St Dogmaels

The name St. Dogmaels is associated with the Welsh saint Dogfael. How then does one explain the equally persistent Llandudoch (locally pronounced Llan’doch)? Were Dogfael and Tudoch two different saints? Or do both names refer to the same saint or founder, with ‘mael’ (prince) and ‘tud’ (land or people of) being added to Dog/doch as in Dog mael and Tud doch? It is clear that the place was very important in the pre-Norman period. For example, in 988 the Vikings ravaged Llanbadarn, St. Davids, Llantwit Major, Llancarfan and Llandudoch: all important places in the pre-Norman church.

Inscribed Stones

The early Christian crosses and memorials testify to the significance of St Dogmaels’ religious heritage. Three stones are displayed in the church and two in the National Museum in Cardiff. It is planned that the remainder will be displayed in the Coach House next to the Abbey. The most famous and earliest is the Sagranus stone (in the church), reading in ogam: SAGRAGNI MAQI CUNATAMI, and in Latin: SAGRANI FILI/CVNOTAMI, and meaning (The stone) of Sagranus, son of Cunotamus. Identified by V E Nash-Williams as 5th or early 6th century AD, the time when Irish settlers were to be found in much of modern Pembrokeshire, it has proved most important to scholars as a key to understanding ogam writing.

Location

These parishes lie on the south-facing slopes of the Preselis. The northern boundary of Mynachlog-ddu coincides with the mountain skyline which can be seen from a great distance. This ridge is an important image in the verse of Waldo Williams (1904-71) a pacifist, and poet of national importance who spent part of his childhood in Mynachlog-ddu where his father was the village schoolmaster. His poem ‘Preseli’ composed at a time of great crisis for the community opens with the couplet (in translation): ‘Wall of my childhood, Foel Drigarn, Carn Gyfrwy, Tal Mynydd, My support in all independent thinking.’

Maritime Tradition

The waterway was the main source of employment for the village of St. Dogmaels. Herring fishing was very important from the Middle Ages to the mid 18th century and continued until 1914, salted herrings being exported to Ireland and Spain. In summer, salmon fishing took place using Seine nets. Circa 1884 there were 21 fishing boats operating. Numbered stones were drawn at the Netpool before each tide to establish the order in which the pools were to be fished. There were a number of well-known salmon pools, but because of silting, most have virtually disappeared. There are four licences now available but only one boat actually fishing. It was early in the 20th century that the last Seine fishing boats were built in St. Dogmaels.

The Netpool Green used to be covered with ‘standards’ – wooden posts connected by crossbars – to facilitate the repairing and the drying after barking and cleaning of fishing nets. A few remain where the path descends to the Pinog.

The Pinog and Glanteifion strand were busy ship building areas. Amongst the St. Dogmaels-built ships of the 18th and 19th centuries were the Providence, Swallow, Joan, Ecton, Aleona, Anne and Mary, Margaret and Anne, Farmer’s Lass, Peggy, Effort, Ann Jones, Eugenie, Frolic and Eleanor, some of these being smacks and others schooners.

There was also trading. Folk memory recalls the ketch Eliza Ann landing a cargo of culm (a fuel: anthracite small coal mixed with clay) for the landlady of the White Hart which she resold from the pub. In August 1917 the Eliza Ann was sunk south-east of the Lizard Lighthouse by gunfire from a German submarine.

House names of the village include places visited and ships in which men had served. Tragedy at sea is reflected in the burial grounds. A fishing tragedy in 1789 claimed the lives of 27 men and boys from the village. The local legend of Pergrin’s Mermaid, which has recently been commemorated beside the Glanteifion Slipway, was associated with this. A fisherman called Pergrin, was, so the legend goes, warned against danger by the mermaid. In this way his life was saved.

The Custom House was in Cardigan. The Watch House, next to the Ferry Inn, was built for the coastguards to keep watch on ships arriving at the port.

The first lifeboat, provided in 1849 from local subscriptions, was managed by a local committee. It was stationed at Traeth Bach Poppit and crewed by fishermen of St. Dogmaels under coxswain Captain George Bowen. Further lifeboats followed including the John Stuart 1865 to 1884, the Lizzy and Charles Leigh Clare 1884 to 1905 and the Elizabeth Austin 1905 to 1932. Since 1971 there have been inshore lifeboats. The current lifeboats are an Atlantic 75 and a ‘D’class. Donald Davies, a local historian, reports 189 lives were saved by lifeboat crews between 1849 and 1990. The RNLI Lifeboat Station is at Poppit and next door is the Surf Lifesaving Club.

Nonconformity

There have been Baptists here since 1706 when preaching started at a house called Rhosgerdd. In 1745 Blaenwaun (first) chapel was built on the site of old Rhosgerdd. A new chapel was built in 1795-6. There were then 237 members drawn from 14 parishes. It was felt that a Baptist chapel was needed in the village and Ty’r Bont was built in 1813. This was succeeded by Bethsaida which was opened in 1838.

In the meantime Blaenwaun was re-built in 1885-6. By 1899 it had 579 members. Penuel Cemais and Gerazim are daughter churches. The first Independent chapel was Capel Degwel. A cottage known as Ffynnon Degwel was purchased by the Rev. Daniel Davies (minister of Capel Mair, Cardigan) and this had been converted into a chapel by 1828. The vestry was built in 1935.

Capel Seion Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, completed in 1838, was closed towards the end of the 20th century and is now two houses. Soan Baptist Chapel at Cippyn, founded in 1798 by Evan Owen of Manian Fawr on land at Trecwn, was abandoned in 1848 when Gerazim Baptist Chapel was built at Esgyr nearby.

Schools

A Methodist Chapel built about 1790 was later used as a day school by the National Society. Although a church school, it was known locally as ‘Ysgol y Capel’. Closed in the 1950s, the building is now the church hall. The present school opened as The British School on 21 June 1869. It was built on Parc y Bedo, the stones coming from a quarry on Penrallt Farm.

Inns and Public Houses

Amongst former inns there were the Cardigan Bay Inn (on Longdown Bank), the Sailor’s Return, the Noyadd Arms, the Rose and Crown, the Mariners, the Sloop, the Corner House, the Treffynnon Arms and the Royal Exchange. Some are now houses. The present day inns are the White Hart, the Teifi Inn, the Ferry Inn and the Webley Hotel. Unofficial inns in the past were known as ‘tafarnau smwglin’.

Albro Castle

This remarkable building, now a private house, was the Cardigan Union Workhouse built following the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

St. Dogmaels Millennium Tapestry

Worked by a group in the village, it currently hangs in the Memorial Hall but there are plans to display it in the Coach House. Some 15 pictures highlight village history.

Hanes Llan’doch

The Hanes Llan’doch (History of St. Dogmaels) initiative is a charity launched in the autumn of 2000 to create a visitor centre (the Coach House project) as a gateway for the Norman Abbey, the village and the surrounding countryside.
Royal Naval Reserve Artillery Battery

A training battery on the waterfront between Glanteifion and the Webley Hotel was manned by local Royal Naval Reserves. It was disbanded in 1906.

Wildlife

A variety of habitats: estuary, beach, cliffs, sand dunes, reed marsh, valleys and a plateau, ensures a rich mix of species. Cwm Degwel is an excellent example of a glacial ravine, where species include ransoms, primroses, wild daffodils and bluebells, unusual lichen, mosses and liverworts.

The plateau is populated by skylarks and yellow hammers, whilst at Cemais Head there are choughs, ravens and peregrine falcons. At Poppit, situated within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, habitats include sand dunes and salt and reed marsh. Part is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Species along the estuary occasionally include little egret, slavonian grebe, osprey, otters and seals.