The bridge that gave the village its name
When was it built?
The image opposite was taken from a book by the Rev. John George Wood (1768-1838) called The Principal Rivers of Wales. It was published in 1813 and included a series of views along the length of all the main Welsh rivers, from source to the sea.
J.G. Wood, was a highly successful writer and a good second hand copy of his book will cost around £2000 today
In 1931-32, Edward Jervoise  undertook a survey of the ancient bridges in Wales and his findings were published in 1936. He looked at all the crossings spanning the river Teifi and he concluded that Pont Rhydfendigaid (the Bridge of the Blessed Ford) was neither ancient nor worthy of a mention. The Teifi, he said :
. . . passes near the ruins of . . . Strata Florida . . . None of the bridges in this district are of interest.
Gwyndaf Breese  likewise, in a recent publication, ‘The Bridges of Wales’, dismisses it in a couple of sentences :
This . . . is a ‘humped’ single arch bridge built of small outcrop stones. It has no special features and is well under one hundred and fifty years old.
Breese’s remark about the age of the bridge is wide of the mark. J.G. Wood’s book, the ‘Principal Rivers in Wales’ , includes a sketch of Pont Rhydfendigaid, drawn in 1811 and CADW contends that the bridge dates back to the 18th century . Exactly when it was built however is a bit of a mystery. Ask local people and the answer, more than likely, will be blwyddyn y tair caib (the year of the three pickaxes), that is 1777. D.C. Rees, in his book on Tregaron (1936) , claims that three of the stone bridges over the Teifi were built by his great-great-grandfather and great-grandfather, and that one of them was :
. . . Pontrhydfendiaid, (built between 1750-1777), where Edward Richard, Ystrad Meurig sings the praise of ‘Shon o Garon’ y Saer Maen, in his poem, ‘Cân y Bont’.
Incidentally, Rees is mistaken about Shon o Garon. Cân y Bont (Song of the Bridge) says the mason who built the bridge was Sion Ifan o Ystrad (y saer maen a gododd y bont oedd Sion Ifan o Ystrad) , while Sion o Garon was the man who quarried the stone for the bridge (Sion o Garon oedd y mwynwr a gloddiodd gerrig y bont).
Click image to read more
Jevoise and Breese may well be right that the bridge has no special or interesting physical features. However, it does have a notable and unique place in the history of Welsh literature, thanks to Edward Richard who wrote two poems about pont Rhydfrndigaid – ‘Cân y Bont’ (Song of the Bridge) and ‘Ateb i Gân y Bont’ (A Reply to the Song of the Bridge) . These are considered to be the first of their kind in the Welsh language, and Saunders Lewis  says the significance of :
. . . the Bridge poems is that they are in the measure of the later pastorals, and that they occasioned an interesting correspondence with Lewis Morris about poetic diction.
These two songs are also of interest in one other respect ; with the aid of these, and the correspondence between Edward Richard, Lewis Morris and Evan Evans (Ieuan Brydydd Hir) , it is possible to work out, with a fair degree of certainty, the year the bridge was actually built.
Evan Evans was born 20 May 1731 at Cynhawdref farm about a mile from Swyddffynnon in the parish of Lledrod, Cardiganshire. He received his early education at Edward Richard’s school in Ystrad Meurig. In 1751, he left Ystradmeurig and entered Merton College, Oxford but left without graduating.
Extracted from Y Bywgraffiadur Cymreig (LlGC)
For the full text click here
The first song was written around the time when it was agreed that the cost of building and maintaining the bridge would be borne by the County, rather than the parishes bordering the river (i.e. Caron and Gwnnws). Apparently, the families of Trawsgoed (Crosswood), Nanteos and Mabws were instrumental in procuring this concession .
This must have been an unexpected, but welcomed relief to the community and Edward Richard in his first song pays tribute to the representatives of the above families for their hospitality and friendly condescension  – or in other words, for graciously lowering themselves to help people less important than themselves. He exhort the freeholders and tenantry of the parishes . . . to fidelity and gratitude (see adjacent inset and reference )
This song was first mentioned in a letter by Lewis Morris to Edward Richard on the 11th Sept. 1760 ; he wrote  :
You have forgot Caniad y Bontfendigaid.
Edward Richard pays tribute to the families of Trawsgoed, Nanteos and Mabws for securing the bridge for the village
Gwŷr Gwnnws a Charon, cydunwch fel dynion,
Cewch felly’n gyfeillion, wŷr dewrion a dwys,
A sefwch yn ffyddlon tra’ Pont dros yr afon,
A meibion o feibion i Fabwys.
Mae etto le tirion, ei gofio fydd gyfion,
Yn llawn o gymdeithion hoff radlon a ffri,
Hir iechyd i’r achos, na welwyf mo’i wylnos,
Nac ёos Nanteos yn tewi.
Na weler ond hyny, ond haf ar lan Teifi,
Na drain, na mieri, na drysni ar droed,
Na chafod na chwmwl yn blino ar ein meddwl,
Na sôn am aer trwsgwl i’r Trawsgoed.
It seems that Lewis Morris was aware of a song about ‘Pont–fendigaid’, but was waiting for a copy from Edward Richard. Four days later, on the 15th of the month, Lewis Morris wrote again to Edward Richard saying  :
The first . . . son of David John Oliver, called here yesterday as drunk as a slater, who told me that he had no letter from you, but he had his message in his head ‘What is that’ said I? ‘Here it is’ said he, and sung out, with a loud voice, an excellent song made on Pontfendigaid.
Maybe, at that time, the song was still in the draft stage and Edward Richard was not quite ready to send a copy to Lewis Morris for scrutiny. Whatever the explanation, it was the 11th February 1761 before Lewis Morris was able to affirm  :
Yes, yes ; and I have also received Canu’r bont.
© Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales
Lewis Morris was a Welsh hydrographer, antiquary, poet and lexicographer, the eldest of the Morris brothers of Anglesey. His bardic name was Llewelyn Ddu o Fôn and was a close friend of Edward Richard. They were two leading members of a very small select group of Welsh scholars and poets who wrote letters to each other, passed their poems around for critical analysis and approval.. Saunder Lewis referred to this mid-18th century literary circle as a School of Welsh Augustans. Their influence :
. . . on modern Welsh literature was decisive, and that is all the stranger because they lived and wrote while the great religious revival was re-shaping the entire life of Wales . They looked at it with distain – they were Augustans
Edward Richard thought the bridge would make Rhydfendigaid forever wealthy and prosperous
Am Bont Rhyd-
Ar fyr cewch ei gweled mor dambed â’r dydd,
Fel Castell gwyn amlwg, goreulan i’r amlwg,
Neu gadwyn i fwnwg afonydd.
Gwna’r pentre’ mwyn serchog, tros fyth yn gyfoethog,
Wrth ddwyn yr ariannog yn llwythog i’r lle;
A phan elo’r athrist heb ddim yn eu ddwygist,
Hi helpa’r dyn didrist fyn’d adref.
Lewis Morris’ letters clearly show that the first song (Cân y Bont) was written sometime in 1760. According to Saunders Lewis , it was usually during the respites from teaching that Edward Richard found leisure for poetry and, it seems likely, that he wrote the initial draft of over the 1760 summer holidays. At that time, work on the bridge must have been progressing rapidlly and the bard was looking forward to completion, and implies in his song that this is imminent (ar fyr cewch ei gweled). He is full of anticipation and optimism and he predicts economic prosperity for the little community.
His second bridge song, however ‘Ateb i Gân y Bont’ (his answer to the first song) is both surprising and unexpected – see Page 2
|||Edward Jevoise, The Ancient Bridges of England and Wales, Architectural Press, 1936|
|||Gwyndaf Breese, The Bridges of Wales, Llanrwst, 2001.|
|||J.G. Wood, Principal Rivers in Wales, London, 1813|
|||Rev. D.C. Rees, Tregaron: Historical and Antiquarian, Llandysul, 1936.|
|||Yr Eos: sef gwaith awenyddawl Mr. Edward Richards, I. Bugeigerdd; II. Bugeugerdd; III. Can y Bont; IV. Ateb i Gan y Bont; V. Emyn neu Hymn; VI. Marwnad Iorwerth Rhisiat, [sic], Carmarthen, 1813.|
|||Caneuon y Bont are the first Welsh pastorals in the classical style.|
|||Saunders Lewis, A School of Welsh Augustans, Wrexham, 1924.|
|||Edward Richard, Lewis Morris and Evan Evans were part of a mid-18th century group of Welsh scholars and poets who wrote to each other and passed their poems around for critical analysis and discussion (see Note 6).|
|||Letter from Lewis Morris to Edward Richard, “Cymmrodor” II, page 67.|
A village steeped in history and tradition