A private house called Penystar or Penystare stood just south of the present Vicarage from at least the turn of the 18th Century, perhaps as early as 1670. On 4th April 1720 Stephen Parry of Noyadd Trefawr leased Penystar to William Rowland and others. In 1773 David Lewis of Penstar became a Warden of St. Thomas’ Church.
Ca1774 Penstair was rebuilt, possibly to serve as a Vicarage for the new incumbent of the parish, Rev. William Jones. On 12th October 1779 Penstar was sold by the Noyadd Trefawr estate as part of the former Plas Newydd estate. It had “…very large and fruitful Orchards and Gardens…” The Sagrani stone was used as a footbridge over a stream nearby circa 1806, but was later removed to form part of a garden wall.
Rev. Henry James Vincent moved here to live, probably in 1826. On 4th July 1831 Margaretta Catherine Vincent, wife of Rev. Henry James Vincent, was buried at St. Thomas’ Church, having died aged 48. In 1833 Rev. Henry J. Vincent of Penstar acquired the adjacent Abbey ruins. He had a garden wall dismantled in 1837, but the Sagrani stone which had been set into it broke in two during its’ removal. Buildings are indicated at the site on the 1838 Tithe Map. In 1851 the following persons lived at Penstar: Rev. Henry James Vincent, 51, Vicar of the parish; Mary Vincent, 49, his sister; Deborah Evans, 41, house servant; and John Prothero, 17, servant. In 1861 the following persons lived at Penstar: Rev. Henry James Vincent, 61, widower, Vicar of the parish; Mary Vincent, 59, his sister; and Deborah Evans, 52, house servant. Shortly before 1865 Rev. H. J. Vincent wrote the following:
“…My House situate to the South East of the abbey is called Penstar – the head or top of the stairs, the Welsh word for staircase. Now if it were called the foot of the stairs a reason might be assigned to the name, for there was a passage by it to the abbey, the pavement of which is now covered with turf – and it is not impossible but that there might have been stone steps, commencing near the spot. But to call it the top of the stairs would be quite preposterous unless we adopt the previous theory of a sub Tivy passage or tunnel…”
Rev. Henry James Vincent died in 1865 and was buried at St. Thomas’ Church on 15th June 1865, and the site of the Abbey and vicarage passed to John Vincent. The present building was begun in 1866 using stone from the Abbey ruins. The vicarage was built on the site of earlier buildings, possibly portions of the Abbey but, perhaps outbuildings of the 16th Century Bradshaw mansion or its’ outbuildings. The present vicarage cellars are believed by some to pre-date the rest of the building.
Upon the death of Rev. Daniel Jones in June 1868, the reference to the ‘Vicarage’ was to this building. He was buried at St. Thomas’ Church on 23rd June 1868 and was succeeded as Vicar and occupier here by Rev. Henry Jones. On 28th September 1869 there was an auction held at Penstar. In 1871 the following persons lived here: Rev. Henry Jones, 40, Vicar of St. Dogmaels; Sarah Jones, 39, his wife; Sarah Maria Jones, 17, their daughter; Thomas Rhys Jones, 14, their son; David Saunders Jones, 12, son; Mary Eliza Jones, 10, daughter; and Elizabeth Bowen, 20, servant. On 13th May 1872 John Vincent sold the new buildings and the Abbey ruins to the church for £2400.
In 1878 Rev. Edward Thomas Jones became the Vicar of St. Dogmaels. In 1881 the following persons lived here: Edward Thomas Jones, 41, Vicar; Mariam Jones, 41, his wife; and Isabella C. A. Williams, 15, general servant. In November 1884 Rev. Edward Thomas Jones left the parish. In 1885 Rev. Thomas Jones became the Vicar and occupant. In 1886 portions of the Abbey ruins which stood in the Vicarage orchard, were demolished and the stone sold by the Vicar, some for rebuilding “The Ship and Bonded Stores”, Pendre, Cardigan. In 1887, supposedly to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the Vicar built a new retaining wall here, decorated with carved stones, the materials for which he quarried from the Abbey ruins. He was criticised for quarrying the ruins again in November 1888. In 1891 the following persons lived here: Rev. Thomas Jones, 47, Clerk in Holy Orders; Jane Jones, 50, his wife; Nathaniel Jones, 20, their son; Margaret Jones, 18, their daughter; Willie Jones, 17, son; and Mary Anne Jones, 8, daughter. Following the death of Rev. Thomas Jones on 7th January 1895 there was a clear-out sale here on 27th March 1895.
In 1895 Rev. John Myfenydd Morgan became the Vicar of St. Dogmaels and the occupier of the Vicarage. In 1901 the following persons lived here: Rev. John Myfenydd Morgan, 48, clergyman – Church of England (born at Tregaron, bilingual); and Margaret Lewis, 50, housemaid (born at Moylgrove, Welsh-speaking). In 1901 Rev. J. Myfenydd Morgan located some 12th Century documents relating to the Abbey. In 1911 the following persons lived here: John Myfenydd Morgan, 58, Vicar (b. Tregaron); and Mary John, 54, servant (b. St. Dogmaels). Both were bilingual. In 1915 more pre-Norman inscribed stones were found in the grounds. On 16th October 1916 Rev. John Myfenydd Morgan died.
In 1917 Rev. Jenkin Griffith Hughes, the new Vicar, moved here with his family. On 10th July 1925 reference was made to the building that formerly stood in the centre of the orchard here. In May 1933 Rev. J. G. Hughes left. In July 1933 Rev. Lewis Morris became the new Vicar and moved here. Rev. Lewis Morris died on 5th February 1943. In 1943 Rev. William George Jones moved here as the new Vicar. In 1973 Rev. William George Jones retired.
In February 1974 Rev. Meurig Caredig Davies moved here and became the Vicar until about 1990. Ca1990 Rev. Eric Rhys Williams moved here and became the new Vicar. The Coach House was renovated by CADW in 1992. Both buildings were listed in 1993. In January 1999, following the departure of Rev. Eric Rhys Williams, Rev. Dorrien Davies moved here and became the Vicar. In July 2000 a scheme was initiated to convert the coach house into a heritage centre. Rev. Dorrien Davies threw a Jubilee Party here in June 2002. Extensions to the coach-house began in April 2007. In September 2007 Rev. Dorrien Davies became a Canon. In June 2008 the Coach House visitor’s centre opened, with the official opening by Rhodri Morgan on 11th September 2008. In April 2010 Rev. Dorrien Davies left for St. David’s Cathedral. In September 2010 Rev. Aled Thomas became the new Vicar and resided here in 2010-12.
The Vicarage and stables were described by CADW in 1993:
“…VICARAGE – Later C19 large vicarage in brown rubble stone with some banding in grey. Steep slate eaves roof and brick end stacks and carved bargeboards. Basement and two storeys, five-window range of large 12-pane hornless sashes with red brick heads and slate sills. Centre 6-panel door with traceried overlight. Broad flight of four round-nosed slate steps up. One basement window each side. Rear has similar sashes and large pointed stair light.
This vicarage, of unusually large scale, was rebuilt after 1868 by the Rev. Henry Jones according to his obituary…”
“…THE VICARAGE STABLES – Mid C19 coach house and stable in brown squared rubble stone with slate roof, ridge vent and cement coping. Two-storey three-window range. Projecting gabled centre, with broad arched carriage-entry with double ledged doors, and large roundel in gable, flush sandstone ashlar arched head and surround to roundel. Each side, stable door with window above, Cambered heads, sandstone ashlar flush voussoirs and slate sills. South end wall has similar gable roundel and ground floor arched window with fanlight. North end has loft door with arched head and ground floor door. Rear has door to left, four small vent loops, centre door and window. Two rows of dove holes above centre door and loft window each side.
WALL ATTACHED TO REAR OF STABLES – Later C19 rubble stone wall with rough stone coping extending from corner of Vicarage Stables and stepping N to reach the claustral ruins some 20m S of Abbey Chapter House. The wall includes a pointed arched doorway aligned with similar doorway in wall to parish churchyard to N…”
ADDITIONAL – There seems to be no firm evidence for an earlier structure on this site, though one is clearly indicated on the 1838 Tithe Map.
Pembrokeshire Record Office: HPR/145/15
Gloucester Journal 09/08/1779
Parish Register of St. Dogmaels.
Tithe Map for St. Dogmaels 1838
Census Returns 1851; 1861; 1871; 1881; 1891; 1901; 1911
Log Book of St. Dogmaels National School 1868-96
Cardigan & Tivy-Side Advertiser 1872; 1895; 1916; 1925; 2000
Kelly’s Directory of South Wales 1875; 1914
Occupiers List of Voters – St. Dogmaels 30/07/1894
Register of St. Dogmaels Parochial School
Annual Report – Blaenywaun & Bethsaida Chapels, St Dogmaels 1939
Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest – St. Dogmaels, Julian Orbach, CADW.
© Glen K Johnson 23/06/2013.