Historic Landscape Characterisation

Creuddyn and Arllechwedd – Area 9 Enclosed Uplands PRN 15817


SH 750694 looking south. Showing the hillfort of Pen-y-gaer sitting starkly on the edge of the enclosed uplands, with the enclosed intermediary hill-slopes (area 16) centre left.



Historical background

The uplands which form the south-western part of the study-area consist of mountain and moorland which shows evidence of human settlement from the Neolithic period. A burial chamber possibly as early as the fourth millennium BC stands next to an ancient east-west route, used by the Romans and which continued to serve until the eighteenth century from Ro Wen to Bwlch y Ddeufaen to the twentieth century at Maen y Bardd. Nearby, at Bwlch y Ddeufaen is an outstanding landscape of standing stones and cairns of the second millennium BC.

The Iron Age is represented by the impressive chevaux de frise hillfort of Pen y Gaer overlooking Llanbedr y Cennin, to which, or to the Romano-British period also belong huts and field systems.

Upland land use in the Medieval period may be associated with the seasonal movement of stock from the lowlands in winter to the higher pastures in summer. From the sixteenth century onwards in the hanging valleys of the Afon Dulyn and the Afon Porth Llwyd, enclosures and permanent dwellings developed on the sites of these Medieval hafodydd, a process initiated and quarrelled over by the yeoman and gentry families of the area.1 By the nineteenth century much of the land was in the hands of the most prominent families in North-west Wales - the Lords Newborough of Glynllifon, the Assheton-Smiths of Faenol, the Williams-Wynns of Wynnstay and the Bulkeleys of Beaumaris. The parliamentary enclosure of much of the uplands from 18562 led to widespread protest, and to the repeated destruction of the stone walls authorised by the enclosure act.

These uplands were also exploited for their peat and for their minerals. The area is riddled with small-scale unsuccessful trials, but a number made the grade into commercial quarries. On Tal y Fan the slate veins have been exploited since at least 1553 and a quarry remained in production until 1913, turning out the then fashionable “rustics”, which can be seen on various roofs in Deganwy and Conwy. In Cwm Eigiau two slightly larger quarries enjoyed a chequered career from c. 1827 until 1874 and were equipped in the 1860s with state-of-the-art machinery and a lengthy tramroad to the river Conwy, but neither can have repaid the outlay. 3

1R.E. Hughes, ‘Environment and Human Settlement in the Commotte of Arlechwedd Isaf' TCHS 2 (1940) pp. 1-25; E. Davies, ‘Hendre and Hafod in Caernarvonshire' TCHS 40 (1979), pp. 17-46.

2CRO , Caerhun Enclosure Apportionment, 1856.

3UWB Baron Hill Mss, CRO Glynllifon.


Key historic landscape characteristics

Relict archaeology, remote settings, large enclosures

An area of upland pasture, whose pattern of abandoned farmsteads and enclosures is largely the result of agricultural development from the fifteenth century onwards (although prehistoric origins are obvious in many places).

One of the principal features of the area is the wealth of upstanding archaeological remains (funerary monuments, settlements, enclosures, field systems and so on) from both the prehistoric and medieval (as well as the post-medieval) periods. These are particularly significant in two areas, around Maen y Bardd (in the north), and Pen y Gaer (along the eastern side).

There are also constitutes an industrial landscape, which has been quarried for slate, mined for iron sulphide and which has been served by an extensive network of railways. Few roads (certainly modern ones) serve the area.

The adaptation of natural rivers and lakes for water collection from the 1890s onwards has had a marked effect on the landscape.


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