the grand cataract of Pistyll Rhaiadr. At this junction the Tanat becomes the northern boundary of the county, which it separates from Denbigh, until, gradually bending eastward, it reaches the confines of Shropshire: here, on approaching Llanymynech, it suddenly turns southward to its confluence with the Vyrnwy, near Llandisilio, after having, for a short distance, bounded on the west a detached portion of Denbighshire. The Dovey, descending from the foot of Aran Mowddwy in Merionethshire, a mountain of the Berwyn range, flows by the town of Dinas-Mowddwy into the westernmost part of Montgomeryshire, which it crosses in a rich vale in a direction from north-east to south-west, passing by the town of Machynlleth, for a few miles near and below which it forms the western boundary of the county. It wholly quits the county on being joined by a small stream from the heights around Plinlimmon.
The Montgomeryshire canal, which is a continuation of a branch canal extending from the Ellesmere line to the Llanymynech lime-works, enters the county from Llanymynech in crossing the Vyrnwy, by an aqueduct of five arches, each of forty feet span, and twenty-five feet above the level of the water in the river, besides a number of smaller flood arches. Hence it proceeds along the Vale of Severn to Welshpool, and thence by Berriew and Garthmill to Newtown, where it terminates. It was formed under the provisions of an act obtained in 1795; of a second, passed in 1815; and of a third, in 1821. Its total length is twenty-four miles; the number of locks is nineteen, of bridges fifty-five, and of aqueducts eight; and it has two feeders, one from the Severn, and the other from the Tanat: a branch, three miles long, extends to the village of Guilsfield. The total expense of the canal was upwards of £125,000. The chief traffic upon it consists in the importation of limestone and coal, and the exportation of timber, grain, and the produce of the dairy.
Strenuous and successful efforts have been made, during the present century, in the improvement of the turnpike-roads, to which an extent of nearly 300 miles has been added; and at the same time, since the opening of the Montgomeryshire canal, the landcarriage of lime, coal, and timber, has been greatly reduced in the parts adjacent to that line of communication, which have also the advantage of obtaining, by its means, materials of a more durable nature than any procured on the spot. The bridges are numerous, and those in the more cultivated districts are generally very good ones, but those in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the county are constructed almost wholly of wood, and are frequently in bad repair. Several of stone have been erected of late years under the direction of the county surveyor, among which may more particularly be noticed those over the Severn, of three arches each, situated respectively at Llanidloes, Caer-Sws, and Newtown; and that over the Vyrnwy at Llanymynech: a handsome iron bridge at Llandinam may also be mentioned. The road from Worcester to Montgomery, Welshpool, Dôlgelley, Harlech, and Carnarvon, enters the county from Bishop's-Castle in Shropshire, and passes through Montgomery, Welshpool, and Llanvair, to Mallwyd and DinasMowddwy in Merionethshire; from Mallwyd, a branch of this proceeds through Cemmes and Machynlleth, to Aberystwith. But a better and more direct road is that from Bishop's-Castle to Newtown, thence to Machynlleth, and by Dôlgelley in Merionethshire, into the county of Carnarvon. There are also roads from Shrewsbury to Montgomery, Welshpool, &c. From Welshpool the road runs by Newtown and Llanidloes to the Devil's Bridge and Aberystwith: at Newtown, a branch proceeds through Llanwnnog, Carno, and Llanbrynmair, to Machynlleth. A road, also, runs from Welshpool, by Llanvyllin, to Bala in Merionethshire.
Remains of encampments and fortifications decidedly Roman are to be seen at Caer-Sws, the Gaer near Montgomery, and Mathraval, each being quadrangular; and some minor relics of the Romans have been found there. At Cwm-glàn-Avon, near Llangynog, are the remains of a very ancient building, fourteen yards long and seven broad, called Cubil, supposed to have been a smelting-furnace, perhaps of Roman construction: there are several extensive mining levels of unknown antiquity in the vicinity, and great quantities of scoria lie adjoining to it. The Via Devana entered the county from a station at Castell Collwyn, in Radnorshire, and, taking its course northward by Caer-Sws, is still visible beyond the latter place in the parishes of Aberhavesp, Trêgynon, Llanwyddelan, Llanlligan, Llanvair, and Llanervul. By Dr. Worthington it was traced to Street Vawr, near Coed-y-Clawdd, in the parish of Llanrhaiadr-yn-Mochnant, on the northern border of the county; thence it crossed Rhôs-y-Brithdir to Pen-y-Street, and passed through Llam-Iwrch to Caer-Vâch, a small Roman camp, in its further course towards Chester. Another Roman road that crossed the county entered it from Salop, near the village of Llandrinio, in the vicinity of which it is plainly to be seen: at Mediolanum it crossed the Via Devana, and thence proceeded by Llangynog and Trûm-y-Sarn into Merionethshire, towards Segontium, where it terminated. A vicinal way branched from the Via Occidentalis at Pennal, near Machynlleth, just beyond the western boundary of the county, and ran by Caer-Sws; it is visible between Newtown and Welshpool, in a direction towards the great Roman camp, called the Gaer, near Montgomery. There was also a road from Caer-Sws north-westward into Merioneth.
The line of demarcation raised by Offa, King of Mercia, between his dominions and those of the Welsh, is still called by the English "Offa's Dyke," and by the Welsh Clawdd Offa, and may be traced along nearly the whole of its course through the county. It enters it from the south, at Pwll-y-Piod, on the road between Bishop's-Castle and Newtown, and thence proceeds near Mellington Hall, by Brompton mill and Lymore Park, near Montgomery, and by Forden Heath, Nant-Cribba, Leighton Hall, and Buttington church. Here it is lost for five miles, the channel of the Severn probably serving for that space as a continuation of this famous boundary, which again appears just below the influx of the small stream of Bele into the Severn, on the northern side of the latter river; whence it is continued, by the churches of Llandisilio and Llanymynech, to the edge of the vast precipitous limestone rock in the latter parish, and thence across the north-western part of Salop into Denbighshire. It consists of a vast ditch and rampart, the latter being on the east side. In its vicinity, near Mellington Hall, is an encampment named Gaer-Ddin; at Brompton mill, a mount; and at Nant-Cribba, another ancient fortification.
On the summit of a high mountain, near the village of Llandinam, is a strong British camp; and various intrenchments, supposed to have had some relation to the castle of Mathraval, the seat of the Princes of Powys, the foundations of which may yet be traced, lie scattered in the vicinity of Meivod. There is also a British camp called Gardden, of a circular form, on a hill near Llanvair; and another British camp near Llanervul: the remains of a third may be seen at Castle-Caer-Eineon. Near Cann Office, on the road between Llanvair and Mallwyd, is a tumulus seventy yards in circumference. On each of the two summits of Plinlimmon is a carnedd, or large heap of stones: other monuments of the same kind are very numerous in the parishes of Llanervul and Llangadvan, where the largest are from thirty to sixty yards in circumference. On a hill styled Pencoed, in the last-mentioned parish, are some small hollows and hillocks, thought to be places of interment of the Britons.
At the period of the Reformation there were, at Llanlligan a Cistercian nunnery, and at Ystrad Marchell, or Strata Marcella, a Cistercian abbey. The most remarkable specimens of ecclesiastical architecture in the county are to be seen in the parish churches of Montgomery, Llanidloes, and Llanwnnog. The castles of Powys and Montgomery, the latter of which is in ruins, are striking specimens of the fortifications raised by the AngloNormans to secure their conquests from the native Welsh; there are also remains of that of Dôlvorwyn, near Newtown. Powys, or Powis, Castle is the venerable mansion of the Earl of Powis, and, being built of red calcareous stone quarried out of the adjoining park, is called by the Welsh Castell Côch, or the "red castle." Among residences of a more modern date, those most worthy of notice are the following, alphabetically arranged: Aberiarth Hall, near Machynlleth; Black Hall, near Newtown; BôdHeilyn; Bôdvâch; Broadway, near Montgomery; Bronhyddon, and Brynaber, near Llanvyllin; Bryn Glâs, near Llanvair; Bryngwyn; Brynllywarch, near Newtown; Caerhowel, near Montgomery; Crosswood, and Cyvronydd, near Welshpool; Dôlerw, near Newtown; Dôl-llys, near Llanidloes; Dôlvorgan, and Dôlvorwyn Hall, near Newtown; Dyserth, and Garth, near Welshpool; Upper Garthmyl; Lower Garthmyl; Glàndulas, and Glândwr, near Llanidloes; Glàn Severn, near Welshpool; Glâsgoed, near Llanvyllin; Glàn Havren, near Newtown; Glyn Severn, near Llanidloes; Greenfields, near Machynlleth; Gregynog, and The Gro, near Newtown; Gunley, near Montgomery; Leighton Hall, and Llanerchydôl, near Welshpool; Llwydiarth Hall, and Llwyn, near Llanvyllin; Lymore Park, near Montgomery; Maesmawr, and Maes Vron, near Welshpool; Mellington Hall, near Montgomery; Nant-Cribba, near Welshpool; Newtown Hall, near Newtown; Penbryn, near Montgomery; Pennant, near Berriew; Pentre Nant, near Montgomery; Pen-y-Lan, at Meivod; Rhiwport, at Berriew; Trawscoed, and Trelydan Hall, near the town of Welshpool; Vaynor Park, at Berriew; and Vronvelen, near the town of Machynlleth.
In those parts of Montgomeryshire where the hills consist almost wholly of shale, the houses of the gentry were formerly built of massive timber, and are now most commonly of brick made from clay found in the valleys. The ordinary houses in such districts are generally of timber, wattle or lath, and plaster; and the roofs chiefly slated, though sometimes of shingles, or oak split and cut into the form of slates. There are many farmhouses and offices upon new and improved constructions. The cottages in the greater part of the county have a very wretched appearance. On the schistose hills, and in the vicinity, where there is an abundance of flattish stones, the fences are frequently dry stone walls: hawthorn sets, for hedges, are grown in great quantities by the nurserymen. The farmers in the low lands excel in their family fare; but in the mountainous districts the bread has generally a large proportion of rye or barley, and cakes made wholly from oatmeal are much used. Servants hired by the year generally commence their term of service on the 1st of May.
There are several springs whose waters contain a large proportion of hepatic air: two of these are in the parish of Meivod, where also is a spring extremely limpid, the waters of which have been found efficacious in the cure of scrofulous and other ulcers. Two saline and sulphureous springs have been discovered in the parish of Llanvair, which are much frequented, many persons having derived considerable benefit from drinking the waters. Near the church of Llanervul is a well called Fynnon Ervul, famous for its medicinal virtues; and one adjoining the church of Garth-Beibio, named Fynnon Dydecho, is constructed so as to form a cold bath, its waters being reputed to have some efficacy in the cure of rheumatic affections. The small river Rhaiadr, about four miles from the village of Llanrhaiadr, on the northern border of the county, after flowing gently down a small declivity, precipitates itself over a perpendicular rock upwards of 200 feet in height, and then forms a second cataract as its raging waters fall into a small natural basin beneath. This grand cascade is termed Pistyll Rhaiadr.