Historic Landscape Characterisation

Llŷn - Area 5 Neigwl (PRN 33486)

Porth Neigwl

Neigwl Plain

Historic background

Neigwl is an extensive low-lying plateau, mostly between 20m - 30m OD, bounded by the steeply rising ground of Mynydd Rhiw to the west and the Llangian/Llanengan escarpment to the east. The area is limited by the wide sandy bay of Porth Neigwl on the south and the rising ground of Botwnnog and Nanhoron to the north. The low ground is drained by the Afon Soch which, fed by innumerable tributary streams springing from the foothills of Mynydd Rhiw and the rising ground to the north, winds a course from Bryncroes east across the plain, skirting the Llangian/Llanengan escarpment to reach the sea on the east coat on the peninsula at Abersoch. Smaller streams from Llanengan and the marshy ground of Rhosneigwl drain to the south at Porth Neigwl. The bay itself fronts actively eroding 20m high clay cliffs along most of its length and particularly so at the west end.

There are indications of a possible concentric circular multi-phase prehistoric settlement in the area of Bodgyri, below the north-eastern end of Mynydd Rhiw, close to the Soch and another settlement enclosure, undated, at Faerdre, Botwnnog, 1km south-east of Bodgyri (PRN 4376). Ploughed-out ditched barrows of the early Bronze Age have been recorded from the air near Bodnithoedd (PRN 4372), a possible ploughed-out barrow at Llawr y Dref (PRN 4377) and a possible late-prehistoric ring-ditch and enclosure at Towyn (PRN 4379). A ‘burnt mound’ and water boiling trough of Bronze Age date, has recently been discovered on the shoreline, uncovered by coastal erosion at Nant.

During the Middle Ages, Neigwl was the maerdref, the royal administrative centre and demesne of the lord of the commote of Cymydmaen. After the death of Owain Gwynedd in 1170, Giraldus indicates that Llyn was in the hands of Owain’s sons, Dafydd and Rhodri. Maredudd ap Cynan ab Owain Gwynedd seems to have briefly held Llyn in around 1200. In 1252 Dafydd ap Gruffydd, younger brother of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd was lord of Cymydmaen. The lands in his lordship would include the bond trefgyfrif township of Towyn, on the coast near Llanengan, the two bond hamlets of Neigwl itself, Trygarn and Trefollwyn, the bond trefgyfrif township of Dindywydd at the northern end of Mynydd Rhiw with its hamlet, Crugeran and Penarfynydd, on the west side of Mynydd Penarfynydd (for Dindywydd and Penarfynydd, see Rhiw and Penarfynydd character area). Trefollwyn, a hamlet of Neigwl lies on the coast to the west of Towyn. Trygarn lies to the east of Dindywydd. With the exception of the outlying township of Penarfynydd we can begin to define the location and extent of the maerdref. The precise location of the llys or ‘palace’ is not known but several ‘Neigwl’ names, Neigwl Uchaf, Neigwl Ganol, Neigwl Plas are indicative of the later dismemberment of a Medieval township into a small number of large properties, often bearing the same name. There are also geographical and topographical names which are indicative of the proximity of a particular location, such as Rhosneigwl and Penrallt Neigwl. The farm name Faerdre within this cluster can only mean an association with the territory of the township and, similarly, two farms with the name Llawrdref, one with early origins the other nineteenth century, are an indication of a settlement or territorial focus. At Aberffraw on Anglesey, for example, Maerdref in the Middle Ages had become Llawr y Dref by the eighteenth century. Finally the two hamlets of Neigwl are identifiable at the south and north-west extremities of this place name cluster and similarly, two of the three trefgyfrif (demesne) townships lie immediately adjacent. Some confirmation of the association of identification is forthcoming in leases of William and Mary, and Elizabeth, which refer to the Manor of Neigwl, messuages, tenements and appurtenances in Maerdref. Furthermore correspondence in the Wynn of Gwydir papers of around 1620 refers to Trefgarne (Trygarn), Trefollwyn, Crugeran, Neigwl, Towyn and Maerdref as Crown lands. The conclusion to be drawn is that almost the entire character area, described here as the Neigwl plain, constitutes the royal maerdref of Neigwl. In the late fifteenth century, Cymer Abbey held land at Neigwl, operating as a grange.

Across the entire area lanes frequently cross streams and wet ground. Small stone bridges and causeways are a regular feature of the character area.


Key historic landscape characteristics

•A low lying, flat landscape transected by meandering rivers and streams; reclaimed land from areas of marsh; stone causeways and bridges to facilitate communication.

•Coherent place name evidence for the location and extent of the royal maerdref of the Medieval commote of Cymydmaen.

•Large farmhouses set within a pattern of large nineteenth-century fields enclosed within clawdd banks in contrast to the higher ground to the west and east.

There is coherent place name evidence for the location and extent of the royal maerdref of the Medieval commote of Cymydmaen which spreads across almost the entire character area, described here as the Neigwl plain.

The landscape is low lying and flat, transected by meandering rivers and streams, reclaimed from areas of marsh. Large farmhouses are set within a pattern of large nineteenth-century fields enclosed within clawdd banks in contrast to the higher ground to the west and east. Stone causeways and bridges to facilitate communication are an important feature of the landscape. The eastern part of the area is characterised by a small number of large farms set among large fields with essentially straight nineteenth-century clawdd-type boundaries. The banks have gorse hedges. Towards the west the ground slopes very gently, fields are smaller and less regular, particularly in the area close to the smaller farms and houses in the area of Rhosneigwl. Here, there are areas of wet marshy ground, ponds and frequent drains and streams. The clawdd banks are overgrown. In 1800 the tenants of Llawr y Dref and Deuglawdd near the Soch ‘had a great number of large banks scattered and the soil mixed with lime, new fences made and gorse seeds sown in them’ (Llawr y Dref) and ‘the old banks have been erased and new hedges made with gorse seeds’ (Deuglawdd).

The church of Llandygwnning falls within the character area. The dedication is ancient. The church is recorded in the sixteenth century as a chapel to Llaniestyn. It was rebuilt in 1840 to an unusual design. The present church has an octagonal western tower surmounted by a cylindrical upper storey, capped with a conical rendered spire. The only other buildings of note are the farmhouse of Llawrdref near Llangian, which contains sixteenth-century roof trusses and chamfered beams; and the eighteenth century mansion house, Gelliwig, mostly remodelled in the nineteenth century.

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