A Topographical Dictionary of Wales. Originally published by S Lewis, London, 1849.
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Bonvilston, otherwise Bolston
BONVILSTON, otherwise BOLSTON, a parish, in the union of Cardiff, hundred of DinasPowys, county of Glamorgan, South Wales, 4 miles (E.) from Cowbridge, on the road to Cardiff; containing 282 inhabitants. This parish is bounded on the north by the parish of Pendoylan, on the south by Llancarvan, on the east by St. Lythan's, and on the west by St. Nicholas'. It comprises 1119 acres, of which 372 are arable, 677 pasture, and 70 woodland, consisting chiefly of oak and ash; the soil is clayey in some parts, in others gravelly, and the produce is wheat and barley. Limestone of good quality abounds. The alternations of arable, pasture, and woodland confer upon the scenery a pleasing and picturesque appearance, and the numerous good residences in the parish contribute in no small deg to the general effect. The village is ornamented with several neat cottages, and has a prepossessing appearance of cheerfulness and gentility: the mansion of the ancient family of Basset, which is situated here, has been lately rebuilt.
The living is a perpetual curacy, rated in the king's books at £6. 9. 2., and endowed with £200 private benefaction, £200 royal bounty, and £500 parliamentary grant; net income, £83; patron and impropriator, Richard Basset, Esq.: the great tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £80, and those payable to the perpetual curate for one of £54. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a neat and appropriate structure, built about the time of the Conquest; it is twenty-six yards in length, and seven in breadth, and contains 200 sittings. Here is a school of about fifty or sixty children, supported by subscription, under the patronage of Sir George Tyler, lord of the manor; the salary of the mistress is £25, exclusively of about £9 in school-fees, and a house and garden rent-free. A Sunday school is held in the same room. Grace Aubrey in 1678 bequeathed £100, Mrs. Loughor in 1731 £50, and Mr. David John in 1776 £10, for the use of the poor, making together the sum of £160; to which £3 per annum have been subsequently added, arising out of two deed polls, purchased with ten years' arrears of Grace Aubrey's donation, as stated in an inscription on a tablet in the church. The interest of Grace Aubrey's benefaction is secured by an investment of £200 in the 3 per cent. consols. by the representatives of Sir John Aubrey, Bart., in 1816; and the two other sums have been invested at 5 per cent. by deed polls on the tolls of the Cardiff turnpike district. There is said to have been formerly a castle here, the site of which is still pointed out, but no account of its foundation, nor any particulars of its history, have been recorded.
BORRAS (BWRAS), a township, comprising the division of Borras-Bovah in the parish of Wrexham, and that of Borras-Rifrey in the parish of Gresford, union of Wrexham, hundred of Bromfield, county of Denbigh, North Wales, 3 miles (N. E.) from Wrexham; the whole containing 80 inhabitants, of whom 43 are in the division of BorrasBovah, and 37 in that of Borras-Rifrey. This township, which comprises a small agricultural tract, lying near the river Dee, supports its own poor, according to an arrangement made in March 1830. The impropriate tithes of Borras-Bovah have been commuted for a rent-charge of £87. 16. 0½., and the vicarial for one of 11s. 3d.; the impropriate tithes of Borras-Rifrey have been commuted for £39. 17. 6., and the vicarial tithes for £22. 2. 6.
BOSHERSTON, a parish, in the hundred of Castlemartin, union and county of Pembroke, South Wales, 6 miles (S. by W.) from Pembroke; containing 225 inhabitants. This parish is situated on the shore of the Bristol Channel, by which it is bounded on the south; and the rocks on this part of the coast are worn, by the repeated action of the sea, into caverns of considerable depth, and of singular and romantic appearance. Of these, Bosherston Meer, extending about a quarter of a mile from the sea, is the most remarkable: at the entrance it presents only a small opening on the surface of the ground, but gradually it expands into a spacious cavern of increasing depth, which has never yet been explored. Previously to the commencement of a storm, the confined air is much agitated, and the most terrific noises issue from the cleft, which are heard at a great distance: during the violence of the tempest immense columns of spray are occasionally thrown up. The Stack Rocks, on the coast, are frequented in summer by innumerable sea-birds of various tribes. By far the greater part of the land in the parish is inclosed and in a state of cultivation, but there is a considerable expanse of open downs.
The living is a rectory, rated in the king's books at £11. 6. 8.; patron, Earl Cawdor: the tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £110. 10., and there is a glebe of sixty-five acres, valued at £62. 10. per annum; also a glebe-house. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, was handsomely ornamented by John Campbell, Esq., a member of the Cawdor family. The children in the parish have access to a day school in Stackpool-Elidur, supported by Earl Cawdor.
A little to the east of Bosherston Meer, and also within the parish, is the hermitage of St. Gawen, situated in a fissure of the rock apparently formed by some violent convulsion, about half-way in the cliff between the summit and the base, and only a short distance from high-water mark. A flight of steps, rudely cut in the rock, forms a descent to a "chapel," about twenty feet in length and twelve feet wide, with an altar formed of a coarse stone slab, harmonizing with the rude and simple character of the place. On one side a door, opening from the chapel, leads into a small cell, cut in the solid rock, and in form resembling the human body, which is said to have been the solitary retreat of St. Gawen. Beneath the hermitage is St. Gawen's well, held in great repute for the miraculous efficacy in the cure of diseases superstitiously ascribed to it. The scenery around this sequestered spot is of the wildest and most romantic character: large fragments of rock are scattered in confused heaps in every direction, and huge masses of rugged cliffs, threatening to detach themselves every moment from the higher precipices, which impend over the seaworn base of the rock, give to the scene an appalling grandeur of effect. Gawen, from whom the promontory of St. Gawen's Head derives its name, though now popularly regarded as a saint and an anchorite, is said to have been a nephew of the renowned King Arthur, and one of the knights of his Round Table; and Hoole, in one of the notes attached to his translation of Orlando Furioso, asserts that on "a breach of the sea, near Milford Haven, is a natural rock, shaped into a chapel, which tradition reports to have been the burying-place of Sir Gawain, King Arthur's nephew."
BOTTWNOG (BÔD-WYNNOG), a parish, in the union of Pwllheli, hundred of Gaflogion, Lleyn division of the county of Carnarvon, North Wales, 8 miles (W. S. W.) from Pwllheli; containing 191 inhabitants. This small parish occupies a position in the promontory of Lleyn, about midway between the bay of Cardigan and the Irish Sea; it comprises 487 acres. The village is situated in an extensive plain, but neither it nor the surrounding district possesses features worthy of particular notice. The living is a perpetual curacy, annexed to the rectory of Meylltyrn: the tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £57; and there is a glebe of about 9¼ acres. The church, dedicated to St. Beuno, was rebuilt in 1835. There are places of worship for Anabaptists and Calvinistic Methodists. The grammar school here was founded in 1616 by Dr. Henry Rowlands, Bishop of Bangor, who endowed it with a farm, called Llŷslew, at Porthamel, in the county of Anglesey, now producing £200 per annum. Of this sum £160 are paid to the master, who, according to the will of the founder, must be an Englishman, and have taken the degree of master of arts at the University of Oxford; he pays £40 per annum to an usher, and £10 are allowed annually out of the income of the school for coal. Part of the funds having been suffered to accumulate, a farm of twelve acres, contiguous to the school-house, and valued at 30s. per acre, has been purchased for £600, and bestowed on the master in augmentation of his salary. There are also separate residences for the master and usher, the former an excellent building. The number of boys in the school is about fifty or sixty; they consist principally of the sons of farmers, and a few labourers' sons, and the instruction, which is chiefly conducted by the usher, is little superior to what is usually imparted at Church schools for the poor, the classics, &c. being only taught when required. Bishop Rowlands, also, bequeathed to the Principal and Fellows of Jesus' College, Oxford, all his lands in Erianell, in the county of Anglesey, for the foundation of two fellowships in that college, one fellow to be from the school of Bottwnog, and one from that of Bangor, or of Beaumaris; and he charged his estate of Tyddyn-y-ddreinioes with the payment of £6 per annum for two poor boys in the school of Bottwnog. A National school for girls has been erected within the last few years; a Church Sunday school is held, and two Sunday schools are conducted by the dissenters. The Rev. Richard Thomas left £5 to the poor, the proceeds of which are distributed among them at Christmas.
BOUGHROOD (BÂCH-RHŶD), a parish, in the union of Hay, hundred of Painscastle, county of Radnor, South Wales, 7 miles (W. by s.) from Hay, near the road to Builth; containing 322 inhabitants. It is beautifully situated on the eastern bank of the Wye, across which was a ford, from which the name of the place, signifying "the little ford," was derived. The village is delightfully embowered in wood, and sheltered by hills of moderate elevation; on the opposite bank of the Wye, extends a more elevated ridge of hills, clothed to the summit with majestic timber. Just below, the river makes the most remarkable horse-shoe bend in the whole of its course, gliding along its smooth bed in unruffled tranquillity, strongly opposed to the impetuosity which characterizes the earlier part of its course over a rocky channel. The parish is almost equally divided between hilly and level ground, the total area being 1633 acres; the soil is very light on the hills, but rich and clayey on the banks of the Wye. The small stream called Bâch-wy empties itself into the Wye near the village. Of the ancient castellated mansion called Boughrood Castle, the only remains are the moat and part of a wall: a spacious house bearing the same name, was erected nearly on its site by Francis Fowkes, Esq., which, together with the estate, was sold to the late Walter Wilkins De Winton, of Maesllwch, Esq.
The living is a discharged vicarage, endowed with the rectorial tithes, rated in the king's books at £12. 6. 8.; patron, the Bishop of St. David's: the tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £259, and there is a glebe of 10 acres, valued at £13 per annum. The church, dedicated to St. Cynog, consists of a nave and chancel, and like most of the village churches in this part of the country, is kept neatly whitewashed. There is a place of worship for Primitive Methodists; also a day school, partly supported by subscription, and partly by fees. A rent-charge of £1. 4., the bequest of William John in 1786, charged on a tenement called Cae-William-Shôn, near Pistill farm, in the Radnorshire division of the parish of Glâsbury, is annually distributed among twelve poor persons not receiving parochial pay, in sums of two shillings each. The parish likewise shares in the charity founded by the Rev. Rice Powell, for apprenticing poor children. This pious and benevolent individual, who was vicar of the parish, from which his benefactions to this and other places have been called the "Boughrood charity," died in 1687, and lies buried in the priory church of Brecknock, in the account of which town his charity is described.
Boulston, otherwise Bulston
BOULSTON, otherwise BULSTON, a parish, in the union of Haverfordwest, hundred of Dungleddy, county of Pembroke, South Wales, 3 miles (S. E. by S.) from Haverfordwest; containing 319 inhabitants. This parish was for many generations the residence of the ancient family of Wogan, by one of whom the church is supposed to have been built. It is pleasantly situated on the banks of the river Cleddau, and the surrounding scenery, which in some parts is richly wooded, is pleasingly and agreeably diversified. Culm abounds in the parish, but it has not been worked; and a vein of iron-ore has been discovered, but no preparations for procuring it have been made. The living is a donative; net income, £25; patron and impropriator, Robert Innes Ackland, Esq. The church is an ancient structure, ornamented on the outside, above the chancel window, with the arms of the Wogans, and containing several monuments, among them a very curious effigy. A bequest of £2 per annum to the poor, by James Beynon, in 1781, has been lost. There are several tumuli in the parish, one of which was opened by Mr. Fenton, in his tour through this county, and found to contain a rudely-formed kist, in which were some human bones half calcined, intermixed with pieces of charcoal. Some remains of the ancient mansion of the Wogans, on the bank of the river, are still preserved, as a picturesque ruin, in the beautiful grounds of an elegant mansion the seat of Mr. Ackland.
BRAWDY, a parish, in the union of Haverfordwest, hundred of Dewisland, county of Pembroke, South Wales, 7 miles (E.) from St. David's; containing 767 inhabitants. This parish is intersected by the turnpike-road from Haverfordwest to St. David's, and, with the exception of a comparatively small portion, consisting of hills and moors, is inclosed, and in a good state of cultivation. The living is a discharged vicarage, with that of Hayscastle annexed, rated in the king's books at £3. 18. 9., and endowed with £200 royal bounty, and £1400 parliamentary grant; present net income, £115; patron, the Bishop of St. David's. The impropriate tithes of Brawdy have been commuted for a rent-charge of £293. 15., and the vicarial tithes for a rent-charge of £70. The church is dedicated to St. David. There are places of worship for Presbyterians, Independents, and Calvinistic Methodists. It is related of the Rev. Mr. Wilcocks, the late respected vicar of the parish, that, prior to entering into holy orders, he paid two masters, during twelve years, out of his earnings by daily labour, to teach all the poor children of Brawdy and Hayscastle; and that the parishioners were so impressed with a sense of his meritorious conduct and love of learning, that he was ordained at their request. He latterly supported a school of forty-five boys and twenty girls. The schools now maintained in the parish are, a Church school; a British school, commenced in 1846, and supported by subscription; and three or four Sunday schools. On Brawdy farm is a rath, or British encampment, defended by a triple rampart.
BRECHVA (BRECHFA), a parish, in the union of Llandilo-Vawr, Higher division of the hundred of Cathinog, county of Carmarthen, South Wales, 11 miles (N. E.) from Carmarthen; containing 109 inhabitants. This parish is pleasantly situated on the river Cothy, a stream abounding with excellent trout, and in a beautifully romantic valley, surrounded on all sides by lofty hills of varied aspect, among which is plenty of game. The soil is fertile; and the lands, which are all inclosed, are in a good state of cultivation. A new turnpike-road, connecting the counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen, and Glamorgan, and passing through the parish, has contributed somewhat to the increase of its population. A fair, principally for cattle, is annually held on the 3rd of October. The living is a rectory, not in charge, endowed with £600 royal bounty; net income, £72; patrons, alternately, George Morgan, Esq., and the representative of the late Mrs. Elizabeth Hughes. The church, dedicated to St. Teilo, and situated at the extremity of the parish, upon the little river Pib, is a small plain edifice, without either tower or spire. There is a place of worship for Calvinistic Methodists, with a Sunday school held in it.
BRECKNOCK, a borough and markettown, and the head of a union, having exclusive jurisdiction, locally in the hundreds of Merthyr, Pencelly, and Devynock, in the county of Brecknock, South Wales, 171 miles (W. by N.) from London, on the road to Milford. The parliamentary borough of Brecknock contains a population of 5701, of which number 1832 persons are in part of the Upper division of the parish of St. John the Evangelist, 2207 in St. Mary's chapelry, or the Lower division of St. John's parish, 1236 in Llanvaes, or the Lower division of the parish of St. David, 289 in part of the parish of Llywel, 104 in the extra-parochial district of Christ-Church, and 33 in that of the Castle. The out-portions of the parishes of St. John and St. David, or those parts not included within the borough, contain respectively 148 and 186 inhabitants.
The origin of Brecknock is referred to a period of remote antiquity, being attributed to the existence of a neighbouring British city, which, from its position on a moderate eminence, and from its commanding situation near the confluence of the rivers Yscir or Yskir and Usk, may have been of considerable importance long before the arrival of the Romans in Britain. Near that place Ostorius Scapula, the first Roman general who penetrated into this part of the country, fixed a station, subsequently called Caer-Ban, or Caer-Bannau, and the remains of which are now called the Gaer. The Via Julia Montana passed this way, and was here intersected by the Roman road leading from Neath to Chester, now commonly called Sarn Helen. Caer-Bannau likewise communicated by a vicinal way with the station Tibia Amnis, situated at or near the modern Cardiff. Its history under the dominion of the Romans, and after their departure from Britain, is involved in obscurity, very few circumstances of importance having been recorded of it. In the fifth century it was under the jurisdiction of a petty chieftain named Brychan, who is celebrated in the Welsh annals chiefly for the number, learning, and piety of his children, and from whom the country derived the appellation of Brycheiniog.
In the reign of William Rufus, Bernard Newmarch, encouraged by the success of his countryman, Robert Fitz-Hamon, in the neighbouring territory of Glamorgan, advanced with an army against Bleddyn ab Maenarch, at that time prince of Brycheiniog, and, after an obstinate and sanguinary battle near Caervong (said by Mr. Jones to be a corruption of Caer-Ban), in which that prince was slain, took possession of his dominions. Bernard, disliking the situation of the Roman-British capital of the province he had conquered, or probably induced by the superior advantages of the spot which he now chose, demolished Caer-Bannau, and employed the materials in building a castle three miles lower down the Usk, at the influx of the Honddû into that river; adjacent to which, in process of time, a town arose, called by the Welsh Aber-Honddû, and which, becoming the capital of the ancient principality of Brycheiniog, received from the English the name of Brecknock, or Brecon. Having completed this castle, Bernard made it his chief residence and the head of his lordship marcher. The town, also built of the materials of the ancient capital, was surrounded with walls, inclosing an elliptical area about one thousand and seventy yards in circuit, defended by a deep moat, by which, together with the rivers Usk and Honddû, it was completely insulated. The walls were strengthened by ten towers, at nearly equal distances, but varying in form, some being circular and others square; and had five gates, of which two, still partly remaining, appear to have led to the priory. Notwithstanding the care, however, with which the town was fortified, it was, from its situation, ill adapted for security, being overlooked by numerous heights, from which missiles of every kind might be discharged against it with effect; and Bernard was, therefore, enabled to retain the territory he had subjugated more by his policy in espousing a Welsh princess, namely Nêst, the grand-daughter of Grufydd ab Llewelyn. He is said to have kept Gwrgan, the eldest son of Bleddyn, in close confinement in his castle of Brecknock, not permitting him to go abroad, unless accompanied by two Norman knights; but he nevertheless assigned to him, and also to his brother Caradoc, certain portions of land that remained after his allotment of the rest to his Norman followers. The last expedition of this conqueror, for the extension of his territory, was into Radnorshire, the result being the addition of Elvel, in that county, to his dominions.
After this, Bernard appears to have spent the remainder of his days in atoning for the violence and injustice of the earlier part of his life. By the advice of his confessor, Roger, a monk of Battle Abbey, in Sussex, he founded, without the castle walls, a priory for monks of the Benedictine order, which he dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, and made a cell to that abbey. He endowed it with ample possessions, including the chapel within the castle, and churches, lands, tithes, and various other sources of revenue in several counties; and placed it under the management of Walter, an intimate friend of Roger's, and a monk in the same abbey, who, on the completion of the buildings, was made prior. It was charged with the annual payment of twenty shillings, in token of dependence upon the abbey of Battle; the priors of Brecknock were eligible to the abbacy, and in the election to that dignity the brethren of the priory had the privilege of voting.
Bernard Newmarch died in the reign of Henry I., and was interred in the cloisters of Gloucester cathedral. His son-in-law and successor, Milo FitzWalter, resided principally at Gloucester, seldom visiting his Welsh possessions; but Milo's eldest son, Roger, after succeeding to the lordship of Brecknock, was a munificent benefactor to the monks, to whom he granted five several charters, still extant, conferring many valuable gifts and important privileges. Among the former were, the site of the Vasta Civitas, the ancient Caer-Bannau, with its dependencies, extending up the northern bank of the river Usk, from the influx of the Yscir to that of the Cilieni; the exclusive possession of all mills in the parish of Brecknock, with the absolute right of prohibiting the erection of others; and the tithes of all cattle arising from the "benevolence or free gift of the Welsh," a sarcastic term, by which the Norman lords designated the annual contribution of a certain number of cattle, which they rigorously exacted from their Welsh tenantry, for the supply of their larder.
The lordship of Brecknock, after the decease of the other sons of Milo Fitz-Walter, passed, by marriage with his daughter, to Philip de Breos, Lord of Builth, whose ancestor had accompanied the Conqueror into England. Philip died in the reign of Henry II., and left his possessions to his son, William de Breos, a man of a fierce and turbulent character, who, from the veneration in which he held the priory of St. John, at Brecknock, granted to all persons belonging to the town, as well burgesses as others, exemption from all levies and contributions payable to chief constables, and from all fines for common trespasses and defaults; and to the monks of that establishment the goods and chattels of felons; reserving to himself and the officers of his court the right of passing all sentences affecting life or limb. William, having summoned Trahearn Vychan, the greatgrandson of Bleddyn ab Maenarch, and lord of Llangorse, to a conference at Brecknock, in 1198, the latter immediately prepared to obey the injunction of his superior lord, who caused him to be treacherously seized on his way, and dragged at a horse's tail through the streets of Brecknock, after which he was beheaded, and his body ignominiously hung up by the feet for three days. This lord was also continually embroiled with King John, to whom, after repeated delays in the payment of a large sum of money, he was obliged to deliver up his castles of Brecknock, Hay, and Radnor; but soon afterwards, raising a body of troops in haste, he retook the castles by surprise, and recovered possession of them. Having committed some devastations in the adjacent country, he was closely pressed by the king's forces, and at last withdrew into Ireland, where he associated himself with the enemies of the English sovereign. He afterwards made a feigned submission to the king, who was preparing to embark for Ireland; but, again exciting disturbances in Wales, he at length retired into France, where he died in exile, and his estates escheated to the crown.
The castle and lordship of Brecknock, with the other forfeited estates in Wales, were restored by King John to Giles, Bishop of Hereford, son of William de Breos; on whose death in 1215 they passed to his brother Reginald, who, having married the daughter of Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, Prince of Wales, entered, with his father-in-law, into the confederacy formed by the disaffected English barons against King John. The English portion of his paternal estates was afterwards restored to Reginald by Henry III., with whom he had entered into a separate treaty. Llewelyn, in revenge for Reginald's desertion from his former alliance, laid siege to Brecknock, intending to demolish it; but, on the petition of the inhabitants, strengthened by the earnest intercession of his nephew Rhŷs, he was prevailed upon to spare the town; and, taking hostages for the future conduct of the burgesses, and a hundred marks as a compensation to his troops, he retired across the mountains towards Gower. Reginald, dying in 1228, was interred in the priory church at Brecknock, and his estates descended to his son, William de Breos, who, aiding the English monarch in an expedition into North Wales, was taken prisoner by Llewelyn, and detained in custody, from which he was released only on the payment of a large ransom. Llewelyn, after his departure, having, as it is recorded, discovered that during his confinement William had seduced the fidelity of his wife, inveigled him into his power, in 1229, by a friendly invitation to celebrate the festival of Easter at his castle at Aber, in the county of Carnarvon, where, after a sumptuous banquet, reproaching him with his crime, he caused him to be dragged from his presence, and hanged on a neighbouring hill. This prince, in the course of his devastations in the Marches, about the year 1231, when he extended his ravages as far as Caerlleon, appears to have made himself master of Brecknock. In another excursion, about two years after, he was foiled in his attempt to surprise the castle, and, having besieged it for a month without success, set fire to the town, and retired with his plunder into North Wales.
On the death of William de Breos, the lordship and castle passed by marriage with his daughter to Humphrey de Bohun, sixth Earl of Hereford. In this earl's time Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales, in the prosecution of his border warfare, came to Brecknock, on the invitation of the inhabitants, who voluntarily tendered their submission; and although de Bohun and he acted in concert on the side of the insurgents under Simon de Montfort, yet, in 1267, on the conclusion of peace between Henry III. and Llewelyn, the latter was by treaty permitted to retain the lordship and castle. Humphrey de Bohun, however, son and successor to the former earl, recovered possession of them, apparently without much opposition from the inhabitants; and, in the 4th of Edward I., confirmed and considerably augmented the privileges conferred on the burgesses by his father, from whom they had received the first charter now on record. The hospitality of the de Bohuns, who lived in great splendour in the castle, which, in the reign of Edward III., was much enlarged, and beautified in the best style of that age; the grant of an annual fair commencing eight days before, and continuing for eight days after, the festival of St. Leonard; the great resort of persons to the castle, and the large demand for all kinds of provisions for their supply, contributed at this time to make the town of Brecknock more flourishing than it had ever been, and to render it the grand mart of South Wales. On the elevation of the Duke of Hereford to the throne, in 1399, by the title of Henry IV., the lordship of Brecknock became vested in the crown, in consequence of that monarch's previous marriage with the heiress of the de Bohuns; and during the war carried on by Owain Glyndwr, in 1404, John Touchet, Lord Audley, was associated with Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and Lord of Abergavenny, in a commission under that sovereign, to defend for one whole year the castle, town, and lordship of Brecknock; for which purpose one hundred men-at-arms, and three hundred archers on horseback, with a suitable allowance for their pay, were placed under their control. In the fourteenth year of his reign, Henry granted to the burgesses the first royal charter which they ever obtained: this was confirmed, and some further immunities added, by his son and successor, Henry V.
After the death of the Countess Dowager of Hereford, who, during her lifetime, had remained in actual possession of the lordship of Brecknock, Henry granted this domain to Anne, widow of Edmund, Earl of Stafford, who no sooner obtained possession of it, than she disfranchised the borough, revoking all the charters which had previously been granted to the burgesses, and entirely annulling their privileges and immunities. Her son, who succeeded to these possessions in 1439, and was created Duke of Buckingham by Henry VI. in the twenty-third year of his reign, granted a charter to the burgesses in 1448, in which about seventy-five of them are enumerated, to whom, as being "English people, and to their heirs, being English both by the father's and mother's side," the privileges were restricted; clearly shewing the policy adopted at that period, of excluding the Welsh inhabitants from the exercise of any municipal authority. To his Welsh tenantry the duke was an arbitrary master, burthening them with heavy impositions, and requiring the landholders within the lordship to exhibit the title-deeds of their estates. He was killed at the battle of Northampton, fighting in the cause of Henry VI., and was succeeded by his grandson Henry, then a minor, who, on attaining his majority, lived in retirement in the castle during the greater part of the reign of Edward IV., and, after the death of that monarch, became the confidential adviser of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the chief promoter of his ambitious designs. In recompense for his services, Richard, on his elevation to the throne, appointed him governor of all the royal castles in Wales, steward of the royal manors in the counties of Hereford and Salop, Chief Justice and Chamberlain of North and South Wales, and Lord High Constable of England. On the rupture that ensued between Richard and the duke, the latter withdrew from court to his castle of Brecknock, in which was then confined John Morton, Bishop of Ely, originally a zealous adherent of the Lancastrian party, who, having been pardoned by the Yorkists, attached himself to the family of Edward, and had been committed by Richard to Buckingham's custody. Between the duke and his prisoner a curious conversation is recorded in the Chronicles of Stowe and Speed, the result of which was the departure of Morton to the continent, to concert with the Earl of Richmond a plan for the promotion of his enterprise, by exciting an insurrection in his favour at home. Richard, either having discovered or suspecting the plot, commanded the duke's appearance at court, which being disregarded, he sent orders to Sir Thomas Vaughan, of Trêtower, to raise the country, and attack and plunder Brecknock Castle. The duke, having mustered his dependents, and raised what forces he could, published a vehement manifesto against Richard, and advancing from Brecknock with a numerous, but ill-arranged body of troops, proceeded upon an expedition to the south-west of England, the issue of which was fatal to his hopes and to his life. On his execution and attainder, Sir James Tyrrel was appointed commissioner for his forfeited estates in Wales, and Sir Ralph Ashton was ordained Vice-Constable of England, with discretionary power, either to try by the examination of witnesses, or, without trial, to pass sentence upon all persons guilty or suspected of high treason, and on all who were concerned in the insurrection; taking with him only a secretary to make minutes of his proceedings.
On the accession of Henry VII., the lordship and castle, together with the other honours and estates of the late duke, were restored to his eldest son Edward, who considerably improved the castle, and re-invested the burgesses with the privileges they had enjoyed under former charters. In the following reign, this duke was brought to trial for some indiscreet expressions respecting his title to the throne, in the event of Henry VIII.'s death without issue; and being found guilty, was beheaded. As his offence was rather the effect of inconsiderate levity, than of deliberate malice, the people, by whom he was greatly beloved, attributed the refusal of a pardon to the animosity and revenge of Wolsey. With him expired the office of High Constable of England, which had been hereditary in the family, and was never afterwards revived. The lordship escheated to the crown, to which it has ever since belonged, having been granted on lease to divers individuals; it is now held by Sir Charles Morgan, Bart. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Harry Vaughan, of Moccas, was appointed Her Majesty's lieutenant and steward of the castle and lordship; during whose lieutenancy it appears, from an ancient Welsh manuscript still extant, that there broke out an insurrection of the country people, who are described as coming down from the hills to the number of twelve hundred, armed with bill-hooks, and as making an ineffectual attempt on the castle, without either arms or machines calculated to make any impression upon it. During the parliamentary war, we learn from a manuscript in the British Museum by one Simmons, who is supposed to have been an officer in the royal army, that the inhabitants destroyed the castle, which since the abolition of the lordships marcher had been suffered to go to decay; and also razed the walls and fortifications of the town, in order to preclude the possibility of their being burthened with the maintenance of a garrison, or compelled to sustain a siege. The king, in his flight after the battle of Naseby, passed through the town, in the year 1645, and remained for one night at the Priory house, then in the possession of Mr. (afterwards Sir Herbert) Price, one of his zealous friends and adherents; and from this place he addressed a letter to the Prince of Wales, then in Cornwall, or on his way thence to Bristol.
Brecknock is delightfully situated at the confluence of the rivers Honddû and Tarell with the Usk. Considerable alterations have been made during the present century, with the view of improving the entrances to it, on the line of the principal thoroughfare: at the eastern extremity, the barracks, and a row of genteel houses called Jeffreys Place, have been erected; and the Usk bridge gate, and several houses adjoining it, nearly in the centre of the town, have been taken down. The bridge over the Usk was widened in 1794: it is a substantial stone structure of several arches, leading to the parish of St. David, commonly called Llanvaes, on the opposite bank of the river, one-half of which forms the lower ward of the borough. At the western extremity, the Tarell is crossed by a stone bridge of one large arch, with a cylindrical perforation at each end, erected in 1829, at the joint expense of the county and the borough. There are three bridges over the river Honddû, from which advantageous views of the Priory groves and the dismantled towers of the castle are obtained: the first, which is of stone, was rebuilt in 1813, and is kept in repair by the inhabitants of the borough. The second, which led to the castle, has two arches, and between them a very massive pier, that anciently sustained a drawbridge; it is now thrown open to the public, and the expense of keeping it in repair is defrayed by the lord of the manor. The third, which is very near the confluence of the river with the Usk, is an old bridge of stone, consisting of three heavy arches, and is kept in repair by the inhabitants. The appearance of Brecknock is strikingly picturesque, and the various interesting objects composing the scenery of the immediate vicinity are happily combined. The streams, which converge to the town as a common centre, with their respective bridges, and the mills erected on their banks; the venerable ruins of the ancient castle, with its massive towers and ivy-mantled walls; the embattled turret and gateway of the priory, with its ample and luxuriant groves, fringing the margin of the Honddû, from which in many places they appear to rise; and the magnificent range of mountain scenery to the south of the town, with the almost endless variety of impending heights which encircle it on every side, unite in forming one of the most beautiful and richly varied views in this part of the principality. The Honddû is a wild and rapid stream, and its banks present numerous picturesque objects.
The town consists chiefly of three principal streets, diverging from the High-street, in the centre, and containing a large proportion of well-built houses of respectable appearance. One of the principal streets leads westward through Llanvaes towards Carmarthen; another takes an eastern direction, nearly parallel with the Usk, towards Abergavenny and Monmouth; while the third, called "the Struet," leads north-eastward towards Hay and Hereford. The other streets are in general narrow, but contain many good houses. The whole is lighted with gas, well paved, and supplied with water under the superintendence of commissioners appointed by a local act of parliament. A handsome building was commenced in 1805, at the east end of the town, at the expense of Government, for the purpose of an armoury, in which for some years 15,000 stand of arms were deposited; these were afterwards removed, and the building was converted into barracks for regular troops, now forming, however, part only of some barracks upon an extended scale, where about 300 infantry and a troop of cavalry can be well accommodated. The new structure is very capacious, built of stone, with an excellent parade in front, and reflects great credit on the contractor, Mr. Hancorn, for many years an inhabitant of the town.
The theatre, a plain building, well adapted to the purpose, and elegantly fitted up in the interior, but occupying an ineligible site, is opened for four months periodically, and the company is occasionally assisted by some of the London performers. Races are held annually in the autumn, generally in the last week of September, or the beginning of October, and they are usually well attended; the course is adjacent to the town, and a grand stand has been erected. They continue for two days: on the first are awarded the Brecknockshire stakes of two sovereigns each, and a cup given by the stewards; and on the second, the members' plate of fifty sovereigns, a sweepstakes of five sovereigns each, with twenty sovereigns added out of the subscription fund, and a free handicap stakes of four sovereigns each, with thirty sovereigns added. In the assize and race weeks, balls are held at the Castle Inn; and formerly public balls were regularly held once a fortnight during winter, in the spacious room at the inn above-mentioned. Along the banks of the Usk, and immediately under the old town walls, a beautiful promenade has been formed, commanding a fine and extensive view of the scenery on the south side of that river; and another and more retired walk has been laid out with great taste through the woods of the priory, extending along the declivity of an eminence rising from the bank of the river Honddû, and embracing much of the attractive scenery with which the environs abound. The internal neatness of the town, the pleasantness of its situation, the salubrity of the air, and the interesting excursions which the neighbourhood affords, render it desirable as a place of residence, and have made it the retreat of many opulent and highly respectable families. The society is remarkably select, and its influence on the poorer classes is obvious in their decent and orderly demeanour, which is fully and frequently attested by the light calendar at the assizes and quarter-sessions.
The town has at present no manufactures, but from the different companies mentioned in its charter, each of which had a chapel either in St. John's or St. Mary's church, where they met to transact affairs, it appears formerly to have been of some commercial importance. The trade is now principally in wool, leather, and hops, and in the supply of the neighbourhood with various articles of consumption. It has greatly increased since the construction of the Brecknock and Abergavenny canal, which was completed in 1811, and communicates with the Monmouthshire canal, and thence, by Newport, with Bristol and other parts of the kingdom. The whole extent of this canal is forty-five miles, the greater portion being a fine level. Within eight miles from the town it passes along a tunnel, nearly a quarter of a mile in length, cut through a hill; and on its near approach to Newport, the navigation is partially impeded by the numerous locks, rendered necessary from the inequality of the ground. Taking its entire length, however, into consideration, the locks are few. Regular trading-boats are established, which pass weekly between Brecknock and Bristol, and on the banks of the canal here are capacious wharfs for coal and lime. A tramroad from its head at this town to Kington, in the county of Hereford, thirtyfive miles in extent, is used for the conveyance of coal, lime, and other heavy commodities: about three miles from the town it passes along a tunnel, 800 yards in length, cut through the solid rock. The Markets are on Wednesday for butchers' meat and vegetables, and on Saturday, which is the principal market, for corn and provisions; the charter of the borough also grants a market on Friday, distinguished as a sheep and cattle market. The Fairs are on the first Wednesday in March, May 4th, July 5th, September 9th, and November 17th, for horses, cattle, agricultural produce, hops, wool, leather, and pedlery: those in May and November, of which the latter is the larger, are also statute fairs for hiring servants. The market-place for corn, hops, and leather, is under the town-hall, but butchers' meat, fresh butter, poultry, hardware, &c., are exposed for sale in a very commodious market-place recently erected by some gentlemen connected with the town, whose spirited exertions deserve much commendation.
In this town are held the meetings of the Brecknockshire Agricultural Society, the oldest institution of the kind in the principality, originally established in the year 1755, and revived in November 1817. The Duke of Beaufort and Marquess Camden are the present patrons; and its affairs are conducted by a president, vice-president, and a committee of subscribers: the meetings usually take place in the rooms of the society, in the months of March and October, when the premiums to be offered for the year ensuing are determined on.
During the existence of the lordship marcher of Brecknock, the inhabitants participated in the privileges and immunities which were from time to time conferred by the lords marcher upon the priors of St. John the Evangelist; but it was not till the accession of de Bohun, sixth Earl of Hereford, to the lordship, in the reign of Henry III., that they possessed any exclusive privileges of their own. This noble first incorporated them, and gave them a charter of privileges, which was confirmed and extended by his son and successor, who, in the 4th year of the reign of Edward I., granted them immunities equal to those enjoyed by the city of Hereford. The charter was renewed and confirmed by Humphrey de Bohun, in the reign of Edward II., but in the following reign was abrogated by his successor, who, upon some offence, disfranchised the burgesses, and kept them in a state of vassalage for the remainder of his life. His nephew and successor, in the 39th of Edward III., restored their former privileges, and gave them a new charter of incorporation, which continued in force till Henry IV., in the 14th year of his reign, conferred on them their first royal charter. This was annulled by Anne, Countess Dowager of Stafford, who, on being put in possession of the lordship, disfranchised the burgesses; but it was restored in 1448, by her son, the first of that family who became Duke of Buckingham.
Under these charters the municipal government appears to have been exercised by a bailiff and twentyfour principal burgesses; and, till the union with England, the bailiff seems to have been appointed by the lord, who also appointed a sheriff of the borough, who held his office for life. The bailiff had power to appoint a deputy, and mention is made of a bailiff itinerant, the duties of whose office, though not clearly known, are supposed to have consisted in superintending the municipal government of part of Llywel, which, though eleven miles distant, was within the jurisdiction of the corporation; and in collecting the fines and other revenues of the borough. There were anciently five guilds, or trading companies, viz., the weavers, tuckers, tailors, shoemakers, and glovers, or skinners: the first four of these companies for several centuries held their meetings in their respective chapels, in the churches of St. John and St. Mary. The abolition of various Welsh laws and customs in the reign of Henry VIII. having greatly diminished the revenue of the corporation, they obtained, through the interest of the Earl of Pembroke, a remission from Queen Mary, soon after her accession, of £100 of the fee-farm rent of the borough, which previously amounted to £120; and by the same influence, in the 2nd and 3rd years of Philip and Mary, they procured the charter by which the town was till lately governed, and which seems to have extended the limits of the borough, so as to include the priory precincts and the parish of St. David, as far as the river Tarell: the borough limits, under the ancient lords, appear to have comprised only the space within the walls. By this charter, which was confirmed by Queen Elizabeth in the 19th year of her reign, the title of the corporation was, "the Bailiff, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the borough of Brecon," and the government was vested in a bailiff, recorder, 15 capital burgesses, who formed the common council and principal controlling body, two aldermen, a treasurer, two chamberlains, a town-clerk, two serjeants-at-mace, a crier, and an indefinite number of burgesses. Exclusive jurisdiction was exercised by the bailiff, recorder, and aldermen, who were magistrates, and all the officers were elected by the common council of the borough annually, except the recorder and the town-clerk, who held their offices during pleasure.
By the Municipal Reform Act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., the corporation is now styled the "Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses;" and consists of a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, forming the council of the borough, the municipal boundaries of which have been much diminished. The council elect the mayor annually, on November 9th, out of the aldermen or councillors; and the aldermen triennially out of the councillors, or persons qualified as such, one-half going out of office every three years, but being re-eligible: the councillors are elected annually, on November 1st, by and from among the burgesses, one-third going out of office every year. It is necessary for the aldermen and councillors to possess a property qualification of £500, or be rated at £15 annual value. The burgesses are, the occupiers of houses and shops who have been rated for three years to the relief of the poor. The council appoint annually, on November 9th, a townclerk, treasurer, and other officers; and two auditors and two assessors are elected on March 1st, by and from among the burgesses. The revenue of the corporation amounts to about £300 per annum, of which above half is derived from tolls of fairs and markets, and the remainder from the rents of shambles in the market-place, and land and chief rents. Brecon first received the elective franchise in the 27th of Henry VIII., since which time it has continued to return one member to parliament. The right of election was formerly vested in the bailiff, aldermen, and resident burgesses. The act for "Amending the representation of England and Wales," passed in 1832, did not alter the limits of the borough, but extended the right of voting to every male 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 law directs. The present number of persons thus qualified is about three hundred and forty, in addition to those few (about four) who remain of the former limited constituency. The mayor is the returning officer.
The corporation hold quarterly courts of session, for deciding upon all offences not capital; a court of record every Monday and Thursday, for the determination of pleas and the recovery of debts to any amount, with the power of issuing process to hold to bail in actions for debt; and, within one month after Michaelmas, a court leet, as lords of the manor, with view of frankpledge. The assizes for the county, and the election of a knight for the shire, take place at Brecknock, as the county town; and one of the four small-debt courts in the county has been fixed here, with jurisdiction over the registration-district of Brecknock. The Town-hall was built in 1770, as a town and county hall, at the joint expense of the corporation and the county, aided by contributions from their representatives in parliament. It is a neat building, in the High-street, having on the first floor a spacious room, in which public business is transacted and courts are held: the basement story is appropriated as a market-place, and beneath it are large vaults, in which leather and other articles of merchandise are stored. The attic story was used as a receptacle for arms and military stores prior to the erection of the armoury in 1805. The Assize courts for the county, opened in the early part of the year 1843, were erected at a cost of nearly £12,000, and are in the Grecian style, of stone obtained in the county, cased throughout with Bath stone. Messrs. Wyatt and Brandon were the architects, and Mr. Hancorn the contractor. The building is embellished with a tetrastyle portico, having in addition to the external columns others within, and being approached by an ascent of eight or nine steps. The interior is appropriately arranged, consisting principally of two court-rooms, of which the larger, or crown-court, measuring forty-five feet by sixty, contains seats for the public arranged in a semicircular form, and is of handsome appearance; the other court, which is thirty-five feet by twenty-seven and a half, is also well adapted to its purpose, but is used generally as a grand-jury room, being only required for nisi prius causes when two judges are upon the circuit, in which event provision is made for the grand jury in another apartment.
The gaol for the borough is small and inconvenient, being in no wise adapted to the classification of prisoners: it is therefore used only as a prison for debtors under process in the borough court, and as a place of temporary confinement for breaches of the peace, and for prisoners previously to their committal for trial to the county gaol. The common gaol for the county was anciently in the castle, a portion of which was appropriated to that purpose till the year 1690, when a new prison was built in that part of the borough called Watton, which was abandoned some time ago. The present common gaol and house of correction is situated on the east bank of the Tarell, in the parish of St. David. It is a neat modern building, comprising five divisions for the classification of prisoners, five day-rooms, one work-room, and five airing-yards, in one of which is a tread-wheel, applicable either to the introduction of soft water for the supply of the prison, or to the working of a tucking-mill. The entire building, which is on the plan recommended by the philanthropic Howard, will accommodate twenty-four prisoners, in so many separate cells.
The living of St. John's is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king's books at £6.13. 4., endowed with £200 private benefaction and £200 royal bounty, and having the perpetual curacy of St. Mary's annexed; patron, the Archdeacon of Brecknock. The impropriate tithes of the parish, exclusively of St. Mary's chapelry, have been commuted for a rentcharge of £192, and the vicarial tithes for one of £172; the impropriate tithes of St. Mary's have been commuted for £40, and the dues of the perpetual curate for £60. The area of the St. John's portion of the parish is 2932 acres. The church, which was the chapel of the priory founded here by Bernard Newmarch, occupies a beautiful eminence on the western bank of the river Honddû, on the north side of the town, near the Priory woods. It is an ancient and venerable cruciform structure, chiefly in the early and decorated styles of English architecture, with a low massive central tower, but has sustained so much unavoidable dilapidation, and undergone so many alterations, that little of its original character remains. The edifice is partly embattled, and on the south side is nearly overspread with ivy, forming, from its elevated situation and romantic appearance, an interesting object in the view from the adjoining ground of Marquess Camden's seat: it was formerly surrounded by a strong lofty wall, part of which is still remaining on the western side. The nave, which is one hundred and thirty-six feet and a half in length, and twenty-eight and a half broad, is very lofty, and has been lately ceiled. On each side are portions anciently appropriated to the guilds, separated by partitions of wood, on the front of which, emblematical devices illustrative of the several trades were formerly partly carved and partly painted. The chancel, which is principally in the decorated style, is sixty-two feet long, and twenty-nine and a half broad; it is separated from the nave by a screen, formerly the roodloft, and has a modern ceiling, divided into compartments. On each side are the remains of three light and beautifully-clustered springers, which supported the ancient roof, broken off just above the corbels; and at the east end is a combination of five lancetshaped windows, under a plain pointed arch, divided externally by four mullions, and internally by four slender pilasters. Within the altar-rails is a remarkable gravestone, containing a representation of the Crucifixion. Adjoining the chancel is a chapel of large dimensions, much admired for the beauty of its architecture; it was built soon after the incorporation of the town, by one of the Havard family of PontWilym, and for the last two or three centuries has obtained the appellation of the Vicar's Chapel. Of the cross aisles, or transepts, the northern, called the Chapel of the Men of Battle, from its having been appropriated to the inhabitants of the neighbouring village of Battle, before that became a distinct parish, is thirty feet and a half long, and twenty-nine broad; while the southern, called Capel y Cochiaid, "the Chapel of the Red-haired Men" (meaning the Normans), is of the same breadth as the other, but extends to a length of thirty-eight feet three inches. The former was lighted at the end by a combination of three lancet-shaped windows, now filled up with boards, and the latter by a corresponding window: the aisles are lighted by a range of four windows in the later English style. Near the western end of the nave is a very large Norman font, the shaft of which presents a series of intersecting arches; the font itself bears some curious ornaments, rudely carved. It seems probable that part of this ancient church is of earlier origin than the priory: Bernard Newmarch is thought to have found a church already standing here.
The living of St. David's, or Llanvaes, is a discharged vicarage, rated in the king's books at £5. 15. 7½., and endowed with £400 private benefaction and £400 royal bounty; net income, £160; patron, the Archdeacon of Brecknock. The area of the parish is 2880 acres. The church, a small edifice of one aisle, with a tower at the west end, is situated in the suburb of Llanvaes, on the south side of the river Usk.
The living of St. Mary's is a perpetual curacy, annexed to the vicarage of St. John's, endowed with £400 private benefaction and £600 royal bounty. The chapel, which was anciently parochial, is situated in the centre of the town. It was mostly rebuilt in the reign of Henry VIII., and is a spacious and handsome edifice in the later style of English architecture, with a square embattled tower, about ninety feet in height, containing a ring of eight bells. The building comprises two aisles, a chancel, and, on the north-east, the chapel formerly appropriated to the guild of shoemakers, from which a door opens into the vestry-room, now rendered useless by the erection of houses close to its windows, by which it is so darkened that it has been found necessary to transfer the parochial business of St. Mary's to the town-hall. At the western end is a large window of five lights, having cinque-foiled heads, under an ogee arch; the east window of the chancel is of the same kind, but plainer. The pointed arches that separate the nave from the aisle spring from short round piers, such as characterize the Norman style, from which it is inferred that the structure is of very early foundation: indeed, a document is extant, recording a grant to the church at the end of the twelfth, or commencement of the thirteenth century. A handsome brass chandelier was presented to it about the close of the seventeenth century, by Lady Elizabeth Lucy, relict of Dr. Lucy, Bishop of St. David's. In this chapel the consistorial court of the archdeaconry of Brecknock is held every month.
Near Slwch, in the chapelry of St. Mary, formerly stood a chapel dedicated to St. Elyned; near the eastern entrance into the town, one called St. Catharine's chapel; and adjoining the borough gaol, a third: but there is not at present a single vestige of any of them. In the town are two or three places of worship for Baptists, and one each for English Independents, Welsh Independents, Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, English Wesleyan and Welsh Wesleyan Methodists, and Roman Catholics. That belonging to the Welsh Independents, called Plough Chapel, has two valuable endowments, one a farm in the parish of Merthyr-Cynog, called Ty'nrhŷd-y-maen, bequeathed by Richard Williams, of Glewdy, in 1689, and now producing £20 per annum; the other a messuage, tenement, and lands, called the Plough, in the town of Brecknock, producing from £25 to £30 per annum. A small tenement, called Bola Maen, in the parish of Llanvihangel-Nant-Brân, was also left by some unknown benefactor for the support of a Roman Catholic priest in this town, where, however, there are but very few professing that creed. Connected with the place of worship for English Independents is a college or academy where young men are educated for the ministry, the expenses being defrayed chiefly out of the Congregational fund under the superintendence of the Board in London. It was formerly fixed at Newtown, to which place it had been removed from Llanvyllin in 1821.
In the suburb of Llanvaes is situated the college of christ-church, occupying the site of an ancient house of friars preachers, which existed here before the Reformation, and of which the church was dedicated to St. Nicholas. Its origin may be attributed to Dr. Thomas Beck, Bishop of St. David's, who, in 1283, projected a similar establishment at Llangadock, in the county of Carmarthen, which was frustrated by his death. The original design was revived, in 1331, by Bishop Gower, his successor, who, adopting the same plan, made the church of Aberguilly collegiate for that purpose. The institution thus founded continued at Aberguilly till the year 1531, when, by the influence of Bishop Rawlins, it was transferred to Brecknock by Henry VIII., who assigned for its site the suppressed monastery of St. Nicholas, and granted the revenue of that establishment, in addition to its former possessions, for its better support, ordaining that it should be thenceforward called "the College of Christ in Brecknock." The charter of Henry VIII. assigns, as the causes of its removal, the inappropriateness of its situation, and the ignorance of the English language that prevailed among the inhabitants of that part of South Wales, which prevented them from understanding, and consequently from obeying, the statutes of the realm. The charter also ordains that the Bishops of St. David's should be deans of the new foundation, and should appoint a schoolmaster, an usher, a divinity lecturer, and a preacher, to be paid out of the revenue of the college. An annual sum of £16 is paid out of the rents of the prebends to a schoolmaster, and a sum of £5. 9. 4. to an usher: the master also receives £8, the rent of two tenements, having separate entrances, above the schoolroom, which is capable of accommodating eighty boys; and £3, the rent of a stable attached. There are eighteen scholars, who pay four guineas per annum each, except those on the foundation, who pay only two guineas. The present establishment consists of a chancellor, and a number of prebendaries: some of the prebends, &c., have passed into the hands of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to whom the others will pass as they become vacant. From the college grammar school young men were formerly admitted into holy orders, without graduating at either of the Universities; but of this important privilege it has been deprived since the foundation of St. David's College, at Lampeter.
After the Restoration, Dr. William Lucy, being appointed Bishop of St. David's and Dean of Christ's College, restored or rebuilt a portion of the church, the whole of which had been demolished by the parliamentary commissioners. The restored portion, now falling to decay, consists only of a choir, sixtyeight feet in length, and twenty-six in breadth, in which, ranged along each side of the entrance, are the stalls of the prebendaries. The east window is large, comprising a combination of five lancet-shaped windows of elegant design, in a plain pointed arch, and enriched with delicate tracery; and on the north side of the building is a range of ten lancet-shaped windows. Divine service was discontinued in 1838. Adjoining the north-west angle are the remains of the Aubrey chapel, an appendage of the ancient church; and at the east end is a beautiful stone cross, removed into that situation, in 1806, from the ruins of the Aubrey chapel. Bishop Bull was interred in the church, which contains monumental memorials of that prelate and several other Bishops of St. David's who have been buried within its walls. The most ancient inscription remaining is an illegible one on a stone now forming the threshold of the door, in memory of the famous Sir David Gam's father, who resided at Newton, in the parish of St. David's, and was interred here, some time in the reign of Henry V. There is a monument to the memory of the above-named Bishop Lucy; also an altar-tomb bearing the recumbent effigies of this prelate's eldest son Richard, chancellor of the church, and of his wife, with an effigy of their son, attired in the dress of the time of James II., on a stone tablet at their feet. Within the college precincts, which are extra-parochial, are also a house which has been the residence of several of the bishops, some other dwelling-houses, and vestiges of the conventual buildings, including part of the old gateway, and the refectory. Before its demolition in the seventeenth century, the church seems to have been a spacious structure, nearly 200 feet in length.
The Boughrood Charity School, for the instruction of boys, was established under the will of the Rev. Rice Powell, formerly vicar of Boughrood, Radnorshire, dated 1686, by which he bequeathed the manors or lordships of Upper Elvel, Aberedw, and Garreg, and the castle, common, and forest of Colwyn, all in the county of Radnor, and now producing annually £262. 4. 4., for various charitable purposes therein named. Among these, besides a grant of £11 per annum for the above-mentioned school, were, £20 per annum for placing out poor children, natives of the town and borough of Brecknock, or of the parishes of St. John, St. David, Devynock, and Aberyscir, to some lawful trade in the town of Brecknock; £10 yearly towards forming a stock for subsequently establishing the said poor children in business; a further sum of £20, towards settling poor children of the towns of Hay and Builth, in the county of Brecon; of the parishes of Llanigon, Llanelieu, Tàlgarth, Llanavan-Vawr, and Llanwrthwl, in the county of Brecon; and of Llansantfraid, Caregrina, Llanelweth, and Bettws-Disserth, in the county of Radnor: also £5 to the parish of Boughrood for a similar purpose; and £24 per annum to the Principal, or Vice-Principal, of Jesus' College, Oxford, for poor scholars or under-graduates there, natives of the county of Radnor or of Brecknock, with preference to the kindred of the donor. The income of this charity having greatly increased, the master's salary has been augmented from £11 to £50, and the trustees have employed more money in apprenticeships, placing out a greater number of boys, and augmenting the premiums paid with them. For the last ten years about thirty boys have been annually apprenticed, but in very unequal proportions, from the parishes named in the grant of the benefactor. The premium with each boy is £6, of which £4 are paid at the commencement, and £2 after the first two years of the term, and at the expiration of the apprenticeship £2 are also given to the boy to purchase tools, &c.
Two Church schools, in which about 50 boys and 100 girls are instructed, were established in 1810, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the accession of George III. They are kept in two rooms in the same building, erected for the purpose, and the master and mistress receive a salary of thirty guineas a year each. In 1722, Nicholas Jeffreys gave £100, directing the interest to be applied to the use of the charity school of Blue-coat boys; in 1724, Mrs. Catharine Games gave £300 to purchase lands, out of the rents of which, £2 yearly were to be paid to the charity school for girls, and the remainder to be yearly distributed in bread, at the discretion of the trustees; and in 1794, Mrs. Mary Williams devised the interest of £100 to be annually applied towards the support of the Blue girls' charity school of Brecknock: these several bequests, except that part of Mrs. Games's which is distributed in bread, have been united, and their produce, jointly with annual subscriptions, and the bequest of Mrs. Collinson, mentioned below, is applied to the support of the above-named Church schools, forming a fund out of which the salaries of the master and mistress are paid. There are two or three other schools partly supported by subscription, and about a dozen Sunday schools.
An almshouse for twelve decayed female housekeepers was founded in 1721, by Mrs. Catharine Games and Mrs. Walker, who bequeathed £620 to be laid out in the purchase of lands for its endowment, and placed it under the superintendence of the proprietor of the Penpont estate: the dwellings, to each of which a garden is attached, are situated in Llanvaes, form three sides of a quadrangle, and are comfortably fitted up. The endowment was expended in the purchase of an estate, situated in the parish of Cantrêv; but in lieu of the rent of this property, only the interest of the original sum is paid to the inmates, at the rate of fifty-five shillings each per annum. This stipend has, however, lately been augmented by Mrs. Sybil Collinson, late of Brecknock, who in her will stated she was possessed of £6000 then in the hands of her nephew, the Rev. Richard Davis, £1000 of which she appropriated; the interest of this sum less legacy duty, amounts to £45 per annum, of which £12 are equally distributed every year among the inmates of the hospital, £25 are appropriated to the Church schools established in 1810, £5 distributed in clothing, and the remaining £3 go to the county gaol.
Numerous other bequests have been made for the benefit of the poor. In 1581, John Williams gave £100, to be lent to five weavers and five tuckers, without interest, for the term of three years, for ever; and in 1689, John Watters bequeathed a rent-charge of £4, to be appropriated in a similar way to eight of the poorest of this description of tradespeople not receiving bounty from the former benefaction. About the end of the sixteenth, or commencement of the seventeenth century, Peter Body gave a messuage and garden of the yearly rent of £1, to be distributed in bread among the poor, which bequest has now become merely a rent-charge; Lewis Meredith gave a messuage and garden of the same yearly rent, to be applied in the like manner, and Thomas James gave a rent-charge of £1. 10., and Evan William Shenkin £2 per annum, to the poor. In 1612, Sir David Williams, of Gwernyvet, in the parish of Glâsbury, bequeathed the tithes of Gwenddwr, in this county, for certain charitable purposes, among which was the gift of forty shillings per annum to the poor of the parish of St. John the Evangelist, Brecon. This portion, owing to the increased value of the property, now produces £8. 8. 6.; and a bequest of ten shillings by the same benefactor, for an annual sermon to be preached here, has increased to £1. 12. 3. In the same year, Howel Thomas gave £1 per annum to the poor. In 1657, Thomas Davies gave funds for furnishing four suits of clothes to four poor tradesmen yearly at Christmas; and, about the same time, John Williams gave £6 per annum to three poor people of Brecknock, for ever. In 1663, Tobias Williams assigned £1 yearly to the poor, and ten shillings for a sermon on Candlemas-day. In 1674, Edmund Jones, of Buckland, assigned a house, stable, yard, and outhouse, in the High-street, in trust for apprenticing poor boys, natives of the borough, within the same: the premises are now let at the yearly rent of £33; the regular premium given is £4. 10., and about seven boys and girls have been so placed out annually for some years. In 1675, Roger Boulcot gave a house and garden, of the yearly rent of £1. 1., for the term of 1000 years, to the poor. In 1683, William Thomas gave £50, directing the interest to be annually distributed among the poor at Christmas; and in 1685, Richard Jones gave the sum of £40 to purchase lands, which is now a rent-charge of £2 on a house in Lion-street, used as the National Provincial Bank, and William Philips, sen., gave the sum of £30; the produce of both to be paid to the poor annually at Christmas. In 1704, Mrs. Mary Powell gave an annuity of £6, charged on the estate of Dan-y-Park, in the parish of Llandevalley, one-half to place out three children as apprentices, and the other half to six of the poorest housekeepers, with preference to widows. In 1710, Henry Jones, and his father, Howell Jones, gave a rent-charge of £1. 10. per annum towards clothing four poor persons every year, for ever; but this charity has not been in operation for some years. In 1712, Thomas Philipps gave £50, and in 1721 William Philipps £20, the yearly interest of both to be distributed among the poor; which charities have also been lost. Mrs. Elizabeth Jeffreys, in the latter year, left an annuity of £6, of which fifty shillings were to be given yearly to ten poor men, the like sum to the same number of women, ten shillings for a sermon, and the remaining ten shillings to be distributed at the discretion of the trustees. In 1726, Matthias Berrow devised a rentcharge of £2, issuing out of certain premises in Mount-street, towards apprenticing poor children: with accumulations this charity now produces £4.10. per annum. Elizabeth Walker, in 1725, gave a rentcharge of £2, half of which was to be distributed in bread to the poor, and the other moiety for a sermon on the 30th of August; she also gave a similar grant of £1. 4. for the purchase of clothing for poor widows or maidens, part of which was to be given to those of St. David's parish. In 1733, Gabriel Powell gave a rent-charge of £5 on the tenement called the Golden Lion, in Lion-street, afterwards used as foot-barracks, to be distributed on St. Thomas's day among twentyfive poor persons; and a donor unknown gave a similar benefaction of £1. 10. on a house in the Captain's-walk on what was part of the town-wall. A like charge was given by Jenkin Price, in 1736, of £2, one moiety to be expended in bread for the poor, and the other for a sermon on Palm Sunday. Another, amounting to £4. 1., was granted in 1766 by Thomas James, £3 of which were to be distributed in bread among the poor of St. John's parish and St. Mary's chapelry, and the rest for a sermon on Good Friday; and in 1800, an unknown donor made a similar disposition of a rent-charge of £3. Mrs. Rodd bequeathed a rent-charge of £1 for four poor widows; and in 1826, Mr. John Jones, late of Cwm, in the parish of St. John the Evangelist, bequeathed to certain trustees the sum of £50, secured on the Brecknock water-works, directing the interest to be paid annually to five poor widows named in his will, and afterwards to others residing in the Upper division of that parish, not maintained in the workhouse. Since 1813, Archdeacon Davies has given a rentcharge of £3 on Clawdd-y-gaer, a portion of his property, arising from a grant of some unknown donor. Of these bequests, the corporation annually distribute somewhat more than £50; and the recorder of the borough, and the overseers and churchwardens, distribute such others as are now available. Voluntary contributions, generally amounting to about £50, are annually raised by the inhabitants of the town, for supplying the poor with soup.
In this town, in the month of September or October, are usually held the meetings for conducting the affairs of the Clerical Charity for the relief of necessitous clergymen, or their widows and orphans, within the archdeaconry of Brecknock, under the control of a president, treasurer, secretary, and a committee of subscribers. On the day of the meeting the subscribers attend divine service, after which a collection is made, and the amount added to the permanent fund; the interest of which, with the amount of the annual subscriptions, is distributed according to the necessities of the parties deriving relief from this benevolent institution. The permanent fund belonging to the society amounts to several hundred pounds, and the annual subscriptions are usually about £150.
George Price Watkins, Esq., of Broadway, in the county of Carmarthen, in 1814 made a munificent grant to the poor of St. John's and St. Mary's, by transferring from his own name to trustees £1000 three per cent. Imperial Annuities, under a deed enrolled in the Court of Chancery, for the purpose of reinvesting annually, out of the dividends, a sum of not more than £20, or less than £10, for twenty-one years, and of investing from time to time, during the same period, the dividends from such new investments; the dividends of the trust-fund to be applied, subject to the directions for investment for twentyone years, to the relief of such poor discreet persons of St. John's and St. Mary's as have not received parochial assistance, preference being given to members of the Establishment who attend their respective churches. In the year 1825 the trustees sold out the £1000 stock, for £937. 13. cash; and in 1836 completed the purchase of a property in the parish of Crickadarn, county of Brecon, for £900: the property consists of a farm of 67 acres; it has (or had) on it timber to the value of £100 ready to be cut, and produces a rent of about £35 a year. Mr. Watkins at present selects the objects of this charity, who receive at Christmas sums varying from 5s. to £1, according to their circumstances. There was a balance of £23. 11. in the hands of the bankers on the inquiry into the foundation in 1836 by the Charities' Commissioners, and another small sum of nearly £20 was directed to be invested in the three per cent. consols. The charity enjoyed the rents of the farm from the period of contracting for its purchase in 1824 until the purchase was actually completed, the delay occurring through the death of some parties interested.
The poor-law union of which this town is the head, was formed on the 5th of October, 1836, and comprehends the parishes, townships, &c., of St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary, St. David or Llanvaes, Christ-Church College, Aberyscir, Battle, Cantrêv with Capel-Nant-Ddû, Cathedine, Cray, Garthbrengy, Glyn, Glyntawe, Isclydach, Llandevailog-Tre'r-Graig, Llandevailog-Vâch, Llandevalley, Llandilo'r-Vàn, Llangasty-Tàlylln, Llangorse, Llanhamllêch, Llansantfraid, Llanspythid, Llanthetty, Llanthew, Llanvigan, Llanvihangel-Nant-Brân, Llanvihangel-Tàlylln, Llanvihangel-Vechan, Llanvillo, Llanvrynach, Llanywern, Maescar, Merthyr-Cynog, Mordrydd, Penpont, Senny, Tlachddû, TraianGlâs, Traian-Mawr, Trallong, Trawscoed, and Venni-Vâch. It is under the superintendence of forty-seven guardians, and contains a population of 17,689.
Of the ancient castle, in which the union of the houses of York and Lancaster is supposed to have been projected by the Duke of Buckingham, and Morton, Bishop of Ely, then a prisoner in the custody of the duke, there are still some small remains, consisting chiefly of the keep, in which the prelate was confined, and which, from that circumstance, is called Ely Tower. By far the greater part, however, has disappeared, and an inn, called the Castle Hotel, has been built upon a portion of the site. The outer walls appear, from their foundations, which are still discernible, to have inclosed a quadrilateral area, one hundred yards in length, and eighty in breadth, and to have been defended by two watchtowers at each of the angles: on the northern side are traces of the ancient moat, and, further north, of a deep ravine, designed to convey the waters of the river Honddû in that direction, with a view to insulate the whole site of the castle. The remains, though greatly dilapidated, present a very picturesque appearance, occupying the brow of an abrupt eminence, on the north bank of the river Usk, just above the influx of the Honddû, which separated the castle from the fortified part of the town. Besides the Ely Tower, situated in the beautiful grounds of a villa belonging to Sir Charles Morgan, in the occupation of Henry Maybery, Esq., the ruins consist chiefly of the mutilated shell of two of the watchtowers, now included in the garden of the Castle Hotel.
The remains of the benedictine priory of St. John the Evangelist, founded by Bernard Newmarch in the reign of Henry I., consist principally of the church of St. John, before mentioned, a portion of the outer walls and of the gateway, and some of the out-buildings, now converted into farm-offices. The revenue of this establishment, at the Dissolution, amounted to £134. 11. 4. Its site was granted to Sir John Prince, a native of this county, and an eminent lawyer, whom Henry VIII. appointed a member of his council in the court of the Marches, and who was highly instrumental in effecting the union of England and Wales. The estate was subsequently purchased from one of his descendants by Sir John Jeffreys, whose grand-daughter conveyed it by marriage to John Pratt, Esq., of the Wilderness, in the county of Kent, whose only son, dying without issue, bequeathed it to the father of its present noble owner, Marquess Camden. The Priory House, which is the property and occasional residence of this nobleman, and in which Charles I., on his flight from the disastrous battle of Naseby, and George IV., on his return from Ireland in 1821, each spent one night, is a spacious and ancient structure.
In the immediate vicinity of the town is Frwdgrêch, the seat of Samuel Church, Esq., an elegant modern mansion, surrounded by extensive grounds, disposed with great taste. On the east a lofty eminence, crowned with thriving plantations, slopes down to the house, from which the ground rises on the southwest into the stupendous heights called the Beacons. The summits of these mountains, while the sun is shining brightly on all the country around them, are frequently enveloped in clouds, and showers often descend upon them and the intermediate vales, when others in the vicinity are perfectly dry. To the north of Frwdgrêch are seen the luxuriant woods about Pennoyre, the seat of J. L. V. Watkins, Esq., lord-lieutenant of the county, and member for the borough. About a mile from the town stands Dinas, the property and residence of John Lloyd, Esq., who erected it in 1826, in a style resembling that which prevailed in the reign of Elizabeth: it occupies a remarkably picturesque situation near the extremity of a lofty mountainous ridge, beautifully clothed with trees, the grounds commanding a fine view of the fertile and richly-cultivated Vale of Usk. Both Frwdgrêch and Dinas are within the limits of St. David's parish. In the vicinity are also several ancient mansions, now no longer inhabited by families of distinction. Of these, Heolvanog, more correctly Aelvanog, signifying "the lofty brow," and Newton, both in the parish of St. David, were in the possession of the Havards. This family were also owners of Pont-Wilym, an ancient seat situated nearly on the opposite side of the town, and now occupied as a farm-house; and Court Sion Young, situated at a short distance on the road from Brecknock to Battle, of which there is now scarcely a vestige.
The hamlet of Venni-Vach, in the parish of St. John, which contains the site of the ancient Roman city, and British capital of Brycheiniog, now called "the Gaer," occupies a situation of extreme beauty under the richly-wooded hill of Venni, not far from the banks of the Usk, and embraces delightful prospects of a smiling, fertile tract, bounded by a noble range of mountains. It contains several small cottages of superior neatness, and a handsome farmhouse. The ancient station was situated on an angle between the rivers Yscir and Usk: the defensive mounds are still visible, inclosing a quadilateral area of about eight acres, extending in length from east to west six hundred and twenty-four feet, and in breadth four hundred and fifty-six. The foundations of the walls encompassing it are still entire; and in some places, especially on the north and south sides, portions of the walls are remaining, from three to six feet high, and seven and a half in thickness, having the facing still perfect, consisting of square stones, a foot in diameter, and the intermediate space filled with rubble and cement, the whole being similar to those of Caerleon and Caerwent, in Monmouthshire. A farm-house and offices have been built with the ruins of the ancient wall, the remains of which are now in many places overgrown and almost concealed with underwood. The entire area, some years ago, was covered with fragments of bricks; and both here and in the vicinity, coins and numerous other Roman antiquities have been discovered, including many fragments of figured stones, urns containing ashes, and other relics.
At a place called Pen-y-Crûg, or "the summit of the hill," about a mile from "the Gaer," and the same distance north-west from Brecknock, is a British military work, which is one of the most curious and best preserved remains of the kind in the principality. Its form is oval, its longest diameter being six hundred feet, and its shortest four hundred and thirty: the area is surrounded by three ramparts, raised to the height of about eighteen feet. On a hill opposite, called Slwch, and sometimes Pen Cevn-y-Gaer, or "the camp ridge," is another British camp, similar in form, but not of equal dimensions, encompassed by a double fosse, in some places nearly destroyed. There are other vestiges of British intrenchments in the vicinity, but much smaller than the above.
Of the numerous Roman roads that converged to this point, the only vestige is a causeway leading from "the Gaer," in a line nearly at right angles with the course of the Yscir. It is conjectured to have been a branch of the Via Julia, and appears to have been originally about forty feet wide, raised above the surface of the ground adjacent, and constructed of large round pebbles of various sizes, which might have been collected from the beds of the neighbouring rivers. Though much dilapidated, and overgrown with brushwood, it may still be easily traced; and upon it is a remarkable stone, first introduced to public attention by the eminent Welsh antiquary, Lhuyd, in his communications for Bishop Gibson's edition of Camden's Britannia; and which is an undoubted relic of Roman antiquity. The stone is about six feet high, and has sculptured upon it, in bas-relief, the figures of a man and woman, about three feet in height, popularly supposed to represent two females: hence it is called Maen-y-Morwynion, or "the Maids' Stone." It bears a Latin inscription partially obliterated, of which various readings have been given by different antiquaries; but the only words now legible are CONJUNX EJUS H. S. EST; from which it is conjectured to have been erected in memory of some Roman citizen and his wife. In addition, it may be mentioned that the Via Julia Montana anciently crossed the site of the town of Brecknock, in the direction of the street called, from this circumstance, the Struet; and that, about two miles to the south-east of the present town, the remains of a Roman bath were discovered in 1783, in a field in the parish of Llanvrynach, in the account of which place they are described.
The celebrated Sir David Gam, who attended Henry V. to the battle of Agincourt, resided at Newton, in the parish of St. David. He displayed the greatest gallantry during that action, in which he is said to have saved the king's life, by the sacrifice of his own and those of his son-in-law and one of his kinsmen; and was knighted by that monarch on the field of battle, while expiring of the wounds he had received in the engagement. Dr. John David Rhys, author of Lingua Cymraeæ Institutiones, or "Institutes of the Welsh or Cymraeg Language," resided near the town during the latter part of his life, in a cottage called Clynhîr, situated under the Brecknock Beacon, and near the small lake LYn Cwm Llwch. Among the distinguished natives of the place were, Dr. Hugh Price, founder of Jesus' College, Oxford, who was the son of a tradesman of Brecknock, took his degree of "Doctor of the Canon Law" at Oxford, in 1525, was subsequently prebendary of Rochester and treasurer of St. David's, and, dying in 1574, was buried in the church of St. John the Evangelist; the late unrivalled tragic actress, Mrs. Siddons, who was born here on July 14th, 1755, whilst her parents were on a professional tour; and Theophilus Jones, the industrious and sagacious author of the History of Brecknockshire, whose father was the Rev. Hugh Jones, successively vicar of Llangammarch and Llywel, in this county, and prebendary in the collegiate church of Brecknock. In the grammar school connected with that establishment Mr. Theophilus Jones received his education, on the completion of which he was articled to a solicitor, and for many years pursued that profession, being appointed deputy-registrar of the archdeaconry of Brecon. Having embraced the design of writing the history of his native county, he retired from business, and devoted himself with great ardour to the prosecution of his undertaking, for the accomplishment of which he visited every part of the county. The first volume of his work was published at Brecknock, in 1805, and the second and last in 1809: he died in 1812, and was interred in the parish church of Llangammarch. Brecknock gives the inferior title of Earl to Marquess Camden.
BRECKNOCKSHIRE, an inland county of South Wales, bounded on the north by Radnorshire, on the west by the counties of Cardigan and Carmarthen, on the south by Glamorganshire and the western part of Monmouthshire, and on the east by the English counties of Monmouth and Hereford. It extends from 51° 45' to 52°17' (N. Lat.), and from 3° 2' to 3° 50' (W. Lon.); and comprises an area of about 800 square miles, or 512,000 acres. The population in 1841, was 54,603, of which number 28,074 were males, and 27,529 females; the number of houses inhabited was 11,105, of houses uninhabited 840, and of houses in course of erection seventy-eight. The annual value of real property assessed to the property and income tax for the year ending April, 1843, was as follows: lands, £139,225; houses, £31,402; tithes, £12,558; iron-works, £10,430; quarries, £3187; canals, £1470; other property, £200: total, £198,472.
At the period of the conquest of Britain by the Romans, this country formed part of the territories of the Silures, a people who pre-eminently distinguished themselves, under their leader, the celebrated Caractacus, in the strenuous opposition which they maintained to the progress of the Roman forces under Ostorius Scapula: the scene of their struggles was the country of the Ordovices, now almost wholly included in North Wales; and the Romans, though at last victorious, do not appear to have penetrated into this quarter until after the defeat of Caractacus. Mr. Jones, the historian of Brecknockshire, considers that the Roman military works, of which there are still some vestiges, were for the most part formed during the lifetime of Ostorius: but it does not appear that the Silures were totally subdued until after the arrival of Julius Frontinus, about the year 70. The Romans had two principal stations within the limits of the county, one now called the Gaer, or CaerBannau, about three miles from Brecknock, and the other, also called the Gaer, situated near Llanvihangel-Cwm-dû, in the hundred of Crickhowel: the principal road was the Via Julia Montana, a branch of the Via Julia Maritima, which traversed the county from east to west.
After the withdrawal of the Roman forces from Britain, the country became divided into petty states, of which, with some little variation from the limits of the modern county, this territory formed one, under the name of Brycheiniog, derived from one of its first independent princes, called Brychan, and since altered by the Welsh into Brecheiniawg and Brecheinog, and by the English into Brecknock and Brecon. Brychan is chiefly distinguished in the Welsh annals for the number, learning, and piety of his children, many of whom became the tutelar saints of the parochial churches, and thus imparted their names to the respective parishes. The entire family of this sovereign was designated in the British triads as one of the three holy families of Britain. After his death, his dominions were divided, according to the custom of inheritance among the Britons, resembling the gavelkind of the Saxons, between his two sons Cledwyn and Rhain, who, unlike all the rest, had not entered into holy orders; but Caradog Vreichvras, or Caradoc with the Brawny Arm, grandson of Brychan, who lived near the close of the fifth, or in the early part of the sixth, century, re-united the whole under his government. This chieftain, who is distinguished in Welsh history as one of the knights that fought under the British hero, Arthur, appears also to have extended his dominion over the territory called Ferregs, lying between the rivers Severn and Wye, and including the present county of Radnor. He was succeeded by his son Cawrdav, called in the Welsh triads one of the three prime ministers of Britain; but little is known of his descendants and successors until the reign of Teithwalch, about the beginning of the eighth century, which is memorable for the first invasion of South Wales by the Saxons, under the command of Ethelbald, King of Mercia, between whom and the Britons a sanguinary battle was fought at Carno, in the parish of Llangattock: this event is placed by the Welsh chronicle Brût y Tywysogion, in the year 728. Teithwalch was succeeded by his son Tegyd, whose territories, however, were considerably diminished by the conquest of the principal and most fruitful parts of Ferregs by Offa, the Anglo-Saxon monarch, who separated them from the rest of the British territories by constructing that huge work called Offa's Dyke, extending northward from the river Wye, in Herefordshire, across the Marches. The next prince of Brycheiniog, of whom history relates any thing worthy of notice, was called Hwgan, a name Latinized into Huganus. This chief, determining to embrace the opportunity afforded him by the troops of Edward the Elder being fully engaged in repelling a formidable invasion of the Danes, mustered all his forces, and led them against the Saxon frontier; but being unexpectedly opposed by a powerful army under the command of Edward's sister, the heroic Ethelfleda, he was overthrown in a sanguinary engagement; and Ethelfleda, taking advantage of her success, advanced with the utmost expedition into the heart of Hwgan's dominions, stormed his castle, and carried off his wife and her attendants. The situation of this castle, called by the Anglo-Saxon historians Brecenanmere, is not now precisely known, but has been conjectured to be at Blaenllyvni, near Llǯn-Savaddan. The British prince himself fled to the camp of the Danes at Derby, where he fell in attempting to defend the town against the assaults of the Saxon forces. Hwgan was succeeded by his son Dryfin, whose territories were successfully invaded by Athelstan, the Saxon sovereign; and who was not only compelled to pay tribute, but even deprived of what remained to him of the country of Ferregs. About the year 982, Brycheiniog was invaded by Alfred, Earl of Mercia, who laid waste nearly the whole country, but was at last routed with the aid of the other Welsh princes. In the reign of Dryfin, also, about the year 944, a survey was made of the territory of Brycheiniog, in common with the rest of Wales, by order of Dda, who had established supreme authority over all Wales, and who, in the division of his sovereignty among his three sons, included this district in the kingdom of Dinevawr, or South Wales. The hundred of Buellt, or Builth, however, seems not to have formed part of the territory of Brecknock at this time, but to have been included in the kingdom of Powys. Bleddyn ab Maenarch, the grandson of Dryfin, who married the sister of Rhŷs ab Tewdwr, the reigning sovereign of South Wales, was the last British prince of Brycheiniog.
Rhŷs ab Tewdwr, according to the conjecture of Mr. Jones (which, however, so far as concerns that chieftain, is at variance with the views of most other writers, who are of opinion that Rhŷs was slain at the battle of Hîrwaun), having been defeated in the northern part of Glamorganshire, chiefly by the prowess of the Norman mercenaries under Robert Fitz-Hamon, fled with the small remains of his adherents to the territory of his brother-in-law Bleddyn; while the success of the Normans in seizing the county of Glamorgan for themselves encouraged others of their countrymen, under the sanction of their sovereign, to whom they were to pay homage for the territories thus acquired, to undertake similar conquests. One of these was Bernard Newmarch, who, about the year 1088, with a large body of followers, entered the territories of Bleddyn, whose forces he defeated in a great battle fought near Caer-Bannau, on the banks of the Usk, Bleddyn himself being slain while gallantly fighting to save his life in his own residence, and Rhŷs ab Tewdwr, according to the authority above-mentioned, being killed in the retreat. Bernard, having thus obtained entire possession of the ancient principality of Brycheiniog, erected it into a lordship marcher, apportioning the greater part among his followers, but reserving to himself the largest allotment, with the feudal superiority over the whole. He also granted the sons of Bleddyn several portions of land for their support, treating Gwrgan, the eldest of them, with much respect; and with the view of acquiring some degree of popularity, the politic baron espoused a member of a Welsh royal family, named Nêst, grand-daughter of Grufydd ab Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales. He destroyed Caer-Bannau, the ancient capital of his newly-acquired province, and with the materials erected the castle of Brecknock, which he constituted his residence, and which thenceforward continued to be the seat of government for the lordship. Among the last acts of his life was a praiseworthy endeavour to atone for the deeds of violence, atrocity, and plunder which he had perpetrated, by ample donations to religious houses: the year of his death is not recorded, but that event is supposed to have happened in the reign of Henry I., and his remains were interred in the cloisters of Gloucester cathedral. Mahel, the eldest of the sons born to him by his wife, was disinherited, in consequence of the latter declaring him, in the presence of Henry I., to be the offspring of adultery; and Sybil, his eldest daughter, whom her mother acknowledged to be legitimate, succeeded to the lordship of Brecknock, which she conveyed by marriage to Milo Fitz-Walter, constable of Gloucester, who, for his eminent services in support of the cause of the Empress Matilda, was afterwards created Earl of Hereford. He was succeeded in his title and estates by his eldest son Roger, who, to his patrimonial inheritance of this lordship, added the lands of Ewyas in Herefordshire, by marriage with the daughter and heiress of Payne Fitz-John, lord of that territory.
This nobleman died without issue in 1156, and his possessions were inherited by his brothers William, Henry, and Mahel, successively. On the death of the last-named the lordship of Brecknock and some other possessions devolved, by right of his second sister, to her husband, Philip de Breos, or Braioso, lord of Builth, whose family had accompanied the Norman Conqueror to England, and who died soon after the accession of Henry II., leaving all his possessions to his son William. The latter has acquired an inglorious distinction in history for his atrocious cruelty, first in treacherously murdering some Welsh chieftains, whom he had invited to an entertainment at his castle of Abergavenny, in Monmouthshire; and secondly, for a similar outrage on the person of Trahaern Vychan, a descendant of Gwrgan ab Bleddyn, and a man of great influence in the territory of Brecknock, who, coming to hold a friendly conference with William, agreeably to summons, was seized by order of the latter, fastened to a horse's tail, and in this ignominious manner dragged through the streets of Brecknock, after which he was beheaded, and his body hung up by the feet. The former act of cruelty was avenged by the men of Gwent on the castle of Abergavenny; and the punishment for the latter was undertaken by Gwenwynwyn, Prince of Powys, who invaded de Breos' territories; the blow falling upon a district included in the present county of Radnor. The latter part of this baron's life was passed in continual contention with King John, and on his death, in 1212, his estates escheated to the king, by whom a great part of the Brecknockshire lands was granted to Peter Fitz-Herbert, grandson of Milo Fitz-Walter. The family of de Breos, however, recovered the whole of its Welsh possessions through the exertions of Giles, Bishop of Hereford, its chief representative, on whose death they devolved to his brother, Reginald de Breos, who married Gwladis, daughter of Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, and leagued with his fatherin-law against the English monarch. King John chastised the defection of his vassal by marching an army into his territories, and burning his castles of Radnor and Hay; and Henry III., on his accession to the throne, succeeded in dissolving the confederacy, by engaging to restore to Breos the English possessions of his family, on the condition of his returning to his allegiance. Rhŷs, son of Rhŷs Vychan, a chieftain of South Wales, in company with his brother, immediately attacked Reginald's possessions in Builth, where they were soon joined by Llewelyn, who, highly incensed at his kinsman's defection, led a powerful force towards the town of Brecknock, which he threatened with destruction, but spared at the supplication of the inhabitants. De Breos, however, fearing the effects of his resentment, became again reconciled to him, an act which once more involved him with the king, who deprived him of the lordships of Blaenllyvni and Talgarth, which were a second time given to Peter Fitz-Herbert. Reginald died in 1228, leaving his honours and the remaining Welsh estates to his eldest son, William de Breos, who was one of the foremost to aid the English monarch in a formidable expedition into North Wales, in the course of which he was taken prisoner by the Welsh, and, according to the Welsh Chronicle Brût y Tywysogion, purchased his release by the surrender of the castle and territory of Builth, in addition to the payment of a large sum of money. It appears, nevertheless, that he was put to an ignominious death by Llewelyn, who subsequently laid waste his territories with fire and sword, passing by Brecknock and Caerleon into Glamorganshire, and soon after his return making an attack on the castle of Brecknock, which proving unsuccessful, he fired the town, and then withdrew into North Wales.
On the death of William de Breos the lordship passed, by marriage with his second daughter Eleanor, to Humphrey de Bohun, sixth Earl of Hereford of that name, whose castles of Hay and Brecknock were taken by Prince Edward, son of Henry III., in 1265: about this period, too, the territory of Builth appears to have been in the hands of the Welsh, as, in the early part of the reign of Llewelyn ab Grufydd, Prince of North Wales, it was taken by that leader from Rhŷs Vychan, and given to his brother, Meredydd ab Rhŷs. Upon the death of Humphrey de Bohun, the lordship descended to his son Humphrey, who now became Earl of Hereford and Essex, and was involved in a quarrel with the Earl of Gloucester, concerning the exact limits of their domains (those of the latter nobleman in Glamorgan adjoining the lordship of Brecknock), the settlement of which King Edward I. took upon himself, commanding both parties to postpone further hostilities until he should investigate the affair and give his decision. But the tenants and vassals of the Earl of Gloucester entered on the lands of the Earl of Hereford, and were carrying off some cattle and other plunder, when the vassals of the latter assailed them, and recovered the stolen property. The king, on being informed of these outrages, issued special commissions to examine into the conduct of the contending parties, the result of which was a decree, ordaining that the liberties of Glamorgan and Brecknock should be forfeited to the crown, during the lives of their actual possessors, who were commanded by the king himself to be imprisoned during his pleasure. These sentences, however, were commuted for the payment, by the Earl of Gloucester, of 10,000 marks, and by the Earl of Hereford of 1000.
Although the latter nobleman appears in English history as one of the most powerful and spirited barons of his time, yet none of the other remarkable events of his life have any particular relation to his lordship of Brecknock: the northern part of the county was, however, in his time the scene of one of the most tragical events related in Welsh history. Llewelyn ab Grufydd, the last native Welsh chieftain who wore the ensigns of royalty, having been engaged in ravaging the territories of the King of England's friends in Cardiganshire, directed his course towards Builth, in the vicinity of which town he had engaged to meet some of his allies of the neighbouring country, to concert measures for the future. Having arrived on the banks of the Edwy, there is every reason to suppose that he was betrayed by the very persons with whom he came to consult; for, after departing from his forces, they were attacked by John Giffard and Sir Edmund Mortimer, at the head of a body of troops from Herefordshire. On this unexpected onset, Llewelyn fled to Builth, whence, failing in his attempt to procure aid from the garrison, he advanced westward up the Irvon, on the south side, for about three miles, when he crossed that river by a bridge called Pont-y-Coed, and stationed the few troops that accompanied him on an eminence on the north side of the river, to defend the pass. The English, foiled in their attempt on the bridge, crossed the stream by a ford at a short distance, and, coming behind the Welsh, succeeded in attacking them unawares. They were received with a shower of arrows and other missiles, which was returned by a body of archers placed among the English horse: on the English gaining the summit the armies closed, and the action was maintained for more than three hours, with great valour and obstinacy, until at length the Welsh were entirely defeated and put to flight, leaving 2000 men, a third of their number, dead upon the field. The prince himself was closely pursued by Adam de Francton, an English knight, who, seeing him to be a Welshman, and not knowing his quality, plunged his spear into his body, and then rejoined the ranks of his comrades. The heat of the battle being over, Francton returned to strip the person whom he had wounded, and, recognizing him as the Welsh prince, cut off his head, after Llewelyn had breathed his last, and presented it to the king, who was then residing in Conway Abbey. The day of Llewelyn's death is stated to have been the 10th of December, 1282, at which time the ground was covered with snow; and the spot is still called Cevn-y-Bedd, or Cevn Bedd Llewelyn, "the Ridge of Llewelyn's Grave." A traditionary account of this event is preserved by the inhabitants of Builth and its neighbourhood, which differs in some particulars from the account of the historians. The former, owing to their alleged base conduct on this occasion, in not affording that shelter to the Welsh prince which they were able to give, have ever since borne the reproachful appellation of Bradwyr Buellt, or the "traitors of Builth."
Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, was succeeded by his son of the same name, who distinguished himself in opposition to the government of that weak monarch Edward II., and joined in the rebellion of several of the lords marcher, to oppose the claims of the younger Spencer to the lordship of Gower, in Glamorganshire. He was killed in the battle of Boroughbridge, in 1321, and his Welsh property, being confiscated, was given by the king to the younger Spencer, on whose execution, however, it reverted to the family of de Bohun, in the person of John de Bohun, after whose death it was successively inherited by his brother and his nephew, both named Humphrey de Bohun, the latter the son of John's brother William. Humphrey de Bohun left issue two daughters, the younger of whom, Mary, espoused Henry, Earl of Derby, afterwards King Henry IV., who thus obtained possession of the lordship of Brecknock, which, however, he allowed the Countess Dowager of Hereford to retain for her lifetime.
This county, amongst others, suffered from the devastations made in South Wales, during the reign of Henry IV., by that renowned Welsh chieftain, Owain Glyndwr, to whom is ascribed the final destruction of Hay Castle. Shortly after the death of the Countess Dowager of Hereford, Anne, daughter of Eleanor de Bohun, the elder daughter of the last Humphrey de Bohun, who was married first to Thomas of Woodstock, sixth son of Edward III., and afterwards to Edmund, Earl of Stafford, but was at this time a widow, petitioned the king for that portion of her grandmother's possessions which rightfully belonged to her; and amongst those relinquished to her and her son was the lordship of Brecknock. She died in 1439, and her inheritance passed to her son, Henry, Earl of Buckingham, afterwards, in the 23rd of Henry VI., created Duke of Buckingham, who is chiefly distinguished in the Welsh annals for his tyrannical treatment of the tenants of this lordship. He was slain fighting on the side of the Lancastrians, at the battle of Northampton, in 1460; and his only son Humphrey, Earl of Stafford, having previously fallen at the battle of St. Alban's, he was succeeded in the dukedom of Buckingham, and all his other honours and estates, by his grandson Henry, who being at that time in his minority, Sir William Herbert, afterwards created Earl of Pembroke, was appointed steward of the lordship of Brecknock, and entrusted with the management of the duke's other possessions in Wales. After he had attained his majority, this duke became, on the death of Edward IV., one of the most staunch partisans of Richard III.; but that usurper, having gained the object of his ambition, refused to fulfil his engagements with him, in consequence of which the duke retired from court, determined on revenge. Arriving at his castle of Brecknock, he released from confinement Morton, Bishop of Ely, whom Richard, on account of the prelate's known attachment to the cause of the murdered princes, the sons of the late King Edward, had committed a close prisoner to his charge. Morton immediately departed for the continent, to inform the Earl of Richmond of Buckingham's designs in his favour, and for the dethronement of King Richard, and at the same time to concert measures for the execution of their enterprise; while Buckingham proceeded with the necessary preparations at home. The latter speedily raised a large body of troops from his lordship and other domains in this quarter, and commenced his march towards Shrewsbury, to join the partizans of the same cause assembled there. The unfortunate issue of this expedition is well known: the Severn, being swollen by a prodigious flood, delayed his advance, and his troops, probably ill-provided, soon began to desert in such numbers, as to oblige him to seek safety in flight and concealment; till, being betrayed into the power of Richard, he was beheaded at Salisbury, without even the form of trial, and his titles and estates were forfeited to the crown.
Richmond, with a small body of French troops, landing soon after at Milford Haven, and being joined by Rhŷs ab Thomas, the most opulent and influential subject in South Wales, the latter, according to preconcerted measures, had the beacons lighted, to give notice to his friends of the earl's arrival, and pursued his line of march through Carmarthenshire and Brecknockshire, his standard being joined by great numbers in every part of his progress. On reaching Brecknock, Rhŷs found it necessary to make some selection from among the multitude that had collected around him. He first of all formed a chosen body of two thousand horse, to be commanded by himself; and next, a corps of five hundred infantry, which he placed under the command of his younger brothers David and John, for the protection of his own estates, and the security of the persons and property of those who had declared in favour of the earl. The rest he dismissed with acknowledgments for their readiness to serve under him, and then proceeded with his two thousand chosen men towards Shrewsbury, to rejoin the Earl of Richmond, who had taken a different route. Upon the settlement of the latter on the throne of England, by the title of Henry VII., he restored all the possessions and honours of the late Duke of Buckingham, including the lordship of Brecknock, to the family of that peer, in the person of his son Edward, who was afterwards created Constable of England, and was the last who held that high office. On the execution of this nobleman for treason, in the reign of Henry VIII., the dukedom of Buckingham became extinct, and the lordship of Brecknock, with all the territories and revenues appertaining to it, again escheated to the crown, in whose possession it thenceforward remained for a considerable period. Brecknockshire is one of the counties formed, by the act of the 27th of Henry VIII., out of the Marches, or intermediate border lands between England and Wales; at which time also it was enacted that, in the whole of Wales, law and justice should be administered in the same form as in England; while the lords marcher, who had before exercised an almost regal authority within their respective domains, were reduced nearly to the condition of ordinary manorial lords. At the commencement of the civil war of the seventeenth century, a troop of horse was raised by Mr. Jenkin Jones, of this county, at his own expense, in support of the parliamentarian cause.
In 1617, the lordship of Brecknock was assigned on lease by James I. to Sir Francis Bacon, Sir John Daccombe, and others, in trust, for the use of Prince Charles, afterwards King Charles I., who, in the seventh year of his reign, conveyed the fee to trustees for the use of Sir William Russell, reserving to the crown only a fee-farm rent of forty-four pounds and one halfpenny per annum. Sir William Russell sold his interest to the Earl of Pembroke, and that nobleman disposed of it to William Morgan, Esq., of Dderw in Brecknockshire, on whose death it was inherited by his daughter Blanch, who conveyed it by marriage to William Morgan, Esq., of Tredegar, in Monmouthshire, in whose family it has ever since remained, being at present in the possession of Sir Charles Morgan, Bart. The lordship, or manor, of Brecknock, is that part of the county which, ever since the erection of Brecknock Castle, has been appendant to that fortress, comprising nearly the whole of the hundred of Merthyr, or MerthyrCynog, that part of the parish of Llywel which is situated to the north of the river Usk, and the parishes of Llanspythid, St. David, and Cantrêv, to the river Cynrig.
The lordship of the Great Forest, in the southwestern part of the county, is also held on lease from the crown by Sir Charles Morgan, together with the lordship of Brecknock, but under somewhat different circumstances. The lordship of the Great Forest, or at least a large part of it, having been acquired by the successors of Bernard Newmarch in the lordship of Brecknock, subsequently to the total subjugation of Wales by Edward I., never formed part of the lordship marcher, but was held by the lords of Brecknock, like all other territories in Wales except the Marches, as a fief under the crown of England. While these possessions continued in the same hands, they were properly called conjointly the Great lordship of Brecknock; but after the attainder of the last Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, when they were dissevered, the application of this term to either became erroneous. The lordship of the Forest comprises a much more extensive tract than the lordship of Brecknock, and should rather be called the manor of the Great Forest, or of the Great Forest of Devynock, within the county of Brecknock. In the 10th of George I., it was demised by the Prince of Wales to William Morgan, of Tredegar, Esq., to hold for twenty-one years, at the yearly rent of £20. 6. 8.: this lease has since been constantly renewed, and under a late grant from the crown is held by Sir Charles Morgan, Bart.
The county is in the diocese of St. David's, and province of Canterbury, and is comprised in the archdeaconry of Brecknock, forming the four deaneries of Builth, the first, second, and third parts of that of Brecknock, and part of that of Hay: the number of parishes is sixty-six, of which twenty-four are rectories, eighteen vicarages, and the rest perpetual curacies. For purposes of civil government it is divided into the six hundreds of Builth, Crickhowel, Devynock, Merthyr, Pencelly, and Talgarth. It contains the borough and market-town of Brecknock, or Brecon; and the market-towns of Builth, Crickhowel, and Hay. One knight is returned to parliament for the shire, and one representative for the borough of Brecknock. The county is in the South Wales circuit: the assizes and quarter-sessions are held at Brecknock, where stands the county gaol and house of correction. There are about fifty acting magistrates.
Nearly the whole surface of the county is occupied by several ranges of mountains, with their diverging hills, intersected in various directions by fertile and romantic valleys; and its outskirts on every side consist for the most part of lofty and barren mountains, excepting only where it is separated from Radnorshire on the north-east by the river Wye. In the lower parts of Brecknockshire the hills are cultivated to a considerable distance up their sides, and some of them even to their summits; but the higher mountains, more especially those in the northern part, are in general uncultivated, and of little value except as sheep-walks. The principal mountain chain is that called, through a considerable part of its extent, the Black Mountains. It commences on the western border of the county, in the two conspicuous summits called Bannau Sir Gaer, or the Carmarthenshire Beacons, and thence stretches eastward across the entire breadth of Brecknockshire, terminating in Monmouthshire on the southern side of the Usk, below the town of Crickhowel, which is situated within the south-eastern confines of this county. The westernmost of these two heights, which, viewed from the surrounding country, are remarkably picturesque objects, is in Carmarthenshire, and is separated by a deep and narrow chasm from the other, which is in Brecknockshire, and of rather superior elevation. The latter is sometimes called Trêcastle Beacon, from the neighbouring village of Trêcastle; it rises to the height of two thousand five hundred and ninetysix feet above the level of the sea, and embraces a view of extraordinary extent and grandeur. But the most elevated summits of the chain, and the highest points of South Wales, are two contiguous peaks situated about five miles to the south-west of the town of Brecknock, which rise two thousand eight hundred and sixty-two feet above the sea, and, towering above the lofty hills which compose their base, form a striking and even sublime object from very distant parts, and command in every direction a prospect of great extent and interest, though inferior to the prospect just mentioned. These heights are sometimes designated, in the singular number, the Van, or Beacon; but more commonly, and with greater propriety, are called Bannau Brecheiniog, or the Brecknockshire Beacons: they are also known to the Welsh by the name of Cader Arthur, or Arthur's Chair. On the summit is a small stagnant pool, which wholly evaporates in seasons of drought; and at some distance below, under their northern declivity, lies a small lake, about a mile in circumference, called Llỳn Cwm Llwch, which is the source of the small river Tarell, and contains great numbers of the lacerta aquatica, or water lizard: by the peasantry of the surrounding county this pool is believed to be of unfathomable depth. That peak of the Carmarthenshire Beacons which is situated within the bounds of Brecknockshire has a similar lake, called Llỳn-yVan, which is the source of the Usk, and is of much larger extent, being upwards of a mile in length: its waters have a dark and gloomy aspect, and contain no fish. From the upper end of the Vale of Tawe the chain of heights, including Bettws mountain, extends south-westward into Glamorganshire; and the higher parts of all these mountains, being too elevated, steep, and rocky for cultivation, form a vast extent of wastes, which is continued, with the same characteristic features, but gradually diminishing in altitude and extent, from the border of this county, through that of Carmarthen, towards the mouth of the Towy. Southward from the Black Mountains, beyond a narrow range of limestone mountains, of which the lofty Cribarth, a mile or two above the head of the Swansea canal, is the most distinguished summit, the surface is formed of the high, steep, and barren hills of the great coal and iron tract of South Wales: the limestone hills above-mentioned, in the eastern part of the county, form a lofty parapet on the southern side of the Vale of Usk, extending as far westward as the Llangynider rocks.
At Talgarth, approaching the eastern confines of the county, rises another mountain chain, called in Brecknockshire the Black Mountains, and likewise Mynydd-y-Gader, or "the chair mountain;" but which, extending eastward into Herefordshire, is there commonly designated as the Hatterell hills: the loftiest summit, second in altitude only to the Brecknockshire Beacons, is called Y Gader Vawr, or "the great chair." The third and last mountain range, requiring particular notice, is that called the Eppynt Hills. This chain extends with a tolerably uniform outline, and in a direction from west to east, from the north-eastern confines of the county of Carmarthen (where it is connected with the great chain separating the vales of the Towy and the Teivy) to Llŷswen, on the banks of the Wye, thus dividing nearly the whole of the hundred of Builth from the rest of the county: the mountain called Drugarn, near the confines of Cardiganshire, to the northwest, rises to the height of two thousand and seventyone feet above the level of the sea. The Eppynt hills are connected with the Plinlimmon mountains, on the south-western border of Montgomeryshire, by a transverse cluster of mountains extending several miles in every direction, and constituting the most dreary wastes of the counties of Brecknock, Radnor, and Cardigan: they form no regular chain as those above-mentioned, and, like the other mountain wastes, can be turned to little profit, except as summer pastures for almost innumerable flocks of small hardy sheep. Various chains of hills of lower elevation diverge in different directions from the several principal ranges in the county, but none of them are remarkable for their extent.
The principal lake, and one of the largest lakes in South Wales, is Llỳ n Savaddan, a few miles eastward from the town of Brecknock. This expanse, sometimes called Llangorse mere, and Brecknock mere, is about three miles long, and one broad. Its general depth is from three to four yards, though in some places from twelve to fifteen yards; and its principal fish are, pike, sometimes weighing upwards of thirty lb.; perch, from a few ounces to three lb. weight; and eels of such an extraordinary size as to have given rise to the adage, Cyhyd a llysywen Savaddan, "as long as a Savaddan eel." This otherwise fine sheet of water is bordered on the south side by low marshy grounds, overgrown with rushes and other aquatic plants of no value.
The vales, owing to their inland situation, are subject to a greater degree of cold and frost in winter, and of heat in summer, than those of most parts of the principality. Opening inland also, and the southwestern vapours from the ocean being frequently arrested and dissipated by the western mountains, their climate is drier, the grain which is cultivated in them fills better in the ear, and the arable lands are not so apt to be overrun with natural grasses. But on the mountains the climate is cold, wet, and tempestuous, and the loftier elevations are often capped with snow until late in the spring. The climate of the slate hills of the hundred of Builth combines with an unfertile soil, to render them the most desolate parts of the county. The wheat harvest in the vales generally commences in the first week of August; sometimes in the last week of July.
No county in the principality contains a greater variety of SOILS than Brecknockshire. The northern part of it, lying beyond a line drawn from the banks of the Wye, below the influx of the Radnorshire river Eddw, obliquely across the Eppynt hills to Cwm-yDwr, on the road between Trêcastle and Llandovery, on the border of Carmarthenshire, is included in the great slate, or rather shale, tract of South Wales. Here peat commonly occupies the hollows, and sometimes the slopes, of the hills, under which, however, clay generally abounds near the surface, rendering the ground wet, and unproductive of any but the poorest herbage. The banks of the Wye and the Irvon, nevertheless, are composed of land of a much richer quality, where a sound loam abounds to the depth of from one to six feet. The soils of the coal tract, which includes a narrow district along the whole southern side of Brecknockshire, are for the most part of the same poor quality as those of the uplands of the slate district, having in like manner clays near the surface which do not absorb the water, and consequently render the soils very wet: the natural grasses are also the same. The clayey soils of the latter district are capable of much greater amelioration in the progress of agriculture, owing to their being impregnated with a fine silex, which renders them friable under the action of the atmosphere, and owing also to their proximity to lime.
The middle part of the county is wholly occupied by soils which derive an uniformly red colour from a substratum of red sandstone, and communicate it to the water precipitated upon them by every heavy shower. The red lands are bounded on the north by the slate tract and the river Wye, on the south by a line extending from east to west in the latitude of Glỳn Collwyn to the south of the town of Brecknock, and on the east and west only by the confines of the county: their breadth, from north to south, from Llangynog chapel, near Builth, to Glỳn Collwyn, is about nineteen miles. The Usk and most of its tributaries have their sources in this red tract; and their deposits, being originally derived from the red sandstone, have rendered the soil of the Vale of Usk, although fertile, of a very light sandy texture: however, by good husbandry, the crops of grain are abundant, but those of hay, in dry summers, are extremely small on its meadow lands. The lightness of the soil in this vale, in the year 1810, subjected its wheat crops to alarming depredations from the pupæ of the cockchafer, more particularly in that part of it which extends from Brecknock to the south-eastern border of the county; and these insects still appear occasionally, in detached spaces, in soils favourable to their settlement. The soils of the side-land declivities are generally of a stronger staple, and having more argil in their composition than the soil of the vale, produce, under good tillage, greater crops of grain. As the Wye and its principal tributaries in the higher part of its course flow for many miles through the shale tract, their waters, in time of flood, bear with them argillaceous particles, which improve the staple of the red sandy soils through which they pass for so many miles before quitting the principality: hence the superior tenacity and productiveness of the lands in the vale traversed by that river below the town of Builth. The level part of the hundred of Talgarth, from Savaddan lake to Aberllyvni, has been said to derive the superior quality of its soil for the culture of wheat from a tenacious sediment peculiar to the district, and the deposition of which it is difficult to account for in the ordinary course of nature. The more elevated parts of this great red tract, which comprise the Brecknockshire and Carmarthenshire Beacons, are far superior in soil and produce to those of the slate district, and sheep brought to them from the latter having their wool kempy, or intermingled with long coarse hairs, soon lose their kemps; and vice versâ.
The soil of the narrow limestone district, extending quite across the county between the red soil and coal tracts, is for the most part rendered very arid by its elevation, especially on the northern side, its want of depth, and the absorbent quality of the substratum. Consequently, white clover, a plant natural to limestone soils, is never found in the more elevated regions; but lower down, in the vicinities of Vainor and Penderin, the soil is so favourable to the growth of this sweet grass, that, after being ploughed for a crop of grain, in the following year it spontaneously produces an abundant crop of hay almost wholly composed of it.
Mr. Clark, in his agricultural report of Brecknockshire, estimates that nearly two-thirds of it were then inclosed; and in the inclosures the "good land" formed one-fourth of the county, the "middling land" rather more than one-fifth, and "poor mountainous land" another fifth. Since the date of that publication, however, this proportion has somewhat increased, nearly all the commons on the low land having been successively inclosed. The systems of agriculture are of course very various on such a variety of soils and in such different situations, and, though frequently exhibiting considerable skill, are in many instances very defective. All the ordinary kinds of grain are cultivated, as also are peas, vetches, turnips and potatoes. The produce of wheat on the poorer soils of the slate tract is extremely small, being even somewhat less than on the poorest cultivated soils of the red lands, though the crops on the uplands of Llywel and the Eppynt hills are frequently not more than from seven to ten bushels per acre. The smaller valleys of the red district, namely those of the rivers Honddû, Esgair, Brân, &c., generally produce from fifteen to eighteen bushels per acre; the Vale of Usk, from seventeen to twenty-one bushels; and the flat part of the hundred of Talgarth, forming an opening through the hills between the Vales of Usk and Wye, and the richer parts of the romantic valley of the Wye itself, from above Llangoed Castle to the town of Hay, from eighteen to twenty-three bushels per acre, though sometimes thirty. On the uplands the produce of barley varies from nine to twenty bushels an acre; on the strongest soils it averages from fifteen to twenty-three bushels, in the Vale of Wye from twenty to thirty, and in the Vale of Usk something more than twenty. The cultivation of oats is extensive only on the highest cultivated lands, where other grain would seldom ripen; the produce varies from fifteen to twenty bushels per acre. Rye is but little grown. The reaping-hook and sickle are the instruments in common use for cutting corn; the cradled scythe is occasionally employed. Although the amount of arable land is greater than in most Welsh counties, yet the exports hence of grain are very inconsiderable, and those wholly to the collieries and ironworks of the adjoining counties of Monmouth and Glamorgan, excepting only small quantities of barley, which are sometimes conveyed by means of the Newport canal to the Bristol market. Few peas are sown in the Vale of Wye, or on the stronger soils of the hundred of Talgarth; but the Vale of Usk affords excellent crops of both white and grey peas, the produce being generally from fifteen to twenty-five bushels per acre. Potatoes are most extensively cultivated on the southern side of the county, in and near the coal district. In the lower part of the Vale of Wye, in this county, are several extensive hop-yards, under similar cultivation to those of the neighbouring English counties. The most common artificial grasses are clover and ryegrass. The inclosed grass lands, which are of very considerable extent, are of various quality; those of the Vale of Usk, from above Brecknock to Buckland House, and from below Bwlch-Arllwys to the border of Monmouthshire, present pastures which, owing to the lightness of their soil, have less richness than beauty. The produce of the natural meadows, except in some peculiarly favoured situations on the banks of the Wye and the Usk, is no where luxuriant; but on many farms great pains are taken to increase their fertility by manures and by irrigation. Lime is extensively employed as a manure in the southern and south-eastern parts of the county, where it is conveniently obtained from the limestone strata hereafter mentioned, being burned in the more eastern districts with the slack, or refuse, of the running and coking coal, and westward of the Neath river with culm. Braes is a manure peculiar to the coal district, consisting of ashes and coal-dust, the refuse of the coking-hearths, where coal is charred for the use of the blast-furnaces of the iron-works. Ashes of all kinds are also employed in the vicinities of the iron-works and of the towns.
Most of the ploughs in common use are large and heavy, being about thirteen feet and a half long, with an acute-pointed share, a straight mould-board from three to three and a half feet long, and a chwelyd, or round staff of wood, gradually rising from the base and gradually projecting from the mould-board, to turn over the plit. The Rotherham plough is also very common, and is here called the Whitchurch plough, though sometimes the Crickhowel plough, the latter town having a long-established manufactory of implements of this kind. Carts and wagons are the common agricultural vehicles in most parts of the county; but in the more mountainous regions the Welsh car, or sledge, drawn by one horse, is still used. The usual teams in tillage consist of four or five horses drawing singly, six oxen in pairs, or two pairs of oxen led by one horse: great power is applied to the working of the heavy plough, but the lighter English ploughs are commonly drawn by a pair of horses driven by the ploughman.
The native breed of cattle is the small hardy black kind, which still occupies the western and mountainous parts of the county, and is of the sort so prevalent in the adjoining county of Cardigan. The white-faced Herefordshire cattle, however, now occupy the Vale of Usk and all its numerous ramifications, as far as Trêcastle, and the Vale of Wye, as far as the wilds of Irvon, in Builth; on the richer pastures, near the English border, these cattle equal in excellence those of Herefordshire itself, but, advancing towards the mountains, they gradually diminish in size. There are also various intermixtures between these two breeds, besides some Scotch cattle and a few other kinds. The sheep are of the small mountain breed, and are extremely numerous: the rams have horns, as have also some of the ewes and wethers; they have generally white faces and legs, those of a different colour having acquired it by foreign intermixtures. Their wool is short, and its fineness varies with the soil, climate, and aspect of their walks, but in proportion as it is coarser, so also is it longer: it is chiefly used in the manufacture of flannels, blankets, ordinary cloths, and felt hats. The average weight of the ewes is from six to nine lb. per quarter, and that of the wethers from eight to twelve. The instincts of these sheep are very remarkable: while fed in inclosures they have a mischievous activity, which almost baffles human ingenuity to counteract; but when driven on the mountain wastes, their natural abodes, they continue in one favourite spot, from which they cannot be removed without difficulty. The shepherds sometimes avail themselves of this circumstance, where there is a right of intercommonage (which is frequently the case), to prevent a newly-introduced flock from depasturing the same bank, or hill, with "old settlers:" coming to the spot at nightfall, or in the middle of the night, they make a noise and disturbance, which is particularly disagreeable to their own flocks, as well as to the new comers; but the latter, not being so much accustomed to the place, abandon the walk to the sole possession of its former occupiers. The sheep are also generally considered to have a full presentiment of the approach of severe weather, more especially of snow-storms, sometimes so fatal to them; and, a day or two before the commencement of the latter, they are observed to avoid the ditches and other situations where drifts are likely to be formed, and have sometimes, though seldom, been known to quit the elevated wastes entirely on such occasions, and, overleaping all fences, to descend into the valleys. Sheep of the same untractable disposition, bred in Glamorganshire, are often sold in great numbers into this county, where their purchasers are obliged to watch them for a considerable time with greater care than the native flocks. The vulgar notion is, that when the wind blows from the south they recognise their native air, and immediately meditate an escape: certain it is that, on such occasions, they may be seen standing on the highest eminences, snuffing the gale, and then at length, if no insurmountable impediment occurs, suddenly to scour away, not stopping until they have reached their former haunts. A few hogs are sold from this county into the interior of England. Considerable attention has for a long period been bestowed on the breeding of good horses, both for the saddle and the plough: for agricultural purposes, preference is given to various crosses between the native small breed and the Suffolk "punches." The Brecknockshire farmers have an inclination to work oxen instead of horses, but their being generally situated at a considerable distance from coal and lime, compels them to have at least one horse-team, besides which the larger farmers have generally two teams of oxen, drawing in yokes. The Brecon Agricultural Society was the first of the kind instituted in Wales, and one of the earliest in Britain, its articles having been printed in April 1755.
Brecknockshire contains many thriving orchards in the vales, which produce excellent cider, chiefly for home consumption. Apple-trees are also sometimes planted in intermediate rows in the hop-yards, and among forest-trees on warm declivities. The natural woods of the slate and coal tracts are the same; and rough declivities, waste corners, &c., when surrounded with fences, are soon crowded with oak, ash, and alder, the different species predominating according to soil and aspect, but oak being by far the most abundant: the less common native trees of these districts are birch, mountain-ash, and wild cherry on the uplands, and wych-elm, aspen, sycamore, maple, lime, and wild crab trees, in more sheltered situations. The patches of dry sandy soil, formed in some places by the decomposition of the siliceous strata of the coal measures, also produce beechwood, which is never found indigenous in the slate tract, but, like the various other kinds of trees above mentioned, is a natural production of the red soils, in some places in such abundance as to have caused small tracts of them to be called Fawyddog, or beechy. The woods in the neighbourhood of Llangoed Castle are particularly extensive; and in the vicinities of Trevecca, Penpont, and Abercamlais, are tracts of Scotch fir of artificial plantation and remarkably fine growth. Poplars sometimes attain an amazing size by the sides of the rivers and brooks, and are more especially numerous in the Vale of Usk.
The open wastes and mountains subject to common rights occupy about one-third of the county. The principal stock upon these is sheep, with some horned-cattle and horses in summer; but the number of the latter is not considerable, the farmers not having a sufficient stock of food for them in winter: owing to this circumstance, also, the commons in many places are capable of supporting more than three times the amount of the stock that the parishioners have to turn upon them. Some individuals, however, have flocks of the small mountain sheep amounting to many thousands: in the hundred of Builth the flocks of the small farmers vary in number, from 100 to 500, and of the large farmers from 1000 to 5000. The sheep-graziers in general pay little attention to the cultivation of their inclosed lands, which are commonly of very small extent, obtaining most of their corn at the nearest market-town.
The wastes may be divided into three grand districts: First, the Talgarth Black Mountains, with their branches, rising on the eastern side of the county, and connected with the Hatterell hills of Herefordshire. These mountains, which reach in this county from Hay on the Wye to Crickhowel on the Usk, are elevated and extensive, nearly 20,000 acres of them being claimed as sheep-walks by the inhabitants of one parish only. Their soils, resting upon red sandstone and a narrow line of detached limestone rocks, are productive of good herbage for sheep and young cattle, and their outskirts are susceptible of advantageous cultivation. In the Second division are the mountains, composed of limestone and red sandstone, extending westward from the Blorenge mountain in Monmouthshire, and including the Brecknockshire and Carmarthenshire Beacons, the most elevated western summits of which are called the Black Mountains, probably from the dark and frowning aspect they present when their covering of heath is out of bloom: some of the lower parts of these great tracts are susceptible of agricultural improvement, but the rest is by far too elevated, steep, and rocky for cultivation. The mountains of the coal tract, on the southern border of the county, produce an abundance of coarse grasses, which support vast numbers of cattle and sheep. On these and the above-mentioned range, in the south-eastern part of Brecknockshire, adjoining the counties of Glamorgan and Carmarthen, lies the Great Forest of Brecknock, the wastes of which, by actual admeasurement, contain 41,324 acres, and were sold some years ago to different purchasers by the Commissioners of Crown Lands. The Third division comprises the Eppynt hills, above described, and the dreary hills of shale to the north of them. The former, having for the most part substrata of red sandstone and grey mountain rock, produce better herbage for sheep than the hills of the blue shale. The dry parts of the latter are covered with heath, or till, a hungry light mould; the wet flats, with rushes on clay, or peat: the herbage is altogether the coarsest of any extensive tract in the county; and the wool of the numerous flocks of small and hardy sheep which it supports is equally coarse, being interspersed with numerous kemps, or coarse long hairs. The improvement of these shale wastes by cultivation is rendered impossible by every natural disadvantage, to which it may be added, that lime is not to be procured within a shorter distance than from thirty to forty miles. The peaty soils found on all the wastes except those having a limestone substratum, but to the greatest extent on those in the northern part of the county, present in some places extensive meadows, called in Welsh rhôsydd, and productive of a species of short hay, denominated, in the dialect of the country, gwair mân, or small hay, and which the farmers gather for the winter support of their horned-cattle: so slender and small is the blade of this grass, that, in some cases, it cannot be removed to the homestead except in baskets, or large sheets, provided for the purpose. Coal is the common fuel of the southern parts of the county, where it is most easily procured, and peat in the northern and north-western districts, where coal can only be obtained by a tedious and difficult land-carriage, while peat of good quality is abundant.
The geological features of Brecknockshire are striking and interesting, and its mineral productions of great importance, consisting, for the most part, of coal, iron, limestone, and building-stones of various kinds. Beginning with the lowest rocks in geological position, the whole country to the north of the Eppynt hills, and the bases of those hills themselves, are composed of a perishable argillaceous shale, rab, or roch (as it is variously denominated by different writers), of no value, being scarcely fit for repairing roads, as a little heavy carriage and wet weather soon reduce it to its primitive clay. The strata of this shale, which are generally very thin, dip towards every point of the compass, according to the undulations of the surface. In some places they are sufficiently indurated to be used as flagstones under cover from the weather, and in the erection of buildings intended to be rough-cast or stuccoed. Here and there they are intersected by ranges of what is commonly termed grey mountain rock, or whinstone, of various texture and degrees of hardness, some rocks affording excellent building-stones, while others, bearing marks of marine exuviæ, and effervescing with acids, perish by the action of the atmosphere. The line of bearing of these ranges is from north-east to south-west. One of them enters Brecknockshire in crossing the Wye from Radnorshire, near the junction of that river with the Elain, and stretches across the hundred of Builth to the river Irvon, being seen to advantage between Llanwrtyd wells and the church of that parish. The stratification of the range is in some places irregular, but in others regular, so as to form quadrilateral columns, nine or ten feet long, and from nine to fourteen inches square, which incline considerably to the north-west, and on that side support the argillaceous shale, or slate. About three miles south-westward of this ledge of whinstone is a ridge of pudding-stone, resting upon the shale, and blocks of breccia are found in different directions. The grey mountain rock is every where covered with a more grateful soil than the surrounding hills of blue shale.
To this shale, proceeding southward, immediately succeed the red-sandstone strata, which sustain the great tract of red soils above described, and the northern limit of which extends from the banks of the Wye, below the confluence of the Eddw, obliquely across the Eppynt hills, and northward from Llangynog chapel to Cwm-y-Dwr, on the border of Carmarthenshire. Their southern boundary reaches from Llanelly, on the south of the Usk, near Crickhowel, directly westward to the southern foot of the Carmarthenshire Beacons. Though the rocks of this tract exhibit few anomalies, they are in themselves of three varieties; namely, the lower, the middle, and the upper strata. The stone of the first is of a greyish blue colour; it breaks into splinters, exhibiting no particles of sand or mica, and, though difficult to dress, makes excellent building-stone. The middle stratum consists of micaceous schistus, the thinner sort of which is converted into roofing-tiles, and that from two to six inches thick into flags, milestones, &c.: the interior of the tile, or flag, is a compact sandstone of various colours, brown, greenish, or grey, the cleft in the rock being occasioned by a thickly bespangled bed of mica. The upper stratum consists simply of reddish sandstone, which is convertible to few uses, but which has contributed to the colouring of the soil of the whole district. The mountains of this tract are the highest in South Wales, and are for the most part covered with vegetation, excepting only such declivities as are perpendicularly steep, in which situations the regularity of the stratification is strikingly exhibited, more particularly in the rocks in the vicinity of Crickhowel. A remarkable range of the grey mountain rock crosses the Wye into this county from Radnorshire, a little below the town of Builth, and pursues the south-western direction which it has held through the shale of that county, for a considerable distance, into the red sandstone of Brecknockshire, passing through the parish of Crickadarn, and across the valleys of the Honddû and the two Esgairs, to the extremity of the parish of MerthyrCynog, where it terminates in the craggy intrenched height of Corn-y-Van. This grey rock, and its accompanying grey soil, are about a mile and a half broad in the valley of the Honddû, from the north of Castle Madoc to Tenerddi brook, southward of Capel Isâv. It affords excellent building-stones, of which the town of Builth and its bridge over the Wye present good specimens. The Brianog mountain, in the red soil district, near the town of Crickhowel, contains a stratum of compact greyish freestone, of which furnace hearth-stones, rollers, cisterns, &c., are made; as also a bed of inferior sandy limestone. Along the north-western base of the red sandstone of the Black Mountains of Talgarth is a range of detached limestone rocks, which extends for several miles, from Llanigon to Cathedine, near Savaddan lake, and, thence turning more directly westward, is found on both sides of the Vale of Usk. On the north it appears occupying a considerable tract at Llanvillo and Llanthew, north-east of the town of Brecknock, and further on, at Venni-Vâch wood, and other places about two miles westward of Brecknock; while on the southern side of the vale it is seen at Aber Cynrig, opposite to Llanhamllêch, and a mile or two further westward at Frwdgrêch, opposite to Brecknock. The lime from this stone is for the most part of a strong gritty quality, and used only in the immediate vicinity. At the north-eastern extremity of the range it is rendered expensive by the great distance from which coal must be brought to burn it. The lime of the Venni-Vâch and Aber Cynrig rocks cements in water.
To the red-sandstone strata, proceeding southward, and within a few miles of the anomalous limestone rocks just mentioned, succeeds a range of primitive or mountain limestone. This range commences on the east in the higher strata of the Blorenge mountain to the south of Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, whence, stretching first north-westward and then westward, its bold steeps form a lofty parapet on the southern side of the Vale of Usk, as far as Llangynider; hence, proceeding westward, it loses much of its boldness of aspect by reposing on the base of the loftier red sandstone of the Brecknockshire Beacons. Some of the lower strata of this limestone are of such extraordinary thickness as to appear almost like primitive rocks: one bed at Clydach is of a bluer colour than the others, and is used with the Aberthaw lias limestone of Glamorganshire, as a cement for works under water. A singular section of the various strata is exhibited at the cataract of the Clydach rivulet, at Pwll-y-Cwn, where the water is precipitated over a ledge of perpendicular rocks, consisting at the top of limestone for about fourteen yards; then of a bed of a heterogeneous quality, about five feet thick, sandy, of a magnesian texture, and difficult of calcination; next, for several feet, of beds of laminar schist, still more argillaceous; and then again of limestone, down to the pudding-stone base which immediately rests upon the red sandstone: in this pudding-stone are cemented large quartz pebbles of various colours. In the parishes of Penderin and Ystrad-Gunlais the limestone occasionally departs from its usual regularity of stratification; and at Craig-y-Dinas, as if by some vast convulsion, the whole mass of the rock is thrown southward several hundred yards into the coal measures, with which it intermingles. Between the rivers Neath and Tawy, at Penwyll, the strata recover their regularity of bearing and inclination, which is again disarranged to the north-west of the Tawy, where the lofty conical mountain of Cribarth seems to have been thrown further southward than the neighbouring regularlystratified limestone rocks. About the centre of the Cribarth rock is a bed of freestone, which has limestone both above and below it, and is traversed by fissures in every direction: there is also a vein of fine red viscid clay. Marble, of a dark colour, is found in the limestone at Craig-y-Nôs, near the head of the Swansea canal. The most striking peculiarities of the limestone range are, frequent concavities in the surface, caused by a depression of the strata; swallows, or places where streams of water are engulphed, making for some distance a subterraneous passage; and extensive caverns, beautifully studded with crystals, stalactites, &c. The lime that is made of the produce of its rocks, which are quarried in many places, is of a very fine and pure quality.
This mountain limestone range forms part of the northern rim of the great mineral basin of South Wales, which contains treasures of coal and iron. Next to it, proceeding southward, and resting upon it in geological position, occurs a stratum of chert, about four feet thick, which is succeeded by a bed of limestone about forty-five feet thick, of a whiter colour than any in the rocks above-mentioned, and having a few marine exuviæ. Then occurs chert, about four feet thick; next, coarse-grained chert, inclining to burr, about sixty feet thick; and, succeeding this, a pudding-stone of about the same thickness, the quartz pebbles of which are smaller and finer than those of the bed above-mentioned, and upon which immediately rest poor coal measures, or such substances as accompany coal without containing either iron-ore or coal worth the working: these are about a hundred feet thick, and support a hard rock about forty-five feet thick, the base of all the coal and iron strata, called by the Welsh colliers Quar Cymraeg, and sometimes Farewell Rock, as, wherever it bassets out, it is useless to search for coal beneath: it is also severally denominated Carreg Wyllt, Nicholas' Rock, and Roken Cymraeg. These various strata, and many of those of the really valuable coal measures, are exhibited to advantage along the bed of the Clydach river, and in other deep dingles, where they are seen dipping, with a regular inclination of about one yard in twelve, southwards towards the centre of the basin. The strata of coal and iron-ore which crop out on the southern side of Brecknockshire are the lowest in the basin, and occur only in the three following places: first, from the small river Twrch across the river Tawy and the Drim mountain to the Great Forest of Brecknock; secondly, a corner of territory from Blaen-Romney, at the junction of the three counties of Brecknock, Glamorgan, and Monmouth, to the northern side of Brỳn Oer; and thirdly, from Rhŷd Ebwy and Beaufort iron-works, through Llỳny-Pwll, near Tavern Maid Sur, to where this district adjoins the Earl of Abergavenny's mineral property. The coal measures may be best described by taking a section of the strata in the mines of Cyvarthva and of Dowlais, near Merthyr-Tydvil, on the southern border of the county. In the former are twenty-two beds of coal, varying in thickness from sixteen inches to nine feet, making a total of fifty-eight feet eight inches; twenty-eight beds of iron mine, making a total thickness of nine feet three inches; three beds of fire-clay, being collectively seven feet four inches thick; and forty-eight beds of blue cleft, or clunch, freestone rock, bind, &c., amounting in all to 614 feet six inches. In the Dowlais section of the strata are seen thirty-six beds of coal, making a total thickness of only fifty-six feet eight inches; fifty-eight strata of iron mine, being collectively eleven feet nine inches thick; three beds of fire-clay, making together a thickness of eight feet six inches; and 108 beds of the various contiguous substances above-mentioned, which together make a thickness of 526 feet seven inches. The three uppermost coal strata of the Cyvarthva section, and nearly all those in the southeastern part of the county, eastward of the BlaenRomney iron-works, are of a bituminous binding quality, called by the Welsh glo rhwym, and sometimes glo rhing, probably an abbreviation of the English running coal, or glo cwlwm, from its caking in a knotty mass when ignited: but nearly all the rest of the coal raised eastward of the Neath river in this county is of the kind called coking-coal, which is of a less bituminous quality. Westward of the river Neath the strata become more irregular, and the coal is almost wholly of the kind called by the Welsh glo caled, or hard coal, from its not soiling the fingers, nor flaming when it is ignited: by the English it is called stone-coal. The large of this coal is particularly adapted to the drying of malt and hops, and the small, called culm, to the burning of lime; of late years, also, stone-coal has been very extensively used in the smelting of iron-ore, which could formerly be effected only with bituminous coal. The strata of ironstone commonly vary from one to five inches in thickness, and frequently the ironstone consists of irregular lumps, called "balls of mine." The most remarkable faults, or dislocations of the strata, that are observable in this county, occur at the limestone rocks of Cribarth and Dinas, where the strata are thrown into a perpendicular position. In the Abercrave colliery, the whole of the measures curve upwards on approaching a fault; and one bed of coal, eighteen inches thick, in this vicinity, is called lantern coal, from its great inflammability, and the brightness of its blaze. The deep valleys which occur in the coal district, and intersect the mineral strata in various directions almost to their bases, enable the miner to obtain the object of his labours by driving horizontal shafts, or levels, into the hills, along which the various materials are drawn out on tramroads by horses and mules: the levels also act as drains. The fire-clay strata are found of the best quality at Dinas rock, near Pont-Neath-Vaughan, and a little higher up, near the village of Penderin; and from these places considerable quantities of fireclay are conveyed to Neath and Swansea, in Glamorganshire, for the use of the furnaces in the neighbourhood of those towns, and for exportation.
Brecknockshire contains no considerable quantity of any ores except iron. Sulphate of copper was discovered in the parish of Llanwrthwl, on the northern confines of the county, near the junction of the river Elain with the Wye, where some unsuccessful attempts were made to find a vein that might be worked with profit. Traces of Lead-ore have been seen near the Dinas limestone rock, in the parish of Penderin, and similar trials have been made there for that ore, but with no better success. Lead veins were discovered about forty or fifty years ago in the Llanigon hills, south of the town of Hay, which were worked; but the expenses proved greater than the profits. Small quantities of lead-ore have also been found above Coedycummer, on the road from Merthyr-Tydvil to Brecknock; and various indications of it are observable in the slate tract. Tripoli, or lapis cariosus, is found in great quantities, and of a very pure quality, on the limestone to the north of Cribarth rock. It is generally above the limestone, though sometimes found inclosed between its strata; and is collected in great quantities, which are conveyed to Swansea, and thence shipped off to England, to be used in the burnishing of metals. Its geological situation is on the northern verge of the mountain limestone range, adjoining to the puddingstone, which separates it from the red sandstone of the Beacons: the masses of the coarser sort frequently inclose nodules of limestone. Muchudd Irvon, a ponderous black stone of close texture, which is esteemed superior to brass for the centre pins of engines to turn upon, is found in the hundred of Builth, from Llanwrtyd wells to the confluence of the Irvon with the Wye. Although the range of limestone environing the coal measures on the north is usually considered as of the primitive or mountain kind, it nevertheless occasionally exhibits some few marine exuviæ, and one stratum on the small river Clydach is almost an entire mass of corallines. In the Cribarth rocks are found various spars of fibrous fracture, with slender acicular concretions standing in different directions. Vegetable exuviæ are observable in the strata contiguous to the coal, and various spars among the iron-ores in the vicinity of Llanelly; some of these ores are also found to be shot into constant and regular figures. The clunch, or cleft of the coal measures, contains vitriol of iron; and in some of the mines the water is so much vitriolated, that it excoriates the hands and faces of the workmen.
The most important branch of manufacture carried on is that of iron. The most ancient of the present establishments for this purpose in the county are about two centuries old; but there is good reason to believe, from the masses of imperfectly fused scoria found in different parts of the hundred of Crickhowel, and usually called Roman cinders, that some mode of manufacturing iron must have been practised in this district at a period long anterior to the erection of any furnaces on modern plans. The present iron-works are situated chiefly near the confines of Monmouthshire, and are as follows: those in the Vale of Clydach, in the parish of Llanelly, the raw material for which is obtained at the distance of about two miles, and conveyed from the mines by means of tramroads and inclined planes; the Beaufort works, in the parish of Llangattock, the ores for which are brought by tramroads a distance of half a mile; and the Blaen-Romney works, situated near the source of the river Romney, in the parish of Llangynider: all these works obtain their supply of raw materials from the estates of the Duke of Beaufort. There are two other important establishments of a similar kind, viz., that of Hîrwaun, at the southernmost extremity of the county, in the parish of Penderin; and that of Yniscedwyn, in the parish of Ystrad-Gunlais. At these various works the ironore is smelted into pigs, and these again are manufactured into bars, rods, &c.
The Brecknockshire Agricultural Society, for many years after its first establishment, adopted judicious methods to encourage the woollen and linen manufactures, which, notwithstanding all its efforts, gradually declined. The latter is now extinct, and the woollen manufacture is confined to the weaving of the yarn spun in private families into what are called hanner gwe, that is, half-woven, or raw, cloth, which is sometimes brought to the fairs and markets, rolled up in pieces from twenty-six to thirty-two yards long, and about a yard and a half broad: these are milled and dyed in England. There is a flannel manufacture at Hay; also on one a smaller scale at Builth; one of hats, and one of coarse woollen cloth, at Brecknock; and one of shoes at Crickhowel. In the mountainous parts of the county considerable quantities of woollen stockings are knitted by the women, and brought for sale to the fairs: the manufacture of these stockings has of late years been expedited by the erection of carding-mills at different places. At Glàn-Grwyney, near Crickhowel, is a manufactory for brown paper. Great quantities of hides and skins are tanned and dressed in the county, the former being noted for making good leather for the soles of shoes.
The commerce of Brecknockshire is very various, and of considerable importance. The chief exports are, cattle and sheep; iron in various states of manufacture, which is sent by means of railways and canals to the ports of Glamorganshire, and along the Brecknock and Abergavenny canal to Newport; wool, chiefly for the manufactures of the North of England; some small quantities of the coarse woollen cloths and stockings above-mentioned, taken to the neighbouring English markets; leather and dressed sheep-skins, for which the town of Brecknock is the principal market for several of the contiguous Welsh counties, and of which great quantities are exported to Bristol and other English markets; and fire-clay and tripoli, the former chiefly to be manufactured into bricks for the furnaces of Glamorganshire, and the latter sent to Bristol. There are no extraordinary imports worthy of notice: the coal tract, owing to its inferior fertility and greater population, consumes a large portion of the agricultural produce of the more fertile neighbouring districts.
The principal rivers are the Usk, the Wye, the Irvon, the Tâf, the Nedd or Neath, and the Tawe or Tawy: the three last, all of them inconsiderable within the limits of this county, descend southward towards the Bristol Channel, from the Black Mountain range. The Usk has its source on the northern side of the Carmarthenshire Beacons, some miles above Trêcastle, and, receiving the waters of numerous small rivers, flows eastward to the capital of the county, and thence east-south-eastward by the town of Crickhowel, a little below which it enters Monmouthshire, after a course of about thirty-two miles. In this county its bed every where retains its reddish hue, while its waters abound with fish of various kinds, more particularly with salmon and trout, for the latter of which it is much celebrated. Its principal tributaries from the north are, the Cilieni, Brân, Esgair, and Honddû, from the secluded valleys of the Eppynt hills, and the last of which, at its junction with the Usk, gives to the town of Brecknock its Welsh name of Aber-Honddû; the Rhiangoll, a rivulet from the rich and beautiful valley of Cwmdû; and the Grwyney, from the Black Mountains of Talgarth. Those from the south are, the Crai; the Senny; the Tarannell, or Tarell, from Llỳn Cwn Llwch; the Carvanell, or Annell, from Glỳn Collwyn; the Cravnant; the Onwy; the Clydach; and others of less note. The romantic Wye first touches the county at its junction with the Elain (a small stream forming the northern boundary of the county, and separating it from the north-western extremity of Radnorshire), and henceforward forms the north-eastern boundary of Brecknockshire, except for a short interval in the vicinity of Glâsbury, the church-village of which parish, situated on the southern side of the river, is included in the county of Radnor. It flows first south-eastward by Builth, and then eastward to Hay, where it enters Herefordshire in its further course to the Severn, after separating the counties of Brecknock and Radnor for a distance of about thirty miles. Its principal tributary from this county is the Irvon, which receives the waters of the Chwevrwy, Dylas or Dulas, Camarch, and other streams from the north; forms the channel through which are poured nearly all the superfluous waters of that part of the county lying northward of the Eppynt hills; and joins the Wye a little above the town of Builth, after a course of about twenty miles. The Wye also receives from Brecknockshire the waters of the Dihonwy, Caletwr, and Llynvy, the last of which has its source above Savaddan lake. The Tâf is formed by two streams, called Tâf Vawr, and Tâf Vechan, which descend turbulently and precipitately from the Brecknockshire Beacons, over limestone precipices, and, uniting in the southern border of the county, near MerthyrTydvil, immediately enter Glamorganshire. The Neath has a similar source further westward, and, together with several other streams, by which it is shortly joined, forms various beautiful cascades. The Tawy has its double source near the lofty Trêcastle Beacon, within a short distance of the rise of the Usk, and thence flows south-westward by a projecting portion of Carmarthenshire into Glamorganshire. The Romney, also, has its source on the southern border of the county, near the confines of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire. The Melltè and the Hepstè, tributaries of the Neath, are worthy of notice, the former for the subterraneous course which it pursues for a short distance, and both for their cascades.
The commerce of the county is greatly facilitated by artificial navigation. In 1792 an act was procured for constructing the Brecknock and Abergavenny canal, which was designed to extend from the town of Brecknock down the valley of the Usk, by Abergavenny, to the navigable channel of that river at Newbridge, about four miles below the town of Usk in Monmouthshire: but an agreement being entered into between the proprietors and those of the Monmouthshire canal, the latter paying the former £3000, it was determined to form a junction between the canals at Pont-y-Moel, below Pont-y-Pool, and a fresh act for that purpose was obtained in 1793. The first portion made navigable was from the coalmines and lime-works in the vicinity of the Clydach to Llangynider bridge, a distance of eight miles and a half; and from the latter place the canal was completed ten miles further, to Brecknock, in 1801, forming an important line of carriage for coal and lime to that town. For the whole of its extent it is carried through the light soils of the red sandstone tract, and to make it hold water, it was found necessary to adopt the tedious and expensive process of puddling. This difficulty occasioned the proprietors to deliberate for some time whether they would complete the line from Clydach to below Pont-y-Pool, a distance of fourteen miles and a quarter, by a continuation of the canal, or by a tramway; but the former plan was at last adopted, and the entire canal, thirty-two miles in length, was completed in December 1811, at a total expense of £170,000, being nearly double the original estimate. This canal, which forms part of a communication by water between Brecknock and the Bristol Channel, has a fall of sixty-eight feet from that town to Clydach, by means of six locks, but thenceforward to its junction with the Monmouthshire canal it is upon one level: its breadth is ten yards, and its depth of water four feet and a half, being navigated by barges of twentyfive tons' burthen. It is carried over the valley and stream of the Clydach by a grand aqueduct, eighty feet above the river. The chief feeder is a copious stream introduced from the Usk into its summit level; besides which, 185 locks, of 180 tons of water each, are daily gauged into it in dry seasons, from five streams in different parts of the line, exclusively of smaller brooks. The tramroads connected with the canal, by means of which iron, coal, and limestone are brought from the works in the south-eastern part of the county, occupy an extent of about ten miles; and a tramroad ten miles in length extends from the Beaufort iron-works down the Ebwy valley to the extremity of the southern branch of the Monmouthshire canal.
The Swansea canal, for the construction of which an act of parliament was obtained in 1794, extends from that town up the valley of the Tawy, a distance of about seventeen miles, to Hên Neuadd, in the parish of Ystrad-Gunlais, in the south-western part of this county, whence it affords a medium for conveying to the sea, for exportation, coal from the collieries adjacent, and iron from the works of Yniscedwyn; also lime, for the use of the farmers along its course. About four miles of this line of canal are in Brecknockshire. The Neath canal, for which an act was procured in 1790, extends from the navigable channel of the river Neath, below the town of that name, up the valley of the Neath to Aber Gwrelych, almost as high as Pont-Neath-Vaughan. It does not enter the county; but by means of it, stone-coal and culm, iron, limestone, and fire-clay, are exported from part of Brecknockshire. The county also derives benefit from the Glamorganshire canal and the Aberdare canal, both which approach its borders from the south, just as does the Neath canal.
Besides the private tramroads for the convenience of bringing materials to the blast-furnaces, and conveying the iron from the works to the various canals, the county is distinguished for a like road of much greater extent, and embracing more important commercial objects. The advantages that were anticipated more immediately to result from the formation of this tramroad, were, by connecting the coal tracts of Brecknock, Monmouth, and Glamorgan, with the agricultural western part of Herefordshire and the eastern part of Radnorshire, the introduction of a direct exchange of produce between these two districts; the former abounding with the best kind of fuel, while its miners and iron-manufacturers depend chiefly on other parts for their supply of provisions; and the latter being fertile in corn, but its inhabitants receiving their scanty and precarious supply of coal from the Clee hills in Shropshire. For this purpose an act of parliament was obtained in 1811; but a different line of road from that stated in the act having in the meantime been resolved upon, another act was granted in the following year, and the work was executed with alacrity. Commencing at the Brecknock and Abergavenny canal, near the former town, it gains its summit level at the distance of four miles and five furlongs, by a gentle rise of one hundred and fifty-four feet two inches, being only five inches in every twenty-two yards; and thence makes a like gradual descent of ten miles to Glâsbury, on the banks of the Wye; whilst from Glâsbury to Hay, a distance of four miles, it has a declivity of only three inches in every twenty-two yards. From Hay it proceeds to Eardisley, in Herefordshire, a distance of seven miles, with a fall of only half an inch in every twenty-two yards; and at the latter place divides into three branches, one of which extends northward to Kington, a second eastward to Leominster, and the third south-eastward to Hereford. This road is commonly called the Hay railway, and the total length of it and its branches is twentysix miles. In 1825 a tramroad was laid down by John Christie, Esq., of London, extending from the Gwain Clawdd, in the parish of Ystrad-Gunlais, over the forest of Devynock, to Rhŷd-y-Briw, in the Vale of Usk; by means of which, a communication was established between an important mineral district and the heart of Brecknockshire. Part of the county participates in the advantages arising from the TâfVale railway and the Aberdare railway, both in Glamorganshire; the Swansea-Valley railway, now in progress, will extend into the county, and the Neath-Valley line, also in progress, will pass along its borders.
The roads are generally good, excellent materials for making and repairing them being everywhere abundant, except in those parts of the shale tract lying most remote from the ranges of grey mountain rock. Sometimes, too, the red sandstone of the central parts of the county is applied to this purpose, in lieu of stone from the lower strata, but being of a very perishable nature, it renders the roads heavy, unless frequently renewed. The road from London to Pembroke and the south of Ireland, and to Cardigan, through Oxford and Gloucester, enters the county from Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, and traverses it from east to west, passing through Crickhowel and Brecknock, and entering Carmarthenshire a few miles beyond the village of Trêcastle, and about five miles before reaching Llandovery. There is also, connected with the county, a branch from the road from London by way of Hereford to Radnor; it commences at Hereford, and passes through Hay, to Brecknock. The road from London to Trêgaron in Cardiganshire branches from the Aberystwith road at Presteign, and proceeds through Builth in this county, the northern end of which it traverses in its further progress.
The relics of antiquity are very numerous and various; they are of different periods of history, and frequently of great curiosity and interest. Upon the high hill called the Gader, or "Chair," near the little town of Talgarth, are some circles, evidently Druidical, formed of small loose stones, the circumference of the whole being about twenty yards; and several similar circles are to be seen within a few hundred paces. On a hill westward of the village of Devynock, near the road leading from Ystrad-Gunlais to Trêcastle, is a circle of large Druidical stones, called Cerrig duon, or the "Black Stones," having one of larger dimensions than the rest. In a carn, situated in a field in the parish of Llanelieu, to the east of Bronllŷs, was found, about the commencement of the present century, a relic of the remotest ages of British antiquity, viz., a rudely-formed spear's head of flint, nearly seven inches long; also a coarse earthen vessel. About two miles to the east of Talgarth, in a field called Croeslechau, is a cromlech; and another monument of the same kind, called Tŷ Illtyd, or "Illtyd's House," is situated on the summit of a hill, called Mannest, in the parish of Llanhamllêch.
There are remains of two roman stations, but the original name of neither of them is now known. The principal of these, situated about three miles above the town of Brecknock, near the confluence of the rivers Yscir and Usk, is called the Gaer, or CaerBannau, and its remains are very extensive, forming a parallelogram of six hundred and twenty-four feet by four hundred and fifty-six. The foundations of the wall that bounded this area are yet perfect, and in some places, more particularly on the northern and eastern sides, its ruins are from three to six feet high above the level of the ground, though much overgrown and concealed by underwood: the northwestern angle of the camp is now occupied by a farmhouse and offices, built chiefly from the ruins of the wall. The area, not many years ago, was covered with fragments of bricks; and gold and silver coins of Nero and Trajan have been found within it. A causeway may yet be traced leading from the Gaer nearly at right angles with the course of the Yscir; and upon it is a singular carved and inscribed Roman stone, called by the people of the adjacent country Maen-y-Morwynion, or the "Stone of the Maids." The other Roman station, also called the "Gaer," a Welsh name common to settlements of this kind, is at the entrance of a vale, on a rising ground overlooking a small stream called the Ewyn, in the vicinity of Llanvihangel-Cwm-dû, in the hundred of Crickhowel, and not far from the river Rhiangoll. It is of nearly the same dimensions as CaerBannau, but of a form approaching nearer to a square: the prætorium is clearly distinguishable at the north-western end, while fragments of bricks are found over the whole inclosure, within which Roman coins have also been discovered.
The principal roman road was a branch of the Via Julia Maritima, which latter was formed by Julius Frontinus along the southern coast of Wales. From the station Isca Silurum, or Legionum, at Caerleon, this branch passed by Gobannium (Abergavenny) entirely across the county from east to west, to Maridunum at Carmarthen; and owing to its more elevated course, it has been called, in contradistinction to that from which it diverged, the Via Julia Montana. Almost the only trace of it yet discerned in the county, with the exception of the causeway at the Gaer above-mentioned, which is supposed to have communicated with it, is a stone discovered on Trêcastle mountain, near a small public house called the Heath Cock, bearing an imperfect inscription, and supposed to be a Roman milliary, but which has been carted away, and probably destroyed. This road is considered to have entered Brecknockshire from Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, and to have passed through Crickhowel and Trêtower to the Gaer near Llanvihangel-Cwm-dû, and thence through a pass, called Bwlch, and in a line northward of the present turnpike-road, to the town of Brecknock, to one street of which it gives the name of the Struet. Hence it proceeded near the station at Caer-Bannau, beyond which it soon crossed the Usk, and proceeded westward by Rhŷd-y-Briw (where some traces of it were seen about three-quarters of a century ago) into Carmarthenshire.
The station at Caer-Bannau appears to have communicated by vicinal ways with the stations Tibia Amnis at Cardiff, and Nidus at Neath, both in Glamorganshire, and also with that at Cwm, on the river Ithon, in Radnorshire. That from Cardiff, now called the Sarn-hîr, enters this county from the vicinity of Bedwelty in Monmouthshire, at a place called Brỳn Oer, whence it continues in a direction nearly from south to north, across the Usk to the Via Julia Montana, in the vicinity of Brecknock. That from Neath, now called the Sarn Helen, takes a north-eastern direction, and may be traced through a great part of its course. It enters Brecknockshire at a place called Ton-y-Vildra, and a little further crosses a brook called Nant-hîr, then proceeds to Blaen Nedd, pursues a course parallel with the road from Pont-Neath-Vaughan for about a mile, and passes within a few yards of the huge upright stone, twelve feet high and ten broad, called Maen Llia, or "Llia's Stone," situated near the summit of a high hill, to the north-east of the last-mentioned place; whence it may be traced gradually descending on the southern side of the Senny river and vale, from which part all traces of it are afterwards lost for a considerable distance. At Blangwrthid, in the parish of Llanspythid, however, it is again traceable for a short distance; and it is conjectured to have entered the Vale of Usk, near Penpont, and there to have joined the Via Julia. From the Gaer a road, sometimes called the Via Devana, is supposed to have proceeded northward towards the station of Deva, at Chester, by way of that at Cwm, on the banks of the Ithon, in Radnorshire; but no traces of it are visible in the county of Brecknock. Some remains of a road having been discovered in the parish of Newchurch in Tyr-Abbot, in the northern part of the county, a vicinal way is supposed to have passed in that direction from the station Maridunum at Carmarthen, by Llanvair-ar-y-Brỳn, to that on the river Ithon; and at Caerau, in the parish of Llangammarch, is an artificial mount, about eighty yards in circumference, probably the seat of an arx speculatoria, or watch-tower, on this road, though by some antiquaries supposed to be of British origin. Near the village of Llanvrynach, about two miles to the south-east of Brecknock, several Roman baths in a very perfect state were discovered in 1783; and various Roman coins have been at different times found in the vicinity of that place, besides foundations of other ancient buildings contiguous to the baths.
Near Crickhowel is an ancient British fortification, called Crug Hywel, or "Howell's Mount," a large intrenched camp, of nearly triangular form, which gave name to that town: the ditch surrounding it is very deep, and cut with prodigious labour in the solid rock. A very extensive encampment of British formation, called Penmyarth, of a circular form, and defended only by a rude rampart of uncemented stones, is also visible on a hill between the road from Trêtower to Brecknock and the river Usk; a short distance northward of which is another fortification of the same kind. At Venni wood, near the great Roman station of Caer-Bannau, is a British intrenched camp of very ancient date; at a place called Pen-y-Crug, or the "Summit of the Hill," about one mile from this, and two miles north-west from Brecknock, is a large oval fortification of like origin, six hundred feet long, four hundred and thirty broad, and surrounded by four ditches, eighteen feet deep; and near this again is a third British fortification, of the same shape, but much smaller and in a less perfect state of preservation. Near the parish church of Llanvillo are the traces of a British camp of an oval form, two hundred and eight yards long and forty-six broad: on an eminence near the church of Glâsbury, are those of one of a smaller size; on the hill above Aberbrân, overlooking the Vale of the Usk, those of one of larger dimensions; and on the hills to the west of the Tawy river are remains of various small fortifications, also of British erection. The scene of the sanguinary conflict between the Saxons and the Britons, in the year 728, near the south-eastern extremity of the county, is marked by two large heaps of stones, called carneddau, one of which, on being opened, was found to contain a cist-vaen, or sepulchral stone-chest. Other carneddau are to be seen on the summit of a hill rising from the valley of the Usk, in the vicinity of Trêtower; as also on the hills westward of the Vale of Tawy. In the parish of Llanwrthwl, at the northern extremity of the county, are some large stones placed irregularly in the ground, which have given to the plain on which they stand the name of Rhôs-saith-Maen, or the "Seven-stone Common;" and in the parish of Llangeney, near Crickhowel, is a conspicuous ancient monument, consisting of a single upright stone, about thirteen feet high. Remarkable single artificial mounds, supposed to have been posts of defence, but of uncertain date, are to be seen respectively near Dinas, in the vicinity of Llanwrtyd, near Castle Madoc, at Ystrad-Velltey, and at Trêcastle. Not far from the northern road between Crickhowel and Llandebr is a stone with a very early inscription.
At the period of the Dissolution, the only religious houses contained in this county were the priory and college of Brecknock, the latter of which still exists, with vestiges of the ancient buildings of both these institutions. In a steep precipice in the upper part of the vale of Ystrad-Gunlais is an ancient hermitage, cut in the solid rock, called Eglwys Cradoc, or "Cradoc's Church." The most remarkable specimens of ecclesiastical architecture in the county exist in the churches of St. John the Evangelist and St. Mary, at Brecknock, the former of which contains a large font of Norman workmanship; in the collegiate church at the same town; the church of Crickhowel, which, among other peculiarities, is remarkable as the only one in Brecknockshire having a spire-steeple; and the churches of Llanthew and Talgarth.
There are striking ruins of the castles of Brecknock, Bronllŷs, Crickhowel, Rhŷd-y-Briw (sometimes called Devynock Castle), near the village of Devynock, and Trêtower, near the village of Trêtwr, or Trê 'r twr. There are also fragments of the walls of Dinas Castle, in the parish of Talgarth; and some small remains of the castle of Builth, and of that of Pencelly near Llanhamllêch: on a lofty precipitous bank, rising from the side of the river Irvon, a little above its junction with the Wye, is a mound called Castell Caer Beris, which appears to have been once the site of a fortress. The county contains a remarkably great number of ancient mansions, either now or formerly the residences of families possessing estates within it. Those most worthy of notice are, Carawen, in the valley of the Greater Tâf, the seat of a family named Morgan; Castle Madoc, near Llandevailog Vâch; Dderw House, in the parish of Llŷswen, at present occupied by a farmer; Hoelvanog, and Newton, both near Brecknock; Lower Trevecca House, in the parish of Talgarth; and Pont-Wilym, near Brecknock, now a farmhouse: another old mansion at Hay is the seat of a family named Wellington. At the western extremity of the town of Crickhowel, adjoining the road to Brecknock, are some striking ruins of a castellated mansion anciently belonging to the Herberts of that place, consisting chiefly of an old gateway and part of an outer wall. There are also standing, an outward wall and a gateway of Porthaml, an ancient fortified residence near Talgarth; and some remains of a castellated mansion of the bishops of St. David's, at Llanthew. Some of the residences of a more modern date most worthy of notice for their architectural beauty are, Glàn Usk, Gwernvale, Pennoyre House, Peterstone, and Pontywall.
Brecknockshire is distinguished above every other county in South Wales for the neatness, comfort, and convenience of its farmhouses and offices, an advantage considered to be owing chiefly to the labours, precepts, and example of the members of the Brecon Agricultural Society, and to the excellence of the building materials obtained in most parts of the county. A few of the cottages, in the most mountainous and uncultivated parts, are of a very inferior description. Some of the houses in the vicinity of the iron-works are remarkable for being roofed with plates of rolled iron, some flat, others curved like the common pantiles: the spars, side-rasers, &c., are also sometimes of iron. The quickset hedges are almost universally very crooked: in some of the uplands of the redsandstone and coal tracts the fences are dry stone walls, made of the flat slate-like stones found there, or of these placed in alternate layers with sods. The bread of the agricultural population of the vales is made chiefly from the red lammas wheat, ground and dressed in the ordinary manner; but in the more elevated and less cultivated districts it is frequently made from a mixture of wheat and rye, called muncorn, or of wheat and barley, and sometimes from barley alone. Servants are hired at the May and November fairs.
The most remarkable mineral spring is that at Llanwrtyd Wells, on the banks of the Irvon, in the upper part of the hundred of Builth, about eight miles west of the town of Builth, called by the Welsh Y Fynnon Ddrewllyd, or the "Stinking Well." Its waters are strongly impregnated with hepatic gas, a small portion of sulphate of iron, and a still smaller quantity of sulphate of soda; and are ascertained to be of equal efficacy with those of Harrogate in the cure of scorbutic and scrofulous disorders. The sanative properties of this spring were discovered about the year 1732; it is now much resorted to in the summer season, and a comfortable mansion, formerly the residence of a respectable family, is open for the public accommodation, with conveniences for warm and cold bathing. The Park Wells, within a mile and a half north-west of Builth, which are also much resorted to, consist of four springs within a few feet of each other; one of these is of pure water, another saline, a third chalybeate, and the fourth sulphureous. Several other mineral springs occur in different places, but they are of no celebrity. Tarran-yr-Ogov, or the "Cliff of the Cave," is a limestone rock near Capel-Callwen, on the western bank of the Tawy, out of which issues a constant stream of water, that works a mill immediately below the place; a day or two after heavy rains the quantity discharged from the rock is prodigiously increased.
The southern side of the county, besides being distinguished for the picturesque beauties of its deep mountain dells, also presents various grand cascades, and other natural curiosities worthy of notice. The most remarkable of the waterfalls are, that called Pistyll-Mawr, or "the Great Cascade," on the small river Clydach, romantically embosomed in a luxuriant wood; two falls of peculiar grandeur on the small river Melltè, a little above its junction with the Hepstè; Cîl Hepstè waterfall, on the latter stream, which is here precipitated in one wide unbroken sheet, from a height of nearly fifty feet, and afterwards with the Melltè descends into the Neath; a bold cataract, called Scwd Einon Gam, on the Pyrddin, a stream which flows into the Neath from the westward; and that called Scwd yr Hên Rŷd, on the small river Llêch, which joins the Tawy from the eastward, some distance above the village of YstradGunlais. The Melltè, before forming the cascades above-mentioned, pursues a subterranean passage for a short distance, flowing through a singular and extensive cavern, which, when the water is low, may be explored with torches to a considerable distance. The entrance, called Porth Ogov, is about twenty feet high, and forty-five wide; and its interior expands into a large apartment, ornamented with stalactites and other calcareous concretions. In the course of its passage through this cavern the river is precipitated with astounding noise into a deep pool.