Ernest Richmond Horfall Turner (1870-1936)

Walks and Wanderings in County Cardigan, 1903.


Ernest Richmond Horsfall Turner [1] was born in Yorkshire. He graduated at London University and then followed his father’s footsteps into the teaching profession ; he taught at Blaenau Ffestiniog and Colwyn Bay before being appointed headmaster at Llanidloes County School in 1895. Although not a native of Wales, he learnt Welsh and then began to take an interest in local Welsh history and geography. Among his many published works were ‘Walks and Wanderings in County Cardigan’ and ‘The Municipal History of Llanidloes’. These two publications were distinctive in that they contained his own pen and ink drawings. He was a skilful illustrator and later in life, he became an accomplished artist in water-colours. After retiring in 1932 he carried out much research into the history of the Chartist movement in Montgomeryshire and his manuscripts are now at the National Library of Wales. In 1901, he was elected a member of Llanidloes town council and was twice mayor of the town. He died at Llanidloes in 1936, and was buried there.

A visit to Strata Florida

Horsfall Turner actually started his wanderings through Cardiganshire with a visit to Strata Florida :

. . . at the ancient monastery of Strata Florida, for here was written the mediaeval ‘Chronicle of the Princes’ which is the foundation of the written history, not only of the small Kingdom of Ceredigion but of Wales. The Abbey was, in fact, the political, religious, and educational centre of Wales in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

On reading these words its impossible not to feel privileged and proud of being raised in the shadow of such an illustrious establishment. Horsfall Turmer wrote deferentially, and at length, about the Abbey and  lamented that :

Much of the ruined building after lapse of time was gradually removed…to an unworthy rejuvenescence in the houses of the adjacent village of Pont-rhyd-fendigaid.

The inclusion of the first of his pen and ink illustrations below shows Strata Florida church with a rather small, insignificant young tree in the forefront. To-day that same tree is a huge, impressive copper beech which adds immensely to the aura and charm of the place.

It seems that Horsfall Turner hasd a tight schedule for he wrote :

Would time and space permit, sufficient interest might be spared for the historic heights of Bwlch-y-dau-lu and its two opposing armies and Penbanau ; and the church of St Mary, with its gallery, old mural tablets and ugly box pews would repay exploration, but we must be satisfied with a peep through the dilapidated leaded diamond panes and return to Bont


Of the village, he wrote :

The chalybeate spring (possibly Ffynnon Duffryn Tawel), although it contains ten grains of soild per gallon, has not yet produced the rush of the health and pleasure seeker to Bont, neither has the manufacture of oils from the bog of Teivi brought an influx of population.

Another of Horsfall Turner’s illustrations is that of the birthplace of John Phillips (see opposite) ; this one gives a glimpse of the road past the house as it was in 1902/3. His own intuitive feeling was :

The village remains much the same as when ‘Phillips of Bangor’ lived here. The house where he was born still stands, although the people in it have forgotten his name.

The village (or at least this part of it) also seems to have remained much the same as it was when Horfall Turner passed through it over 100 years ago

His book does provide a little bit of background to one of Pontrhydfendigaid’s most distinguished sons :

John Phillips was educated at Ystrad Meurig, and afterwards at Llangeitho school with Dr. Lewis Edwards of Bala. After an itinerant career as home missionary in Rhayadr Gwy and North Wales, he went to Edinburgh University and graduated there. He then settled for a time in Holywell, then went to Anglesea and in 1847 to Bangor. The great work of his life was the establishment of the Normal College at Bangor, and he collected no less than £11,000 for the purpose … Quite recently, a metal tablet has been placed on the walls of the day-room of the College, and its inscription reads ― see opposite

In Memory of the


Founder of this College, and its first Principal.

Born, 1810; Died 1867.

As the Representative of the British and Foreign School Society,

he was the Pioneer of Free Education in North Wales.

From Pontrhydfendigaid, Horsfall Turner continued his journey to Ystrad Meurig where he found :

The country bleak and somewhat desolate, (with) little remains to demonstrate the greatness of its past .

He is quick to add, however :

In history . . . the spot is of great consequence

 and, not surprisingly, he devotes the whole of his third chapter to Ysbytty Ystrad Meurig and the Ystwyth Valley


[1]     The Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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