LAST time we took a look at what the remains of Cardigan Castle was like in the early 1800s and how the new mansion was faring on the grounds.

Here we take a look at what the latter half of the 19th century looked like for the castle and grounds.

For most of the 19th century, David Davies was in charge of the grounds and living in the Castle Green mansion. In 1862, the Davies ownership expanded as he bought the foreshore rights to the south bank of the Teifi estuary alongside the marsh and farms of Pentood in St Dogmaels.

He passed on his businesses to his son David Griffith Davies and a man called Launcelot Lowther in 1685. The following year John Rowland Phillips wrote about the castle’s links to the river saying: “…it is quite clear that a… underground communication with the river exists at Cardigan Castle.”

On June 18, 1869, the partnership between Davies Jr and Lowther dissolved and Davies took full control of the businesses.

On June 30, 1871, Castle Green was turned into a lavish wedding venue for David Griffith Davies and his bride Arabella Ann Berrington, with a description in the Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser reading: “The entrance gate to the Castle Green was transformed into a splendid floral arch, whilst the trees on the grounds were hung with festoons of evergreens, interspersed with flags…At 6 o’clock, 24 workmen and part servants of the estate sat down to a bounteous spread at Castle Green provided by Mrs Millar, the house keeper, in first rate style, consisting of roast beef and mutton, plum puddings &c., with a good supply of cwrw da and punch.

“The grand ‘sit down’ for the day, however, was at the Stores in the yard, which had been turned into a capital supper room, hung with evergreens, flags of various kinds… Upwards of 80 beside the band sat down… Castle Green grounds were hung with festoons of coloured Chinese lamps, which had a most charming appearance…”

The couple moved into Castle Green the following month and had a son, David Berrington Griffith Davies, in 1872. David Davies, who after handing his business over to his son went on to be Alderman of the borough, deputy lieutenant of the county of Cardigan, county magistrate, and High Sheriff, would die on February 8, 1873. He would be buried in the family vault in St Mary’s Churchyard after a private service conducted in Welsh held at Castle Green House on February 15.

His remains were in three coffins, with the outer coffin made of polished Welsh oak and covered with a rich black velvet pall trimmed with white silk. The funeral procession went through the town to the church, with the shops along the way all closed as a mark of respect.

In 1873, there was ‘liquid manure’ running freely from the Castle Green stables but a report on the sanitary state of the town noted it wasn’t a problem.

In 1875, it is believed that a number of people had gone down the ‘secret passage’ at Castle Green after David Griffith Davies gave permission. The records of this were written by Owen Williams in the Cardigan & Tivyside Advertiser at a later date who was one of those that went down the passage after convincing Davies to let them go down. It provides an insight into the tunnels that were used several centuries earlier.


He wrote: “I was talking it over with my uncle, the late Mr. James Evans, and he too was enthusiastic about it as myself and just as keen about the idea of seeing for ourselves what there really was to be seen at Castle Green. So we decided to explore. We were very kindly received by the gentleman in residence at the time…but he was very reluctant to allow us to go down into the passages because of the danger of loose stones and earth-works being disturbed and blocking our return passage. Anyway, we at last persuaded him, that although very eager, we would proceed with the utmost caution, and so we lit a small piece of candle which we had brought with us for the occasion, and slowly down we went, step by step, until there were no more steps – we had reached bottom. I can still remember that the subterranean road that led on from there was well-made, and in good order. Excitement by now was running very high for us, and with our ‘hearts in our mouth’, on and on we slowly went. Of course we had to proceed very slowly because of the dim and ghostly light of the candle shed which only permitted us to see but a few yards ahead of us. Couple this with our strange and unfamiliar environment, and you will understand our feelings at the time. But alas, after going along for quite some time, we were suddenly halted, for right in our path was a big fall of roof, making it impossible for us to go further. This disappointed us rather badly, there was nothing for it but to retrace our steps.”

The pair would go down again at a separate time and had the same result. He also elaborated on the potential importance of the tunnels, saying: “…judging by the skill and workmanship in the construction of the Castle Green tunnel, it was a very important factor in the military strategy of that ancient Castle. That’s all I know of that traditional and mysterious passage and if asked in what direction it led to, I’m afraid I could not answer with any degree of certainty; but this I can say, I do not recall any turning while down there, and as a guess, I would say that our farthest point reached – where fallen roof blocked our way – would be underneath the middle of the River Tivy. The fact that we faced in that direction when going down, and there being no turning that would confuse our bearing after reaching bottom, plus the distance travelled straight on, makes my guess a very feasible one…”

The Davies family seemed to move out of Castle Green in the 1880s as the house was being occupied by gardener Archibald Arroll and his family in 1881, and a Cobb family between 1882 and 1884. The Davies family seemed to be living in Bristol for a period, but were recorded in the 1891 census as being back at Castle Green.

On December 18, 1897, a tragedy took place at Castle Green when the Davies’ youngest son George Aubrey was found dead in his bedroom after accidentally shooting himself in the eye. The markings from the bullet can still be seen on the ceiling.

A report in the Cardigan & Tivyside Advertiser stated that the teenager had planned to go shooting on his father’s farm and around 5.30pm the kitchen maid went into the room and she found him lying on the floor and called for the gardener who saw he was dead and had a bullet wound in the head. The six-chambered revolver was beside him and the only chamber with a bullet in, contained the remnants of an exploded cartridge.

The article stated: “It is surmised that the deceased had gone to his bedroom to seek for cartridges for his rook-rifle, as he was short and found some in his brother’s bedroom, together with the six-chambered revolver, and that he was either in the act of extracting the cartridges or examining the barrel, when the charge exploded, and the bullet penetrated his eye when open, as there is no mark on the lids, coming out at the crown of the head, and lodging in the ceiling of the room, where it was found and subsequently extracted. Dr Phillips and Dr Jones were soon in attendance, but found that life had been extinct for some time.”

Some of the servants had heard gun shots around 3.30pm but had thought nothing of it as they often heard the sounds as birds were shot in the grounds.

The inquest into his death was heard at the home and a verdict of accidental death was recorded.

Next we will look at the castle in the 20th century.

With thanks to Glen Johnson for the information.