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Machynlleth

Machynlleth

Machynlleth (IPA ; sometimes referred to colloquially as Mach) is a market town in Powys, Wales. It is in the Dyfi Valley, and is at the intersection of the A487 and the A489. It had a population of about 2,000 people according to the United Kingdom Census 2001.

It was the seat of Owain Glyndŵr's Welsh Parliament in 1404, and as such claims to be the "ancient capital of Wales". However, it has never held any official recognition as a capital. From 1536 to 1974 it lay in the historic county of Montgomeryshire (Sir Drefaldwyn). It applied for city status in the 2000 and 2002 competitions.

Machynlleth hosted the National Eisteddfod in 1937 and 1981.

History

There is a long history of human activity in the Machynlleth area. In the late-1990s, radiocarbon dating showed that copper mining was taking place in the Early Bronze Age (ca. 2750 years ago), within a mile of the town centre. But there are legends of a once fertile plain, the Cantre'r Gwaelod, now lost beneath the waves of Cardigan Bay. The Romans settled in the area to an extent. They built a small Roman fort at Pennal (Cefn Caer), four miles west of Machynlleth and are reputed to have had two look-out posts above the town at Bryn-y-gog and Wylfa. But one of the earliest written references to Machynlleth is the Royal charter granted in 1291 by Edward I to Owen de la Pole, Lord of Powys. This gave him the right to hold "a market at Machynlleth every Wednesday for ever and two fairs every year". The Wednesday market is still a busy and popular day in Machynlleth 700 years on. Royal House, which stands on the corner of the Garsiwn, is another of the mediæval houses that can still be seen today. According to local tradition, Dafydd Gam, a Welsh ally of the English Kings, was imprisoned here from 1404 to 1412 for attempting to assassinate Owain Glyndŵr. After his release by Glyndwr, ransomed Gam fought alongside Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt and is named amongst the dead in Shakespeare's Henry V. The name Royal House undoubtedly refers to the tradition that Charles I stayed at the house in 1643.

The weekly market and biannual fair thrived, and in 1613 drew complaints from other towns whose trading in cloth was being severely affected. A document dated 1632 shows that animals for sale came from all over Merionethshire, Montgomeryshire, Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Denbighshire, and prospective buyers came from Flintshire, Radnorshire, Brecknockshire, Herefordshire and Shropshire, in addition to the above.

Dyfi Bridge was first mentioned in 1533, by Geoffrey Hughes, "Citizen and Merchant taylour of London" who left £6 13/4 "towards making of a bridge at the toune of Mathanlleth". By 1601 "Dyfi bridge in the Hundred of Mochunleth" was reported to be insufficient, and the current one was built in 1805 for £250. Fenton describes it in 1809 as "A noble erection of five large arches. The piers are narrow and over each cut-water is a pilaster, a common feature of the eighteenth century".

On 29 November 1644, a Civil War battle took place near Dyfi Bridge between Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army, commanded by Sir Thomas Myddelton of Chirk Castle, and the Royalists. A great many were killed and Mathrafal was burnt down on same day. Many houses in Machynlleth occupied by Royalists were also burned down.

From 1859 to 1948 the town was served by the narrow-gauge Corris Railway, which brought slate from the quarries around Corris and Aberllefenni for onward despatch to the markets. The railway's Machynlleth station building, built in 1905, can still be seen alongside the road approaching the town from the north.

Machynlleth main-line station was built by the Newtown and Machynlleth Railway, and continues to provide a link to Aberystwyth and the Cambrian coast to the west and Newtown and Shrewsbury to the east.

The daughter of local landowner Sir John Edwards married Viscount Seaham, the second son of the third Marquess of Londonderry, and they set up home in Plas Machynlleth. He became Earl Vane on the death of his father and the fifth Marquess on the death of his half-brother. To celebrate the 21st birthday of their eldest son, Viscount Castlereagh, the townspeople subscribed to the erection (at the town's main road intersection) of the Clock Tower, which has become widely known as the symbol of Machynlleth. The tower, which stands on the site of the old Town Hall, is the first thing many visitors will notice. The foundation stone was laid on 15 July 1874 amid great festivities. Another son, Lord Herbert Vane-Tempest, was the last member of the family to live at the Plas and was killed in the Abermule train collision on the Cambrian Railways, of which he was a director. The house was given to the townspeople after World War II. In recent years it was converted into the Celtica visitor centre.

Welsh Language

Machynlleth retains its strong Welsh character to this day, and you will hear Welsh spoken everywhere alongside English. Figures from the 2001 Census indicate that some 70%(1961:82%) of the population have some knowledge of Welsh with 42% able to read, write and speak the language.

People of Machynlleth

Owain Glyndŵr

Machynlleth has a special role in Welsh history because of its connection with Owain Glyndŵr, a Prince of Wales who rebelled against the English during the reign of King Henry IV. Owain was crowned Prince of Wales in 1404 near the Parliament House, which is one of three mediæval houses in town, in the presence of leaders from Scotland, France and Spain, and he held his own Parliament in the town. It is thought that after the rebellion floundered, Owain went into hiding in the area around Machynlleth.

David Sydney Thomas

Syd Thomas, as he is commonly known, is Machynlleth's most successful sporting son. He was spotted by London football scouts playing for the town side in his teens and signed professional forms in 1937. World War II started just as he was breaking into the first team and whilst he represented several London teams in the war years, he was robbed of several years of football. He was a regular on the right wing from 1946 onwards and played for Wales on four occasions. Everton were rumoured to be buying him yet Thomas found himself moving to Bristol City in 1950. He won Bristol's Sportsman of the Year award in his first season but was then unlucky for the second and final time in his career when TB struck him down for a long period. He returned to Machynlleth village life, running the bakery and town foodstore right through until the 1980s when he retired. As of 2007, Thomas still lives in Machynlleth.

Tourism

From 1995 until 2006, Celtica showcased Celtic life using audio-visual displays and exhibitions. Often hyped as having significant cultural importance, it always suffered from poor visitor numbers which ultimately forced its closure. Powys County Council are responsible for deciding what will become of the large mansion style building gifted to the people of Machynlleth, but talk around town is that it will probably become a new set of council offices.

Even with the current closure of Celtica the primary employment sector remains tourism with a wide range of activity based attractions (for example several mountain biking trails) as well as visitor centres (Centre for Alternative Technology). Agriculture clearly continues to play a significant part in the make-up of the town and surrounding area as well. Another important local industry and employer is the renewable energy sector. The area now has a rapidly-expanding renewable energy industry with several small to medium sized companies now operating in or around the town.

The town has a large market on Wednesdays which appeals to both locals and tourists. The Wales Museum of Modern Art, MOMA, Wales, presents lunchtime talks and performances on market days.

References

External links

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