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Rhayader – the first town on the River Wye

Crucial Information:

Welsh name: Rhaeadr Gwy – the waterfall on the Wye.

The oldest town in Mid Wales.

Situated between North and South Wales.

Population: 2775 (2001 census)

Rhayader is a market town servicing the local area. The Old Market Hall was built in 1762. The site of that hall is now the main crossroad of the town, in the centre of which is a clock tower. As well as telling the time, this serves as a memorial to the Two World Wars. Livestock sales are still an important part of the town’s economy.

It is perhaps its importance as a market town that led to Rhayader gaining the reputation of having the highest number of pubs per capita in the UK.

The first castle was built in1177. This was quickly sacked and rebuilt in 1194. This in turn was destroyed by Llewellyn the Great.

In the 18th and 19th centuries sheep and cattle drovers passed through Rhayader on their way to places such as London, Hereford and Banbury. Then, in the 19th Century the town was an important staging post on the London-Aberystwyth coach road.

As mentioned, the Welsh name for Rhayader means ‘Waterfall on the Wye – however the waterfall was largely destroyed by explosives in 1780. This was to make way for the bridge that connects Rhayader with the west. What was the waterfall is now a series of rapids.


The Rebecca Riots

During the 19th Century turnpike roads could only be used in exchange for payment of tolls. These came to be considered as extortionate. The tolls were ill afforded by tenant farmers and farm labourers across Wales.

Rhayader was affected in particular – there were no less than six toll gates on the roads connecting the town. This made journeys and bringing livestock to market expensive.

By 1839 low farm stock prices, poor harvests and an increase in tithes to the church created a situation where something had to give.

Between 1839 and 1842 the Rebecca Riots took place. Those involved dressed at women and demolished toll gates. This included all six of Rhayader’s. The best guess as to why the rioters dressed so distinguishably was a line from the Book of Genesis – Rebecca recommended that others should “Possess the gates of those which hate them”.

The Rebecca Riots were largely a success – a Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate the grievances, and most were addressed and righted in 1844.


A Year on the Wye DVD

A Year on the Wye DVD cover


  River Wye screensaver


Rhayader's clock towerRhayader's clock tower
The clock tower at the centre of Rhayader © Star Video 2011


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The River Wye rapids at RhayaderThe River Wye rapids at Rhayader
The rapids that mark where the waterfall once stood © Star Video 2011

© 2011 Star Video