Proceeding along the road, the traveller cannot but admire the singular beautiful entrance to CARNARVON, which is rendered most striking by the summits of the Castle Towers, Coedhelen Summer-house, as well as the extensive Bay and foaming Bar, being distinctly seen in the rear of the Town. - Caernarvon is situated at the mouth of the Seiont, on a small Peninsula, formed by that river and the brook Cadnant, on the verge of the Straits of the Menai, which separate this County from the Island of Anglesey; this Town is justly the boast of North Wales, for beauty of siuation - goodness of buildings - regularity of plan, and above all for the grandeur and magnificence of its Castle. Here an admirer of nature may forget his cares, in contemplating the greatness of her works, or rather the stupendous operations of His hand, whose Almighty fiat, and creative energy, formed this terrestial Globe, and called into existence the "everlasting mountains." This place, from its proximity to these wonderful and impregnable barriers, and its central and salubrious situation, will be found to be a most eligible station, from which the stranger may make various and pleasant excursions, some of which will be pointed out at the end of this article. The town is a square, inclosed with embattled stone walls on three sides; the Castle defending it on the South. In the West wall are two round Towers, and two others protecting the Gate at that point, called by the Welsh Porth-yr-aur, where there is a battery of 7 guns; three on the North, one on the N. E.; two supporting the Eastern entrance, or Porth Mawr, and two to the S. E. making in the whole twelve Towers.
The town is well built, the streets being at right angles, with the principal one, (the High Street). Near the Cross formerly stood the old Town Hall, which continued many years in ruins, but it has lately been re-built in a more spacious and handsome manner, and is converted into a commodious Market House, containing Butchers' Shambles, Fish Stand, and Corn Market; over these is a large room, which is made use of for the boys of the National School, until the building now erecting shall be completed; another containing at present a Depot of Arms, and a smaller one, where the gentlemen of the Savings Bank Committee, together with their Clerk and Treasurer, sit from twelve until two o'clock every Saturday, to receive the weekly deposits; this is a most excellent institution, and ought to be universally known and encouraged.
The Castle is founded on a rock, and is almost entire; the outer walls are of dark grey hewn stone, (a species of lime stone) with an edging of red ones at the corners and about the windows, as also in several fascias, which gives it a handsome appearance. Edward I. built this Castle in a singular and elegant style, (and probably the Town likewise, on the site, and out of the ruins of one more ancient, and bearing the same name1) with the revenue of the See of York, then vacant; a deep narow foss or ditch, which has been filled up some years, once defended it on the North side, or in front, over which there was a drawbridge, leading to the King's or principal Gate, which had four Portcullises, and was a grand and elegant entrance; above it stood the figure of the Royal Founder, in the act either of drawing or sheathing his sword, probably the latter, in allusion to the Welsh war being ended, - under his feet is a defaced shield: this Gate leads into an oblong Court, originally divided into two parts, the lower, or that end containing the Regal apartments, seem to have been again protected by another Wall and Gateway, now demolished. At the West end of this area is a Polygon Tower, with three hexagon Turrets issuing fron its top, on whose battlements were eagles, one of which only now remains, (which is shamefully mutilated and disfigured) whence it was called the Eagle Tower; - we have the authority of Mr. Pennant for saying that the Eagle upon the top of this Tower is with good reason supposed to be Roman, and that Edward found it at old Segontium. - In a small room, within this Tower, eleven feet by seven, Edward the Second is supposed to have been born, April 25th, 1284; a passage separates it from a similar apartment, called the nursery. - The correctness of this statement is however doubted by many, for if we may be allowed to judge, from the small dimensions, and present gloomy and uninviting appearance of this apartment, it does not seem probable, that the Queen of England would select it for the place of her accouchement, when other parts of the Castle afforded much superior accommodations; on the other hand it may be objected, that she might have fixed upon it as the place of greatest security and seclusion, - this however is certain, that tradition, which is often correct, is in favour of the small room.
From the top of the Eagle Tower, which most strangers ascend, the traveller will be able to command a grand, varied and extensive view, comprehending a great part of the Island of Anglesey, the Straits of the Menai, Carnarvon Bay, St. George's Channel, with the whole range of Carnarvonshire Hills, from the Peaks of the Rivals, on the S. W. to the huge Pen-maen-mawr, on the N. E. being about 36 miles in extent. On the South side, next to the River Seiont, are three Hexagon and three Octagon Towers, and others on the North. On the East is a magnificent entrance, called the Queen's Gate, and through which she is supposed to have entered, with a lofty round Arch and small Postern; leading to which also, there was, no doubt, originally a draw-bridge, over the Moat, which formed the communicaton between the Seiont and the brook Cadnant, or present mill stream. These Towers communicate all round, by noble galleries, and several of them are surrounded by smaller Towers, peculiar to this and Conway Castle, which seem to have been the Architect's two Chef d'oeuvre. In the North East Tower is a deep well, half filled up, and this, or some other is said to have contained a dungeon, where it is pretended a man being once let down to bring up a dog, found a hammer, and that he saw a wooden door which he was afraid to open; the common people have a tradition, that there was a subterraneous passage either from this place or some other part of the Castle, to Coed Helen wood, on the other side of the river. Some statements assert that this immense Fortress was completed in one year; others, with more probability, assure us that it was twelve years in building. Henry Ellerton, or de Elreton, was apointed master mason, and perhaps was the Architect, and under him must have been numbers of other skilful workmen. The Welsh peasants were employed, no doubt, in waiting upon them, and supplying them with materials, great part of which was brought from the ruins of Segontium, and tradition says that much of the limestone, with which it is built, was conveyed from Twr Kelyn, near Plas Newydd, in Anglesey, and of the grit stone from Vaenol, - The Menai greatly facilitated the carriage from both places. The exterior walls are in general about three yards in thickness; and from its situation and strength, it seems to have been well adapted to overawe the newly acquired subjects of its founder.
This noble and venerable pile, from whatever point it is contemplated, or at whatever distance it is viewed, forms a most interesting object, particularly when it is considered that it was once the residence of Royalty, and gave birth to the first Prince of Wales, of the English line, - what wonder and astonishment must it not have excited in the minds of the poor peasants, dwelling at the foot of Snowdon, and unused to see any other habitations than their own humble dwellings, when beholding this vast and magnificent Castle, advancing by slow degrees, to its present height and magnitude. When it is considered that it has withstood the shocks of more than five hundred winters, it seems wonderful that it should still appear so perfect and entire; for what is there that does not at last fade and decay, and yield by degrees to the "war of elements, and the siege of time:
The crush of Thunder, and the warring Winds,
Shook by the slow but sure destroyer - Time
Now hangs in doubtful ruins o'er its base;
And flinty pyramids, and walls of brass
Descend; the Babylonian Spires are sunk;
Achia, Rome, and Egypt moulder down.
This huge rotundity, we tread grows old;
And all those Worlds that roll about the Sun,
The Sun himself shall die and ancient night,
Again involve the desolate Abyss.
After this Monarch had subdued the Welsh, he began to secure his conquests, by erecting several strong holds, in different parts of Wales, and it appearing that Carnarvonshire, on account of its Mountains and Morasses, was a County very likely to encourage insurrections, he determined to guard as much as possible against such an event, by erecting this and Conway Castle, two of the completest and strongest Fortresses in the Principality, and perhaps not inferior to any in the Kingdom.
The reason generally assigned for the King's conduct, in bringing his beloved Queen, Eleanor, to such a distance, and at such an inclement season of the year, (for it was in the winter) to lie in, is the following: viz. that perceiving the Welsh remembered but too keenly the oppressions of the English Officers, who in former reigns had been placed over them, they peremptorily informed the King, that they were determined not to yield obedience to any Prince, except one of their own nation; he found it necessary to make use of an innocent artifice, and a pardonable piece of policy: he therefore concealed his intentions for a time, and secretly dispatched trusty messengers to the English Court, in order to conduct the Queen into Wales; and it is related, that soon after the birth of the young Prince, he summoned together the Welsh Nobles, and persons of the greatest rank and influence in the Principality, and asked them whether they would submit to be governed by a young man born in Wales, and one who could not speak a word of English, and that when they answered him in the affirmative, he presented to them his own son, saying to them at the same time (as well as he could pronounce the words) Eich Dyn,2 i. e. this is your man - corrupted afterwards into ICH DIEN. It ought however to have been previously mentioned, that the King was at Rhuddlan Castle, during the Queen's confinement, and we are informed by Leland, that when Griffith Lloyd, of Tregarnedd in Anglesey, brought news of the joyful intelligence of the birth of a son, he was immediately Knighted, and rewarded with one of the Manors of the Welsh Princes, called Llys yn Dinorweg, in the Parish of Llanddeiniolen, now the property of T. A. Smith, of Vaenol, Esq. - The first Governor of this Castle, appointed by Edward, was John de Havering, with a salary of 200 Marks; with which he was obliged to maintain constantly, besides his own family, fourscore men, of which fifteen were to be Cross-bowmen, one Chaplain, one Surgeon, and one Smith; the rest were to do the duty of keepers of the Gates, Centinels, and other necessary Officers. In 1289, Adam de Wetenhall was appointed to the same important office. The establishment for Town and Castle was as follows: The Constable of the Castle had sometimes £60. at others only £40. The Captain of the Town had £12. 3s. 4d. for his annual fee; but this office was sometimes annexed to the former, and then Sixty was the Salary for both. The Constable and the Captain had Twenty-four Soldiers allowed them for the defence of the place, at the wages of fourpence per day each. This was considered as the amount of the establishment during peace. The Porter of the Gates of the Town had for his annual fee, £3. 10. The following are the only instances known, of this place having suffered by the calamities of war, viz. in the great insurrection of the Welsh, under Madoc, in 1294, when they surprised the Town, during the time of a Fair, and put many English to the sword, got possession of this as well as Conway Castle, and made themselves masters of all Anglesey. During the rebellion of Owen Glyndwr, about the year 1404, Ieuan (Evan) ap Meredith, of Eifionydd, and Meredith ap Hwlkyn Llwyd, of Glynn Llifon, had the charge of the Town of Carnarvon, (as Sir John Wynne informs us) and an English Captain defended the Castle; when the said Owen Glyndwr and his party, in revenge at not being able to gain possession, burned Ievan ap Meredith's two houses, Cefn y Fann, and Kesail gyfarch. Captain Swanly, a Parliamentarian Officer, took the Town, in 1644, made 400 prisoners, and got a great quantity of arms, ammunition, and pillage. The royalists afterwards repossessed themselves of the place, - Lord Byron was appointed Governor, - was beseiged by General Mytton, in 1646, and yielded the place on the most honorable terms. In 1648, the General himself, and Colonel Mason, were beseiged in it, by Sir J. Owen, who, hearing that Colonel Carter and Colonel Twisselton were on the march to relieve the place, drew a part of his forces from the siege, in order to attack them on the way; the parties met at Dalar Hir, near Llandegai, Sir John was defeated, and made prisoner; after which, all North Wales submitted to the Parliament.
After this concise History of the Castle, we shall now endeavour to give a short description of the Town, within the walls, and then proceed to the suburbs; the former consists principally of seven street, viz. The High Street, 2. King Street, or Castle Street, 3. Market Street, 4. Red Lion, or Plas-mawr Street, 5. Black Boy Street, 6. Newgate Street, and 7. Church Street; to which may be added, 8. Pen y Deits, or the head or end of the Ditch or moat; 9. Hole in the Wall Street, and 10. Pepper Alley.
The High Street, which is the handsomest, consists principally of Shops and Lodging-houses, and has in its centre, (or rather at the entrance into Market Street) the old Town Hall, and present Market House, already noticed; and at the upper or East end, over the Gateway called Porth mawr, is the present Guild Hall, formerly an Exchequer Office, it was re-built in the year 1767, at the joint expence of Sir William Wynn, and Sir John Wynn, Baronet, as appears by an inscription in front of it; in the interior are handsome Portraits of each, as also of the late Earl of Uxbridge, father of the present Marquis of Anglesey. Here the Member for the Borough is elected; their present Representative is the Hon. Captain Paget. This place is also used as an Assembly Room, where the Michaelmas and other Balls, such as those given by the High Sheriff, during the Assizes, and by Members at elections, are held; and in order to light it up in a handsome manner, the late Lord Uxbridge presented the Corporation with a beautiful glass lustre.
The Corporation consists of a Mayor, who is as such Constable of the Castle; (the appointment is by the King, and continues during pleasure; - the Office is at present held by the Marquis of Anglesey), Deputy-Mayor, appointed by the Mayor; Two Bailiffs and a Recorder, elected annually by the Burgesses; Two Town-Stewards, Two Serjeants at Mace, One Beadle, Four Sidesmen, and Four Constables, elected annually by the Mayor and Bailiffs. These go in procession to St. Mary's Chapel, 29th September, being Michalemas-day, and after service return to the Guild-hall, to elect new Officers for the ensuing year, and admit new Burgesses. There are Borough Courts held here every fortnight, to transact business, and to hear and redress griveances; at the second Court after Michalemas-day, twelve of the Town Burgesses are sworn as a Jury, whose business it is to perambulate the liberties of the Town, to present nuisances and encroachments, as well as to see what repairs are wanted, and to make a Report of the same. At one of these, the present entrance to the Castle was presented for consideration, whether it would not be advisable to place it in repair, but from the opinion of an eminent Barrister, who has been consulted on the occasion, it appears that the Corporation have no authority so to do, the property being vested in the King, as are also the Town Walls.
High Street is terminated on the West by Porth yr aur, on the outside of which is a very pleasant terrace walk, on the shore of the Menai, of which it commands a full view; this and the Bangor road are considered the two fashionable promenades, of the inhabitants. Edmund Griffith, of Penrhyn, lived at Porth yr aur. Sir Rowland Brittayne, Constable of Carnarvon Castle, married Agnes, sister to the above Edmund Griffith; Rowland Griffith, of Carnarvon and Tref Arthen, was son of Sir William Griffith, - This last attended Henry VIII. to France, as Lewis Mon, the Welsh Bard, informs us in one of his Poems. So late as Fifty or Sixty years ago, and for a long time prior to that period, several of the principal families of this and the neighbouring County, had a Town House at Carnarvon, where they generally used to spend the winter, and others resided here constantly; most of these were persons of good incomes, and many of them kept their own carriages, had always a good table, and lived in the good old hospitable style of their ancestors, so that when a gentleman happened to come into the town, if he had any acquaintance with some of these families, he generally went to his friend's house, and not to an Inn. Carnarvon was not at that time become such a commercial place as it is at present. These houses, and indeed every gentleman's residence, was then, and is still distinguished by the name of Plas. The above short introduction was thought necessary in order to notice some of these old Mansions, which have either been taken down, deserted, or converted to other uses: Plass Issa, at one time the property of the Coed Helen Family, and Porth yr aur, belonging to the late Evan Lloyd, of Maes y Porth, Esq. were two old houses of this description, at the lower end of this street, the one taken down, the other in ruins; Plas Bowman, between Church Street and Market Street, was another, and in King's Head Street, there is one still left, Plas Llanwnda, where the proprietor, R. Garnons, Esq. resides for several months in the winter; and with true gentlemanly politeness supports the ancient credit of the House, for munificence and hospitality, and kind attention to the wants of the poor. Quirt is another house in this street, at one time belonging to the Williams's of Quirt, in Anglesey, and of Glan yr afon, in this County, which was made use of several years as an Inn. In this Street also, at the back part of a public house, called Glan yr afon, is an old building, supposed to have been at one time either a Chapel belonging to the garrison, or to some private family. Plas Spicer, in Church Street, is an old house which claims our attention next, once belonging to a family of that name, but which has long since been extinct. Plas Mawr, belonging to William Griffith, Esq. a branch of the Vaenol and Penrhyn families, then resident at Trefarthen, in Anglesey, and Plas Pilston, the present Red Lion, are the two last we shall mention. There is a handsome Monument to the memory of the former at Llanbeblig, which we shall notice when we come to describe that church, over the door are the following initials, W. G. M. G. - in another part, J. G. M. G. date, 1590. With respect to the latter, it is remarkable only on account of its antiquity, and the fate of its original Proprietor, Sir Roger de Puleston, a distinguished favourite of Edward I. He had been appointed Sheriff, and Keeper of the County of Anglesey, in 1284, what office he held here is uncertain; but being directed in 1294, to levy the subsidy for the French war, a Tax the Welsh had never been accustomed to, they took up Arms, and hanged De Pulsedon, and several of his people. This was a signal for a general Insurrection, - Madoc, a Relation of the late Prince Llewelyn, headed the people of this County. Edward marched against them in person, and with great difficulty reduced the country to submit again to his yoke.
In Newgate Street, is the County Gaol, built about 18 or 20 years ago, by Mr. Penson of Wrexham; it was then considered by much too large, but we lament to say that at present it is frequently crowded; adjoining, but fronting Ditch Street, is the County Hall, at the West end of which is the Grand Jury Room, both spacious and commodious. In the former, over the Bench, is the likeness of J. Garnons, Esq. at one time Prothonotary on this circuit; in the latter, that of Hugh Leycester, Esq. our highly respected Chief Justice: a gentleman, who by his upright conduct, inflexible integrity, just and impartial decisions, and deep legal knowledge, has deservedly acquired a very high reputation in his profession; and who by his politeness of manners, and affability of demeanour, has justly endeared himself to the Inhabitants of this part of the Principality, and particularly to the Gentlemen of this County, who wishing to retain among them the resemblance of the person whom they so highly esteem and respect, and with whom they have been in the habit of friendly intercourse for many years, have requested him to sit for his picture, the expence of which was defrayed by voluntary Contributions; from the eagerness to come forward on the occasion, the Subscription was completed in a very short time, besides leaving a handsome surplus in the hands of the committee, who gave £20 of it to the Widows and Orphans of those who perished in the Brig Elizabeth, which was upset and lost early last year, near Carnarvon Bar; the remainder is placed in the Bank, to be appropriated to the first charitable purpose that offers. Adjoining the Grand Jury Room are the Offices of the Prothonotary and Clerk of the Peace, and near to these, outside of the walls, at the extremity of the Quay or Pier, is the Custom-House, a substantial and convenient modern Building.
St. Mary's Chapel, is situated on the North West of the town, adjoining one of the Towers of the Wall: it is represented by most authors, as having originally been build for the use of the Garrison, and to have afterwards been claimed by the Corporation. Some years ago, either the Curate, or the Clerk by his direction, used to go about the town at Easter, to collect Donations and Subscriptions, for performing English Service in this Chapel. It is now generally called the Town Church, and is served by the Vicar of Llanbeblig. It was rebuilt in the year 1812, (with the exception of the old arches) partly by Subscription, assisted by the Corporation, who annually let a number of Pews as their property. The Marquis of Anglesey presented them with an excellent Organ, which is considered a very fine toned Instrument.
The Suburbs, or Town without the Walls, consists of the following Streets: viz. Porth-mawr Street; the Bank or Dock Quay, where there are several good brick houses; Y Pendist, or Turf Square; Crown Street; Bangor Street; Old Boot Street: North Pen yr allt, or Toot-Hill Street; South Pen yr allt, formerly called, Stryd y Pricau Saethu; Pont Bridd, or Bridge Street; Stryt y Llyn, or Pool Street; Treffynon, or Holywell; Tre'r Gof, or Smithfield; Skinners Lane; Y Maes Glas, or Green; and the Green Gate Street.
Carnarvon is greatly improved, and considerably enlarged within these last thirty years: - at the entrance from Bangor, the Uxbridge Arms Hotel, a large, handsome, and commodious Inn, was built by the late Lord Uxbridge, which is kept by Mr. George Bettiss, and where the Traveller will meet with every attention and civility, and will find the accommodations excellent, and the charges reasonable. - Within the same period was erected that handsome row of houses called the Green, terminated on the East side by the Goat Inn, built by Thomas Jones, Esq, of Bryntirion, who is the proprietor thereof; here also the Stranger will meet with every attention, and where the accommodations are good, and the charges moderate. In front of these houses there was a high bank, some years ago, which, besides intercepting the view, was very inconvenient to ascend and descend, particularly at the time of Fairs, which are held here; this was removed about four years ago, partly by Subscription, but chiefly at the expence of the Parish and Corporation, who employed the Poor during those dear Times, in removing the earth, and wheeling it down to improve the Quay, which also was erected about eighteen years ago, and has lately been extended, and rendered more spacious and convenient, so that it now affords every facility and accommodation to Vessels loading and unloading. The Slate Quarries, (as has before been observed) are the chief sources of the Wealth and Commerce of this County; and in these, thousands of the Inhabitants, are constantly employed; and scores, if not hundreds of Waggons and Carts are engaged in bringing down the prodcuctions of the Quarries to this Town, where they are shipped to various parts of the World. The average annual Amount of Exports from the Port of Carnarvon, is at present, about £50,000, but there is every reason to suppose, that, were Rail-roads formed from the several Slate Quarries in the neighbourhood, the Export Trade would be very much increased; as then a supply of Slates might always be secured on the Quays; whereas now, form the uncertainty of such supply, and the consequent delay, proprietors and masters of Vessels are unwilling to expose themselves to the risque of incurring a heavy expence, in waiting their turn to load; this operates more particularly on large Vessels, their expences being heavy, in proportion to their size; and it is certain, that many Americans and other Foreigners, are deterred by these circumstances from coming to this Port for Slate.
The long desired Light on Bardsey Island, the establishment of which is now decided on, and which it is intended by the Corporation of Trinity House, shall be exhibited in the ensuing Autumn, is likely to prove of incalculable benefit; not only to the Coasting Trade of this and the neighbouring Ports, but to Trade in general.
Steam Packets might be established between Carnarvon and Dublin. At times when the tide might not answer for landing at the Town, on account of the difficulty of passing the Bar, they would always find a safe and commodious landing place at Llanddwyn Point, about seven miles distant from Carnarvon; with the capability of a good Carriage Road to the Town being made, at a small expence. The late improvements at Llanddwyn, have rendered it particularly eligible for the above purpose, the Trustees of Carnarvon Harbour having erected a Breakwater, and Beacon, for the safety and comfort of Navigators. The distance from Carnarvon to Capel Curig, through the beautiful and romantic Pass of Llanberis, is eighteen miles; from Holyhead, by Bangor Ferry forty-two miles; The traveller would therefore save twenty-four miles, by adopting the former line.
This town is capable of much improvement, as a place of resort for strangers, particularly in the Summer season; at which period, it is even now visited by many, but from the want of sufficient comfortable accommodation, and other conveniences to induce them to remain, a weekly, nay almost a daily change is observable, in a continued succession of visitors. Were comfortable Lodging Houses erected, with Baths attached, (which might be done with much ease) and the shore cleared, at certain convenient points, with public Machines and Attendants, there is little doubt of this delightfully situated Town, becoming in a short time a favourite Watering Place, and consequently, improving rapidly.
Edward I. bestowed on Carnarvon its first Royal Charter, and made it a free Borough: among other privileges, none of the Burgesses could be convicted of any crime committed between the Rivers Conway and Dyfi, unless by a Jury of their own Townsmen. The representatives of the place is elected by its Burgesses, and those of Conway, Pwllheli, and Crickaeth; the right of voting is in every one, resident, or non-resident, admitted to their Freedom. Bondsmen in former times, living in the Town a year and a day, and paying scot and lot, gained their liberty, and in those days Jews were not permitted to reside here. The first member was John Puleston; and the second time it sent representatives, (which was 1st Edward VI) it chose Robert Puleston, and the County elected John, as if both Town and County determined to make reparation to the family, for the cruelty practised on their ancestor. It gives the title of Marquis to James Brydges, Lord Chandos; and that of Earl, to Henry Herbert, Baron Portchester, who was created a Baron Oct. 17, 1780, and advanced to the Earldom June 29, 1793. Leland, who travelled through this County, in the time of Henry VIII. makes the following observation, with regard to the situation of Carnarvon, in his Itinerary, "Cadnant brook, rising three miles off, cometh through the Town Bridge of Caernarvon, and goeth by itself into the Menai arm, so that Caernarvon standeth betwixt two Rivers, both coming into the said straits of the Menai."
In this Parish there are 700 Houses assessed for Poor's Rate, 517 of which are in the Town; adding to these the number of families excused from poverty, and those who receive parochial Relief, it may reasonably be inferred, that the Population of Carnarvon is about 6000, exclusive of Mariners. There needs no other observation on the salubrity of the air, than the following extract from the Report of the Select Vestry of Carnarvon, in 1819:- "Among those who receive Parochial Relief, are 19, aged from 80 to 90 years; 28, from 70 to 80; 42, from 60 to 70; and 39 from 50 to 60.
In the Town are the following Dissenting Chapels, a Presbyterian Chapel in Bangor Street, - the Calvinist's at Pen yr allt, - the Wesleyans in Smithfield, or Tre'r gof, and the Baptists' at Treffynon. There are five Fairs held annually at Carnarvon, viz. March 12th, May 16th, August 12th, September 20, and December 5.
The following beutiful Stanzas, appeared in the North Wales Gazette, November 27, 1812, signed JUNIUS, which may not be thought out of place here; they were written by Mr. B. Brocas, at that time residing in this Town:
Are thy sainted Bards no more?
Once it breath'd a sweeter number
Than e'er sigh'd round Scylla's shore.
Where are now those magic wonders?
Which its touch could once inspire?
Where thy Minstrels' martial thunders,
Glanc'd from hands and lips of fire.
Are thy Glories sunk for ever,
Are they set to rise no more?
Must we henceforth hail them never,
On this muse-deserted shore?
Yes! prophetic Science hear's me,
Thus bewail her ancient seat,
Lifts her spoil crown'd head, and cheers me,
Echoing thus the cry of fate:-
"Thy bless'd shade, O Taliesin!
"Waft on soft Elysian gales,
"To impart thy heav'n-taught lesson,
"To some favour'd child of Wales.
"Let thy Spirit hover o'er him,
"Strike him with thy hallow'd fire:
"Prostrate nations shall adore him,
"Deck'd with Thy immortal lyre.
"Thus shall Cambria once more flourish,
"High, as e'er in times of yore;
"And her sacred soil, still nourish
"Heav'n born bards for evermore."
We cannot quit this place without informing the stranger, (if he be not already aware of the circumstance) that a Society has been lately established here, as well as in the other Divisions of the Principality, which has been denominated the "Cymmrodorion Society in Gwynedd;" and whose object is the preservation of Ancient British Literature, - Poetical, Historical, Antiquarian, Sacred, and Moral, and the encouragement of National Music. The term Cymmrodorion has been adopted, (as specified by the Members of the Committee in Powys) more particularly out of respect to an ancient Society of that name, established in London, 1751, under the Patronage of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. An Eisteddfod, or Congress of Bards, was held at Carmarthen, July 8, 1819, under the sanction of Lord Dynevor, and the Bishop of St. David's; and another at Wrexham, September 13, 1820, under the Patronage of Sir W. W. Wynne. A similar Meeting is to take place at Carnarvon, sometime in the course of the ensuing Autumn, when our greatly esteemed and highly respected Lord Lieutenant, Viscount Warren Bulkeley, it is hoped will preside. Several Meetings have already been held, a Committee formed, and regulations made in order to promote its success, and ensure a full attendance.
Old Segontium occupies the summit of a hill, about a quarter of a mile to the South East of the present Town, and is intersected by the road leading to Bethgelert; its ancient British name was Caer Sallawg:3 it is about 150 yards in length, and 100 wide; some remains of the Roman Walls are still visible, (now covered with Ivy) particularly near the South East corner. Some years back there appeared the remnant of a building, made with tiles, and plaistered with very hard and smooth mortar; this is supposed to have been part of a Hypocaust. The mortar in all other parts is very hard, and mixed with much gravel, and sand. This ancient Station forms an oblong of very considerable extent, seemingly from four to six Acres. Camden suspects that this might have been the Setantiorum, Porlus of Ptolemy being willing to read it Segontiorum, but the situation of the former is certainly at the mouth of the Ribble. He is most probably right, in supposing it to have been, in after times, named Caer Cwstenin, or the Castle of Constantine; and that Hugh Lupus, who certainly invaded Anglesey, in 1098, had here a temporary post. Mathew of Westminster asserts, (but upon what authority is not mentioned) that Constantius, father of Constantine, was interred here, and that Edward caused the body to be taken up, and honourably reburied in the Church, (probably of St. Publicius) Mr. Rowlands in his history of Anglesey says, that Helen, the supposed mother of this reputed Saint had a Chapel4 here, which, he tells us, was in being in his days. Near the steep Bank of the Seiont, about one hundred yards from the end of Pool Street, and divided by the road leading to Clynnog and Pwllheli, are the ruins of a Roman Fort, connected, no doubt, with Old Segontium, and intended, as it is conjectured, to protect the landing from the river. - On two sides the walls are pretty entire, one is seventy-four yards long, the other sixty-four; height ten feet eight inches, thickness six feet. A great part of the facing is taken away, which discovers the peculiarity of the Roman masonry; it consists of regular courses, the others have the stones disposed in zigzag fashion. Along the walls are three parallel lines of round holes, not three inches in diameter (nicely plaistered within) which pass through the whole thickness. There are other similar holes, which are discovered in the end of the Wall, and some to run through it lengthways. There was various conjectures respecting the use for which these were intended, the most probable is, that they were for the purpose of holding the scaffolding, which were supported, it is likely, by cylindrical iron bars, and when taken out, the air was admitted to harden the mortar, which was poured into the work in a liquid state. Near one corner, some years ago, the foundation of a round Tower was discovered; it was paved, and in it were found the horn of a deer, and skeletons of some lesser animals. There were similar ruins on the opposite shore, and within these few years, in scouring the channel of the river, large pieces of a curious old foot Bridge were discovered, supposed to have been Roman. - A gold coin, of about seventeen shillings weight, was found here, inscribed T. DIVI AVG FIL AVGVSTVS. And a small one, of mixed metal, with a head, and the following legend on one side: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR. P. XXII. on the other a female figure, leading a small animal with her right hand, and holding a spear in her left, and the following letters, SALVTI AVG COS IIII. And a stone with the following Letters, continued for many years, in a wall near the road, about the centre of Segontium, and which has lately disappeared, S V C supposed by some to mean, Segontium urbs Constantine. Cadwallon, one of the Princes of Wales, about A. D. 620, (on account of Anglesey being infested by the Irish and Pictish Rovers) removed the British Court from Aberffraw, where it had been placed about 200 years before, by Caswallon law hir, to Segontium. The Roman road from Segontium to Dinorwig, and thence to Cornovium, was visible on a part of Rhos Bodrual, till within these few years, when that part of the Common was cultivated.
The Mother or Parish Church of Carnarvon, called Llanbeblig, is situated about one hundred yards beyond, or to the East of old Segontium, and according to our Historians, is dedicated to St. Publicius, Son of Macsen Wledig, (Maximus the Tyrant) and his Wife Helen, Daughter of Endef, Duke of Cornwal. - It is said that he retired from the World, and took a religious habit. Richard II. bestowed this Church, and the Chapel at Carnarvon, on the Nuns of St. Mary's, in Chester, in consideration of their poverty; and in the recital of another Charter of the same Prince, it is mentioned that his Grandfather, Edward III. had bestowed on those Religious, the Advowson of Llangathen, in Carmarthenshire; both which on the Dissolution, were annexed to the See of Chester, and remain to this day, under the Patronage of the Bishop of that Diocese. In a recess to the North of the Communion Table, is an elegant Altar Tomb, with the following inscription: "Here lieth the body of William Griffith, Esq. the Son of Sir William Griffith, Knight, who died Nov. 28, 1587, and Margaret his Wife, Daughter of John Wynne ap Meredith, Esq. who built this Tomb, 1593."5 - Their figures are in white Marble, lying on a mat, admirably carved; he is in armour, she has on a short quilled ruff, and ruffles at her wrists, in a long gown, and a sash around her waist, And in the Churchyard, some years ago, was the following, which it may be useful to preserve, as it is very probable that a house in this neighbourhood, Cae Bold, took its name from this family:- "Here lyeth the body of Ellin Bold, Daughter of William Bold, Esq. and Wife to John Ransheraf, of Breton, Gent. who died 1st day of April, 1663." And near it the following: "Here lyeth interred the body of John Smyth, of Carnarvon, the elder, who died the 23rd day of May, A. D. 1645." In the late Mr. Foxwist's pew, in the said Church, on a brass plate, is the following inscription;
Ricardus Foxwist, hic pede tritus adest,
Annus Christi tutus fuit M. D: luce patrici
Dum tenet expirans, vulnera quinque tua;
Corporis atque tui, tandem pars,aditur alt'ra,
Dum conjux uno, clauditur in tumulo,
Haecque Johanna fuit, ac Spicer nata Johanne;
Pauperibus larga, justa, pudica; fuit.
1 Caer, the fortified Town; yn Arvon, in the District of Arfon, one of the Hundreds of this County, so called from its situation, opposite Mona, or Anglesey, which is the signification of the word, viz. Ar, upon; Mona, Anglesey.
2 The writer is aware that a very different account is given of the origin of this motto, viz. that these were the arms of the King of Bohemia, killed by the Black Prince.
3 Carnarvon, does not owe its name to Edward I. as is generally supposed; for Giraldus Cambrensis mentions it in his memorable journey with the Archbishop, in 1188; and Llywelyn the Great dates from it a Charter, in the year 1221: probably the Caernarvon of those times was the ancient Segontium; whose name the Welch had changed to Caer-ar-Fon.
4 A Well near the old Fort, now called Hen Waliau, bears the name of that Princess, and some very slight remains of Ruins, point out the probable situation of this old Building, not far from the banks of the Seiont, to the right of the road leading to Pont Saint.
5 The above William Griffith, of Carnarvon and Tref-arthen, was descended by the Mother's side, (as Mr. Rowlands informs us) from the Pilston's of this Town, and his Grand Daughter, Margaret, conveyed this property to Griffith Jones, of Castellmarch, in Lleyn; and his Daughter Margaret marrying Sir Wiliam Williams, of Vaenol, Baronet, that gentleman consequently became possessed of it.
Rev. P. B. Williams A. B. - The Tourist's Guide Through the County of Caernarvon, Containing a Short Sketch of its History, Antiquities, &c. - J. Hulme, Bookbinder & Publisher, Turf Square, Caernavon. 1821.