According to this theory of mine . . . the blessed ford was not . . . the last ford on the road to Ystrad Fflur, . . . but I venture to suggest that . . . Rhydfendigaid . . . received its name when pilgrims were travelling to the old abbey situated about a mile to the south of the village . . . It might be that Rhydfendigaid was the blessed ford because it was the last on the road to the old Abbey, and possibly because there were stepping-
stones across the Teifi at that last spot. ( S.M. Powell (Pilgrim Routes to Strata Florida, Trans. of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society, Volume 8, 1931, p 13)
Though the evidence for the existence of a pre-Cistercian abbey on the banks of the Fflur may be slight and tenuous, it is nevertheless worth summarizing and assessing.
Stephen Williams, whose work on the history and architecture of Strata Florida is widely acknowledged, claimed that Rhys ap Tewdwr  founded a monastery for monks of some order on the banks of the Fflur, sometime during his reign as king of the Deheubarth (1078-1093). When directing excavations at Strata Florida in the late nineteenth century, Stephen Williams took time out to investigate the old abbey site. Thomas Jones, the resident farm tenant at the time, showed him the area of ground covered by the foundations of the alleged abbey, including the all-important abbey church. Fragments of the church walls, he said, could be seen protruding above ground level before he had them cleared (see image opposite) to extend his use of the land for agricultural purposes. He estimated that the church would have been about 126 feet long by 42 feet wide. Stephen Williams concluded, on the basis of what he had seen and been told, that this spot must have been, at one time, the site of a significant religious house, although it could not be compared, he said, in size or splendour with its successor near the Teifi and Glasffrwd.
In a field close to the Old Abbey farmhouse, a significant mound of rubble may be seen piled up at one end near a place called Henllys. It is highly likely that this is the mound that Thomas Jones referred to, and includes the remains of the old abbey which he cleared to extend the land for agricultural purposes. According to local tradition this is also the field where the old abbey once stood, conveniently positioned near where two minor brooks merge – the Gorphen and the Fflur
It has to be stated however that a geophysical survey of the site by Jemma Bezant in 2007  failed to confirm the presence of any substantial stone structure that matched Stephen Williams’ account. Plainly, the latter’s version of things is unproven and there is no solid documentary proof linking Rhys ap Tewdwr with an old abbey named Ystrad Fflur. On the other hand, there are some written references which appear to underpin Stephen Williams’ belief. A few of these are noted below.
Bleddin ap Maenarch was buried at Ystrad Fflur or Strata Florida abbey in Cardiganshire, which was built by his brother-
in- law Rhys ap Tewdwr
The author gives no authority for his claim. However, it is known that both Bleddin ap Maenarch and Rhys ap Tewdwr died in battle against the Normans in 1093. There is no obvious reason to doubt Theophilus Jones, and it is possible that the two were buried in the same monastery which, of course, would have to be the ‘old’ abbey near the Fflur.
Stephen Williams also suggested that Rhys ap Tewdwr’s old abbey may have been :
. . . in a ruinous condition owing to the long-
continued wars in which the country had been engaged . . . since his death, and that . . . the Cluniac monastery as it was called by Camden, became merged in the new foundation for the Cistercian order .
It is not an unreasonable argument. When Robert fitz Stephen (then lord of Penardd) offered Whitland abbey a modest endowment to found a daughter house in the commote of Penardd, it would have been expedient for him to prevail upon the beneficiaries to take over an ailing monastery within the commote. The later would have a ready water supply and, presumably, stone buildings, at least, suitable as temporary accommodation. Certainly, it was not unknown at the time for some extant monasteries to become established Cistercian houses.
While the above testaments may only be faintly conceded, there is additional, perhaps more persuasive, evidence to support S. M. Powell’s claims. There are local place-
One hundred years or so ago, Pensarn was a very familiar local name in Rhydfendigaid. It was the name given to a strip of land and some old dwellings (now long demolished) close to where the river Teifi flows through the village [Figure 1]. Sarn is a well known name, meaning stepping stones for crossing shallow water (or wet marshy ground), and it is tempting to conclude that Pensarn would have been near to the initial ‘holy ford’.
Medieval route through Rhydfendigaid – – – – –
What’s more, prior to the present bridge being built and the road re-
On reaching the top end of the street, it crosses Lisburne Row and then on to, what is to-
Again, roughly half-
Tro Porth Llwyd
On the road north from Tregaron to Ponthrhydfendigaid (B4343) near the Old Abbey farm
|||Stephen W Williams, The Cistercian Abbey of ta Florida, London,1889, p|
|||Jemma Bezant with Professor David Austin, Geophysical survey of Strata Florida abbey, Henfynachlog farm and Troed-y-Rhiw upland settlement, Ceredigion, Archaeology in Wales, 47 (2007), 53-58.|
|||The Itinerary in Wales of John Leland in or about 1536-|
|||Gwaith Lewis Glyn Cothi, published by the Society of Cymmrodorion, Oxford, 1837, p 266.|
|||Theophilus Jones, A History of the County of Brecknock, London, 1805, Volume 1, p 270.|
|||Stephen W Williams, The Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida, London,1889, p 22|
|||T Williams, How old is Pont Rhydfendigaid?, Ceredigion, XV (2), p1.|
|||Interestingly, there is also a sharp road turning called Tro Pen Porth near Ystrad Fflur. For more information about Ystrad Fflur, see Strata Florida Project, The University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.|
|||There is some evidence to suggest that the course of Teifi may have been diverted when the first stone bridge was built and it is possible that the ‘holy ford’ was located slightly to the south of that shown in figure 1.|
Who gave the village its name?