Historic Landscape Characterisation

Caernarfon/Nantlle – Area 20 Moel Tryfan enclosures PRN 15719


The very distinctive pattern of small, stone-walled fields and dispersed cottage settlement is clearly visible in the centre of this photograph, between the tops of Mynydd y Cilgwyn (foreground) and Moel Tryfan (background) (area 14), both of which bear the traces of slate quarrying and tips.




Historical background

An area of crown common enclosed without legal sanction by quarrymen-cottagers from 1798 onwards, which lay at the centre of the only successful resistance to aristocratic enclosure in nineteenth-century Gwynedd in the 1820s. The development of the slate industry also led to the construction of a number of industrial roads and railways within the area.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Small enclosures, dual economy settlement

A patchwork of small fields and their associated dwellings. Some of these are tyddynod within a dual agricultural-extractive economy, established on the crown commons from 1798, others are tai moel, houses unassociated with land. In places these coalesce into semi-nucleated or ribbon development villages. There is a considerable variety of dwellings. Some are pure vernacular, generally crog-lofftydd, perhaps dating back to the earliest phases of enclosure, often with lateral extensions of later date. Building material is almost invariably field-stones. A distinct type is a clearly later double-fronted single floor or crog-lofft type dwelling with markedly large windows, sometimes with some use of brick in the quoins – suggesting that they were constructed after the arrival of the railway system in the 1860s-70s. It is also possible that the large windows represent cheaper fuel, perhaps a transition from locally-dug peat to coal brought in by rail. These may represent the work of one local architect or jobbing builder.

Several short rows of two-up-and-two-down houses were also noted, though invariably making use of local materials. There are some modern dwellings, and other twentieth-century structures. There is much ‘make-do-and-mend' building, using timber and corrugated iron as well as more traditional materials.

The pattern of small, regular and geometrically laid out fields survives. In some instances these are now used to pasture horses, and timber rails have been added to the stone or slate walls.

The rail systems to the quarries, which continue into the unenclosed mountain, include both inclines and sinuous contour railways, illustrating the evolution of this particular technology in the period 1860-1880.



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