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St Dogmael's - Llandudoch

The village of St Dogmael's stands on the Southern side of the Teifi estuary West of Cardigan. It is built on the side of a hill with streets running down o the river with moorings for pleasure craft.


The Abbey of St Dogmael's was founded in 1120 under the order of the monks of Tiron, later to become Benedictine, though the abbey was initially established as a Priory in 1113 by Robert FitzMartin. FitzMartin was created Baron of Cemaes following the Anglo-Norman invasion around 1100. The area was previously part of the Welsh Cantref Cemaes in Is-Nyfer Commote. Cemaes was controlled from Nevern Castle. While Cemaes was subject to Marcher or Anglo-Norman Law, the remainder of the Is-Nyfer Commote was known as the Welshry of the Barony and remained subject to Welsh Law and indeed was taken by the Lord Rhys in 1191.

Looking upstream towards Cardigan

Gerald of Wales stayed at the abbey on his tour of Wales with the Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury in 1188.

The site however dates back to the days of early Celtic Christianity and monuments at the site go back to the 6th century, with a monastery and church of Llandudoch. Who St Dudoch was is lost in the mists of time though there was a church dedicated to him in Scotland, near Wick. St Dogmael however is listed as a Catholic Saint and was a 6th century Welsh monk of the house of Cunedda, the son of Ithel ab Ceredig ab Cunedda Wledig. He preached in Pembrokeshire before travelling to Brittany. His feast day is 14th June.

Llandudoch was the site of an important battle in 1091, when Rhys ap Tewdor, King of Deheubarth (the kingdom covering South West Wales), defeated rebels under Gruffydd ap Maredudd ab Owain. Rhys's daughter, Nest married Gerald of Pembroke but subsequently had a number of lovers, including Henry I. Among her children by her lovers were Henry ("filius regis") Fitzroy, by Henry I and Robert Fitzstephen , who became Constable of Cardigan Castle and subsequently King of Cork. It was Robert who gave land for the original establishment of Strata Florida.

Initially, the monks at St Dogmaels came from France with over twenty at the time of its founding. Local wars caused damage and hardship that was exacerbated by a visitation of the Black Death in 1349. By the turn of the 15th century there were just 4 monks at St Dogmaels and in 1402 Guy, Bishop of St David's accused the Abbot of keeping a monastery of "drunk, gluttonous and lecherous monks". While things improved, at the time of the Dissolution in 1536 there were only the abbot and 8 monks at the Abbey.

The abbey site is on an unusually steep slope which may explain its lack of a west door.

The present Church is dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle built 1848-52 to a design by Arthur Ashpitel.

The Abbey was served by a mill and the monks enjoyed fishing rights on the Teifi estuary. A recent discovery has been a fish trap off the coast just beyond Poppit Sands. Medieval in origin, it went unnoticed until satellite technology in the form of Google Earth revealed it. It can be seen on Google Earth at 52.06 degrees North, 4.42 degrees West, as a "V" shape in the water. The Abbey was dissolved in 1536 and ownership transferred to John Bradshaw of Presteigne who built a mansion from the abbey stone though by 1603 this had fallen into ruin and today no evidence of its existence remains.

The Mill Pond

The Mill Wheel

Just down the hill from the Abbey is a working flour mill, still driven by water power.

The garden, statue, obelisk and plaque commemorating the opening of the visitor centre by the Prince of Wales in 2006

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