Historic Landscape Characterisation

Llŷn - Area 22 Cefnamwlch, Brynodol and Llandudwen PRN 33493


Sarn Meyllteyrn

Sarn Meyllteyrn

Cefn Leisiog

Historic background

Early prehistoric activity in this area is indicated by the presence of Neolithic chambered tomb with a capstone and three uprights, surviving. The location is the lower slopes of the north-eastern flank of Mynydd Cefnamwlch (PRN 1258). An Early Bronze Age cairn and urn burials have been recorded on the west side of Foel Meyllteyrn and there is a standing stone in the churchyard of St. Peter’s, Meyllteyrn. (PRNs 1797, 1258). An unconfirmed group of dispersed hut circles of probable later prehistoric date, is thought to exist on the summit of Mynydd Cefnamwlch and there is an enclosure of uncertain date on the opposite, eastern knoll. A circular cropmark enclosure has been recorded near Ffridd-wen on an east-facing slope at the head of the Meyllteyrn gorge and an enclosure of unattributed date, on the east side of Foel Meyllteyrn, 500m from St. Peter’s church.

A cropmark discovery in 1988-9, on the same slope, at 950m OD led to an important excavation of the site in 1991-3 (PRN 1695). This revealed a double concentric enclosure of two phases, extending over the end of the second millennium BC and the first part of the first millennium BC. The site occupies a slight promontory overlooking the Soch, 300m north-west of St. Peter’s church.
These possible hut circles and enclosures may be an indication of a density of settlement between the Meyllteyrn gorge and the rising ground of Mynydd Cefnamwlch and Foel Meyllteyrn but the attribution of most at the present time, is uncertain (PRNs 3481, 5485, 1257, 1695).

Meyllteyrn, in the commote of Cymydmaen, was originally a clas community, holding tenure from St. Beuno, that is to say, as an offshoot from Clynnog Fawr. The church was dedicated to St. Peter ad Vincula. The site is ancient but the present church, a rebuild by Henry Kennedy in 1846, is no longer used and has been reduced to a controlled ruin.

Brynodol was a bond township of the Princes of Gwynedd in the Middle Ages. In the 1350s the township was granted to Thomas Brereley by the Black Prince. In the mid 16th century Hugh ap Gruffydd, a younger son of the Cefnamwlch family acquired the adjacent premises of Brynodol, by crown lease. It is probable that Hugh built the house at Brynodol at that time, but cannot be certain. The house was substantially rebuilt in the mid-18th century although the core of the north range may incorporate early work, a possibility supported by stone mullioned windows in the cellar at the west end of the north range dating to around 1600.

Hugh’s son Robert followed his father at Brynodol. He died in 1630. Hugh’s great-granddaughter, Mary, inherited the estate and sold it to her cousin, John Griffith of Caernarfon, in 1719. However, in 1724 John Griffith’s son, Hugh, married Mary Wynn of Taltreuddyn and Llanfairisgaer. This family now had control of three estates, Brynodol, Taltreuddyn and Llanfair. It was Hugh and Mary who restyled the old house in the 1740s and later. The north range was given its Georgian makeover and a brick-built wing to house a staircase with a new kitchen adjacent, were added to the rear, at about that time. Hugh Griffith died in 1795 and Mary in 1797. The Brynodol estate passed to their son and, in 1830 to John Watkins, a cleric and his son, another John, assumed the name Griffiths Watkins by association with the house. When Hyde Hall visited Brynodol in 1810 he found the house occupied by a tenant.

Cefnamwlch stands nearby, 2km to the south-west. The Gruffydds of Cefnamwlch are an ancient family, claiming descent from Rhys ap Tewdwr and the Lord Rhys of Deheubarth, in the 12th century and the Lords of Cymydmaen, in Llyn, in the early 14th century. Cefnamwlch in the township of Penllech is first mentioned in the 1480s. David Fychan of Cefnamwlch was married to Janet of the Castellmarch family at that time and his brother John, had Bodwrdda. During the 16th century marriages were made with the Clenennau family, the Meyricks of Bodeon (Boduan), Bodfel, Mostyn and, in the late 16th century, Griffith John Griffith married Catherine daughter of Sir Richard Bulkeley of Baron Hill, Anglesey.

The earliest recorded buildings at Cefnamwlch, of the 15th and 16th centuries comprise what would seem to have been a first floor hall with oriel window. Evidence of this no longer survives. The oldest standing structure is the stone gatehouse, aligned towards the site of the early house, dated to 1607, and probably built by John Griffith, the High Sheriff of Caernarfon in 1604.


Between the gatehouse and the earlier house and to the south of the axis which links them, there were domestic buildings arranged in a style of courtyard but incomplete. One structure, close to the old buildings, which still stood, had a large fireplace and projecting stack at the rear which suggests a date in the 17th century. The upper storey of this building has been provided with dormer windows which again, is thought to be late 17th century rather than later. Chamfered and stopped beams in the west wing support the 17th century date for this complex. The domestic buildings to the south, therefore, may be broadly contemporary with the new gatehouse, with the old house standing to the northeast.

In the early 19th century the old house was pulled down. The southern courtyard block was completed, if not before, and modifications were made to existing structures. The building with the projecting chimney stacks and dormers in the upper storey saw the dormers replaced and the building heightened to three storeys. The north-east range of the courtyard complex became the main house. The north side, along the entire range to the boundary wall, was fronted by a probably later verandah and for a shorter distance along the east side.

The gatehouse provides access through the boundary wall along a short drive, which flanks the main complex. The gatehouse is of two storeys with a flat-arched opening and central stone-framed windows in the second storey. The windows have central chamfered mullions. There is a square set chimney on the south side.

The gardens at Cefnamwlch are included in the Register of Landscapes, Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales as Grade II in respect of the well-preserved walled garden, probably of the 1820s with informal layout, good plantations alongside the drive and around the house (PGW (Gd) 23 (GWY)).

The second John Griffith of the first half of the 17th century created a particular dominance for Cefnamwlch in Llyn, challenging the power of the Wynns of Gwydir. He was a royalist at the beginning of the Civil War and joined King Charles at Oxford where he died, in 1643, of plague. The last John Griffith of Cefnamwlch died in 1794. The house passed to his cousin Jane Wynne of Voelas and her husband, Charles Finch. Their son, Charles Wynne Griffith-Wynne was succeeded in 1865 by Charles Wynne Finch who built the present Voelas.

Sarn Meyllteyrn
Sarn Meyllteyrn is a village at the crossroads. Routes converge from the south-east, from Botwnnog; from the east and north east from Llaniestyn; from the north at Cefnamwlch and from the south-west from Rhoshirwaun and Bryncroes. Sarn Meyllteyrn was also an important cattle and horse fair in the early 19th century, and earlier, and a gathering place for drovers, bringing cattle from the pastures south and south-west, at the beginning of their long journey to the English markets. In the 1860s there was a horse dealer in Sarn and a blacksmith’s forge at Yr Efail (Gefail = smithy), run by Theophilus Evans and his brother in law, Ellis Roberts. There was also a saddler and a saddler’s 15 year old apprentice. On the east side of Meyllteyrn farm there was a spring, 200m from the river, and a watering place for animals.

The head waters of the Afon Soch run down the Meyllteyrn gorge and through the village. The Sarn Millhouse, or Felin Meyllteyrn, a water corn-mill, stood on the north side. A significant proportion, thirty-seven percent, of the working population, were farmers or agricultural labourers on the 24 farms in Meyllteyrn parish. There were stonemasons and stone cutters too working the rock on the north-west side of the village; tailors, shoemakers, dressmakers, always to be found in rural communities at this time; a joiner, lodging in the house of one of the tailors, a molecatcher and the ubiquitous general labourers (20%) and domestic servants.

In 1840 there was a public house in Sarn, across the Soch bridge on the western side. This was the Ty Newydd Inn. Twenty years later it was joined by Sarn Fawr and Pen y Bont on the east side of the bridge, along the road to Botwnnog. By the 1880s there were four Inns, The Penrhyn Arms, Pen y Bont, Ty Newydd and the Wellington and a Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, Salem established in 1879, on the outskirts of the village on the west side of the river.

In the early 19th century there was a small cluster of properties on each side of the Soch bridge, no more than four or five buildings either side. The three farms, Meyllteyrn, Meyllteyrn Ucha and Meyllteyrn Isaf, were grouped close to each other, 370m north-west of the bridge. The mill lay 150m north of the bridge and Crugerran Farm lay 500m to the south-west. By the late 20th and early 21st century Sarn has slowly expanded into a community of around 50 residential, public and commercial premises, along the road towards Capel Salem, and in the angle between the Botwnnog road and the road which leads towards the Llaniestyn farmlands. The site of the ancient church of St. Peter, rebuilt in the 19th century and now largely demolished, lies 420m to the north of the centre of Sarn.

Key historic landscape characteristic

•A landscape of two important estates, Cefnamwlch and Brynodol, both of ancient origins.

•Cefnamwlch is included in the Cadw/Icomos Regisdter of Landscapes, Parks and Gardens.

•Sarn Meyllteyrn is a village at the crossroads and grew as a cattle and horse fair in the early nineteenth century.

•Llandudwen and its holy well lend character to the northern part of this area, in the shadow of Carn Fadryn.

•World War Two Chain Home radar station emplacements survive at Cefn Leisiog.

The north and western limit of this character area is the boundary of the coastal plain, where the ground begins to rise at Llandudwen, towards the slope of Carn Fadryn; at Cefnamwlch towards the rising ground of Llaniestyn and steeply at Mynydd Cefnamwlch. The Meyllteyrn gorge gives the south-eastern limit of the area.

This is a landscape of two important estates which lie between the coastal plain and the rising ground of Llaniestyn and the north-western slopes of Carn Fadryn. Cefnamwlch and Brynodol were linked by family connections and both houses saw major building works in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Little of the detail of these early structures have survived, with the exception of the stone gatehouse at Cefnamwlch, built in 1607 and stone-mullioned windows in the cellar of Brynodol of similar date. Both were ultimately remodelled in Georgian style. The early house at Cefnamwlch, which was later replaced, would have been exceptionally important had it survived. Late 18th and early 19th century drawings suggest it was a first floor hall with an oriel window. The period of Cefnamwlch’s greatest influence was during the 17th century, when the Griffith’s of Cefnamwlch challenged the Wynn’s of Gwydir for political dominance. The leasing of former bond lands of the Crown and ultimately purchase, provided the catalyst for growth at Brynodol and, while Cefnamwlch’s origins are more obscure, they may not have been too dissimilar, a pattern to be found in several other areas of Lyn and an important catalyst in the rise of the Llyn gentry. Cefnamwlch’s gardens are included in the Register of Landscapes Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales as Grade II. Plantations of trees around Brynodol and Cefnamwlch are indicative of estate management, the more so in the late 18th century when Thomas Pennant described the area as a ‘flat and woodless tract’. Brynodol, in Hyde Hall’s estimation, in 1808, made ‘some show of wood and plantation which strongly presents itself to sight amidst the general bareness of the view’. In respect of Cefnamwlch, Hyde Hall remarked that ‘here only in the parish (Penllech) are trees to be seen… in perfection …. They rear their heads with good effect amidst the gneral nakedness of the prospect’ (Hyde Hall, 282, 308).

In the south of the character area, Sarn Meyllteyrn has grown somewhat from the small village of the early 19th century with an accretion of Victorian two-storeyed stone-built terraced houses near the bridge on the east bank of the Soch and infilling of twentieth century large pebbledashed bungalows and two storey and two and a half storey houses, along the road south, on the west bank, between a stone built Victorian terrace of three houses and Capel Salem. Sarn lends historic character to this landscape in respect of its situation at a crossing point of the Afon Soch and an important 18th century road junction, livestock fair and gathering place for cattle drovers moving their herds north and east to the English markets.

Llandudwen church stands at the north eastern limit of this character area, below the lower slopes of Carn Fadryn on its north side. It is enclosed by a rectangular churchyard. A holy well, Ffynnon Dudwen, is a curative well, once frequently used but now difficult of access. The location is a densely overgrown spring 75m south of the church, on level ground. Pins and coins were once offered there, secret weddings were solemnised and the water was used for baptism (Jones, 1954, 149; PRN 3638).

Llandudwen church survives as a 16th and early 17th century building, with the possibility that the nave is built on the foundations of an earlier church. The plan of the church is T-shaped with transepts extending north and south of the chancel. An earlier chancel once projected further east than the present one but the east wall now presents a continuous façade. Original early 17th century rectangular windows with stone lintels, sills, jambs and mullions with ovolo mouldings may be seen in the south transept. The location of the church, looking over the coastal plain towards Cefn Leisiog and Edern, with a backdrop of Carn Fadryn is evocative. The late 16th and early 17th century character of the church and its association with the holy well adjacent lends significant character to this part of the landscape.

At Cefn Leisiog there is a reminder of World War 2 in the defence of the Irish Sea coastline and its radar network in the surviving bunkers and mast emplacements at Cefn Leisiog. Although the brickwork and concrete may seem an intrusion on a picturesque landscape, the remains are an important component of the historic landsape and part of a chain which extends from Milford Haven to the North Wales Coast.

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