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‘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-gelli-gron, an extensive piece of open moorland adjacent to ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’. This, according to local belief, is where the original Rhos fairs were held. When the monks moved to Ystrad Fflur they also moved the fairs to some waste ground above Rhydfendigaid, but continued to refer to them as Ffeiriau’r Rhos (moorland fairs). It is interesting to consider why the monks, and their patron Rhys ap Gruffydd, should wish to ‘hang on’ to names so closely associated with ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’.


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-ruled by the company. The latter went on to offer favourable excursion tickets for visitors to the Abbey in an effort to maximize the number of passengers using the new line. To read more about the M&M railway line from Tregaron to Strata Florida, go to www.hanesybont.co.uk/corscaron/yrailway.htm

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-gelli-gron. More than likely, they were referred to as Ffeiriau’r Rhos (fairs held on the Rhos), and were, possibly, well established, attracting traders and travellers from far and wide. They were, almost certainly, moved for two reasons - to be better placed relative to the ‘new’ abbey, and to be strategically situated near the intersection of the main north-south and east-west trade routes.

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-of-mouth, and an established name was important. Changing a name at any time could lead to some confusion ; changing it at a time of a major upheaval (the relocation of the abbey to Ystrad Fflur) could result in loss of identity and revenue. Maintaining some continuity must have been a priority for the monks, and keeping the original title of Ystrad Fflur was probably a well considered decision..egardless of its standing, after nearly a hundred years or so, the name Ystrad Fflur, would have been, probably, well established and known.  Certainly it would be  familiar some travellers, particularly to those people who  could ill-afford to travel long distances for their salvation, but were within the range of the old abbey. Ystrad Fflur was a ‘trade name’..

Fairs were an important part of the monastic economy and, again, marketing must have been given serious consideration before re-location. Certainly, it made sense to retain the original name – an established name, well-known to livestock dealers, and traders in other products associated with the abbey.

Final thoughts

The river Fflur

(about ½ mile below the Old Abbey Farm

Rhos-gelli-gron

 (situated close to ‘Yr Hen Fynachlog’)

Yr Hen Fynachlog

Some Final Thoughts

www.hanesybont.co.uk

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)

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