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Hay, South Wales

HAY, SOUTH WALES, a market town and urban district of Breconshire, south Wales, on the Hereford and Brecon section of the Midland railway, 1645 m. from London, 20 m. W. of Hereford and 17 m. N.E. of Brecon by rail. Pop. (1901), 1680. The Golden Valley railway to Pontrilas (i8f m.), now a branch of the Great Western, also starts from Hay. The town occupies rising ground on the south (right) bank of the Wye, which here separates the counties of Brecknock and Radnor but immediately below enters Herefordshire, from which the town is separated on the E. by the river Dulas.

Leland and Camden ascribe a Roman origin to the town, and the former states that quantities of Roman coin (called by the country people " Jews' money ") and some pottery had been found near by, but of this no other record is known. The Wye valley in this district served as the gate between the present counties of Brecknock and Hereford, and, though Welsh continued for two or three centuries after the Norman Conquest to be the spoken language of the adjoining part of Herefordshire south of the Wye (known as Archenfield), there must have been a " burh " serving as a Mercian outpost at Glasbury, 4 m. W. of Hay, which was itself several miles west of Offa's Dyke. But the earliest settlement at Hay probably dates from the Norman conquest of the district by Bernard Newmarch about 1088 (in which year he granted Glasbury, probably as the first fruits of his invasion, to St Peter's, Gloucester). The manor of Hay, which probably corresponded to some existing Welsh division, he gave to Sir Philip Walwyn, but it soon reverted to the donor, and its subsequent devolution down to its forfeiture to the crown as part of the duke of Buckingham's estate in 1521, was identical with that of the lordship of Brecknock (see BRECONSHIRE). The castle, which was probably built in Newmarch's time and rebuilt by his great-grandson William de Breos, passed on the latter's attainder to the crown, but was again seized by de Breos's second son, Giles, bishop of Hereford, in 1215, and retaken by King John in the following year. In 1231 it was burnt by Llewelyn ab lorwerth, and in the Barons' War it was taken in 1263 by Prince Edward, but in the following year was burnt by Simon Montfort and the last Llewelyn. From the 16th century the castle has been used as a private residence.

The Welsh name of the town is Y Gelli (" the wood "), or formerly in full (Y) Gelli ganddryll (literally " the wood all to pieces "), which roughly corresponds to Sepes Inscissa, by which name Walter Map (a native of the district) designates it. Its Norman name, La Haia (from the Fr. haie, cf. English " hedge "), was probably intended as a translation of Gelli. The same word is found in Urishay and Oldhay, both between Hay and the Golden Valley. The town is still locally called the Hay, as it also is by Leland.

Even down to Leland's time Hay was surrounded by a " right strong wall," which had three gates and a postern, but the town within the wall has " wonderfully decayed," its ruin being ascribed to Owen Glendower, while to the west of it was a flourishing suburb with the church of St Mary on a precipitous eminence overlooking the river. This was rebuilt in 1834. The old parish church of St John within the walls, used as a schoolhouse in the 17th century, has entirely disappeared. The Baptists, Calvinistic Methodists, Congregationalists and Primitive Methodists have a chapel each. The other public buildings are the market house (1833); a masonic hall, formerly the town hall, its basement still serving as a cheese market; a clock tower (18^4); parish hall (1890); and a drill hall. The Wye is here crossed by an iron bridge built in 1864. There are also eighteen almshouses for poor women, built and endowed by Miss Frances Harley in 1832-1836, and Gwyn's almshouses for six aged persons, founded in 1702 and rebuilt in 1878 Scarcely anything but provisions are sold in the weekly market, the farmers of the district now resorting to the markets of Brecon and Hereford. There are good monthly stock fairs and a hiring fair in May. There is rich agricultural land in the district.

Hay was reputed to be a borough by prescription, but it never had any municipal institutions. Its manor, like that of Talgarth, consisted of an Englishry and a Welshery, the latter, known as Haya Wallensis, comprising the parish of Llanigon with the hamlet of Glynfach, and in this Welsh tenures and customs prevailed. The manor is specially mentioned in the act of Henry VIII. (1535) as one of those which were then taken to constitute the new county of Brecknock. (D. LL. T.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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