Historic Landscape Characterisation

Ardudwy - Area 17 Cwm Nantcol (PRN 18250)



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

Historic background

Cwm Nantcol is one of the two (along with Cwm Bychan, area 28) river valleys which cut from the west into the upland massif of Ardudwy. The area extends roughly east-west and is centred on the Afon Cwmnantcol which flows along a narrow, flat-bottomed valley with steep, rocky sides. A single, large cairn at the top of the valley on the flat bottom is probably the only known prehistoric site within the area (although no fieldwork has been carried out here, and it is possible that the irregular fields along the valley sides might contain evidence of prehistoric occupation).

The important, sub-medieval house of Maesygarnedd dominates the end of the valley and is associated with John Jones (1597?-1660), who was the brother-in-law of Cromwell and one of the signatories of the death warrant of Charles I.

At the neck of the valley, and between it and Cwm Bychan (area 28), is an area of curvilinear, stone-walled fields around the farm of Cae’r Cynog (see photograph) which is probably an example of 16th-century encroachment on to the upland margins. There is a similar-looking complex right at the end of the valley around a farm eponymously called Nantcol, and it is likely that this is of the same period.

In the 1840s, according to the tithe estate maps, the largest farm in the county comprised the 1,425 acres of Graig isaf, Graig uchaf and Graig Fforchog (located on the south side of the valley near the top, but whose land extended into area 16), leased by William Ormsby-Gore to Morris Jones & Robert Owen. This is a good example of a feature of the compact gentry estates; the demesne was kept on hand, while other farmsteads were let to individual tenants.

There are other large 18th or 19th century farms and larger complexes along the south side (where the only road is), notably Hendre-waelod and Twllnant. There is no 20th century development apart from ‘improvements’ to existing farms (and a ‘phone box).

Key historic landscape characteristics

Agriculturally-improved remote valley, substantial farmhouses, field patterns

The main defining characteristics of the area relate to its topographic feature as a river valley cutting into an upland massif. The valley bottom is flat and has improved pasture fields in a regular pattern (at the top) while lower down there are extensive tracts of marshy land. The area extends partway up the valley sides to the top of the fields (mainly irregular in pattern and layout with sheepfolds and some woodland at the southern end). A series of fields at the neck of the valley on the northern side are characteristic of early post-medieval encroachment.

The few scattered farmhouses (the only settlements in the area, and all on the southern side where the single road in the area runs) are impressive and substantial stone-built structures There is a distinct atmosphere of a remote place, largely untouched by the 20th century (although unfortunately Maesygarnedd has been spoiled by the recent use of upvc windows).


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