Page images
PDF
EPUB

ing scenery, and the water is thrown with vast impetuosity down a shelving rock. The tourist can only procure a view of this from above, for the bottom is very difficult of access. The second fall, called the Raven Fall, is about three quarters of a mile beyond the first; its total height is about 140 feet; the water rushes down a narrow channel for about 100 feet, and then shelves out in a conical form, and falls into a circular basin about fifty yards in diameter, this is situated in a beautifully secluded spot, and surrounded by rocks and trees.

Regaining the road to Harlech, the scenery for the first four miles is pleasing, but for the remaining distance not particularly interesting.

HARLECH, Once the principal town in Merionethshire, is now dwindled into an insignificant village, containing not more than four or five hundred inhabitants. It is in the parish of Llanfair, and on the sea coast, near Cardigan bay: the houses and castle are built on a cliff that immediately overhangs the marsh. Not far from the castle there is a small building, once the town-hall, now a school-room, in which, however, the member of parliament for the county is still elected.

Harlech was made a free borough by Edward I., who confirmed to it several grants of lands, and other immunities.

The Blue Lion is the only inn of any note in Harlech; and even this is upon a small scale, but pleasantly situated.

HARLECH CASTLE. This venerable structure is in tolerable preservation. It is a square building, each side measuring about seventy yards, ind as at every corner a round tower. From each of these issued formerly a circular turret, nearly all of which

HISTORY OF HARLECH CASTLE.

153

are now destroyed. The entrance is betwixt two great rounders. The principal apartments appear to have been over the gateway, in a building which projected into the court; and at each angle of this building there is yet left a round tower. The castle was defended on the east side by a deep foss; and its situation, on the verge of an almost perpendicular rock, rendered it impregnable in nearly every other part. Viewing it from the marsh, it is said, except in size, to bear a considerable resemblance to the castle of Belgrade in Turkey.

The walls of the castle command an extensive view, embracing Snowdon, the Promontory of Llyn, Criccieth Castle, and the fine though dangerous Bay of Cardigan.

History of Harlech Castle.—The ancient name of this fortress was Twr Bronwen, Bronwen's Tower; so called from Bronwen, the white necked, sister to Bren ap Llyr, Duke of Cornwall, and afterwards King of Britain. She lived in the third century, and was the wife of Matholwch, an Irishman. Her husband one day, unfortunately, struck her a violent blow in the face, and she resented the outrage by inciting an insurrection among the people, and causing a

This blow is called, in the ancient Triads, one of the three evil blows of Britain; two others, of a nature nearly similar, bearing the reputation of having produced similar commotions. Bronwen is supposed by some to have resided here; and the highest turret of the present castle, though for what reason it is difficult to conjecture, since this building was altogether founded many centuries after her time, goes yet by the name of Bronwen's Tower.

In the eleventh century this place took the name of Caer Collwyn, Collwyn's Fort, from Collwyn ap Tangno, Lord of Eivonedd and Ardudwy, who repaired the ancient castle, and took it for his own residence. The present name of

civil war.

Harlech is probably derived from the British words hardd, beautiful, and llech, a rock, indicating its situation.

According to some of the ancient British historians, Harlech Castle was originally built, about the year 350, by Maelgwn Gwynedd, Prince of North Wales; and it is generally believed that Edward I. founded the present fortress on the ruins of the old castle; some parts of which are yet distinguishable from the more modern work of that monarch.

In the year 1404, this castle, along with that of Aberystwyth, in Cardiganshire, was seized by Owen Glyndwr, during his rebellion against Henry IV., but they were both retaken about four years afterwards, by an army which the king had dispatched into Wales against that turbulent chieftain.

Margaret of Anjou, the queen of Henry VI., after the king's defeat at Northampton in 1456, fled from Coventry, and, narrowly escaping the bands of Lord Stanley, who discovered and seized her jewels and baggage, found in this fortress an asylum from her enemies. She resided here, however, but a short time, for she soon afterwards proceeded to Scotland.

Soon after Edward IV. attained the English throne, he found means to make himself master of every part of the kingdom, with the exception of this castle and two or three others in Northumberland. These he did not think it necessary to attack immediately, in the expectation, probably, that when their governors saw the whole country continue in quiet possession, they would of their own accord submit. The idea, however, proved false, for David

ap
Ivan

ap

Einion, a staunch friend to the house of Lancaster, held out in this castle for nine years afterwards, till 1468. The king, finding him still determined to resist, was at length com

HISTORY OF HARLECH CASTLE.

155

pelled to send an army against him under the command of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. The men with incredible difficulty marched over the heart of the British Alps to the attack. On being summoned to surrender, David returned for answer, “Some years ago I held a castle in France against its besiegers so long, that all the old women in Wales talked of me: inform your commander that I will defend this Welsh castle till all the old women of France shall hear of it." The besieging army found the place altogether impregnable, without having recourse to famine, and Sir Richard Herbert, (brother to the Earl,) who had commanded during the siege, was at last obliged to compound for the surrender, by promising the heroic Welshman that he would intercede with the king for his life. It was accordingly given up, and with it upwards of fifty gentlemen of rank who had adhered to the Lancastrian cause. These were all committed close prisoners to the Tower; and when David was brought to the king, Sir Richard intreated that he might receive an unconditional pardon, on the ground that it had been in his power, if he had chosen it, to retain the castle considerably longer, even in spite of all the efforts of the English army—the king refused. Then, Sire, (said Sir Richard,) you may, if you please, take my life instead of that of the Welsh captain: if you do not, I will most assuredly replace David in his castle, and your highness may send whom you please to take him out again.” The king knew too well the value of a hero like Sir Richard, to carry his denial any further. David ap Ivan was pardoned, but his friend received no other reward for this perilous service.

In the civil wars, during the reign of Charles I., Harlech Castle was the last in North Wales that held out for the king, having surrendered in March, 1647, to General Mytton, on honourable terms. At this time Mr. William Owen was the governor, and the garrison consisted but of twentyeight men.

MEPHITIC VAPOUR.

In the winter of 1694, this neighbourhood was much alarmed by a kind of fiery exhalation which came from a sandy and marshy tract of land called Morfa Bychan, the Little Marsh, across the channel, eight miles towards Harlech. This so much injured the grass as to kill the cattle, and it set hay and corn-ricks on fire at the distance of nearly a mile from the coast. It is represented to have had the appearance of a blue lambent flame, which by any great noise, such as the firing of guns, or the sounding of horns, was easily extinguished. All the damage was done in the night, and in the course of the winter no fewer than sixteen hay-ricks and two barns, one filled with hay and the other with corn, were entirely destroyed by it. It did not seem to affect any thing else, and men could go into it without receiving the least injury. It was observed much more frequently during the first three weeks than afterwards, yet it was seen, at different intervals, for at least eight months. The occasion of this singular phenomenon is not exactly known. It appears most probably to have arisen from some collections of putrid substances, the vapour issuing from which might have been directed towards this place by the wind; and yet it is singular that, although the prevailing winds here are from the south-west, which ought to have blown it in a very different direction, it should not have been observed in other parts north of Harlech. Bishop Gibson conjectured that it might have proceeded from the corrupted bodies of a great number of locusts which visited this kingdom about that time, and were destroyed by the coldness of the climate. He says that a considerable num

« PreviousContinue »