LLANBADARN CHURCHYARD BY A W GILBEY
AND PENGLAIS SCHOOL HISTORY SOCIETY
As will be made clear in the later chapters it was not possible to record the inscriptions on every memorial stone at Llanbadarn Fawr due to weathering or severe plant growth around the stone. This was especially true were a century's growth of ivy had obscured an inscription and were on flat stones a carpet of grass completely covered the stone. Nevertheless it has been possible to record the overwhelming majority of the memorials in the Churchyard.
In the course of our researches, however, we often came across references to burials at Llanbadarn Fawr which did not feature in our original survey. Part of the explanation for this is given above and elsewhere we have referred to the practice of clearing the yard in order to provide space for burials. It is clear that many people were buried and no memorial was ever erected to their memory. This was partly due to the practice of erecting a memorial long after the burial. In other cases only a wooden cross was erected as a memorial and those would not have survived more than a couple of decades.
The earliest reference to a burial at Llanbadarn Fawr is to be found in an ancient ode entitled 'The memorials of the tombs of the 'Warriors' in which is the following line:
Yn Llanbadarn bedd Cynon
(In Llanbadarn is the grave of Cynon)
Other warriors must have been buried at Llanbadarn Fawr which was the principal ecclesiastical building in North Cardiganshire before the building of the Abbey at Strata Florida. The Brut y Tywysogion chronicled the lives of many of the Welsh princes and mentioned their burial at Strata Florida and the Myfyrian Archaiology records that in 1209
Died Mallt Bruce, mother of the sons of Griffith ap Rhys, at Llanbadarn-Fawr, and having taken of the holy communion, and done confession. and penance, was buried with her husband at Strata Florida.
We can presume that during the Middle Ages burials continued in the Churchyard but written evidence is not available. There is, however, within the Church, in the North and South Transepts, a number of recesses which probably once contained recumbent effigies. There are also some inscriptions cut into the stonework in the Chancel and these are discussed in the next chapter.
The earliest eminent member of the Church at Llanbadarn Fawr whose memorial no longer survives was Sir Richard Pryse of Gogerddan, who was M.P. for the county of Cardiganshire on five occasions from 1589 to 1622. He died on the 6th of February 1622 and was buried "at the Parish Church of Llanbadarn Fawr”. There was a story in the last century that Sir Richard married the widow of the celebrated Dutch artist Van Dyck, whose maiden name was Mary Ruthven. She was the daughter of Patrick, Lord Ruthven and granddaughter of the Lord Ruthven who, with Lord Darnley, had taken part in the murder of Rizzio. Mary was reported to have brought many of Van Dyck's paintings to Gogerddan and to have been buried at Llanbadarn when she died in 1645. It was said that she "was responsible for the memorial to Strafford' in the Chancel of Llanbadarn Fawr Church as she was fond of the Earl whom she had known and admired at the Court of Charles I before his execution in 1641. The story fails, however, to take into account that the memorial is not to Strafford but to Stratford though it may be of interest to note that the initial ‘W' is fixed before the name 'Stratford' and seems to be dissected by a bishop's crosier, looking rather like a 'T': Thomas Wentworth Strafford - a coincidence, no doubt!
Meyrick, in his History of. Cardiganshire, records this memorial from within the Transept of the Church:
Near this place lies
interred the body of
late of Tyn y wern in this Par
ish Gentn who departed this
Life the 1st Day of August
MDCCLXI Aged XC.
And also the Body of
Elizabeth his wife who died
August the 22nd 1763
The following tombstone stood in the Churchyard, close to the East Window, until the middle of the Nineteenth Century; it read
Here lieth in the Joyful hope of Rememberance of. a Joyful ressurection, the body of Alexander Gordon, late of Aberystwyth, who departed this life 12 Jany 1776, aged 85 years; who lived with his wife in perfect love and harmony 55 Years, of their offspring Eight sons and Eight daughters, Miscarriages six, and twenty grandchildren.
Alexander Gordon was an ale seller at the Gogerddan Arms, Aberystwyth, the building at the corner of Great Darkgage Street and Bridge Street. He took an active interest in local politics and was Mayor of the town in 1731, 1741, 1743 and 1745, as well as holding a number of other offices under the Court Leet. Despite his position as an Alderman, Gordon was, on at least one occasion, on the wrong side of the law. In the records of the Cardiganshire Quarter Session for 1745 is the following entry:
Alexander Gordon, of Aberystwyth, ale seller, who came into this court in person and pleaded guilty to an indictment: found against him at Michaelrnas Quarter Sessions 1744, for selling ale without: a licence, be fined six pence, and that he be discharged from the said indictment on payment of the said fine, and the fees of the court, not otherwise.
In time the tombstone of. Alexander Gordon disappeared and the reason for that is fairly interesting. At the time the stone was erected it was factual and acceptable in its reference to the 'miscarriages' suffered by Mrs Gordon, but by the later Nineteenth Century social and moral values had changed and some people took exception to the inscription. In fact the Victorian mind found it quite vulgar and tile Vicar, John Pugh., was persuaded to pull down the offending stone. However the stone is not lost. According to the gravedigger at Llanbadarn in 1901 it was used to make the step by the Chancel door. "Turn it over some day and you'll see I tell you truth" he told George Eyre Evans, whose “Aberystwyth and its Court Leet” contains a reproduction of a painting of Gordon.
Another local character buried at Llanbadarn at the beginning of, the Nineteenth Century was Lewis Jones of Cae bach (Hafodau), who was a school teacher in the later Eighteenth Century at Llwyngwyn, Capel Bangor. He died in 1809 and bequeathed £200 to the poor. Others who bequeathed sums of money to benefit the poor include Richard Lewis of Abercwmdole, who left: £150 to the poor of. Parcel Canol; John Jones, who died in 1783, left £50 to provide instruction for the poor children of the parish; Jacob Evans of Penlanolew left £40 for a similar purpose. The earliest benefaction was the £104 left by Roderick Richards of Penbont in 1752.
The introduction of Nonconformity into the area in the late Eighteenth Century obviously had an effect on the membership of. Llanbadarn Church. One of the Church members was a local weaver named Roderick Phillips, who "Was also an accomplished musician and so took a leading role in the choir. He was also responsible for winding the clock, a task he usually performed at midnight. Phillips worked in Shipbuilders Row, Aberystwyth and, perhaps as a result, soon started to attend services at Tabernacle, where he was the first precentor in 1785. A most devout and godly man he was a deacon at Tabernacle by the time of his death in January 1818, aged 66 years; he was buried in the Churchyard at Llanbadarn Fawr.
The late Eighteenth Century saw the rapid expansion of the lead mining industry and a large number of Cornish miners came to the area to work the mines; some of them are buried at Llanbadarn Fawr. Amongst these was one Stephen Pearce who worked at the Goginan Mines. The “Welshman” of February 1843 reported that he fell into a shaft 60 yards deep and died from his injuries. The paper added – “It was only about three years ago that his father met his death near the same place and in the same manner. It is to the credit of the Lisburne Mining Company that they have shown the greatest kindness to the poor widow ever since her husband's death.” The funeral was held at Llanbadarn and attended by a large crowd of Cornish miners who, the Welshman reported, were very much like the Welsh and added that "(we) were much pleased with the respectability of their appearance and the decorousness of their conduct".
William Joseph Davies may be buried at Llanbadarn; many attended his funeral at that place and watched his coffin lowered into the grave. William was born at Tanycastell Farm, Llanfarian, and seems to have been a man of some promise for he obtained a Master's degree at Oxford and became a Church of England clergyman. He lived with his wife and three sons at Llanbadarn but when his wife died he moved, with his sons, to The Cupola, a common lodging house at Penyranchor, Trefechan, and seems to have lost his interest in life.
Davies was a big, tall and strong man, but his eccentric behaviour soon earned him the nickname Cracky Bill. He was often in trouble as a result of his drinking but took some pleasure in conducting his own defence before the magistrates, many of which were reported in the newspapers. On one occasion he was pressed by the Clerk of the Court to answer a direct question. Davies rounded on the man and replied "No. I wont answer any of your questions, because you bully me. You have no right to speak Sir, your duty is to advice the Magistrate and not to talk. You think to have your own way here, but you shan't." When told by the Magistrate to be quiet Davies politely asked if he was entitled to expenses for attending the Court. Davies was also involved in a war of attrition with the Board of Guardians of the Aberystwyth Workhouse and threatened to assault the Master as well as accusing some Guardians of failing in their duties.
Perhaps as a result of his lifestyle Davies fell ill and was treated by a highly respected local physician, Dr Rice Williams. After his death many attended his funeral at Llanbadarn but soon rumours began to spread around Trefechan that Davies had made a deal with the Doctor whereby he received free medical treatment while alive and the Doctor would then take his skeleton after his death and that the coffin only contained large stones. The presence of a large skeleton in the doctor's surgery only served to confirm the rumours in the minds of many people. Like many of his contemporaries who died poor Davies had no memorial headstone; only a simple wooden cross, marked with the letters W.D, marked his grave. Emlyn Jones, in his poem "The Poor, Man's Grave' expresses a sentiment that will serve as a memorial to all those who lie in Llanbadarn in unmarked graves:
No fair muse in marble graven,
O'er his ta:nb in sorrow weeps,
Soon Times' hand will give no token,
Of the grave wherein he sleeps.
None will know then that he sleepeth
Where the sad yew's breezes wave,
Yet shall angels love to linger,
0' er the poor man's hallowed grave.
One of the solicitors who resided at Llanbadarn Fawr in the Nineteenth Century was John Jones Atwood, the eldest son of John Atwood, Pencarreg, Aberaeron, who was born in Bristol in 1810. Attwood became an articled clerk with the Aberystwyth firm of Jones and Parry and became a partner in 1861. Before he attained his majority, and against his parents wishes, Atwood married Ann Bevan, the beautiful daughter of David Bevan, an Aberystwyth sailmaker. They had a large family of twelve children, eleven of whom were boys. Originally the family lived in North Parade, Aberystwyth, but moved, about 1847, to Fronfraith Hall and then to FronheulogAnn Atwood died in January 1870 and her husband married Miss Eleanor. Twentyman, the daughter of a Carlisle clergyman. Atwood was a Liberal in his youth but became a staunch Conservative as he aged; he took an active part on the Board of Guardians and on the Llanbadarn Fawr School Board. He was a substantial landowner and interested in horticulture and aboriculture though he was far from successful in his attempts to profit from the boom in lead mining. Atwood died at his residence at Fronheulog on December 27th, 1880, and was buried at Llanbadarn Fawr Churchyard.