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Reviews and Notices of Books
AN INVENTORY OF THE ANCIENT MONUMENTS IN Wales and Mon
MOUTHSHIRE. — I. COUNTY OF MONTGOMERY. His Majesty's
Stationery Office, London. 10s. 1911. In September, 1911, the Royal Commission, appointed in 1908 to inspect and report upon the Ancient Monuments in Wales, published its first County Inventory, that for Montgomeryshire.
The similar Commissions for England and Scotland have published Inventories of the Antiquities of Hertfordshire and Sutherland respectively.
The Commission decided to commence their investigations with Montgomeryshire because of the work of the Powysland Club. This club has its head-quarters at Welshpool. Since its foundation in 1867 it has published a series of articles known as the Montgomeryshire Collections, a series already consisting of thirty-five volumes, including papers of great variety and, in some cases, of great merit. The honour of being dealt with first is accompanied by certain disadvantages. The first County Inventory must, to some extent, be an experiment. The Commission has to get its hand in before it can show the world its best work.
To the Inventory is prefixed a list of Monuments specified by the Commission as especially worthy of preservation, which number sixty-one, and an Introduction signed by the Commissioners. The Introduction is of great value to Welsh archæologists, being full of the ripe scholarship from experience and study which is to be expected of the Commissioners. Now and then they are a trifle hard upon the local antiquaries of the County, forgetting apparently that the Commission was, by its Royal Warrant (granted
King Edward and renewed by King George), empowered "to call in the aid and co-operation of owners of ancient monuments, inviting them to assist you in furthering the objects of the Commission; and to invite the possessors of such papers as you may deem it desirable to inspect to produce them before you : to call before you such persons as you shall judge likely to afford you any information upon the subject of this Our Commission ; and also
1 ; to call for, have access to, and examine all such books, documents, registers, and records as may afford you the fullest information on this subject, and to inquire of and concerning the premises of all other lawful ways and means whatsoever : .... to visit and personally inspect such places as you may deem it expedient so to inspect for the more effectual carrying out of the purposes aforesaid.”
Such powers and credentials are greatly in excess of any that the Powysland Club or any other local society can grant or any private searcher command. Armed with this Royal Warrant, the Commission should be careful not to cast too scathing remarks upon fellow-labourers in the same field of work and research.
The Introduction treats of the County's antiquities according to their period; the Inventory itself, according to the parish to which they belong
The classification of the inventoried Monuments and Constructions appears to be as follows:
I. a. Tumuli, Carneddau.---с. Meini Hirion.--d. Inscribed
Stones, Stone Circles.
mounts, without enclosure. E. Castle-mounts, with
V. Miscellaneous : Wells, etc. VI. Sites of Historical or Antiquarian Interest. VII. Finds. A mistake is made in that no outline of the classification (such as is set forth above) is given in the Introduction or elsewhere in the Inventory. The Introduction should have included a statement to the effect that, whenever an object has been adequately described already, it has not been considered necessary to do more than give the reference to the fuller account. Such a statement would have explained the short space devoted to such important Monuments as Kerry Church, Strata Marcella, and the two Owain Glyndwr Parliament Houses now in the County.
The Introduction is especially valuable on the knotty points connected with the ethnology and early history of the County.
Nine hundred and fifty-five entries are made in the Inventory, the Civil Parishes, which number seventy-two, being taken in alphabetical order.
There are fifty-seven illustrations, and four maps at the end of the volume; three maps of the County, with all the parishes marked, showing respectively (1) the prehistoric remains, (2) the earth works, (3) the finds, and (4) the Breiddin and the related camps of Cefn Castell and Bausley. These maps are very good, and may prove very useful, especially to students of Montgomeryshire not familiar with the County. For a thorough study of the Inventory a six-inch ordnance survey map is indispensable, as nearly every item has its longitude and latitude recorded.
The illustrations include reproductions of some of Mr. Worthington G. Smith's drawings (for Arch. Camb.) kept in Shrewsbury Museum, and are in nearly every case remarkably good. A special feature consists of the photographs of the Crowther's Camp hoard of Bronze implements which are preserved, some at Powis Castle, others in the public museums of Welshpool, Shrewsbury and Ludlow.
The volume concludes with a full Index.
In a series of five articles, which the writer of this review contributed in November and December, 1911, to the Montgomeryshire Express, he has pointed out a few unimportant omissions and inaccuracies in the Inventory.
Mr. Edward Owen, the Editor of the Inventory, as well as the Secretary to the Commission, has thanked him for pointing out these blemishes, without in every case acknowledging that they were blemishes. It is then unnecessary that the same ground should be covered again here. Accuracy and precision are the most noteworthy features of the volume, both as a whole and in detail. It must have entailed some hard work on its Editor's part.
It would be ridiculous to consider the antiquities of Montgomeryshire without considering first certain physical features which must affect the habits and actions of past and present inhabitants.
We are accustomed to think of Wales as consisting of two nearly equal portions, North Wales and South Wales ; but Wales would be far more accurately divided into West Wales, alnost entirely Welsh-speaking, and East Wales, almost entirely Englishspeaking Montgomeryshire belongs to East Wales with the exception of the Cantref of Cyfeiliog (containing Machynlleth) and part of the Cantref of Mallwyd (the rest lying in Merionethshire). The medieval kingdom of Powys included rather more of West Wales and a great deal more of East Wales. Plynlymon forms an effective barrier between these two divisions of Wales, some rivers flowing into Cardigan Bay, the others into England. Montgomeryshire has no sea-board, though the tidal waters of the Dovey come very near it. Nor had it any large lakes from the time that the surface of the earth assumed its present general outline until the Liverpool Water Board came to its assistance.
“ The geological structure of the district did not lead to the formation of caves or tissures in which early man might have left his bones and his implements, nor was he drawn hither by the presence of flint, which would have resulted in the establishment of rude trade centres and routes.” Again, the Severn and its tributaries make some of the easiest approaches from England into West Wales, so that we find remains of positions guarding these approaches.
Also lead has been the only metal worked to any large extent in the County. Quarrying never appears to have been carried on upon a large scale. Agriculture and wool have been the chief sources of employment and of wealth.
Now let us work our way down the outline of classification given above. 6TH SER, VOL. XII.
In Montgomeryshire Tumuli abound on the Kerry Hills and near Staylittle, in the parish of Trefeglwys ; while there are a few near Welshpool and in the neighbourhood of Cemmes. One of the last was opened up in the autumn of 1911.
Carneddau are found in large numbers on the slopes of Plynlymon and in the basin of the Vyrnwy.
The finest circle of stones in Powys is that known as Mitchell's Fold, beneath Corndon, in the parish of Shelve, Shropshire. In Montgomeryshire there are four such circles, one on Kerry Hill, two in Llanbrynmair, and one in Llanrhaiadr-ym-Mochnant.
Of Meini Hirion the best known in Montgomeryshire is Maen Beuno, lying between the village of Berriew and the River Severn. Mr. Worthington G. Smith's drawing, reproduced in the Inventory, shows the glacial markings on the stone. Legends have sprung up around the Darowen Stones and “the covenant stones of Owen Glyndwr” in the parish of Uwch-y-Garreg. The standing stones of Trefeglwys mark the course of the Roman road to the lead mines.
Cromlechau or Dolmens do not appear in Montgomeryshire, but there may be one doubtful example in Llanerfyl parish. The Commissioners, however, believe Neolithic man to have inhabited this County, as well as Clun Forest, Denbighshire and Flintshire, where he has left traces.
At Craig Rhiwarth in the parish of Llanrhaiadr-ym-Mochnant are about sixty hut circles. There are also the foundations of two hut cireles near Twr Gwyn Mawr, in the parish of Llanbrynmair. The most interesting inscribed stone in the County is that in Llanerfyl churchyard, which bears a sepulchral inscription in Latin.
The County of Montgomery possesses some very fine earthworks. “ There are in Montgomeryshire five or six examples of what we may term prehistoric fortresses of the first order, and there are within the same geographical area, though beyond the limits of the administrative county, several others of the same class. The Ffridd in Montgomery parish, the Gaer in Guilsfield, the Breiddin in Criggion, Cefn Castell in Middletown, Cefn Carnedd in Llandinam, and Pen-y-Clun in Llanidloes, though differing in detail, were clearly constructed by the same people and probably within the same fairly wide period of time. In not one of these camps have excavations been conducted ; so that much is uncertain in connection with them; and it is far too early in the work of the Commission to dogmatise on the period of the construction of these great earth works. The examples in Montgomeryshire are matched though not excelled by others in various parts of the Principality, and until all these have been examined and at least one of them has been carefully explored, it is desirable that the problems to which they give rise should be approached with a perfectly open mind."
In this connection the account of the excavations by the Abergele Antiquarian Society at Pen y Corddyn by Mr. Willoughby Gardner should be read.
The Roman stations in Montgomeryshire were at Caersws, Caerflos, Cae Gaer (Llangurig), Gaer (Llanfair Caereinion) and Gaer Noddfa (Carno). Many antiquaries have argued that Medio. lanum was in this County, but the Commission dissolve the claims of Clawdd Coch, not even allowing it to be Roman.
Only the camp at Caersws has been excavated. It has yielded many treasures.
The Breiddin and Cefn Carnedd claim to be the site of Caratacus' last stand against the Romans described in the Annals of Tacitus. The Commission thinks highly of the claims of the Breiddin.
There are twenty-four examples of the mound-and-bailey or mote in Montgomeryshire, the most remarkable being Tafolwern, Owain Cyfeiliog's home, from which “was issued the foundation charter of the Abbey of Valle Crucis in 1185 ; Mathrafal, the scat of the most powerful line of Powysian chieftains ; Rhyd yr Onen, in the parish of Llangurig, doubtless the work of Earl Hugh of Chester; Bishop's Moat, Castlewright, and the Gro Tump, Newtown." " Whether this type of structure was developed by the English or by the Normans, need not concern the Welsh antiquary ; certain it is, that it was not adopted by the Welsh until after the Normans had established a number of such structures.” Accordingly, these strongholds (which were originally crowned with wooden structures) are believed to have been constructed in Montgomeryshire in the twelfth century.
There are many dykes in the County, the most important being Offa's Dyke, the full consideration of which is deferred, although it is entered under the parishes in which it appears. The Commission affirms that all the dykes in the County may be assigned to peaceful purposes, with the exception of the Aberbechan Dykes in the parish of Llanllwchaiarn.
There are remains of three stone castles, the Castles of Montgomery and Dolforwyn, and Powis Castle which is still inhabited. Plans of all three are given in the Inventory ; and Montgomery Castle is the subject of the Frontispiece to the volume. There are a great number of half-timbered black-and-white houses some of which, but not all, are entered in the Inventory.
At Machynlleth and Newtown Glyndwr's Parliament Houses are maintained in good repair.
The Parish Churches do not retain many features of mediæval architecture. The reasons for this are two. The absence of large monasteries deprived the district of its architects and builders in the Middle Ages. There were only two monastic foundations in the County :-Strata Marcella Abbey and Llanllugan Nunnery ; and communication was not easy between the abbeys of Cwm Hir and Strata Florida and this County. Further, so thorough has
. been the eighteenth or nineteenth-century restoration in most cases