12 Cwm Prysor – valley bottom

(PRN 18278)

Historic background

Cwm Prysor is a steep-sided valley extending eastwards from the village of Trawsfynydd which has long served as a communication route.  The presence of Castell Prysor (a survey and description of the site appears in de Lewandowicz, 1998) on a small knoll in the valley bottom testifies to the strategic importance of the area in medieval times as a route into the fastness of Gwynedd.  The 1840 tithe map shows two tracks leading up the valley, along the north and south sides of the Afon Prysor, the northern one originating direct from Trawsfynydd and the southern one from Pont Trawsfynydd.  The route of the latter, interestingly, defines the edge of areas 11/12 for much of its route, marking the edge of the enclosed, improved fields.  These roads joined up just west of Hendre-bryn-crogwydd whence it continued to the top of the valley where it apparently ended at Blaen-y-cwm (according to the tithe map).  The modern road follows more or less the old route, and now continues over and down to Bala.

The modern farm of Wern-gron, on the river in the western end of the area, was called Pandy in 1840 and was presumably a fulling mill.  All the farms in the area (Ysgwrn, Bodyfaddau, Hafod-wen, Pen-y-bryn etc.) were also recorded at that time and have retained their original names.  Bronasgellog is shown as having a substantial, formal garden (unique to the area at that time, and probably still), and further east, around Ysgwrn, there are several areas of woodland (as today): the only other substantial area of woodland (Nurse Bryn-celynog), across the valley, is also recorded on the tithe map.   Most of the fields then were shown as moderately large, irregular enclosures, although some of these along the valley bottom in the western part of the area have been ‘straightened’ since.  The lower valley slopes retain much of their mid-19th-century appearance.  There is a notable cluster of smaller fields around Blaencwm, and up-slope from here is a series of very large, irregular enclosures. A small military camp was established at Bryn Golau (ironically the farm adjacent to Ysgwrn, the later home of Hedd Wyn (see section above)), on the southern edge of the area at the turn of the 20th century before it was moved down to Rhiw Goch (area 20). The remains of the Great Western Railway line from Bala to Ffestiniog, opened in 1882, defines the northern limit of this area for much of its extent.  The Cwm Prysor viaduct, at the eastern end of the area, is 120ft high at its maximum and has nine spans (unfortunately it collapsed at Whitsun in 1881, but was re-built that year in time for the opening of the line).

Key historic landscape characteristics

farmsteads, pasture fields, roads, railway

The area is characterised by an improved, pasture landscape, with irregular enclosures defined by drystone walls.  A scattered settlement pattern of stone-built farms along the lower slopes is also distinctive, with those on the southern side strung out along a former road (now partially closed and turned into a footpath): some of the farms at least are possibly sub-medieval in date.  Isolated field barns, again stone-built, are also characteristic of the area.  There are also a few small areas of woodland.  The modern road has been much improved, but the railway which for a large length defines the northern edge of the area remains largely intact.  

© Crown copyright. All rights reserved, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, 100017916, 2005

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