Radnorshire - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
RADNORSHIRE, an inland county of South Wales, bounded on the north side by the county of Montgomery (in North Wales), on the west by Cardiganshire, on the south-west and south sides by Brecknockshire, on the east by the English county of Hereford, and on the north-east by that of Salop. It extends from 52° 2ft. to 52° 27ft. (N. Lat.), and from 2° 59ft. to 3° 45ft. (W. Lon.), and comprises an area, according to Mr. Carey's Communications to the Board of Agriculture, of three hundred and ninety square miles, or two hundred and forty-nine thousand six hundred statute acres. It contains 4716 inhabited houses, 225 uninhabited, and 19 in course of erection; and the population is 25,356, of which number, 12,826 are males, and 12,530 females. The annual value of real property assessed to the property and income tax, for the year ending April 1843, was as follows: lands, £107,648; houses, £14,864; tithes, £6039; railway property, £316; quarries, £79; manors, £40: making a total for the county, of £128,986.
As this district never contained any very large or important town within its limits, or formed of itself a separate community until the act of Henry VIII. raised it to the rank of a county, it does not appear to have taken any signal or prominent part in the events which marked the troubled history of Wales. At the period of the invasion of Britain by the Romans, it was included in the territory of the Silures, who so greatly distinguished themselves by their resolute opposition to the progress of the Roman arms. After their subjugation, which was partly effected by Ostorius Scapula, and completed by Julius Frontinus, it contained a Roman station at Cwm, on the western bank of the river Ithon, between one and two miles to the north-east of Llandrindod Wells; and was traversed by several vicinal ways. Upon the abandonment of Britain by the Romans, it became a portion of the territory of Ferregs, between the rivers Severn and Wye, and was subjected to Caradog Vraichvras, or "Caradoc with the Brawny Arm," ruler of Brecknock, who flourished about the commencement of the sixth century, and is celebrated in Welsh story, as one of Arthur's knights. The derivation of the present Welsh name of the county, Maesyved or MaesHyved (which has been noticed under the head of New Radnor), is by some persons deduced from Hyvaidd, the name of one of the sons of Caradog Vraichvras, for whom his father is said to have formed this portion of his lands into a separate lordship. Offa, King of Mercia, having expelled the Britons from nearly the whole of the fertile province of Ferregs, introduced into the eastern part of the district a Saxon population, and constructed the celebrated line of demarcation still called Offa's Dyke, which, however, included within the Saxon territory only the easternmost extremity of the present county of Radnor. In the division of the sovereignty of Wales by Roderic the Great, among his three sons, the territory forming the present county of Radnor is thought, but on slight grounds, to have been comprised in the kingdom of Powys. The scene of the great battle which was fought about the year 1088, between Rhŷs ab Tewdwr and the sons of Bleddyn ab Cynvyn, for the sovereignty of South Wales, and which terminated in favour of the former, has been generally laid at Llêchrhŷd, in the parish of Disserth, near the banks of the Wye, in this county; but it is now, with more probability, considered to have been at Llêchrhŷd, on the Teivy, near Cardigan.
After the Norman conquest of England, the territory of Maesyved became the prey of the Norman adventurers who successfully attacked the adjoining districts of Brecknockshire and Herefordshire: the family of de Breos, and the Mortimers, had the most extensive domains in it. In the year 1196, Rhŷs ab Grufydd, Prince of South Wales, invading the Marches, took the castles of Radnor and Painscastle-in-Elvel, in the county. Trahaern Vychan, a Welshman of great influence in the territory of Brecknock, having been treacherously and barbarously murdered, about this time, by William de Breos, lord of Brecknock and Abergavenny, Gwenwynwyn, Prince of Powys, who was related to Trahaern by marriage, marched a body of troops into Breos' territories, in Radnorshire, and laid siege to Painscastle, declaring that, after he had gained that fortress, he would devastate with fire the whole country as far as the Severn; a sacrifice, he added, which he owed to the manes of Trahaern Vychan his kinsman. The Welsh chieftain, however, having no means of destroying the fortifications, lay for three weeks before the castle without capturing it, which gave time for William de Breos to receive reinforcements from England, under Geoffry FitzPeter, the justiciary, and from several of the lords marcher, who came to his assistance. But as the issue of hostilities might be uncertain, he proposed terms of peace to Gwenwynwyn; which the latter indignantly refused, his followers declaring their firm resolution of avenging, in this enterprise, the past wrongs of their country. The English then released from confinement Grufydd, son of the late Rhŷs ab Grufydd, between whom and Gwenwynwyn they knew that a deadly feud subsisted; and being joined by the Welsh forces immediately raised by that chieftain, they advanced to the relief of Painscastle. Gwenwynwyn, confident in his strength, deviated from the wary system of warfare generally pursued by his nation, and opposed the English in an open plain, where he was defeated, with the loss of three thousand men slain, besides a great number of prisoners, among whom were many of considerable note.
In the year 1282, Llewelyn, the last native sovereign of Wales, marched with his little army to Aberedw, or Aberedow, where he had a castle or mansion, on the Radnorshire side of the Wye, three miles below Builth, in expectation of their holding a conference with some of his friends; but his object having been treacherously communicated to the enemy, he was surprised by the approach of a superior force from Herefordshire, under the command of Edmund Mortimer and John Giffard. The unfortunate prince then endeavoured to effect his escape, and arrived at the bridge over the Wye in time to cross it, and break it down, before his pursuers came up. Thus baffled in their object, the English returned downwards to a ford known to some of the party, about eight miles below, near a ferry, at that time and still called Caban Twm Bâch, or "Little Tom's ferry-boat," where they crossed; and thus ceased the movements of the two parties in this county. The sequel of this melancholy transaction is described in the article on Aberedw.
During the war waged by Owain Glyndwr against Henry IV., the former, in the year 1401, destroyed the abbey of Cwm Hîr, in this county, and took the castle of Radnor, causing the garrison, it is said, amounting to threescore men, to be beheaded on the brink of the castle yard. After this event, Owain, by his continued successes, excited so much alarm in Henry, that the latter resolved to march against him in person: he issued writs to the lieutenants of thirtyfour counties, requiring them to assemble their respective forces, and attend him at Lichfield, on the 7th of July, 1402. But before the royal army could be collected, Owain had advanced with his troops to the borders of South Wales, in the direction of Herefordshire, carrying fire and sword into the lands of his opponents. Of these none suffered so severely as the vassals and tenants of Edward Mortimer, Earl of March, a child of ten years of age, whose uncle, Sir Edmund Mortimer, collected a large body of his nephew's tenants and retainers, as well in Herefordshire, as from the district of Maelienydd in Radnorshire, and with these marched to resist the invader. The two armies met on Bryn Glâs, a mountain near Pilleth, a little to the south-west of Knighton, and the battle raged in the valley below, where victory declared in favour of Owain. Eleven hundred men fell on the side of Mortimer; and, as the loss was suffered chiefly by the people of Herefordshire, there seems reason to believe that March's Welsh retainers were not hearty in his cause. It is to this battle, and to some "shameful villanie," as Holinshed calls it, "used towards the dead carcases," that Shakspeare finely and mysteriously alludes, in the First Part of Henry IV. When the conflicts ceased which "the irregular and wild Glendower" had excited, this district seems to have sunk into repose; but under the rule of the lords marcher (a singular compound of hostility and government), Wales, though sometimes composed, was never pacified. It was not until, by the act 27th of Henry VIII., cap. 26, the rights and privileges of English subjects were extended to Wales, that peace, order, and obedience were established; by that act Radnorshire was included amongst the newly-established counties.
The COUNTY is partly in the diocese of Hereford, and partly in that of St. David's, and is wholly in the province of Canterbury. The portion included in the former diocese (consisting of the parishes of Presteign, Old and New Radnor, Norton, Knighton, and Michaelchurch-on-Arrow) is comprised in the archdeaconry of Hereford, and deanery of Leominster; and that in the latter, in the archdeaconry of Brecknock, and deaneries of Upper and Lower Elvel, and Melenith sub Ithon and ultra Ithon. The total number of parishes is fifty-three, of which fourteen are rectories, sixteen vicarages, and the rest perpetual curacies. For purposes of civil government it is divided into the six hundreds of Colwyn, Kevenlleece or Cevnllŷs, Knighton, Painscastle, Radnor, and Rhaiadr. It returns to parliament one knight for the shire, and one member for the borough of New Radnor and the contributory boroughs of Presteign, Knighton, Rhaiadr, Cnwclas, and Kevenlleece. The assizes are held at Presteign, where the gaol and house of correction are situated, and where the chief business of the county is transacted. The county elections are usually held there, though they may be held at New Radnor, where the member for the boroughs must be chosen. The polling-places appointed by the act of 1832 to "Amend the Representation," are Colwyn, Knighton, Painscastle, Peny-Bont, Presteign, Radnor, and Rhaiadr. Presteign, Knighton, and Rhaiadr are the principal market-towns: New Radnor has the privilege of a market, but none is held there. The county comprises nearly the whole of the poor-law union of Rhaiadr, and part of the unions of Hay, Builth, Kington, Presteign, and Knighton.
Radnorshire is one of the most regularly-shaped counties in the principality, being a trapezium, the mean dimensions of which are about twenty-two miles by twenty. Its surface throughout is hilly. In many places the mountains attain to a considerable elevation, the summit of the Forest of Radnor being two thousand one hundred and sixty-three feet above the level of the sea. The hills have generally a regular outline, with gradual slopes and rounded summits; but in many parts, abrupt declivities and deep ravines relieve the monotony of the scenery. There are several small lakes worthy of mention, viz., one in the vicinity of Rhaiadr, near the road leading from that town to Aberystwith, the most picturesque and interesting lake within the limits of the county; Llyn Gwyn, a piece of water of considerable size, situated within a few miles of Rhaiadr, in the opposite direction; Llyn Llanillin, about a mile in circumference, and containing abundance of fish, singularly situated near LlanvihangelNant-Melan, in an elevated mountain-valley; and Llys;n Bychllyn, in the vicinity of Painscastle.
Of the superficial area of the county, only about one-third is supposed to be inclosed, and of this inclosed portion not more than a fourth part is under the plough at the same time. In the vicinity of market-towns, and on farms where the soil is good, the cultivation of grain for sale prevails to a considerable extent; but, as regards the whole of the county, it must be observed, that the distance from large corn-markets, the high price of lime, and the roughness and moisture of the climate, operate as great discouragements to the growth of grain; and the chief object of most of the farmers is to grow only what is sufficient for their own consumption, viewing their stock of sheep, cattle, and horses, as the main sources of profit. It is a common practice to plough a piece of sward (which is sometimes pared and burnt for a crop of wheat), and to take, in the first instance, one or two crops of oats; then to summer-fallow the land, giving it all the manure of the farm, and what lime can be procured, for a crop of wheat: after this the land is generally thought capable of bearing a crop of barley, with which the better sort of farmers sow clover and grass seeds; the crop is mown the first year, and afterwards the land is suffered to rest, whilst some other portion of the farm undergoes the same process. Rye, and a mixture of rye and wheat (called Monks'-corn), were formerly much grown, but they are now seldom seen. Potatoes, as a field crop, are extensively and successfully cultivated: peas, though precarious and unprofitable, are sometimes sown; and flax, for domestic purposes, rather than for sale.
In the mode of cultivation there is little that is peculiar; the implements are cheap and imperfect, though much improved. A light cart, drawn by three small stout horses, is in general use; wagons also are common. A ground sledge with two wheels in front, called a wheel-car, is found useful in drawing heavy weights down steep declivities; and a rude car without any wheels is still used for purposes for which the former may not be convenient. The ploughs in general use have a bent iron mould-board, similar to those in Herefordshire; but the Scotch plough, drawn by two horses abreast, is gradually advancing into use throughout the county. The fertile districts that are found in the Vales of Wye, Lug, and Teme (to which may be added the Vale of Radnor), are subject to a better system of cultivation: in these tracts turnips are grown to a considerable extent, being drilled on ridges, in imitation of the Scotch practice. On the red soils of Glâsbury and Clyro the two favourite objects of Herefordshire husbandry, namely the hop and the apple, might be cultivated with advantage. Throughout the whole county irrigation is successfully, though somewhat rudely and unskilfully, practised: the rapid fall of the brooks facilitates the construction of new watercourses, which are not unfrequently conducted in long continued lines along the steep sides of the valleys; and the purest water, issuing at once from the clay-slate rocks, often produces most fertilizing effects in cases where no deposit of earthy matter can be discerned by the eye. The assistance thus obtained from various mountain streams enables the farmers to mow annually considerable tracts of land, the produce of which chiefly supports their cattle and horses during the winter. Such land as cannot be irrigated, and which may be also too steep and rugged, or at too great a distance from the farmyard, to be advantageously ploughed, is usually devoted to the pasturage of cattle and horses, both of which are reared in considerable numbers.
The black cattle which still prevail in the adjoining county of Cardigan, have not for many years been much bred in Radnorshire. They gave place to a coarse hardy variety of the long-horned breed, introduced from Shropshire; these are generally of a brindled colour, and give much milk, but though some of them still remain, they have in a great measure been superseded by the Herefordshire breed, which, being found to be sufficiently hardy to endure the scanty food and rough climate, have the advantage of growing to a larger size, and possess a greater aptitude to fatten. The draught horse in general use is rather small, but capable of enduring great fatigue. The original Welsh ponies are still bred in the mountains, and their price in the markets has of late years increased: of their activity, courage, and patience, and of their strength, as compared with their size and the little sustenance they require, it is difficult to dilate in terms too favourable. Where so large a portion of the surface is uninclosed, the pasturage of the commons necessarily forms an object of interest to the farmers. Upon the lower ranges of commons the young cattle of the farm, of every kind, are frequently pastured; but for the most part cattle are found to require more attendance and care than can well be afforded them on commons. Accordingly, throughout the entire county, the breeding of sheep is the primary object of the farmers occupying farms adjoining the open lands. On the western side of it a small active breed prevails, mostly without horns, with white faces and legs, and having long, open, coarse wool, abounding with kemps. But in the Forest of Radnor, and on the lower hills on the north and south of that elevated range, a breed has been produced by the introduction of rams from Shropshire: these sheep are well covered with a fleece of thick close wool, and have larger carcases than those just described; they are, however, less hardy, and can only be maintained by farmers who can afford some shelter to their stock during the winter, which is done either by pasturing them in their own inclosures, or tacking them out in the adjoining counties of Hereford and Salop. Throughout the county it is the practice to take the ewes into the inclosed grounds in October, and, if possible, the lambs of the preceding spring also; the wether sheep, for the most part, brave the climate of the hills during the whole of the year. These sheep, when fat, usually weigh from nine to fourteen pounds per quarter, and their fleeces average from two to three pounds: vast numbers of them are driven into Essex and Hertfordshire, where the superior quality of the mutton ensures for them a ready sale. Large quantities of butter are still made in the county, though it is chiefly an object to the smaller farmers: it is salted during the summer, and placed with great care and cleanliness in tubs, in which it was thus formerly carried to the fairs in Herefordshire and Shropshire: some of this article of produce, however, has of late years been sold by the farmers at their own houses. Oxen, which were formerly much used in husbandry, are now sold at too early an age to be so employed, and almost the whole draught of the county is now executed by horses.
In a county of which nearly two-thirds are uninclosed, it may be presumed that there exists great capability of improvement, and the large tracts of low commons which are seen on passing through the centre of it tend to confirm this idea. Of late years, considerable encroachments have been made on the wastes both by cottagers and by farmers, and even this lawless process has tended much to improve the lands taken in. About six parishes have been submitted to the operation of inclosure acts, but the expense attending the allotment of the land, and the still greater cost of maintaining the fences, have discouraged attempts of this sort: in the immediate vicinity of Rhaiadr, the most beneficial effects have resulted, the produce of a small common having been increased many hundredfold, to the great advantage of the inhabitants of that town. Many tracts still remain which are susceptible of almost equal improvement; but the rough surface of the pasture land throughout the greater part of the county, overgrown as it is, in many places, with rushes, shows that, without an extensive and effectual system of drainage, the soil can never be brought to its utmost point of fertility. It is by this, rather than any other mode, that the reclaiming of the lowlands can be effected. On the hills the use of ironwire in fencing has been introduced to some extent, and is likely to enable the farmers to defend their lands from the mountain sheep, where no other means would avail.
Radnorshire was anciently distinguished for its large woods and forests, but these, excepting a few scattered coppices of comparatively small extent, have disappeared. The forests of Radnor, Cnwclas, Colwyn, and Blethvaugh, continue such in name, and still suggest the idea of extensive wooded tracts; but if at any time they were covered with wood, except that of Blethvaugh, they have long ceased to be so in reality. The mountain sheep have been the chief destroyers of the woods; no ordinary fences can restrain them, and when once a wood has been felled, by browsing the young shoots in the spring, they have effectually prevented a renewed growth. On the estates of the principal landed proprietors, thriving young plantations of forest-trees are to be seen. The larch is likely to be grown to a considerable extent on the steep declivities of the mountains. This hardy plant, which pines in the moist and fertile plains of the south of England, thrives in this elevated district; its rapid growth, when young, enables it soon to lift its head beyond the reach of the sheep, which will not, except when pressed by severe hunger, either bark or browse on it. Larch is popular, too, because it foliates so early in spring that it is clothed for weeks with the most vivid green, when no other tree has unfolded a bud; and again in autumn its golden tint serves to enliven even the latter half of November.
The geological structure of the county was but imperfectly known until within the last few years, there being no mineral productions sufficiently valuable to attract much attention to it. The highly interesting features it presents are now better known, through the light thrown upon it by Sir Roderick Murchison, the eminent geologist. The great mass of the county consists of the same grey wackè slate which prevails through the whole of the principality: it emerges from beneath the old red-sandstone of the counties of Hereford and Brecknock, a part of which fertile stratum is found on the northern side of the Wye, and constitutes the most productive tract within the county. The red soil prevails in the parishes of Glâsbury, Clyro, Llowes, Boughrood, and some others in Painscastle hundred. The upper beds of the grey wackè, or clay-slate, very much resemble the lowest or tilestone beds of the old red-sandstone; insomuch that the produce of a quarry worked near the summit of the Forest of Radnor is of the same granular and micaceous texture as the tile of Clyro Hill. But these beds soon disappear, and give place to a stratified lead-coloured rock, of rhomboidal fracture, so perishable as to be useless for roofing houses, and scarcely applicable either to masonry or the making of roads. It must be observed, however, that the lower beds of this formation are much harder and more durable than the upper; so that on the western verge of the county, in the neighbourhood of Rhaiadr, coarse durable slates of good colour, and very strong stones for building purposes, are obtained.
The dip of the strata throughout the great slate formation will be found, on examination, to be extremely irregular. It has been disturbed by the contact of two very considerable and independent trap formations, which occur in different parts of the county. One of these has been described by Dr. Gilby, and has its western termination in the river Wye, about a mile above Builth, opposite to which town it rises in high, rugged, irregular masses, forming the ridges of the Carneddau hills, and then, stretching northwards by Penkerrig and Llwynmadock, passes Llandrindod and Kevenlleece, where one branch diverges, and terminates at Llandegley; another branch passes to Llanbadarn-Vawr, near which it disappears, though an independent mass of the same formation occurs at some distance, called Baxter's Bank. This remarkable tract is perfectly irregular throughout, being neither columnar nor stratified: its mineralogical characters vary at almost every step; felspar is probably the chief component part. Around its base mineral springs are found, which deservedly enjoy a very high reputation. At Llandrindod are a salt, a sulphur, and a steel water; at Builth are the same, though of a coarser quality: at Llandegley and Blaenedw the sulphur springs are also found. Round the edges of this formation the clay-slate of the county is seen broken up, disturbed, and in some places evidently turned over; and both its colour and its texture have been so altered by the contact, that it has become black and friable, and is not unfrequently mistaken for coal, or at least is thought to indicate its presence.
The other trap formation mentioned above occurs near Old Radnor, and is separated from the Llandegley formation by a distance of seven miles, and by high intervening hills composed wholly of clayslate. It occupies two parallel ridges; the eastern, three miles in length, comprising Stanner Rocks, Worsel Wood, and Hanter Hill; and the western, called Old Radnor Hill, about half the length of the other. These hills differ so much in mineralogical character from the Llandegley range as to suggest the probability of a different period of formation. Sienite and porphyry occur in many parts; and a coarse amygdaloidal trap is met with at the base of Old Radnor Hill, near the church: the character of the whole bears some resemblance to granite, though neither felspar nor mica prevails to any great extent. The hill at Old Radnor appears to have raised with it a considerable mass of grey stratified transition limestone, the strata of which lie round the base of the trap rock, dipping from it in every direction; on the north and east sides these beds have been nearly exhausted, but on the south and west vast and almost inexhaustible masses still remain. The stone emits a strong and disagreeable odour on being broken: it contains shells, but not in abundance, and corals, and has throughout a crystalline texture. As a manure for land, the lime obtained from it is more valuable than that produced by the carboniferous or mountain limestone, which is used so extensively in North and South Wales; the beneficial effects being greater and more durable. As a cement it is inferior, slacking more slowly and with greater difficulty, though it is extensively used for mortar, there being no stratum of limestone that can be worked between Old Radnor and the seacoast of Cardiganshire.
Since the four formations already described, namely, the old red-sandstone of the hundred of Painscastle, the pervading grey wackè slate, the trap formations, and the limestone of Old Radnor, constitute and define the geological character of the county, no minerals of value can be looked for within its limits. Coal can scarcely exist to an extent worth working. Some narrow seams of lead have been found and worked near Llandrindod and Llandegley, and leadmines have been also wrought near Cwm-Elain. As connected with the geological structure of the county it may be observed, that wherever the soil consists of the wreck of the clay, or grey wackè, slate, it is porous and fertile, though of a less powerful and productive character than the soils which result from the old red-sandstone. The soils that are composed of the detritus of the trap rocks are clayey and retentive of water, the surface for the most part being covered with a thin layer of peaty soil. It is remarkable that the wreck of these rocks has been carried and deposited to the south and east of their positions, to a much greater extent than in any other direction. Their fertility is greatly increased by the addition of lime, the supply of which from Old Radnor, and from a striking mass of similar rock which occurs at Nash, in Herefordshire, not far from Presteign, is facilitated and augmented by the tramroad from the canal at Brecknock, by Hay and Kington, to Old Radnor. The total consumption of coal in the two districts of limestone rock is said to amount to about five thousand tons annually.
The chief commercial traffic of Radnorshire consists in the sale of its agricultural produce at the public fairs and markets. The trade in manufactured goods and in foreign and colonial produce is small, little being sold except for immediate consumption. Until of late years the chief supply of these articles was introduced through Kington, from the respective manufacturing districts, or from Bristol; but the construction of an easy road from the canal at Newtown in Montgomeryshire, through the centre of this county, to Builth in Brecknockshire, has enabled the inhabitants to derive partially what is necessary for their use from the marts of Liverpool and Chester. Small manufactures of flannel are carried on at Maestreyloe near Presteign, and at Llanvihangel-Rhydithon. Considerable quantities of hides are tanned and dressed, and find a market out of the county. The rivers are none of them navigable, and no canal has been constructed within the limits of the county.
The principal rivers are the Wye, with some of its tributaries, and the Teme. The romantic and rapid Wye, the scenery on the banks of which has so frequently been the subject of the pencil and the pen, rises on the southern side of Plinlimmon mountain, in Montgomeryshire, about a mile from the source of the Severn, and, flowing first southward, then eastward, and again southward, for about eleven miles through desolate wastes, enters this county about four miles to the north of Rhaiadr, and crosses the north-western extremity of it, by that town, to its confluence with the Elain. Here it becomes the boundary between Radnorshire and Brecknockshire, and it so continues during the remainder of its course in the principality (a distance of thirty miles), excepting a short interval at Glâsbury, where a small portion of Radnorshire is situated on its southern banks. The Elain river (anglicè the Roe), likewise affording many attractions to the admirers of the picturesque, is a powerful stream from the west, which for several miles separates the north-western extremity of the county of Radnor from the northern part of Brecknockshire. With this accession of waters the Wye shapes its course south-southeastward, until within a short distance of the town of Builth, in Brecknockshire, when it turns southeastward. At the southernmost extremity of Radnorshire it winds north-eastward; and the river quits this county and Wales on entering the English county of Hereford at the town of Hay, in Brecknockshire; after a turbulent course of about fortyseven miles. The principal tributaries to the Wye from Radnorshire are, the Ithon, which descends from the mountains in the north-eastern extremity of the county, and at its junction with the Wye near Disserth, five miles from Builth, after a course of about twenty miles south-westward, is of nearly equal magnitude with that river itself; the romantic Edw, or Edwy, which joins the Wye about four miles below Builth; and the gloomily picturesque Mâchwy, or Bâchwy, which falls into it a few miles lower. The Teme rises in the Kerry hills, in Montgomeryshire, and forms the entire boundary between this county and that of Salop, which it enters a little below the town of Knighton. The Lug, the Somergill, and the Arrow, are all tributary to the Wye, but do not join it in this county. The Lug has its source in the Llangunllo hills, and flows south-westward along the Vale of Llangunllo, into Herefordshire, which county it enters after forming the eastern boundary of Radnorshire for some distance below Presteign. The Somergill rises in the Forest of Radnor, and one of its tributary streams forms the cascade called "Water-break-its-neck:" it soon enters the basin-like Vale of Radnor, by the dry gravelly soil of which it is wholly absorbed in dry summers: on reaching a bed of clay it re-appears, after flowing by New and Old Radnor, and enters Herefordshire after a course of about thirteen miles. The Arrow is a small stream which flows by Newchurch towards Kington in Herefordshire.
In 1812, an act of parliament was obtained for the formation of a tramroad from the canal near the town of Brecknock, by Hay, to Kington, a branch of which is continued to the Weythel lime rocks near Old Radnor, between three and four miles westnorth-west of Kington. This line of communication confers considerable benefit on the county, by supplying the south-eastern part of it with coal, and in return conveying agricultural produce to the mining districts of Brecknockshire and Glamorganshire. The roads which pass through the centre of the county have been much improved of late years, and are now remarkably good; but the cross roads are in general of an inferior kind. The road from London to Radnor, by Hereford, enters the county from Kington: one of the roads to Presteign passes through Hereford. That from London to Aberystwith, by Worcester, enters from Leominster in Herefordshire, and passes through Kington, New Radnor, Pen-y-Bont, and Rhaiadr, into Cardiganshire: three miles beyond New Radnor, a branch of this road diverges to Builth in Brecknockshire. Another road from London to Aberystwith, branches from the foregoing at Leominster, runs through Presteign, Whitton, Blethvaugh, and LlanvihangelRhydithon, and joins the former at Pen-y-Bont. There is also a new and beautiful line from Rhaiadr to Aberystwith, which passes along the banks of the Wye for some miles from the former town, through Llangurig in Montgomeryshire, and is the general way of travelling.
Though there may be traced numberless intrenchments and mounds scattered over the county, which mark the ruins of former fortresses, the remains of antiquity are upon the whole of minor interest: the name Castell Pren (or "castle built of wood"), which still exists in several instances, suggests the probability of many of these intrenchments having been fortified only with a stockade. The Roman station already mentioned may be distinctly traced on a farm called Cwm, about two miles north-east of Llandrindod Wells. This camp is a perfect square, including an area of about four acres, and seems to have been originally surrounded by a thick stone wall, the massive foundations of which are yet visible, with a deep fosse on the outside: at a short distance are vestiges of other military works and buildings. The vicinal roads from Carmarthen, and the Gaer near Brecknock, to Chester, appear to have united at this station; and a branch, passing through the centre of Radnorshire, is thought to have proceeded hence to Kenchester, in Herefordshire, but no traces of such a work have hitherto been discovered. In the parish of Llandewi-Ystradenny, about four miles above Pen-y-Bont, near the Vale of Ithon, is an ancient British encampment, called the Gaer, which is oval, and defended by two deep fosses. It occupies an eminence above the river; and on the opposite side of the valley is a large tumulus, or barrow, designated Bedd Ygre, or "Ygre's grave." In the vicinity of Rhaiadr are several remarkable tumuli, some of which are composed wholly of stones, and bear the descriptive name of carneddau: the largest is styled Tommen Llansaintfraid, and is said to have had an underground communication with Rhaiadr Castle. There is also a large tumulus close to the churchyard of Aberedw.
Of the numerous buildings for military defence, little can now be ascertained. Camden says, "there remain many footings of castles, to be seen here and there, but especially Kevenlleece and Timbod, which, standing upon a sharp poynted hill, Llewellin, Prince of Wales, overthrew in the year 1260." The same author reports, that the castle of Maud in Colwyn was very famous, and that Robert de Todeney, a noble Norman, was once lord of the fortress; which took the above name from Maud of Saint Valeric, wife to William de Breos who rebelled against King John. This castle being thrown down by the Welsh, was rebuilt in 1231 by Henry III., and called by him, in despite of Llewelyn, Prince of Wales, Maugrè Llewellin. The fortress at Rhaiadr owed its origin to other hands. The celebrated chief Rhŷs ab Grufydd, had, in 1169, made peace with Henry III., and become attached to English interests. In 1176, he gave a feast in the castle of Cardigan, to which he invited many Normans and English: some of these visiters, however, in their way home, treacherously murdered his son-in-law, Eineon; and, to awe his enraged and revengeful opponents, Rhŷs is said to have "built the castle of Rhaiadr, on precipitous strong ground, (near the noted cataract of that name,) above the Wye," where the fosse and site of a considerable fortress may still be distinctly traced. There are some small remains of the castle of Aberedw, or Aberedwy, at the junction of the Edw, or Edwy, with the Wye; of that of Bâchrhŷd, or Boughrood, lower down on the banks of the Wye; of that of New Radnor; of the castle of the Black Rock, overhanging the tremendous chasm through which runs the river Mâchwy, or Bâchwy, anglicè Little Wye; and of a small fortress on the banks of the Wye, about two miles above Builth. There are also vestiges of the town walls and ditch of New Radnor; of the moat of Castell Cymaron, near Llandewi-Ystradenny; of the foundations of Castell Glyn Ithon, at Kevenlleece; of those of Dinboeth, or Tynboeth, Castle, near the upper extremity of the Vale of Ithon; and of those of Painscastle. Offa's Dyke, entering on the north from Shropshire, is first seen in Radnorshire near the town of Knighton, to which it gives its Welsh name of Trev-y-Clawdd, or "the town on the dyke," and whence, proceeding southward, it is easily traced between the parishes of Norton and Whitton to the vicinity of Beggar's Bush, where it inclines to the south-east, entering Herefordshire at the parish of Knill. Burva Bank, a steep hill on the border of the county, near this place, is skirted on the west by the dyke, which is about fifty feet broad, and of great depth. On this hill are traces of an extensive camp, and strong intrenchments, which have induced the opinion that it was the site of one of the fortified places by which the great rampart was defended.
Of ecclesiastical buildings there have never been many worthy of much notice. The foundations of the abbey founded at Cwm Hîr, in 1143, by Cadwallon ab Madoc, for sixty monks of the Cistercian order (the only religious house existing in the county at the period of the Reformation), are yet visible in the valley of the little river Clywedog, a tributary to the Ithon. The names of Monachty, near Knighton, and Coed-y-Monach, near Rhaiadr, indicate a monkish connexion, of which little is known. The churches at Old Radnor and Presteign still remain, as proofs that the influence of that pious zeal by which large and beautiful places of public worship were raised, was not wholly excluded from this portion of Wales; but with the exception of these two buildings, Clyro, Knighton, Nantmel, Glâsbury, and a few others, the churches throughout the county are of an inferior description. The principal gentlemen's residences are, Maesllwch Castle, Stanage Park, Harpton Court, Boultibrook, Penkerrig, Wellfield House, Pen-y-Bont Hall, Downton House, Evanesed House, Newcastle Court, Noyadd, Nant-Gwyllt, Cwm-Elain, Nant-yGroes, Norton House, Rhydoldog, Ddrew, and Abbeycwm-Hîr. There is a curious old house at Devanner Park.
The county contains a greater number of Mineral Springs than all the other counties of South Wales conjointly. Those at Llandrindod have for many years been held in high repute, and are much resorted to in the summer by valetudinarians. They are three in number: the waters of one of them are saline, containing Epsom salt, sea-salt, and some earth; the waters of another, sulphureous, containing hepatic air and sea-salt; and those of the third powerfully chalybeate, containing a considerable portion of iron in a volatile acid, and probably a neutral salt. The two first are very near each other, and are situated within a short distance of the principal lodging-house for the accommodation of visiters; the latter is about half a mile north-eastward from the others, in a little rocky valley on the contiguous waste. Llandegley Wells, near the public road between New Radnor and Rhaiadr; and Blaenedw Wells, distant therefrom about two miles south-eastward; are all of them sulphureous, are of considerable note, and much frequented. Near Pen-y-Bont, on the Ithon, are two springs, one sulphureous, and the other chalybeate. The following springs are all sulphureous: viz., Fynnon Ddewi, or "St. David's well," in the parish of Llanbadarn-Vynydd; New Well, in the parish of Llanano; and two springs in the parish of Llanbister, within ten yards of each other, one depositing a black, the other a reddish sediment, the latter of which turns copper white and silver yellow in a very short space of time. Several springs in the vicinity of those at Llanbister deposit a black sediment, and their waters are reputed to have great efficacy in the cure of scorbutic complaints. The most remarkable waterfall in the county is that called "Water-break-its-neck," situated in a narrow defile among the hills of Radnor Forest, about two miles to the west of New Radnor; its height is about one hundred and seventy feet, and the scenery around is perhaps, with the exception of the Elain valley, the finest in the county.
English is spoken in Radnorshire almost universally; so that it is rare to find a peasant who speaks Welsh, except in the north-western angle of the county beyond Rhaiadr, consisting of the parishes of St. Harmon and Cwmtoyddwr, the inhabitants of which for the most part use the Welsh only; and in these two places alone is the church service now performed in that tongue. The Welsh language is, however, understood by persons in the adjoining parishes of Nantmel and Abbey-Cwm-Hîr, although not much in use. By what means the inhabitants of the county have acquired the use of the tongue in which the laws are administered, and knowledge is disseminated, it is not easy to trace. The Saxon names of Norton, Whitton, Knighton, and many others on the eastern border, show that the places bearing them were wrested from the Welsh at an early period. In their immediate neighbourhood, however, the ancient language continued to be spoken till little more than a century ago; and in the church of LlanvihangelNant-Melan, within three miles of New Radnor, and in that of Cascob still more eastward, the Welsh Bibles still remain which were used in the service of those churches, though no Welsh is now spoken within twenty miles of them.