Historic Landscape Characterisation

Llŷn - Area 3 Aberdaron (PRN 33484)


Aberdaron Village

Historic background

The village of Aberdaron lies on the sandy shoreline of Aberdaron Bay between the headland of Uwch Mynydd to the west and Trwyn y Penrhyn to the east. Two streams, the Daron and the Cyllyfelin, both in deep ravines, meet near the centre of the village and empty into the bay at about 200m east of the confluence. Two roads run south towards Aberdaron and, like the streams, converge on the village. Residential development now extends from the shoreline, along each of the two roads for a distance of around 600m. Infill between the roads is constrained by the western of the two streams, the Cyllyfelin, which runs between them.

Aberdaron is an ancient and historic village. It has, nevertheless, remained small. Its roads have remained narrow and winding and particularly constricted by its two stone bridges, Pont Fawr and Pont Fach, built in 1823. Beyond the bridges the road opens a little to create an area of market square. Pennant, in 1773, described Aberdaron as a poor village at the very end of Caernarvonshire.

Aberdaron’s hey-day has long past and gone but its historical legacy remains. Aberdaron was a clas community with origins in the early Middle Ages. The clas was a quasi-monastic institution, in many ways operating like a secular township but with the very considerable difference that the members of the community had anciently donated their freely held land for the benefit of constructing and maintaining a church on that land, or otherwise having received a grant of land for the same purpose. In the course of time certain procedures, such as married clergy with heirs sharing an inheritable interest in the land of the township, seemed archaic and in need of reform, especially in the light of the new monastic orders sweeping across Europe. This was to be the undoing of Aberdaron. Nevertheless, in 1094 Gruffudd ap Cynan, waging a guerilla war against the Normans, was glad to seek refuge through the offices of the monastic community at Aberdaron, and escaped in their boat, to Ireland. Twenty years later Gruffudd ap Rhys Tewdwr sought refuge against the same Gruffudd ap Cynan, in the church of Aberdaron, and was given sanctuary. On his deathbed in 1137 Gruffudd ap Cynan left money in his will to Bardsey. Bardsey, at this time was intimately linked to Aberdaron, the mainland focus of the clas community. The structure we see at Aberdaron today is almost certainly not the church which Gruffudd ap Cynan took refuge in, but, Gruffudd or his son Owain, might very well have recognised elements of the surviving twelfth-century rebuild which forms part of the present northern aisle.

In around 1200 the clas community was suppressed in favour of the establishment of a community Augustinian canons on Bardsey. The clas of Aberdaron had its focus in the township of Is Sely, the immediate hinterland of the hamlet and church of Aberdaron. The church continued to be maintained by the former claswyr and received a chalice, vestments and a missal from the canons for that purpose. In 1537 the abbey on Bardsey was suppressed along with every other monastic house and passed into private ownership. The canons’ interests in the mainland townships were also sequestered, including Is Sely. The parochial church of Aberdaron, however, survived.

Hyde Hall, in 1811, saw ‘a few thatched cottages at the bottom of the bay’ with little import traffic, just a few groceries and coal, with no exports. He did concede that the herring fishing, in season, was profitable and that the mills on the Daron, three for corn and two for fulling, had potential. In the early years of the nineteenth century the village was, essentially, a cluster of houses around the meeting of the two streams.

Along the roads converging from the north, the only significant homesteads were Deunant, a farm of eighteen acres, 400m to the north-west and Cefn Ona (eleven acres), and Pendref (fifty-three acres), 500m to the north-east. Beyond these, within a radius of a kilometre, lay the holdings of Dwyros, Gwythrian, Deuglawdd, Bodernabwy and Anhegraig, each former hamlets of the Medieval claswyr of Aberdaron, at the core of the township of Is Sely. Each one is now represented by a single farm or, in the situation of Bodernabwy and Anhegraig, a small village.

In the 1840s there were no more than twenty houses, Cephas Independent Chapel and a corn mill in Aberdaron. A new church in neo-Romanesque style had been built at Bodernabwy in 1841, to serve the parish as St. Hywyn’s had fallen into disrepair. The stone bridges over the Cyllyfelin and Daron had been built twenty years earlier. By the 1880s little had changed; perhaps a small expansion of the settlement west on the road to Dwyros and a row of cottages along the road to the north of the church. Two lime kilns stood, disused, on the shoreline. By 1906, however, the old church had been restored by the generosity of the Carreg family and continues in use.

There are now over a hundred residential properties in Aberdaron, mostly new-built, late twentieth century, large bungalow-style houses which have colonised the two roads from the north as far as Caerau farm and Deunant. The core of the village still retains its coastal character, however. The Ship, Gegin Fawr and the Ty Newydd Inn provided refreshment and accommodation for locals and travellers in the nineteenth century and these establishments, close to the church, continue to maintain those functions.

Key historic landscape characteristics

•A coastal village which has retained its traditional character at its core.
•An important church with twelfth century and later features, having an association with Bardsey Island and good documentation regarding the clas community at Aberdaron and its context in the wider landscape.
•St. Hywyn’s church is a very significant building in Aberdaron.

The church is a very important component of the historic landscape of Aberdaron, particularly having an association with Bardsey Island and good documentation regarding the clas community at Aberdaron and its context in the wider landscape. The earliest surviving structural evidence of the church is of the twelfth century and this is reflected in its monumental Romanesque west door. The original nave was lengthened in the fourteenth century and a south aisle was added in the sixteenth century with a five bay arcade communicating between the two. The roof has been raised. The restored south aisle trusses are sixteenth century; the north aisle roof is modern. The church now houses the fifth-sixth-century inscribed memorial stones of Senacus and Veracius, originally found at Anelog.
Aberdaron is a coastal village which has retained traditional character at its core. Traditional cottages, albeit no earlier than the nineteenth century, contribute to the character of the village, as does the bridge. The most significant buildings are St. Hywyn’s church, Gegin Fawr, a dormered house of seventeenth-century origin, and the attractive mid-twentieth-century Old Post Office.

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