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History • Hanes

History

A Little History of Sheep and Chapels

old shropshire post card

The story of this breed begins with the introduction of Shropshire Down sheep to west Wales and their crossing with the local hill sheep at the end of the nineteenth century. The versatile Shropshires were one of the most fashionable breeds of the day being prolific and producing excellent meat and wool. Major sales of Shropshires used to be held in Shrewsbury and once a rail link had been extended from there to Carmarthen via Cardiganshire by 1867, several flocks of the breed were soon established by the local gentry with estates along the route, from Abermad and Trawscoed in the north down to Derry Ormond, Highmead, Neuadd Fawr and Bwlchbychan in the Teifi valley. Sales of rams from these flocks to local tenant farmers for fat lamb production then spread the breed's influence more widely when the crossbred ewe lambs' merits as flock replacements were appreciated. So began an informal upgrading of the local sheep particularly in the middle and lower Teifi valley, conditions further up the valley by Tregaron being considered to be less suitable. This pattern of flock improvement occurred in many areas of Britain and by the1930's "Shropshire Crosses" were still a popular type in several parts of lowland west Wales. A measure of their success and general distribution in this region can be found in the 1939 wool sale catalogues for Llanybydder in the Teifi valley and Llandeilo in the Twyi which both show that over 20% of fleeces being offered for sale from their respective catchments were of this type.

old map of wales

However, the demands of food production during the Second World War lead to varying amounts of further outcrossing with larger terminal breeds which began to erode an established uniformity of type and level of performance. This threat was one of the factors which prompted the choice of a new name for a sheep breed and the formation of the Llanwenog Sheep Society in 1957, to promote and preserve what was now recognised to be a separate breed with some exceptional qualities. Consistent successes in national lambing competitions during the 1960's peaked in 1972 when flock recording by the Meat and Livestock Commission revealed that only one British breed at that time was lambing at over 200% - the Llanwenog. Then as now, agriculturalists were interested in the biological efficiency of a high lambing rate combined with the ewe's medium body weight.

Sheep washing at Cenarth Falls

Washing 'blackfaces'
before shearing,
Cenarth Falls 1930

But where had the name come from? Wool merchants had referred to them as "Shropshire Crosses" and local shows in the 1930's used to hold classes for "Blackfaces". The choice of "Llanwenog" in 1957 reflected the distribution of many of these flocks in the parish of that name but if the location of the flocks in the first flockbook are mapped a much more interesting fact emerges. Eighty eight flocks joined in first year of the society and 80% of them were within an area called Y Smotyn Du or the Black Spot. While the Shropshires' descendants had more or less disappeared from much of lowland west Wales, a stronghold persisted in this particular area, as it does today. Could this be a meaningful correlation?

Llwynrhydowen Chapel

Llwynrhydowen Chapel

The term Black Spot was "placed" on a cluster of Unitarian chapels, from Llandysul to Lampeter in the Teifi valley and north to Ciliau Aeron, in the nineteenth century by surrounding denominations that were unable to effectively penetrate this area. The more rational basis of Unitarianism was the original source of this disapproval which further intensified due to its association with radical politics and enlightened views. Unitarians had been early supporters of the French Revolution and were active in the Rebecca Riots of the 1830's. Locally a crisis developed in 1876 when the squire of Alltrodyn finally evicted the minister, Gwilym Marles (great uncle of Dylan Thomas), and his congregation from Llwynrhydowen Chapel for using the chapel as a "liberal platform", provoking an assembly of 3000 supporters the following week. This was a community apart even into the twentieth century.

Sheep mart Narbeth

Shropshire Sheep
Arberth, 1885

Within this context it is not difficult to imagine how networks of family and business relationships would become somewhat introverted, as still happens with religious minorities today. Breeding stock would likewise have tended to circulate within the area. It should be stressed that although the area was not exclusively Unitarian, by 1957 when the society was formed, its core of the largest flocks, leading showmen and the official auctioneer in Llanybydder, Charles Evans, all had this connection. As agricultural fashion swept the blackfaces away elsewhere in west Wales a critical mass had managed to exist for long enough here in relative isolation to become a new breed.

Hanes

Hanes Defaid Penddu’r Smotyn Du

old shropshire post card

Dechreuodd hanes y brid gyda chyflwyniad defaid Swydd Amwythig i Orllewin Cymru i groesi â’r defaid cynhenid ar ddiwedd y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg. Y Swydd Amwythig oedd un o fridiau mwyaf ffasiynol y dydd – yn epilgar ac yn cynhyrchu cig a gwlan a safon uchel. Cynhaliwyd arwerthiant y brid yn nhref Yr Amwythig ac wrth i’r rheilffordd ymestyn i Siroedd Caerfyrddin a Cheredigion erbyn 1867 sefydlwyd nifer o breiddiau gan y tir feddianwyr o Abermad a Thrawsgoed yn y Gogledd hyd Deri Ormond, Plas y Dolau, Neuadd Fawr a Bwlchbychan yn Nyffryn Teifi. Ymledodd dylanwad y brid yn gyflym wrth i’r meistri tir werthu hyrddod i’w tenantiad a gwerthfawrogwyd rinweddau yr wyn menywod croes. Felly y dechreuwyd gwella y defaid lleol yn anffurfiol yn enwedig yng nghanol a gwaelod dyffryn Teifi lle ‘roedd y tir yn garedig. Ymddangosodd y patrwm hyn mewn ardaloedd eraill hefyd ac erbyn y 1930’au ‘roedd y defaid Croes Swydd Amwythig yn boblogaidd mewn llawer o ardaloedd y gwastadedd yng Ngorllewin Cymru. Gellir mesur ei poblogrwydd a’i gwasgariad wrth gatalog gwerthu gwlan yn 1939 yn Llanybydder a Llandeilo yn Nyffryn Tywi lle ‘roedd 20% o’r gwlan o’r ardaloedd o’r math yma.

old map of wales

Arweiniodd y galw am fwyd yn ystod yr Ail Ryfel Byd at fwy o arallgroesi eto gyda rhai o’r bridiau trymaf traddodiadol o Loegr gan fygwth erydu tipyn o berfformiad a theip y Croes Swydd Amwythig. Y bygythiad yma oedd un o’r ffactorau a arweiniodd at y penderfyniad i roi enw ar y defaid yma a sefydlu Cymdeithas Defaid Llanwenog ym 1957 i ddiogelu a hybu brid cydnabyddiedig gyda rhinweddau dymunol.

Daeth llwyddiant cyson yn y Cystadleuthau Wyna Cenedlaethol yn ystod y 60au i frig ym 1972 gyda ffigurau recordio Y Comisiwn Cig a Da Byw yn profi mai y Llanwenog oedd yr unig frid yn Mrydain a chanran wyna dros 200%. Bryd hynny, fel heddiw ‘roedd pobl amaeth a diddordeb yn yr effeithiolrwydd biolegol o ddefaid o faint canolig gyda chanran wyna uchel.

Sheep washing at Cenarth Falls

Golchi "Penddu" cyn cneifio
Rhaeadrau Cenarth, 1930

O ble y daeth yr enw? Cyfeiriodd y marsiandwyr Gwlan atynt fel y Croes Swydd Amwythig a chynhaliwyd dosbarthiadau yn sioeau y 1930au i ddefaid “Penddu”. ‘Roedd y dewis o “Llanwenog” yn 1957 yn adlewyrchu gwasgariad llawer o’r preiddiau yn y plwyf hwn ond os edrychir ar fap dosbarthiad y preiddiau yn y Llyfr Diadell cyntaf ymddengys ffaith mwy diddorol. Ymunodd 88 o breiddiau ym mlwyddyn sefydlu’r Gymdeithas gyda 80% o’r rhain o fewn daliad Y Smotyn Du. Er fod disgynyddion y defaid o Swydd Amwythig wedi diflannu o iseldiroedd Gorllewin Cymru ‘roedd na nifer cadarn yn dal yn yr ardal yma fel heddiw. A oedd ystyr i’r cysylltiad a’r berthynas yma?

Llwynrhydowen Chapel

Yr Hen Gapel Llwynrhydowen

Cyfeiriwyd at glwstwr o gapeli Undodaidd rhwng Llandysul a Llanbedr Pont Steffan yn Nyffryn Teifi ac i’r gogledd i Giliau Aeron fel capeli ardal y Smotyn Du yn y bedwaredd ganrif ar bymtheg. ‘Rhoddwyd yr enw hyn iddynt gan enwedau Anghydffurfiol eraill gan iddynt fethu a threiddio i’w tiriogaeth.

Rhesymeg elfennol yr Undodiaid oedd ffynhonell yr anfodlonrwydd hyn a wnaeth ddyfnhau oherwydd cysylltiad yr enwad a gwleidyddiaeth radical a syniadau goleuedig. ‘Roedd yr Undodiaid yn gefnogwyr cynnar o’r Chwyldro Ffrengig ac yn weithgar yn ystod Terfysgoedd Rebeca yn y 1830au. Datblygodd creisis lleol ym 1876 pan daflwyd y gweinidog Gwilym Marles (hen-ewythr i Dylan Thomas) a’i gynulleidfa allan o Gapel Llwynrhydowen am ddefnyddio y pulpud fel “llwyfan gwleidyddol” gan arwain at gynulliad o dros 3000 o gefnogwyr anfodlon yr wythnos ganlynol. ‘Roedd hon yn gymuned arwahan hyn yn oed i fewn i’r ugeinfed ganrif.

Sheep mart Narbeth

Defaid Swydd Amwythig
Arberth,1885

O fewn y cyd-destun hyn gellir deall i’r rhwydwaith o deuluoedd a busnesau lleol ddod yn fwy mewnblyg fel y digwydd dros hanes gyda lleiafrifoedd crefyddol hyd heddiw. ‘Roedd na duedd i stoc fridio i gylchdroi yn yr ardal. Rhaid pwysleisio er nad oedd yr ardal yn llwyr Undodiaidd ym 1957 pan ffurfiwyd y Gymdeithas ‘roedd y cysylltiad yn dal gyda’r preiddiau mwyaf, yr arddangoswyr blaenllaw a’r arwerthwr swyddogol Charles Evans o’r Brodyr Evans yn Llanybydder. Er i ffasiwn amaeth ysgubo’r defaid penddu o ardaloedd eraill yng Ngorllewin Cymru llwyddodd cnewyllyn i oroesi yma mewn lled anghysbellder i sefydlu brid newydd.

News

2/3/17

Llanwenogs in the South West 2016

Llanwenog_support_group_newstand_2013

The South West region has a cluster of dedicated and active Llanwenog Breeders. The following report summarises some of the highlights of the past year .

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22/10/16

Flock visit - 5th November 2016, Newgate flock

One of the hightlights of the AGM weekend is the flock visit. (write up here) This year, we will be visiting Philip and Hilary Thornely's flock near Aberaeron. They breed Llanwenog pure and crossed with the Roussin. They have also been breeding Lleyn sheep for the past 20 years and are interested in comparing the performance of these two maternal breeds.

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20/4/16

Bradden Flock Visit

The spring flock visit is always a great way to catch up. This year David & Anna Henson are kindly hosting an open day on 14 May 2016 in Northamps. All are welcome.

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© 2013 Llanwenog Sheep Society. All rights reserved.
Secretary, Delyth Williams, Neuaddlwyd Uchaf, Ciliau Aeron, Aberaeron, Ceredigion SA48 7RE Tel: 01545 570501

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