Kerry (Ceri) - From 'A Topographical Dictionary of Wales' (1849)
KERRY (CERI), a parish, in the poor-law union of Newtown and Llanidloes, Upper division of the hundred of Montgomery, county of Montgomery, North Wales, 3 miles (E. by S.) from Newtown; containing 2104 inhabitants, of whom 1254 are in the Lower, and 850 in the Upper division. The name is of doubtful etymology. Some deduce it from Ceri, the "mountain ash," with which the district is thought formerly to have abounded. Others consider it to be a corruption of Caerau, "fortified places," there being remains of this kind in the parish and its vicinity, which, in consequence of being situated near the English border, were the scene of frequent contests: but this is evidently erroneous, inasmuch as the place is called by the same name so early as the sixth century, long prior to the construction of those numerous defences which border warfare rendered necessary. The late Rev. Mr. Jenkins, an ingenious antiquary, and vicar of the parish for many years, was of opinion that the place derived its name from some chieftain, or petty prince, of remote antiquity, whose patrimony it was; a practice which prevailed to a considerable extent in the early ages of the Britons. He further supposed that the chieftain might have been Ceri Hîr Lyngwyn, grandfather of the valiant Caractacus.
In ancient times Kerry, or Ceri, comprehended a district containing the parishes of Kerry and Moughtrey, the church being then called Llanvihangel yn Ngheri, "the church of St. Michael in Kerry;" and formed a comot in the province of Ferregs, co-extensive with what is now the Upper division of the hundred. The first event of moment mentioned with relation to it is, that it was the scene of a determined, but bloodless, struggle between the celebrated Giraldus Cambrensis, Archdeacon of Brecknock, and Adam, Bishop of St. Asaph, regarding the right to the church, which, although it had for some time been considered as belonging to the diocese of St. David's, was claimed by that prelate, who forthwith raised a strong body of men from Powys, to assist, if necessary, in enforcing his claim. Giraldus, on being apprised of this, despatched messengers to two chieftains of this country, Einon Clyd and Cadwallon, requesting military aid in asserting the rights of the church of St. David's, determining to anticipate the bishop's design. Having arrived at Kerry, he entered the church, and ordering the bells to be rung, in token of possession, celebrated mass. Meanwhile messengers having been sent hither by the bishop, announcing his approach to dedicate the church, the archdeacon commissioned some of his clergy, attended by the dean of the district, to inform him, that if he came as a friend, he would be kindly received; but if not, he urged him to advance no further. The latter, however, desisted not from his purpose, and was met by the archdeacon and his clergy at the entrance to the churchyard, where a contention arose, each party asserting their respective right to the church. The bishop, putting on his mitre, and taking his pastoral staff in his hand, approached with his attendants, on which also the opposite party, dressed in their surplices and sacerdotal robes, with lighted tapers and elevated crucifix, came forth in processional order; and each began to excommunicate the other; but the archdeacon ordering the bells to be rung three times, in confirmation of his sentence, the bishop and his party mounted horse, and hastily rode off, amid the shouts and pelting of the crowd which so unusual an occurrence had caused to assemble.
According to Matthew Paris, Henry III., having led an army to the relief of the castle of Montgomery, which the Welsh were then besieging, and compelled them to abandon their enterprise, advanced further into their country, and was opposed by Llewelyn ab Iorwerth, at a place corruptly called Cridia, in the Vale of Kerry. After employing much time in cutting down a large wood, which had frequently protected the Welsh from previous aggressions of the English forces, he took and demolished a castellated mansion situated in the centre of it, and thereby deprived them of one of their most important posts. The position of the place being highly favourable, he then, with the advice of his minister, Hubert de Burgh, commenced the erection of a castle upon the site of the former edifice; but, during the progress of the work, he was so harassed by the Welsh, who intercepted his convoys, and cut off his foraging parties, that, after three months' labour and considerable expense, he was obliged to abandon his design, and agree to a truce. The conditions were, that he should raze to the ground the works which he had constructed, since called "Hubert's Folly," and that the Welsh prince should pay 3000 marks for the materials, and agree to do homage for the lordship of Kerry. In one of the rencontres which took place at that time, Wm. de Breos, lord of Brecknock, was made prisoner by the Welsh.
This large parish, which contains nineteen townships, is situated in the southern part of the shire, and is bounded on the north by the parishes of Newtown and Llanmerewig, on the south by Radnorshire and Salop, on the east by Churchstoke, and on the west by Moughtrey. It is about thirteen miles in length, and from three to five in breadth, and comprises 21,420 acres, of which about 4000 acres are arable, 5000 pasture, 4000 meadow, 6920 sheep pasture, and 1500 wood and plantations; about 12,000 acres are old inclosed land, and the rest are mountainous and lately allotted as sheep-walks to different farms, under an act passed in 1797. The surface is diversified and interesting, consisting of valleys, hills, and mountains, and having a good background formed by the hill of Corndon in Shropshire. Above the village are the two narrow picturesque vales of the Mule and the Miheli, and below are the vale of the Mule, after its junction with the Miheli, and that of Ceibutrach, environed on both sides by ridges of hills, of which those on one side are lofty and extensive, and afford pasturage in summer to from 12,000 to 15,000 head of sheep. The scenery is much and deservedly admired, and an excursion of four miles and a half from Abermule, on the Welshpool road to the village of Kerry, cannot fail to charm the traveller by the variety and beauty of the prospects. In the time of the later princes of Wales the district was covered with almost impenetrable woods, and in the reign of Henry VIII. Leland describes it as a forest without deer; but it has since been nearly stripped of its sylvan clothing, though extensive plantations have been formed, which, in the course of a few years, will contribute greatly to the embellishment of the scenery of the Vale, the soil being highly favourable to the growth of trees. The system of agriculture has been much improved of late years throughout the district. The soil is of an argillaceous nature, and the chief dependence of the farmer is grain, cattle, and sheep. About five or six men are usually employed in three flagstone quarries, and three or four in two building-stone quarries; there are four water grist-mills, a sawing-mill, and a bone-mill. The parish contains the villages of Kerry, Llwynycowrid, Sarn, Bahaillon, and Pentre. The first of these has a very neat appearance, and contains 219 inhabitants; it stands on the road from Newtown to Bishop's-Castle, and the new line of road between Builth and Newtown, which connects North and South Wales, passes through the west end of the parish. The chief mansions are Dôlevorgan, Black Hall, Brynllywarch, Forest, and Snowfield House, the last of which is a modern building in the early English style of architecture. Petty-sessions for the Upper division of the hundred were formerly held at the village, on the last Friday in every month.
The living is a vicarage, rated in the king's books at £17. 8. 4.; net income, £330, with a glebe-house; patron and appropriator, the Bishop of St. David's. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, and stated by Giraldus Cambrensis to have been rebuilt in 1176, is now principally in the later style of English architecture, with some modern alterations. It consists of two aisles, separated by eight Norman arches supported on columns and octangular pillars, and has a massive square tower at the west end, surmounted by a wooden belfry. The edifice is eighty-nine feet eight inches in length and forty-six feet four inches in breadth, and contains 607 sittings. The font, which is octagonal and very ancient, is adorned in each department with devices emblematical of the Crucifixion. A monumental tablet has been erected to the memory of Giraldus; and on the north side of the window in the south aisle is a handsome monument, erected at an expense of £525, to the late Richard Jones, Esq., a native of Black Hall, and the benevolent founder of the Black Hall Institution, in the parish: it consists of a white marble bust of the founder, on one side of which is a boy writing, and on the other a girl reading, resting on a pedestal of variegated marble. Neat marble tablets have also been put up to the memory of the Rev. Mr. Jenkins, the Rev. Mr. Davies, Miss Herbert, and others. The churchyard is kept in a state of unusual order and neatness, a circumstance which induced Mr. Hulbert, the historian of Shrewsbury, to say, that "whoever visits Newtown, or its neighbourhood, should not omit to visit Kerry; its churchyard, which may very properly be designated 'the garden of graves,' exhibiting among the tombs the snowdrop, the primrose, the polyanthus, the pink, and the gilliflower, mingling with sweet-scented and small evergreen shrubs, and displaying charms not to be realized among the tombs of departed greatness." A chapel of ease formerly stood in the township of Gwernygo, but no remains of the building can now be traced. There are places of worship for Baptists and Independents.
The Black Hall Institution was founded in 1787, by the above-named Mr. Jones, who had been a purser in the royal navy, to be "free and open to all Christians, Jews, Turks, and Infidels, that will attend for instruction, that they may hear and learn, and fear the Lord, the great Jehovah." At his decease he bequeathed to trustees funded property consisting of £1000 in the three per cent. Consolidated Bank Annuities, £1050 four per cent. ditto, and £1000 five per cent. Bank Annuities (the last of which has been advanced on mortgage to the commissioners of the first district of roads in Montgomeryshire), directing the interest to be applied in feeding, clothing, and educating poor children of the parish, and apprenticing poor boys; the charity to be called by the above-mentioned name. He also bequeathed £700 three per cent. Consolidated Bank Annuities to the same trustees, for the support of a Sunday school, established also in 1787, to be called the Kerry Charity Sunday School on the Black Hall Institution. The income of the charity, including some former bequests, amounts to about £150 per annum, of which £93 are paid to the master, who himself pays the mistress; the remainder of the income is expended in providing the children with food and clothing. The school-house, a large brick building, stands near the church, and has been repaired and improved at different times, partly by subscription, and partly from the funds of the charity. The other contributors to education in the parish were, John Jones, who in 1718 granted £5 for books; the Rev. Richard Lloyd and James Lloyd, who in 1741 made a gift of similar sums, the interest secured on the Dole Howell estate; Evan Humphries, who also assigned a rent-charge; Evan Williams, who in 1720 gave £10, and Matthew Edwards, in 1723, £20, both sums secured on the tolls of the first district of Montgomeryshire roads; and William Pugh, who in 1823 presented a donation of £100; besides which there is an annual payment of £5 from the rectorial tithes. Divers bequests, including one of £300, in 1839, by Mrs. C. Careless, daughter of a former vicar of the parish, have also been made at different times for the benefit of the poor; the produce of which, amounting annually to upwards of £30, is distributed by the vicar and churchwardens agreeably to the intentions of the donors.
On the hills, and in other parts of the parish, are numerous intrenchments, fortifications, and barrows, evincing this neighbourhood to have frequently been the arena of military contentions, unrecorded in history. In the garden of the parsonage house, in the township of Trêvlan, is a high mound of earth encompassed by a moat, supposed, from its unfinished state, to be the work attempted to be erected by Henry III.