. . . all the Donation which I have heretofor conferred on the said Monastry I now again, in the 1184 year from the Incarnation of our Lord, have confirmed by the memory of the present writing

The charter makes full use of natural boundaries to delineate, precisely, the lands being bequeathed ; rivers, places and properties along the borderlines are named and recorded in detail. Clearly, for the charter to be meaningful, all these names must have been in common use, and in existence for a long time. Certainly, it is safe to assume that most predate the actual granting of lands and, ipso facto, the founding of Ystrad Fflur. It is reasonable, therefore, to conclude that Rhydfendigaid was an established name well before any colony of monks came to build on the banks of the Teifi.

Lôn Fynaches

(or Lôn Dywyll for local people)

In addition, there may well have been a prominent gateway (Porth) to the monastery – a welcome sight for tired travellers Situated a short distance to the north of the old abbey, and less than a mile south of Rhydfendigaid, there is a field called Cae Porth Llwyd ; in the early 1800, it was also the site of a cottage called Porth Llwyd, where a certain Richard Evans and his wife brought up five children. What’s more, a sharp bend in the B4343 road, adjacent to Cae Porth Llwyd,  is still referred to locally as Tro Porth Llwyd.

[1]

Williams, S.W., ‘The Cisterian Abbey of Strata Florida’, London 1889, Appendix X

[2]

Owen, H.W. and Morgan, R., ‘Dictionary of the Place-Names of Wales’, Gomer, 2007, pp. 391-392

[3]

Powell, S.M. Tregaron County School, 1903-1945 (Headmaster from 1937-1945)

[4]

Welsh Gazette, Thursday, August 21, 1930

[5]

Powell, S.M., 'Pilgrim Routes to Strata Florida' Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Volume 8 (1931) pp.9-24

[6]

Moore-Colyer, R., ‘Roads & Trackways of Wales’, Landmark, 2001, pp.64-66

[7]

Williams, S.W., ‘The Cisterian Abbey of Strata Florida’, London 1889, pp. 20-22

[8]

Powell, S.M., 'Pilgrim Routes to Strata Florida' Transactions of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Volume 8 (1931) p 10

Present footbridge leading to the ruins of  Ystrad Fflur

He argues that pilgrims, traders and common travellers approaching Ystrad Fflur from a northerly direction (south from Ffair Rhos) would have no cause, or reason, to ford the river Teifi at Rhydfendigaid. He claimed that they would follow the old lane which runs from the present village school to the abbey, crossing the river close to the monastery. This lane called Lôn Fynaches (or Lôn Dywyll by many local people) has always been regarded, locally, as the main pilgrim route to Ystrad Fflur. Richard Moore-Colyer’s [6] account of this route is worth quoting :

Notes

www.hanesybont.co.uk

Rhys ap Gruffydd must have donated these lands before (or very soon after) Ystrad Fflur was founded (1164), and the charter simply endorses what he, Rhys ap Gruffydd, had promised :

S M Powell argued that these names suggest that early pilgrims to ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’, coming from a direction north of the abbey would have to ford the Teifi at Rhydfendigaid. This particular ford was then ‘blessed’ on account of it being the very last river-crossing, before the abbey, and the last opportunity for pilgrims to wash their feet in holy waters

It is difficult not to accept that the name Rhydfendigaid predates the foundation of Ystrad Fflur. However, the evidence linking ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’ to the ‘blessed ford’ and the name Rhydfendigaid is obviously tenuous, but, nevertheless, it is not an unreasonable supposition. Neither is it unreasonable to conclude that the old abbey may have been much more than just a temporary Cistercian site. Further evidence which tends to support  this hypothesis is given in the next web page.

The name Rhydfendigaid appears in a charter by Rhys ap Gruffydd (dated 1184), in which he confirms his grant or gift of large tracts of land to the monks of Ystrad Fflur [1]. In it, he outlines the boundaries of the lands, and Rhydfendigaid is mentioned as one of the more eminent places within these bounds. Many names in the charter are still known today, but others are no longer in use. Among those that have survived are the rivers Teifi, Marchnant and Meurig, and local farms such as Dolfawr and Llwyn-gog.

The dictionary of Welsh place-names [2] says that the ford at Rhydfendigaid was used and blessed by the monks of Ystrad Fflur. But the crossing seems to have been ‘fendigaid’ before the founding of the abbey. S M Powell [3, 4, 5], writing in 1931 also claims that to be the case, and he presents some further evidence in support of his belief.

Having reasoned that the traffic to Ystrad Fflur, via the blessed ford was minimal, S M Powell suggested that the name Rhydfendigaid was a relic from earlier times − when pilgrims travelled to ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’. The latter, according to Stephen Williams [7], may have been in existence for about seventy years or more, before Ystrad Fflur was founded (Page 1). In an age of many shrines and relics, it is quite possible that, at one time in its history, the old abbey was a place of pilgrimage, albeit a minor one. Pilgrims were important tourists ; they made a much-needed contribution to the monastic economy, and providing a ‘memorable experiences’ for them was important. It takes little to imagine that pilgrims would be attracted to ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’ by the holy crossing and, possibly, by some religious relic kept at the abbey – some say the historic Holy Grail of Ystrad Fflur was there before the monks migrated to their ‘new home’ [8].

Visitors travelling from the west, from the direction of Ystradmeurig, would also take the old lane, again sidestepping the river at Rhydfendigaid. For those approaching the abbey from the south – probably, following the edge of Cors Caron − there would be no need to ford the Teifi, although they would have to negotiate the river Glasffrwd at some point. S. M. Powell thought that the present abbey road was, at the time, marshy ground, while Lon Fynaches, running along higher ground, would have been relatively dry and an easier route.

  See disclaimer, Page 1

Tro Porth Llwyd

Yr Hen Fynachlog

Yr Hen Fynachlog, the Bessed Ford and the village of Rhydfendigaid

Page 2

Yr Hen Fynachlog, the Bessed Ford and the village of Rhydfendigaid

. . . it passes through the woods of Coed Penybannau below the Iron Age univallate hill-fort and its adjoining hut circles, and then traverses open fields on a causeway running above some abandoned lead workings. Here the abbey first came  fully into view and visitors no doubt marvelled at its splendours, the massive limestone walls and finely executed tracery contrasting starkly with the crude vernacular architecture of the surrounding countryside . . . After a brief pause to stand and stare . . . the pilgrims descended . . . along a path past the remains of an old nineteenth century farmhouse called Bronberllan . . . to ford the Teifi at a spot close to the present footbridge leading to the ruins of the abbey