‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’ is situated on the banks of the Fflur, a small, insignificant stream, no more than a few miles long. CADW refers to ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’ as ‘A Temporary Site’ where, in the summer of 1164, a colony of Cistercian monks arrived from Whitland Abbey to establish a daughter house. Perhaps, not surprisingly, they called it Ystrad Fflur. Later, the same colony looked for a more advantageous spot and finally settled on a piece of land about 1.5 miles away (as the crow flies), where they built the historic abbey of Ystrad Fflur.
What is a somewhat baffl;ing – why these early settlers chose to retain the original name of Ystrad Fflur? The ‘new’ Ystrad Fflur was built on the banks of the Teifi, one of the longest and most beautiful rivers in Wales – a ‘noble river’ according to Giraldus Cambrensis. On the other hand, the Fflur was, and still is, just a minor brook situated quite a distance from the famed abbey bearing its name.
What is more, local tradition has it that Ffair Rhos obtained its name from Rhos-
Stephen Williams (Page 1) may have a partial answer. He claimed that the Cistercians were not the first to colonize ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’ and that the site was, for a long time, the home of an earlier religious community. Stephen Williams actually thought that the name Ystrad Fflur is evidence that an established monastic house was sited on the Fflur, prior to 1164 :
. . . the application of the title ‘Ystrad Fflur’ to a building not on the Fflur implies the existence of an earlier building of which it was the recognised successor.
He further thought that the first monastic house was founded by Rhys ap Tewdwr (Page 1). It is not unreasonable, therefore, to assume that his grandson, Rhys ap Gruffydd (Ystrad Fflur’s patron), would wish to retain the name. On the other hand, if ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’ was simply a temporary site, and the name Ystrad Fflur was conceived when Robert fitz Stephen (a Norman baron) was patron, then it is highly unlikely that Rhys ap Gruffydd would want to keep the original title (Page 1).
Regardless of what motivated the monks and their patron to keep the original names, it is difficulty to reject Stephen Williams’ premise that an earlier, permanent monastic house was sited on the banks of the Fflur. Of course, this has been a locally held belief for many generations.
To finish, it is interesting to add that when the Manchester and Milford (M & M) railway came to the area in 1866, the company recognised the commercial value of the name Ystrad Fflur. It insisted on calling the nearest station, Strata Florida, despite the fact that it was 3 miles away and close to the historic village of Ystrad Meurig. There were strong objections from Lord Lisburne (who sold the local land to build the railway) and the local population who demanded that it should be named Ystrad Meurig. They were over-
A similar argument can be made in the case of Ffair Rhos. As indicated earlier (Page 3), local tradition has it that the early fairs were held on Rhos-
There is another possible explanation. It was suggested earlier that ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’ may have been a place of pilgrimage, albeit not a very important one (Page 2). Nevertheless, pilgrims would have been a source of revenue for the old abbey. Clearly, having an established and readily recognized name was important – it was, effectively, a brand name. Pilgrims, on their journeys, swapped stories with other travellers, particularly, about different religious houses, and the relics they owned. Promotion was by word-
Fairs were an important part of the monastic economy and, again, marketing must have been given serious consideration before re-
The river Fflur
(about ½ mile below the Old Abbey Farm
(situated close to ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’)
Yr Hen Fynachlog
Some Final Thoughts
Why not Ystrad Teifi?
The road leading from Llidiart y Ffair (the gate to the fair) to Ffair Rhos square (one time, the intersection of important north to south and west to east trade routes)