Nestled near the banks of the Afon Mawddach lies the remains of Cymer Abbey, a ruined Cistercian abbey founded in 1198. The abbey was dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the patronage of Maredudd ap Cynan (Lord of Merioneth and grandson to the King of Gwynedd, Owain ap Gruffudd).
Cymer Abbey was a simple and plain abbey church, but it does not conform to the usual cross-shaped design. It lacks northern and southern transepts, and the choir and presbytery were incorporated into the nave.
The abbot’s house can be found next to the abbey. It has been extensively remodelled and now serves as a farmhouse.
During its history, Cymer Abbey has been a base for Prince Llewelyn ap Gruffudd’s troops and occupied by Edward I during the Welsh Wars. The abbey was poor and this wouldn’t have been helped by the Welsh Wars of Edward I (in 1284 Edward I gave the abbey £80 in compensation for damage caused in the wars) or by the rugged and mountainous landscape surrounding the abbey.
These days Cymer Abbey is in the care of Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service). It is open to visitors between 10am and 5pm (closing an hour earlier during winter months) and entry is free.
Cymer Abbey can be found north of Dolgellau in Gwynedd, North Wales, just off the A470 trunk road. Follow the signposts, which will lead you through a caravan site to the farm (with parking) next to the abbey.
A brief lesson in Welsh surnames…
In times gone by the Welsh used the patronymic naming system of using a father’s forename or given-name as the child’s surname. So Owain ap Gruffudd translates as Owain son of Gruffudd (“ap” being the contraction of the word “mab”, meaning “son”).
Welsh surnames such as Powell and Pryce came about with the Anglicisation of Welsh names. Powell would have originally been “ap Hywel” and Pryce would have originally been “ap Rhys”. Other Welsh surnames came about by simply adding an “s” on the end of a name, e.g. Jones (originally John), Evans and Williams.
All a bit of a nightmare for Welsh genealogists, I’m sure you’ll agree!