Parcau - the ruin in the woods
About a mile east of Newport, beside a woodland track that forms part of a network of footpaths, there’s a ruined dwelling among the trees that can easily be missed, so tumbledown and ivy-clad it is. Its name is Parcau and there’s little to distinguish it from countless other ruins in various states of decay in the area.
But it has two claims to fame not obvious to the passer by.
Parcau was the birthplace of a bard who took his literary name from the mountain that towers above: Carn Ingli. His actual name was Joseph Hughes and he was born in this small house in 1803. The Welsh DNB says he was educated at grammar schools in Cardigan and Carmarthen and then took holy orders, being ordained by the Bishop of St David’s. After a year as a curate in Pembrokeshire he moved to Yorkshire and spent most of his life as the highly-regarded parish priest of Meltham, where he is buried. However he returned to Wales every year to take part in the national and clerical eisteddfodau. An enthusiastic Welsh speaker, Joseph Hughes named his daughter Gwenhwyfar/Guinivere and throughout his life remained actively engaged in composing and translating material in his native language under the name Carn Ingli. After his death in 1863 “a correspondent from Fishguard” wrote to The Huddersfield Chronicle as follows:
The Rev. Joseph Hughes, whose recent decease has caused so much sorrow among his parishioners at Meltham, in Yorkshire, was a native of the parish of Newport in Pembrokeshire, and spent his early years under the shadow of that picturesque mountain (Carn Ingli,) whose name he adopted, when the influence of the Awen, compelled him to become a Bard. From his youth to his death, he was of a most sweet and happy disposition, equally beloved by his early friends in Wales, and by those of his riper years in Yorkshire. He had a finest poetical mind, and his impromptu Welsh verses will long live in the memory of the few friends of his youth who survive him.
During the course of succeeding years Parcau was abandoned and fell into dereliction. But its story doesn’t end there because in the late 20 th century an archaeologist named Harold Mytum from the University of York conducted a research project to study “material culture
belonging to the lower socio-economic classes in north Pembrokeshire of the period from the later 18th to early 20th century.” Parcau was one of several dwellings investigated.
It was described as a “two-storey cottage with outbuilding, pig sty and yard. A substantial midden was sampled which had built up against a boundary bank of the yard, which was mainly of 19th- century date.”
The dwelling fell into the category of ‘ty singl’, a two- storey cottage with rooms arranged in a row, in contrast to the older building style of ‘ty dau ben’, the single storey longhouse with people living at one end, animals at the other. The report notes that the pottery fragments
discovered at Parcau date from the late 18 th century onwards. It suggests that the preponderance of 19 th century cups, saucers and plates represented a move away
from the traditional vessel – a bowl for eating soup or stew, in favour of mass-produced crockery that would impress visitors when displayed upon a dresser.
The site of Parcau offers very little to catch the eye now. Its native bard Carn Ingli, is forgotten and its archaeology confined to academic records. However, in early spring
the soggy ground around the ruins is thick with snowdrops that come up each year regardless.