Historic Landscape Characterisation

Ardudwy - 30 Morfa Harlech - fieldscape (PRN 18263)


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

Historic background

In the medieval period, Harlech castle (and town – area 18) were built on a rocky promontory above the sea. Over the next centuries, the area below the town silted up and was classed as marsh waste. The enclosure and draining of part of Morfa Harlech in 1789 by the Glyn Cywarch estate (area 31) meant that the burgesses of the town (Harlech, area 18) lost rights of common there. The area has always contained a series of offshore islands and outcrops (much like nearby Traeth Mawr across the estuary at the mouth of the Glaslyn), as the ‘ynys’ placenames testify (area 19, for example, and the smaller Lasynys which is associated with the bard Ellis Wynne (1671-1734) (Y Bardd Cwsc)).

The main north-south road from Porthmadog to Barmouth was diverted in the mid-19th century, from its original route at the bottom of the coastal hill slopes (area 29) and now crosses the morfa in a virtual straight line, after first cutting across the northern end of the area to link up with the previously-isolated settlement of Ynys (area 19). At around the same time, the Cambrian Railway was built and this cuts across the area from below the town of Harlech to a bridge across the Dwyryd at the morfa’s northern end.

A series of later 19th (and early 20th) century farmsteads were established along the line of the road (including Ty’n y acrau, Ty’n y ffordd, Glyn Morfa, Ty Canol), and a large area behind the dunes (area 32) was planted with ubiquitous conifers by the Forestry Commission in the 20th century. In recent years, the expanding town of Harlech and a golf course have further encroached on the southern part of the area. (See also area 32.)

Key historic landscape characteristics

Reclaimed marsh, regular field pattern, cut drainage boundaries, 19th century farmsteads

Most of the area (outside the areas of forestry, road and modern encroachment mentioned above) is agricultural in nature and is characterised by a regular pattern of fields, defined mainly by cut drainage features (some with hedges alongside) and/or earthen banks. The 19th century painting by Henry Gastineau, and the fact that the farmsteads are late 19th century in date, imply that this pattern is relatively recent, although we know that the former marsh was being actively reclaimed from the end of the 18th century.
The farmsteads themselves, late 19th or early 20th century in date consist of fairly standard, two-storeyed, two bay, square houses with two side chimneys. Although they appear to be stone-built, they are often rendered, so they may, in fact, be built of brick and stone (Pen y waen, for example, appears to be). Most of them have associated outbuildings, either tacked on to the rear of the house (Glyn morfa and Ty Canol) or around a small yard (Gilarwen). Ty’n Morfa has a very nice two storey threshing barn.

The main road, alongside which the farms have been built, and the railway cut across the area, and appear, at least in parts, to predate the field pattern. The area also contains three railway stations (below Glan-y-wern, Talsarnau and Llandecwyn) which serve settlements above on the main road which, in the northern part of the area, still skirts around the edge of the morfa. Other parts of the morfa are either planted with 20th century conifer plantations (now being removed) or are sand dunes (area 32).

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