By the Banks of the Rheidol

Talybont at the turn of the last century – a snapshot

The village of Talybont (pron. ‘Tal-uh-bont’) in Ceredigion lies eight miles North of Aberystwyth. It features in By the Banks of the Rheidol, as Dafydd lives there from 1896 to 1899. However, it has also changed dramatically since this time. The sleepy village of today is not the bustling settlement of the past.

The centre of the village is sited in a river valley. The main trunk road northwards, the A487, passes through, dropping steeply to the village green on each of the valley sides. The rivers Ceulan and Leri power through  the bottom, a description which became very apt in 2012, when severe flooding even had the incumbent Prime Minister, ‘man of the people’, David Cameron visit. (And forever endear the locals by talking about Taleebont, if you can’t even get the name right…)

As you pass through the village, you pass two rather large chapels. A third is nestled slightly off the main road. The publishing company ‘Y Lolfa’, one of Wales’ premier literary companies, work out of a building that has the word ‘Police station’ above the door. Two large pubs stand guard on the village green and the design of many of the sash windowed houses point to large shop windows of the past. Evidence of a large population. The rivers proved to be Talybont’s blessing in the industrial revolution, as it powered the local industry, but what industry was there?

The town hosted woolen mills. The last being the Leri mills, its waterwheels having provided power until as late as the 1970s. The village is surrounded by lead mines. The woodland to the South West hides the largest, Allt-y-Crib. There are remnants of mines on all the roads out of Talybont. Not only that, but many of the large mines in the surrounding area had miners who lived in Talybont – such as; Blaenceulan, Bwlch Glas, Esgair Hir, Bryn yr Afr. The more remote mines like Esgair Hir, had their workforce stay from Monday to Saturday morning in barracks before coming back to their homes and families in Talybont for a brief welcome, before returning on a Monday morning – in the latter part of the year in the dark.

At one time, Talybont boasted fifteen shops and two banks. The Agriculture surrounding the village is marked by one of the largest shows in Ceredigion. Proof that this was once a hub of North Ceredigion commerce.

Scratch beneath the surface and you find tales. The two pubs are called the Llew Ddu (Black Lion) and the Llew Gwyn (White Lion). Each was tied to one of the two powerful landowner families in the area. Patronisation was more than  likely along the loyalty lines of those who wish to keep their jobs. Both establishments happily still survive and still offer refreshment and food to us all.

The village even had its own railway, albeit briefly. The Plynlimon & Hafan tramway was a 2ft 3in gauge railway that ran from Llandre through Talybont to the Hafan quarry. Built in 1896, it never really paid its way and was abaondoned in 1899. The railway was chiefly proposed for taking stone from the quarry to port. There was a hope that it would regenerate the dormant lead mines of the area as well as capture the trade of those going to market in Aberystwyth. Sadly, the market trade never really took off and the mine regeneration happened (again , albeit briefly) after the railway had gone. The one ironic use was found by the miners using it as a level track, as they walked to their remote workplaces.

This is but a snapshot, a small description to set the scene. When you look at the places today, they bear only a slight resemblance to how they were. But if you close your eyes, and listen to the water rushing past, perhaps the smell of smoke , an engine’s whistle or the sound of a pick on rock, will reach into your imagination and you are back there.


By Geraint Roberts

Stuck in a limbo and desperate to do something meaningful, what to do? That is where writing began for me. A creative way of expressing myself and a chance to harness my wondering imagination. I close my eyes and I'm there. Wish I'd picked 'there' as a warm sunny day on a sandy beach, with the waves gently lapping on the shore...but I have to let the story load in my mind, then watch it unfold, wherever it may be. Currently I'm on a windy bridge, or a Devon beach, or a Cornish ti mine, or a submarine, or looking towards a Hebridean port...

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