The Three Elms and Gwaun Treoda

The Three Elms and Gwaun Treoda

The modern Three Elms pub stands close to the site of a much older inn, shown on maps in 1811. In 1812, James Stephens of the Three Elms offered a reward for information about a missing black mare “of the saddle kind”.

The pub’s name refers to elm trees which grew in the vicinity. By 1817, it possessed a stable, carpenter’s shop and smithy – part of which still stands in the car park. The pub was conveniently located at the western end of Whitchurch Common on Merthyr Road, once the main turnpike road from Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil.

For much of the early 19th century, the Three Elms was held by the Lewis family. The tenant was Lewis Lewis in 1828, when the inn and its stables were for sale. Innkeeper Edward Lewis was imprisoned as a debtor in 1829. The Lewis family still occupied the Three Elms in 1851. The inn was later sold to the Ely Brewery Company.

Whitchurch Common – Gwaun Treoda in Welsh – was once part of a large swathe of common land extending from Whitchurch village to the area where the University Hospital of Wales now stands. It included the Great Heath (Mynydd Bychan) and Little Heath (Y Waun Ddyfal). Gwaun Treoda means “heath at Treoda”.

Treoda is first recorded in 1459 and was once thought to refer specifically to the former castle mound (now built over by flats known as Treoda Court) near the Fox and Hounds pub. The name is likelier, however, to have applied to a wider area extending to the common. Treoda probably means “farm (or settlement) belonging to Oda”, composed of Welsh tref (which now means “town”) and an English personal-name Oda or Odda.

Folk etymology variously misinterpreted Gwaun Treoda as “Gwauntroedyda … the meadow where traces of cows’ feet were visible”, and Treoda as Welsh troedau “feet” (an unrecorded plural of troed) or trotian “to trot”. This generated a fanciful tale about a Welsh “Lady Godiva” who was compelled to ride naked – no doubt trotting as fast as she could – around the common!

Two plaques on the common record that the avenue of poplar trees along Merthyr Road was  planted on behalf of the 2nd Evacuation Unit of the American army in 1944 in gratitude for the hospitality shown to them by Whitchurch parishioners.

With thanks to Richard Morgan, of the Welsh Place-Name Society

Postcode: CF14 1JE     View Location Map

Website of the Three Elms