Cantre'r Gwaelod (Cantref y Gwaelod)

gyrtrash

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#1
Copied from the Lost Lands thread:
http://forum.forteantimes.com/index.php?threads/lost-lands.11552/



I was in Wales at the weekend (Porthmadog) and came across a book with a local story about a land lost to the sea. ...

And there's a good article on the BBC site about the Lost Land of Wales - Cantre'r Gwaelod, HERE . It's got some interesting pics too!

The link is:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/legacies/myths_legends/wales/w_mid/article_1.shtml

It is now an archive and is no longer active.



Think I'll put it on my list of places to visit :)
 
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SniperK2

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#2
There's a legend connected, I think, with Worms head , in Wales, if you stand on a particlar patch of grass, and look out you can see ' fairyland ' whatever name you want to call it, and if you run and get a Bible, so say, and come back before it vanishes, you will be able to enter it. Of course there were lands off the Welsh coast , I think at Amroth you can see pertrified tree stumps if the tide is low, and there the legend of Cantref y Gwaelod, (sp) which was drowned by the sea, one of the only survivors being Taliesin.
 

CuriousIdent

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#3
Copied from the Flooded Kingdoms thread:
http://forum.forteantimes.com/index.php?threads/flooded-kingdoms.2261/


Whilst I see it alluded to in a couple of older posts one flooded kingdom not to have been directly mentioned in this thread is that of the Welsh legendary city of Cantref (or Cantre'r) Gwaelod.

A City which purportedly sat several miles off the cost of Aberystwyth, and a kingdom which would have covered a significant part of modern day Cardigan Bay.

I say purportedly, because very little has ever been found to support the claim that this kingdom actually existed. Some older texts refer to there being evidence of sunken remains of human habitations visible in the 1700s. There is no evidence of it today.

The earliest mention of the kingdom is in the Black Book of Camarthen, which is for the most part an (incomplete now through pages lost across the centuries) book of triads, folklore and poetry.

As a Student at Aberystwyth I always found the notion that there might yet be some kind of Welsh Atlantis somewhere out to sea to be quite an entertaining one. Supposedly Cantref Gwaelod was the kingdom of King Gwyddno Long-Shanks (or occasionally Gwyddno Cornaur - Golden-Crown) who lived in the early to mid-6th century. The kingdom supposedly created by a large sea dyke, which
 
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Peripart

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#4
I'm starting this thread with no great knowledge of the subject, but quite a bit of interest! The name of this alleged lost Welsh Kingdom has been mentioned a few times on this forum over the years - a number of them quite recently - but I couldn't find a dedicated thread, so here we are.

The story of Cantre'r Gwaelod is of an ancient land occupying what is now the central part of Cardigan Bay in Wales, stretching out up to 20 miles from the present-day coastline. Legend has it that the land was bounded by a dyke, in the manner of the Dutch, which allowed the area to drain when the tide was out, and to protect it when the waters were high.

Wikipedia isn't always the best source, I know, but it gives a useful summary of the topic:

Cantre'r Gwaelod was an area of land which, according to legend, was located in an area west of present-day Wales which is now under the waters of Cardigan Bay. Accounts variously suggest the tract of land extended from Bardsey Island to Cardigan or as far south as Ramsey Island.[1] Legends of the land suggest that it may have extended 20 miles west of the present coast.[2]

There are several versions of the myth. The earliest known form of the legend is usually said to appear in the Black Book of Carmarthen, in which the land is referred to as Maes Gwyddno (English: the Plain of Gwyddno). In this version, the land was lost to floods when a well-maiden named Mererid neglected her duties and allowed the well to overflow.[2]

Rachel Bromwich questions this identification, saying that "There is no certainty, however, that in twelfth century tradition Maes Gwyddneu did represent the submerged land in Cardigan Bay." She also links Gwyddno Garanhir with the Hen Ogledd, not Wales.[3]

The popular version known today is thought to have been formed from the 17th century onwards. Cantre'r Gwaelod is described as a low-lying land fortified against the sea by a dyke, Sarn Badrig ("Saint Patrick's causeway"), with a series of sluice gates that were opened at low tide to drain the land.[2]

Cantre'r Gwaelod's capital was Caer Wyddno, seat of the ruler Gwyddno Garanhir. Two princes of the realm held charge over the dyke. One of these princes, called Seithenyn, is described in one version as a notorious drunkard and carouser, and it was through his negligence that the sea swept through the open floodgates, ruining the land.

The church bells of Cantre'r Gwaelod are said to ring out in times of danger.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantre'r_Gwaelod


Ceredigion's tourist website also gives a nice overview:

Cantre’r Gwaelod is Wales’s very own Atlantis, and the tale is one of Wales’s best known legends. Do some features along the shore of Cardigan Bay suggests that there may be some truth to the tale?

The Lost Land of Cantre’r Gwaelod
According to the legend, Cantre’r Gwaelod was the rich and fertile ‘lowland hundred’ and sixteen cities governed by Gwyddno Garanhir, whose palace, Caer Wyddno, was reputedly near Aberystwyth. The land stretched across what is today the open sea of Cardigan Bay, and lay below sea level, protected by sea walls. The guardian of the sea defences was Seithennyn, a friend of the king charged with the all important role of shutting the sea gates every night. One night Seithennyn, who liked his drink, was at a feast in the king's palace, and forgot to shut the sea gates. It was a stormy night and the high spring tides broke through, quickly flooding Cantre’r Gwaelod, and forcing its people to flee to the hills.

The tale is first recorded in the 'Black Book of Carmarthen along with tales of Arthur and Merlin. This precious manuscript is in the keeping of the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Visit Ynyslas to discover the petrified forest – best seen in winter when the strong tides wash away the sand - or listen out for the sound of bells from under the waves between Ynyslas and Aberdyfi, across the Dyfi estuary, immortalised in the popular welsh folk song 'Clychau Aberdyfi (The Bells of Aberdyfi).

Download a map and route guide for Borth to Ynyslas Cantre'r Gwaelod walk that takes in the Dyfi National Nature Reserve and the beach where you'll find the sunken forest.

Alternatively, walk south from Borth along the Coast Path towards Clarach and Aberystwyth to see Sarn Cynfelyn causeway that stretches out to sea at Wallog. Download the map and route guide for Borth (south)to Wallog Cantre'r Gwaelod walk.

At Borth, Ceredigion based sculptor Ben Dearnley has carved scenes from the tale on a giant slab of slate. Read Ben's account of carving on site and what inspired him, and find out what happens at the summer solstice.

Visit Borth Station Museum to see finds from archaeological digs in the area, including the 3,000 year old antlers of the beast dubbed the 'King of Sea Trees'.
http://www.discoverceredigion.co.uk/English/more/legends/Pages/lostland.aspx

It's an area I've often visited, and the legend intrigues me, even if I'm not totally convinced. Certainly, around Borth and Ynyslas, remains of ancient tree stumps are visible at extreme low tide, so the land clearly stretched out further in the past than it does now. Just how far is, of course, the question. Then again, the are the various sarns (ridges in the sea bed stretching out from the land) - are they natural, or part of some antediluvian sea-defence system?
 
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Peripart

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#5
Part of the legend says that, at times, a bell from the old kingdom can sometimes be heard from beneath the waves. In recognition of this part of the legend, a real bell has been affixed beneath the jetty at Aberdovey (Aberdyfi), its clapper dangling so that the incoming tide can make it ring.

I took this picture of the bell on a recent visit:

ZBell.jpg
 

oldrover

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#6
I've heard of this, but know very little about it. Is this the same place that's supposed to have been deluged in the tidal wave in the 1600's?
 

Peripart

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#8
I've heard of this, but know very little about it. Is this the same place that's supposed to have been deluged in the tidal wave in the 1600's?
I don't think so, Rover. Some sources date the origin of the legend itself to the 16th or 17th century, but the events described are always supposed to have happened many hundreds, perhaps a thousand or more, years earlier. Quite possibly, they relate to passed-down stories from even longer before that, and may have become mixed with similar tales from other parts of the present-day UK. There's a similar "lost kingdom" off North Wales, and of course, Doggerland in the South East of England is more or less accepted history.

Whatever the truth of it all, these tales present an ideal opportunity for sitting on the beach at Ynyslas or Tywyn, and gazing out to sea, lost in thought! And that will do for me.
 
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Peripart

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#10
Ooh there's a coincidence, they must have bells like that around the country - I was on the isle of Lewis recently and saw one exactly similar. Here they are!
http://www.timeandtidebell.co.uk/
Excellent! I had no idea about the other such bells. The Aberdovey part of that page mentions Cantre'r Gwaelod, though interestingly, the pictures of that bell mostly show a different clapper arrangement to the one I photographed (see my earlier post) a couple of weeks ago. The audio file of the bell ringing, with the sound of the waves sloshing below, is quite atmospheric.
 
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#11
Mp3 of this very bell.
It has an evocative tone, but I wouldn't want to be living within 500m of it - drive ya batty.



Part of the legend says that, at times, a bell from the old kingdom can sometimes be heard from beneath the waves. In recognition of this part of the legend, a real bell has been affixed beneath the jetty at Aberdovey (Aberdyfi), its clapper dangling so that the incoming tide can make it ring.

I took this picture of the bell on a recent visit:

View attachment 5945
 

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#12
I bet Rynner would have something to say about the bells.....
 
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#13
Yup. Would be good to have his take on this theory.

Really interesting thread, Peripart.
 

Naughty_Felid

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#14
Weren't the structures exposed at low tide supposed to be a giant fish trap built by the monks?
 

CuriousIdent

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#15
Ah ha! I have posted a good several times about Cantref (or Cantre'r) Gwaelod. But I've never managed to get any traction on here, when I have. :)

Cantref Gwaelod supposedly disappeared sometime around the 6th century AD. It was the kingdom of Gwyddno Garanhir, kept behind a giant floodgate which held the sea back. A 'Cantref' was a medieval term for a land division. It closest translates as 'Hundredth' but could also be seen as a County Kingdom, such as others from this period in history.

The earliest reference known of it comes from Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin - The Black Book of Camarthen. However, that 13th century book (written entirely in Welsh) is both incomplete (pages literally having fallen out and been lost over the centuries) and also being a collection of poetry and folklore. It is not a factual document. There the kingdom is referred to by another name - Maes Gwyddno - which best translates as the plain of Gwyddno. Named for Gwyddno Garanhir.

In that telling of the story it is a 'well-maiden' named Mererid , who neglects her duties and allows the well to overflow, causing the kingdom to flood from within.

The version of the story of Cantref Gwaelod from roughly the 17th century onwards tells a different story. The kingdom is described as a low-lying land fortified against the sea by a dyke, Sarn Badrig, with a series of sluice gates - closed for high tide, and used to drain water from the kingdom at low tide.

The kingdom's Capital and seat of power was Caer Wyddno, a settlement speculated to have been located somewhere north-west of modern-day Aberystwyth.

In this version of the tale the blame is laid at the feet of Seithenyn, who is one of two individuals responsible for the maintaining and operating of the gate. One night, while it's his turn, Seithenyn gets blind drunk and forgets his duty. The kingdom is flooded.

In some tellings of this version Seithenyn is a Prince of the Realm - though not Gwyddno's Son. In others he is merely a contemporary of King Gwyddno.

Seithenyn is also listed in the Triads of the Island of Britain as one of the "Three Immortal Drunkards of the Isle of Britain".

If Cantref Gwaelod *did* exist it would have formed a land mass over much of what is modern day Cardigan Bay, linking seamlessly with the modern mainland, with Gwyddno also being king over land which sits in modern day Ceredigion. In fact in 18th century texts he is referred to as 'King of Ceredigion'.
 
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CuriousIdent

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#16


This is my feeble attempt to show where the "Sarnau" or causeways jut out for various distances under Cardigan Bay. Land is shown in green, shallow water in light blue, and deeper water in dark blue. Sarn Badrig is the largest, covering a large area north of the Mawddach estuary, Sarn-y-Bwch extends from the Dysynni estuary, and Sarn Cynfelyn/Cynfelyn Patches can be seen south of the Dyfi estuary.

A map showing where causeways in the modern Cardigan Bay area reside. Legend would have you believe that some of these were plausibly the one time location of walls or sluice gates holding the water back from Cantref Gwaelod.

From: http://website.lineone.net/~dyfival1/cantrer.htm
 

Peripart

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#17
Ah ha! I have posted a good several times about Cantref (or Cantre'r) Gwaelod. But I've never managed to get any traction on here, when I have.
Then I am pleased that I began this dedicated thread. It's a tale (if that is, indeed, all it is) that interests me greatly, not least because I've visited that area of Wales many times, so I thank you for taking the time to provide a lot more detail than I have managed to do so far.
 

oldrover

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#18
Ah ha! I have posted a good several times about Cantref (or Cantre'r) Gwaelod. But I've never managed to get any traction on here, when I have. :)

Cantref Gwaelod supposedly disappeared sometime around the 6th century AD. It was the kingdom of Gwyddno Garanhir, kept behind a giant floodgate which held the sea back. A 'Cantref' was a medieval term for a land division. It closest translates as 'Hundredth' but could also be seen as a County Kingdom, such as others from this period in history.

The earliest reference known of it comes from Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin - The Black Book of Camarthen. However, that 13th century book (written entirely in Welsh) is both incomplete (pages literally having fallen out and been lost over the centuries) and also being a collection of poetry and folklore. It is not a factual document. There the kingdom is referred to by another name - Maes Gwyddno - which best translates as the plain of Gwyddno. Named for Gwyddno Garanhir.

In that telling of the story it is a 'well-maiden' named Mererid , who neglects her duties and allows the well to overflow, causing the kingdom to flood from within.

The version of the story of Cantref Gwaelod from roughly the 17th century onwards tells a different story. The kingdom is described as a low-lying land fortified against the sea by a dyke, Sarn Badrig, with a series of sluice gates - closed for high tide, and used to drain water from the kingdom at low tide.

The kingdom's Capital and seat of power was Caer Wyddno, a settlement speculated to have been located somewhere north-west of modern-day Aberystwyth.

In this version of the tale the blame is laid at the feet of Seithenyn, who is one of two individuals responsible for the maintaining and operating of the gate. One night, while it's his turn, Seithenyn gets blind drunk and forgets his duty. The kingdom is flooded.

In some tellings of this version Seithenyn is a Prince of the Realm - though not Gwyddno's Son. In others he is merely a contemporary of King Gwyddno.

Seithenyn is also listed in the Triads of the Island of Britain as one of the "Three Immortal Drunkards of the Isle of Britain".

If Cantref Gwaelod *did* exist it would have formed a land mass over much of what is modern day Cardigan Bay, linking seamlessly with the modern mainland, with Gwyddno also being king over land which sits in modern day Ceredigion. In fact in 18th century texts he is referred to as 'King of Ceredigion'.
Very interesting, thank you for posting that.
 

oldrover

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#20
This has been on my mind all day, as I too spend a fair bit of time in this area. I'm intrigued by this, but I'm tending toward myth. I say this, because of a story we have here on the South Coast, it's less spectacular, but still it's believed locally, at least by those who've heard it.

Around the mouth of a small river called the Clyne, which drains out onto sand flats at low tide, we've got quite a few of these preserved ancient tree stumps, as they do at Borth, although I didn't know they were there too until reading around after this thread. Anyway, local story is that they're the remains of woodland round a farm, whose owner is said to have left for town one morning (about 2-3 miles) and on his return his land and property had been inundated, it's dated to roughly the last 2-3 hundred years. But, these remains are found all the way along our coast from the Severn, into England around Southport at least.

Reading the article at the link, it seems that the dating results suggest that the trees at Ynyslas are apr 5.5 kya, and Borth at around 3.5.

http://www.dyfedarchaeology.org.uk/lostlandscapes/submergedforests.html
 

CuriousIdent

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#21
Then I am pleased that I began this dedicated thread. It's a tale (if that is, indeed, all it is) that interests me greatly, not least because I've visited that area of Wales many times, so I thank you for taking the time to provide a lot more detail than I have managed to do so far.
It's an area I have a connection to, also. Firstly through family holidays, and later while studying at Aberystwyth University.

I first came into contact with the Cantref Gwaelod legend whilst I was doing a BA in Drama. We had a Performance Art module on that course, in which we were ask to theorise a performance piece around a poem about the South Shore of the town, in which Cantref Gwaelod was briefly mentioned.

Researching into what 'Cantref Gwaelod' actually was kind of sent that performance piece of at a bit of a tangent. But the notion of this 'Welsh Atlantis' (it's not quite, but you know what I mean) is something which has fascinated me ever since.
 

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#22
The island of St Michael's Mount near Penzance has a Cornish name that means the grey rock in the wood. It would seem that Celtic myth and legend keep alive certain ancient knowledge that these places were once above sea level, or perhaps the ancient Celts were more advanced than commonly thought and discovered the same kind of archaeological evidence and correctly theorised the sea was lower anciently. The use of oral history to communicate such discoveries could allow for such stories to be fancifully embellished. Even relatively recent professional historians have fleshed out what is known with less well founded details to tell a better story.
 

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#23
I have posted a good several times about Cantref (or Cantre'r) Gwaelod. But I've never managed to get any traction on here, when I have.
is there a possibility of asking a mod to move everything together?
 

EnolaGaia

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#24
is there a possibility of asking a mod to move everything together?
I've copied 2 or 3 isolated posts addressing this topic from other threads (from which they cannot be removed).

I'm not finding anything else more substantive than passing references in the context of other lost / sunken lands or sites.

That's all I can find.

If there are variant names or spellings other than those in this thread's title let me know and I'll search on them as well.
 
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