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Harlech, Merionethshire

Historical Description

Harlech, an ancient town in Llandanwg parish, Merionethshire, about half a mile from the coast, 3 miles from the mouth of the river Artro, and 10 N by W of Bannouth. It was formerly the county town of Merioneth, though now not much more than a village. It has a station on the Cambrian railway, a post, money order, and telegraph office (R.S.O.), and possesses good hotels and some modern houses. Markets are held on Saturdays. The church of St Tanwg is a modern structure built in 1814. There are Baptist, Wesleyan, and Calvinistic Methodist chapels. The famous castle of Harlech, belonging to the Crown, stands on the brink of a precipice overlooking the sea, and ranks in general interest with the castles of Carnarvon, Conway, and Beau-maris, but is inferior to them except in situation, A fortress on its site called Twr Bronwen was built in the ancient British tunes by Bronwen, the sister of King Bran, and the present castle was built in the time of Edward I. after designs by Henry de Elfreton, the architect of Carnarvon Castle. The seaward side was sufficiently defended by the cliff's of the precipice, but the landward side is protected by a deep and very wide fosse, and the principal gateway there was approached by a drawbridge, and is flanked by two lofty towers and defended by three portcullises, while the towers of the bastions are machicolated, and formerly had turrets. The fortress is quadrangular, about 210 feet each way, with a round tower at each corner; the chief apartments form a fine elevation of three storeys on the entrance side of the inner court, the banqueting-hall is on the opposite side overlooking the precipice, and remains of a chapel are on the right of the court. The castle was taken in 1404 by Owen Glendower, was retaken in 1408 by Prince Henry, was the retreat of Margaret of Anjou after the battle of Northampton, was held against Edward IV. from 1459 to 1468 by Davydd-ap-Ifan, was reduced in the last of these years after great devastation by the Herberts, was in the possession of alternately the royalists and the parliamentarians during the civil wars of Charles I., and was finally invested and dismantled in 1647 by General Mytton. The view from the castle is very fine, embracing Snowdonia and the Lleyn peninsula. The siege of 1468 gave rise to the celebrated Welsh air of the " March of the Men of Harlech."

The Morfa, signifying " sea brink," is a level tract of verdant, well-drained land, from which the sea has receded, lying between the railway and the beach. It is protected by sand dunes, a peculiar feature of the coast configuration hereabouts, which assume fantastic shapes and considerable height. The golf links are situated on the Morfa and sand dunes. A golden torque, about 4 feet long, highly polished and twisted, was found in a garden near Harlech in 1692, and is now in Lord Mostyn's collection of Welsh antiquities at Mostyn Hall. Several Roman coins and other relics also have been found in the neighbourhood; and three cromlechs-and Druidical circles, together with other ancient remains,. and with spots of interesting scenery, are not far off, all on. or near an ancient Roman road to Trawsfynydd.

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

Land and Property

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


Newspapers and Periodicals

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