Historic Landscape Characterisation

Llŷn - Area 6 Cilan (PRN 33487)

Cilan headland

Enclosed quillets, Cilan

Historic background

The Cilan peninsula is a bare exposed promontory at the southernmost tip of Llyn, dissected by clawdd banks and devoid of tree cover, lacking in protection against the south-westerly winds. There are two horns to the headland, Trwyn Cilan at the south-west and Penrhyn Du at the south-east. Between them lies the sandy beach of Porth Ceiriad. Streams flow down narrow defiles to the shore, Nant y Big and Pant.

The Cilan peninsula rises to a little over 100m with particularly steep slopes to the sea on the western headland. The promontory is bounded on the north by a gentle decline beyond which the ground rises again to the scarp above Llanengan. The coastlines to the north-east and west extend in long arcing bays at Borth Fawr, Cors Llyferin and Porth Neigwl respectively.

The earliest evidence for human activity on the Cilan peninsula are find spots of Mesolithic flint working on the western side of Pencilan and near Bwlchtocyn (PRNs 4005, 4007). Flint tools have also been found at Porth Ceiriad (PRNs 5046, 5047). The visible evidence of human communities, however, are two chambered tombs of the Neolithic period, around 3000-4000 BC, at Trwyn Llech y Ddol and the site of another at Cim, Penrhyn Ddu (PRNs 1238, 4003). Evidence of settlement during later prehistory is visible on the cliff edge above Porth Ceiriad at the small but impressively sited Castell Pared Mawr (pared, w. = wall) (PRN 1235).

During the Medieval centuries there were three townships which extended across the entire headland south of Llanengan and Cors Llyferin. These were Cilan in the south west, Bryn Celyn towards the centre and Marchros occupying the headland immediately south of Cors Llyferin. Cilan and Bryn Celyn held their land under the hereditary bond tenure, trefwelyog. Marchros comprised two free gwelyau and three bovates of bond land in the hand of the Prince. The remarkably free character of that part of Marchros suggests that a portion of the township was enfranchised and may earlier have been bond in similar pattern to the rest of the area.

In 1293, barely ten years after the Conquest, there were eight tenant families in Bryn Celyn and a further sixteen in Cilan. Marchros, however, was the larger community, supporting twenty smallholdings. Sheep rearing was important on the headland. The three townships, together, had nearly two hundred sheep, the greatest density in that part of Llyn at that time. It might be supposed that sheep were better suited to the open, exposed landscape of Cilan, but, in fact, the small holders, between them kept 132 cows and 83 bulls, oxen and draught animals and produced 133 crannocks of grain and milled flour from their arable fields (approximately 530 bushels). One of the tenants of Bryn Celyn had a fishing boat and net.

The presence of lead on the Penrhyn Du headland was known since at least the early eighteenth century. Lewis Morris’ charts, drawn between 1737 and 1748, show the position of the lead mine, and record the name of an inlet, adjacent, Porth y Plwm – the Lead Harbour. In the late eighteenth century, Evans mapped a small cluster of houses near the mines, east of Marchros. Lewis Morris had previously remarked that the lead mine had formerly worked to good profit, but ‘now lies under water, … recoverable with proper engines’. An attempt was made again in the 1770s, using a Boulton and Watt steam engine to drain the workings but, in the words of Pennant ‘the expenses proved superior to the profits’. Several field names in the area retained a memory of the workings. At Hen Dy, Tyddyn Talgoch, a tenement on the Penrhyn Du headland, a surveyor of the Vaynol Estate, in 1800, commented that ‘the lands have suffered very much by the Mine Company of Penrhyn Du who sank several shafts in it and left them open, and the heaps of rubbish delved therefrom not trimmed or levelled’. Forty years later, the same farm, Hendy, had a field called ‘Cae Hen Chwimse’ (chwimse = whimsey, a machine for raising water from the mine).

During the second half of the nineteenth century the lead mines were in operation again. A Cornish engine and engine house was installed in the 1860s. In 1861 there were only three lead miners on the Cilan headland. By 1881 there were 109. Across the parish as a whole there were a total of 212 miners, dressers, washers and engine drivers working in the lead mines of Penrhyn Du, Bwlchtocyn, Tan y Bwlch and a number of smaller operations. There were also 31 miners living and lodging on the periphery of the parish and on the north bank of the Afon Soch, all of which would have worked the Llanengan mines of which Penrhyn Du and Tan y Bwlch were probably the most productive.

The contrast between the mining industry and traditional occupations was marked and brought with it social implications. Houses and lodgings were required for the workers and, in particular, the influx of industrial labour during this period. One hundred and six men, women and children arrived from Devon and Cornwall, alone. Others came from Cumbria, Dolgellau and other mining regions. Immediately adjacent to the Cornish engine house at Penrhyn Du, six of the ten cottages in Cornish Row were occupied by six Cornish families and three lodges, totalling 16 mine workers. In all 21 mineworkers occupied the entire terrace.

In the early nineteenth century, a large area of Trwyn Cilan was enclosed by act of parliament. The parliamentary enclosures and the former common can still be distinguished by their large fields and rectilinear boundaries.

During the twentieth century Marchros expanded considerably at what must have been the core of the original early settlement. Some low cottages of the eighteenth century and more substantial houses of the nineteenth century have survived but the character of the hamlet has changed with the construction of clusters of modern housing estates and the proliferation of caravan parks, encouraged by access to a sandy beach and a degree of protection from the weather on the more favoured eastern coastline of the promontory.

Key historic landscape characteristics

•An exposed headland landscape characterised by clawdd banks and scattered small farms.

•Several areas of sinuous enclosed fields which reflect the former presence of open-field arable quillets.

•Visible evidence in the landscape of the fragmentation of documented Medieval townships and the subsequent consolidation of tenures into individual farms.

•The transformation of Bwlchtocyn and Machroes from eighteenth-century farms to an almost contiguous large village, initially with the introduction of lead mining at Penrhyn Du in the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries and subsequently as holiday destinations.

•The survival of single storey cottages alongside Victorian and late twentieth-century residences at Bwlchtocyn and Marchros.

Cilan is an exposed headland landscape characterised by clawdd banks and scattered small farms. There remains visible evidence in the landscape of the fragmentation of documented Medieval townships and the subsequent consolidation of tenures into individual farms. Several areas of sinuous enclosed fields still reflect the former presence of open-field arable quillets.

The impact of lead mining in the later nineteenth century at Penrhyn Du stands in marked contrast to the traditional farming regime of the rest of the Cilan peninsula, and still leaves its mark on that part of the landscape. At Penrhyn Du, Bwlchtocyn and Marchros were transformed from eighteenth-century farms to an almost contiguous large village in the nineteenth-century and subsequently as holiday destinations. The survival of single storey cottages alongside Victorian and late twentieth-century residences at Bwlchtocyn and Marchros lend historic character to the landscape area.

Bwlchtocyn and Marchros merge as new housing proliferates, creating a significant nucleus of population on the promontory. Beyond the two villages and across the farmlands the landscape is a patchwork of small fields and paddocks of around one to two acres, especially so in the close proximity of the farmhouses. These are a product of the post-Medieval fragmentation of Medieval townships and hamlets and particularly the leasing of former bond land and subsequent sub-letting in parcels. Nevertheless, there is, in several areas, a sinuous curvature in the pattern of fields, reflecting the long acres of un-enclosed quillets across the arable sharelands.

The old township names survive but the fragmentation and consolidation of tenures as individual personal holdings is evident. Marchros is recorded as four separate tenant farms, parts of Tyddyn Talgoch, in 1800, where there were twenty tenants in 1293. One hundred and thirty-three acres of Bryn Celyn had also become four large farms of the same name. The sixteen tenant interests in Cilan in 1293 are remembered in the two farms of Cilan Fawr and Cilan Uchaf but between them, in more recent times the farms of Ysgubor Hen, Muriau, Murboeth, Bryn Odyn and Castell, emerged out of the old township lands.

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