Rosalind Davies' Family History
© Rosalind Davies 2001
Permission granted to reprint research for non-profit use only

Main Wales page | My Family History Menu | Home

Background to Llanidloes in Montgomeryshire, Wales

Description of Llanidloes from 1812 Description of Llanidloes from 1835 Description of Llanidloes of 1843
Brief History of Wales Brief History of Llanidloes Industries in Llanidloes pre 1900

LlanidloesMarketHall Map showing position of Lanidloes in mid Wales This old postcard (left) of the old Market House in the centre of Llanidloes was built around 1600 on the site of an old market cross. It is the only surviving half-timbered market hall of its kind in Wales. In 1807-1908 it was used as the Working Men's Institute then a Library and a meeting place. The structure is wooden post and pan, supported by wooden posts. The south wall is stone and the north wall brick (dated 1763). On the rooftop the cupola houses the curfew bell. In the 18th century, the Quakers held yearly meetings here. John Wesley preached here and at the north-east corner is his 'pulpit stone'. It was outside the Hall that the Chartists held an emergency meeting before their ill-fated riot of 1839.


Descriptions of Llanidloes extracted from Powys Digital History project

An entry from a traveller's guide book "beauties of England and Wales" published in 1812.

The entrance into this town over a long wooden bridge, erected in 1741, that cross the Severn is by no means calculated to prepossess the traveller in favour of the place. The streets, forming right angles, would favour the idea of a Roman origin; but no other indicators have ever been noticed, to corroborate the conjecture. The situation is pleasant and the different areas spacious; yet having very few good homes and the greater number being built of timber frames and the intermediate spaces formed with what is technically denominated, wattle and daub, that is, lathe or stocks, intertwined and the interstices filled up with mud; add together with the irregularity of the position, to give an awkwardness to its appearance, not very inviting to the passing visitant. The width of the streets also, which in most other places is deemed a great advantage, here becomes an abominable nuisance; from the custom the inhabitants have of accumulating their ashes etc in large heaps before their respective doors; the exhalations from which in hot weather must be very offensive to persons, accustomed to the cleanliness of places, where the name and duty of a scavenger are well understood.


14th century building (now a bank) on the corner of China & Great Oak Streets, Llanidloes.


An entry from Pigot and Co's Trade Directory (North Wales) of 1835

Llanidloes is a market town, in the parish and hundred of its name, county of Montgomery; 187 miles NW from London; 60 miles SSW from Chester and 45 miles SW from Shrewsbury; pleasantly situate in a valley, nearly surrounded by mountains and at the confluence of the rivers Severn and Clewwdog. The head of the former noble stream being within the distance of nine miles on the eastern side of the Plynlimnson mountain. Over this river are two handsome stone bridges one of which, the largest, was completed in 1826 at an expense of £3,000. The town consists of two spacious streets through one of which, the high road from Rhayader to Machynlleth passes; and through the other that from Aberystwith to Newtown. The government of the town is vested in a mayor, aldermen, coroner and various other officers who are elected annually at the borough-leet, of which Lord Mostyn is the lord, Sir Watkin Williams Wynn is lord of the manor of Arnstley, which comprises the parish of Llanidloes and six other parishes. He holds a court-baron (the jurisdiction of which is co-extensive with the manor) every three weeks, for the recovery of debts & damages under 16 shillings. Petty sessions are also held on the first Thursday in every month, by such of the magistrates for the country as reside within the hundred. Llanidloes was originally a borough, contributory, with others in the county to the parent borough of Montgomery but was disfranchised about a century ago. It still, however, retained and yet retains various corporate privileges been again enfranchised by the Reform Bill and in conjunction with Montgomery and other places (named under the head of that borough), is now entitled to retain one member to parliament. The number of registered voters is about one hundred. Fifty eyars this was the first town in the county for the manufacture of flannels. This trade is still carried on to a considerable extent and the finest and best of this article is made here. Upon the streams of water are many mills and factories for the carding and spinning of wool and grinding corn and in the neighbourhood are miners of lead, worked to advantage.

The places for divine worship here are the parish church, four chapels for the service of the dissenters and a meeting-house belonging to the Society of Friends. The church is dedicated to St Idloes; the living is a vicarage, in the gift of the Bishops of Bangor and incumbency of the Rev. John Davies. The chapels are very spacious, that of the Calvinist will seat upwards of one thousand persons and the Wesleyan Methodist chapel affords accommodation nearly as extensive. In the vicinity of this town are several handsome residences, the property of opulent individuals; amongst the most distinguished is 'Dollys', the seat of George Meares Esquire, situate about a mile from the town on the road leading to Trefeglwys from which the approach to Llanidloes is highly picturesque. The appearance of the vale with the Severn beautifully winding and the hills by which the prospect is boarded, all are in unison to render this spot highly interesting. The lands about the town and in the vale are fertile and well cultivated, rich in wood and foliage, while the roads around are kept in superior order. There is an excellent market on Saturday for wool, grain and all marketable commodities. The fairs take place on the second Saturday in February, the first Saturday in April, the 11th of May , Saturday before the 24th June, the 17th July, the second Saturday in September, the first Friday in October, the 28th October and the Saturday before the 16th of December- for wool, horses, cattle, sheep and swine. The parish of Llanidloes comprises the townships of Kilmarham, Llanidloes, Llanidloes third division, Manleth, Birthdir, Treflyn and Cross-Al-Inybln containing collectively at the census taken in 1821 3145 inhabitants and by that for 1831 4189. The population of the town, according to information furnished by a resident, amounted in October 1834 to 2525 persons.
POST OFFICE, Long Bridge Street; James Morris- Post Master. Letters from London and other parts East arrive from Newtown by mail car, every evening at seven and are dispatched every morning at five. Letter from Aberystwith, Rhayader, South Wales and the West of England arrive by horse post, every forenoon at eleven and are dispatched every evening at eight.


An entry from A Parliamentary Gazetteer of 1843

Description of the town.
The town is situated in a pleasant vale, watered by the Severn and surrounded nearly on all sides by high hills. It consists of two principal streets, crossing each other at right angles and of several inferior ones. It has undergone considerable improvements of late years. The houses were formally built with timber frames, the intervals being filled up by laths and mud and many were roofed with slabs of oak timber cut into the form of slates. New erections, however, of better construction have superseded the older structures and the town has not only increased in extent but also assumed a more cheerful and agreeable aspect. The town-house occupies a central position. It is a mossy building, erected in the old framework style. In the vicinity of the town are several handsome residences, the property of opulent individuals. Tourists generally commence their route to the steep Plinlimnsen from this place.


Brief History of Wales

In 1284 , King Edward 1 conquered Wales and annexed it to his dominions. He divided it into counties but the old Welsh laws prevailed.

Property had always been divided under an arrangement known as gavelkind i.e. equal division among sons therefore the Welsh placed great emphasis on pedigree and a Welshman could run off several generations of his family history. For example Ievan ap Caradoc ap Griffith ap Gwillam.

From 1542 Wales was united in an administrative union with England and they insisted on a surname system to simplify the paperwork. This is why many of the greatest Welsh families share the same surnames with lesser known families, ap Rhys (son of Rhys) became Price; ap Richard became Pritchard; son of Gwillam became William's and son of David became Davie's.

A Brief History of the Llanidloes Parish area in Wales.

Llanidloes is situated on a small plateau dedicated to an ancient Celtic saint, St Idloes. It is a small market town on the confluence of the Severn and Clywedog Rivers and many of the old Tudor buildings still remain.

Prehistoric remains have been found near Trefeglwys; several Bronze Age burial cairns and standing stones near the dam site ; Iron Age hill forts are scattered around the district with some impressive ones at Llandinam, and Guilsfield and smaller ones at Penyclun farm and at Pen-y-gaer. There was a Roman fort in Llanwnog and Roman roads emanated out of Caersws.

Christianity came to Britain during Roman times but it wasn't until the 6th century that the Celtic west become known as the Age of Saints. Missionaries or holy men established religious settlements in the area and one, Idloes, built a small church on the confluence of the rivers Severn and Clywedog. A small settlement grew up around the church and it was granted its Market Charter in 1280. A Norman castle was built on the site of the old motte and bailey and the town laid out according to the typical Norman plan.

During medieval times, the town was part of the Welsh kingdom of Powys but like the rest of Wales was annexed to England during the reign of Henry V111. Powys was renamed Montgomeryshire and was able to send two representatives to the English Parliament. Llanidloes was controlled by the largest local landowner- the Lloyds of Berthlwyd and later during the 19th century by their successor, Lord Mostyn.

During the 18th century the improvement of roads became an issue and Turnpike roads were built to pay for their upgrading. The county was divided into three districts, Llanidloes being one of them. Toll-gates were erected on roads radiating out of the town and many of these can still be seen today.

Despite the political reforms of 1832, the majority of the adult male population remained without a vote. The Poor Law Act forced the poor into workhouses and despair led to violence around the country. Chartism came to Llanidloes in 1837 in a big way. The Charter demanded universal male suffrage; the ballot; payment of MPs; abolition of property qualifications for MPs; equal constituencies and annual elections. Meetings were held for several years at the old Market Hall (see photographs). One day events got out of hand and violence ensued. Forty-three men were arrested; some got transportation to Botany Bay; most in gaol. The military occupied Llanidloes for a year- Chartism had failed.


Industries in the area.

For centuries cottagers had supplemented their earnings with carding, spinning and weaving wool. In 1562, the industry was monopolised by the Shrewsbury Drapers' Company but it wasn't until 1838 that Llanidloes tradesmen formed their own company to produce flannel. Mills and factories started to spring up around the town.

Tanning had always been a small flourishing family industry in town but in 19th century large tanneries were built, one of which was owned by Thomas and Edward Davies in Short Bridge Street.

Lead mining got under way in the 19th century in the surrounding district, employing many hundreds of men and an iron and brass founder was established, supplying the mines and the newly built railways.

The first railway line in the area was completed in 1859 and was from Newton to Llanidloes. This was to replace the canal system for transporting flannel goods. The large railway station was built in 1864 and branch lines followed.


Llanidloes Parish Church St. Idloes Parish Church.
St. Idloes was an early 7th century saint. Nothing survives of the earliest church on this site. The west tower was built around 1350 then the rest of the church was rebuilt in 1542. The interior was refurbished in 1816 and the two old galleries removed and replaced by a single gallery and the new organ. The magnificent oaken rook was brought from Abbey Cwmhir after the Dissolution of the monasteries. The square tower is of the usual Montgomeryshire type. The bells were a gift from a former vicar, Rev. John David and new bells were presented by Mrs. Norah Sarah Davies in 1969. The church Registers date from 1615 but there are no entries dating from the Commonwealth or Cromwell Period.


by Ros Davies

Main Wales page | My Family History Menu | Home