Llanwrtyd Wells, smallest town in Britain lies on the River Irfon. It is surrounded by the most beautiful, spectacular scenery in the shape of rolling hills and rugged mountains, forests and open pastures, gentle valleys with streams, lakes and waterfalls, a true beauty to behold. It is rich in flora and fauna, and red kites and buzzards can regularly be seen in the sky. It is a popular place to stay and partake in many activities including pony trekking, mountain biking, fishing, rallying and hill walking.
It is famous for being associated with Screaming Lord Sutch, who performed his last gig in Llanwrtyd before his death in 1999, and its Green Events, like Man v Horse Marathon, Real Ale Wobble, Saturnalia, Drovers Walks, Bog Snorkelling, etc, etc (see the link to Green Events for more information). Visitors come from all over the UK and abroad to be involved in some of these crazy events. The Gourmet Food Festival of Fine Food and Drink was held over the first weekend in April for 10 years between 2001 and 2010, and attracted numerous visitors a day from far and wide. There are homely guest houses and hotels to stay in, and many lovely places to eat with excellent food to suit all pockets; it even has its own microbrewery. It is a small town with a big heart, and you can be assured of a warm welcome when you visit.
Until 1732 Llanwrtyd was a small village built around the area of the 11th century Church of St David, or Llanddewi wrth y rhyd, (St Davids by the ford), nestling amidst the beautiful Cambrian Mountains and Mynydd Epynt in the secret heart of Wales. Droving played an essential role in the Welsh way of life, and the Welsh Woollen Industry and droving reached their peak during the 18th and 19th centuries. Drovers would take their sheep cattle and geese across the mountains to the markets of Wales and England. People from the town and surrounding areas were employed in one way or another in the Woollen Industry, and the Cambrian Woollen Mill can be seen on the outskirts of the town.
Local preacher, Theophilus Evans, discovered the healing waters of a spring in the grounds of Dol y Coed House quite by accident. Theophilus had some very serious health problems, and noticed a frog jumping in and out of the smelly water without any adverse effects, he thought he would try it too, so he bathed in and drank the waters for several weeks and amazingly was cured. As this wonderful discovery was publicised, people were attracted to the area to take the waters, and it soon became known as the place to be if you wanted to become and stay fit and healthy. Dol y Coed House became a guest house and then a hotel to cope with the huge influx of visitors to the wells. The springs were sulphur and chalybeate, and were called Ffynnon Ddrewllyd or the Stinking Wells by local people.
Richard Fenton wrote about the area in one of his books written around 1804, and mentioned the nearby hamlet of Pont Rhyd y Fferau, translated as Bridge Over the Fetlock (or Ankle) Deep Ford with its rickety wooden bridge over the River Irfon, this was of course what we now know as Llanwrtyd Wells. The bridge was notorious for being unsafe, and had been repaired on many occasions. At that time the hamlet consisted of just a handful of houses with clay walls and roofs made of straw and rushes. The stone bridge we see today was built in 1853, and the New Inn (now known as Carlton Riverside) was built around the same time.
To add to the wells at Dol y Coed, local landowner Major Penry Lloyd discovered springs on his land too, and the Victoria Wells were opened in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Much later, in 1922, Henfron Wells were opened, however these destroyed by fire around 1950. Around 1814 the Sugar Loaf road was built, and Llanwrtyd and Llanwrtyd Wells soon became the main stagecoach route between Llandrindod Wells and Swansea on what we now know as the A483.
In the 1860's the railway line was built, and today the very picturesque Heart of Wales Railway Line now runs through the town joining Shrewsbury in England with Swansea in South Wales. This railway line at its peak had up to eighteen trains a day, and brought visitors in huge numbers to Llanwrtyd Wells. The town grew, and up to the Second World War the area was famous for being a spa and holiday centre. The oldest hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells is the Belle Vue which was built in 1843, followed by part of the Neuadd Arms, which was at that time known as Castell Nancy, its completion being in 1867. Houses and churches of all denominations sprung up to provide accommodation for the many visitors and provide for their religious needs.
The Abernant Lake Hotel was built in 1903, and this had its own well sunk to tap the waters. This hotel was bought and refurbished in May 2007, and is now an Adventure Centre. The visitors themselves formed entertainment committees, organising nightly concerts in the Victoria Wells Pavilion, a weekly eisteddfod, and other concerts in local guest houses on Friday evenings. They ensured there was plenty for the visitors to do during their stay, tennis, golf, croquet and horse riding being popular pastimes, plus attending prayer meetings, strolling through the lovely countryside and rowing on the lake. The development of the National Health Service changed things completely meaning that far fewer people came to use the health spas.
The onset of the Second World War changed things even more, when following the Declaration of War with Germany on September 3rd 1939, the people of Llanwrtyd Wells welcomed the pupils of Bromsgrove School in Worcestershire and their younger brothers into their community and their hearts. These boys, some as young as six years old, including a very young Michael Heseltine, were separated from their families due to the outbreak of war, and were evacuated into the safety of this tiny Mid Wales town. Bromsgrove School was requisitioned by the War Office, and with the bombing of major towns and cities throughout Great Britain; it was thought the children would be safer in a more rural area. The boys from this 400-year-old senior school were housed and taught in the Abernant Lake Hotel, and because their parents were gravely concerned for the safety of their younger sons, at their request Bromsgrove Junior School was born. The Junior School opened in September 1940 at Llanwrtyd Hall, and other premises used as classrooms included Ardwyn House, Lasswade Country House Hotel, the Granary Warehouse behind the Bakery and the Sulphur Water Spring at Dol y Coed. The children remained in Llanwrtyd Wells until 1944. The town continues to have strong associations with the school, and in October 2007 Bromsgrove School were given the Freedom of the Town (see the album of photographs in that name).
During this time the Czechoslovak Government in Exile were establishing primary and secondary schools for refugee children in the UK, and a group of these children were also evacuated to Llanwrtyd Wells where their schooling continued at the Abernant Lake Hotel. Lessons were given in their own language, and it became the first free Czech school. There have been several reunions, and the evacuees were given the Freedom of the Town in 1985. In return for this, the Czech people very generously presented the town council with the pendant for the Mayoral Chain of Office, because up to that time the town council didn't have one. Llanwrtyd Wells is now twinned with Mériel, in the Val-d'Oise Départment of France, and Česky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.
The town and surrounding area has several claims to fame, some of which are; On December 11th 1282, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd or Llywelyn Ein Llyw Olaf (Llywelyn Our Last Leader) was killed by an English lancer. He was regarded as being one of the last leaders of a unified Wales, and it is thought his demise took place in or near the village of Cilmeri, where there is a roadside memorial to him. Around 1402 Rhys Cethyn, Lieutenant to Owain Glyndwr hid in a cave in the Allt Wineu hillside going out past Dol y Coed. There he was able to keep watch for the troops of King Henry lV of England. The cave is well known and is called Twll Rhys Cethyn or Ogof Cethyn.
John Penry, the famous Welsh Martyr was born and raised in Llangammarch in 1563. He was concerned about the lack of preaching ministers in Wales, and wanted the Bible translated into Welsh. He began to take action on this, however, when this became known to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he was imprisoned. He escaped and lived in Scotland for a while, but on his return to London he was captured and hanged in 1569.
William Williams was curate to Llanwrtyd and Abergwesyn around 1740. He was expelled from the church and became leader of the Methodist Revival in Wales. He was one of the most famous hymns writers of his era, and wrote the words to Guide me O Thou great Jehovah perhaps better known as Cwm Rhondda.
It was in one of the shops in Llanwrtyd Wells -Britannia - that the famous rugby (and nonsense) song, Sosban Fach was penned in 1895 by two visitors to the town Talog Williams and the Rev D M Davies. I hope this has given you a feel for the area we live in, and that you will come and visit us to indulge yourself in this lovely peaceful area, you will be made very welcome and we hope to see you very soon.