Saints and Princes
The Romans brought Christianity to Wales and the new religion flourished in the Celtic countries long after the end of Roman administration. The period known as the Age of Saints began during the 6th Century AD.
Monks, teachers and missionaries left organised communities to live simple lives of prayer and personal communion with God and to found new communities, inspired by the traditions of the Holy Land and Eastern Mediterranean.
South West Wales was right at the hub of sea routes that criss-crossed the Irish and Celtic Seas, inter-linking the Celtic peoples and their wandering saints during this Celtic golden age.
St. Davids was a major spiritual centre during this period, with the Wye Valley and Ergyng, now a part of Herefordshire, being other major centres before the arrival of Germanic tribes from the east.
The Irish influence in this part of Wales was incredibly strong as evidenced today by the many Irish place names and Ogham Stones – Ogham is the name of the Irish script inscribed on the stones, most of which are thought to have been raised in honour of local chieftains and other notables.
This Irish inheritance of the area may be explained by an Irish tradition that tells of the en masse migration of Deisi tribe to this area around the start of the 5th Century AD, led by their chieftain Eochaid Allmuir. The Irish saints who settled here, from St. Aidan to St. Brynach, appear to have made a great impact.
Even our local St. Dogwell is said to have been educated in Ireland. The saint’s name appears spelled in a number of different ways, including St. Dogmael, St. Toel and St. Dogfael. The name of the local parish and main Anglican Church here in Wolfscastle is St. Dogwell’s.
An Ogham stone can be seen in the village at St. Dogwell’s Church. It stands in the churchyard and has inscriptions in both Ogham (OGTENLO) and Latin (HOGTIVIS FILI DEMETI). It probably commemorates a local Irish noble.
Further afield, the ruins of St. Dogmael’s Abbey, on the site where St. Dogfael founded a religious community on the Pembrokeshire/Ceredigion border, is open to the public and includes a visitor centre.
The motte-and-bailey castle at Wolfscastle is one the Landsker fortifications and was built during the 12th Century. It’s not known what, or who, the ‘wolf’ in Wolfscastle was, but it may be a reference to the Norman invader who built the first castle.
At least one corn mill has been located in the Wolf’s Castle area since the early 14th Century, from when Nant-y-Coy Mill, in nearby Treffgarne Gorge, is thought to date.
Pope Calixtus II, who died in 1124, gave his official blessing to pilgrimages to neaby St. David’s and decreed that two pilgrimages to St. Davids were equivalent to one to Rome. St. Dogwell’s Church in Wolfscastle is on the ‘Bishop’s Road’ pilgrim route between the Bishop’s Palace in Llawhaden and St. Davids Cathedral, a route marked by Holy Wells, churches and inscribed stones.
Sealyham and The Tuckers
The Tucker and Edwardes families were the most prominent local families in Wolfscastle for centuries. The first Tucker moved to Sealyham in the 1300s and members of the family were tenants-in-chief of Sealyham Manor until the 1770s, when the Edwardes of Treffgarne Hall inherited through marriage. Members of this family both built and lived in much of what is now the hotel.
The local slate quarries were developed by the family, yet they struggled despite advisors having been brought in from North Wales to make improvements and eventually they were closed down.
In 1777 the heiress of the Tucker family Mary Tucker married John Owen Edwardes and their grandson, squire William Tucker Edwardes, built much of the current hotel as a home for his wounded brother (see hotel history) and founded the school at Wolfscastle in 1834, which is still across the road from the hotel.
Today, Wolfscastle includes the part of the village here at the top of the hill and Ford, which is down in the valley below. The local economy centres on tourism and on dairy, sheep and beef farming on the fertile grasslands surrounding the village.
As well as its school, Wolfscastle still has a post office, pub and several places of worship, helping the village keep its sense of community in these fast changing times.
Sealyham Mansion can still be seen, and is now home of Sealyham Adventure Centre. Ask reception for directions.