This area is known as Llanllwchaearn after the administrative Community (or parish) that bears the name. It includes a number of villages, including Cross Inn, Maen-y-groes and Pentre’r Bryn. Lands within the ancient parish of Llanina, along with the village of Gilfachreda, situated between New Quay and Llanarth, also fall within the boundaries of Llanllwchaearn. Between these two areas lies the rural hinterland and country lanes of Cydblwyf, that conjoin both parishes.
As in the case of other communities in West Wales both land and sea have played a defining role in the life of Llanllwchaearn. Both agricultural and maritime trades have been the lifeblood of the area’s economic and cultural life over the centuries, generation after generation.
[The plough and anchor are a tribute to the farmers and sailors of Llanllwchaearn through the ages.]
Llanllwchaearn is unique in the fact that is the only part of Wales that can claim ownership to two historical buildings at the National Folk Museum at St Fagans.
Melin Bontbren: Melin Bontbren was built in 1853 on land near Dre-fach Farm, between Cross Inn and Caerwedros. It was a water-powered flour mill driven by the flow of the Afon Soden. Before the erection of the present stone bridge the Soden was crossed by means of a rickety wooden bridge, Pontbrengrwca, which gave its name to the mill. The last miller was Mrs Hettie Jones, of the Dre-fach Morris family. She lived to see the mill being dismantled stone by stone and moved to St Fagans in 1970.
The Tailor’s Workshop: Mr David Thomas was Cross Inn’s local tailor at the beginning of the 20th century. The original building was built in 1896 to store animal feed. A shop was added in the 1920s when David Thomas added it to his tailoring business. The fabrication is a zinc shell with wooden interior walls, which is typical for a rural workshop of the period. The shop closed its doors in 1967 and was moved to St Fagans’ in 1988. The whole community was clothed from this shop for a considerable period. It’s a great thrill to see it at St Fagans’, paying tribute to the craftsmen of rural Wales. One of David Thomas’ daughters, Gwyneth Mai, was a well-respected headteacher at Llanllwchaearn School for many years.
St Llwchaearn: Llwchaearn is the patron saint of Llanllwchaearn Church at New Quay. He was a member of the royal house in 7th century Powys and is linked to the Caereinion area. He was the son of Caranfael ap Cyndrwyn, prince of Powys, and had two brothers, Aelhaearn and Cynhaearn. Caranfael was brother to Cynddylan whose persistent battling against the Saxons at the Battle of Tren is central to the early 9th century Welsh poetry collections known as Canu Llywarch Hen and Canu Heledd – both gems of European literature. After losing his royal birth-right in the Saxon wars Llwchaearn turned to the life religious, establishing two churches in Powys and two in Ceredigion – one in Cwm Ystwyth and one in New Quay. He was appointed an Abbott and was a follower of St Beuno.
Siôn Cwilt: Life was a struggle in 18th century rural Wales. It was at that time that Siôn Cwilt became something of a local hero, keeping hard times at bay. How? Well, through some smuggling solutions! The local secret coves – Cwmtudu, Cwm Silio and Coybal – were ideal landing places for contraband. The booty was then moved via pony-train up the river valleys and over the high ground in the direction of Dyffryn Cletwr. Some say that the notorious squire of Alltrodyn had some fingers in this smuggling pie! Siôn Cwilt was a very elusive gentleman. He came to the area unannounced and disappeared without trace. What we do know that he lived in a cottage on the high ground that still bears his name, Banc Siôn Cwilt. The new local area school, opened in 2010 – Ysgol Bro Siôn Cwilt – testifies to his adventurous escapades.
Siani Bob Man: one of the area’s most eccentric and fondly remembered characters was Siani Bob Man (Jane Leonard, 1834-1917). Siani was one of the area’s first tourist attractions, famed for living a simple life with her ‘family’ of hens in a seaside cottage at Cei Bach. She was born and raised in a lowly cottage on Banc Siôn Cwilt but when a young girl she apparently ran away with the ‘gypsies’, before being disappointed in love and returning home. Her unique lifestyle and sharp wit brought countless tourists to visit her humble abode from New Quay’s Victorian hostelries, whose owners profited greatly from her eccentricities.
Gronw and King Ina: According to legend, many years ago, a simple fisherman named Gronw lived near the mouth of the Afon Llethi with his wife, Malen, and daughter Madlen. One stormy night Gronw noticed a ship in peril at sea and decided that he should attempt to rescue the stricken sailors. Defying Malen’s pleas he took Madlen with him and with her help succeeded in saving the lives of seven noblemen. One of the men looked very noble and very authoritative indeed. No such men had ever before dried their clothes on the banks of the Llethi! There was a problem – the noblemen did not speak Welsh. The monk from Henfynyw was sent for and it became apparent that the men were in fact Saxons. It came to light that the regal looking nobleman fished from the waves was none other than Ina, King of Wessex (688-726). To show his appreciation Ina bequeathed the Henfynyw monk funds to build a new church at the mouth of the Llethi – Llanina – and gave Gronw and his family sufficient reward to keep them in a comfortable manner for the rest of their days.
For more information on the history of Llanllwchaearn see:
• Llanllwchaearn: a parish history, Sue Passmore, Grosvenor House, Guildford: 2010.
• Llanina & Cytblwyf, Sue Passmore, Grosvenor House, Guildford: 2011.
• Farmers & Figureheads: The Port of New Quay and its Hinterland, Sue Passmore, Grosvenor House, Guildford: 2012.