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The River Ennig in Talgarth
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Mid and West Wales|
|Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament|
Talgarth is a market town, community and electoral ward in southern Powys, Mid Wales, about 12 miles (19 km) north of Crickhowell. Notable buildings in the town include the 14th-century parish church and a defensive tower house. According to traditional accounts, Talgarth was the capital of the early medieval Welsh Kingdom of Brycheiniog. It is in the historic county of Brecknockshire. In 2011 it had a population of 1,724.
The meaning of the town's name is in the Welsh words tâl (forehead or brow of a hill) and garth (mountain ridge or promontory), thus "end of the ridge". It appears as Talgart in 1121, as Talgard after 1130, and in its present form in the years between 1203 and 1208.
Culture and community
In August the Talgarth Festival of the Black Mountains is held, a popular countryside event which takes place each year. Talgarth Walking Festival takes place every May, making use of the town's position at the foot of the Black Mountains.
The town also has a dazzling annual Christmas lights display, organised by Talgarth Town Council and a team of volunteers. Talgarth held important links with healthcare for many years as the home of the large psychiatric hospital, the Mid Wales Hospital and the Mid and West Wales College of Nursing and Midwifery. Changes in health legislation in the 1980s saw the need for such hospitals to be closed. The Mid Wales Hospital permanently closed in the 1990s. Since the early 2000s, regeneration efforts have been in place to support Talgarth's future. It has since benefited from a new relief road, to remove trunk road traffic from its centre, allowing new businesses to open and buildings to be renovated and restored. Its historic mill in the centre of town featured on the BBC's Village SOS television series.
A Roman fort near Cwmdu (Pen-y-Gaer) is also of significance to Talgarth as there was a Roman route from Abergavenny via Pen-y-Gaer up the Rhiangoll valley to Talgarth, some experts say to Castell Collen near Llandrindod. Much evidence has been lost in the intervening 2000 years, but there is growing circumstantial evidence to suggest there is a missing Roman fort in the Talgarth area, at the crossroads of two or possibly three Roman routes, the Roman road from Pen-y-gaer, from Clyro to Y Gaer near Brecon and even the river Llynfi itself, although the latter may not be acceptable to some archaeologists. Nevertheless, water routes, even small ones are not unknown to have been used for man-hauling equipment in small, narrow flat bottom boats.
The Dark Ages
Talgarth was the royal residence of Brychan King of Brycheiniog in the 5th century AD. With three wives, 24 daughters and 22 sons the family was an important force in Wales at that time. Responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout Brecknock, the daughters of Brychan and their descendants account for almost all of the saints of South Wales and include the grandmother of Saint David.
The town became part of Bernard's Lordship of Brecknock (a Marcher Lordship - an almost sovereign state). Castell Dinas was the initial site where a Norman castle was established by the Normans to control the passes on both sides. However, in the reign of King John, the then Lord fell out with the king, and the east of the Lordship was detached in punishment, forming a new Marcher Lordship of Blaenllynfi, ruled by someone else. Although the caput of the latter Lordship was officially Blaenllynfi Castle, Talgarth was its principal town, and the Lordship was often called The Lordship of Talgarth as a result.
The town was in the manor of English Talgarth, there being also a manor of Welsh Talgarth, in which Welsh laws prevailed. The Lordship of Blaenllynfi eventually found its way back to the descendants of the last Welsh princes of Brycheiniog (in the person of Rhys ap Hywel, great-great-great grandfather of Sir Dafydd Gam).
Rhys played a significant part in the implementation (though not the planning) of the final coup against Edward II, and consequently Edward's son, Edward III, was not naturally well disposed towards him; the latter dispossessed Rhys' heir, and merged the Lordship of Blaenllynfi back into the Lordship of Brecknock (which, with the Lordship of Buellt, eventually became Brecknockshire, centuries later). The lands of the former lordship became a mere barony (of Talgarth).
The Welsh Jacobites
During the Jacobite revival support in Talgarth was strong. The town was a Jacobite hotspot, backing Bonnie Prince Charlie in his attempt to retake the Crown for the line of Stuart. In 1727 a meeting of local Jacobite sympathisers in Talgarth ended with members having to appear before a local magistrate to explain their actions.
During the Jacobite rising of 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie had expected the Welsh Jacobites to offer support, but after Jacobite David Morgan from Penygraig, Quakers Yard was hung, drawn and quartered for treason, the Welsh feared persecution. The failure of the Welsh Jacobites to join the House of Stuart Prince in Derby was one of the main failures of the Jacobite uprising. 
The Methodist revival
In 1735 Talgarth saw the birth of the Welsh Methodist revival when Howel Harris, probably the most influential person to come from Talgarth, was converted in Talgarth church while listening to a sermon by the Rev. Pryce Davies. The revival would sweep across Wales leading to the development of one of the most influential Welsh denominations, that of the Calvinistic Methodists. It was at Talgarth that William Williams Pantycelyn converted, leading him to become one of Wales' most important hymn writers. Nearby is Trevecca, the location of the famous college that Harris established. Hywel Harris is buried in Talgarth at St Gwendoline's Church and his tombstone is still visible today. Talgarth is also thought to be the birthplace of the religious poet Jane Cave.
Buildings and other sites of note
- Town Hall (1877) with a memorial clock tower, overlooking the Square.
- Tower House, also overlooking the Square, now the location of the Tourist Information Centre. The present building is probably 18th century, but it may incorporate a 14th-century or later defensive tower. The tower was used as a prison or a lock-up.
- The Tower Hotel was built in 1873 for the gentleman farmers to attend the livestock market, which still exists.
- St Gwendoline's Church, a grade II* listed building. Saint Wenna (born c. 463) was a princess and a daughter of Brychan who founded the church of Talgarth and then evangelised parts of north Cornwall. She founded the church of St Wenn and chapels at St Kew and Cheristowe (in Stoke-by-Hartland, Devon). Saint Gwendoline is a saint from the 8th century.
- Nearby Bronllys Castle
Talgrath Mill is an 18th century water mill in the centre of the town. In 2010 the mill, which had been unused since 1946, was fully restored using lottery funding to create the only working watermill in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The mill is run by volunteers as a community initiative and includes a bakery and a cafe, and sells locally made food and crafts.
The project included the creation of gardens in a neglected area between the river and the mill leat.
Talgarth had a railway station on the Mid-Wales Railway which closed in 1962. The station was opened in 1864 concurrent with the opening of the Mid-Wales company line between Llanidloes and Talyllyn Junction; regular services started in September 1864 but special trains had run at the end of August. It closed on 31 December 1962 when all lines to Brecon including the Mid-Wales line were closed. The station buildings remain as private residence near the Rugby Ground and the old track bed is now incorporated into the A479 road.
Chambered tomb – Penyrwrlodd
A Neolithic long cairn and chambered tomb at Penyrwrlodd, 2.5 km (1.6 mi) south of Talgarth was discovered in June 1972 by a farmer when clearing a stone mound from a field for use as hard-standing in the farmyard. The cairn measures 5 m by 22.5 m and a maximum 3 m high, and has been carbon dated to 3,900 BC, making it an early example of its type. The discovery led to archaeological excavation of the site by Dr Savory of the National Museum of Wales. During the excavation a number of human remains were found along with a bone flute, a human rib and some worked flints and stone. The flute was made from a sheep metapodial bone, has three holes and may either have been a simple flute or whistle. The larger hole may have been the blow-hole. This is the oldest dated musical instrument found from Wales.
The Old Post Office Museum
In 2019 the former Post Office was restored and opened as a museum. The original 19th century shop fittings and counters remain in place, and the museum displays a range of antique items and memorabilia.
Talgarth's position next to the Black Mountains has meant that it was once a hive of pony trekking activity, with the sights of horses tied up outside numerous local pubs well into the 1990s. There remain a number of riding operators in the area who hire out horses for both experienced and novice riders.
The Black Mountains above the town are used for upland hiking and hill-walking. The mountain ridges are around 2,000 feet high with the highest point called Waun Fach at 811 metres (2,660 feet). A walking festival based on the town and its hinterland was established in 2013. The event attracts visitors at the start of May each year.
Landscape and natural history
The bedrock geology beneath Talgarth and the immediate neighbourhood consists of mudstones and siltstones together with occasional sandstones, which comprise a part of the lower Old Red Sandstone succession. The rocks directly beneath the town itself are assigned to the late Silurian / early Devonian age Raglan Mudstone Formation whilst higher ground to the south and east of the town is formed by the overlying St Maughan's Formation. At the boundary between these two formations is a thick unit of erosion resistant limestone which forms features in the courses of the River Ennig and other streams. Known traditionally as the Psammosteus Limestone, it was later referred to as the Bishop's Frome Limestone and more recently as the Chapel Point Limestone. This and similar limestone beds in the area are examples of calcretes, effectively carbonate-rich fossil soils, formed over thousands of years at times of non-deposition of sand and mud. Fish fragments are abundant in some strata exposed in local streamsides.
Within the Raglan Mudstone, and exposed in certain watercourses, is a distinctive rock layer known as the Townsend Tuff Bed, a tuff being a deposit of volcanic ash which has fallen from the sky, likely following a Plinian volcanic eruption in this instance.
The woodland which stretches along both banks of the River Ennig at Pwll-y-Wrach to within 1 km of the town centre, is designated in part as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in respect of various uncommon plants including the small-leaved lime tree and the lesser butterfly-orchid, both regarded as indicators of ancient woodland. The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales manage 17.5 hectares (43 acres) of the SSSI as a nature reserve. Rare species present include toothwort and bird's nest orchid. Initially smaller in extent, the reserve was established by the former Brecknock Wildlife Trust in 1984. In spring, wildflowers include bluebells followed by ramsons. The wood is home to the most important colony of dormice in the region and is also home to the lesser horseshoe bat. Other mammals found in the wood include Eurasian badger, red fox and Eurasian otter, whilst bird species include tawny owl, white-throated dipper and pied flycatcher.
There are a series of waterfalls within the wood, of which the largest is Pwll-y-Wrach formed by a cap of the Chapel Point Limestone overlying 10m of siltstones. The name means 'witch's pool'. Local legend suggests that witches were ducked in the pool beneath the falls in medieval times.
The Talgarth ward elects a county councillor to Powys County Council. Since May 2004 it had been represented by Liberal Democrat councillor, William Powell (who also sits on the Town Council). He was re-elected unopposed in 2008 and 2012. Powell was also elected as an Assembly Member of the National Assembly for Wales in May 2011.
|Liberal Democrats||William Denston Powell *||520||82.9%|
A number of films and dramas have been filmed in and around Talgarth, notably On the Black Hill. Others include Morgan's Boy, Nuts and Bolts (filmed at the old hospital), and Hearts of Gold (where the town was assumed to be Pontypridd). Rhod Gilbert's 2009 tour DVD Rhod Gilbert and the Award-Winning Mince Pie was partly shot in Talgarth.
Talgarth features as a location in Alfred Walter Stewart's 1931 novel The Boathouse Riddle, written under the pen name J. J. Connington. The boathouse which inspired Stewart was at nearby Llangorse Lake.
- Bernard of Neufmarché's charter, due to poor 17th century publishing practice (the charter was included in the 1655 publication Monastican Anglicanum by Roger Dodsworth, amalgamated with another of Bernard's charters, the latter being dated 1088) and a Victorian marginal note (the charter re-appears with an added marginal gloss AD 1088 in the 1867 work Historia et cartularium Monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae by William Hart) is now dated by some people to 1088.
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