DESCRIPTION OF TALLEY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
While searching the internet for some specific information, I chanced upon an extract from a book published in 1849 entitled ‘A Topographical Dictionary of Wales’. Since it made reference to Talley, I thought it might be of interest to some of our readers. Part of it is reproduced below.
TALLEY, otherwise TÀL-Y-LLYCHAU, is a parish in the poor-law union of Llandilo-Vawr, Lower division of the hundred of Cayo, county of Carmarthen, South Wales, 7½ miles north from Llandilo-Vawr; containing 1068 inhabitants, of whom 418 are in the Lower, and 650 in the Upper, division. This place was originally of much greater importance than it is at present; the seat of one of the most extensive and venerable ecclesiastical establishments in this part of the principality. The name signifies “the head of the lakes” and is derived from two large pools near the church, about fifty acres in extent. The parish is bounded on the south by Llandilo-Vawr, east and north by Llansadwrn and Cayo, and north and west by Llansawel. It is situated upon the river Cothy, on the turnpikeroad from Llandilo-Vawr to Lampeter; and comprises by measurement 7167 acres 2 rods and 19 poles, of which the arable portion is about two-thirds, nearly 200 acres are woodland, 290 acres and 8 poles are common land and the remainder pasture.
The surface displays a continued succession of hill and dale, sideland and mountain top, and is rather woody, the principal timber being oak, ash, elm, fir and alder. The soil is grey in colour and tolerably deep and fertile; the chief agricultural produce is wheat, barley and oats, with a good and sufficient supply of grass and hay for the use of the dairies. On the west the parish is bounded by the Cothy, a tributary of the Towy river, and several brooks rise in the parish and unite in the south-eastern part, where the stream thus formed pursues its course to the Towy. There are two small villages, named Talley and Cwmdû; and the mansion of Glanyrannel, pleasantly situated in grounds well laid out. A small fair is held there annually on August 6th.
The living is a perpetual curacy, endowed with £800 royal bounty and £1000 parliamentary grant, giving a net income of £127. The patron, Rev William Thomas Nicholl, is heir of the late Venerable Thomas Beynon, Archdeacon of Cardigan, who purchased the tithes from the ancient family at Abermarles.
The tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £299 15s, and there is a glebe attached of 3½ acres, valued at £11 3s. per annum. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, having fallen into decay, was rebuilt in the Grecian style in 1773, at the expense of the inhabitants, principally from the ruins of the ancient abbey of Talley, the nave of which formed the old church and of which there are still some remains within the burial-ground, consisting of half the tower and other considerable portions.
The present is a neat edifice and contains some monumental inscriptions, including a mural tablet to the memory of Sir Nicholas Williams, an ancestor of Sir James Hamlyn Williams, Bart. The area, exclusively of the chancel, is fifty feet long by thirty wide and, being all pewed, contains between 300 and 400 sittings, which belong to the rate-payers, except two and the seats of the gallery, which are free. There were formerly five chapels of ease, but of none are there at present any remains; memorials of two are preserved in the names of small patches of ground, one being called Mynwent Capel Llanvihangel, “the churchyard of St. Michael’s chapel,” and the other, Mynwent Capel Crist, “the churchyard of Christ’s chapel.” In the parish are places of worship for Baptists and Calvinistic Methodists,
the poor of the latter of whom participate in the benefit of Mrs. Mary Griffith’s charity at Llangeitho. A day school is held, under the patronage of Lady Mary Williams, and there are some Sunday schools.
The abbey was founded prior to 1197 by Rhys ab Grufydd, an ancestor of Lord Dynevor, for Præmonstratensian canons and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St. John the Baptist: a charter was given to it by Edward III, confirming a prio grant by the ancient Princes of South Wales in the time of Henry III. This establishment flourished until the Dissolution, at which period it had eight canons, and its annual revenue was estimated at £153 1s 4d.
The remains, though much diminished by the appropriation towards rebuilding the church, are still considerable, containing, as already stated, about half the tower and some portions of the transept on both sides; all within the churchyard and the property of the owner of the tithes. The large bell that was sold to assist the parishioners in the erection of the church, in 1773, is now in Exeter cathedral.
The situation of this structure, in a luxuriant vale embosomed among lofty hills, was peculiarly adapted for devotional retirement and contemplation. From the richness of the endowment, the abbots were little inferior in power to the bishops of the diocese; and to the influence of one of them, who was confessor and secretary to Rhys ab Thomas, has been attributed the active part which that chieftain took in favour of the Earl of Richmond, afterwards Henry VII. Near the abbey, but within the parish of Llansawel, is the seat of Edwinsford, the property of Sir James Hamlyn Williams.