Ceredigion has always enjoyed a reputation for being radical and farmers, mineworkers and even chapel congregations have battled to assert their rights. Discover sites and their intriguing stories across Ceredigion from mountain moorland to towns and tollgates.
The Esgair Mwyn silver leadmine had remained unworked for several centuries, but soon after his appointment as an agent for the Crown in Ceredigion in 1746, Lewis Morris started mining there and discovered a rich vein of silver and lead. A group of local men and magistrates tried to oust Morris, claiming that he did not have rights to mine there. Morris was held at gunpoint and imprisoned in Cardigan goal until he was released on the King’s order. A detachment of Scots Greys was sent to guard the mine and the Crown held on to it, but even after a hearing in London, no prosecutions were brought against the local protestors. Discover the stories and explore the mine sites of the on walks in the Cambrian Mountains or look out for special events, included work parties and guided visits.
A sympathetic landlord was important for the well being of the people. In 1819, Augustus Brackenbury from Lincolnshire used half his inheritance to purchase common land from the Crown. Local people, fearing that they would lose their grazing and peat cutting rights, rebelled against Brackenbury, attacking the house he built. He then built a moated house with guards, which was also burnt, although remains can still be seen. He built a third house, optimistically calling it 'Cofadail Heddwch' (Peace Monument) after which he was left alone. Read about the conflict in Eirian Jones’ book, ‘The War of the Little Englishman Enclosure Riots on a Lonely Welsh Hillside’ (Lolfa).
A decade after the protest of cottagers and craftsmen against Brackenbury, the Rebecca Riots affected Ceredigion. This was ostensibly a protest against the tollgates on the turnpike roads which made the use of the road expensive. The riots were also about the general economic conditions and the relationship between farmers and landlords and the demand of cash tithes for the church. Men dressed as women ('Rebecca') brought their own form of rough justice to the town and countryside. The tollgates at Lampeter were all destroyed on the night of 1 August 1843 and 'Rebecca and her daughters' then turned their attention to Aberaeron where dragoons were brought in to protect the workhouse.
A later champion of the people against landlordism and supporter of tenant farmers in the tithe war, was Unitarian preacher, William Thomas, better known by his bardic name, Gwilym Marles. His impassioned preaching antagonised the local landlord resulting in confrontation in 1876 when he and his congregation were evicted from the chapel of Llwynrhydowen. Events affected him so badly that he died prematurely at the age of 45. His geat nephew was Dylan Thomas, whose middle name, Marlais, reflects his great uncle’s chosen bardic name, Marles.