Major Towns of Radnorshire

Knighton

700 years ago Knighton was the scene of one of Owain Glyndwr's most famous victories against English invaders. Now it warmly welcomes tourists from all over Europe and beyond to this attractive and interesting border town.

Knighton is steeped in history with sloping winding streets and half timbered houses. It's a good place to stay, whether you are striding the length of Offa's Dyke or exploring the beautiful and fascinating Teme Valley in more leisurely style. On each Thursday and Friday livestock comes to market and there are lively fairs celebrated in May and Autumn. Antiques and gifts, old inns with character, good food and places to stay.

Knighton occupies a unique position; part of the town is in Wales, and part in England. This gives it a unique character - to many residents it is neither English nor Welsh, just simply Knighton.

Offa's Dyke Heritage centre - Offa's Dyke Footpath wends for miles along the famous earthworks marking the boundary between England and Wales. Stretching from the Severn Estuary to the North West coast, this marvel of primitive engineering runs through Knighton, the only town on its entire length. Visit the Offa's Dyke Heritage centre here and you will learn much of the history of the ancient border.

The Narrows are sharply climbing streets lined with interesting buildings. Most date from the 17th century but others are older. Behind the 300 year old fašade of the "Old House" for example stood a cruck built open hall which could have survived since the town was founded in Norman times. Now The Narrows is the place to shop for antiques, crafts and gifts - and an unhurried drink to absorb the atmosphere of times long past. The nearby Horse and Jockey is a stone house of medieval origin.

The Powys Observatory offers a unique and fascinating opportunity to see life around Knighton and the sky above. Not only are visitors able to see a planetarium show but the observatory's main instrument a 13 inch diameter refracting telescope permits live viewing of the moon and distant galaxies. A weather station collects data direct from satellites and there is also a seismological station. The Camera Obscura observes wildlife and the surrounding countryside and transmits its images to viewers in a darkened circular room.

Knighton is well served for pubs and restaurants. Swimming, tennis, bowls and other sporting activities are available at Knighton leisure centre. High quality golf, clay pigeon shooting, game and coarse fishing are also accessible nearby.

 


Llandrindod Wells

Croeso i Landrindod

 

Llandrindod Wells, its Waters and its History

As its name implies, the history of the town is linked with the health giving waters which it has to offer. It is therefore surprising to find that, although the beneficial effects of taking the waters were known to the Romans, the development of the town did not take place until the mid 19th century with the coming of the railway.
It then grew at an astonishing rate, as the taking of the waters became a fashionable part of Victorian Life. However when tracing the history of our town and the surrounding area, the Roman occupation of Britain provided the first evidence of spa waters in the area.

The best known Roman settlement in the area was situated at Castell Collen, just outside Llandrindod Wells. Today it is an important archaeological site. As already mentioned, the health giving benefits of the many types of waters coming from local springs were already known to the Romans but it was not until the end of the seventeenth century that the saline springs were mentioned in local reports from the area, although no development of note followed.

At that time the town of Llandrindod Wells did not exist and the area comprised just a few scattered farming communities, the Llanerch Inn and two 13th century churches, both of which still see regular worship. The one is the former parish church, which is almost 1,000 feet above sea level and overlooks the present town and the other, Cefnllys Church, just over a mile from Llandrindod Wells in a beautiful and remote beauty spot known locally as Shaky Bridge.

In 1749, a gentleman called Mr. Grosvenor, an astute and far-sighted entrepreneur, bought and extended a few local houses to encourage visitors and, more speculatively, built a large hotel overlooking the present lake and just below the parish church mentioned earlier. With rooms for several hundred guests it offered a wide range of facilities for visitors, including hairdressers, milliners, glovers etc.
For entertainment there was billiards racing and rooms to cater for balls and assemblies.

And of course, the local spring waters could be sampled, encouraged by a work on the beneficial effects of taking the waters', which had been prepared by Dr. Wessel Linden in 1756. This enterprise was open for about forty years but during this time acquired a somewhat dubious reputation and the building fell into disrepair and closed some time after 1787.
The site of the hotel is now occupied by the Hall Farm, nestling beneath the Old Parish Church.

The area then reverted to its former anonymous state until the coming of the Central Wales Railway in 1865. The railway made the area much more accessible and coincided with the Victorian fashion for taking the waters.
The town began to grow, only slowly at first but speculators soon saw the potential offered by good rail access, a bountiful supply of building land and the profusion of medicinal waters.

In 1880 Radnorshire County Council established its offices in the town and the phenomenal growth of the town was now well under way.
Hotels, apartments, new treatment centres, two pavilions, a golf course, bowling and putting greens and a 14 acre boating lake were all built within a few years to cater for as many as 80,000 visitors a year.

These visitors, who represented in the main the gentility from all over the land, brought their own entourage of servants, further swelling the numbers in the town. Local papers listed week by week the names of visitors resident in Llandrindod Wells, reflecting the importance not only of being there but of being seen to be there. The growth of the town continued unabated into the early twentieth century, with the railway at one stage running through trains to destinations as far apart as London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.

However, the outbreak of the First World War saw a drastic reduction in the numbers of visitors and the area was slow to recover after the cessation of hostilities. Also the depression, followed by the growth of seaside holidays, which were becoming more readily available to the ordinary working people, saw the decline continue. The Second World War heralded what appeared to be a terminal decline in the popularity of visiting the town and taking the waters.

Fortunately, Llandrindod Wells saw an opportunity to consolidate its role as an administrative Centre, and established a light industrial base in the town. Increased housing to encourage new businesses, and a good range of shopping facilities, enabled the town to grow at a steady and sustainable rate.

Recent years have seen a welcome increase in visitors holidaying in the town, and Llandrindod Wells boasts a variety of accommodation to suit all tastes and pockets, including large, well-appointed hotels, licensed guest houses, bed and breakfast, farmhouse accommodation, caravan and camping facilities.

There are many regular attractions to cater for visitors, the best known of which are Drama Festival Week at the beginning of May each year, and the Victorian Festival at the end of August. The Royal Welsh Show, the largest agricultural show in the U.K., is held in July each year at Llanelwedd, six miles south of Llandrindod Wells and is an extremely popular family venue.

As to the future for Llandrindod Wells, there are plans to develop the former Rock Park Spa and provide up-to-date treatment as a Hydrotherapy Centre. This will make full use of the beneficial effects to be obtained from the local mineral waters. Improvements in the Rock Park plus the new 'Heritage Trail', mean that Llandrindod Wells can look forward to the 21st century with a sense of excitement and optimism.


Llanelwedd

1840

The image below is based on the tithe map for Llanelwedd parish around 1840 for the Church authorities. At that time everyone had to pay a tithe or tax to the church based on how much property they owned. The more a person owed the more they had to pay. The maps were designed to record who owned what, and they give us a lot of information about the community at the time.

map of Llanelwedd in 1840

The first thing to notice is the turnpike road coming down the valley from Rhayader. At the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign the road follows the river and comes close to the bridge over to Builth. This area across the river from the town was to become a busy area but at this time there is only Gro House standing alone.

The hamlet of Llanelwedd itself is very small consisting of no more than the church, a scatter of cottages, and the tollgates across the main roads to Llandrindod and New Radnor. (To find out more about the tollgates visit the Transport pages)

Llanelwedd Hall stands alone in its own grounds, the home of a local landowner who would have been an important man in 1840. Today the area around the Hall is the site of the Royal Welsh Showground.

Compare with Llanelwedd in 1888


New Radnor

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New Radnor is a village in mid Wales. It was the original county town of Radnorshire. The population is around 400.

The village lies by the Radnor Forest, and is often said to have been built to replace Old Radnor. Attractions in the town include a castle motte.

The Radnor valley football club is a thriving local team; a notable player being Gareth Pugh of Kinnerton, who has provided years of faithful service to the valley boys.

New Radnor used to be a shire town and had its own court back in the 1500's. The old town hall is still in the village today. It used to have its own market which included livestock, held once a week , although this is no longer the case.

New Radnor has two pubs, a post office, hairdresser, chapel, war memorial and primary school. Some years ago it narrowly missed out on the award for best village in Wales.

New Radnor's main source of income and jobs are from agriculture and farming.


Presteigne

The border town of Presteigne 
Presteigne, the former county town of Radnorshire, lies on the southern bank of the River Lugg.
Just across the old Lugg Bridge is the English county of Herefordshire. The ancient earthworks of Offa's Dyke, dating from the 8th century, lie just three miles to the west of the town.

Fire and plague
Major events in the history of Presteigne include disastrous plague epidemics in the 16th and 17th centuries, and a great fire of 1681 which destroyed much of the town. Presteigne was chosen as the location for the Great Sessions in 1541, which were broadly similar to the English Assizes, and it later became the venue for the Quarter Sessions, Canons Lane, Presteignewhich dealt with lesser crimes.

The past preserved
Presteigne is still remarkably unspoiled, and many of its historic buildings, like the old house pictured here, are little changed.
More information on different aspects of the events which created the town of today will be found on these pages. Please select from the choices given on the menu page.

 

 


 

Rhayader

The busy and historic market town of Rhayader or Rhaeadr Gwy which is Welsh for 'waterfall on the Wye' is surrounded on all sides by the finest scenery.

Rhayader town dates back to the 5th century, although there is evidence of earlier Bronze age and Roman settlements.

In 1178 a castle was built by Prince Rhys Gryffd to resist the Normans and Flemish. It was put under siege and destroyed by fire in 1231 as a result of attacks from soldiers from North Wales. Today only the mound remains, overlooking the river Wye.

In the 18th and 19th century, sheep and cattle drovers traversed the Cambrian mountains destined for English market towns of Banbury, Hereford and London. Also passing through Aberystwyth was the famous coach road from Aberystwyth to London.

In 1840 the tollgates were attacked by men dressed as women - the Rebecca Riots - a protest against the high tolls imposed by the absentee English Landlords.



 


Dramatic wooded valleys with swift mountain streams and waterfalls give way to heather topped hills and open moorland; ancient oak woods rich in bird and wildlife, and the magnificent dams and reservoirs of the Elan and Claerwen valleys, draining into the beautiful river Wye where salmon, trout and otter can be seen.

Red Kites abound in the skies above, and you can see these wondrous birds close up during daily feedings at Gigrin farm.

The variety of the countryside makes Rhayader an ideal centre to explore by bike. It offers a range of accommodation from a caravan and campsite, inexpensive bed and breakfasts and self-catering cottage to Country House Hotels. The town's numerous friendly pubs, cafes and restaurants provide plenty of good food and drink