Talgarth Town Hall
|Brecon & Radnorshire|
Talgarth is a small market town in Brecknockshire, with a population of around 2,000 people.
Notable buildings in the town include its 14th-century parish church and 13th century pele tower, located in the town centre, now home to the Tourist Information & Resource Centre. According to traditional accounts, Talgarth was the capital of the early mediæval Welsh Kingdom of Brycheiniog.
In August, the Talgarth Festival of the Black Mountains is held, a popular event attracting thousands of people each year. The town also has a Christmas lights display each year, organised by Talgarth Town Council and a team of volunteers.
Talgarth held important links with healthcare for many years as the home of the large psychiatric hospital, the Mid Wales Hospital and the Mid and West Wales College of Nursing and Midwifery. The town was prosperous until the 1980s, when changes in health legislation resulted in the closure of the hospitals. The Mid Wales closed for good in the 1990s with the loss of hundreds of jobs. Since then the town has suffered socially and economically and as a result lost businesses and shops and confidence among residents, similar to the effects of the mining towns of the valleys of South Wales.
The town, however, is in the early stages of a regeneration with a review to restoring its popularity. The Talgarth Relief Road and Bronllys bypass were completed in 2007 to take passers-by away from the town. The existing derelict Mill in the centre of the town is being renovated to make space for a community and tourism hub, intended to be powered by the water wheel. The mediaeval Tower Bridge has been renovated after damage by many years of heavy traffic.
The church of Talgarth in 1488 was dedicated to Sce Wenne Virginis, explained as Gwen, granddaughter of the legendary Brychan founder of Brycheiniog, who was said to have been murdered by Saxons.
The Name of the Town
The town's name appears as Talgar c. 1163-74, Talgard c.100, 1204-14, Talgarth' c1100, kwmwd talgarth c.1566, Talgarth Ughporthe 1569, Talgarth hewchporth 1541-3, English Talgarthe 1575, Englysshe Talgarth 1331. Inglisshe Talgarth' 1520
The name derives from Welsh: tal is "forehead" or "brow of a hill" and garth a mountain ridge or promontory.
Neolithic remains in the area tell of occupation possibly since 5000 BC. Large numbers of chambered long cairns are found, including the oldest known in southern Britain. Megalithic standing stones, round cairns and the Iron Age hill fort at Castell Dinas show that there was a large settlement here.
The Romans reached this area and there was a Roman camp at "Y Gaer" near Pendre, less than a mile from Talgarth.
The Dark Ages
Talgarth was the royal residence of Brychan King of Brycheiniog in the 5th century AD. With three wives, 24 daughters and 22 sons the family was an important force in Wales at that time. Responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout Brecknock, the daughters of Brychan and their descendants account for almost all of the Saints of South Wales and include the grandmother of Saint David. According to legend, they also evangelised north Cornwall.
According to legend, Talgarth was raided by King Gwynllyw in search of a bride. St. Gwendoline is believed to have bathed in the pool at Pwll-y-Wrach waterfall and is buried at the site of the present church, in Talgarth. This site was a monastery in the 5th century, the church established in the 11th century.
The town was seized by the Norman Bernard of Neufmarché at some time before 1088 in which year a charter was made concerning the district. The first Norman castle was raised at Castell Dinas to control the passes on both sides.
The town was in the manor of English Talgarth, there being also a manor of Welsh Talgarth, in which Welsh laws prevailed.
The Methodist Revival
In 1735 Talgarth saw the beginning of the Welsh Methodist revival, when Howell Harris, probably the most influential person to come from Talgarth, was converted in Talgarth church while listening to a sermon by the Rev Pryce Davies.
The Revival would sweep across Wales leading to the development of one of the most influential Welsh denominations, that of the Calvinistic Methodists. It was at Talgarth that William Williams Pantycelyn converted, leading him to become one of Wales's most important hymn writers. Nearby is Trevecca, the location of the famous college that Harris established.
Around and about the town
- Talgarth's Victorian Town Hall with its memorial clock tower overlooks the Square.
- The Mediæval Tower House, also overlooking the Square.
- The Tower Hotel was built in 1873 for the gentleman farmers to attend the livestock market, which still exists.
- St. Gwendoline's Church. (Saint Wenna, born ca. 463, was a princess and a daughter of Brychan who founded the church of Talgarth and then evangelised parts of north Cornwall. She founded the church of St Wenn and chapels at St Kew and Cheristowe (in Stoke-by-Hartland, Devon). She died on 18 October, year unknown. Saint Gwendoline is a saint from the 8th century.)
- Bronllys Castle nearby.
Penywyrlod chambered tombs
A neolithic chambered tomb at Penywyrlod, Talgarth (c. 4000 BC) was discovered in June 1972 by a farmer when clearing a stone mound from a field for use as hard-standing in the farmyard. The discovery led to archaeological excavation of the site by Dr. Savory of the National Museum of Wales. During the excavation a number of human remains were found along with a bone flute, a human rib and some worked flints and stone.
The flute was made from a sheep metapodial bone. It has three holes and may either have been a simple flute or whistle. The larger hole may have been the blow-hole. This is the oldest dated musical instrument found from Wales.
Ancient woodland along the banks of the River Ennig less than a mile from the town centre has are a series of waterfalls within the wood. The largest is called Pwll-y-wrach, which means 'Witches Pool' where local legend says witches were ducked in this pool in mediæval times. A geology trail explains the environment of 400 million years ago. A large part of Pwllwrach wood is a nature reserve, owned and managed by the Brecknock Wildlife Trust.
Pwll-y-wrach wood is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its special habitat values and the existence of some quite rare plants, including the small leaved Lime tree and the lesser butterfly-orchid. These are regarded as indicator plants of Ancient Woodland. That is an area that has retained a continuous cover of trees for thousands of years. In spring the wood is carpeted with a succession of wildflowers leading to a mass display of bluebells in mid-spring followed by ransoms in late spring.
Animals found in the wood include tawny owls, badgers, foxes and otters, with some uncommon birds such as dippers and pied flycatchers. The wood is also home to the most important colony of dormice in the region and some uncommon bats, including the lesser horseshoe bat.
- * Williams, Roger (1996). Talgarth-Jewel of the Black Mountains.
- Richard Morgan and R.F. Peter Powell, A Study of Breconshire Place-Names,(Llanwrt: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 1999). p.140.
- Castell Bwlch y Dinas - Paul Martin Remfry's Castle Tours and History
- "Image of the Bone Flute from Penywyrlod". Item reference: 74.23H/6. http://www.gtj.org.uk/en/item1/8630. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- * Morgan, Richard (1999). A study of Breconshire Place Names.
- Morgan, Richard (1999). A study of Breconshire Place Names. ISBN 0-86381-567-7.
- Remfry, Paul (2007). Castell Bwlch y Dinas and the families of Neufmarché, Hereford, Braose, Fitz Herbert, Mortimer and Talbot. ISBN 1-89937-679-8.
- Salter, Mike (2001). The Castles of Mid Wales. ISBN 1-871731-48-8.
- Williams, Roger (1996). Talgarth-Jewel of the Black Mountains. ISBN 1-874538-60-3.
- Stone Age Finds at Talgarth
- Prehistoric Funerary and Ritual Monuments in Brecknock
- Image of Bone Flute found at Penywyrlod, Talgarth
- Correspondence regarding the usage of the Bone Flute
- Talgarth Festival Site
- Talgarth and District Historical Society
- Photos of Talgarth and surrounding area on geograph