Iolo Morganwg at Syr Richard Colt Hoare, 17 Awst 1797

(Cardiff 3.216)

Yn y llythyr hwn y mae Iolo yn adrodd yr hanes rhamantus a weodd o amgylch porth cain Castell y Bewpyr.

Address: Sir Richard Hoare, Bart., Stour Head, Wiltshire.
Postmark: none
Source: NLW 13116B, pp. 134-7

Flimston near Cowbridge, Glamorgan, Aug. 17th 1797

The traditional history of the fine porch or frontespiece at Bewper (Beaupre) castle is as follows.

About the time of Edwd 6th, a family of stonecutters were possessed of Seaton freestone quarries near Dunraven castle, a father and two sons. These had been employed by Sir Rice Mansell in the building of Oxwich castle in this county of Glamorgan (now one of the noblest ruins in Wales). The sirname this family of stonecutters was Twrch. After their father's death the two sons, whose names were Richard and William, continued in partenership to work the stone at Seaton quarries. It happened, as the story goes, that those two brothers became enamoured of the same young woman, who was remarkably beautiful. This occasioned such a violent disagreement between them that they mutually vowed solemnly never to speak to each other. They, however, continued to carry on their work at the quarry, never speaking to each other, but whenever one of them wanted the assistance of the other, he would beckon at him with the hand, throw a small bit of stone at him &c. The young woman hearing of this made, on her part, a vow that she would never receive the addresses of either of them. Richard became very melancholy at last, grieving much that matters were so unnaturally disagreeable between him and his brother, with, additionally, his disappointment in love. He left the quarry, and soon after the country, and went no one knew whither. After he had been absent fifteen or twenty years, he returned home, having been first in London, where he had worked under an Italian master at the King's palace (the tradition does not mention what palace, but it was most probably Somerset House, which was built in the time of Edward the 6th). He afterwards went with that master to Italy, where he remained for many years, and acquired an uncommon proficiency in the arts of architecture, masonry and sculpture. At last he returned to his native country where he found that his brother William had been dead some years before. He took to the quarries, and at them he executed his work in so masterly a manner that he was much noticed and employed by the Gentlemen of the county of Glamorgan, and amongst others by -- Bassett Esqr of Beaupre Castle, to build, first the chapel, the frontespiece of which is in the Ionic order with family arms in a compartment over the door way, and on the frieze the date 1586. He afterwards built the porch, which bears the date 1600. This porch is 3 stories high, in the three Greek orders, the Doric, above it the Ionic, and uppermost the Corinthian. The workmanship is masterly, the sculpture elegant and uncommonly delicate. The trigliphs in the Doric frieze are executed in a very singular and very neat manner, such as I have not yet observed elsewhere. The family arms are here again carved in a manner that would, even in the present age, be deemed very superior. The motto is in the Welsh language: Gwell angau na chywilydd. i.e. better death than disgrace. The windows, as well as those of the chapel, are Lutherns, in the stile of Queen Elizabeth's time. The doorway arches are a little pointed, excepting this there is not, I believe, a single trace of Gothic to be found in this fine piece of architecture. When we consider the dates of these pieces (i.e. the chapel and porch) we must allow them to be amongst the very first samples of Greek architecture in this kingdom, perhaps the very first by a native, supposing that the tradition of its having been executed by Richard Twrch is true. For Somerset House, the oldest sample in London, (before it was, some years ago taken down of Grecian architecture) was probably by Italian architects and workmen. Inigo Jones is generally supposed to have been the first that introduced into this kingdom the Greek and Roman architecture, but he did nothing in England before the year 1620. When King James the First brought him to London, and employed him to build White Hall Palace (see an acct of Inigo Jones in Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting). He died in 1651.

Richard Twrch, the father of those two brothers, is said to have been the first that opened the freestone quarries at Bridgend, that are still worked, and that he first used that stone in the building of Oxwich Castle in Gower, the western division of Glamorgan.

Another branch of the family of Bassetts lived at Lantrithyd and were, by female lineage, the ancestors of Sir John Aubery, the present proprietor. On the last of the Bassett family, there is in Lantrithyd chancel a very large and grand monument, connectedly altar and mural, in the Greek architecture, which was also, says the tradition, executed by Richard Twrch, of an excellent freestone, very much like the Portland freestone, that he found at Pentrebain in the parish of St Fagans in this county of Glamorgan.

This tradition is pretty common amongst the Glamorgan masons and stonecutters, of which last trade I am myself. But I took it more particularly, as I fancied it the most correct, consistent and circumstantial, from the mouth of Richard Roberts, who with his brother William and son Thomas, worked the Bridgend quarries till between the years 1780 and 1785, when they all died. They were, or at least pretended to be, lineally descended from Richard Twrch, and had, hereditarily ever since its having been first opened, worked the Bridgend freestone quarries. Richard Twrch is also upon the same traditional authority said to have been a lineal descendant of Iorwerth Fynglwyd a famous Welsh bard, who wrote about the year 1450. His works are numerously extant, in manuscript, by which it appears that he was (according to what tradition says of him) a stonecutter or carver in stone, and that he was a native and an inhabitant of St Brides Major, in which parish Seaton quarries are.

Of what authority these traditions are must be left to judgements greatly superior to mine, but that we may sometimes depend considerably upon tradition will be tolerably well evinced by an anecdote of one of the monumental stones at Lantwit Major, which you will receive, sir, in a letter that accompanies this.

I am &c