Sporadic debate over the years regarding the blinding flash of inspiration experienced by my great grandfather as he contemplated the latest arrival has indicated sources ranging from Tacitus’ Belgian Treviri, who attempted to chop some nice Italian boys into little bits, to Captain Trevor, who was himself chopped into little bits and displayed in a Kabul shopping mall as a prelude to the slaughter of Elphinstone’s retreating army by the Afghans.
None of these seemed particularly probable choices for a non-conformist but parochial Liverpudlian Welsh nationalist with roots in Bala, and I think the truth is more prosaic. My grandfather Trevor had a brother called Tryweryn, the Tryweryn being a stream which flows from Snowdonia to enter the Dee just below Lake Bala. And if you continue another 25 miles down the Dee, or on the Liverpool road which runs parallel to it, then just past Llangollen you get to Trevor Hall, which the Llangollen chronicler WT Simpson describes in 1853 as a “large brick mansion” with some rather interesting sounding remains in its back garden. Here’s a long and for most of you irrelevant quote:
It is situated on a rising ground, on the north side of the Wrexham road; and was once the residence of John Trevor, Bishop of St. Asaph, who in the year 1346, caused a stone bridge to be built over the Dee, at Llangollen, which is accounted one of the wonders of Wales.
Mr. Pennant says “Trevor Hall passed into the family of the Lloyds, and has continued in that family to the present time.” The last possessor was a lady of the name of Thomas, deceased in the year 1826, and leaving a son to inherit, although at present he does not occupy the premises. The house is roomy and substantial, and is pleasantly situated; but has no pretensions to elegance or beauty. Near the house is a church, or rather chapel, of ease, enjoying Queen Anne’s bounty, in which English service is performed on the first Sunday in every month.
In a rocky cliff in the neighbourhood of the Hall, is a cavern of some extent, in which I was informed there were to be found the petrified bones of wolves, foxes, and other wild animals. Resolving to ascertain the fact, I explored the place, but, whatever there may have been, I could not discover the vestiges of any such relics. I brought away some specimens of stalactites, of curious forms and various incrustations, with which the roof of the cavern abounds, and which may by some have been mistaken for petrified bony substances. This craggy ridge seems to be the commencement of that wonderful range of limestone called the Eglwyseg Rocks.
Near to the river is the ancient house of Plas yn Pentre, now inhabited by Mr. Thomas Rogers; and between Trevor Hall and the Dee is one of the most beautifully clear springs of cold water imaginable. It is called Ffynnon Yryrog, and is in very great repute as a bath for the cure of rheumatic affections; and if Saint Collen with a long name had thought proper to have bestowed his benediction, it might perhaps have rivalled its prototype at Holywell. Its issue is very abundant, and its coldness exceeds belief: persons bathing cannot continue in the water a minute. Many wonderful accounts are told of its efficacy in chronic disorders. In its passage to the Dee, it formerly turned a water mill, now in ruins. The spring rises in a field belonging to Plas yn Pentre.
On the road side, between Trevor Hall and Bron Heulog, is a small farm house, called Plas Eva or Evan. I notice it only as marking the spot where formerly was a cemetery, retaining the appellation of Mynwent y Quacer, or Quaker’s Burying Ground. It is on the south side of the house; and in cutting the [Ellesmere] canal, the earth from the excavation was thrown upon the old graves and the inscribed stones that lay upon the surface.
Opposite the north side of the same house, a few years ago, as some labourers were working in the limestone rock, they discovered a pot, filled with gold coin. The men, afraid of losing their booty, kept the affair secret, and deputed one of their party to dispose of the treasure at Chester, as old gold. A rumour of the circumstance having got afloat, an inquiry was instituted; but the secret was so well kept on all hands, that only one piece, which a labourer had kept as a curiosity, with a part of the earthen vessel that contained them, were recovered, both of which I am informed are now in the possession of Lady Clive. The name, date, or nominal value of the coin, I cannot ascertain; but a person who saw one of the pieces describes it as being about the size of a half crown, and very thin, with an impression on each side.
However its great house would not in itself have been reason enough to alight at Trevor station, on the Great Western Railway line which connected Bala by train with Liverpool from 1868 until Beeching closed the line in 1965. But the place became known to early tourists (and quite conceivably to Thomas) through the masterpiece of another Thomas. Telford’s Pontcysyllte Aqueduct–a massive cast iron structure sealed with boiling sugar and lead, supported by masonry cemented with lime and ox blood, and completed in the year of Trafalgar–carries what was once called the Ellesmere and is now called the Llangollen Canal over the Dee at a height of 120ft. (See Simpson for a splendid impression of its construction and opening.)
This satellite imagery shows the great shadows cast by the bridge as well as the main road through the Vale of Llangollen and the trackbed of the railway:
So my theory is that Thomas got off the train, observed this great Welsh bridge and recalled Welshmen hanging Englishmen west of nearby Offa’s Dyke, and thought to himself, “You know what, if I call him after something marvellous, he’s going to get above himself and join the Church of England or the Tory Party. I’ll give him the name of a minor railway station, and let etymology destiny be.”
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