‘Near...is a vast maen-hir, or monumental stone, called Carrey y llech, five feet high, seven broad, and eighteen inches thick, set erect on a tumulus coarsely paved.’
Thomas Pennant, Tours in Wales (1778)
When first raised, however many distant years ago, thousands one imagines, Carreg-y-Llech would have stood amongst a landscape of tumuli, likely devoid of any sort of settlement of the size that now surrounds it. It’s a curious thing to find, stood leaning west as it does and has since at least the time of Pennant, behind a row of houses on Ffordd y Rhos within the village of Treuddyn. It’s at the centre of a small horse pasture now, but remains a thing apart, outside of the normal and curious for its presence.
Pennant’s measurements are about right, perhaps a little out in its height which is a little closer to six feet than five. But of the ‘coarsely paved’ tumulus there is no sign, though it stands upon a slight rise which may once have been a mound, and might well explain the disparity of Pennant’s measured height against the modern truth. Perhaps the stones remain beneath the cropped grass of the pasture. After all, Ellis Davies claims to have seen stones embedded in the ground about the stone in 1932, and the Royal Commission, which visited at the beginning of the 20th century also mentions a, ‘rough pavement of small cobbles’. It seems likely then, that there is history there beneath the stone. The Royal Commission also mentions that the stone contained ‘nuggets of iron stone, some of which have dropped out leaving holes or pockets’, and these pockets are clearly visible to this day, giving the stone a worn weathered and curiously otherworldly appearance.
Carreg-y-Llech is mentioned briefly by Edward Lhuyd in his Parochialia at the end of the 17th century, amongst his notes on ‘Commons and Mountains’ and so we can be clear that the name has been in usage since at least that time. And the name is another little mystery.
The word ‘carreg’ is easily rendered into English as ‘stone’ or rock, but ‘llech’ is more problematic, since it can also mean ‘stone’, ‘rock’, ‘slab’ or perhaps even, ‘hiding place.’ Ellis Davies suggests that ‘llech’ is often used in conjunction with personal names, and is often used as such elsewhere in north Wales, usually further west towards Anglesey. He goes on to suggest that the name should render into English as, ‘stone of the monument or tomb’, which fits neatly enough with its believed presence upon a tumulus, or at the very least within a landscape of Treuddyn tumuli. Davies goes so far as to further suggest that the original name of the stone was ‘Carreg-y-Llech-lafar’, the ‘Stone of the Echo’ or ‘Speaking Stone’, which does rather open up some fascinating possibilities. There is mystery in this, and hints at a forgotten purpose.
Amongst a landscape of ancient tumuli, many ploughed to shadows in the earth, Carreg-y-Llech stands still, proud and resolute, a reminder of a lost way of life.