St Cadfan’s Well, Llangadfan, Powys
by Laurence Main
If you are taking the A458 (T) road into Wales from Welshpool to Mallwyd, be sure to stop off for a while at Cann Office Hotel, Llangadfan (map ref. SJ 012107, sheet 125). This inn was founded in 1310 and has seen off the old drovers’ road and the turnpike. Its business-like name is actually derived from ‘Cae’n y ffos’, meaning fortified or ditched enclosure, and an old earthwork belonging to a twelfth century motte and bailey is in the inn’s back-garden. More ancient than the inn, however, is the holy well just around the corner on the road to St Cadfan’s church. Follow the road running due South of the A458 at Cann Office Hotel, past the caravan site on your right and across the bridge over the River Banwy. Turn right with the road and just before the last house on your right is a plaque in the wall telling the history of St Cadfan’s Well. Behind this are stone steps leading to it. If you wish to proceed to the church, which was originally in a circular churchyard indicating site continuity from pre-Christian times, carry on past the well to turn left at the T junction opposite the garage and the church is just on your left.
The holy well is named after St Cadfan who came to Wales from Brittany in the early sixth century with a party of saints led by Padarn, his brother. Cadfan was the son of Aeneas Lydewig by Gwenteirbron, who was renowned for having three breasts. Cadfan later became the first Abbot of Bardsey. His church at Llangadfan is reputedly linked to his church at Tywyn, his landing place in Gwynedd, by an ancient track. Tywyn church also has a holy well. Llangadfan’s well was saved from being covered by a new road when the Rev. Griffith Howell (1839-63) intervened and an arch was constructed to take the road over it.
Two miles to the west of Llangadfan, at Foel, is St Tydecho’s church at Garthbeibio. This too had a circular churchyard and a holy well, now seemingly lost. St Tydecho was Cadfan’s cousin. Two miles to the east of Llangadfan is Llanerfyl, whose church is set in an excellent example of a circular churchyard. This is named after St Erfyl, the daughter of Padarn, so the area was well served by this family of saints!
Text © Laurence Main (1989)
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