Rhyd-y-gors or Rhydygors has been associated with two historic sites near the market town of Carmarthen in Southwest Wales. The first was the Norman Rhyd-y-gors Castle and the other was Rhyd-y-gors Mansion, home of the Edwardes family.
Rhyd-y-gors Castle was constructed on the order of King William II 1087-1100, known as Rufus, by the Norman invader William Fitz Baldwin, Sheriff of Devon, in the late 11th century (1093 -1094). It was situated on a bluff overlooking the River Towy, about one mile South of Carmarthen. The castle was located on the East bank of the Towy, at a place where there was an ancient ford in the river. The word Rhyd-y-gors in Welsh means “Ford of the Marsh”. The castle is thought to have been a timber structure surrounded by earthworks, but all trace of it is now gone.
At his untimely death in 1099, King Llywelyn ap Cadwgan was an under-King of William II. Llywelyn issued the only known coins of a Welsh ruler. At King William's mint at Rhyd-y-gors, he struck coins bearing the legend, 'Llywelyn ap Cadwgan, Rex'.
Rhyd-y-gors Castle was an important centre for the Norman invasion and subsequent control of Southwest Wales. William Fitz Baldwin held the castle until his death in 1096, at which point it was abandoned. William’s brother Richard re-established the castle in 1106, and it remained an important focal point until Henry I 1068–1135 built the more permanent Carmarthen Castle by 1109. It seems Rhyd-y-gors Castle had outlived its purpose and slowly crumbled. In the late 19th century, the line of the Great Western Railway was constructed through the site, and any remains were obliterated.
In AD 75, a Roman fort was established at Carmarthen, it evolved into the Roman settlement of Moridunum. It was the tribal capital of the Demetae, the Celtic tribe that inhabited the area. Various archaeological artefacts have been uncovered locally, and can be seen in the County Museum.
A perfectly preserved bronze coating from an ancient British shield, constructed to imitate the shields of the Romans, was found in the marsh at Rhyd-y-gors. The shield would originally have been made of wicker, with the decorative bronze plating attached to the front. This shield is slightly more than two feet in diameter and is decorated with concentric circles and many small brass knobs. It became part of the extensive collection of arms and armour acquired by Samuel Rush Meyrick 1783-1848, known as the Meyrick Collection. Following Meyricks' death, the collection was dispersed, and the shield is now displayed in the British Museum.
The second use of the name Rhyd-y-gors refers to the now demolished Gentry house, Rhyd-y-gors Mansion, located on the opposite side of the river to the site of the castle. The house was positioned near a bend, above the bank of the Towy, near the ancient crossing that Rhyd-y-gors derives its name from. The first family to have inhabited the site were named Winter, and are believed to have arrived during the reign of William II, and were part of the train of forces headquartered at Carmarthen Castle.
Progression of Ownership
As the medieval period drew to an end, a new house was built at the site and passed to a Welshman, Meredith Lewis Meredith, upon his marriage to Joan, daughter and heiress of Morgan Winter. Meredith and Joan lived at Rhyd-y-gors and bore an only daughter, Mary, who married John ap Ieuan before 1500. The eldest son of this union was Edward ap John. As was becoming common in Tudor times, Edward ap John adopted his Christian name as their patronymic, and their surname became Edwards or Edwardes . Edward ap John bore a son David Edwardes, who became an Alderman of Carmarthen, Town Bailiff in 1570, and Mayor in 1606.
During the period 1779 - 1785, Admiral David Edwardes Esq, of Rhyd-y-gors, let the house to the Carmarthen Presbyterian College, under the rule of Revd. Robert Gentleman, who had 28 pupils in his care.
Following the death of Captain David John Browne Edwardes (30th Regiment) in 1876, his wife Elizabeth Caroline (Betha) Edwardes Nee Warlow 1833-1931, (great niece of Sir Thomas Picton), and their children David John William (Willie) Edwardes 1864-1936 and John Picton Arthur (Picton) Edwardes 1865-1937 moved to their other estate, St Regulus, near Southampton, in Hampshire, and the property was tenanted once again.
In October 1878, the Court of Quarter Sessions ordered that the Committee of Lunacy be authorised to rent Rhyd-y-gors Mansion for three years at a rent not exceeding £100 and rates and taxes. In 1890, Lord Emlyn gave notice that he would ask the Court’s sanction to be given to the Joint Counties Lunatic Asylum for taking Rhyd-y-gors for 21 years, at £100 per annun.
In 1911, Rhyd-y-gors was finally sold. This was the first time the estate had changed ownership, other than by inheritance, in recorded history. The house was occupied by various tenants, including housing Belgian refugees during World War I. It was then occupied until about 1960, after which it became ruinous and was finally demolished in 1971 by the commercial firm who owned the estate, and had built a creamery on the front portion of the land. In 2003, all that remained was a large stone wall, which originally encircled the garden, and a stone cottage, which would have acted as a gatehouse to the main residence.
The creamery has since been demolished, and part of the grounds of the estate are now covered by Amex Park, a 4.45 hectare commercial business park, accessed from Llansteffan Road, Johnstown. The name lives on with the Rhyd-y-gors Special School and Rhyd-y-gors House, in Amex Park.
Architecture and construction of Rhyd-y-gors
Rhyd-y-gors Mansion was a tall imposing house of roughcast stone, coloured red. The house was of three storeys, each with a range of five windows, and an attic storey with three dormer windows in the roof. On each gable end were massive chimneys. A South wing was added in the 17th century.
The plain façade gave little hint of the excellent carpentry within. The large panelled hall, wide stairs and a huge doorcase, similar to the entrance door of the Great House at Laugharne, were of excellent quality. Some inventive 19th century work had been undertaken, particularly an archway of beehive outline and gothic door, both with a hint of India.
Two stone gargoyles from the site are located in the Carmarthen Museum, at Abergwili.
The Edwardes Family of Rhyd-y-gors
The Edwardes family has produced numerous notable contributors to Carmarthenshire history and have held high office in both town and county, including Mayors on four occasions, Town Sheriffs on six occasions and once in 1754, High Sheriff of the county. They have also consistently contributed officers to the British army, and on occasion to the Royal Navy. The Edwardes family held the tradition for many generations of naming their first-born son David, this tradition causes certain confusion when tracing the family genealogy.
David Edwardes Esq, was mayor in 1651, Town Sheriff in 1640 and died 1664. His brother Thomas Edwardes, a scholar, became Senior Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge and left property to his college in his will, proved in 1684. The previous David Edwardes' son, also David Edwardes, was Borough Sheriff in 1680 and is credited with bringing order and system to Welsh genealogy, and was largely responsible for the manuscripts known as the Golden Grove Books. He was a noted Actuary, and in 1684 was appointed Deputy Herald of Clarenceux King-of-Arms, and he compiled a large collection of pedigrees and coats-of-arms, many of which are still preserved in the College of Arms. He died in 1690, and left realty in Trelach and Llanwinio to his uncle's Cambridge college. Rhyd-y-gors passed to his cousin Captain John Edwardes, who was the grandfather of Admiral David Edwardes RN 1716-1785.
In 1754, Admiral David Edwardes RN, held the office of High Sheriff of Carmarthen. Admiral Edwardes and his wife Anne, are interred in Cowbridge Church, Glamorgan, and a plaque also commemorates them in St Mary’s church, Llanllwch. Admiral Edwardes' youngest son, the Revd. John Edwardes, married Margaret Willis of Gileston Manor, near Cowbridge, and by inheritance, Revd. Edwardes inherited Gileston Manor from his wife's father, the Revd. William Willis A.M.. The Revd. John Edwardes had a daughter Elizabeth, who married Judge John Johnes 1800-1876, of the Dolaucothy Estate, Carmarthenshire. Judge Johnes was infamously murdered at Dolaucothy, by his butler, on 19 August 1876, using his masters shotgun.
Another Captain David John Edwardes (Royal Horse Artillery) 1787-1866, grandson of Admiral Edwardes, served in the Peninsula War and was present at the Battle of Waterloo, he is credited with nearly capturing Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, after the battle. Joseph escaped, but Captain Edwardes souvenired his cape and a set of razors, which are still held by descendants of the family. Captain David Edwardes served in the Royal Horse Artillery with Captain Henry Forster (1789-1855) of Southend, Kent. Following their return to England after the Battle of Waterloo, David Edwardes married Henrys’ sister Caroline Forster. Henry Forster went on to marry Elizabeth Fitzgibbon and his grandson become Henry William Forster (First and Last Baron Forster, Governor-General of Australia).
Captain David John Edwardes had a brother, Captain Henry Lewis Edwardes J.P. (62nd Regiment) 1788-1866, who also served in the Napoleonic wars, but is mainly credited as the person who brought home from India, the recipe for the condiment which became known as Worcester Sauce, this is a fact in dispute though, as the introduction of Worcester Sauce is also credited to Lord Marcus Sandys. Captain Henry Lewis Edwardes changed his name to Henry Lewis Edwardes Gwynne in 1805, upon being left the Glanlery estate by his godfather, an heirless bachelor, Lewis Gwynne of Monachty, Cardigan. Captain Henry Lewis Edwardes Gwynne went on to become High Sheriff of Cardigan in 1832. He is occasionally referred to as Edward Gwynne in some texts, due to confusion over his name change. In 1849, he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Carmarthen. and he died on August 3, 1866, aged 78 years, and was interred in the family vault at Llanllwch.
Captain Frederick Augustus Edwardes (50th Regiment) 1829-1878, pictured at left, was the youngest son of Captain David John Edwardes 1787-1866, and he married Charlotte Maria Philipps 1834-1924, of Cwmgwili, Abergwili. Upon retirement from the army, he farmed an estate at Ffrwd, inherited from Charlotte Maria Picton (née Edwardes). He later separated from his wife, and attempted to make his fortune in the United States. It is unclear what he did there, but he returned to Wales on January 23, 1878 and died of Peritonitus at Fishguard, soon after disembarking the ship, and before he had the opportunity to see his wife. His wife Charlotte lived out her later life (1907-1923) at No.1, The Queens House, Wimbledon, a grace and favour house, provided by her long-time friend Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII.
Captain David John Browne Edwardes 1819-1876, was Chief Constable of the Carmarthen Borough Police in 1870-1875. His sons were the final Edwardes of the male line, David John William (Willie) Edwardes 1864-1936 and John Picton Arthur (Picton) Edwardes 1865-1937, who lived at their estate, St Regulus, near Southampton, following their move from Ryyd-y-gors in 1876. It was they who sold Rhyd-y-gors in 1911. Willie Edwardes was a big-game hunter and sportsman, and died at Luxor, Egypt. His brother Picton was a successful merchant banker, and died at St Regulus. Both were bachelors who died without issue, and left their estate to their niece, Gladys Hemery Beckett (nee Linden), wife of Captain W.N.T. Beckett R.N. 1893-1941. They also left £200000 to charity.