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Castle Piggin in Wales

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This is a note on Castle Piggin that may be of general interest to those studying the surname Piggin. Castle Piggin is apparently an anglicized form of "Castell Pigyn", the Welsh name of at least three houses in Wales. None of these houses has any connection with persons named Piggin, and the similarity of names is undoubtedly a coincidence.

None of these homes appears ever to have been a true mediaeval castle: the owner of the Castles of Wales website, Jeffrey Thomas, told me there had never been a castle of this name, but that houses were named "castle" in the modern era to make them sound grander. The occupier of one of the houses told me that the name means "castle of the spike", pigyn being Welsh for a point or a rock needle. A Dictionary of the Welsh Language defines pig as any pointed or tapering object, with pigyn possibly having a particular meaning of a peak.

One house is a double cottage at Llanboidy, Whitland, Carmarthenshire SA34 0LJ and was so named in modern times when the property was carved out of a nearby estate. It sits atop a bank and has a large chimney, making a point on the horizon. There is another cottage so named in Llwyncelyn near Aberaeron, Cardiganshire.

The principal Castell Pigyn was a mansion that existed from before 1572 until about 1970 in the parish of Abergwili, Carmarthen, Wales and is the only one which has ever historically had its name spelled "Castle Piggin". The 9th edition (1963) of Bartholomews Survey Gazetteer of the British Isles stated that "Castle Piggin" was a "seat" two miles northeast of Carmarthen town. The pre-1572 house was replaced in 1711 and again about 1838. The last of these houses was gutted by fire. Whether the walls are still standing at the present day is not known. The 1999 electoral roll indicates the stable house and an unidentified ancillary building divided into three flats are still inhabited. The street leading to the house is Castell Pigyn Road (Google Map).

The book Historic Carmarthenshire Homes by Francis Jones (1987, Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society, p. 26) states: "The first-known owner, Thomas Woodford, came to West Wales with his brother-in-law Richard Davies, Bishop of St. Davids from 1561 to 1581, and was living at Castell Pigin in 1572 ... The property remained in Woodford hands until the 1650s when it was sold to William Brigstocke, mercer, of Carmarthen ... In 1709 his daughter Mary Brigstocke sold Castell Pigin to John Griffiths of Dryslwyn, surgeon, who pulled down the old mansion and built a new one in 1711. He died in office as High Sheriff in 1722, and his daughter Jane Griffith married the Revd. Anthony Jones who then settled at Castell Pigin. Their only surviving child Jane Jones married Richard Jones Gwynne of Tregyb and Taliaris. Jane died intestate in 1786 and administration was granted to her cousin-german and next of kin Griffith Price Esq. of Penllergaer, Glamorgan, who took possession of the estate, but after thirty years of Chancery litigation during which time the mansion built in 1711 became a ruin, Richard Coney Jones was declared entitled as Mrs Jane Jones-Gwynne's maternal heir, and the greater part of the estate was sold under a decree of the court to pay off encumbrances ... It was bought by W.O. Price who pulled down the ruins and erected in 1831-2 a large mansion about 50 yards from the older one... The residence was gutted by fire about 1970. The ruins were completely demolished in Autumn 1981."

There is general agreement that there is no peak anywhere near the Abergwili Castell Pigyn, which is in flat country, though it may be that the pre-1711 house itself formed a kind of peak. An alternative explanation is suggested in the Transactions of the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society (Vol X, 1914-15, page 84): "Castle Pigin was probably so called from Paganus Pagan, or Payn de Tibetot, or Tiptoft, warden of the Marches in West Wales (circa 1331-1332), who was assisted in his defence against Meredith ap Rhys by William de Valence..."

On the Internet, a Country House Database entry for Castle Piggin is based on T. Nicholas, Counties of Wales, I, 1872, 220 (a picture only of the Price house) and J.B. Burke, Visitation, II, 1853, 26, and is largely in harmony with the above, adding the statement, "Rebuilt in 1838 by Walter O. Price." See www.r-alston.dircon.co.uk/ch_wal.htm (checked 1999/10).

The house, in its pre-litigation glory, is mentioned on page 9 in what appears to have been a money-raising work of poetry by John Bethell: Llangunnor Hill: a loco-descriptive poem [With notes. Carmarthen, [1794]. 38pp.]

The tall surrounding trees between
Fam'd Castle-Piggin's seat is seen,
And Penybank hides not its head,
Though now its ancient charms are fled

The note states: "This seat is in the parish of Abergwilly, and was formerly the property and residence of Mrs Gwynne, relict of Richard Gwynne Esq. It is now in the possession of Thomas Blome, Esquire." Whether this was accurate in 1794 is doubtful, as the house is mentioned in The Times as the home of John Llewellyn, sheriff of Carmarthenshire (1793 and 1803), and later as the home (and office) of Walter Owen Price solicitor (1856, 1861, 1863 and 1882 at his death) and as the home of Major W.S.G. Morris who was killed in a hunting accident in 1930.

Additional citations include documents in the Public Record Office dealing with the Chancery litigation:

Court of Exchequer: King's Remembrancer: Depositions taken by Commission: Lewis Rees, Margaret, his wife, David John Arthur, and others v. Lewis Weston Delwyn, Mary, his wife, William Williams, and others.: Castle Piggin estate; concerning ownership. Whether it had formerly belonged to Doctor John Morgan Griffiths, deceased.: C Date: 58 Geo. III - 27 June 1818 In PRO, Kew. http://catalogue.pro.gov.uk Document reference: E 134/MISC/2587

The house is also mentioned in the following documents held by the National Library of Wales:

DUNRAVEN 2/439: a grant of an annual rent change of 2 issuing from Castell-piggin, p. Abergwilly, co. Carm., 1789

LE HARDY/162, 1772, Sept. 23: PROBATE OF WILL of John Harris now of [t.] Tre-gib, formerly of Castle Piggin, co. Carm. (will dated 7 July 1772)

A lease to John Griffith of Castle Piggin, surgeon, is among the Coleman papers: see Rootsweb list ENG-SHROPSHIRE-PLUS-L@rootsweb.com message of 22 December 2002: Subject: [ENG-SHROP] COLEMAN PAPERS No. 23

This same place is also referred to in the Great Western Railway Company: Signal and Telegraph Records in the Public Records Office in London.

While no documentation could be found about the second and third houses called Castell Pigyn (at Llanboidy and Llwyncelyn) above, a fourth place called Castell Pigyn is mentioned in the following documents in the National Library of Wales deeds collection. I assume "Llanvynyth" and "Llanfynydd" to be variant spellings for the same place.

NLW DEEDS 2 /1464-5: 1751, June 21-2: LEASE AND RELEASE of a m. called Tyr y Velin, p. LLANVYNYTH, co. Carm., a field called Kae yr Castel Piggin

NLW DEEDS 2 /1470: 1827, Jan. 2: CONVEYANCE of 2 m's called Tyr-y-velin Gothy, and Upper Castell Piggin or Doleybont, p. LLANFYNYDD and p. LLANEGWAD, co. Carm.

© Jean-Baptiste Piggin 2000-2009
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