St Anne's Church, Penparcau
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Mid and West Wales|
|Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament|
Penparcau is a village in Ceredigion, Wales situated to the south of Aberystwyth. It is the largest village in Ceredigion and is also an electoral ward. The village has the largest number of Welsh language speakers (1095) in the Aberystwyth town area, covering an area from the sea to the river Rheidol.
The original village was a small hamlet, one mile east of Aberystwyth town centre, but the building of extensive Art Deco style semi-detached social housing from the 1920s on transformed it. It lies in the shadow of the Celtic Iron Age hill fort of Pen Dinas, and between the sea at Tan Y Bwlch beach, the River Ystwyth and the River Rheidol. Penparcau has the only UNESCO Biosphere reserve in the Dyfi Biosphere. A section of the Wales Coast Path runs over Tan y Bwlch beach.
There is an Anglican church named after the Saint Anne, a Roman Catholic church named after the Welsh Martyrs, which is noted in "Architecture of Wales, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion"  and is home to a Lampedusa Cross, as well as two Methodist chapels and a Quaker meeting house. The recently closed Tollgate pub was named after the original tollgate that stood on the old toll road at the top of Penparcau and is now in St Fagans National History Museum near Cardiff.
Penparcau has its own woodland, Coed Geufron  run by the Woodland Trust and its own police station. Other amenities include a post office, two small supermarkets, a garage, holiday park and hotel and until recently two fish and chip shops, one of which has a reputation as one of the best in the area. Until late 2007, it also had its own travel agent.
In 2008, Penparcau played a part in the transition town movement in Wales when it hosted the "Alternative Energy and Transport Festival" in Neuadd Goffa, attended by the local MP and mayor. At the bottom of the valley, just below Penparcau, is a Welsh Government office building, designed to house more than 550 staff.
People have lived in and around Penparcau for over two thousand years. The Iron Age hillfort is believed to have been occupied for some 300 years up to and including the 1st century BC. Pen Dinas is the largest Iron Age hillfort in Ceredigion. Estimated to have been first built around 400 BC, the outline of the ancient ramparts is still evident.
There is evidence that during the Mesolithic Age the area of Tan-y-Bwlch at the foot of Pen Dinas (Penparcau) was used as a flint knapping floor for hunter-gatherers making weapons from flint that was deposited as the ice retreated.
To the south of Tan-y-Bwlch beach lies an area where during low tides a submerged forest can be clearly seen. This is thought to be between 4000 – 6000 years old. A record relating to the submerged forest can be found made by the Royal Commission on the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales 
Bronze and Iron Ages
The remains of a Celtic fortress on Pen Dinas (or more correctly 'Dinas Maelor' home of the mythical Celtic giant king Maelor Gawr), a hill in Penparcau overlooking Aberystwyth, indicates that the site was inhabited before 700 BC. On a hill south of the present town, across the River Ystwyth, are the remains of a medieval ringfort believed to be the castle from which Princess Nest was abducted. This rare survival is now on private land and can only be accessed by arrangement. A Bronze Age standing stone is also referenced as being in Penparcau in the Ceredigion County History (Volume 1) and the Dyfed Archaeological records.
A distinctive memorial to the Duke of Wellington in the shape of an upturned cannon was built on the hilltop in 1852. The hilltop comprises a twin summit system and the mounded defences divide into three systems. Archaeological excavations in the 1930s demonstrated at least four phases to the defences. Pen Dinas is now more popular as a tourist attraction for walkers and used in a more sedate manner for paragliding.
Penparcau (pronounced in the local dialect as 'pen parky' or 'penpark'e with an emphasis on the e, as in the dialectical pronunciation of 'au' in North Ceredigion, where 'pethau' becomes 'pethe'(in Welsh)) in 1841 was spelled Penparke, Penparciau, Penparkie or even Pen Y Parciau (on the 1890 OS map) and stretched on both sides of the turnpike road from Trefechan to Southgate. The population of the hamlet was 239, most of whom were workers in agriculture and related rural industries. There were three agricultural labourers and only one farmer; the next most important occupation was that of stonemason of whom there were eight. There were three shoemakers, two tailors and two shipwrights as well as the following: rope-maker, joiner, tanner, carpenter, gardener, sawyer, wheelwright, weaver and saddler.
In the 18th century, smuggling was a key part of the economy, with tea, salt, rum and tobacco being some of the things smuggled into the local area. There are records in the national archive showing an extensive smuggling ring run by the Powell and neighbouring Stedman families. The smuggled goods were bought into Penparcau to avoid the excise men stationed in Aberystwyth.
There is also interesting domestic architecture that can be assigned to Richard Emrys Bonsall such as the Ebeneser Chapel, still in use today. The plans for many of these buildings can be found at the National Library of Wales.
A famous feature that existed in Penparcau was the toll house. It was built in 1771 and stood at the southern junction of Penparcau (hence the name Southgate). It was built of local slate stone and was roofed with Pembrokeshire slates. David Jones of Dihewyd was appointed as the first gatekeeper in November 1771, and the first tolls were charged on 23 March 1772. The building contains just one room, one end being used for the collection of tolls. A single fireplace at the opposite end of the house was used for heating and cooking. Toll houses were very unpopular with people in rural areas who had to pay to travel along the roads. At St Fagans the house has been furnished in the style of 1843, the period of the Rebecca Riots when many tollgates were destroyed in Wales. Turnpike Trusts were eventually abolished in 1864 with county councils taking over responsibility for building and maintaining the roads but the Penparcau toll house remained a residence until the 1960s.
The United Kingdom Census 2001 reported that over 40% of the residents of Penparcau spoke Welsh and used Welsh daily, larger than any other individual census zone within that area, when compared to the other census data sets.
The bard and academic writer D. Gwenallt Jones (David James Jones) lived in the area. More recently another resident, Ifan Morgan Jones, won the Daniel Owen Memorial Prize for his novel at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in 2008.
Other notable residents are the Bishop of Bangor, the Right Reverend Andrew John; Mike Jenkins, author, poet and father of Bethan Jenkins, who was brought up in the village as a boy; and the historian Emeritus Professor Geraint Huw Jenkins, who was born and raised in the village. Eurfyl ap Gwilym, a Welsh economist, was from Penparcau.
Aberystwyth-Penparcau is the most populous electoral division in Ceredigion and elects two county councillors.
Penparcau is also the name of the village which covers a portion of the electoral division consisting of the areas of Southgate and Caeffynnon.
Five town councillors represent the ward on the Aberystwyth Town Council, one of the 51 town and community councils in Ceredigion and consists of 19 town councillors elected in five wards. The last elections were held in May 2017.
Penparcau is governed by Ceredigion County Council and Aberystwyth itself elects six of the 42 councillors in five separate wards (Bronglais, Central, North, Rheidol and Penparcau - the Penparcau ward elects two of these). The two county councillors for Aberystwyth-Penparcau, elected in May 2017 were Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest
The Penparcau electoral ward stretches from Tan y Bwlch beach to the Rheidol. There are two Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the Pen Dinas and Tan y Bwlch Local Nature Reserves within this area.
Myth, folklore and legend
One of the more unusual residents is the headless dog of Penparcau. The myth tells of how a giant, going to his father's rescue, rode at such a rate that his dog could not keep up with him and its head came off in the leash. The dog now roams, mournfully crying and looking for its long-lost owner. It has also been theorised[by whom?] that the original inhabitants were the same people that made the Banc Ceilliau sun-disc in nearby Cwmystwyth. There are also many stories relating to the pirates that used this part of the coastline such as Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts the Pirate.
During one winter in the late 19th century, villagers woke to find mysterious footprints in the fresh snow. It soon became apparent that these had not been made by any human as they were hoofprints made by a creature who walked on two legs and not four. Villagers followed these hoofprints and found that the creature had walked through fields, roads and even managed to walk over walls and roofs in one uninterrupted path. It was believed that the Devil had walked through Penparcau that snowy night and has never been seen back since.
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- 1890 Map of Penparcau
- Penparcau Community Site
- Penparcau Community Forum Site
- Archives of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales 1
- Archives of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales 2
- Archives of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales 3
- www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Penparcau and surrounding area
- A map of the Penparcau ward