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Lampeter

(Llanbedr Pont Steffan)

Lampeter is built on high ground above the Teifi. Its most prominent buildings are of the University.

In 1822 Bishop Burgess of St David's laid the foundation stone of the college, making it the oldest in England and Wales after Oxford and Cambridge. The original building was designed by Charles Robert Cockerell and modelled on the Oxford and Cambridge colleges with its quadrangle, chapel, library and main hall. Cockerell had been an assistant on the Covent Garden Theatre and went on to design Oxford's Ashmolean Museum. From 1833 he was architect to the Bank of England, was a member of the Royal Academy and President of the Royal Institute of British Architects. His father, Samuel Pepys Cockerell also an architect, had considerable connections with West Wales, having designed Middleton Hall (the gardens of which form the National Botanic Gardens of Wales) and Paxton's Tower for Sir William Paxton.

The College was conceived to provide a university education for Welsh scholars without their having to travel to Oxford. Originally, the college was to have been sited at Llanddewi Brefi, but the offer of land by the Harford family of Falcondale (a mansion on the Western outskirts of the town) decided the location at Lampeter. The college opened on March 1st (St David's Day) 1827. Initially its students studied for an Oxford degree, but in 1866 was granted a Charter to award its own Bachelor of Arts degree. The Duke of Edinburgh celebrated the centenary of the Charter in 1966 but in 1971 the College became part of the University of Wales with the title St. David's University College, Wales. In 1996 There was another name change to University of Wales Lampeter. Financial difficulties saw it amalgamate with Trinity College Carmarthen in 2009.

In 1840 there were just 40 students, mostly studying for the Anglican church. The College obtained a Charter to award a Bachelor of Divinity Degree in 1852 and a theological hall was attached to the college. Until 1965 the college was all male with the first 24 female students entering in that year. Today the University is still one of the smallest in Europe with just 1300 students. The grounds, Chapel and Founder's Library are open to the public.

The Dining Hall with the painting of Bishop Burgess centre 1966

The College Chapel with its decorated organ and ceiling

The current chapel dates from 1880, the original being considered  inadequate at the time of the college's golden jubilee in 1877. The architect was T.G. Jackson. Until the retirement of Revd J.R. Lloyd Thomas in 1975 the College Principal had always been an ordained minister, but with the more secular nature of the University, that is no longer the case and a chaplain is now responsible for the daily services that are still held in the chapel.

The remains of Lampeter Castle outside what is now the main entrance to the College

Lampeter Castle was a motte and bailey but only the motte remains. Richard Fenton in 1804 visited Lampeter and wrote:

"Lampeter Castle consists of a double Entrenchment to the South West, and a Castellum or large Tumulus at the North East end. Armour said to have been dug up there about twenty years ago."

The date of the castle is unknown, but it was taken by Owain Gwynedd in 1187 when it was known as Pont Steffan Castle. It is believed to have been established by King Stephen on one of his forays into Wales when he also built the bridge over the Teifi giving the town its full Welsh name Llanbedr Pont Steffan.

St Peter's Church Lampeter

The present church dates from 1867-1870, replacing a church built in 1821 which in turn replaced a medieval church dating from the 13th century.

Richard Fenton described the 13th century church in 1804:

"Saw a singular semicircular mound of Earth at the back of the Church, which an ingenious Stranger, as I was told by the Vicar, suggested might have been a heathen theatre, to purge the abomination of which the present Church was founded on the Spot.

Entered the Church. Saw a curious Font, remains of a Rood Loft, and a singular arched niche in the Wall of the chancel, with a round Wall under it. and a considerable hollow within, which I apprehend was for auricular Confession. The monuments have nothing in them ancient or elegant. Chiefly to the Millfield Family. A curious tablet to the memory of Daniel Evans of Peterwell. a Sequestrator in the Protector's time, and a great oppressor. The Church has no tower. In the Churchyard, which is large, there are a few very old yew trees. A very large Parish. including the small borough town of Lampeter ; yet very few fresh graves, a. sign of a healthy situation, yet lying low."

 

The Old Grammar School founded in 1808 by Bishop Burgess

The Town Hall Lampeter

Lampeter was granted a borough charter in 1284 and markets and fairs were held in High Street until the 1930s. The Town Hall is now the Welsh Quilt Centre.

The first Borough Charter was granted in 1284 and successive charters allowed many markets and fairs to be held in the wide High Street until the 1930s.

The High Street with its range of shops and hotels

Lampeter has largely managed to avoid the out of town shopping centres that blight so many town centres by having a supermarket built behind the Town Hall.

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Site and Photographs Geoffrey Davies 2008-10  Contact info@enchantedtowy.co.uk