Morfa Dyfi Old Tavern

"From the platform of the present Dovey Junction may be seen the ruin of an old house. It stands on a gentle rise, close to the river's brink, and is within a stone's cast of another of those llyns which, like Llyn Bwtri higher up, held sufficient depth of water at low ebb to permit a small vessel to lie afloat in them. Since it took a couple of tides on most occasions for the fleet to reach the quays at Derwenlas, the captains would endeavour to make Llyn Dreinog so as to lie easy until the flood returned; and since their crews usually suffered from an insatiable thirst, a tavern on this spot was inevitable. Hence the ruin."

This passage from "Brief Glory" was the first I'd ever heard tell of the ruined inn, and the book remains the main source of anecdotal evidence I've found so far. I enquired locally, but nobody seemed to know anything about an inn at this lonely spot, so I turned to the Tithe Map of 1844, which shows "Maenan Cottage and Garden" as a small enclosure within a larger field; these and other fields thereabouts were all owned by a John Torridge of Morben Mawr. The Tithe Map doesn't record the name of the larger field, but a document of 1788 (which I've not yet seen) is entitled "Garreg and Cae Mainan in the Township of Scuborycoed [sic]". The original Tithe Map is damaged and some detail has been lost, but enough remains, and below is a cleaned up section of it.


The 1887 OS Map shows the building as an indistinct rectangle, and - now I know where it is - I can make it out as a tiny square at SN69509825 on the modern day 1:25000 Outdoor Leisure Map, but it's very difficult to pick out unless you use a magnifying glass.

A report by CPAT (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust) filed in 2001 provides useful information on the state of the ruins today, reporting that they are rectangular, 11.2 m x 6.2 m, aligned NE/SW, and standing on a linear rock ridge raised about 5 m above the level of the surrounding marshy ground. The upper floor and roof have gone and, although one gable end stands at about 2.4 m, the rest of the walls average only 80 cm in height. It was built of thin mortared slates, as was typical for the area, and the walls are between 60 and 90 cm thick. Outside, there's a 6m wide possible garden area or terrace between the building and the rocky ridge crest, with a line of edge-set stones running out at a right angle from the SE wall. The situation on the rock ridge provides a good raised flatish area 55 m x 18 m. At the NE end of this a large rock-enclosed pool, now partially silted, may have provided a supply of brackish water. There is a break in the river bund co-inciding with the position of the building, which may have been intentionally left to afford access to the building by small boat. The age of the building is uncertain. Some of the stones in the SW gable are inscribed, although one, dated 1837 and dedicated to the ship Sarah Jane, has been removed.

The warden of the local Morfa Dyfi Wildlife Reserve has put some effort into researching the building, and in his probings has identified large amounts of broken glass just below the ground's surface.

Others have checked the Census returns for 1841 and 1851, but no reference is made to the building being a tavern in those days. In 1841 it was reportedly occupied by a family named Milles, and the head of the family, Lewis Milles, was a labourer. In 1851, a widow, Mary Jones, and her two daughters and a grandson lived there, with occupations stated as (former) labourers. I've not yet found out if there's anything in subsequent Census returns - a job for another day.