Historic Landscape Characterisation

Llŷn - Area 16 Nanhoron and Botwnnog PRN 33491

Nanhoron Gorge


Efail Botwnnog

Melin Horon

Capel Newydd, Nanhoron

Inkerman Bridge

Historic background

There is evidence of later prehistoric activity on the fringe of the character area, towards the top of the gorge where the Horon runs between Garn Bach and Carn Saethon. There is a small hillfort on Carn Saethon and a cluster of hut-circles on the terrace above the gorge at Pencaerau, between Carn Bach and the steep slopes of the Horon valley (PRNs 4024, 4027, 4028, 4030, 4031) and 300m to the north-east at Clogwyn (PRN 4024). There is an enclosed and nucleated hut circle settlement of broadly the same period on the brow of a slope overlooking a tributary stream of the Horon at 120m OD, 470m from Saethon House. On the west side of the gorge there are two nucleated and enclosed hut circle settlements on, or near, the summit of the rounded hill of Bodlas (PRNs 418, 4017).

During the Middle Ages this character area lay within the commote of Afloegion. Nanhoron was a hamlet of the freeholding township of Bodnithoedd, now represented by a farm of that name, a little to the west of Botwnnog. Botwnnog itself was a clas or quasi-monastic community in the tenure of St. Beuno, owing nothing to the Prince except an annual token rent of hens at the Feast of St. Michael (29th September), which it also paid on behalf of the clas of Meyllteyrn, another Beuno church, in the adjacent commote of Cymydmaen. Botwnnog’s landed interests may have been extensive. The ecclesiastical township was occupied by three gwelyau. One of the gwelyau, the heirs of Iorwerth ap Cenythlin, may be represented by a component of the large dynasty or dynasties which included the five gwelyau of Cenythlin. Part of the patrimonial lands of the heirs of Cenythlin may have been ceded for the benefit of establishing a church at Botwnnog in the earlier Middle Ages. A church was in existence in the thirteenth century. By the early sixteenth century Botwnnog had come to be a chapel of the rectory of Meyllteyrn. The church was completely rebuilt in the nineteenth century.

Botwnnog could hardly be called a village in the 1830s. There was a crossroads in the southern part of the parish, between two streams, one running down the Llaniestyn gorge to join the Soch and another to the east draining the wetland, north of Nanhoron. There was a Calvinistic Methodist chapel (Capel Rhyd-bach) near the ford or bridge on the eastern stream and at the western stream, a ford and a smithy, Efail Pont y Gof. The road on which the chapel and smithy stood was the west-east route, to and from, Sarn Meyllteyrn. Mid-way between the chapel and the smithy lay the crossroads. The road north took the traveller to St. Beuno’s church at Botwnnog, 500m from the crossroads and through the unfenced Rhos Botwnnog, on to Llaniestyn. The road south ran to farmlands. There was a little complex of buildings around the church.

Henry Rowlands, Bishop of Bangor, was born at Meyllteyrn. He died in 1616 and, in the terms of his will, made provision for the establishment of a school at Botwnnog (he also ensured that almshouses were built at Bangor). The land provided for was a small plot on the north side of Botwnnog church, adjacent to the church yard. The old grammar school was built in 1618. To the north again there was the house and stable of Ty Mawr Farm; to the east, the house, Ty’n Llan and outbuilding and garden and, 100m to the south-east, the farmhouse of Tir Du.

By the end of the nineteenth century, an elementary school had been established near Pont y Gof and a new grammar school (not the original 1618 schoolhouse) was built on a new site, south of the church. At the crossroad there were, by the 1880s, two houses and a shop-and-post office on the corner. There were, in addition, three further buildings dispersed along the length of the road. By the end of the twentieth century the village had increased considerably. The grammar school had been greatly enlarged and a residential focus had been established along the Meyllteyrn road, either side of the crossroads. At the present time there are about fifty premises in the village which include two schools and a health centre, an Anglican church (St. Beuno’s) and the Calvinistic Methodist chapel.

The group of two Victorian houses, built as one substantial development and the detached house, Post Office and shop on the corner of the crossroads are an important indicator of this phase of the development of the village. A sign above the door also suggests that the post office was once a library. The houses are of two storeys and an attic. One of the houses has a projecting front bay on two floors. The post office has a large rear wing. All the external walls are rendered, there are three slate steps up to each door. A porch at the front domestic access to the house/post office is original with ornate facia on the pitched roof of the porch and the dwarf wall to the small front garden is capped by iron-spiked railings, matched by an iron gate. The chimney stacks on each of the three premises are tall and can be seen to be of squared stone on the post office building.

The hamlet of Nanhoron was occupied by the Gwely Ropp’t ap Wion and they took their corn to be ground at the Prince’s mill at Gwerthyr, as did many of the townships and hamlets of Afloegion. Gwerthyr was the Lord’s mill in Afloegion and tenants in Llangian, Penllefychan, Botwnnog, Nanhoron amd Machros were obliged to mill there.

When Hyde Hall visited Llangian in 1810 his attention was drawn to a chapel of ease called Capel Gwyther (that is, Gwerthyr). The site was pointed out to him but he saw nothing, as the ruins had been removed, presumably for building purposes. In 1535 the Valor Ecclesiasticus of Henry VIII identified the rectory of Llanbedrog with its chapels of Llanfihangel Bachellaeth and ‘Hirverther’ (perhaps Y Werthyr). Near the smithy at Rhydgaled is a piece of former moor called Rhos Gwerthyr.

In 1601 a grant was made to settle a jointure of messuages and lands in Gwerthyr on Susan Thomas ap Hugh, the wife of John Thomas ap William of Gwerthyr. In 1611 reference is made to a messuage called Tyddyn Cae in Gwerthyr and a close called Ceirchfryn Bychan and a messuage called Tyddyn Robin, all in Llangian. The first edition 2in. Ordnance Survey manuscript map identifies two properties 700m south of Nanhoron House with the name Gwerthyr applied. The Llangian tithe survey of c.1840 shows the two properties about 70m to 140m apart. The northernmost is Gwerthyr, the southern property is ‘cae tan yr odyn’ and barn, corresponding to Ceirchfryn in the late nineteenth century. The northernmost of the two properties no longer survives and the name is lost. Ceirchfryn (=’oathill’) may have some connotation with the former presence of a mill. The more recent mill, Melin Isaf, stands by the Horon stream 600m to the west. RCAHMW have associated a ploughed out, oval enclosure and rectangular platform in the field immediately to the west and bearing the name ‘Caerau Capel’. Gwerthyr and the possible site of the chapel lie some 400m south of Nanhoron Isaf.

The focus of Nanhoron is the house itself. The present house was built in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. It stands on a spur, at 45m OD, near the southern end of the gorge, where the landscape opens out a little and where a tributary of the Horon, draining down from Saethon, meets the river at Rhydgaled. An earlier house stood nearby, about 50m to the east. A rent-roll of the years 1684 to 1704 of Richard Edwards’ Nanhoron was annotated in 1773 by Timothy Edwards identifying that ‘this was his grandfather’s [actually his great-grandfather’s] rent-roll, who built the house in 1677 and died in July 1704’.

The Nanhoron dynasty, on both sides of the family can be traced back before the conquest of Gwynedd in 1283. During the late fifteenth century Madog Fychan, of that branch of the family which was to inherit Nanhoron, was resident at Llwyndyrus, south of Llanaelhaearn. Madog married Gwenllian of the Cochwillan family, the sister of William ap Gruffydd who fought on Henry VII’s side at Bosworth. Their son, Gruffydd, had Nanhoron Uchaf and his daughter Annes, heiress of Nanhoron, brought the inheritance with her in marriage to Rhys ap Gruffydd of twelve generations of the Englefield dynasty. Their son Thomas inherited both Llwyndyrus and Nanhoron.

Edward ap Thomas ap Richard ap Thomas ap Rhys ap Gruffydd’s son, Richard, was born in 1628. Richard was entered at Gray’s Inn, one of the four London Inns of Court, at the close of the second civil war. He was the first to dispense with the patronymic, ap Edward and took Edwards as his surname. He became an influential and successful lawyer and despite coming under suspicion at the Restoration on account of his Puritan sympathies, his expertise remained in demand. He built what was probably a new house at Nanhoron Ucha, in 1677, to be replaced soon after 1800 by Col. Richard Edwards. The plans had already been made by 1796. This is, essentially, the building we see today.

Key historic landscape characteristic

•Dramatic visual appearance of the Nanhoron Gorge

•Coherent quality and substantial appearance of nineteenth-century industrial and estate buildings within the Nanhoron estate.

•A succession of fulling and water corn mills in the gorge, powered by the Afon Horon

•Site of Gwerthyr, an important royal mill in the Middle Ages.

•Regular field patterns, some hedged, some fenced with wire, stone walls lining roads are indicative of estate management; clawdd banks topped with hedges in the vicinity of Botwnnog.

•Important survival and location of early Non-Conformist chapels on the edge of common land.

This character area is bounded on the north-west by the steep western sides of the Nanhoron gorge and on the north-east side by Carn Saethon and Carneddol. The south-eastern boundary is defined by the Parliamentary Inclosure of Mynytho common and on the south western side by the Neigwl plain. The village of Botwnnog, at the south-western extremity of this character area, is included.

Although most of the building stock is of the twentieth century including two-storey semi-detached houses and low-profile, single-story, bungalows, mostly displaying ubiquitous pebbledash, there are features which bring character to the village and provide indicators of its development.

The old grammar school building of 1618 measured 8.5m by 5.5m. It was a single-storey high with a small house of roughly the same dimensions and height, attached. The walls are of random rubble, the roof is now has new slates. The walls of the attached house were later raised with larger roughly-coursed blocks and two dormers inserted on the north-west side. Changes have been made to openings with the provision of modern doors and windows. There is a porch at ground floor level on the north-west side, but with a door on the north side. The building is now used as two private houses. Nevertheless, it is a historically important building and has the added benefit of the association of Moses Griffith, Pennant’s illustrator, who was a scholar at the school, painted it and is buried in the churchyard.

Efail Pont y Gôf is a traditional single-storey croglofft cottage with smithy attached in one continuous range. The walls are coursed, squared rubble; the cottage has traces of white or pink-wash but not the smithy. There are stone chimney stacks in each gable and centrally over the party wall between the two components. Drovers’ routes from southern Llyn would take their animals through Sarn Meyllteyrn and Botwnnog. It is conceivable that animals might be shod at roadside smithies on their journey north and east, as was the situation at Rhyd y Clafdy. The present building is thought to be late eighteenth- or early nineteenth century. If so the sixteen pane windows with horned sashes must be replacements of the mid-nineteenth century. A smithy, house, garden and watering place was in existence there in the 1830s.

The steep-sided gorge of Nanhoron cuts a deep furrow across the landscape, from the watershed just north of Carn Bach and Garn Saethon, south towards the plain of Neigwl where the defile widens and the landscape less is wild. The water of the Afon Horon and its tributaries are a source of power and a number of nineteenth-century mills are powered by the stream.

Saethon Factory stands on the Afon Horon, 150m south of Inkerman Bridge. It is described, in an assignment against mortgage securities, in 1831, as a ‘manufactuory’ used as a fulling mill, known by the name of Factory, and part of the Saethon estate, at that time in the hand of Richard Lloyd Edwards of Nanhoron. Pandy Saethon, another fulling mill, operated on a small tributary stream, 250m southeast and further up the eastern slopes above the gorge.

Melin Horon or Melin Newydd stands 650m south again, on the main stream where a bridge crosses the river to Bettris. The Melin Horon complex comprises a nineteenth-century farmhouse with large rear wing and adjacent and attached farm buildings. The farmhouse is probably early nineteenth century despite the later windows and modern door. The farm buildings, the bridge which crosses the stream and the large mill group are mid to late nineteenth century, despite the plaque on the wall which carries the inscription R.E.A. 1823 Na Ladrata (Richard and Annabella Edwards, 1823. Don’t Steal!). The original, or at least the early, nineteenth-century water corn mill was smaller and fed by a diverted leat on the east side of the complex, as was its later successor.

Three hundred and fifty metres south of Melin Horon another bridge crosses the river from the east side to the west. At the bridge, on the east side stands the Rhydgaled smithy, house and garden. A cottage stands adjacent. One hundred and seventy-five metres to the north-west stood Nant House in 1840, later in the century it had become Siop y Nant. Within the same area stood the Calvinistic Methodist Chapel – Capel Nant. A couple of cottages stood next to the chapel, to the north-east, on land allotted from the area of the Parliamentary Inclosure. Capel Nant was established in 1782 on what was, then, a piece of the common. The present, rather austere, building with grey stone facade, was built in 1877. The cottages had been removed by the second half of the nineteenth century. Immediately across the Rhydgaled bridge, on the west side, there stands an ornamental cast-iron-gated entrance and lodge to Nanhoron House. The house is reached by a 300m drive.

Nanhoron is built on two storeys with a dressed stone façade and a decorative verandah of cast-iron supports. The windows are symmetrically arranged around a central door. The roof is hipped and slated. Internally, the entrance hall is divided by a Palladian-style arched opening with entablature supported by Ionic capitals on tapering columns. The house was built around 1800 to replace an earlier building constructed by Richard Edwards in 1677, a short distance to the east. There is a coach house to the right of the house and an ornamental walled garden to the rear, with a stable block along the east side of the walled garden and a piggery, 35m to the east. There is an ice-house in the woods behind the garden. The home farm lies across the road to the north.

Bodlondeb is a good example of a mid-Victorian estate farmhouse. It lies 700m east of Nanhoron, on the east bank of the river on a small tributary stream of the Horon. It was built on land previously occupied by Ty Gwrthlyn cottage and its associated croft. Ty Gwrthlyn lay within the Parliamentary Inclosure boundary and may have originally been an encroachment on the common. The farmhouse is of two storeys, built of quarried squared-stone, laid in courses. The roof is stated, hipped at the back. The farmyard wall is of mortared boulder construction.

Capel Newydd stands 550m south-west of Bodlondeb and 700m south-east of Nanhoron. The chapel is the earliest Non-Conformist chapel in North Wales to have survived. The land was acquired by a community from Pwllheli and the chapel was built and licensed in 1769. Despite suspicion of dissenters by the Anglican landowning class, Nanhoron’s Puritan background was well disposed to Non-Conformist communities (Capel Nant, Calvinistic Methodist, followed the Independent, Capel Newydd, in 1782). Catherine Edwards, wife of Captain Timothy Edwards who died returning from the West Indies, was a benefactor of Capel Newydd and, after her husband’s death, she joined the congregation. Capel Newydd stood right on the edge of the common, as did Capel Nant, just inside it. The chapel is barn-like, with an original large wide door, central to the north side, which was later blocked and new doors inserted. There must be a suspicion that this was, in fact, a barn conversion. The original box pews, pulpit and earth floor survive. The construction is mortared rubble, laid in courses. The lintels over the door and window openings are of stone. Conservation work took place in the 1950s which included re-roofing and re-using the original, or at least an early phase, of slates.

The Inkerman bridge over the gorge, with the Nanhoron stone quarry on the western slopes opposite, once carried an inscription and a date ‘Inkerman 5th Nov 1854’. A continuation of the road down the gorge, past the bridge and south beyond Rhydgaled, is known as Balaclava Road. These are two poignant reminders of the Crimean War and its impact on the Nanhoron estate and its family. The battle of Balaclava took place in late October 1854. The Battle of Inkerman was fought on 5th November 1854. The siege of Sebastopol continued into 1855 and Captain Richard Lloyd Edwards was killed ‘before Sebastopol’ on the 11th May. He was 22 years old.

The overriding character of this area, around Nanhoron is the influence and association of the Nanhoron estate in the substantial build, materials and attention to detail of the industrial and agricultural buildings, the mills, farmhouses and Nanhoron itself. The estate influence may also be seen in the generally straight-lined, relatively large field boundaries in comparison with, say, the adjacent curvilinear, smaller fields of Botwnnog and Llaniestyn. Stone walls line roadsides. Hedges and fence and wire boundaries are seen near Melin Horon and hedges on banks near Bodlondeb and Capel Newydd. Plantations of woodland are frequent on both sides of the gorge; around Nanhoron House and in plantations along the north side of the Mynytho Parliamentary Inclosure.

The Nanhoron area was the location of one of the more important mills in Llyn in the Middle Ages. The site may be near the premises of Ceirchfryn and the former holding of Gwerthyr and as such the continuing value of the Horon as a source of power is a continuing reflection of an earlier historic landscape.

Nanhoron, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, maintained Puritan and Non-Conformist sympathies and this historical association is reflected in the two early dissenting chapels in the area, of which Capel Newydd survives.

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