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Caerllion or to give its full Welsh name Caerllion-ar-Wysg, is the name of one of the suburbs of Newport (Casnewydd), Gwent. The name is well known in the field of education as the location of the earlier Teacher Training College, later the College of Education and today as part of the campus of the University of South Wales.


Caerleon (in popular orthography) is renowned for its Romano-British archaeological finds, ranging from an amphitheatre, to Roman Barracks, temples, altars and swimming baths, as well as many inscribed pillars and stones. Indeed, the name itself, Carlion 1086, consists of caer Welsh for ‘fort’ or ‘fortress’ and llion, Welsh for legions (borrowed from Latin legiones), giving ‘fort of the legions’. One of the legions known to have occupied the fortress for many years was the second Augustan Legion, Isca leg. ll Augusta (4th cent.). The later Kaer llion ar wysc (c.1400) gives its location on the river Usk/Wysg.


Caer occurs quite frequently in Welsh place-names e.g. Caerfyrddin, Caernarfon, Caerdydd (Caerdyf), Caerffili, Caersws etc., but llion is a rare element in Welsh toponyms. Caerllion – ‘fort of the legions’.






Sofrydd 1616;         Soverith 1707;        Swffrid 1813.


The names of farms  ‘Soferydd-fach, -fawr’ (1833) later became the name of a village ‘Swffrid’ located on the hillside above Crymlyn. There is also a Craig Swffrid.


Of uncertain etymology.


The early forms indicate a Welsh sofrydd or syfrydd. This could possibly be the Welsh masc. noun swfr evidenced in the valleys of south Wales with a meaning of “noise, din, murmur, a rustling” (GPC),plus the suffix –ydd, which is often used as a territorial suffix, (swfr + ydd > syfrydd/sofrydd) giving a place of noise, murmuring or rustling. cf. Rhydlafar, Glam. (llafar ‘noisy, bubbling.’); Nant Siarad, Radn. (siarad  ‘to speak’); Nant Sien, Carms. (si, sïo, ‘hum, murmur’).R. Morgan, Place-names of Gwent suggests a poss. lost river-name or territorial name. 


Swffrid is derived from an English pronunciation of Welsh soferydd (soffrid > suffrid > swffrid).                                                                            


Deric John  11.11.2014.








These three place-names have evolved as a direct result of industrial activities - namely the usage of water to uncover iron ore, limestone and coal.

In the last three hundred years the area around Ebbw Vale, Tredegar and Llangynidr Mountain was heavily involved with such activities. Llangynidr Mountain held deposits of iron ore, limestone and coal, and one of the most successful of the early extraction techniques was to build dams of water to release powerful flows for washing away soil and debris from the mineral deposits.  This washing or scouring action is reflected in the Sgwrfa, Scwrfa or Ysgwrfa names found near the sites of such activities c.f. Scwrfa, Dukestown, Tredegar and Nant Yscwrfa 1884, Aberpergwm.  The water would then be collected in races i.e. man made channels, in order to control its direction c.f. mill race.


The principal language of the Tredegar/Ebbw Vale district at this time was Welsh, so it was only natural that the races were also given a Welsh appellation - (Rhasau'r mwyn, 1778; Ras Bryn Oer 1832, Rassa 1840) Rasau is composed of ras plus the Welsh plural suffix -au. This is rasau in standardised Welsh orthography and rasa in the local Gwentian dialect. Rasau and Rasa  were  often written as Rassau and Rassa, particularly by map makers, in order to reflect the pronunciation of the middle ‘s' consonant, which might otherwise have  been erroneously pronounced as a ‘z'. Even so, mispronunciation occurred very often in the ultimate diphthong -au, (with rassau being rhymed with French bateau) possibly due to the influence of nearby Beaufort or because of its similarity to Nassau in the West Indies.


The village of Shwt in the Llynfi Valley reminds us of similar industrial activities. Here, the English word shoot is given a Welsh spelling - shwt. A shoot of water was made to spout out of the nearby Llynfi River to reveal the underlying coal. 


Back now to the Heads of the Valleys area. Beaufort  (Beaufort Ironworks 1779) and Cendl  (Cendl 1849) are two different names for the same village. Beaufort is named after the landowning Dukes of Beaufort (nearby Dukestown is also related) while Cendl is a cymricised form of Kendall, the family surname of the leaseholders and founders of the Beaufort Ironworks. Cendl was adopted as the Welsh name for the village of Beaufort. The Beauforts were based at Raglan Castle until the civil war, but due to the damage caused to the castle during that struggle, the family moved out and set up home at Badminton, Gloucestershire, famous today worldwide for a racket and shuttlecock game that was popularised there and of course for the Badminton horse trials.


Ebbw Vale also has a connection with horses. The Welsh name for the town is Glynebwy - the valley is called Glyn Ebwy the ‘valley (of the river) Ebwy', previously Ebwydd (Glynebboth 1314 ).

Ebwydd is comprised of eb- ‘horse' (c.f. Welsh ebol ‘colt, buck') and gŵydd ‘wild' giving ‘wild horse' that describes the ferocity of the river current. In the late eighteenth century, an ironworks was started on the banks of the Ebwy (Ebbw Vale Furnace c1790), in a place called Pen-y-cae (c.f. today's Penycae Road, Ebbw Vale), but the town that grew around the works acquired the same anglicised Ebbw Vale name. When the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales visited Glyn Ebwy this year, the maes was located on the site of the old Richard Thomas and Baldwin steelworks thereby continuing the industrial theme.


October 2010.



Y FARTEG                  VARTEG 

Mynydd Farteg Fawr                1954 OS

Varteg Hill                                ibid

Varteg Hill Colliery                    ibid

Lower Varteg Colliery               ibid

the Varteg Iron Company         1875 OS

Varteg                                      1875 OS

Mynydd Farteg-fach                 1833 OS


Y Farteg (Varteg) is the name of a village and mountain located between Garndiffaith and Blaenafon, Gwent. It previously formed part of the name of a colliery and an iron company. The above forms however, do not reveal much about the place-name’s etymology.


There is another Farteg and Farteg Hill (1947 OS) situated to the east of Ystalyfera in Cwm Tawe. Fortunately, there are earlier and more revealing forms here – vargdeck and yvarchdeg vawr in documents dated between 1528-95.


These forms show that the two elements in Farteg are Welsh ‘march’ (horse) and ‘teg’ (fair, fine, beautiful, warm’).  The definite article preceding the name has caused a mutation from marchdeg to y farchdeg.


When march precedes a word it embellishes that word, making it more powerful or larger, e.g. Marchwiail (large sticks, rods) is a place-name near Wrexham; the words marchwellt (big, strong straw) and marchfieri (large brambles) are other examples.

The same occurs with English horse as in horse-radish, horse-mushroom and horse mussel, which are large specimens of those respective items.


Likewise, y farchdeg would describe a very beautiful place. It is no coincidence that both the Farteg place-names are located on hills or mountains, where fine views and scenery would add to the beauty of the place.








Tredegyr 1550; Tredeger 1551; Tredegar 1652. Tredegar Iron Works 1832 OS1”. 


 TREDEGAR is the name for an early farm and estate located near Newport Gwent, and also for a town in the Sirhywi valley. This farm-name became the name of the prestigious estate acquired by the MORGAN family of TREDEGAR HOUSE and TREDEGAR PARK. Sir Charles Morgan Robinson Morgan was created Baron Tredegar in 1859. In 1800, Samuel Homfray with partners Fothergill and Monkhouse leased some land from the TREDEGAR ESTATE in the Upper SIRHYWI VALLEY some 15 miles north of the Morgan family seat. Homfrey built his iron works there, which he named after the TREDEGAR estate.

The settlement and town established around the iron works also adopted the TREDEGAR name.
[Tredegar, Llangyfelach parish and Tredegar Ironworks, Richmond, Virginnia, USA. are further borrowings].
In 1860 NEW TREDEGAR colliery was opened in the next valley and again the industrial name became the name of the adjoining settlement. Tredegar has on occasions, been erroneously explained as Tref Deg Erw – ten acre town. The elements are Welsh TREF and the personal name TEGYR [lenited to Degyr and changing to Degar in the Gwentian dialect] with an original meaning FARM of TEGYR. TREF initially referred to a farm or estate. It later acquired the meaning of town.
C.f. English 'tun' and 'town'
The personal name TEGYR is also found in BOTEGYR [bod & Tegyr], Denbs.
Melville Richards suggests that Tegyr is prob. linked with the 6th cent. Tecorix.
I am grateful to Guto Rhys for suggesting a prob. etymology for Tecorix [and ultimately Tegyr] as ‘fair king’. Early forms show that the correct interpretation of TREDEGAR is Welsh TREF and the personal name TEGYR giving an original meaning of TEGYR’S FARM.





RHISGA      (Risca)




Rhisga is etymologically obscure. The early forms are consistently - Risca 1146 (Cartae 1), Risca 1230-40 (EACDWD), Risca 1535 (Gwent Churches), Risca 1600-1700 (Osborne, Gwent Local History). The interpretation is difficult. Osborne and Hobbs, The Place-names of Western Gwent, suggest 'Yr + is + ca'' = the lower field. T. Morgan, Place-names in Wales & Mon, 1887 suggests
1. a root of rhisg 'bark'.
2. Yr hesg gae = the sedge field.
3. is-y-cae = below the field.
4. but favours Yr Isca the Latin form of Yr Wysg [the Usk]. c.f. Carleon = Isca Silurum.
Dr. Hywel Wyn Owen in The Place-names of Wales suggests rhisgau, poss. pl. of rhisg 'bark'. Melville Richards in The Readers Digest Complete Atlas of the British Isles suggests 'bank' ,
but I believe that to be a scribal error for 'bark'.
Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru gives rhisgl, rhisg, pl. rhisglau
[and I include here HWO poss. pl. rhisgau] = bark, rind or peel of fruit, husk of grain.
The suggested pl. form risgau would, in local parlance, i.e. the Gwentian dialect of Welsh, become risga c.f. blodau-bloda, caeau-caea, Blaenau > Blaina, Rasau > Rasa etc. Of these possible etymologies, I would tend to side with T. Morgan 1. A root of rhisg ‘bark’ and Dr. Hywel Wyn Owen risga pl. of risg 'barks', and further suggest it as a name for a place where barks would be gathered as a source of tannin and stored for use in the process of tanning in the preparation of hides.


© Deric John. Feb. 28th. 2003