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Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire

Historical Description

Aberystwyth, a seaport, municipal borough, market-town, ecclesiastical parish, and watering-place on the coast of Cardiganshire. The town stands on both banks of the river Rheidol, 38 miles NE of Cardigan, and 243 from London by the L. & N.W.R. and 251 by the G.W.R. The part of it on the right bank of the Rheidol might more appropriately be called Aberrheidol; the part of it on the left bank is called Trefechan. The Rheidol is crossed by a fine three-arched bridge, forms a sort of inner harbour, is united there by an artificial channel with the Ystwyth, and then scours the outer harbour to the sea. The town chiefly occupies a gentle eminence, declining all round from the centre, and commands extensive views of sea and coast and mountains. Some of the older streets are uneven and steep, but the newer ones are broad and well made; and the Marine Terrace forms a fine crescent, upwards of half a mile in length, with many handsome houses. Constitution Hill, or Pen Glais, to the north, is about 450 feet high, and commands a fine view of Cardigan Bay, Plinlimmon, Cader Idris, and the Snowdon range. Two heights, at the end of the terrace, are pleasantly laid out in public walks. The remains of a castle, consisting of a gateway and fragments of towers and walls, crown the south-western height, overlooking the sea. The original castle was built in the time of Henry I. by Gilbert de Strongbow, and destroyed by Maelgwyn Gwynedd; and the present castle was built by Edward I. as a means of securing his conquest of Wales, and dismantled by the Parliamentarians after the defeat of Charles I. A private mint was established at the castle from 1638 to 1642, with the king's permission, by Mr. Bushel, the owner of the lead and silver mines in the neighbourhood; and the coins struck here, marked with the Prince of Wales feathers, are valued by collectors. At the south end of the Marine Terrace is the Promenade Pier, about 300 yards long. Between the pier and the castle stands the University College of Wales, an extensive and handsome building, partly Gothic and partly modern. The central portion was originally built by Nash for Sir Robert Price, Bart. Subsequently it was converted, with the addition of two wings, into a hotel, but this proving a failure, it was purchased for the purpose of a college in 1872. In 1885 the north wing was burnt down, but was rebuilt and extensive alterations were made on the rest of the building to adapt it more completely for its present use. The college has received a charter, and has an annual grant from Government of £4000. Until 1861 Aberystwyth was in the parish of Llanbadarn-Fawr. The present parish church of St Michael and All Angels, erected in 1890, stands near the castle grounds, the old church close by being still left standing; St Mary's, in Gray's Inn Road, was built in 1866 from designs by Butterfield; Holy Trinity Church was built in 1883. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St David's. Patron, the Bishop of St David's. There are chapels for Congregationalists, Baptists, Calvinistic Methodists, Wesleyans, and Roman Catholics. The town hall, built in 1854, is a handsome edifice with a tetra-style Ionic portico; it is used for meetings of the town council and borough magistrates, and also for the monthly sessions of the county court. The assembly-rooms, built in 1820, have Grecian features, concert and reading-rooms, and a free library. Other public buildings are the infirmary, police station, market-house, custom-house, public baths, and public slaughter-houses, the clock-tower, the gasworks, and the workhouse. There are a grammar and several other schools.

The town is governed, under a charter granted by Henry IV., by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. The exports include minerals, timber, bark, and corn; and the imports include all kinds of goods from Liverpool, Bristol, and other places. The harbour was much obstructed by a bar, but has been greatly improved by artificial cuttings of the river, by a pier 260 yards long, and other works. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1893 was 98 (16,168 tons). The entries and clearances each average 400 (25,000 tons) per annum. The town has a head post office, a station on the Cambrian and Manchester and Milford. railways, three banks, markets on Monday and Saturday, and a cattle market on the first Monday in every month. Fairs for horses and cattle are held on 10 May and in September. The water supply is excellent, being brought from Llyn Llygad Rheidol, on the summit of Plinlimmon. Two newspapers are published in the town. The Royal Cardiganshire Artillery Militia have their headquarters here. There are iron-foundries and slate works, and some lead and silver lead mines in the neighbourhood. Aberystwyth has a well-deserved popularity as a watering-place. The bathing beaches are excellent, and bathing-machines are plentiful; hot salt-water baths are at hand, recreations in variety are abundant, and the walks and drives in the vicinity are charming. Cornelians, jaspers, agates, and other precious pebbles are often picked up on the beach. Plas-Crug, a ruined castellated edifice, in the environs, on the banks of the Rheidol, is said to have been the residence of Owen Glendower; it is now part of a farmhouse. The reputed grave of the poet Taliesin, who flourished in the sixth century, is 8 miles distant. Amongst other places of interest in the immediate neighbourhood are Llanbadarn, a little over a mile distant, where there is a very fine and ancient church and picturesque village, once forming an episcopal see; Elysian Grove, close by the town; Devil's Bridge, 12 miles distant; Plinlimmon, 16 miles; Monk's Cave, 6 miles; Llyfnant Valley; Strata Florida Abbey; Borth, noted for its sands; and the seats of Gogerddan, Crosswood, Nantcos, and Hafod. Population of borough and parish, 6725.

Abingdon, a municipal borough and market and union town in Berks. It stands on a rich flat plain, at the influx of the Ock to the Thames, at the junction of the Wilts and Berks Canal with the Thames, and at the terminus of a sub-branch railway of 1½ mile from the Oxford branch of the G.W.R., 6 miles by road S of Oxford, and 60½ miles by railway W by N of London. It was called originally Scheovesham, softened into Shovesham. Cissa, king of the West Saxons, built an abbey in the seventh century, after which, says Camden, it began to lay aside its old name and to be called " Abbaddun" or " Abbington"-that is, Abbot's town. Synods were held at it in 74:2 and 822; and the royal courts of Mercia and Wessex made it long a seat of state assemblies. Some foundations of its royal palace can still be traced in a meadow on the E side of the bridge. A manuscript in the Cottonian Library, called " the old book of Abendon," describes it as " in ancient times a famous city, goodly to behold, and full of riches." The town was visited by William the Conqueror, by Henry III., and by Henry VIII. It was garrisoned for Charles I.; made the headquarters of his horse, and the temporary retreat of all his family; and became the scene of sharp struggles and great excesses before he was conquered. A sharp practice of its Parliamentary garrison, of hanging all Irish prisoners without trial, gave rise to the proverb " of Abingdon law." A graceful gateway, in the Perpendicular style, adjoining St Nicholas' Church, and part of a refectory behind, and containing a beautifully decorated window, are the chief remains of the mitred Benedictine abbey of St Mary, which was one of the richest in England. The original abbey, founded in Bagley Wood, in the neighbouring parish of Sunningwell, was totally destroyed in the time of Alfred by the Danes. The subsequent edifice was founded at Abingdon by King Edred, and completed in the reign of King Edgar. The nave was 180 feet long; the choir 65 feet long; tha Lady Chapel, 36 feet long; the transept, 156 feet long; the western tower, 100 feet high.

The town consists of several wide streets diverging from a spacious market-place. It is well lighted, and has an excellent supply of water. It is also well drained, the sewage being utilized in the cultivation of a farm situated some distance S of the town, and belonging to the corporation. The borough received a charter in the year 1555, during the reign of Queen Mary, under which it was governed by a mayor, 2 bailiffs, and 9 aldermen. It has now a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, the corporate body acting also as urban sanitary authority. Population within the municipal limits, 6557. The borough sent one member to Parliament from 1337 until the passing of the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, when the representation was merged in that of the county. It is the head of a petty sessional division and county court district; but the assizes, formerly held here in the summer, were removed to Reading by an Order in Council in 1868.

The chief industry of Abingdon is the manufacture of ready made clothing, the large manufactory of Messrs Clarke affording employment to many hundreds of persons from the town and the surrounding villages. Brewing, malting, milling, and the making of sailcloth and sacking are also carried on. A weekly market for corn and cattle is held on Monday; horse fairs on the first Monday in Lent, May 6, June 20, September 19, and December 11; and on Monday before old Michaelmas Day there is a fair for hiring servants and pleasure. The town is a head post and telegraph office, has two banking offices, several good hotels, and a weekly newspaper. It gives the title of Earl to the family of Bertie, and it numbers among its natives or celebrities Archbishop St Edmund, Archbishop Newcome, Sir John Mason, Sir T. Smith, Abbot the Speaker, Moore who wrote the " Gamester," and W. Stevens the poet.

Among the principal buildings of the town are the County Hall, a curious edifice of ashlar and rough freestone, erected in 1677 from the designs of Inigo Jones; the Grammar School, erected in Albert Park in 1869; the County Chamber, situated on the south side of the abbey gateway; and the Corn Exchange, which stands at the NW angle of the market-place. Christ's Hospital, founded in 1553 by Sir John Mason, is a curious cloistered edifice of brick and timber, with turret and dome; contains an oak hall with pictures and stained glass; shows, at the E end of its cloister, a representation of a famous octagonal market-cross which was destroyed in 1644, and has an income of more than £3000 a year. There are also several other charities and a well endowed grammar school. The bridge across the river is a picturesque structure with six pointed arches, erected in 1416; was regarded, at the time of its erection, as a grand boon to all the surrounding country; and is the subject of some quaint old verses preserved in Christ's Hospital. Prince Albert's cross is an elegant erection of 1864, after designs by Gibbs. It has a quadrangular base, with medallions, a central octagonal shaft, with rich entablature; side columns, with carved capitals supporting heraldic lions; and a surmounting pyramidal pedestal, crowned by a statue of the Prince. In the centre of the market-place there is a white marble statue of the Queen, which was erected in commemoration of Her Majesty's jubilee in 1887.

St Helen's Church occupies the site of an ancient nunnery, and was restored in 1873. It has a nave, three aisles, and a south chapel, and forms altogether a spacious rectangle. The north aisle has rich timber ceilings of the time of Henry VI., and the south aisle was built in 1539. A tower, in the Early English style, rises at the NE corner, and is surmounted by a lofty octagonal spire, in the Perpendicular style, which figures conspicuously for miles. St Nicholas Church was built about the year 1300, on the site of an earlier edifice; and it has a good Norman doorway and a tower; it was thoroughly restored in 1881. The Church of St Michael, erected in 1867 as a chapel of ease to St Helens, is a building of stone, in the Decorated style. There is also a small iron church in the union grounds. The Roman Catholic church, dedicated to St Mary and St Edmund of Canterbury, is an edifice of stone in the Decorated style. There are also Baptist, Congregational, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels, and a place of meeting of the Salvation Army.

The parish of St Helen comprises 3255 acres, and includes the farms of Barton and Pumney, the hamlets of Northcourfc and Cholswell, and the townships of Sandford and Shippon. Population, 6233. The parish of St Nicholas comprises 148 acres; population, 532. The living of St Helens is a vicarage, that of St Nicholas a rectory, in the diocese of Oxford, and the two are conjoined. Patron, the Bishop of Oxford. The vicarages of Drayton, Sandford, and Shippon are separate benefices. The net yearly value of St Helens is s£138 and residence, and that of St Nicholas s£56.

Abingdon Parliamentary Division, or Northern Berkshire, was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 49,082. The division includes the following parishes: Abingdon-Abingdon (St Helen, without the borough), Abingdon (St Nicholas, without the borough), Appleford, Appleton and Eaton, Bagley Wood, Besselsleigh, Chandlings, Cumner, Draycott Moor, Drayton, Frilford, Fyfield, Garford, Grandpoint, Hinksey (North), Hinksey (South), Kingston Bagpuize, Lyford, Marcham, Milton, Radley, Seacourt, Steventon, Sunningwell, Sutton Courtney, Sutton Wick, Tubney, Wootton, Wytham, Wittenham (Long), Wittenham (Little); Faringdon-Ashbury, Baulking, Bonrton, Buck-land, Buscot, Chamey, Coleshill, Compton Beauchamp, Coxwell (Great), Coxwell (Little), Eaton Hastings, Faringdon, Fernham, Hatford, Hinton, Kingston Lisle, Longcott, Longworth, Pusey, Shellingford, Shrivenham, Stanford, Uffington, Watchfield, Woolstone; Wantage-Ardington, Chaddle-worth, Challow (East), Challow (West), Chariton, Childrey, Denchworth, Fawley, Goosey, Grove, Hanney (East), Hanney (West), Harwell, Hendred (East), Hendred (West), Letcomb Bassett, Letcomb Regis, Lockinge (East), Lockinge (West), Sparsholt, Wantage; Wallingford (or Moreton)-Aston Tirrold, Aston Upthorpe, Blewbury, Brightwell, Cholsey, Didcot, Hagbourn (East), Hagbourn (West), Moreton (North) Moreton (South), Moulsford, Sotwell, Upton; Wallingford-All Hallows and Clapcot, St Leonard's, St Mary-the-More, St Peter, Castle Precincts; Wallingford, municipal borough; Abingdon, municipal borough (the part in Berks) , Oxford, municipal borough (the part in Berks).

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyCardiganshire 
County Court districtAberythwyth 
DioceseSt. Davids 
Petty-Sessional DivisionLower Geneu'r-Glyn 
Poor Law unionAberythwyth 
Registration districtAberystwyth1837 - 1936
Registration districtCardiganshire North1936 - 1974
Rural DeaneryLlanbadarn Fawr 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.


The Public Cemetery, 6 acres in extent, is on the road to Llanbadarn, and has an entrance from the road near Llangawsa: it is well laid out, and has two chapels, in the Late Perpendicular style, from designs by Mr. W. Spaull, of Oswestry: the first interment took place on the 4th September, 1860.

Church Records

The parish register of baptisms dates from the year 1788; marriages, 1804; and burials, 1791

The register of Holy Trinity dates from 1886.


Church of England

Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity is an ecclesiastical parish, formed in 1887, the church, erected in 1886, at a cost of £5,700, raised by public subscription and endowed with an annual income of £251, by the late Miss Morice of Carnog, is a building of local stone with Bath stone dressings, in the Perpendicular style, from designs by Messrs Middleton and Son, of Westminster, and at present consists only of nave, transepts, north porch and a central tower containing one bell: the nave roof of oak is of the hammer-beam type so common in Norfolk, but simpler in detail, being enriched with mouldings and some carving: the organ was provided in 1892 at a cost of £400; the handsome carved oak pulpit was presented by Dr. Jacob Roberts, of Aberystwyth, and the brass eagle lectern in 1895 by a member of the congregation: the font is a memorial to the late Miss Jones, of Fron-y-gog: the church plate was the gift at Easter, 1892, of John Watkins esq. of North Parade: there are 600 sittings.

St. Mary, Gray's Inn Lane

St. Mary's, Gray's Inn lane, erected in 1866 as a chapel of ease to the parish church of St. Michael, is a building of native stone, with Bath stone dressings, in the Decorated style, consisting of chancel, nave of five bays, aisles, west porch and a western bell turret containing 2 bells: the organ from the old parish church has been removed here: there are sittings for about 450 persons, of which half are free; the services are in Welsh.

St. Michael and All Angels (parish church)

The late church of St. Michael, which stood near the castle and the sea, was a modern cruciform abructure, in a poor style of Gothic, erected in 1833, but was wholly removed in 1894.

The present church of St. Michael and All Angels, which occupies a site a short distance east of the old building, was erected in 1890, at a cost of over £9,550, including the site, and consecrated 30 Sept. 1890; it is of Yorkshire stone in the Geometric Decorated style, from designs by Messrs. Nicholson and Son, architects, of Hereford, and consists, at present, of chancel, with north chapel, nave of four bays, aisles, organ chamber, vestry, north and south porches and a bell-cote at the east gable of the nave containing one bell: the western walls are temporary only, it being intended to add two more bays to the nave and to erect a north-west tower: the east window is stained, and beneath is an elaborate reredos of fine Ancaster stone, with a carved reproduction in the centre of "The Lord's Supper," after Leonardo da Vinci; both the window and reredos were given in memory of the late Thomas Jones and his wife, of this town, by their daughters; in the chapel is a memorial window to Elizabeth Evans of Waterford, presented by her daughter; there are triple sedilia under arched canopies, and a piscina, and on the north side a credence niche and an aumbry: the church affords 830 sittings, 530 being free.

The adjoining churchyard contains a number of singular memorials consisting of low and narrow brick walls, with gravestones let into them as tablets. The register of baptisms dates from the year 1788; marriages, 1804; and burials, 1791.


Baptist Chapel, Alfred Place

The (English) Baptist chapel, Alfred place, erected in 1871 at a cost of £2,000, is an edifice in the Gothic style, from designs by Mr. Richard Owen, architect, of Liverpool, and affords 450 sittings; there are schools underneath for 350 children.


English Congregational Chapel, Queen's Road

The English Congregational chapel, in Portland street, built at a cost of £2,600, and opened in July, 1866, is an edifice of native stone, with Bath stone dressings, in the Early English and Decorated styles, and has a tower and spire, 80 feet high; in 1880 a lecture room and 6 class rooms for the Sunday school, and a residence for the minister were built, at a cost of £2,300; the chapel will seat 500 persons.


English Wesleyan Chapel, Queen's Road

The (English) Wesleyan chapel, in Queen's road, erected in 1871 at a cost of nearly £3,000, is a building of stone, with Bath stone dressings, in the Early English and Decorated styles; it has tower and spire, and will seat 450 persons.

Salem Calvanistic Methodist Chapel, Portland Street

Salem (Welsh) Calvinistic Methodist chapel, situated at the bottom of Portland street, erected in 1894-5, at a cost of £2,300, is a building of local stone, with Grinshill stone dressings, in the Gothic style, from plans by Mr. T. E. Morgan, architect, of this town, and will seat 450 persons.

St. Paul's Welsh Wesleyan Chapel, Great Darkgate Street

St. Paul's (Welsh) Wesleyan chapel, in Great Darkgate street, built in 1882 at a cost of £5,000, is in the Classic style, and will seat 700 persons.


English Presbyterian Chapel, Bath Street

The (English) Presbyterian chapel, in Bath street, erected in 1871, is a building of stone, faced with Bath stone, and will seat 450 persons.

Roman Catholic

Our Lady of the Angels and St. Winefride, Queen's Road

The Catholic church of Our Lady of the Angels and St. Winefride, in Queen's road, is a building of stone, in the Early English style, erected in 1874 from designs by Mr. George Jones, of this town, and consists of chancel and nave only; the magnificent altar of carved stone was the gift of Mrs. Gillow, of Hampton Park, Hereford: the church has 300 sittings.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Aberystwyth from the following:

Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Cardiganshire is online.

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Cardiganshire is available to browse.


Online maps of Aberystwyth are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers online:

CountySir Ceredigion - Ceredigion
Postal districtSY23