CymraegHistory

 

The villages of Llanychaer and Llanychaer Bridge, for it was once two distinct places has its origins in distant times. Lying at the western end of the Gwaun valley on a terminal moraine deposited by the last Ice Age, it had advantages for early settlers as evidenced by the remains of an Iron Age fort in the centre of the present site. Long before this in the Neolithic Age a burial chamber known as Coitan Arthur had stood above the village, but it was demolished in 1844 and used for building stone, and only the capstone remains. Even before this a great stone alignment of which four of the original stones are still upright was conceived and erected by early man. The field to which these stones form the boundary is called Parc y Meirw, the field of the dead, and legend has it that a great battle was once fought here.

 

In the present churchyard of St David’s, Llanychaer is a cross-inscribed stone which has been dated as 7th or 8th century and another stone now lost but recorded, was of a similar period and carried an inscription commemorating Macedeccetus, son of Eorocass in Latin. . The church of LLanllawer also has two cross stones set into the gateposts perhaps to repel evil for the nearby holy well was also known to be a cursing well, where a bent pin could fulfil evil thoughts.

 

The Irish came and went, the Vikings came and went and even the Norman invasion, so radical in some areas, seems to had little impact on our local vicinity. Ancient families from the 8th and 9th centuries continued to amalgamate land and property into the middle Ages. Castell Cilciffeth was the stronghold of Dafydd Ddu who was a descendent of Gwynfardd Dyfed a chieftain of some importance although his claims to attachment to Dyfed royalty were not proved.

 

Cilciffith and Garn certainly have their roots in the 14th century if not earlier.

 

By 1591 when Dwnn compiled his Heraldic Visitations of Wales the family of Lloyd had expanded and now several mansions dominated the village. Not only Cilciffeth, but also Morville, Cilgelynen, and Cronllwyn had powerful owners with large reputations, such as Thomas Lloyd, High Sheriff and founder of Haverfordwest Grammar School.

 

These large estates began to be broken up during the 17th century and the mansions were all in ruins by the time Richard Fenton was writing at the beginning of the 19th century. On the other hand he refers to Court as a fine modern mansion.

 

Cronllwyn Slate quarry played a very significant part in the villages history in the early and middle part of the 19th century, with numerous people employed in the workings, but farming has always been at the heart of the village.

 

 

Cronllwyn Quarry

 

As far back as 1789 there is evidence that there was an active quarry at Cronllwyn. It is believed to have been leased by three slaters from Fishguard at that time, but little is known of its origins. By 1846 however the quarry was in full production boasting two shops, one a carpenter’s shop and the other a blacksmith’s shop.  At this time the lease was up for sale and listed as its features were- a powder magazine, a waterwheel with circular sawing machine plant, several hundred yards of tramway track, wagons, barrows, tools and implements. The lease was £50 per annum with a sum of £500 as annual profit with wages and expenses of £26 per week. The suggested yearly tonnage was 1000 tons. The lease was bought by the Cronllwyn Slate Co, which had been formed in 1845. They had plans to lay a railway to Fishguard but were unsuccessful and within two years the company were attempting to sell out noting that the quarry was in “Full Work.”

 

When the quarry was bought by John Davies in 1864 it had been idle for some time. A new team was to take it over with a board of directors. These were William Page - Mayor of Nottingham, William Parsons - Ex-Mayor of Nottingham, Thomas Dickson and Stephen Dickson also from Nottingham and John Davies. John Davies sold the directors the lease for £4000 cash and £6000 in shares. The rent at the time was £40 per annum. The prospectus that was published for the quarry in 1865 mentioned “3 galleries, an inclined plane and ample water.” There is no mention of any buildings or machinery and stated that it needed ‘ only clearing the levels and laying rails’ to reopen suggesting that the rails had been sold and the saws etc may have also gone. A new manager was brought in - William Pritchard who had been the manager at Porthgain quarry. He soon found out that of the two veins of slate, one had been worked and probably exhausted, and the other was unworkable. The reason for this was that amidst the slate were Granite pillars and in 1866 he did his utmost to extend the holding to try and work the second vein. He was not successful, and by 1866 the full extent of the problem was realised. Work continued at the quarry until the company was wound up in 1868.

 

Little is known of its history from then on with only a reference made to it in the 1870’s when the Rosebush, Fishguard and Goodwick railway was planned as part of the proposed Maenclochog railway. The line was to pass through the lower section of Cronllwyn Quarry which was then claimed to be reopened ‘to the great profit of all concerned’. Unfortunately this was never to happen. Little is know of its impact on the village of Llanychaer except that the smithy located at the Bridge End Inn was where the quarrymen took their tools to be sharpened, thus suggesting that the later owners of the quarry did not use the blacksmith’s shop on site. By this time the blacksmith’s shop may have disappeared as was suggested previously.

 

There is no doubt that Cronllwyn slate has travelled the world and has stayed in the vicinity of Llanychaer and surrounding areas. It is such a shame that so little is known of the history of the quarry and its workers, and even though it produced a relatively small output when compared to the large productive quarries of North Wales, its remnants remain as floors, windowsills, roof tiles and gravestones as well as other artefacts. An eternal memorial to the hard working men, who devoted their lives to earning a modest livelihood from the brittle blue slate of Cronllwyn quarry.

 

Elin Thomas

 

 

Information obtained from –

 

‘The Slate Quarries of Pembrokeshire’ – Alun John Richards