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Kidwelly History

Established as a borough C1115, Kidwelly is one of the oldest boroughs in Wales and stands in the shadow of a great Norman Castle. The first townspeople were English, French and Flemish immigrants, traders and agriculturalists that were integrated to consolidate the Norman hold on the district. The Castle and the Town were attacked and devastated several times by the zealous Welsh.

By the end of the 13th Century the inner town was defended by great walls and gateways. During the 14th Century the Town prospered and Kidwelly was one of the busiest trading and commercial centres in South Wales.

Kidwelly Town PhotoFortunes declined in the 18th Century due to the silting of the Gwendraeth Estuary but revived in the 19th Century with the export of coal from the Gwendraeth Fawr.

Between 1766 & 1768 a three-mile long canal and docks were built by Thomas Kymer linking his coal pits with the coast.

In 1737 a Tinplate Works was established - the second earliest works in the Kingdom. Prosperity continued in the Victorian era and this is reflected in the townscape especially in the Gothic proportions of the Town Hall.

Princess Gwenllian

Maes Gwenllian, Gwenllian's Field, lies a mile north of Kidwelly. It commemorates a woman who, with the martial instincts of a Boadicea, led a Welsh army against the Normans. The battle followed the death of King Henry I in December 1135, when the Welsh revolted against foreign rule and threatened a national uprising.

An army was raised in West Brycheiniog (Breconshire) and attacked the Anglo-Norman settlements in Gower. The battle fought between Loughor and Swansea resulted in a crushing victory for the Welsh where 500 Normans were killed.

The ruler of the Deheubarth (South), Gruffydd ap Rhys, saw the exciting prospect of expelling all foreigners from his Kingdom. He rode north to Gwynedd to seek reinforcements. While he was away, Maurice de Londres, Lord of Kidwelly decided to counter-attack.

Gwenllian, the beautiful wife of Gruffydd ap Rhys gathered her forces and led the Welsh army to attack the town and castle of Kidwelly. At Maes Gwenllian, the spot that now bears her name, she was engaged by the forces of Maurice de Londres, the local lord, and utterly defeated.

Gwenllian and her son Morgan were killed and another son, Maelgwn, taken prisoner. The story tells that Gwenllian was decapitated and that her headless phantom never found rest until someone searched the ancient battlefield and returned her skull to her grave.

Gwenllian's name is inextricably linked with Kidwelly. Even today, her name still provokes admiration and respect locally. Hail Gwenllian - Kidwelly's unequivocal heroine after 900 years!

The Black Cat of Kidwelly

Kidwelly's Coat of Arms and Official Seal shows a Black Cat. Herein lies the dilemma. The name of the township changed considerably over the centuries. In the ninth century when few people could read and spelling was of little importance, it was called Cetgueli. It was not until the advent of books, newspapers and dictionaries that correct spelling became significant. In the 17th. Century even William Shakespeare, who had more practice than most, spelt his own surname in at least eight different ways!

In ancient documents, Kidwelly was spelt Cadwely, Catwelli, Kadewely, Keddewelly, Kadwelye, Kedwelle. The "Cat" in "Catwelli" may, however, have just been a misunderstanding about the origin of the word - some even believe that Kidwelly was named after a gentleman named Cattas, whose habits included sleeping in an oak tree in the vicinity!

Others will affirm that the Town's mascot was originally an otter. Otters were frequently seen on the river banks surrounding Kidwelly and indeed, one is depicted in a carved memorial in St. Mary's churchyard. Those who believe the Cat to be the true emblem of Kidwelly, will tell you that the black cat was the first creature seen alive after the great plague hit the town. It was therefore honoured as a symbol of salvation and deliverance and subsequently used as Kidwelly's heraldic symbol.

Hen Fenyw Fach Cydweli

Many people have heard of Kidwelly because of its fine, resplendent castle. Others may recognise the name from Captain Cat's boat, the "S.S. Kidwelly" in Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood". Yet, children in Welsh schools are more familiar with the popular Welsh Nursery Rhyme.

"Hen Fenyw Fach Cydweli" - The Dear Old Lady of Kidwelly.

Hen fenyw fach Cydweli, Yn gwerthu losin du, Yn rhifo deg am ddimai, Ond unarddeg i mi. O dyna'r newydd gorau ddaeth i mi, i mi Yn rhifo deg am ddimai Ond unarddeg i mi.

Which translates to:

The dear old lady of Kidwelly. A seller of sweets is she, Counts out ten for a halfpenny. But always eleven for me. That was very good news for me, for me Counts out ten for a halfpenny. But always eleven for me.

"Yr Hen Fenyw Fach" may have been the bountiful Lady Hawise de Londres, who lived as a child in Kidwelly Castle in the 13th. Century. Legend has it that she once disguised herself as a seller of sweetmeats and cakes in order to gain access to the castle when she later returned to claim her rights as Castellan of Kidwelly Castle. It is a delightful tale and who knows - the wizened old lady portrayed in the nursery rhyme may well have been the beautiful Lady Hawise!

 

  • Interesting documents and articles are found on the Kidwelly history website.  Click here to open a new window.
  • Kidwelly also has a Local History Society.  Click here to discover more.
  • Kidwelly Industrial Museum is a treasure trove of information.  Click here to discover more.

Hanes Cydweli

Sefydlwyd Cydweli fel bwrdeistref oddeutu 1115 OC, yn un o’r hynaf yng Nghymru saif yng nghysgod y Castell Normanaidd. Y dinasyddion cynharaf oedd mewnfudwyr Saesnig, Ffrengig a Fflandrysaidd; masnachwyr ac amaethwyr a ymdoddwyd i’r gymdeithas i atgyfnerthu’r grym Normanaidd ar yr ardal. Ymosodwyd a difethwyd y Castell a’r Dref nifer o weithiau gan y Cymry taer.
Erbyn diwedd y 13eg Ganrif amddiffynnwyd canol y dref gan waliau a phyrth mawr.
Yn ystod y 14eg Ganrif bu’r dref yn llewyrchus a Chydweli oedd un o brif ganolfannau gwerthu a masnachu de Cymru.

Daeth cwymp i’r llwyddiant yn y 18fed Ganrif yn sgil aber y Gwendraeth yn llenwi â llaid ond daeth gwellhad yn ystod y 19eg Ganrif gydag allforion glo o’r Gwendraeth Fawr.

Rhwng 1766 a 1768 adeiladwyd camlas tair milltir o hyd ynghyd â dociau gan Thomas Kymer gan gysylltu ei byllau glo gyda’r arfordir.

Sefydlwyd gweithfeydd tunplat yn 1737 – yr ail waith cynharaf yn y Deyrnas. Parhau gwnaeth llewyrch Oes Fictoria ac adlewyrchir hyn yn y treflun, yn enwedig maint Gothig Neuadd y Dref.

Y Dywysoges Gwenllïan

Gorwedda Maes Gwenllïan rhyw filltir i ogledd Cydweli.

Mae’n coffau’r fenyw a arweiniodd byddin Gymreig yn erbyn y Normaniaid, un oedd yn meddu ar reddf filwrol debyg i Buddug. Dilynodd y frwydr marwolaeth Brenin Harri’r 1af yn Rhagfyr 1135 gyda’r Cymry’n gwrthryfela’n erbyn llywodraeth estron gan fygwth chwyldro cenedlaethol.
Codwyd byddin yng ngorllewin Brycheiniog ac ymosodwyd ar aneddiadau yn y Gŵyr. Bu’r frwydr a ymladdwyd rhwng Llwchwr ac Abertawe yn fuddugoliaeth fawr i’r Cymry lle lladdwyd 500 o Normaniaid.

Gwelodd rheolwr y Deheubarth, Gruffudd ap Rhys, ei gyfle i waredu estroniaid o’i Deyrnas. Aeth i’r gogledd i Wynedd i chwilio am filwyr ychwanegol. Tra bu bant, penderfynodd Maurice de Londres, Arglwydd Cydweli, wrthdaro.

Casglodd Gwenllïan, gwraig brydferth Gruffydd ap Rhys, ei milwyr ac arwain byddin o Gymry i ymosod ar y dref a chastell Cydweli. Ym Maes Gwenllïan, y man sydd yn awr yn dwyn ei henw, ymrafaeliodd gyda byddinoedd yr arglwydd lleol Maurice de Londres, lle’i trechwyd yn llwyr.

Lladdwyd Gwenllïan a’i mab Morgan, a chipiwyd mab arall iddi, Maelgwn, yn garcharor. Yn ôl y sôn, dienyddiwyd Gwenllïan, a ni orffwysodd ei hysbryd nes i rywun chwilio maes y gad a dychwelyd ei phenglog i’w bedd.
Mae cysylltiad annatod rhwng enw Gwenllïan a thref Cydweli. Hyd heddiw mae ei henw yn ennyn parch ac edmygedd yn lleol. Henffych Gwenllïan – arwres ddiamod Cydweli ers 900 mlynedd!

Cath ddu Cydweli

Ceir hyd i gath ddu o fewn arfbais a sêl swyddogol Cydweli. Yn hyn o beth y mae’r dryswch. Newidiodd enw’r drefgordd yn aml dros y canrifoedd. Yn y nawfed ganrif pan mai ychydig oedd yn darllen ac nid oedd sillafu o bwysigrwydd mawr, fe’i henwyd yn Cetgueli. Gyda dyfodiad llyfrau, papurau newydd a geiriaduron daeth y sillafiad o bwys. Yn y 17eg Ganrif sillafodd hyd yn oed William Shakespeare ei enw mewn wyth gwahanol ffordd!

Mewn dogfennau hynafol, sillafwyd Cydweli fel Cadwely, Catwelli, Kedweli, Kadewely, Kedeweli, Keddewelly, Kedewely, Kadwelye a Kedwelle. Medrai “cath” Cydweli fod yn gamddehongliad ynghylch tarddiad y gair – cred rhai bod Cydweli wedi cael ei enwi ar ôl gŵr o’r enw Cattas, un a arferai gysgu mewn hen dderwen yn yr ardal!

Bydd eraill yn datgan mai dwrgi oedd masgot gwreiddiol y Dref. Yn aml, gwelwyd dwrgwn ar lannau’r afon o amgylch Cydweli ac mae un wedi ei ddarlunio mewn i garreg goffa ym mynwent Eglwys Y Santes Fair. Dywed y rheiny sy’n credu mai’r gath ddu yw gwir emblem Cydweli mae dyna’r creadur cyntaf a welwyd yn fyw wedi i’r pla du daro’r dref. Cysylltwyd yr enw gydag iachawdwriaeth a gwaredigaeth oherwydd hyn ac felly fe’i defnyddiwyd fel symbol herodrol Cydweli.

Hen Fenyw Fach Cydweli

Mae nifer wedi clywed am Gydweli oherwydd ei gastell ysblennydd, cain. Adnabyddir eraill yr enw o gwch Capten Cat o ddrama enwog Dylan Thomas, “Dan y Wenallt”. Er hyn, mae plant ysgolion Cymru’n fwy adnabyddus gyda’r hwiangerdd poblogaidd Cymraeg.

"Hen Fenyw Fach Cydweli"

Hen fenyw fach Cydweli yn gwerthu losin du,
Yn rhifo deg am ddimai, ond unarddeg i mi.
O dyna'r newydd gorau ddaeth i mi, i mi
Yn rhifo deg am ddimai, ond unarddeg i mi

Gallai "Yr Hen Fenyw Fach" fod wedi cyfeirio at yr haelionus Foneddiges Hawise de Londres, a fuodd yn byw yng Nghastell Cydweli yn y 13eg Ganrif pan oedd yn blentyn. Yn ôl y chwedl, er mwyn cael mynediad i’r castell, mi guddwisgodd ei hun fel gwerthwraig melysion a chacennau gan ddychwelyd yn hwyrach a datgan ei hun fel Ceidwad Castell Cydweli. Mae’n stori fach ddifyr, a phwy a ŵyr os mai’r hen wraig grebachlyd yn yr hwiangerdd oedd y Foneddiges brydferth!

 

  • Ceir hyd i ddogfennau ac erthyglau diddorol ynghylch hanes Cydweli ar wefan hanes Cydweli.  Cliciwch fan hyn er mwyn agor ffenestr newydd.
  • Mae gan Gydweli Gymdeithas Hanes Lleol. Cliciwch fan hyn i ddarganfod rhagor.
  • Mae Amgueddfa Ddiwydiannol Cydweli yn drysorfa o wybodaeth.  Cliciwch fan hyn i ddarganfod rhagor.

Kidwelly Town Council
Hillfield Villas
Kidwelly
Carmarthenshire
SA17 4UL

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