Llanrhidian was most likely an ideal base for a settlement during prehistoric times, with good quality water available from two springs, and a variety of landtypes closeby, such as the estuary and marshland, woodland and pasture. Looming large, Cil Ifor Top, overlooks the entire north Gower region.
An interpretation of the Book of Llandaff, suggests that Llanrhidian was the site for a monastic cell by the early Medieval period. This religious site was possibly dependant on the main monastic estate in Rhossili. A carved architectural stone (possibly the remains of a lintel or tombstone lid), dating from the 9th century, was excavated from the near the west tower doorway in 1865 and moved to the church porch in 1910. The stone is known as the Leper Stone.
Llanrhidian Standing Stones
One of the more distinctive features of Llanrhidian are its two standing stones - both positioned on the village green outside Llanrhidian Church. The upper of these stones can easily be identified as the remains of a Celtic Cross and a closer inspection will reveal traces of iron rods embedded both at the bottom and at the top of the stone. It is believed that this stone was once used as a village pillory.
The lower standing stone is of limestone and its history in Llanrhidian is clearly recorded in the parish register as being raised to its present position on 8th April 1884. The 10-20 volunteers who undertook this arduous task were each rewarded with a pint of beer in the Welcome to Town public house across from the green.
The Welcome to Town Inn
The Welcome to Town was also the meeting place for the Gower United Association for the Prosecution of Felons' annual dinner. This group of land owners and farmers were responsible for the rewards offered for the apprehension of local criminals. It disbanded in 1892 after a very quiet last 34 years of service - its last active case being that of sheep stealing in 1856.
The public house, now a restaurant, is reputed to be haunted by the figure of a coachman, some of whom believe had dealings with this society. He has been sighted on numerous occasions occupying a table near the front window of this quiet establishment.
As well as the odd appearance of the ghostly coachman, the hamlet of Llanrhidian has other strange stories attached to it.
The first concerns a priest who is said to have awakened one morning from a gripping dream concerning a mysterious cave hidden in the woods near St. Rhidian's Church. His vivid dream foretold the cave contained a bountiful supply of money, so the priest decided to take his manservant and investigate the area.
To his surprise, the priest soon discovered the cave actually existed. The dream had told the priest that the awesome iron door that blocked the entrance to the cave would only open to the sound of a harp. Forewarned with this knowledge, he now played a tune on the small harp he had brought along with him from his home.
As promised by his dream, the iron door responded to the sweet music and swung slowly open. Inside the cave, each guarded by a sleeping gnome, were two large piles of gold. Lulled by the sound of the priest's harp, the gnomes continued to sleep as the priest's manservant crept into the cave to steal some of the gold for his master. However, the gold was heavy and, despondant by the paltry amount of gold his manservant could carry, the priest laid down his harp to help in the theft of the gnomes treasure. Unfortunately, as the harp ceased its tune, the iron door swung firmly shut behind the priest and both men were trapped within the cave to face the wrath of the two stirring gnomes. The location of the cave has remained a mystery ever since.
Llanrhidian's other legend is that of St. Illtyd's Well, later known, for reasons that will become apparent, as Butter Well. It is an ancient well and is located in a private garden near Llanrhidian Church. Looking no more than ordinary to today's inspection, it is recorded in the Annals of Margam that, in 1185, the well became a rich source of milk and butterfat instead of its more usual supply of Welsh spring water. This was said to have flowed copiously from the well for at least three hours. Since that time, however, the well has failed to repeat the phenomena.
In an earlier century, at the foot of Llanrhidian, in one of the many gulleys and channels that scour the marshland here, the sea vessel Scanderoon Galley became grounded. The vessel carried twelve chests gold and, although much of this was salvaged at the time, one could not be found as it had quickly sunk into the silty mud. Many years later a local man suddenly became very rich, and rumour persisted that he had secretly found the lost chest.
Up until the beginning of the 20th century Llanrhidian was famous for its large weaving industry. The remains of one of its larger woollen factories, Stavel Hagar (Staffel Hægr), can be seen at the end of the lane that stretches down to the marsh lands of the Burry Estuary. The looms here were dismantled in 1904.
Of further interest in Llanrhidian is the now disused mill house which can be found by following the lane down past The Dolphin public house. Although no longer in operation, Nether Mill's millpond still possesses much charm and its (broken) millstone can still be viewed outside the building's eastern entrance.