“Wanderings through Wales” (1837)

Thomas Roscoe was born in Liverpool where his father was a lawyer and MP. He was a translator and travel-writer by profession and his work included the translations of Italian, German and Spanish novelists. His main travel writing was devoted to Italy and Spain, but he did produced one book on Wales. That book is not the typical ‘tourist guide’ of the time and, as a result, it is far more interesting to the modern reader. His piece on the Red Lion in Pontrhydfendigaid is a delight to read.

Pwll Caradog

(by Hugh Hughes)

. . . a small neat building, erected out of the ruins of its grand predecessor . . . it stands . . . in a burying-ground which is still spacious, though occupying but a small portion of the original cemetry. In Leland’s time [2] it was shaded by thirty-nine venerable yews; but the dying remains of only a few of these patriarch-trees add a melancholy beauty to the scene.

Red Lion today

The sign still swings and creeks

To read other reports by 18th and 19th century travellers, click below to go back to the menu

His visit to Strata Florida described in his book :


Dictionary of National Biography


John Leland visited Ystrad Fflur around the time when Cistercian religious life in Wales was about to end (around 1536).  According to Leland there were 39 yew trees in the cemetery at that time, and were an imposing feature of the place.


Thomas Roscoe must have passed through Pontrhyfendigaid around the year 1837, Travelling from Aberystwyth, he visited Pwll Caradog at Tyngraig before going on :

. . . over many streams whose course crossed the road having no other bridge than a tree and a rail for passengers. I passed the village of Pont Rhydvendigaid, Anglicè, the Blessed or Holy ford, so called by the good monks of the olden time ; a substantial bridge is now the commodious substitute for the ancient ford, and overit is passed the Teivy, in which river, as Fluellyn would say ‘there would be good salmons’. Ystrad Fflur is an extensive valley of excellent meadow land, very retiredly situated . . .

I’m not aware of ‘many’ streams between Tyngraig and Pontrhydfendigaid, but Thomas Roscoe could have taken a route that would see him turning left at Ystrad Meurig and then on to Ysbyty Ystwyth and Ffair Rhos, before reaching Pontrhydfendigaid. He took great pleasure from his visit to Strata Florida and wrote extensively about the Abbey. He also referred to the church and the cemetery :

. . . I halted at the small hostelry, where a rampant red lion swings and creeks its invitation to man and beast. Ushered into the inn’s “best parlour”, I amused myself by observing the multifarious decorations of this state apartment. Around the walls hung various Scripture subjects, most woefully caricatured by the artist. The mantle-piece was decorated with wax and crockery-ware effigies of the same class, and the grate’s costume was truly original. Carefully pinned to a curtain hung a very knowing lace cap, with boarders of that extraordinary width and abundance seen only among the Welsh belles, and most beautifully ‘got up’ as the ladies say. On a corner table, too, lay a hat, which, by its gloss, newness, and clever shape, evidently intended to invite the cap to church the following Sunday; and the entrance of a tight, blooming, dark-eyed, and sprightly-looking Welsh girl with my intended repast, soon enabled my calculating curiosity to supply a face worthy of the becoming national costume.

I like the dress of the bonny Welsh lassies, and trust they will be long in yielding to the insipid innovations of modern millinery. They would resign their piquant black hats with no little reluctance, did they know how flat and unbecoming the flippant silk bonnets, displayed by some of them, look in comparison. The hat is not worn by the peasantry alone, for I have seen not a few spruce beavers accompanied by rich silk dresses, fashionable kerchiefs, and silk stocking. While sojourning at Aberystwyth, I greatly enjoyed seeing the farmers’ comely wives and pretty daughters riding to market with their sacks of corn over the saddle, for here the women sell small quantities of grain at market, and with the produce purchase the various articles required for domestic use, which are stowed in the corn-sack on their return; and often have my eyes detected the form of a new teapot, or the circumference of a frying- pan, in these bags-of-all-work.

Most travel writers would regard the above as fringe information and not of interest to a true tourist. Not so Roscoe, and this is what makes his book on Wales such interesting reading. Perhaps, the above anecdote also says something about the author himself; he seems to have an eye for beautiful women and especially ‘Welsh belles’.    


On returning from Strata Florida to Pontrhydfendigaid :

THOMAS ROSCOE (1791-1871)