Historic Landscape Characterisation

Llŷn - Area 9 Rhoshirwaun and Bryncroes PRN 33479

Rhydlios, Rhoshirwaun

Cottage, Bryncroes

Farm, Rhoshirwaun

Historic background

Early prehistoric activity is indicated by discoveries of stone tools: a flint scraper near Bryncroes; a stone axe-hammer from Cae Wern, Trygarn, south of Sarn Meyllteyrn; a stone axe at Cae Llyn Gelod, Rhoshirwaun, and standing stones, or the record of standing stones at Llangwnnadl and at Maen Hir, Pen y Groeslon.

Settlement in later prehistory is indicated by the identification of circular features and enclosures at Cwm Ci, Rhoshirwaun; Rhydlios and a concentric earthwork enclosure below the western slopes of Mynydd rhiw at Meillionydd. More certainly, nucleated hut circle settlements have been identified at Pant y Gwnil, Pen y Groeslon (PRNs 5215, 5216) and a polygonal enclosure at Gorphwysfa, north of Pen y Groeslon (PRN 4371).

There are holy wells in the north-east of the character area at Ffynnon Lleuddad and Fynnon Fair on the south side of the village of Bryncroes. Bryncroes is an ancient church which was extensively restored in 1906 by the architect Harold Hughes. Hyde-Hall, in 1810, regarded the church as ‘little deserving of description’. Nevertheless, the round-headed doors may be original and the church was certainly in existence in the thirteenth century, recorded in the Valuation of Norwich, 1254, as receiving tithes, obventions and oblations to the value of 10s. The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 identifies Bryncroes as a chapel of the Monastery of Bardsey, together with Tudweiliog and Llangwnnadl. The chapel received tithes of wool, lambs, dairy produce and tithes of grain from its parish.

In administrative terms, before 1283, the area to the east of Bryncroes church would have been intimately associated with the royal maerdref of Neigwl. The tir cyfrif (demesne bond tenure) township of Dyndywydd, described, in this study, within the character area of Rhiw, had its focus on the northern slopes of Mynydd Rhiw. However, its interests extended across the sloping ground towards the Soch to the hamlet of Crugeran. Equally Trygarn, to the east of Bryncroes, had been a hamlet of the demesne centre at Neigwl. Memorials to members of the Trygarn family from the mid-seventeenth century lie within the church. The house at Trygarn is an important eighteenth century two-storied house that has survived.

Rhoshirwaun, to the west of Bryncroes had been a wet moor. It provided fuel from peat cuttings, pasture for animals, at least in the summer months, and accommodated squatters, particularly fishermen who, it seemed, had encroached on the common with the tacit acceptance of the community.

An Act for Inclosure was drawn up in 1802, by which it was the intention that all squatters with less than 20 years occupation would be removed from the land. Resistance to the prospect of evictions and the loss of the turbaries was fierce and was only suppressed with the arrival of a contingent of dragoons. There was much sympathy with the predicament of the squatters. Hyde-Hall, a contemporary observer, commented that ‘of some hardship … the cottagers perhaps have a right to complain, if the illegality of their settlement has not in the first instance been most clearly and formally made manifest to them; but with considerations of wrong or right, the community has nothing to do when any of its members resort to force as their argument’.

The Inclosure Act was applied in 1814. New roads were driven across the moor, boundaries were established, allotments allocated and nearly two thousand acres of wetland was reclaimed (see historical introduction for the process of inclosure). The road from Nefyn and Tudweiliog to Aberdaron now became the principal route south to that part of the peninsula. Previously an unfenced road crossed the marsh and during wet periods the coastal road had been preferred.

Key historic landscape characteristic

•A large area of former marsh, reclaimed and enclosed by Act of Parliament.

•Evidence of ancient enclosures and encroachment cottages.

•A landscape characterised by several single-storey cottages, many with crog-lofftydd surviving, some survivors showing evidence of mudwall construction.

•Contrasting field patterns reflecting the small, compact clusters of fields around settlement on the fringe of the enclosed march

•Ruler straight road improvements in consequence of the Inclosure Act.

•Long sinuous parcels of relict quillets of former arable open fields can be recognised in the vicinity of Bryncroes

Rhoshirwaun common is a relatively flat, wet moorland. It is drained to the north-west by the Afon Fawr to Traeth Penllech; to the north-east, through Bryncroes to join the Soch at Sarn Meyllteyrn; to the west at Porth Ty Mawr and south-west to Aberdaron Bay. For centuries, peat deposits have built up on this low plateau. The present character is of reclaimed wetland and relatively recent enclosure. The characteristics are regular drainage ditches and the ruler-straight roads and the low rectilinear boundaries of earth, occasionally of stone, represent the Parliamentary Inclosure. The occasional irregular enclosure characteristic of pre-nineteenth-century encroachment may also be found. Several encroachment intakes, particularly in the area south-east and south of Gyfelan and Llangwnnadl are plotted by John Evans on his map of the 1790s. The early nineteenth-century division of this landscape includes a number of larger paddocks and clusters of smaller plots associated with new building on the former common. Clusters of settlement occur within the Parliamentary Inclosure at the crossroads at Pen y Groeslon; at Rhydlios and along the road to Aberdaron at Rhoshirwaun.

The traditional cottage in the Rhoshirwaun to Bryncroes area in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was single storey, often with croglofft . These cottages would represent the majority in the area of the enclosure although now they are increasingly rare through modification and replacement. The traditional building materials of these cottages are random rubble but, also, a significant proportion has been recognised as mudwall build. Twenty of these mudwall cottages have been recorded with or on the fringe of the Parliamentary Inclosure. Good examples of single storey cottages in the area, some with croglofft surviving and some which still retain an earth core to their walls, can be found at Ardd Las, Efail Rhos with smithy, Rhoshirwaun; two examples at Penrhos; at Pencruga, Groeslon and Cilyradwy, north of Rhydlios.

Although slate was likely to be used for substantial houses there is good reason to believe that thatching was common. ‘As a covering for houses, thatch is chiefly in use, a practice which is robbing the land of straw cannot be to much countenanced. For supplies of slate, nature has afforded the necessary facilities by the neighbouring sea, and no very distant quarries, but to avail ourselves of these, even when held out in the greatest degree, some previous strength and ability are in course necessary ‘, (Hyde Hall, in Bryncroes parish, 1810).

To the east of Rhoshirwaun similar drainage problems would have been encountered, albeit outside the Parliamentary Inclosure until the rising ground was met, at Meillionydd and the Rhiw foothills. Despite changes in land use, in the area of enclosure, and the enlargement of fields and removal of boundaries across the farm lands, it is still possible to recognise the long sinuous shapes of parcels of relict quillets of former arable open fields. These can be recognised in the vicinity of Bryncroes, at Melin Trygarn and at Pant.

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