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THE VALE OF LLANGOLLEN. LLANGOLLEN, in the vale of the Dee, is bounded by chains of noble hills, the bolder features of which are softened by gentle rising knolls and swelling eminences, following the irregular direction of the river. Relieved by sudden breaks and openings, the scene offers one continued variety of landscape; and from the elevated terraced road, new and extensive views of the surrounding district burst upon the eye.
Commencing with the foreground of the accompanying engraving, we proceed to describe the beautiful estate of Wynnstay; the grounds of which, richly wooded, extend to the village of Ruabon, presenting many striking and picturesque views, especially those towards the Berwyn mountains, with the vast chasm yawning through their sides, formed by the action of the Dee.
The mansion of Wynnstay, partly a modern edifice, situated in an extensive park, well stocked with deer, was erected at different periods. The more ancient part, mentioned by Mr. Pennant, consisted of a gateway of wood and plaster, dated 1616. On a tower within the court was inscribed the distich in allusion to the name of the house“ Wynnstay; "or, “Rest satisfied with the good things Providence has so liberally bestowed upon you."
In the surrounding grounds appears a noble obelisk, VOL. XI. Second Series. T
raised to the memory of the late Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, the honoured grandfather of the present owner of Wynnstay. The height of the column is one hundred and one feet, at the base sixteen; it is built with freestone, and fluted. A gallery runs round the top, with a bronze urn, elegantly designed, in the centre. Round the base are wreaths of oak in the beaks of four eagles, also cast in bronze.
Within the column is an ascent by a flight of spiral steps to a circular platform, from which there is a magnificent prospect commanding a large portion of the counties of Caernarvon, Denbigh, Flint, Chester, and Salop; Chirk Castle and its noble park, the whole of the lovely Vale of Llangollen, including the stupendous aqueduct of Pont-yCysylltau, and the majestic ruins of Castell Dinas Brân, with the fine range of mountains, in the distance.
The second object of interest given in our engraving, is the Pont-y-Cysylltau aqueduct; which, as a work of magnificence and art, is not to be surpassed by any structure of the kind known in modern times. It is situated about four miles from Llangollen, extends nine hundred and eighty feet, and consists of nineteen arches, each forty-five feet in the span, without including six inches of iron-work in continuation at each end. The supporting piers are of a stone resembling Portland, pyramidal, and measuring at the base twenty-one feet, by ten wide; the height is one hundred and sixteen feet; and over this spacious arcade extends a trough, or large open caisson, made of cast iron, eleven feet eight inches broad, by which the water is conveyed over the river Dee, one thousand and nine feet, to the opposite level. Two iron plates are screwed together from centre to centre of each arch, and along one side of the canal is a towing-path, four feet in breadth, with a handsome iron balustrade as a defence. This aqueduct was constructed for the purpose of conveying the Ellesmere canal over the river and vale of the Dee. It was commenced in 1795, from designs by Mr. Telford, and completed in ten years. To view it to the best advantage, the stranger must descend on one side of it, into the valley beneath: he will then be impressed with its stupendous character.
Although the bridge of Llangollen does not make any striking appearance in our engraving, it was called one of the three beauties of Wales. It was founded by John Trevor, Bishop of St. Asaph, who died in 1357. It consists of five arches, the widest of which does not exceed twenty-eight feet in diameter. The river usually runs under only one; where it has formed a black chasm of vast depth, into which the water pours with great fury, from a high broken ledge, part of the smooth and solid rock, which composes the whole bed of the river. The view through the arches, either upwards or downwards, is extremely picturesque.
Near the foot of the bridge opposite to the town, begins the ascent to Castell Dinas Brân, the remains of which nearly cover the summit of a vast conoid hill, steeply sloped on every side. The form of the castle was oblong; the materials with which it was built, the coarse stone of the country, with here and there a few freestone mouldings. The side which is less steep is defended by deep trenches, cut through the solid rock. This was one of the primitive Welsh castles. The founder is unknown. Its name is derived from the mountain-river Brân, which runs down the hillside.
It was the chief seat of the Lords of Yale. In the reign of Henry III. it was the retreat of Gruffydd ap Madog, who, traitorously siding with the English against his countrymen, was obliged to secure himself in this aërial fastness.
The time of its ruin is unknown. Leland speaks of it as a demolished place; and adds that an eagle built annually in the neighbouring rocks; that a person was wont to be lowered down in a basket to take the young, having another basket over his head to save him from the fury of the old birds.
Speaking of the Vale of Llangollen, Mr. Pennant says, “I know no place in North Wales where the refined lover of picturesque scenes, the sentimental, or the romantic tourist can more largely indulge his tastes. No place abounds more with various rides or solemn walks. From this central spot, he may visit the seat of Owen Glyndwr, and the fine valleys of the Dee to its source; or pass the mountains to the fertile Vale of Clwyd; or make the tour of Wrexham.”
The town of Llangollen is small and poor, but beautifully situated, in a most romantic spot, near a pretty common, watered by the Dee, and appears anciently to have been under the powerful protection of the neighbouring fortress, Castell Dinas Brân.
SCRIPTURE ILLUSTRATIONS. 2 Kings v. 12. “Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus.” --Amana signifies perennial, and is probably the true name of the former river, the permutation of b and m being very common in the Oriental dialects. It is easy to find “rivers of Damascus,” but there is a difficulty in appropriating the distinctive names which are here applied to them. The main stream by which Damascus is now irrigated is called Barrada. This river, the Chrysorrhoas, or golden stream, of the ancient geographers, as soon as it issues from a cleft of the Anti-Lebanon mountains, is immediately divided into three smaller courses. The central or principal stream runs straight towards the city, and there supplies the different public cisterns, baths, and fountains : the other branches diverge to the right and left along the rising ground on either hand, and having furnished the means of extensive irrigation, fall again into the main channel, after diffusing their fertilizing influence, without which the whole would be an arid desert, like the vast surrounding plains. In those plains the soil is in some parts finer even than here, but barren from the want of water. The main stream and its subsidiaries unite in greatly weakened force beyond the town on the south-east; and the collected waters, after flowing for two or three hours through the eastern hills, are at length lost in a marsh or lake, which is known as the Bahr el Merdj, or Lake of the Meadow. Dr. Richardson states that the water of the Barrada, like the water of the Jordan, is of a white sulphureous hue, and of an unpleasant taste. At the present day it seems scarcely possible to appropriate with certainty the scriptural names to these streams. There is indeed a resemblance of