Historic Landscape Characterisation

Penmon - Area 3 Aberlleiniog/Trecastell PRN 33472

Key historic landscape features and processes

  • An important Norman motte and bailey castle, the only visible evidence of a Norman foothold on Anglesey in the eleventh century, besieged by Gruffydd ap Cynan.
  • Trecastell was an important township, granted freely to the heirs of Ednyfed Fychan in the thirteenth century. It held its own court.
  • Aberlleiniog was a location of one of the few incidents of the Civil War on Anglesey
  • Some of the largest historical fish traps on the Menai Straits shoreline.

Aberlleiniog and Trecastell comprise an area of around 110ha (272 acres), flat and low lying over most of the area, rising slowly northwards towards the limestone ridge near Penmon. The area is bounded on the east by the coastline of the Menai Straits; on the south-west by a small stream which flows, from Llangoed, into the Straits near Trecastell farm; on the north-east by the Penmon character area and on the north-west by another small stream which joins the Afon Lleiniog from the north and the Afon y Brenhin which joins the Lleiniog at the southern boundary of Llangoed. The Afon Lleiniog cuts a ravine through this landscape dividing Trecastell to the south and Aberlleiniog to the north. The north-west and south-east boundaries are coterminous with both the parish boundaries of Llangoed and Llanfaes and the traditional boundaries of these medieval townships.

Castell Aberlleiniog is a large earthen castle raised by Earl Hugh of Chester in the 1080s during one of several attempts to secure Norman control of Gwynedd during the late eleventh century. The castle is the only certain evidence of a Norman foothold on Anglesey but is sufficiently substantial to suggest that this was an attempt at consolidation rather than a campaign base. Domesday Book identifies that Robert of Rhuddlan, Earl Hugh's military commander, held 'North Wales' directly from King William at the fee-farm rent of £40. In this context we find that in 1093 Earl Hugh was able to redirect the revenues of two Anglesey manors and the profits of fishing rights in the Straits to the building programme at St. Werburgh's Abbey in Chester. During this period Gruffudd ap Cyan, a legitimate claimant for the throne of Gwynedd, pursued his entitlement and, in the process, attacked and burnt Aberlleiniog. In 1098 a strong Norman force from Chester and Shrewsbury, once again, occupied Anglesey but on this occasion the fortuitous intervention of Magnus Barelegs and his fleet of longships turned the tide against the Normans who withdrew east across the River Conwy. These events, which ultimately determined the fate of a hard pressed Gwynedd, were played out, in large part, along the shoreline of the Aberlleiniog-Trecastell character area.

Although Aberlleiniog and Trecastell, physically divided by a steep-sided ravine of the Afon Lleiniog, are generally considered to be two separate entities, it would seem reasonable that the township or manor of Trecastell takes its name from the earthwork and possibly incorporates it. Following the Norman withdrawal the land would have come within the king, Gruffudd ap Cynan's, interest. During the early thirteenth century, several townships in the king's possession were granted to the heirs of Ednyfed Fychan, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth's steward and principal administrator. Trecastell was one of these grants, whereby the land was held in exceptionally free tenure, requiring only suit of court and an obligation on a member of the Trecastell family to go to the lord's war, at his own cost within the Marches of Wales and at the lord's cost outside it. Exceptionally, Trecastell was granted the privilege of holding its own court, which the tenants were required to attend, every three weeks.



Goronwy, son of Ednyfed Fychan, held Trecastell, Penmynydd and Erddreiniog, all in the commote of Dindaethwy, in the thirteenth century. His grandson, Goronwy ap Tudur similarly held those townships, together with the township of Tregaian. These passed to Tudur Fychan who is thought to have maintained Trecastell as his principal residence and he was followed by Ednyfed Fychan ap Tudur in the later fourteenth century. Ednyfed's daughter, Angharad, heiress of Trecastell married Ieuan ap Adda ap Iorwerth Du of Pengwern in the late fourteenth century and their son Ieuan Fychan, married another Angharad, the daughter of Hywel ap Tudur. This Angharad, an heiress of Mostyn, brought Trecastell into the Mostyn dynasty in the first half of the fifteenth century.

Trecastell farmhouse stands close to the shoreline, towards the southern end of the character area. The house was rebuilt in more recent times but a sixteenth-century depressed-arched fireplace has survived.

The castle of Aberlleiniog stood across the Lleiniog ravine, 3.2km north of Beaumaris. The earthwork was 560 years old at the outbreak of civil war, yet it still had a role to play. The masonry walls and circular corner towers are of uncertain age but were probably in place by the sixteenth century when Thomas Cheadle took it upon himself to fortify the site. Cheadle had become deputy constable of Beaumaris Castle, effectively the mayor, and subsequently sheriff, in 1642. He was not popular and many local people took the view that his operations at Aberlleiniog were more to do with local politics than with the defence of the island. The Bulkeley faction's response was to dig earthwork defences on the hill of Bryn Britain on the south side of the town, overlooking the harbour. Beaumaris castle, itself, was in a poor state of readiness.

Towards the end of the first Civil War, Cheadle appears to have gone over to the Parliamentary side. Pennant, quoting a, now lost, Plas Gwyn manuscript, believed that Sir Thomas Cheadle had, in 1645-6, held Aberlleiniog for Parliament. Chester had surrendered and the way lay open to north Wales. A number of prominent men in the locality attempted to make terms. In June 1649 a Captain Rich, on the Rebecca in Fryars' Road, landed men and munitions at night, at Lleiniog. The following week Parliamentary Commissioners were in Beaumaris to secure terms but sensed hostility and returned to Lady Cheadle's House and fort there. An agreement was reached, however, that same day.

The Cheadles had several houses of which Lleiniog was one. In the later seventeenth century, Lleiniog passed to William Bold of Tre'r Ddol by purchase. In the first half of the eighteenth century Lleiniog was in the hand of the Hughes family, later by Rowland Williams and in the 1780s, in the hand of the Revd. Edward Hughes. Lleiniog lands occupied around 100 acres and carried the highest assessment for land tax in this character area, with only Tros yr Afon and Trecastell coming close. Lord Dinorben, son of the Revd. Hughes, held the property in the early nineteenth century. Tros yr Afon was in the hand of Rowland Hughes in the third quarter of the eighteenth century and was acquired by Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, in the 1780s.

Trecastell occupied 167 acres and was assessed by for Land Tax between 17s (in 1752) and £1. 3. 0d. (in 1789). William Hughes occupied the premises in the 1750s and it was acquired by Richard Broadhead in 1756. Richard Owen was the proprietor in the 1780s. Trecastell was owned by Henry Williams in 1847 when the Tithe assessment was drawn up.

Trecastell has the outward appearance of a 19th century farmhouse. The front and rear elevations are of roughly coursed limestone rubble with some gritstone. There is a projecting wing at the rear south-west corner. The south elevation which includes the south gable of the main house and the south side of the wing, is cement-and-sand rendered and the north gable is partly rendered. The visible quoins on the main house are large dressed blocks. The facade has a modern central door flanked by single large windows. The first floor carries three windows, symmetrically arranged above the ground floor openings. The lintels to door and windows are voussoired blocks; the jambs are squared blocks. The chimneys are built within the thickness of the end walls and these stacks are slightly shouldered above the gable. The wing, however, carries an externally projecting stack on the lateral south wall, shouldered at first floor level and gabled at the eaves. The stack continues as a tall and narrow shaft above the ridge. The stack once served a wide four-centred derivative or, more accurately, elliptical, arched fireplace of 16th century style. The fireplace survives but it is now blocked. In 1810 Colt Hoare saw more of the old house: ' there are remains of some little consequence in the arches of two fireplaces, very similar to that of Gloddaeth... an inscription over one... now quite obliterated (Colt Hoare, 257).

Historic Landscape Character
Both Trecastell and Lleiniog are extensive farmlands, occupying most of the character area between the two holdings. The fields are large and the boundaries are, in general, ruler straight hedges. On Trecastell lands, to the south, occasional trees have been allowed to grow out of the hedges and there are occasional clumps of trees, in most cases in the immediate vicinity of houses.

A similar pattern of large fields with straight, hedged, boundaries characterise the Lleiniog holding. A number of hedges, much more so than at Trecastell, have been allowed to grow wild into bushes and trees over much of the area. The Lleiniog ravine carries a stream from west to east, to the sea at the northern end of the Menai Straits. The steep sides of the ravine are covered with trees and bushes.

The earthwork motte and bailey castle on the northern side of the ravine is an important landscape feature. It is the only recognisable intrusive Norman fortification on Anglesey, constructed at a time when the Normans believed they had established control in Gwynedd. The motte has also been a focus of activity during the Civil War when it was fortified and munitioned for Parliament against the King, one of the few incidents of the war to touch Anglesey.

The medieval township of Trecastell, which can probably be taken as the entire character area, to include Lleiniog, is an important construct at a time when the Princes of Gwynedd were establishing a coherent feudal state. Trecastell was in the hand of the king from the time when the Normans were ousted from Gwynedd. The township was granted, along with several others, to the progeny of Ednyfed Fychan, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth's chief administrator, on exceptionally free terms, in recognition of past, and expectation of future, service.

The Menai Straits fisheries were an important resource. Fishing with nets from boats in the Straits is attested in the eleventh century. The location is likely to have been between Penmon and Trecastell. More precisely, an exceptional concentration of large fish traps lie on the shoreline north and south of the outflow of the Afon Lleiniog. The date of these weirs is uncertain but their origins are likely to have been in the middle ages. There is clear evidence for their repair and realignment.



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