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Llandeilo

 

Llandeilo's Dynevor Park was the setting for the 2008 World Sheepdog Trials

 

Procession through the streets of Llandeilo before the World Sheepdog Trials September 2008

The town of Llandeilo set on a hill with Dynevor Park to the left.

Llandeilo today is a busy country town set on a hill above the river, with fashionable boutiques, delicatessens, specialist shops and restaurants as well as coaching inns and its own brewery. Today, Llandeilo's finest hotel is the Cawdor, named after the Earl of Cawdor of Golden Grove. In the 18th century, it was known as the Bear Inn and described by Sir Richard Hoare in the 1790s as the "worst in South Wales" and by a Miss Spence as "very uncomfortable and exorbitant", but was commended by The Cambrian Travellers' Guide and Handbook of 1808 after its refurbishment in 1807. Dynevor Castle, is now hidden from the town by Castle Wood, but was the seat of power in the area for many years.

A church has stood on this site from the earliest days of Celtic Christianity, though the present church dates from the mid 19th century, with only the tower surviving from the 14th century church. Inside the church the North Aisle has been converted into a hall. Of interest is a marble tablet in the South Transept that records the sad deaths of Hannah Griffiths Williams and her daughter Mary-Anne on the 8th March 1840. On their way home after the service their carriage was "precipitated over the western parapet of Llandeilo Bridge. They were cast upon the rocks below and thus awfully hurried into Eternity!" 

The present Llandeilo bridge dates from1848 and has a beauty due to its simplicity. It is a Grade II listed structure with a span of 44.2 metres and a width of 10 metres. It is regarded as the most beautiful single arch bridge in Wales.

St Teilo was a 6th century priest who travelled throughout South Wales and Brittany. His history was not recorded until the 12th century by which time he was the cousin of St David with whom he travelled to the Holy Land. He became Bishop of Llandaff and set up a religious community at Llandeilo where he died.

The Miracle of the Saint's Three Bodies

At the time of his death three churches had a claim to his body, Penally in Pembrokeshire where he was born, Llandaff where he had been bishop and Llandeilo. The clerics prayed or guidance and miraculously by the following morning there were three corpses of St Teilo for burial so all three churches' demands were satisfied. Teilo has churches dedicated to him across South Wales, in Brittany where he is known Teliau in Breton, Télo in French, one in Northern France and in Devon and Cornwall. Two churches in Brittany and Saint Télos in Côtes-du-Nord claim to have relics belonging to Teilo. In France he is often depicted as riding on a stag.

 

      

St Teilo's Well in Church Street below the church

Part of a New Testament from Lindisfarne written in the 8th century was presented to the church in 820 A.D. and as was the practice of the time legal transfers of property were recorded in the margin. These entries constitute the earliest existing example of written Welsh but the Gospels were presented to Litchfield Cathedral in the 10th century where they remain. There is however a digitised version of the Gospels now available for viewing beneath the church tower.

Among the visitors to the town was a young Henry Wood who spent his holidays with relatives at New Inn on the Talley Road. He went on to become a leading orchestral conductor and founder of the Promenade Concerts.

     

Crescent Road Offers Superb Views over the Valley

A steam train below Llandeilo

The Towy below Llandeilo Bridge

 Dynevor Castle is hidden today by the trees of Castle Wood, a nature reserve. When Turner painted  Llandilo Bridge and Dynevor Castle in 1795, the castle was visible, though Turner used artistic license to bring the castle nearer the town.

In recent years archaeologists have established that the Romans had a camp here, mid way between Llandovery and Carmarthen. Llandeilo was the capital of the Kingdom of Deheubarth. This was overrun by the Normans in 1093, but the Lord Rhys, Rhys ap Gruffydd (c.1129 -1197) was one of the few Welsh princes to recover territory from the Normans, albeit under the overlordship of King Henry II. The family was dispossessed by Edward I, but over the years regained their possessions. In 1485 Rhys ab Thomas raised an army in support of Henry Tudor and indeed it is believed to have personally killed Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Henry Tudor, who also claimed descent from the Lord Rhys became King Henry VII rewarded Rhys with a knighthood and restoration of his estates only for Henry VIII to take them back from Rhys ab Thomas's grandson following a charge of treason. Queen Mary restored some of the estates, but it was not until the reign of Charles I that the estates were restored in full. 

William Talbot was created the first Baron of Dynevor in 1780. He was Lord Steward of the Royal Household from 1761 till his death. He was present at the marriage of George III and acted as Lord High Steward of England at the coronation and carried St Edward's Crown. On his death the second baron was his daughter. Her son George Talbot, 3rd Baron Dynevor resumed the hereditary family name of Rice, the Anglicised form of Rhys. The 8th Baron incorporated the Welsh Rhys into the name. 

Over the years the family wealth was dissipated through inheritance and by 1962 when the 9th Baron Dynevor acceded to the title the Llandeilo Estate consisted of 23 farms, 2000 acres, a ruined castle, a deer park and a herd of rare long horned white cattle and very large death duties. The farms were sold off and Newton House sold to a private buyer in 1974. The National Trust acquired the Park in 1987, Newton House in 1990 and Home Farm in 2002.

 Dynevor Castle is looked after by the Welsh historic buildings agency, Cadw.

Dynevor Castle from the South

 

The history of Dynevor Castle is complex. The first castle was probably built by Rhodri Mawr in the 9th century and it was the seat of Hywel Dda in the 10th century. The present ruins date from the 13th and early 14th centuries and was built by the English. Dynevor withstood an attack by Owain Glyndwr at the turn of the 15th century. In 1439 the castle returned to welsh hands being leased by Gruffydd ap Nicholas who became Deputy Justicar controlling the government of South Wales for the King. It now became more of a comfortable home and effectively returned to the family of the Lord Rhys when Gruffydd's son married into the Deheubarth Royal family. With the Tudors on the throne Sir Rhys ap Thomas, Gruffydd's grandson was granted the Dynevor estate by Henry VII and while he carried out some renovations, built a new house more befitting of the period Newton House.

  

Dynevor Castle occupies a strong defensive position over the Towy valley.

                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Newton House from Dynevor Castle

Llandyfeisant Church, once the church for the Dynevor family and estate.

A Welsh settlement had grown up around the castle, but Edward I established a "New Towne" for English settlers in the area now occupied by Newton House.

       

Bluebells in Castle Wood Nature Reserve and Welsh White Cattle in Dynevor Park

 

Newton House a National Trust property and open to the public.

The family built a large house in the park during the Tudor period, but the present Newton House dates from 1660 though with a Victorian facade. The park was remodelled in the 18th century by Capability Brown. 

In 1777 Charles Wesley noted in his diary: "July 12th, 1777 , dined at Llandeilo; took a walk in the park of Mr. Rhys , the most beautiful park I have ever seen".

 

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