Ceri Shaw



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Category: Welsh History


In the heart of 18th century Ceredigion, a mysterious figure emerged from the shadows, leaving an indelible mark on the region's history and folklore. Known by the intriguing moniker Siôn Cwilt, this enigmatic character was more than just a smuggler; he was a symbol of defiance against heavy taxes, a master of evasion, and a key player in the clandestine world of contraband trade along the Welsh coast.

Siôn Cwilt, also known as John White, arrived in the picturesque parish of Llanarth around the middle of the 18th century. His residence, a humble cottage named Sarnau Gwynion, became the epicenter of his smuggling operations. Clad in ragged clothes, Siôn Cwilt was said to patch the holes in his attire with pieces of cloth in every color imaginable, earning him the distinctive nickname.

The choice of the name "Cwilt" is shrouded in ambiguity. Some locals speculate that it could be a corruption of the word ‘gwyllt’ meaning wild, an apt descriptor for a man who rode boldly to meet smuggler ships under the cover of darkness. Others believe it may have originated from the colorful coats or cloaks adorned with multi-colored patches that Siôn Cwilt purportedly wore. The intrigue surrounding his name only adds to the allure of this elusive character.

For much of the 18th century, smuggling was not just a forbidden act; it was a way of life for many along the Ceredigion coast. The Napoleonic Wars brought with them heavy duties on imported goods, with exorbitant taxes on items such as tea, wine, salt, spirits, and tobacco. The taxation on salt, in particular, fueled an illegal trade, as it was used for pickling and salting fish.

Siôn Cwilt thrived in this atmosphere of economic discontent. Operating from his clandestine residence on Banc Cwm Einion, he orchestrated smuggling runs with mules over treacherous terrains to meet ships anchored in Cwmtydi. These vessels, carrying illegal cargo, were a lifeline for Siôn Cwilt, allowing him to acquire goods that would fetch a hefty price in a region burdened by oppressive taxes.

As Siôn Cwilt's activities gained notoriety, authorities caught wind of the old smuggler's operations. Faced with the imminent threat of imprisonment, Siôn Cwilt had to make a daring escape, leaving his cottage filled to the brim with wine bottles. The once-secretive Banc Cwm Einion transformed into Banc Sion Quilt in the wake of this event, a name that endures to this day, etching Siôn Cwilt's legacy onto the landscape of Llanarth and Synod.

The decision to rename the ridge was a symbolic acknowledgment of the notorious figure who had once roamed freely, defying the authorities and outwitting capture. Banc Sion Quilt stands as a testament to the resilience and audacity of a man who left an indelible mark on the region.

Intriguingly, Siôn Cwilt's connections extended beyond the shadowy world of smuggling. Stories suggest that he supplied contraband wine and brandy to none other than Sir Herbert Lloyd at Plas Ffynnon Bedr in Lampeter. The High Sheriff of the county, Sir Herbert Lloyd, played a pivotal role in local governance. The alleged collaboration between a smuggler and a prominent figure like Sir Herbert adds layers of complexity to the Siôn Cwilt saga. Was it a strategic alliance born out of necessity, or did Siôn Cwilt possess an uncanny ability to navigate both sides of the law?


Cwmtydu Beach: Where Smugglers, Limekilns, and Seals Collide Through Time

Nestled along the rugged Ceredigion coastline, Cwmtydu Beach stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of history that has unfolded on its secluded shores. This little bay, once notorious for smugglers and pirates who took advantage of its hidden caves and coves, now echoes with the whispers of bygone eras. From the exploits of smuggler Sion Cwilt to the limekiln that stands on the seafront, and the wartime encounters during World War I, Cwmtydu Beach carries the imprints of a multifaceted past.

In the 18th century, when smuggling was a thriving yet illicit trade along the Welsh coast, Cwmtydu Beach served as a haven for individuals like Sion Cwilt. The hidden little caves and coves provided the perfect cover for smugglers to carry out their clandestine operations. Sion Cwilt, a legendary figure known for his audacious exploits, utilized the bay's secrecy to conduct smuggling runs, navigating the treacherous waters under the cover of darkness.

The tales of Siôn Cwilt's colorful attire and strategic evasion tactics add an element of intrigue to the history of Cwmtydu Beach. As the waves lapped against the shore, smugglers like Siôn Cwilt left an indelible mark on the landscape, shaping the lore of this secluded bay.

Standing stoically on the seafront, the limekiln at Cwmtydu Beach is a tangible relic from a bygone era. Once a crucial element in the local economy, limekilns were used to produce lime by heating limestone. The restored limekiln at Cwmtydu serves as a poignant reminder of the region's industrial and maritime history.

As one explores the limekiln, a sense of nostalgia permeates the air. The meticulous restoration efforts have allowed visitors to step back in time, envisioning an era when the kiln was a hub of activity, contributing to the economic livelihood of the coastal community. The juxtaposition of the limekiln against the backdrop of the serene sea evokes a sense of continuity, connecting the present to the industrious past of Cwmtydu Beach.

The echoes of history extend to the tumultuous times of World War I when Cwmtydu Beach became an unexpected pitstop for a U-boat commander. During the war, the waters off the Welsh coast were fraught with danger and intrigue. In a surprising turn of events, a U-boat commander ventured ashore at Cwmtydu to gather fresh supplies for his crew.

This wartime episode adds a layer of complexity to Cwmtydu's history, showcasing the beach as not only a haven for smugglers but a strategic point with unexpected visitors during times of conflict. The footprints of war left on the shores of Cwmtydu serve as a poignant reminder of the diverse narratives that have unfolded on this secluded beach.

As the tides of time ebbed and flowed, Cwmtydu Beach underwent a transformation, now welcoming a different kind of visitor. Amidst the tales of smugglers, limekilns, and wartime encounters, the beach has become a sanctuary for Atlantic Grey Seals. During the autumn season, these marine mammals grace the shores of Cwmtydu to give birth to their pups.

The once-turbulent waters that may have witnessed clandestine activities now serve as a peaceful birthing ground for seals. Nature has reclaimed the bay, harmonizing the historical layers with the natural rhythms of life. The juxtaposition of seals landing on a beach once frequented by smugglers paints a picture of resilience and renewal, where the cycles of nature intertwine with the echoes of human history.


Dirgelwch yr Ogof

A fresh release of a thrilling tale delving into the clandestine realm of smuggling amidst the coastal enclave of Cwmtydu in late eighteenth-century Cardiganshire. This captivating adventure, initially unveiled in 1977, takes readers on a riveting journey through the secrets and intrigues of a bygone era.



Whitesands Bay

By Ceri Shaw, 2023-02-20


The organizers could not have picked a more beautiful and historic location for the first annual Daffy Dipping event. Below we outline some of the natural and historic featues of Whitesands Bay. 

On February 26th a new chapter will be written in the history of this fascinating location. If you're in the area why not get along to Whitesands and participate in the first annual Daffy Dipping extravaganza. If chill swimming is not your thing just come and cheer them on!

Whitesands Bay is a beach located in the St Davids Peninsula in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is considered one of the best beaches in the country and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The beach is known for its wide stretch of golden sand, clear blue waters, and stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and coastline.

Whitesands Bay is also popular with surfers, as it provides excellent waves for both beginners and more experienced surfers. The beach has a large car park, public toilets, and a café that serves food and drinks throughout the day.

The area around Whitesands Bay is also home to a range of wildlife, including seals, dolphins, and a variety of sea birds. There are several walking trails in the area, including the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which offers breathtaking views of the coastline and is a great way to explore the area's natural beauty.


Carn Llidi is a prominent rocky outcrop located on the St Davids Peninsula in Pembrokeshire, Wales, near Whitesands Bay. It is a popular destination for hikers and walkers, offering spectacular views of the surrounding coastline and countryside.

The summit of Carn Llidi stands at 594 feet (181 meters) above sea level and can be accessed via several walking routes, including the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. From the summit, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the St Davids Peninsula, the coast, and the offshore islands.

The area around Carn Llidi is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which is known for its rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and diverse wildlife. The hill is also home to a range of archaeological sites, including neolithic burial chambers, prehistoric enclosures and field systems, and an iron-age defensive wall. During World War II, a Chain Home Low early-warning radar station was located on Carn Llidi, and the remains of the concrete base and a Lewis gun pit can still be seen.


The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a long-distance walking trail that follows the coastline of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in Wales, UK. The trail is approximately 186 miles (299 km) long, running from Amroth in the south to St Dogmaels in the north.

The path is renowned for its stunning coastal scenery, with rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and hidden coves to discover along the way. It is a popular destination for walkers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts, with the trail passing through a diverse range of landscapes, from wild, windswept headlands to peaceful wooded valleys.

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is also rich in wildlife, with opportunities to spot seals, dolphins, and a variety of bird species along the way. The path is well-signposted and maintained, with plenty of accommodation and amenities available for walkers, including campsites, B&Bs, and pubs serving food and drink.

The trail can be walked in sections, with many visitors choosing to tackle shorter sections of the path, while others complete the entire route over several days or weeks. There are also guided tours and baggage transfer services available for those who prefer a more supported walking experience.


Ramsey Island, also known as Ynys Dewi in Welsh, is a small island located off St David's Head in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales. It is around 1 kilometer off the northern side of St Brides Bay, and its area is about 259 hectares (640 acres). The name "Ramsey" is derived from Old Norse and means "Hrafn's island," while in Welsh, the island is named after Saint David, the patron saint of Wales.

The island has a diverse geology that consists of sedimentary, volcanic, and intrusive igneous rocks dating from the early Paleozoic era. The north part of the island is mostly mudstones of the Tetragraptus Mudstone Formation, while the south is dominated by a rhyolite intrusion. The island's coastal cliffs are formed by sedimentary rocks, including the Lingula Flags and sandstones and mudstones of the Ogof Hen Formation.

Ramsey Island has evidence of prehistoric cairns, field systems, and barrows, indicating human activity on the island dating back up to 5,000 years. There are also medieval sites on the island, such as a holy well and cemetery from the 9th century.


In 2021 the Dyfed Archaeological Trust has excavated around 200 well-preserved bodies from the site of a medieval trading post with Ireland at Whitesands Beach, Pembrokeshire. The remains are from an early Christian community and have been buried in sand, providing a unique snapshot into life at the time. The Trust hopes to excavate as much of the chapel cemetery as possible due to fears coastal erosion could wash it away. Radiocarbon dating has shown the cemetery was in use from the 8th to 11th Centuries, and the excavations will be stored at the National Museum of Wales. Earlier digs had taken place at the St Patrick's Chapel site in 2014, 2015 and 2016.


During low tide, visitors to the beach can see the remains of an ancient forest, which has been preserved by the sand and sea for thousands of years. The forest is believed to have been part of an area of woodland that was once above sea level and may have extended out into the bay.

The remains of the trees are visible as stumps and are often covered in seaweed and other marine life. Scientists have been able to use the submerged forest to study past sea levels and climate change, as well as to learn more about the local environment and ecology.

The submerged forest can be accessed from Whitesands Bay during low tide, but visitors should be aware of the tides and take care when exploring the area. It is recommended to visit with a guide or tour, as the area can be dangerous and unpredictable.

Carn LLidi

From the Wikipedia: - "Miriam Kate Williams (6 May 1874 – 8 August 1946) sometimes called Kate Roberts and better known by her stage name Vulcana, was a Welsh strongwoman. With strongman William Hedley Roberts, better known as Atlas, she toured music halls in Britain, Europe, and Australia. The couple performed as The Atlas and Vulcana Group of Society Athletes."

The extraordinary tale of a Welsh strong woman. Watch the embedded video below.

An interesting basic factual account of Welsh history in the Viking era. Part 1 of this series can be found here:   Celtic Britons: the Origins of Medieval Wales - YouTube

The channel features several videos on the history of the Celts in Europe and Britain. Click here for a complete listing.

The Lost Mines of Wales (and Nevada)

By Ceri Shaw, 2021-03-08

Have you ever stared into an adit or dark mine shaft on a hillside and wished you could explore further? Or perhaps you would prefer to send somebody else down with a camera and enjoy the experience vicariously? Well the good news is. that thanks to the growing number of intrepid mine explorers on Youtube this is now possible.

My personal favorite ( of the American channels ) is Abandoned and Forgotten Places . With nearly 100 videos to their credit your guides, 'Gly' and 'Mister M' have established a reputation for fearless exploration and high quality video production. Together they reveal the lost wonders and perils of the multitude of abandoned mines in Nevada, Arizona and Calfornia Their videos are graced with frequent touches of humor and you could do worse than lay in a supply of popcorn and a sixpack and binge watch the lot. Of course you'll need a day or two to spare but what better way to spend, what are hopefully, the last, lingering days of 'lockdown'?

And the Welsh connection? Linked from the above channel is Lost Mines a Welsh mine exploration channel which concentrates on the lost metal mines of Wales. here is the channel description:

" A bit about myself (Al), I love Exploring abandoned mines with my good friend Ioan, when I get spare time from my day job which is a crematorium technician, and also do a bit of metal detecting and out on my boat. Ioan Lord has been researching and exploring the metal mines of Wales since the age of 9, and published his first book in 2018 which can be found at https://shop.rheidolrailway.co.uk/products/rich-mountains-of-lead-ioan-lord. He is now on his second and third books, and runs public guided tours of the mines in mid-Wales at https://www.midwalesminetours.com. He is writing a PhD in Welsh History at Cardiff University, and is a Director of the Cambrian Mines and Welsh Mines Preservation Trusts. When he isn’t underground he works on a heritage steam railway as a locomotive fireman. We both enjoy showing the world what's underground and how they did it. "

We thought we would embed an appetizer before you head on over to the channel/s and subscribe. So here it is (see above).... Exploring the Abandoned ALIEN  lost mine ~ Underground Repel! pt 1

New on Netflix - Hidden Houses of Wales

By Ceri Shaw, 2017-01-09

Presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen visits some of the finest and least known homes in Wales, a visual feat of architecture, scenery and history. Well worth a look imho :)

Click here for more details from the BBC. Click here for the Netflix page and here for a list of episodes - Neflix Instantwatcher .

 Trevor Hall, Llangollen. The subject of Episode One.


Some of the other houses featured in the series:

The Mab Darogan

By Ceri Shaw, 2008-05-31

Years ago a good friend of mine went to Tenby and brought me back a gift. The two prints reproduced below have hung on my wall ever since. I dont know much about them except that they came from an antique store in Tenby and that they are not very old. They are printed on paper and mounted on masonite board. Does anyone know if they are a reproduction of anythimg interesting or significant?The text, which I may get round to copying in a future post, is for the most part historically accurate ( apart for one howler which was pointed out to me by a friend ) and of course they both reference events in the 15th century which was a very turbulent period in Welsh history. The Mab Darogan ( or Son of Prophecy ) visited Wales twice in that period. If you read the Wikipedia article ( linked above ) you will find four candidates for the title listed in all. Unfortunately they all share the same legacy of failure ( heroic and inspiring examples notwithstanding ). They all failed to create a united and independent Wales. Indeed it could be argued that Tony Blair achieved more in that direction. Does this mean that Tony Blair was the true Mab Darogan?? ( only joking )

Owain Glyndwr

Henry Tudor