The ruins of Ystrad Fflur

John Leland and his visit to Ystradfflur

John Leland visited Ystrad Fflur (Strata Florida abbey) around the time when the Cistercian religious life in Wales was about to end (around 1536). He wrote a pretty detailed description of the decaying monastery, its estates, lead mine, inland fisheries and the surrounding landscape. All of his observations are interesting, but the excerpts included in the previous page (page 1) are confined to those which help to give a picture of what the region around the Abbey was like at that time. Unfortunately, Leland was not sufficiently inspired to write much about the people living and working in the area. Maybe, the language or his own grand background had some bearing on this indifference.

He was born in London and educated at St. Paul’s School and Christ’s College, Cambridge. In 1533, he was appointed King’s Antiquarian and authorized by King Henry VIII to have access to the libraries of Cathedrals, Abbeys, Priories and any other places where records and ancient writings were stored. To complete his task he travelled widely throughout England and Wales, collecting and transcribing many documents which, probably, would have been lost, or dispersed, particular, those of the monasteries. In his travels he collected masses of historical and geographical data for a book which he intended to publish under the name ‘History and Antiquities’. Sadly, this was never completed and he was certified insane in 1550 ; he died two years later. His records, however, did survive and an account of his travels ‘Itinerary of John Leland’ (edited by L Tomlinson Smith) was published in five volumes in 1908.

It is worth noting that Leland is very variable in his spelling ― he, certainly, did not believe in any form of consistency.

1. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

2. John Leland, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,

Page 2

John Leland


The Itinerary in Wales of John Leland in or about 1536-1539

Edited by Lucy Toulmin Smith, 1906


For an authoritive account of John Leland's life and work, see the the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [1] or go to [2]. To read about his tour of Ystrad Fflur (Strata Florida abbey) and the surrounding district, turn to the previous page (page 1)