Historic Landscape Characterisation

Bala and Llyn Tegid - Area 6 Llanfor (PRN 24706)



Historic background

Llanfor’s proximity to the extensive Roman remains of Llanfor fort and marching camp (area 07) show that this locality has long been a significant location in terms of settlement. Archaeological evidence at Llanfor village suggests that there may have also been prehistoric ritual activity in the area. A circle of standing stones, now destroyed, is thought to have been located in this area. It was recorded as Pabell Llywarch Hen in the 17th-century and was reputedly the place where Llywarch Hen camped after a battle against the Saxons nearby. By the end of the 19th century it was recorded as being located in the farm yard of Pen Isa’r-Llan but this is known not to have been its original location.

The beginnings of a settlement at Llanfor village can be identified by the early ringwork monument that dominates the northern half of the modern village. It is thought to date to the medieval period and would in part have been used for defence. Today, it is a tree- and pasture-covered earthwork and although its ramparts have been significantly eroded, the quality of its defences is still apparent.

Llanfor remained a significant settlement throughout the medieval period. It held the local markets and fairs up until the 14th-century when such events were relocated to Bala (see area 02). The position of Llanfor within the area of influence of the Rhiwlas Estate (area 05) must have reinforced its position as a farming community.

Llanfor is shown as a small, nucleated settlement on the 1849 tithe map, with the church at the centre, surrounded by a near-circular churchyard and various buildings to the south-west. The present church was built in 1875 by the architect E B Ferrey, but it stands on the site of the oldest church in Merioneth which once served this large parish. The earlier church consisted of a continuous nave and chancel with an unusual west tower and a later north chapel and south porch. The north chapel of the Rhiwlas family was dated to the 16th-century and a 19th-century description of the site suggests the presence of a 12th-century tower. The lych gate and revetment wall at the entrance to the churchyard relate to the earlier church and are of early 18th-century date.

The earliest gravestone visible today at Llanfor church is dated 1646, but the irregular boundary wall appears originally to have been curvilinear, indicating that burials from the early medieval period may exist here. Among the intricately-carved headstones is the grave of a man who survived 27 battles, including Waterloo. The unusual large stone building at the top of the churchyard has a tale to tell (see above).

The line of the modern road (A494(T)) is obviously not shown on the 1946 RAF vertical aerial photographs (106G/UK 1455 3171-6 2 May 1946), which instead show it following a line along the south side of the settlement. Interestingly, this road shows a diversion from a (previously) obviously straight road, and a number of buildings along the line of what is now the main road have since been demolished.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Semi-nucleated settlement, 18th - and 19th -century architecture

The high status of Llanfor as a medieval settlement is not evident in the character, form or layout of the modern village. It does not have a market place or any particular central focus. The collection of older stone buildings is not positioned to follow a single street frontage, and the village has a haphazard layout reflecting its organic development. The village layout is loosely based around the church, with housing on the west side of the churchyard encroaching on its boundary. The road that runs north-south through the village centre curves around the churchyard with small cottages lining it. Apart from a modern housing estate attached to the west side of the village, the layout remains largely unchanged from that shown on the Ordnance Survey 1st edition map (1888).

The settlement is compact and appears as a nucleated group of farmsteads in the centre of the fertile, managed arable farmland associated with the Rhiwlas estate. It is a leafy village where most of the buildings date to the 18th and 19th centuries. The dominant building style is small one- or two-storey dwellings built from large blocks of local stone, with slate roofs. Some of the buildings use dressed stone but most are built from rubble and/or boulders, many of which are water-worn and rounded. Pen Isa’r-Llan, the farm that borders the southern extent of the village, has a different character from the rest of the settlement. It includes an early 17th-century barn but is enclosed within a formal courtyard that has the appearance of an estate holding. ‘Garth’ row is a designed terrace, probably originally four houses, formerly part of the estate. The house adjacent to the main road has a substantial hay/corn barn in the courtyard behind, which itself was carefully laid out and implies the farm was originally stock-orientated.

The scheduled earthwork ringwork, on the edge of the settlement, probably of early medieval date, is covered in trees and suffers from some active animal damage.

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