Historic Landscape Characterisation

Mawddach - Area 18 Medieval settlements, Islawr dref (PRN 18348)



Historic background

The 1842 Dolgellau tithe map shows a road leading up the eastern side of the Gwynant valley (now a footpath, and not the line of the present road) with tracks leading off it to a series of farms such as Glasdir (see photograph), Callestra, Tyn-y-llidiart, Pany-y-piod, Nant-y-gwyrddeil, Cae-einion, Maes-yr-wynn, Erw-wen and Cefn-yr-owen uchaf and isaf (ten farms in all). All of these farms are situated on the western side of the Afon Gwynant, and all are recorded as being in the Township of Cefn-yr-owen'. Most of these farms are still inhabited (and listed) although some are derelict. The Cefn-yr-owen locality represents one of the earliest settlement areas in the community; tax returns for 1292-3 show ten for Cefn-yr-owen, as opposed to just three for Dolgellau (Higham, 1994).

To the east of the Afon Gwynant, most of the current farms are listed as being in the township of Dyffrydan': these include Dyffrydan itself, as well as Tyddyn mawr, Penrhyngwyn, Tyddyn-rhiw and Ty-nant. Just north of these, yet another series of farms including Cae-yn-y-coed, Waen fechan, Hafod-dywyll, Ffrwd-y-brithyll (which lies in areas 8 and 19), Tyddyn Ivan Fychan and farms outside the project area are recorded as being in the township of Dolgledr'.

Unfortunately, the tithe map only shows holdings under the farm name, so it is impossible to reconstruct the actual fields that were in existence. However, it is clear from fieldwork that most of the current boundaries (some in use and some now disused) must date from at least the early 19th century, and it is likely that the landscape of this area owes much to its relatively dense occupation during the later medieval period.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Farmsteads, irregular fieldscape, trackway

The area is characterised by a scattered settlement pattern of 17th century farms, most probably on the sites of earlier medieval settlements. Many of these are important and form a significant group of early, 17th-century farmsteads. It includes Cae-einion farmhouse and its barn (both grade II), both vernacular in style and rubble-built with slate roofs, Cefn-yr-owen uchaf (grade II*) itself, Gallestra (grade II, and an interesting 17th century vernacular farm complex), Nant-y-gwyrddail bach (also grade II, a late 16th century upland house-and-byre range of considerable interest), the 17th century Nant-y-gwyrddail farmhouse and stable block. The field walls are drystone built, and many of them are on the top of substantial lynchets which display their age (probably at least medieval). The two trackways which cross the area (one a road, and the other now largely a trackway) are also probably medieval in origin.



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