The steep sides of Nant Awen (or Nant Ceibwr) and its tributaries were mostly cut by the meltwater as the glaciers of the most recent ice age warmed up.
As the ice receded, vegetation, animals, and people weren’t far behind.
And before the ice age? Read >here<.
They are marked on the map as burial chambers, as it was thought that what we see today was the skeleton of a chamber originally covered with a mound of earth. However, archaeologists enjoy disagreements, and there is an alternative theory that these were monuments intended to look as we see them today. Take a look and see what you think.
There are similar structures a short drive away:
By the Iron Age, there was a thriving farming and fishing population in this area. They traded with people along the coast and across the sea to the west.
They also had to defend themselves against marauders.
There are many iron age forts in Pembrokeshire, and quite a few around Moylgrove. The remains of the defensive walls can still be seen – for example the three concentric rings of embankments near Trewidwal. One way to economize on battlements is to build your fort on a promontory – as at Pen-Castell above Ceibwr, and Castell Treruffydd above the Witches’ Cauldron.
You can still visit these people today and see how they lived (without the marauders, but with a pleasant bite to eat) – just down the road at Castell Henllys.
When the nobleman Gerald Cambrensis went on his missionary Journey through Wales in 1188, he doesn’t mention stopping at Moylgrove. But he was a guest for a while at Nevern Castle (across the hill in the next valley) “the chief stronghold in Cemais.”
There he witnessed a fight between family members, finding himself in the middle of a long-running feud. We all know how embarrassing that can be. The father-in-law turned up with his villeins and besieged the castle, handing it over to the brother-in-law; who later lost it to his (most hated) brother. (As is the way of these things, it didn’t stop there. The old man eventually ended up imprisoned in his own dungeon, until another brother turned up to release him and burned the castle to the ground.)
Gerald muttered his excuses and moved on to St Dogmaels Abbey, where he was “lodged very comfortably.” These days the abbey itself is a bit draughty, but the adjacent Coach House provides excellent lunches. The abbey is the venue for an annual midsummer Shakespeare production.
While you’re there, buy some flour from the nearby water mill, and ask the miller to show you the mill in operation.
The old mill in Moylgrove closed in 1926. It was a breast-shot wheel: instead of going over the top, the water turned the wheel the other way.
Nowadays, Nevern Castle is much more peaceful (the quarrelsome FitzMartins moved to Newport). It is well worth a visit. Archaeologists certainly think so.
The most likely origin of the Welsh name Trewyddel seems to be Tre Gwyddel, the Irish town. In the days before good roads, Ireland was very accessible for trade, and there is evidence of Irish people coming to live in Cemaes in Roman times. Inscriptions on some of the Ogham stones in the area are in Irish.
The origin of the name Moylgrove is unclear. The best theory comes from a reference in 1291 to Ecclesia de Grana Matildis: The church of Matilda’s grove.
Matilda enjoyed walking in the woodland at the confluence of several streams. It was land she gave to St Dogmaels Abbey as part of her dowry on her marriage to Robert Fitzmartin, son of the Abbey’s patron, the Lord of Cemaes. The name gradually wore down to Moldegrove and (by the time of Henry VIII) Moilegrove.
You’ll find spellings of Moylgrove both with and without an ‘e’ in the middle, in different maps, signs, and official documents. We like the shorter version – if only because people are more likely to pronounce it properly.
Churches and chapels
St Andrew’s Church is in the Parish of St Dogmaels, where the ruins of the Abbey can be found. The church was described in 1291 as “Ecclesia de Grava Matilda” Since then records show that it has been rebuilt several times, most recently in 1866.
Until tithe payments were finally abolished in 1936, land holders had to pay this tax to the established Church of England (now called the Church in Wales). There was much resentment around this tax, particularly among those who attended the nonconformist chapels.
Bethel Methodist Chapel
Established 1691. The congregation met in private houses until the chapel was built.
Behind the chapel is a hall, the Bethel Vestry, built in 1935. Members of the congregation carried stones, bricks, sand, gravel and trees to the site to assist the builders.
The total amount paid for the Vestry was £1335.14s.5d. There was a fund to raise money and some also borrowed interest free, notably from local businessman George ‘Cook’ Davies.
Tabernacl Baptist Chapel
Built in 1894.
There is a baptistry pool beside the chapel, which can be filled from Nant Awen.
The “Tithe Wars”
The 1880’s saw economic depression setting in. Nonconformists did not agree with paying Tithes to an “alien church”, but the depression caused massive resentment culminating in the Tithe Wars.
Farmers who refused to pay their tithes were subject to enforced sales of their stock to pay their debts.
These sales were obstructed by those who opposed payment in many ways.
Gates to farms would be locked. Large boulders or Hawthorn bushes would block the way to the sale.
The “Tithe Horn” would be sounded by the farmer to summon help from his neighbours to deter the “officials” from carrying out their duty.
Pegi Lewis lived at Whitland. Her father, Dafydd Lewis y Crudd, was a Congregationalist with “advanced views.” He had died in 1869. It is said that when Pegi was confronted by the officials who wished to take her cow in lieu of tithes, she stood her ground. She opened the field gate, allowing her beast to go free. Needless to say the official from the court was unable to catch this cow and went away empty handed!
There were nine Public Houses in Moylegrove during the nineteenth century. Two of these were at Ceibwr.
At Ceibwr small flat-bottomed boats carrying cargos of limestone and culm would come in at high tide. As the tide went out, the boats would be left on the shore for frantic unloading of their cargo into waiting horse drawn carts. The limestone was converted in the lime kiln to burnt lime for spreading on the land to improve the soil, and was also used for lime mortar and lime wash. There were two kilns, but only one remains now. Culm, a mixture of coal dust and clay, was brought from Swansea as a low cost fuel.
Smuggling of French cognac at Ceibwr was said to be the “last invasion” of this country.
Improved transport at the end of the nineteenth century led to the demise of Ceibwr as a port. The railway at Cardigan brought prepared lime and coal, and motor vehicles soon became popular for haulage—although it is said that early models were slower than a horse and cart. The pubs soon closed, with the New Inn hanging on until 1904. The last ship arrived in 1926, when large numbers turned up to witness the end of an era.
“MOYLGROVE, a parish in the hundred of KEMMES, county of PEMBROKE, SOUTH WALES, 5 miles (W. by S.) from Cardigan, containing 419 inhabitants. This parish, which by the Welsh is called “Trêv Gwyddel,” is situated on the coast in the north-eastern part of the county, and comprises a moderate extent of arable and pasture land, which is all enclosed and cultivated. The surrounding scenery is not characterized by any peculiar features, and the views over the adjacent country are barren of interest: in general the shore is abrupt and rugged, with a good depth of water. The living is a discharged vicarage, annexed to that of Bayvill, in the archdeaconry of Cardigan, and diocese of St. David’s, endowed with £600 royal bounty. The church, dedicated to St. Andrew, is about half a mile from the village, being situated on the left bank of a stream which falls into St. George’s channel at no great distance: it is not remarkable for any architectural details. There is a place of worship for Independents. Within the limits of the parish is a well, the water of which is considered efficacious in several diseases. The average annual expenditure for the support of the poor is £122. 17.” [A Topographical Dictionary of Wales (S. Lewis, 1833).]
Sadly Moylegrove School was closed in July of 2003 but it had played an important part in village life for many years and is therefore part of our history.
In 1954 there was an outbreak of Tuberculosis at the school. As a result all the record books were destroyed which makes earlier research difficult.
After 1730 The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge provided Welsh bibles for use in “Circulating Schools.” These schools consisted of travelling teachers who travelled from village to village, teaching reading. Great good was done at little cost. No permanent buildings were needed and no rent was charged as they were held in churches or cottages. The teachers’ salaries were very low, and books very cheap. There are no complete records, but in 1745/6 Pembrokeshire had several teachers, one in Moylegrove and one in Monington.
Before the present School was built it is believed that a school was held in a small building opposite Bethel Chapel, called Festri Fach. It was also used for the W.I., Home Guard and Bethel Sunday School until Bethel Vestry was built in 1932. This building is just visible on the photograph of Moylegrove 1903.
The present building was erected in 1867, with a girls cloakroom added in 1894. Money was raised locally to build a school for 117 children.
Moylegrove School was a Board school until 1902. After the new Education Act it became a Council School.
In 1894, headmaster Joseph Lewis was paid £50 annually, Frances Owen the sewing mistress was paid £4 and Maurice Williams got 2 shillings for sweeping the chimney.
From the School Inspectors’ report in 1955:
“The school is a delightful little community with a happy atmosphere. The pupils are natural and pleasant; they are also responsive and appear to be keenly interested in the various activities”.
And in the SPAEM report in 1997:
“A happy, caring community which promotes sound values and attitudes…. Pupils make good progress in the acquisition on knowledge and demonstrate a positive attitude to their learning and an interest in their work…. There is a strong sense of belonging to the school and the community…. The school provides a broad, balanced curriculum which includes all National Curriculum subjects and religious education.”
The School always played a large and significant role in the Moylegrove community. In 1958 there was a Grand Sale held at the school which raised £700 for street lighting in the village. Throughout the year there were events held by the School which involve the local people. Before Christmas each year the members of the School staged a lively concert or play in the village, which was very entertaining and always very well attended.
Homes and families
There are some interesting stories to be unearthed from studies of census and other records from 100 or more years ago. The Moylgrove History Map is a repository of this information, discovered and contributed by people in the village.
Hannah Davies, born in 1855 in Boncath, married Charles Ladd born at Trewidwal in Moylgrove in 1860 when he was 21 and she 26. They moved to Patagonia, where their first four children were born. But by the time their fifth was born in 1891, they had returned to this district. Perhaps times in Patagonia were too hard. They moved to Teg y Pystill, and by 1901 to Trefaes Isaf. From their gravestones, they seem eventually to have moved back to Teg y Pystill. Two children born here died at the age of 6, and another, John Emrys, died in France in 1917 at the age of 23.
Charles lived until he was 73 in 1933, and Hannah until she was 85 in 1940.
Young people often went to work in the houses of neighbours. For example, the census records show that Annie Selby was born in 1890 and grew up in Penrhiw Uchaf. By 1911, she was employed as a living-in domestic servant at Hafod Grove.
David Davies, a smith born 1859, worked and lived at the workshop now called Glyn-yr-Efail while the land and building was still owned by Mary Lewis of Pen-yr-allt-Ceibwr (now the garden centre). But in 1904, his brother-in-law George Philip Davies of Pant-y-Wylan helped him out by buying the blacksmith’s shop on his behalf, together with some cottages and land across the road. Presumably they made a rental arrangement.
On the land, David pulled down the cottages and built a new house, Glanawen, for his family of five. It was completed in 1906.
The 20th Century
The village of Moylegrove grew around agriculture. This is still the main industry today, with dairy, livestock and horticulture.
During the 20th century, farms got bigger and fewer; many young people moved east for wider employment prospects; while others moved from the east, seeking the ‘good life’ of rural smallholding, retirement, or remote working.
Billy Richards started Richards Bros. in Moylegrove in the 1920s. It started as a haulage business with a steam driven lorry, carting road building materials. Building workers at Trecwn were transported to and fro daily in 1939. Since then the business has expanded and relocated in Cardigan. The former depot where Richards Bros. started in Moylegrove is still evident.
Other industries have evolved as demands have changed. The two smithies and the mill became redundant as motor transport became available. The trades of builder, carpenter, plumber and house painter remain in the village, along with artists and craft workers.
Some of the houses in the village are now used as holiday accommodation, providing local employment.
On Remembrance Sunday 13th November 1994 the new Memorial Plaque was dedicated. It is sited beside the car park in the centre of Moylegrove and bears the names of three servicemen killed during the First and Second World Wars.
Pipes and wires
Next to the village car park, there is a pipe that brings water from a spring below Penrhiw, an old house on the footpath up Cwm Awen.
The spring is not very deep – mostly runoff from the fields.
Mains Water supply
There was a Moylegrove & District Water Association 1945-59.
One of the last extensions of the mains water supply was in the 1990s, to Gaerwen and Cwm Tawel.
Dŵr Cymru provided a map of the supply network in 2023. Water is drawn from the Teifi and supplies much of south Ceredigion and North Pembrokeshire.
Pen Castell and Rhyd-y-Gof are among the houses still supplied by their own delicious spring water.
The main part of the village is served by a sewage processing plant that empties into Ceibwr Bay.
Outlying houses have their own arrangements.
A public fund was set up in 1958 to install street lights in the village.
At that time in the country as a whole, the major motivation for installation (according to government documents) was reduction in traffic accidents, particularly injury to pedestrians. Timed controllers were widely in use, although someone had to adjust the timers periodically as the day length changed – there were no solar-controlled lights. Some districts still had gas lighting, switched on and off by a local attendant.
In the 21st century, LED lamps are long-lived and controlled with light-sensitive switches, and so need very little attention.
Thankfully, the installation in Moylgrove was not extensive. It is still possible to see the Milky Way on a clear night, and we hope the impact on wildlife is limited. Pembrokeshire has a Dark Skies project to raise awareness of the effects of light pollution.
Broadband came to Moylgrove in 2012, although with performance that tapers off towards the far end of the wire from the phone exchange. Fibre to the Premises looks set to arrive in 2022. Or 2024, possibly. Or later….
The cosy Nant Awen valley has kept secluded from mobile phone signal until 2021, but a new mast has brought 4G to all but the deepest cwms. The mast was built in response to the impending move of the emergency services to using the same networks and radio links as the mobile phone service.
The 21st Century (so far)
One notable achievement in Moylgrove is the refurbishment of the old School and its re-opening as a community centre. Dinners, talks, dances and barbecues are regular events. There’s also a thriving group of clubs and societies, including wild swimming, singing, table tennis and bowls, craft, literature, and of course gardening.