LLANTWIT MAJOR (Welsh Llan-Illtyd-Fawr) , a small market town in the southern parliamentary division of Glamorganshire, South Wales, about i m. from the Bristol Channel, with a station on the Barry railway, 5 m. S. of Cowbridge. Pop. (1901) 1113. About i m. N.N.W. of the town there were discovered in 1888 the remains of a large Roman villa within a square enclosure of about 8 acres, which has been identified as part of the site of a Roman settlement mentioned in Welsh writings as Caer Wrgan. The building seemed to have been the scene of a massacre, possibly the work of Irish pirates in the sth century, as some forty-three human skeletons and the remains of three horses were found within its enclosure. Etymological reasoning have led some to suggest that the Roman station of Bovium was at Boverton, i m. E. of the town, but it is more likely to have been at Ewenny (2 m. S.E. of Bridgend) or perhaps at Cowbridge. On the sea coast are two camps, one known as Castle Ditches, commanding the entrance to the creek of Colhugh, once the port of Llantwit. In the time of Henry I. a small colony of Flemings settled in the district. The town and church derive their name from St Illtyd or Iltutus, styled the " knight," a native of Brittany and a great-nephew of Germanus of Auxerre. Having come under the influence of St Cadoc, abbot of Llancarvan, 6 m. E.N.E. of Llantwit, Illtyd established at the latter place, about A.D. 520, a monastic college which became famous as a seat of learning. He attracted a number of scholars to him, especially from Brittany, including Samson, archbishop of Dol, Maglorius (Samson's successor) and Paul de Leon, while his Welsh students included David, the patron saint of Wales, Gildas the historian, Paulinus and Teilo. The college continued to flourish for several centuries, sending forth a large number of missionaries until, early in the 12th century, its revenues were appropriated to the abbey of Tewkesbury by Fitzhamon, the first Norman lord of Glamorgan, A school seems, however, to have lingered on in the place until it lost all its emoluments in the reign of Henry VIII. The present church of St Illtyd is the result of a sequence of churches which have sprung from a pre-Norman edifice, almost entirely rebuilt and greatly extended in the 13th century and again partially rebuilt late in the 14th century. It consists of an " eastern " church which (according to Professor Freeman) belonged probably to the monks, and is the only part now used for worship, a western one used as a parochial church before the dissolution, but now disused, and still farther west of this a chantry with sacristan's house, now in ruins. The western church consists of the nave of a once cruciform building, while in continuation of it was built the eastern church, consisting of chancel, nave (of great height and width but very short), aisles and an embattled western tower built over the junction of the two naves. A partial restoration was made in 1888, and a careful and more complete one in 1900-1905. In the church and churchyard are preserved some early monumental remains of the British church, dating from the 9th century, and some possibly from an earlier date. They include two cross-shafts and one cross with inscriptions in debased Latin (one being to the memory of St Illtyd) and two cylindrical pillars, most of them being decorated with interlaced work. There are some good specimens of domestic architecture of the i;th century. The town is situated in a fertile district and the inhabitants depend almost entirely on agriculture. Its weekly market is mainly resorted to for its stock sales. St Donats castle, 2 m. to the west, was for nearly seven centuries the home of the Stradling family.
As to the Roman remains, see the Athenaeum for October 20 (1888), and the Antiquary for August (1892). As to the church, see the Archaeologia Cambrensis, 3rd ser. iv. 31 (an article by Professor Freeman), 5th ser., v. 409 and xvii. 129, and 6th sen, iii. 56; A. C. Fryer, Llantwit-Major: a Fifth Century University (1893).
(D. LL. T.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)