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The antiquarian, Rev. Elias Owen (1833 - 1899), was rector of Efenechtyd, near Ruthin in Denbighshire, from 1881 until 1892. For several years he wrote articles, anonimously, for the Ruthin School Magazine.
This first article [Ruthin School Magazine No 15 p.3, Feb. 1888] is a general introduction to the subject of antiquarian research.
There is in most parts of Wales, we may even venture to say in all parts of Wales, much curious information respecting days gone by, which has not been chronicled. The language of a district, whether it be Welsh, or English, its provincialisms, and even the intonation, the accent and pronounciation, often convey scraps of history of bye-gone days. The legends, the folk-lore, the proverbs, the sayings, are often not only interesting in themselves, but when scientifically studied, throw considerable light on the origin of the people among whom such matters are- current. The manners and customs of a people, strange and uncouth, and unmeaning though they may seem to be, give us an insight into the state of society in the early stages of civilization. Researches in the direction now indicated cannot fail to produce results of a highly interesting and satisfactory hind. Many an old roan, and aged woman, in the neighbourhood of Ruthin, and elsewhere in the principality, is the repository of treasures of the kind above referred to, and it would be well if their knowledge were transferred to the pages of a periodical, where it could he referred to, and if any pupil in his wanderings on holidays should be fortunate enough to discover a treasure in the shape of a local story, a strange expression, or superstition, we shall be glad to give it a place and a home in our Magazine.
But in addition to the above, there are many historic spots well worth description. Much has already been done in this direction, but the subject has not, by any moans, been exhausted. Along our hill sides are traces of circular abodes, and on our hill tops are to be seen the remains of ancient fortifications, that were erected anterior to the Roman occupation of Britain. A careful survey of these ovoidal huts, and circular camps, and a description of whatever is found within them, will be most useful to the historian. There are on the hills, between Ruthin and Mold, many such remains, and even on the west side of the Vale on the uncultivated parts of the mountains are to be seen vestiges of abodes, that were occupied two thousand years ago, and even in a more remote period. There are also here and there a few pillar stones still erect that belong to the Celtic period. All surface remains in the shape of domestic abodes of prehistoric remains, all burial places, either in the form of cist feini, or carneddi, or erect stones, are worth careful inspection. There is at least one stone in these parts with an ogham inscription on it. At present it stands in the front of Pool Park, but its original site, was on the hill top, to the west of this seat. The day that it was removed from the hill was, the writer was informed, "A shocking day," the elements being angry at the act of desecration, for the stone marked the burial place of a person of fame, and people think it is not right to remove memorials of the dead. The inscription is cut at the angles of the stone. Possibly young and sharp eyes may he able to discover stones with like markings on them, and should they do so, they will have added to our knowledge of the past. Every isolated boulder on the mountain, or large stone left intact on fields should he carefully inspected, because on it may be found, perhaps, cup markings, i.e. artificial depressions; arrow scorings, which are incisions made by sharpening arrows. In connection with these stones are many tales. Thus it is said that within sight of Ruthin Castle tower are three huge stones, under one of which is hidden a treasure. The extent of country within view of the tower is great, so that it is difficult with this imperfect or inexact description of the locality of these stones to get at the treasure. However, one of these stones was thought to he on Coed Marchan, and although the tower could not be seen from the stones there, this was not considered of much moment, for if the wood that intervened were removed, it was believed that the tower might be within sight, so, some years ago, the hill was searched for the stone which had the treasures buried underneath it, and some wise men thought they had discovered the veritable stone, and so, one morning they went with crowbars to overturn the stone, and after great and long labours they toppled it over, but found, underneath, nothing but small stones. One of the men engaged in the work informed the writer with a smile, that he was one of the foolish ones, who thought they had been born to find the stowed away riches. Should any one be curious enough to see this stone. they will find it a few yards from the left handside of the pathway that goes over Coed Marchan from Efenechtyd to Llanfair; it stands on the slope of the hill facing Llanfair, and is about midway from the hill ridge and the enclosed ground at the foot of the hill.
The next class of remains in order of time are the Roman. Traces of these energetic people are to be seen in many parts of Wales. Their camps, their roads, their coins are in existence in the neighbourhood of Ruthin. A short time ago a largo quantity of Roman coins were found in a wood in Llanelidan parish, and if we are not mistaken, a few of these coins are now in the possession of Mrs. Roberts, late of Llanelidan Rectory. The Romans have left their foot prints behind them in place. names, thus, the summit of the old road from Ruthin to Mold, as it passes over the Clwydian Range, is culled Bwlch Agricola; and tradition says, that it was over this pass that that Roman General and his legions marched on their way to fight the Celts in Mona, or Anglesey, Tacitus does not tell us what route or road he took on that memorable occasion, but it well might be that he passed over the Bwlch that bears his name, and, if so, he must have been struck with the view that met his eye as he first came in sight of the Vale of Clwyd. All that pertains to the Roman occupation of Britain is most interesting, and we are persuaded, that we do not, as yet, know all that shall be known of our first conquerors.
In bringing this our introductory chapter on local antiquities to a close, we would impress upon our archaic collectors to note all facts, not conjectures, but facts, and in your note book, record the name of the person who gives you a. tale, and his or her age, if she will give it, and the place of birth of your informer. Again we say, send any information you may pick up amongst the people to our Magazine, and it will give us pleasure to insert it in our pages. It may be that one of the boys will in years to come bring honour to his school as an antiquarian. We are not even now lacking in this direction, and we could name more than one prominent F.B.A. who received his early instruction in Ruthin Grammar School, but we want the race to be continued.
In our lest contribution we alluded briefly to Celtic and Roman Antiquities in the neighbourhood of Ruthin, in this our second article we will refer to our old churches, which abound in interesting matter bearing upon the religion of our forefathers. Most of the present churches can boast of no great antiquity as regards their present form, but there is no restored church which does not contain a few remains of a previous fabric, and these are ever valuable and suggestive. The churches of the Vale of Clwyd have a singular feature, at least those that were erected, or rather restored, about four hundred years ago, they have double aisles. and large east windows, often out of proportion to the extent of wall on the east side. Even in these churches may be discovered portions of an older edifice. Which are either built up in the walls or left intact in the church. On the restoration in modern days of one or other of the Clwydien formed churches parts of sepulchral slabs have been discovered, broken up and used as rubble in the walls, which are probably commemorative of men who fell in the Crusades. The stones in the walls of many of these churches also point to the antiquity of the buildings, and the primitive expedients of the builders to avoidlabour, for these stones are even in surface, and evidently owe to nature, and not to art, their present appearance. But there is something still further which points to the antiquity of our churches, and that is the shape of the churchyards, which are in the most ancient churches circular, or ovoidal in form; often a road, the parish road, proceeds in the direction of the churchyard walls. An instance of this form you may see at Efenechtyd, where the churchyard is for three-fourths its extent circular, and the parish road abuts upon the churchyard wall, and evidently the rectory grounds are encroachments on the circular enclosure which now forms the churchyard. A similar construction is at Gwyddelwern. This circular kind of churchyards carries us to pre-Christian days when our Celtic forefathers worshipped their deity in enclosures whose very form was emblematical of their god. The roads around these churchyards, were formerly moats filled with water, which answered the twofold purpose of adding to the sanctity of the place, cutting it off from the surrounding ground, and also the water was a protection from the intrusion of unrequired visitors. All churches built in such like formed churchyards are the most ancient in Wales, and the spots on which. they stand were dedicated to religious rites long ages before Christianity was introduced, and as the country became Christian these sacred spots became the oratories or churches of the Christian population. The progress of conversion from paganism to Christianity was probably slow, and the people clung to phases of the ancient faith after they had formally become Christian, and they would still respect the sacred sites and their holy wells, and these latter were transferred from one use to another, and in this way the antipathy of the people to a radical change was mollified. So when you worship in one of these ancient sacred buildings, you can in mind picture the poor benighted worshipper. of former days, and the generations that have passed since his days, having on that very spot offered up their prayers where you now bend the knee in adoration.
The antiquity of a church can be inferred by its name. The most ancient in these parts of Wales are. those that are not dedicated to Saints, but-which retain names, whose derivation is obscure, such as Clocaenog, Gyffylliog, Efenechtyd, &c., and to these we are inclined to add Derwen, Gwyddelwern, Cerrig-y-drudion, &c., churches with similar names; and then come churches in which the prefix llan, or bod, occurs combined with names Celtic in form, such as Llandyrnog, .Llangwyfan, Llanychain, &c. At a long distance in time from the preceding come a class of churches dedicated to saints, such as St. Michael, St. Peter, &c., as Llanfihangel, Llanbedr, Llanfair, &c.
The comparative ages of these three classes of churches would be difficult to ascertain, but speaking approximately, the first date from Celtic days and immediately follow the conversion of our forefathers to Christianity, and would, perhaps, run up to the sixth century. the second might go up to the tenth or eleventh century from the sixth, and then we should have the third class coming in.
The dedication of churches is based with difficulties, but often and again churches have, when rebuilt or restored, been re-dedicated; an instance of this is to be seen in Efenechtyd Church, which is dedicated to St. Michael, but in the language of the people it retains its ancient name, and by the parishioners it is called Eglwys Nechtyd, or often it is designated by the latter word only.
In some large towns there are churches dedicated to British Saints, and others to Latin Saints, and from this it is inferred that Welsh and Saxon inhabited the same town concurrently, worshipped in their respective churches, possibly in their own tongues; at the same time. There would thus be an English portion and a Welsh portion of the town inhabited by these peoples.
The reverence paid to sacred, or holy wells, has, in our practical days, all but disappeared. Formerly, living water was supposed to possess virtues of a supernatural kind. The tendency to discard as superstitions the faith of our forefathers indicates a departure from the past on the part of the present, not altogether to be admired. But facts must be acknowledged, although we may he permitted to confess with regret their existence. Many parishes in Wales still have their holy wells, but they are uncared for, and overgrown with weeds ; and the surrounding stones have fallen into the wells, and undoubtedly their glory has departed. Once though, and at no distant time, the keeping of the holy well in order, was an item in the annual parish expenses, and the writer has noticed in parish records that a certain sum was paid out of the mize, or rates, towards clearing out these wells, and keeping them in repair. Well veneration on the part of the Celtic people is of ancient times, and of pre-Christian ages. In Gaul this respect degenerated into idolatry, and if Gildas is correct, it would seem that in Wales in his days divine honour was paid to fountains. His reference to this is as follows":-
"Neque nominatim inclamitans montes ipsos, aut fontes vel colles, aut fluvios olim exitiabiles, nunc vero humanis usibus utiles, quibus divinus honor a caeco tune populo cumulabatur." - Gildas, ch. 4.In these words, he says, that the blind people paid divine honours to mountains, fountains, hills, rivers, which are now subservient to the use of men, but once were an abomination and destruction to them. This veneration, which the impetuous Gildas mentions, was not even confined to the Celtic race, it is found in oriental and other countries. It would seem that the early British missionaries perceiving the people's attachment to ancient forms, consecrated or selected particular wells, or streams even, which were in high reputation for the purposes of baptism, and thus, even to the present century, the water for holy baptism was procured from the parish sacred well. This was the case in the parish of Ruthin, for the late parish clerk told the writer that the font was filled with water from St. Peter's well whenever there was a baptism.
There is reason to believe that the site of many Churches was selected because of the holy well in close proximity, which was venerated by the people. There are wells, in some instances I should say, were wells, even within churches, but these in modern times have been drained, still a few have reached our days. When Llanelian Church was being. restored a well of water was discovered beneath the floor, and there was some difficulty in diverting. the spring. In. many Churchyards there were wells roofed over where baptisms were performed. By transferring thus to sacred purposes these ancient and venerated wells, they were still greatly esteemed by the people.
All these wells were not alike in efficacy. To some were attributed healing powers, to others cursing powers, whilst others were supposed to possess prophetic powers, and some were used as wishing wells. They were frequented by the sick in body or sick in mind, and anxious mothers carried their babies to these wells to secure for them health. There were some wells used as a remedy for one kind of ailment, and others were thought to afford help in some other bodily disease. Thus one well, by the performance of certain rites, removed warts, others again were frequented by those afflicted with cancer, whilst others were good for the eyes; weak-limbed people received strength by-bathing in some wells, and bruises were healed in others, fits even were cured by the drink of some wells, and. others were capable of healing the whooping cough. Various were the ailments, far more in number than those here enumerated, which were removed by the waters of these sacred wells. Undoubtedly some of these wells possessed medicinal properties, and hence their healing powers.
But there was a class of wells that could give to dumb animals ease and health, one of these was in St. George's parish, near Abergele.
There were wells that could affect either for ill or good their votaries, and either improve or ruin their worldly condition. In-my next notice I will describe the Holy Wells in the neighbourhood of Ruthin, and tell you what they were famous for.here
In my last notice, I stated that Wells were greatly venerated by the Celtic race, but in reality Well-worship was common to Paganism generally, the Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, &c., had the deities of fountains end streams. Many Holy Wells have reached our days, but few indeed are still in repute in Wales. They have in many instances been drained and filled up, or left overgrown with grasses. In the neighbourhood of Ruthin the names chiefly remain of those health-giving living waters. I will now briefly mention some of these Wells. One naturally begins with St. Peter's Holy Well
ST. PETER'S WELL. This Well stood in the Parish of Llanrhudd, in a field on the side of the road that goes to Corwen. After you pass the Castle, you some to a road that leads from the Corwen road to Llanfair road, you will find the site-of this Well in the field on your right hand as you proceed from the Corwen road along the lane that takes you to Llanfair road.
Evidently this Well was latterly so named from the patron Saint of St. Peter's Collegiate Church, Rnthin, but, undoubtedly, long before the erection of St. Peter's Church that Well was in great repute. It may be stated for the sake of elucidation, that Ruthin Church was once only a Chapel belonging to the more ancient Church of Llanrhudd, but ultimately, as Ruthin grew, importance, the Mother Church was less famous than her successful daughter Church, which usurpedprecedence, and took possession of the Well, once probably belonging to her Mother.
The description of the Well as received by the writer of this article from two aged inhabitants now no more, was as follows. It was about three yards square, the bottom paved, the sides protected with erect stones. Two steps led into the Well. There were several paths diverging to the Well, one from the direction of Llanrhudd, one from Tyn y wern, and one from Ruthin. In those days the present roads did not exist. So sacred was the Well considered, that it was thought to be sinful even to play in its vicinity. The water for the Font in Ruthin Church was procured from the Well. and even the water for washing the Church was carried from the Well. There is a tradition that the Well was kept in repairs by the Church authorities of Ruthin. It would seem that the water was drunk by patients, and probably, as was generally the case with Wells which were flagged, it was used as e bath.
In Lewis's Topographical History of Wales, this Well is spoken of as follows:-
"A chalybeate spring dedicated to St. Peter, was formerly in high repute for the supposed miraculous medicinal efficacy of its waters ; it is strongly impregnated with some mineral, and if due care were taken to prevent its admixture with other waters, it might still be found highly beneficial."These words; appear under the heading, Llanrhudd; They were written about sixty years ago.
FFYNNON GALCHOG. This Well is situated in a wood on the left hand side of the road that leads from Llanfwrog to Efenechtyd. In 1885, Col. West, M.P., of Ruthin Castle. on whose estate the Well stands, formed a reservoir close to the Well, for the purpose of supplying the Castle with water, but the construction of this reservoir did not disturb the old one which is now much the: same as it was, when it was repaired by Mr. West's father. When the new reservoir was being formed. the foundation stones of an oblong building were discovered, which probably was the house of the custodians of the Well, containing rooms for the convenience of the bathers.
The Well stands about fifty yards from the road. It is a dilapidated oblong stone-built bath, at one corner of which issues, from the bowels of the earth, a bubbling stream of water. The dimensions of the Well are 8ft. 4in. by 10ft., and its height is 5ft. or perhaps 6ft. It. is entered by six well-worn steps. The bathers performed their ablutions in water that is said to smoke in the depths of winter. The Well was frequented by persons troubled with rheumatism and sprains, and even in these days, early in the morning, people are seen bathing their limbs in its water, and if there were a properly constructed bath room, where people would not be exposed to the sight of passers by, it would still be frequented by persons suffering in their limbs, to their great advantage and possibly cure.
The water is drinkable and in a dry summer it is carried by neighbouring cottagers. The water is said to be good, but hard. It runs through lime rocks.
ST. DYNOG'S WELL, LLANRHAIADR. This Well is situated in the wood close to Llanrhaiadr Church. It is a. few hundred yards from the Church,-and the brook that rune down the dingle issues from the Well which is, when it emerges from the rock, a strong stream.
Leland, the antiquary, who visited Wales, in the time of Henry VIII, some three hundred and forty years ago, briefly mentions this Well. It is somewhat particularly described by Lewis, in his Topographical Dictionary, and as his words refer to the Well when it was no longer reverenced but still in some repute, his remarks are herein given. He writes as follows:-
"Near the Church are the remains of an ancient bath called Ffynnon St. Dyvnog, which was formerly supposed to operate miraculous cures. and was much resorted to by patients whose votive offerings were partly employed in decorating the East window of the Church. The water, rising in great force from under the limestone rock, was long thought to be a remarkably copious spring, but it has since been ascertained to be a stream, which rises in the hilly part of the parish, in the township of Prion ; the two branches of the stream, after flowing for nearly half a mile, sink into the rock, and pursue a subterraneous course for two miles, emerging at this spot."Such are the words of Lewis. I am not at all sure that when he says of the brook that sinks into the ground and then appears as St. Dyvnog's Well is correct; the natural configuration of the hills above militate against this view.
Formerly this Well was greatly frequented. Elaborate preparations were made for the convenience of the bathers. Walls, and a large cistern, and carefully built passages for the water, indicate its former glory. An aged woman informed the writer that her mother told her, that at one time there was close to the bath, a building, used by the patients, and that when cured, they left behind them their crutches, walking. sticks, &c., as a memorial, and the walls of this building were decorated with an ample number of such proofs of the virtue in' the water.
The pathway from the Church to the Well is even now in a fair state of preservation. It crosses the stream-no less than three times by the means of wellbuilt bridges, a proof of the importance of the Well in former days.
The Well, briefly described, is as follows:- The water lodges in a. small cavern at the end of the dingle, the-mouth of which is protected by a wall, and underneath this wall there was formerly a passage for the water to escape. At about sixteen yards from the mouth of the Well, the stream tumbles over a rocky ledge, and forms a. natural cascade. and this. possibly, gives the name Llan Rhaiadr or the Llan of the Waterfall to Church and Parish. Here the stream enters a level spot, and in this piece of ground is a. large cistern, still in a fair condition. The cistern measures 9 ft. by 18 ft., and it is about 5 ft. deep. It is entered by three or four stops, On one side of the well stood a building, the debris of which still exists. The surplus water was diverted from the bath, and entered a. carefully built culvert, which is many yards in length.
In my next paper I will describe other Holy Wells in the neighbourhood of Ruthin, and within reach of a. good paper chase from the School.
In this paper I will bring my remarks on Holy Wells to a conclusion, and in my next contribution, I will try to find some other subject of an antiquarian kind for my pen.
Ere finishing the present subject, I ought to remark that the early inhabitants of Gaul. Switzerland, and Central Europe worshipped Lakes, and regarded them as sacred. Beautiful bracelets have been discovered in the Swiss lakes, which have been supposed to have been offerings to the gods; Tacitus, Pliny, and Virgil also mention the existence of sacred lakes. Traces of like superstitions may still be found in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The river Dee is thought by some to be a sacred river.
Offerings were usually made to Wells in Wales. Pins generally were dropped into the waters. These were a kind of votive offering to the god of the Well. Something of more value was dropped into some Wells, or was given to the custodian of the Well. Such was the case at St. Tecla's Well, in the parish of Llandegla, which is about nine miles from Ruthin, on the way to Wrexham. I cannot do better when describing this Well than to give what Pennant says of it in his "Tours through Wales," Vol. II., p. 15. Carnarvon edition.
"St. Tecla's Well. - About two hundred yards from the Church rises a small spring, with these letters out on the free-stone: A.G....G. The water is under the tutelage of the Saint; and to this day is held to be extremely beneficial in the Clwyf Tegla, St. Tecla's Disease, or the falling sickness. The patient washes his limbs in the well; makes an offering into it of four pence; walks round it three times, and thrice repeats the Lord's Prayer. These ceremonies are never begun till after sun-set, in order to inspire the votaries with greater awe. If the afflicted be of the male sex, like Socrates he makes an offering of a cock to his Esculapius, or rather to Tecla Hygeid; if of the fair sex, a hen. The fowl is carried in a basket, first round the well, after that into the Churchyard, when the same orisons, and the same circumambulations are performed round the Church. The votary then enters the Church, gels under the Communion Table, lies down with the Bible under his or her head, is covered with the carpet or cloth, and rests there till break of day; departing after offering sixpence, and leaving the fowl in the Church. If the bird dies, the cure is supposed to have been effected, and the disease transferred to the victim."Such is Pennant's account of this Well, but I may remark that he omits one particular action which the sick performed. The bird's beak was to be put into the mouth of the afflicted, and was to remain there all night, and in this way the ailment was transferred to the cock or hen, as the case might be. Under such circumstances it would be surprising were it to survive the night.
Perhaps some school boy might say, " I would, if I saw them, take possession of the groats." I do not think that you would, for those that did so ran a great risk, and cautious lads would forego a bit of silver rather than lose their health. In our days the Well presents a neglected appearance. The free stone which Pennant saw, with initials, cannot he discovered, and weeds and brambles have taken complete possession of the once famous Well of St. Tecla.
As this is to be my last paper on Wells, I will mention only two more ; the first shall be St. Elian's Well. This was a Cursing Well. In our days its glory has departed. in fact the Well has been filled up because people used to resort to it to curse each other. It had a regular custodian who lived in a cottage close by. Its fame extended over the whole of Wales, and people came to it from the Southern counties if they were ill to ascertain whether the cause of their illness was due to the fact that some of their evil-wishers had cursed them. I will now describe the process for ascertaining whether e person were cursed or not, and other particulars connected with the Well.
St. Elian's Well. This Well was situated in the parish of Llanelian, about two miles from the modern town of Colwyn Bay. It was under the protection of St. Elian. a most popular Welsh Saint, who had " a great concourse of devotees who implored his assistance to relieve them from a variety of "disorders." I quote from Pennant who, however, describes the Well in another part of his work, viz., Vol. III, p. 149. I will give his words:- "The Well of St. &Aelig;lian . . has been in great repute for the cures of all diseases, by means of the intercession of the Saint; who was first invoked by earnest prayers in the neighbouring church. He was also applied to on less worthy occasions, and made the instrument of discovering thieves, and of recovering stolen goods. Some repair to him to imprecate their neighbours, and to request the Saint to afflict, with sudden death, or with some great misfortune, any person who may have offended them. The belief in this is still strong; for three years have not elapsed since I was threatened by a fellow (who imagined I had injured him) with the vengeance of St. Elian, and a journey to his Well to curse me with effect."
Thus wrote Pennant in 1773. The efficacy of the Well is perhaps even new behaved in by some weak revengeful people. When the writer of this notice visited the Well in 1888, a woman who lives close by told him, that even then people visited it. A person who wished to curse another dropped a pebble into the Well with the initials of the person to be cursed on it; or the initials were put on several stones, one on each, and they were dropped into the Well, and dire afflictions were thought to follow this act. A person who wished to ascertain whether his name had been placed into the Well, went to the custodian who searched the Well for the stones marked with the initials of the seeker, and if these could not be found he was informed of this lucky circumstance and departed homeward joyful.
Many singular tales have been gathered by the writer of visits made various motives to this Well. A few shall here be given, even at the risk of making this paper too long.
A pig cursed. An old friend, a native of a part of Carnarvonshire, living near Conway, told me that a neighbour had sustained many losses from, as he supposed, the thieving propensities of certain parties who lived near. His wheat and other grains had, time after time, been diminished unaccountably, and at last he determined to go for revenge to St. Elian's Well. So one fine morning he went on his journey and cursed with madness the thief that had stolen his grain. He came home satisfied with his day's work. and waited to hear of the curse effect. That evening he went with his wife to feed the pig, and to his horror he found the old sow raging mad. On investigation it was proved that she had been the thief, and that she had a way of getting at the corn.
A Woman and her Husband. A woman who could not get on well with her husband determined to see what the Well could do for her. She consulted the custodian and stated her case and he immediately informed her, that incompatibility of temper came nicely within the influence of the Well. He procured a bottle and filled it with water from the sacred Well, and instructed her, whenever her husband was angry and used strong language, to quietly go to the bottle, and take therefrom, a mouthful of the sacred water, but he told her by no means to swallow it, for that would be dangerous; she was to retain the water in her mouth as long as her angry husband was abusive and when the outburst of temper was over, she was to go outside and eject it. This the woman promised to do, but as starting away, bearing in mind the daily scenes which she witnessed, she saw that the contents of the bottle would not last above a day. "Ah," said the Well Keeper, "You can replenish the water daily in any Well, and thus a portion of the sacred water will ever remain in the bottle." The charm had a marvellous effect and accomplished a complete cure. In a twelvemonth from the day that she had made her first visit, she came again to the custodian, who enquired what her errand then was. "Ah," said she, "to tell you that my husband is a changed man, and I am the happiest of woman."
I had intended speaking of other Holy Wells, but I am afraid that I have already made the subject somewhat tedious, and with this paper I end my remarks on sacred fountains.
The subject of this paper shall be Bells. There were three kinds of bells at one time in general use. They were Church bells, which were fixed in steeples or gable ends of churches; there was also the Sacring bell, used at the celebration of the Mass; and there was also e smell portable bell, used in perambulations, processions of funerals, &c. The last two have, in Wales, ceased to be used, though there are some of these bells which are preserved, and have reached our days.
The most ancient bells differed greatly in shape to those now in use ; they were oblong in shape, and not circular as are the bells of our days, and their size was small compared with the bells in our church steeples. Often they were not more than twelve inches high. There is only one such bell that I have seen in the Diocese of St. Asaph, and it formerly belonged to the old Church of Llangwystenin, near Conway, but at the restoration of that church, it was taken out of the gable end turret of the church, and replaced by a modern bell; then it was transferred to the Church school, and there it is at present unused, a most valuable relic, disregarded and unnoticed. Sacring Bells too have, in a few instances. been preserved. There is one of these bells at Llanrhyddlad Church, Anglesey. As for the hand bell, used in perambulations, a fair number are still in existence, and more than once I have found these bells used for calling children to school, and in every instance I have called the attention of the clergy to these ancient memorials, and have succeeded, in most cases, in having them transferred to the church chest.
I believe that Mr. Joyce, Watchmaker, Ruthin, has in his possession one of these last-named bells. There is also one in Llanfair, and there are others in some of the parishes about Ruthin. I am sure Mr. Joyce and the Vicar of Llanfair would kindly allow you to see these old bells. All that I can say to you would be, handle them carefully for the sake of olden times.
I cannot tell you how highly reverenced these portable bells were by our forefathers, but in my next paper I shall have to revert to this class of bells, and then I will quote from ancient authors' remarks respecting the high esteem in which they were held. In this paper it will be quite enough if I make a few remarks shout the bells which are used in our days in our churches. Should you climb up to the bells in a belfry, if they are aged, - and many of them have reached our days from pre-reformation times,- you will find that they are dedicated to certain saints; and, generally, there is an inscription on them invoking the prayers of this or that saint under whose protection they are placed. A usual inscription is:-
Ora pro nobis
O sancte - - - -
I leave a blank for the name of the saint whose prayers are invoked. Should you climb up to these bells to copy the inscriptions, I must tell you it is rather a risky undertaking, and unless you have a steady head, you may become giddy, and perhaps fall, and then your curiosity will meet with a serious rebuff. But new let me speak of the language of bells. Longfellow thought the clangorous bell seemed to breathe upon the air such sentences as -
"Laudo Deum verum, plebem voco, congrego clerum,
Defunctos ploro, nimbum fugo, festaque honoro."
In these few words all the functions of the ordinary bell are comprised. The manner in which the sound of the bell affects us in joy and trouble is beautifully expressed by a Swiss poet in his Song of the Bell:-
Bell! thou soundest merrily, When the bridal party To the church doth hie! Bell! thou soundest solemnly, When, on the Sabbath morning, Fields deserted lie! Bell! thou soundest merrily; Tellest thou, at evening, Bed-time draweth nigh; Bell! thou soundest mournfully; Tallest thou the bitter Parting hath gone by. Say! how canst thou mourn? How canst thou rejoice? Art but metal dull? And yet all our sorrowings, And all our rejoicings, Thou dost tell them all. God hath wonders many, Which we cannot fathom, Placed within thy form! When the heart is sinking, Thou alone canst raise it, Trembling in the storm.
The above lines are so beautifully descriptive that I will not apologise for giving them, though I write on antiquarian subjects, which are, by many, supposed to be dead and dry. This is not my opinion, for in old songs and old things I often hear whispers from the long past, and through them I converse with those who once acted their part in the world. I must tell yon, however, where to find these beautiful lines. They are to be found in the prose writings of Longfellow.
The Latin quotation says, that one function of the hell is "Defunctos ploro." Possibly some of you cannot read the language of the Passing Bell. This bell used to he tolled as the dying was leaving this world, but latterly it is rung the evening of the death in some parishes, but in others it is rung the night before the funeral. A curious custom from olden times has, in many country parishes, reached our days, and has survived scoffs and ridicule of various kinds: perhaps it has done so because it appeals to our feelings, and in itself it is innocent enough. I allude to the tolling of the bell the evening before the funeral to indicate the sex and age of the departed.
Thus 9 tolls on the bell are given for a male, 8 .. .. female, 7 .. .. young men or male child, 6 .. .. young women or female child
The above numbers, perhaps, are not universally given; but, I believe they are those usually adhered to in most parishes. But it would be curious to find out any variations in the above, and whenever you hear a passing bell you must count the number of tolls given, and ascertain whether the rule is strictly adhered to.
You will observe that nine tolls are given for a man, and that that is the highest number tolled on the occasion of a death. I need hardly tell you that the number nine, as the number three, is a mystical number; but this was not the remark I was going to make, but it was the following. You have heard it said that "nine tailors make a man," and I dare say you are able to explain the saying, but it is not unlikely that there is a connection between the nine tolls and the nine tailors, and after all the "nine tailors make a man," only had its origin in the nine tolls - not tailors - given to intimate that a man has left the scene of his labours. After the sex has been shown on the bell, the sexton rings out the age of the departed; thus, he tolls 20, when the deceased was 20 years old, and so on. In some parishes the Passing Bell is tolled at midnight. Perhaps this had something to do with the belief, that wicked spirits were then visiting the earth in strength, and that the sound of the bell drove them away, and protected thus the departed. Perhaps, too, some such thoughts were connected with the Passing Bell.
On the day of the funeral, the Minute Bell is rung from 8 o'clock in the morning, which was at one time the hour of prayer in our churches, to the time that the funeral procession reaches the church. Then, when the funeral has reached the church, the Bell is stopped, and the mourners enter the church, there to hear words of consolation. After the funeral, there is in many churches in Wales, just as the last mourners leave the sacred enclosure, a tolling of the bell for a short time.
Most, if not all, the customs I have now mentioned have descended to our days from remote antiquity. I will give you one quotation from the Concilia which will shew that previously to 1564 A.D. the custom of tolling the Passing Bell at death, and the Funeral Bell on the day that the dead was buried, both before and after the funeral, already existed.
"That when any Christian bodye is in passing, that the bell be tolled, and that the curate be specially called for to comforte the sicke person, and after the time of his passinge to ring no more but one shorte peale, and one before the buriall, and another shorte peale after the buriall." Concilia Vol IX, p. 249. At the time that the above mandate was issued, there was an attempt to limit observance: of a harmless kind. But the quotation proves what I have said, and this is the sole reason why I have mentioned it.
In my last article I spoke of Church Bells. In this, I shall write about the small portable Parish Bell, which was used in perambulations, funerals, &c. Formerly every church had its hand bell, and these small bells are specially mentioned in the Terriers as being church property. I will give a few quotations from these documents to prove what I have now said. Thus in Llanfair D.C. mention is made in the Terrier dated 1729, of a small bell, as one of the articles belonging to the Church. The quotation is as follows:
"A little Bell to be rung before the-corps."In Rhuddlan terrier I find the following words. I may state that the parish is called Rhyddlan in this terrier, dated 1791, which I am about to quote from.
" One small Bell, and another small corps. Bell."Here we have two small bells mentioned; the first most probably was a " Sacring Bell," which was alluded to in my last article, and the other was the bell used by the Parish Clerk at funerals. I very much fear that these Rhuddlan bells are no longer in existence, but I hope they are, and that the Vicar will take good care of them.
The manner in which the Corps Bell was used was thus. The procession was preceded by the Parish Clerk, bell in hand, which he tolled as he went along. Every one who met the funeral stood aside for it to pass. The reader must not think that the burials of former days were as they are now. We have progressed in this matter as in most others. In the beginning of the present century Horse Biers were used to carry the dead to their resting places, and independently of other reasons, the Corps Bell was then more a necessity than it would be in our days of good broad roads.
Even at the risk of breaking the thread of my narrative, I will here make a few quotations from Parish Records anent Horse Biers; and I will add, even at the risk of being tedious, that he is much the most useful writer who is accurate. Without being brilliant, than he who is sparkling, but who sacrifices truth for brilliancy of style. Now with this digression I will go on with my chat.
In the parish terrier of Llanfair D.C. I find the following entry:-
"One Horse Bier, and one horse cloth."And in the some parish, in the Churchwarden's accounts for 1728, is the following entry:-
To the Clerk for cleansing rubbing and } cyling the horse-Bier for this year ...} 10. 0But in some parishes more complete entries are made respecting the horse bier. Thus I find in Gwyddelwern the following, under the year 1749,
To David Roberta for following the Horse } Bier to carry the body of-Jane Edmond } 0 : 0 : 8 Expences attend the Burial ... ... ... 0 : 0 : 6 To my Horse then ... ... ... ... 0 : 1 : 0 To the Saddler for mending things belonging} to the Horse Bier and attendance ...} 0 : 2 : 0This Horse Bier was carried by two horses, one in front and the other behind, and but few horses could be trained to take the latter-position. The Bier-was much like those used now; but the arms were considerably longer, and between these long arrns the horses were placed. The mournful procession was accompanied by nearly everyone in the neighbourhood. On these occasions the pariah clerk was a very important person and rightly too. Bell in hand he made the way clear for the procession to pass on, and informed the neighbourhood that the funeral was approaching. Perhaps there was in the minds of the people, in those days, an idea that evil spirits fled before the sound of the sacred bell, and that they could not approach the dead as long as the bell gave forth its solemn sound. So much for the Parish Clerk's "Corps Bell."
A hand bell was formerly used in Parish Perambulation. During Rogation Days, the three days preceding Holy Thursday, it was in requisition, for on those days parishes were beaten. All other religious processions, excepting parish perambulations, were abolished at the Reformation, but walking the boundaries of the parish came down to the present century ; but when the Poor Laws were altered and parishes were grouped in Unions it was not so necessary to ascertain the exact boundaries of parishes; and, further, when parish maps were drawn up and deposited in the keep of the Parson the parish boundaries were fixed. But when each parish maintained its own poor it was necessary for all the parishioners to know the extent of the parishes. They, therefore, walked the parish boundaries yearly. This procession was called beating the boundaries, or beating the parish. This was a correct description of what was done, for the older men took with them good big birch rods, or other rods, which they applied effectually to certain parts of the bodies of the lads who accompanied them, to impress upon the lads the exact boundaries of the parish. A big lad would remember that a smart pain took possession of his corpus at this or that spot, and when he grew up to man's estate, he would joyfully, in the same manner, transmit to others the like important knowledge of locality.
The parish clerk, bell in hand, was a leader of men in this procession. It was considered a jolly time. Perhaps it was. Joys are comparative luxuries. I will now leave this perambulation. They greatly degenerated ere they finally disappeared. At one time they were of a. strictly religious nature, and prayers for such weather as would produce the kindly fruits of the earth were offered up in the perambulations, in certain spots, by priest and people. When this no longer took place, and when processions were unaccompanied with religious services, they died, and few if any lamented their death; they severed themselves from their origin, and the past, and then departed.
I had-thought of writing this time a long article, but time and pressure of work forbids, and I must submit to the inevitable. But I hope to continue my articles.
In this paper I intend making a few extracts from Parish Books in the neighbourhood of Ruthin. The contents of old Parish Chests are often very valuable, and a careful perusal of Terriers will throw great light on the past. But I can only call your attention to this source of information. Well, indeed, do I remember the careless manner in which these documents have in past ages been treated. A few years ago I attended a. sale of a clergyman's effects. and amongst a heap of loose papers I saw a book, written in the early part of the seventeenth century, which I thought so much of, that I could not believe it was there on the rubbish heap for anyone to walk off with who felt so inclined. I could not stay to see its ultimate destination, but I left word, with a friend, to speak to the auctioneer and to secure the book for me. However, this was not done, and the book, alas, is lost. Only a few years since I spoke to a curate of the great loss occasioned by the destruction of parish papers kept in old chests, and to my horror, he told me that a clearance of papers and old books had taken place in the church where he officiated, and a cart load had been thrown into the sea. He had, however, rescued some of the doomed from their watery grave.
These rambling notes will be read by some future bishop, or at least archdeacon, I trust, and I hope that the embryo church dignitary will see that not a shred of the past will receive at his hands that scant respect which has in too many instances been shewn them by his predecessors in offices of trust.
I will now proceed. We have heard a great deal in these parts of Tithe Rows. I have no wish to disturb anyone's religious feelings, but it is really most interesting to see what the Parish Terriers have to say about Parsons' Pay. Formerly, the clergyman was paid in kind, but this was done away with by the Tithe Commutation Act, so that the subject of this paper is ancient history, and as such it is fit for my lucubration.
The first Terrier that I shall quote from is that of Llanynys, which is dated 1808, but it is merely a copy of a much more ancient document, as will be seen further on. The articles tithed there were various, including pigs, geese, apples, flax, hemp, honey, eggs, &c. You will see that some of these things are no longer found in that parish, such as flax and hemp, and I do not think that bees are kept to the extent that they formerly were.
You will observe that the tithe was not originally confined to corn only. In Wales, corn was never very extensively cultivated in the upper, or mountain parts, and the tithes there were on sheep and other animals, and not only on wheat, barley, and oats. It is necessary to call your attention to this point. But I will now give you on this matter so interesting extract from the Llanynys Terrier:-
"Item 5, All persons within these parishes pay all their Tythes of corn and hay in kind, and none have any right to any custom or prescription therein."
"Item 6. A lamb is tythed out of any number above six, only paying to the Owner Twopence for every lamb wanting of Ten; but if they exceed not that number, the owner is obliged to pay two pence for every lamb."From this extract it will be seen that a lamb formerly was valued at twenty pence. They are now worth a much greater sum. Even mountain lambs sold at Bettws fair, some eight years since, which were bought by the writer, reached seven shillings and sixpence each, and they are now even higher in price if in fair condition. But to proceed:-
"One penny is paid in lieu of Tythe milk for every cow." (N.B. this last clause is only found in the Terrier of 1749, made by the then Vicar, W. Butler, and is not found in the Terriers of 1710, nor in that of 1671 mentioned above, and seems to be an obvious mistake; for the penny a cow, most probably, is not paid as composition for milk. but as the composition for the calf, for nothing is paid for a cow that gives milk for more than a year, or for what is called Fuwch swynog, but only for a cow that has a calf, just as it is customary to pay four pence for every foal that drops. This custom of every foal is not mentioned in the old Terriers, but it is always demanded and-paid without any doubts of its being due.)
The preceding item is most interesting, as it presents to view the jealous care of the parishioners of their rights, and also their willingness to pay customary dues, even when they were not mentioned in the Terrier, providing such demands were in accordance with ancient custom. I know not who Vicar Butler was, but the name is English, and possibly his new impost was only new to the parish of Llanynys, for tithes differed in different parishes, and it is evident that his "obvious mistake" was rectified.
"It is also customary to demand and pay a goose in kind some time before Michaelmas, or the price of a goose in money for every flock of geese, and not one out of every Ten."This is a departure from the usual custom of tithing, and it is not easy to see which party would be most benefited by the arrangement.
"It is also customary in Llanynys, as in the neighbouring parishes to pay a pig in kind, or the marked price of one for every litter. These particulars are not taken notice of in the old Terriers but are demanded and paid."In addition to the before-mentioned tithes, there was the tithe of corn and hay throughout the parish.
I will now give extracts from the Terrier of Llanbedr parish, dated 25th September. 1834. This parish abuts, I believe in parts, upon Llanynys parish, but in any case it is only a short distance from it, and therefore the following extracts are additionally interesting, as showing how parishes in close proximity to each other differed in the matter of tithe.
"Item, to the said Rector is also belonging the Tythe of wool throughout the said parish, and the manner of Tything is this, the Rector taketh every tenth fleece of wool."This is not mentioned in Llanynys Terrier as an article of tithe, though both parishes must have had considerable numbers of sheep on the mountain lands belonging to the several parishes.
"Item, the Tythe of Lambs in their proper kind throughout the parish, and the custom concerning them is this, if a Person's No. is one he pays two pence, and so two pence till seven, at seven he gives a whole lamb the Rector paying back sixpence, at eight he pays back four pence, at nine pays back two peace, if ten the Rector hath his lamb compleat, and in like manner for every number shove ten, and if sheep-are sold in the Spring the Tythe of lambs is paid by the person with whom they were lambed whether seller or buyer."This is the same as it was in Llanynys parish, but there is an additional clause respecting sheep sold in the Spring. If sheep were sold to a person who lived a distance off there would be some trouble in ascertaining the tithe due to the Rector, but as sheep were hardly ever sold at that time of the year, but in the fall of the year, the clause most have had reference to very exceptional cases. But it is based on equality and common sense.
"ltem, to the said Rector belongs the Tythe of herbage of cattle which is Two shillings in the pound according to the-rent of the land, to be paid by the owner of the cattle."It will be observed that this item does. not appear in the Llanynys Terrier, neither is it common to many parishes. Fat cattle would be exempt from tithe, but for this tithe of herbage, and probably, bullocks in former days were fed on the fruitful fields in this parish of Llanbedr to a considerable extent, otherwise it would seem that there was a risk of double tithe being paid as on calves, and foals, and also on the cows and horses which ate the grass.
" Item, there is a modus of four-pence for every foal and a modus of one penny for every calf."
"Item. The Tythe of pigs is one to the Rector out of each litter taken up at three weeks old."
"Item. the Tythe of eggs at Easter, but uncertain, the Tythe of hemp and flax are taken in kind."In some parishes the tithe of eggs was one for each hen and two for each cock. These were paid at Easter, and they were called Easter dues; but there was another due paid at Easter in, I think, all parishes, which is thus mentioned in the Llanbedr Terrier:-
"Item, for every married couple sixpence, due at Easter, Widower and Widow, three pence."It will be seen from the perusal of these Terriers how tedious and complicated it must have been to collect the Tithe: in former days, and although a monetary loss to the clergy, the commuting of the tithes was a release from considerable trouble and annoyance to all parties concerned.
Abodes for the clergy do not exist in every parish, but they are much more numerous now than they were formerly. It is quite as well as otherwise, that there should be, in this and other neighbourhoods, no vicarages belonging to certain parishes, for this will cause people to think that there was some reason for this state of things, and it will tell its tale in these days when the thoughtless say - "Oh, the parson's house belongs to the parish." The answer to such a silly remark, if there were; no evidence to the contrary, would be - "If the parson's house belongs to the parish, why are there not parson's houses in all parishes?" The fact however is, that the houses occupied by the clergy of those days were erected by them at their own costs and charges, and in those parishes where there are no houses the clergy shrank from the liabilities which they would incur by undertaking the responsibility of erecting an abode. They preferred, therefore, renting a house to spending their own money or mortgaging their living for the convenience of occupying a. rectory. There are no houses which have been erected by parishes for the clergy. These houses have been built by the clergy themselves, as shall he shewn by extracts from Parish Terriers.
When several churches were served by one clergyman, clerical residences were not required in every parish for the use of the clergy, but when this state of things was brought to a close, then it became s necessity that the clergy, resident in-a parish, should obtain a place of abode in the parish wherein they laboured. In the first instance their houses were merely small cottages just like a labourer's house in our days. This is not a remark made without foundation. I will, by and by, give quotations from Parish Terriers to prove the correctness of this statement. But these ancient or first abodes of the parochial clergy, being much smaller than the houses at present occupied by the clergy, in many instances still exist and form part of the present rectories; thus, at Llanelidau, the old rectory house was not destroyed when the present edifice was erected, but, if I am correct, it was for a while occupied by cottagers, and ultimately converted into outbuildings, which now form part of the quadrangle at the back of the rectory. Much the same thing occurred at Efenechtyd. The first rectory in that parish was merely a hovel. It now forms part of the premises, and its extent can be seen by those who enter the wash-house attached to the present rectory.
But one of the most perfect ancient rectories in the Diocese of St Asaph is that which is called the old rectory in the parish of Pennant, Montgomeryshire. And from this building we can infer what the rest, in similar places, were like.
This old rectory has been converted into out-buildings, or rather, it is used as a kind of a store-house. The walls and roof have been left as they were originally. The fire place is at one end of the buildings, and it is large, and was, I have no doubt, at one time considered cosy. The only sleeping apartments were formed by cutting off or partitioning a portion of the kitchen. There was only this kitchen for all purposes. The walls were only a few feet high and anyone could reach the roof. So poor indeed was this building that it was not considered good enough for the tenant who rented the glebe, and so, close by, stands e small modern farmhouse of the usual shape, but the old building I have tried to describe retains its old name, and it is a sample of what many rectories once were.
But now I will shew how these small rectories were enlarged. I will, first of all, mention that which is at Efenechtyd, which is only a short walk from Ruthin.
In a Terrier dated Augt. 24th, 1719, I find the following mention of the Rectory:-
"A small globe-house of two Bays."In the Parish Terrier for July 4th, 1745, is this entry:-
"A small house of two Bays."The Terrier of July 4th, 1801, is somewhat more explicit than the two preceding Terriers, and it states:-
"One small dwelling House in length thirty six feet, in breadth sixteen feet, without the walls, containing two small bays. One Barn of two bays, One small thatched Stable contiguous to the Barn."The small dwelling-house alluded to above is still a part of the rectory buildings. It is brick built, and externally, it has not been much tampered with. At present it forms the wash-house; and what was at one time the floor chamber has been converted into a coach-house, and the loft above the coach-house, reached by a ladder, was once probably a bedroom. The building was, therefore, a mere cottage.
I now come to the Terrier of Augt. 23rd, 1811, that is, only 10 years after the above description of the rectory, in which we have the following:-
"Imprimis, One dwelling House enlarged by the present Rector, built of stone, and covered with Slate, comprising 1 vestibule 12 feet in length by 10 feet in breadth. and a Lobby above it of the same dimension, 1 Parlour or dining Room 18 feet in length 14 Do. in breadth and 9 feet in height, and a Room above of the same dimension but 1 foot lower in height. 1 Cellar and Pantry 18 feet in length by 7 Do. in breadth, and 10 feet in height, being a yard in the ground. and a room above it of the some dimension in length and breadth, but considerably lower in height, being arched. 1 other Parlour 12 feet in length by 12 Do. in breadth and 7 Do. in height, and a Room above it of the same dimension. 1 Kitchen 13 feet in length by 12 Do. in breadth and 7 Do. in height and a Room above it of the same dimension. 1 Staircase 12 feet by 6 Do., 1 Brewhouse, 1 Scullery, 1 Barn of two Bays. 1 Cowhouse, 1 Stable, 1 Privy, & 1 Pig-sty; all built of stone except the Barn which is of Brick and all covered with slate except the Cowhouse which is thatched with straw."The Renter alluded to in this quotation was the Rev. John Jones. This gentleman converted the small dwelling-house of two bays, or compartments, into a good residence, but he was succeeded by the Revd. Ed. Thelwall, who further enlarged the Rectory house, as shewn by the Terrier of September 29th; 1831. Quoting again from this document, it is stated:-
"Imprimis. A Glebe house, which has been enlarged by the present Rector, now consisting of one entrance hall and room over the staircase, one parlour and a room over, one cellar and a room over, one study and a room over, one store room and room over, one pantry and room over, one back stair case, and one kitchen, scullery and larder, and two rooms over, one three-stall stable, one single-stall stable, one coach-house and granary over it and one laundry all covered with slates."In 1865 the then Rector, the Revd. J. Pugh Evens, expended nearly ₤200 in re-roofing, and raising the walls of, and in repairing, the Rectory. This was done by Mr. Evans at his own expense.
I am afraid that all this is dry information, but it is not uninteresting from many points of view, for it shews conclusively, how the many abodes now occupied by the clergy in their respective parishes were built. These buildings were erected often at the private costs of the incumbents, but never by rates collected from Parishioners. This is proved conclusively by entries in the Parish Terriers. Parson's abodes belong therefore to the incumbents and their successors for ever to the end of time.
The description above given old rectories shew how poor the abodes attached to livings once were, and how much they have been improved in the present century.
From time immemorial the Churchyard Walls have been kept in substantial repairs by the parishioners, and upon them to this very day lies the duty of repairing the walls that surround God's acre.
In many vestry books are to be found minutes and entries bearing upon this subject, and in days gone by, bishops and other Church authorities, in their questions to churchwardens, always enquired as to the state of the Churchyard Walls. Since Church rates are no more, the expense of repairing these walls has fallen chiefly upon those who are in the habit of frequenting the parish church, but still the parishioners are the responsible party for the thorough repair of these walls.
I will take one parish, Derwen, and from that I will shew what was once general, respecting Churchyard Walla, throughout Wales. I have myself seen entries in various parish books in many parts of Wales bearing out that what was the custom in Derwen was common to other places.
It would seem that our forefathers thought, and rightly thought, that what was everybody's work was nobody's work; and, therefore, to secure a just proportion of work from every substantial parishioner, they allotted in vestry to every farmer a certain specified part of the Churchyard Wall for building or repairing. From the initials on the stones of many churchyards at present to be seen in secluded parts of Wales. it would appear that the same farms, or farmers, were responsible for keeping in repair the same part and same extent of their parish churchyard wall.
The building of the wells was undoubtedly not a common undertaking executed by contract by a mason, but it was a work actually done by the farmers themselves, and presumedly, on the death of one farmer, his successor became liable to repair that portion of the wall which had been allotted to the said farm.
In some churchyards, at this present moment, the division between the wall that was to be built, or repaired, by one farmer is clearly seen; so marked and perceptible, indeed, is this division, that it would not be difficult to throw down one farmer's work without much injury to the allotment on either side of it. This is the case in Derwen. If you take a walk that far you will find on some of the stones, the Welsh word Rhan - i.e. portion, with several initials indicating that that portion of the Churchyard Wall belonged to the farmer bearing those initials. And also in this Churchyard Wall you can see the parts done by the various farmers themselves. The work is rough, but it is substantial, and has reached our days from the seventeenth century. On a stone in the north wall of the churchyard of Derwen is the date 1636, so it is nearly 260 years since that stone was placed in the position it now occupies. In the wall which runs by the road are several stones bearing letters such as W.W. and G.R.L.L. &c. These letters are undoubtedly the initials of the men who built that Rhan, or Portion, in which these letters are found.
On looking through Derwen Parish records, I came upon an entry which threw light upon the history conveyed by the stones of the Churchyard Walls. The date of the minute is indistinct, but I think it is 1632, though it may be 1636, and thus correspond with the date given above. It may even be that the resolution passed in vestry was only carried out fully by the year 1636. Thus it would take the farmers about four years to carry out their own resolution, for they would only work at the wall when not engaged on their farms. The resolution passed in vestry was as follows:-
"The names of the Parishioners of Derwen but are to repaire theire Church yard Wall, and how many yards each them is to form and repaire noted by the figures annexed to theire severall names, according to the aunsient division thereof, and agreed upon by the whole parish the daie and year above written.
Beginning at the East gale or porch.Evan up Evan Jeffrey John ... 4 yards Thomas ap John ap Evan ... 4 ,, William Lloyd ... ... 4 ,, Roger Williams ... ... 4 ,, John ap William Jeffrey ... 4 ,, Robert Lloyd ... ... 4 ,, Robert John Lewis ... ... 4 ,, John Matthews ... ... 4 ,, John Hughes for Pentrey ... 4 ,,
At the Lower Stile.John Griffith ... ... 4 yards Thomas ap Rees ap John ... 4 ,, William Lloyd ap Harry ap Rees ... 4 ,, William John Edward ... 4 ,, John ap Robert ... ... 8 ,, Robert Parry ... ... 4 ,, Sarnan, were Robert James holdeth 4 ,,
Then the Higher Gate.Charles Salesbury, Esq., for Margaret ffoulke, her land... ... 4 yards Wm. John ap Robert et Evan Tudder 4 ,, Evan ap Robert ap Morris ... 4 ,, William ap Richard et John Lloyd 4 ,, John Williams for Braychvalan ... 4 ,, John Hughes ... ... 8 ,, Llwyn y Prych (Bresych) where John Lewis up Robert now dwells 4 ,, John Thomas Ellis ... ... 4 ,, Robert ap William ... ... 4 ,, John Rees . . .et John ap . . .... 4 ,, Richard Jones ... ... 4 ,, John Williams, where the . . . ... 4 ,, Richard Jones ... ... 4 ,, . . . . Esquire ... ... 4 ,, John Price ... ... 4 ,, John Thomas ... ... 4 ,, Lewis Griffith ... ... 4 ,, Thomas ap John ap Rees ... 4 ,, Edmond Lloyd ... ... 4 ,, Ffoulke Jones ... ... 4 ,, David Owens ... ... 4 ,,
Here it ends."
Such is the list of persona "who according to the aunsient division thereof" were to "repaire and form" the Churchyard of Derwen. The custom of allotting to the tenants of the various farms a part of the Churchyard was, even in 1632, an ancient one, and must therefore have had its origin in olden times.
In strict agreement with the above the wall has been repaired; and between the specified four yards, &c., for a long part of the wall on the east by west side, are interstices filled with mortar. In other parts of the wall this four yard division no longer exists, the walls have been tampered with in recent times.