When Gerwyn Morgan was a little boy, walking alongside his parents on his way to morning service at Llandyfriog church, he caught sight of an elderly lady dressed all in black, arriving at the church gates in a pony and trap.

“I was probably around seven or eight at the time, and I was captivated by this very grand woman, who was one of the Fitzwilliams of Cilgwyn,” he explains.

“She was dressed all in black with a shawl and she carried with her a small umbrella.  Every Sunday the Fitzwilliam family would come to church to attend the English services which were put on specifically for them, because everyone else who lived in the vicinity spoke Welsh.”

The great legacy which the Fitzwilliam family held in this part of the Teifi Valley ignited a keen interest in social history for the young Gerwyn Morgan, both during his primary school days at the Church School, Newcastle Emlyn and later at Llandysul Grammar School.

Gerwyn went on to read geography and history at Reading University in the late 1950s before returning to Wales to do his teacher’s training at Bangor.

Following a teaching post in Cardiff in the early 1960s, Gerwyn began working for the former Independent Television Authority (ITA) that awarded contracts to regional television companies such as Granada, Thames Television, Grampian, Anglia and Tyne Tees.

From there he moved to Knightsbridge in  London where he worked as a press officer for ITA and later the IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority).

In 1974 he returned to Wales and was appointed information officer for the former Dyfed County Council where he remained until his early retirement in the 1990s.

And this was when Gerwyn was finally able to turn his attention  to researching the history of the area around his childhood home in Llandyfriog and, most recently, his home in Beulah.

“A decided to publish a book, around ten years ago, charting the history of Beulah and I devoted a chapter to the mansions of the area, including Plas Troedyraur, Blaenpant, Noyadd Trefawr and Cilgwyn.

"And  I suppose this was what ignited my interest in trying to find out as much as I could about the great number of country houses which we have here in the Teifi Valley. There’s a tremendous concentration of them, far more than you'd find anywhere else in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and the rest of Ceredigion.”

Gerwyn began sourcing newspaper articles and countless documentation relating to the history of 50 Teifi Valley houses,and his findings are now published in the fifth edition of his book ‘The Faded Glory’.

“These really were like the Downton Abbeys of the Tivyside as they were each served with their butlers, their footmen and a host of servants who are listed in the census returns of the day.

“They lived lives of luxury with their high society parties, their fancy dress balls and their hunting, and obviously this was in huge contrast to how everybody else was living around them.

“These families were English speaking, church going and Tory voting while everyone else was Welsh speaking, chapel going and Liberal.”

One property which stands out is the mighty Bronwydd estate which lay between Newcastle Emlyn and Llandysul. It had been owned by the Lloyd family since the 1500s and, throughout the centuries had acquired some 9,000 acres of land which reaped rents amounting to today’s equivalent of £1 million per annum.

“This was a real fantasy castle that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a fairytale," continues Gerwyn.

"In the 1890s the family would spend every January and February in Monte Carlo but by the Second World War, they had become severely indebted. Sadly the house has now been completely demolished.

“But it was families such as this which had tremendous control over the people around them, with the result that they were feared. As well as being landowners, they were also the JPs of the area and in those days, this involved a great deal more than sitting in a court and passing sentence. They held the quarter sessions which were responsible for roads and bridges, highway diversions and closures, licensing, the constabulary and any number of other civil functions.

“But one argument in their favour was that the smaller mansions employed between 12 and 15 people in the household as well as the staff who would look after the home farms and their large gardens.”

Tivyside Advertiser: Staff laying the table at Noyadd Trefawr, complete with boar's head.Staff laying the table at Noyadd Trefawr, complete with boar's head. (Image: Gerwyn Morgan)

‘The Faded’ Glory offers a magnificent account of the very rich social history which the Teifi Valley gentry enjoyed for several centuries.

Its pages are filled with photographs of the properties as well as their wealthy owners and servants, while the accounts provide vivid insights into the way in which their lives were conducted.

I particularly enjoyed reading a step-by-step account of the funeral of Sir Thomas David Lloyd, Bart, of Bronwydd, whose heavily draped black hearse was ‘drawn by four black horses plumed with the hooves blackened.'

And then there’s the chilling account of ‘the romantic suicide’ at Gernos, Llangunllo, when upper house maid Amelia Jane Bartlett left behind suicide letters before taking her own life with carbolic acid after falling hopelessly in love with the mansion’s son and heir, Gwinett George Tyler.

‘The Faded Glory’ will be available at the end of this week (October 17) from local bookshops including Awen Teifi (Cardigan), Victoria Bookshop (Haverfordwest), Debbie’s Gift Shop (Newcastle Emlyn) and Ffab, Llandysul. It can also be ordered via the author Gerwyn Morgan, by emailing gerwyn.morgansa38@gmail.com or Tel 01239 810752.

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