Welshpool - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
WELSHPOOL, a borough, market, and assize town, in the county of Montgomery, North Wales, 7Ĺ miles (N.) from Montgomery, and 175(N. W. by W.) from London: the parish of Welshpool comprises the Upper, the Middle, and Lower divisions, and the township of Cyvronydd; and contains 4626 inhabitants, of which number 4549 are in the several divisions, and the remaining 77 in the township. The original name of this place, written "Trellyn," from the Welsh "TrÍ 'r Llyn," was derived from its situation near a pool or lake of very great depth. From this circumstance, also, it obtained its English appellation of Pool; and in order to distinguish it from the town of Poole in the county of Dorset, it has long been generally called Welshpool. The lake, which is now within the park of Powis Castle, is nearly three hundred feet in depth, and, from the dark colour of its waters, has obtained the designation of Llyn DŻ, or "the black lake," since corrupted into Llyndy Pool.
The town is of ancient origin. The first notice of it occurs in the Welsh annals of the year 1109, when Cadwgan ab Bleddyn ab Cynvyn, a powerful chieftain of Powys, having succeeded, even during the state of anarchy prevailing at that time, in reducing his territories to some degree of order and tranquillity, by a rigid and impartial administration of justice, repaired to this place, and began to erect a castle, which he intended to make his principal residence, and the seat of his government. But this virtuous prince, whom Camden dignifies with the epithet of the "renowned Briton," was suddenly attacked during his abode here, by his nephew Madoc, a lawless chieftain of North Wales, at the head of a numerous band of desperate and profligate followers, who, taking Cadwgan by surprise, murdered him before he had time either to defend himself, or to take measures for his escape. On the death of Cadwgan, the castle which he had begun was left unfinished; but the work was resumed and completed by Gwenwynwyn, who succeeded his father Owain Cyfeiliog, in the government of the southern part of Powysland. In the year 1191, in resentment of various depredations which had been committed by the Welsh on the English vassals in the Marches, Hubert Archbishop of Canterbury, in the absence of Richard I. in the Holy Land, besieged this castle with a powerful force. The garrison made a determined resistance, and held out till the walls were undermined, when they surrendered on honourable terms. Having taken possession of the fortress, Hubert repaired the damage it had sustained during the siege, strengthened the defences, and, placing in it a strong garrison, returned into England. Gwenwynwyn, its rightful owner, being determined to use every effort for the recovery of the castle, which was the most important fortress in his dominions, laid siege to it in 1197, and soon compelled the English garrison to surrender it to him, upon the same terms as had been granted to his own soldiers. At this time the castle was distinguished by the appellation of "Gwenwynwyn's Castle at the Pool," and became the chief residence of that prince and his successors.
In the reign of King John, Gwenwynwyn having consented to become a vassal of the English crown, and to hold his territories in capite under that monarch, his son and successor Grufydd, on his accession to the government, did homage to the English king, and by his tenure was bound to aid and assist him in his endeavours to subjugate the principality to the authority of the English government. Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of North Wales, incensed at the defection of Grufydd from the interests of his countrymen, in the year 1233, attacked and dismantled his castle at Pool, called at that time, from the colour of the stone of which it was built, Y Castell CŰch, or "the red castle;" an appellation it still retains among the native Welsh. Upon this occasion Llewelyn banished Grufydd, and gave his territories to Grufydd ab Madoc, Prince of Upper Powys, and lord of Dinas Br‚n. Owain ab Grufydd, grandson of Gwenwynwyn, still, under the protection of the English, appears to have retained possession of his father's territories as an English vassal; and at his death he bequeathed them to his only daughter and heiress, Hawys, who was surnamed Gadarn, or "the hardy."
After her father's decease the title of Hawys to the principality of Powys was disputed by her four uncles Llewelyn, John, Grufydd Vychan, and David, all alleging the ineligibility of a female to succeed to that dignity. Under these circumstances Hawys appealed to Edward II., the reigning English monarch, who gave her in marriage to John de Charlton, whom the king ennobled by the title of Baron Powys, and in whose descendants the proprietorship of the castle and its dependencies remained for several generations. It was probably at this period that the fortress first obtained the appellation of Powys, now changed to Powis, Castle. By marriage with Jane, eldest daughter of Edward, Lord Powys, the barony and castle were conveyed to Sir John Grey, of Heton, who was slain at the unfortunate battle of Baugťe, in 1421; and in the reign of Elizabeth, Edward Grey, an illegitimate son of Edward Grey de Powys, who had inherited the estates by virtue of a settlement on his mother, sold them to Sir Edward Herbert, second son of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. Sir Edward, on his death, was interred in the church of Welshpool, where is a handsome monument to his memory; and was succeeded in his titles and estates by his son William, who was made Knight of the Bath at the coronation of James I., and by Charles I. created Lord Powys.
On the breaking out of the civil war of the seventeenth century, Piercy, Lord Powys, declared himself an advocate of the royal cause, fortified his castle, and placed in it a strong garrison, of which he took the command in person. It was soon afterwards besieged by a strong body of the parliamentary forces, under Sir Thomas Myddelton; and its outer walls having been materially damaged by the artillery of the assailants, it was at length reduced; the noble commander of the garrison was made prisoner, and the place was given up to pillage. Upon this event the castle and lordship were confiscated; but according to the general orders issued at the time, the proprietor of the estate was allowed to compound with the parliament, by which means he regained possession of them. It appears by a manuscript in the library at Powis Castle, that this fortress and that of Montgomery, with their outworks, were ordered to be demolished: in a decree of the council, however, dated April 28th, 1660, it is stated that the "Red Castle in Wales" did not belong to the government, and that the owners and proprietors thereof having given security that it should not be employed or made use of to the disturbance of the peace of the nation, or prejudicial to the parliament and commonwealth, "it is commanded that the former order made for demolishing the above-named castle shall be null and void, so far as regards the Red Castle, with the exception only of the outworks, and the making of some breaches in the walls, in order to render it indefensible in case of any future insurrection against the government and authority of the parliament." After these injunctions had been carried into effect, it was delivered into the possession of its legitimate proprietors, with whose descendants it still remains, the Right Hon. the Earl of Powis being the present owner.
This TOWN, which Leland in the reign of Henry VIII. describes as being "the best market in Powys," still retains that superiority; in addition to which, it may be justly regarded as the modern capital of the county. It is situated for the greater part in a hollow tract opening towards the river Severn, and extending up the acclivity of an eminence towards Powis park and castle; and consists of two towns, called respectively Pool town and Welsh town, but which are now so entirely united as to form one. It is large and populous, well lighted with gas, and comprises one long and wide street, intersected at right angles by another of similar character, and by several streets of smaller extent, all well paved, and the town amply supplied with water. The houses are handsomely built of brick, and with an unusual degree of regularity for this part of the country; and the whole presents a cheerful and prepossessing appearance, having more the aspect of an English than of a Welsh town. This impression, which strikes the stranger on his entrance, is strengthened both by the prevailing language and the manners of the inhabitants, the Welsh language being spoken by few, except such as come from the upper part of the country upon business.
Welshpool was for a long period the principal mart for the sale of the flannels made in the manufacturing district of North Wales; but its flannel-market has of late years been quite superseded by that of Newtown, and is no longer holden. A considerable trade is carried on in malt, for the making of which there are several kilns in the neighbourhood; there are likewise some tanneries upon a large scale, and at the extremity of the town are quarries of excellent stone, near which is a military depŰt for 1000 stand of arms. The river Severn is navigable to Pool Quay, within a short distance of the town; and the Montgomeryshire canal, which passes close to it, joins the Ellesmere canal near Oswestry, affording a facility of communication with the neighbouring parts. The market, which is amply supplied with provisions of every kind, is on Monday. Fairs occur on the Monday next before the second Wednesday in February, on the second Monday in March, the third Thursday in April, June 5th, the first Monday after the 10th of July, on September 12th, the Monday next before the second Wednesday in October, and on November 16th, for horses, cattle, and pedlery; on the day preceding each of which, a fair is held for the sale of sheep and pigs. A fair also takes place on the first Monday after the 20th of September, exclusively for the sale of butter and cheese; and there is a great cattle-market on the first Monday after St. Hilary, and also on the Monday before Christmas-day. The flannel-market was held every alternate Thursday, in a spacious room appropriated to that purpose in the town-hall, and was attended by numerous dealers and manufacturers from Llanidloes, Newtown, &c.: the average quantity sold at these markets was a thousand pieces, of which the finer sort generally measured about a hundred and twenty yards in length. Welshpool is supplied with coal from Denbighshire and the north-western parts of Shropshire, by means of the canal.
The inhabitants received a charter of Incorporation at a ery early period, from the lords of Powys, who invested them with various privileges and immunities, which were subsequently confirmed by a charter granted by James I., in the twelfth year of his reign, and confirmed and enlarged by Charles II. Under this charter the corporation consisted of two bailiffs, and an indefinite number of aldermen and burgesses, with a high steward, recorder, town-clerk, coroner, two serjeants-at-mace, two yeomen, and other officers. By the act 5th and 6th of William IV., c. 76, however, the corporation, now styled the "Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses," consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, together forming the council of the borough. The council elect the mayor annually on November 9th out of the aldermen or councillors; and the aldermen sexennially from among the councillors, or persons qualified as such, one-half going out of office every three years, but being re-eligible: the councillors are chosen by and out of the enrolled burgesses, on November 1st, one-third retiring annually. The aldermen and councillors must have each a property qualification of £500. A recorder is appointed by the council: two auditors and two assessors are elected annually on March 1st, by and from among the burgesses; and the council appoint a town-clerk, treasurer, and other officers on November 9th.
This was originally one of the contributory boroughs which, with Montgomery, returned a member to parliament under the statute of the twentyseventh of Henry VIII.; and the right of election, vested in the burgesses of the town, continued to be exercised from that time till the year 1728, when the borough was disfranchised by a resolution of the House of Commons. This resolution, however, being in direct opposition to a previous resolution in 1680, by which the right had been confirmed, the burgesses were empowered, by an act of the twentyeighth of George III., to assert their claim to vote for a member for Montgomery before any future committee of the House, and to enter an appeal against any future decision, within twelve calendar months; but no measures were ever taken to regain the privilege. By the act of 1832 "to Amend the Representation," Welshpool was again invested with the franchise, being made contributory with Llanidloes, Llanvyllin, Machynlleth, Montgomery, and Newtown, in choosing a member. The right of election is now in every person of full age occupying, either as owner, or as tenant under the same landlord, a house or other premises of the annual value of not less than £10, provided he be capable of registering as the act directs; and the present number of such tenements within the electoral limits of the borough, which are less extensive than the ancient municipal boundary, is about 300.
The jurisdiction of the municipal borough embraces a circumference of about sixty miles, extending over the parishes of Pool and Buttington; the hamlets of Gungrog-Vechan, TrÍlydan, and TrÍvnant-Vechan, with parts of those of Garth, HendrehÍn, Llan, Trawscoed, Llanerchrochwell, TÓrymynach, and Varchwel, in the parish of Guilsfield; the hamlets of Gaer, Sylvaen, TrÍv-Helyg, and TrÍvnant, with parts of those of Cwm and Castle, in the parish of Castle-Caer-Einion; and the hamlet of Brithdir, in the parish of Berriew. The mayor and justices hold a court every alternate Tuesday, for determining on all petty offences committed within the borough; and the spring assizes for the county, and the petty-sessions for the hundreds of Pool and Cawrse, are also held in the town: the quartersessions for the county are held here and at Newtown alternately. The powers of the county debt-court of Welshpool, established in 1847, extend over part of the registration-district of Montgomery, and a small part of that of Llanvyllin. The town-hall, erected at the expense of a few gentlemen residing in the vicinity, to avoid increasing the county rate, which was previously overcharged, is a handsome building of brick, in the centre of the principal street, with a colonnade in front. Its basement story is appropriated to the use of the corn-market, with an ample space for the sale of various articles of merchandise, and a spacious court-room for holding the assizes, the borough sessions, and other courts. In the upper story is a commodious room, originally sixty-two feet in length, twenty-five wide, and eighteen high, but enlarged in 1824, for the holding of a grand Eisteddvod, and now 102 feet long, in which public meetings take place, the business of the corporation and the county is transacted, and balls are occasionally given.
The Parish is bounded on the east by Buttington, south-east by Forden, south by Berriew, southwest by Castle-Caer-Einion, north-west by Llangyniew, and north by Guilsfield. It contains by computation 6500 acres, of which 2000 are arable, 3300 meadow and pasture, 600 wood, and about 600 acres gardens, roads, water, &c. The surface presents mountain, and good arable upland, with woody dells, and extensive meadows and rich pastures on the banks of the river Severn: the soil on the lower grounds is a rich loam, in other parts rather shaly, and produces wheat, barley, oats, and hay; the prevailing timber consists of oak, ash, and elm.
Pool is a vicarage, rated in the king's books at £13. 5. 2Ĺ.; present net income, £273; patron, the Bishop of St. Asaph. The tithes of the parish, including the township of Cyvronydd, have been commuted for £643. 17., of which a sum of £476 is payable to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, who have also a glebe of four acres and a half; £165. 12. to the vicar, who has a glebe of nine acres, and a house; and £7. 13. to the parish-clerk. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, and, with the exception of the chancel and the tower, rebuilt in 1774, is a spacious and handsome structure, consisting of a nave, chancel, and north and south aisles, with a lofty square embattled tower: it was enlarged with galleries in 1824. The ceiling of the chancel is divided into compartments, embellished with rich carved work; and from the roof of the north aisle grows some pendant ivy, which has a very singular appearance. The nave is eighty-five feet long, by fifty wide, and the chancel twenty feet by ten; and there are about 400 free sittings, some of which are occupied by the children of the National schools. Among the communion-plate is a chalice of fine gold, capable of containing one quart, and valued at £170: engraved on it is a Latin inscription, stating it to have been presented by Thomas Davies, Governor-General of the English colonies on the western coast of Africa, in gratitude for the preservation of his life during his residence in that unhealthy clime. There is a gradual ascent from the flat part of the town to the church, which stands at the base of a loftier eminence; so that the cemetery, which lies on the acclivity, is in some parts higher than the building itself, and commands a fine view of the town beneath. The late Earl of Powis was buried in the church, in January 1848. A handsome church, in the Anglo-Norman style, was lately erected at the upper end of the town, to commemorate the coming of age of Lord Clive, now Earl of Powis; the late peer gave the site, and a sum of about £6000 was subscribed for the building. It consists of a nave and north and south aisles, with clerestory windows; the length of the nave is eighty feet, and the width fifty. This church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and the living is in the gift of the Earl of Powis. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, and Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodists.
A National school for children of both sexes, founded in 1821, and supported by subscription and school-pence, is held in a building situated a short distance from the town, on the road to Newtown, a handsome stone edifice, occupying three sides of a quadrangle, and consisting of commodious and spacious schoolrooms. Connected with this school is the Belan school, about two miles distant from the town, and intended to afford preparatory instruction to the young children of the neighbourhood, who cannot reach the National school: divine service is held in the schoolroom on Sunday. The funds of these schools have latterly been increased by the income of a small endowment of £9 per annum, originally intended for the support of a grammar or Latin school for twenty boys, natives of the town, but never so applied for the last fifty years. A dame's-school in the town is aided, under the will of Richard Tudor, Esq., by the sum of £1.16. per annum, directed to be paid "to a petty schoolmaster or mistress for teaching ten poor children;" and there are altogether six Sunday schools in the town and parish. Mr. Tudor also left £80, the produce to be appropriated to the apprenticing of one poor boy annually.
In 1761, an act of parliament was obtained for inclosing and allotting Pool Common, in the parishes of Pool and Guilsfield, on which the burgesses of the town possessed the right of pasturage for their cattle, under a charter by John de Charlton, lord of Powys, in the seventeenth of Edward II. After the passing of the measure, the common was accordingly divided by the commissioners appointed for the purpose, when lands consisting of eleven fields and a small wood, containing in the whole seventy-five acres, at present yielding a rent of £136. 15. per annum, were awarded to the corporation. By a provision of the act, the rents and profits were to be for the benefit of poor burgesses, after part had been applied to building, enlarging, and beautifying public edifices; and in 1824 the corporation, under this clause, borrowed £300 to be appropriated towards the enlargement of the town-hall, and in the year after a further sum of £500, employed in the erection of a more commodious court-house for holding the assizes. Near the church is an almshouse, founded by the late Mr. Parry, which consists of eight rooms, each occupied by an aged female who is a decayed housekeeper: a small endowment of 10s., payable to each, has been discontinued since 1799. About £19. 5. are distributed on the 1st of January among the poor in small sums; chiefly arising from £10, the rent of an estate consisting of a house and 31 acres of land, purchased with a bequest of £100 by Elijah Phillips in 1755; and from the interest of £90 left by Miss Elizabeth Lloyd, of £50 by Joseph Pursell, and of a similar sum by Robert Tudor. Besides these charities, there is a rent-charge of £4, by Thomas Langford, for supplying clothing to eight persons on the first Sunday in November; and a dispensary has been established, which is well supported by subscription. The town is included in the incorporation of Forden.
Powis Castle, the seat of the Earl of Powis, a stately but irregular pile of building, of great extent, and venerable for its antiquity, is pleasantly situated in a well-wooded park, at the distance of a mile from the town, on the right of the road leading to Montgomery. It occupies an elevated and commanding position on a ridge of rock overlooking a vast tract of richly diversified country, the greater part of which was formerly subject to its lords. The edifice is built of red-sandstone, from which circumstance it derived the appellation of Castell CŰch, a name it still retains among the Welsh. The damage it sustained during the parliamentary war has been amply repaired, and the whole edifice fitted up in a style of grandeur. The late earl effected much improvement in its external appearance, by removing the sash windows inserted more than a century ago, and restoring others of the original shape, more in conformity with the prevailing style of architecture; also by a considerable addition to the height of the tower on the east side.
The entrance is by an ancient gateway, flanked by two massive circular towers, into an extensive paved area, round which the principal apartments are ranged. The ascent to these is by a magnificent staircase embellished with paintings by Lanscroon: the walls on each side are adorned with mythological and allegorical subjects, among which are representations of Neptune, Amphitrite, Apollo, and Venus, and emblematical personifications of Poetry, Painting, Music, the Fates, and other subjects; the ceiling is painted with the coronation of Queen Anne. In the lower part of the hall is a painting of Aurora, and near it a marble figure of Cybele, in a sitting posture, about three feet high, on a pedestal of marble, exquisitely sculptured, which was brought from Herculaneum; and on the upper landing of the staircase is a cast of the Apollo Belvidere. This staircase leads to a gallery, one hundred and seventeen feet in length, and twenty feet wide, adorned with family and other portraits, and in which are ranged busts of the twelve Caesars, brought from Italy, two mosaic tables from Rome, and four small figures in marble, of very great antiquity. The walls of the gallery are of panelled oak, enriched with armorial bearings of different branches of the family; and the ceiling is an ancient relic of the elaborately ornamented style in plaster. One end of the gallery communicates with the state bed-room, which is preserved in the same order as when prepared for the reception of Charles I., who was expected to sleep here on his route to Chester. Her present Majesty slept in the apartment in August 1832, when, as Princess Victoria, she visited Powis Castle accompanied by her royal highness the Duchess of Kent. The dining-room, saloon, and library, are all splendidly decorated, and contain some beautiful and valuable antiques, among which are some exquisite sculptures from the ruins of Herculaneum. The ceiling of the dining-room is highly embellished with painting, in which the daughters of William, second Marquess of Powys, are represented in various characters, and with appropriate attributes. In the drawing-room are a full-length portrait of Roger Palmer, Earl of Castlemaine, ambassador at Rome in the reign of James I., in the costume of his day; and numerous family portraits by the best masters. In the library is a manuscript history of the life of Lord Herbert. The ball-room, of the same dimensions as the gallery, and containing a fine collection of paintings by the first masters, was formerly connected with the main structure by a part of the castle, which was destroyed by fire about 140 years ago, so that it is now detached from it: many of the original windows in that portion of the building are still remaining, though almost concealed by the ivy with which they are overspread. At the end of the ball-room is a billiard-room, the walls of which are ornamented with glass cases, containing an elegant variety of stuffed birds, and other curiosities.
On the south side of the castle are terraces in the rock on which it is built, rising in succession above each other, and laid out in flower-gardens, with green and hot houses, comprising a choice collection of rare and valuable plants. The lower terrace leads to a delightful walk, shaded with trees of every variety; and from the south-east angle of the castle is a terrace, most probably formed by the excavation of the rock for the stone with which the castle is built, and commanding a fine prospect of the Vale of Severn, with the town of Welshpool, beyond which appears the 'Rallt and Moel-y-Golva, and the Breiddin hills, and an extensive tract of the surrounding country. The park is very large, and richly wooded; it lies on the acclivity of a hill, of which the summit is two miles distant from the castle, and from which, in clear weather, may be viewed the mountains of Plinlimmon, Cader Idris, Snowdon, the Arans, the Arenigs, and various others. A winding road through the park leads to the castle, which is frequently lost to the spectator on his approach, and is seen emerging again from the luxuriant foliage by which it had been concealed. The park is ornamented with numerous rustic seats, and the walk through these delightfully varied grounds, which are open to the public, is a source of much enjoyment to the inhabitants of the town. Among the gentlemen's seats in the neighbourhood is LlanerchydŰl, a modern castellated mansion of stone, beautifully situated on the acclivity of a hill rising gradually from the town, from which is an ascent by a winding road, commanding magnificent prospects; the grounds are tastefully laid out, and comprehend much picturesque scenery. The following may also be mentioned: Garth, the seat of the Mytton family, built after the style of the Pavilion at Brighton; Nantcribba, a seat of Viscount Hereford's; Glansevern, built for the late Sir Arthur Davies Owen; and Vaynor, a handsome Elizabethan structure, on a finely-wooded eminence.
At a short distance from the town was the ancient monastery called Monachlog Ystrad Marchell, or Strata Marcella, instituted in 1170, by Owain Cyveiliog, son of Grufydd, for monks of the Cistercian order; or, according to other authorities, by Madoc, another son, to whom Tanner attributes the refounding of it, though, by his charter, he appears only to have granted to it a portion of land on which to establish a cell. In the early part of the reign of Edward III., the Welsh monks were removed to England, and English ones introduced into this monastery, which was made subject to the abbey of Buildwas, and flourished till the Dissolution, when its revenue, according to Dugdale, was £64. 14. 2., and according to Speed, £73. 7. 3. There are no remains of the edifice; and the only memorial of it is preserved in the site, which is still pointed out. At a short distance to the east of the town are the remains of a British encampment, in a good state of preservation; and on the summit of the mound which it comprises are some stately elm-trees.
Dr. William Morgan was appointed vicar of the parish in 1575. He was afterwards removed to Llanrhaiadr-yn-Mochnant, and, in 1595, preferred to the see of Llandaf, from which he was translated in 1601 to that of St. Asaph, where he died in 1604. He had a principal share in the translation of the Welsh Bible printed in 1588, which, revised by Dr. Parry, Bishop of St. Asaph, in 1604, with the assistance of his chaplain, Dr. John Davies, and reprinted in 1620, is, with some slight variation, the version now in general use.