Historic Landscape Characterisation

Penmon - Area 5 Llanddona PRN 33476

Llanddona Common

Tai Bach

St Dona's Church and Rectory


Key historic landscape features and processes

  • Some of the best surviving evidence for long , mediaeval, arable strips in the study area
  • A dispersed settlement of farmhouses on ancient tenements
  • Large-scale encroachment and settlement on Llanddona common from the early 19th century to the present day

This character area occupies a triangular region of steeply sloping ground from the limestone ridge west of Din Sylwy and Rhos Llaniestyn on the east side and from the Rocky ground north of Hafotty to the shoreline on the south-west side. The shoreline of Red Wharf Bay is the border on the north side.

There is a hut circle on the western edge of Llanddona Common, (PRN 2662) but very few other indications of early settlement in the character area.

Llanddona, under the name Crafgoed, was a bond township in the hand of the Bishop of Bangor in the middle ages. There were 15 families occupying 12 tenements in 1306 working, in total, about 100 acres of arable land. They paid their rent in much the same way as the tenants of the Bishop at Llangoed. They gave measures of wheat and malt at Christmas, oats at Lent, cash payments in May and November and did agricultural works, mowing in autumn. At Christmas, each tenant was required to give a hen. They also had to make provision for pasturing the Bishop's steward's horses.

The church of St Dona stands in the northern part of the township, 130 m from the shore, alongside a stream which cascades down the steep slopes, powering a mill at its outflow. There is a large fish weir at the low water mark. A field name, Llain Clas, adjacent to the church may indicate a possible origin for the church and at least part of the community as an earlier mediaeval quas-monastic institution. This, however, is by no means certain.

The nucleus of the community was on the lower ground behind the shoreline and below the steep slopes which led up to Mynydd Crafgoed or Llanddona Common.

There were two fairly substantial farms on the lower slopes, close to the shoreline, in the ancient area of settlement. These farms, Wern, occupying 318 acres, and Tan yr Allt, otherwise known as Carreg y Gwalch, occupying 69 acres, lay adjacent to each other at the western end of the township. Much of the rising ground to the south of Wern and Tan yr Allt was scrubby and tree-covered in the 19th century and remains so. In the present day fields to the north-east of Wern have also been colonised by mature trees. Pen yr Allt was the third reasonably large farm occupying 80 acres on the higher ground between the common and the slope down to the shore.

There were 24 holdings of between six and 24 acres, distributed either side of the stream which passes St Dona's Church and which once powered the water corn mill. Whereas a degree of consolidation had also taken place on the small farms of Hafod Wen, (22 acres) and Tan y Gryddyn (20 acres), for example, at the core of the village, there remained a very distinctive pattern of long narrow quillets, intermingled among, and spread from, the constituent holdings.

The pattern of landholding in the 1840s had still not entirely consolidated individual strips and many remained dispersed among the farms of the nineteenth century village. Although the quillets by the 19th century, had become enclosed, the dispersed nature of these holdings is a clear demonstration of the former process of dispersed arable quillets in open field. This pattern is still visible in the landscape of Llanddona at Pentrellwyn, Ysgubor Fawr and Tyddyn Bach.
hhThe earliest documented references identify Tyddyn Cyndal (a seven acre property in 1848) in a 16th century mortgage; Bodola and Godrefi, both north of the church, near the shore, in a deed of exchange in the 1630s, and Pentrellwyn, Corn Yd, Ysgubor Fawr and Wern, documented in the second half of the 17th century.

The tenant farmers of the mid-nineteenth century in Llanddona were prosperous enough to employ two or three agricultural labourers and perhaps a female servant around the house or, at least, were self-sufficient. The very great majority of the population, however, occupied two- roomed single- storey cottages and provided the necessary additional agricultural labour force which supported the farms.

The high ground of Mynydd Crafgoed, to the south, is rough and intractable and was formerly used as common land. Llaniestyn common lay adjacent. In the early ninteenth century, and perhaps during the late eighteenth century, inroads were being made onto the common. Llaniestyn common, by contrast, saw little encroachment. There is no evidence of formal enclosure of common land by Act of Parliament in Llanddona and the squatters must have had tacit approval for their initiative.

By 1848 there were 33 enclosed plots of land on the common, some contiguous, most detached and almost all around half an acre or less. About half of these plots were occupied by single-storey cottages or rows of cottages by the middle of the 19th century. Almost all of the original enclosures were occupied during the second half of the century. Another 20 or so enclosures, in addition to the original 33 intakes, had been made on Llanddona common between 1850 and 1890 but only seven new buildings had been established on these later plots. Two of these were occupied by Capel Peniel (Calvinistic Methodist) and a British School, first proposed in 1864, central to the common. A network of paths and tracks transected the common, linking the generally dispersed community of around 19 cottages or rows of cottages, a character of rough and rocky moorland which has persisted to the present day.

There are clusters of cottages at the north end of the common (Pentre Ebolion, Ty'n y Gongl and Tan y Pentre, below the Bryn Dona windmill) and at the south end (Gorslwyd). These may have constituted the earliest encroachments and something like small hamlets had formed. Gorslwyd is mentioned in a rental of the 1790s.

There was a smithy and its blacksmith in Gorslwyd, a tea dealer, a net maker and a sailor and his family. During the early 19th century charitable donations provided some finance for a few cottages for the poor in the Ty Bach area of the common. However the cost of litigation in pursuit of a bad debt caused the church wardens of the parish to sell the cottages. The cottages are still to be seen but they are now in a roofless and a ruinous condition. Other cottages, in the Pensarn and Pentre Ebolion areas, in rows, of three to five, may have been built by local farmers as accommodation for agricultural labourers or for industrial workers. The limestone quarry on the coastline below Din Sylwy, immediately north-east of Bodola, was in operation in the first half of the 19th century. The identifiable stonemasons and stone cutters lived in the Ty'n y Gongl-Tan Y Graig area, at the north end of the common.

Historic Landscape Character
The pattern of settlement at the ancient nucleus of Llanddona retains many elements characteristic of a long development. The sinuous curves of parcelled and enclosed mediaeval arable open fields are still visible. The church was rebuilt in the 1870s, but in the south wall of the nave a fifteenth century door has been retained. The field name, Llain Clas, is a possible indicator of very much earlier origins. The Rectory, close by, is Georgian and in a very contrasting style to the majority of other houses in the village.

The fish weir, Gorad Fona, is close to the estuary of the stream which passes the church and which once powered the community's mill. The weir is visible and accessible at low tide and complements the surviving features of an earlier agricultural regime, which includes tenements of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries albeit modified over the years. These include Corn Yd, Cyndal, Maes Mawr and Pentre'r Llwyn. There are single storey cottages of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries on the shoreline.

The landscape was, and remains, predominantly rural and agricultural, with the exception of a concentration of newly built large detached later 19th and particularly, 20th century houses on the common with little or no land attached beyond their gardens. In the 1850s there were 27 farms in the landscape area and 78 labourers. Most of these would have been agricultural labourers but some may have worked in the coastal limestone quarries. Six tenants of Llanddona can be identified as quarrymen stonemasons and cutters. Other occupations were rare. In 1851 there were two blacksmiths, two weavers, three coopers, two net makers, two seamstresses, a shoemaker, a tea dealer, a midwife and four washerwomen. There were, also, six female servants, some of whom would have been relations to the family of the house in which they lived. There were two millers, a miller's assistant and a carrier. The windmill was at Bryn Dona at the north end of the common; the old water mill, near the shore, was redundant. There was also a curate and a clergyman in the village.

On the common there are several single storey cottages, random rubble built, with stone chimneys, on the evidence of ruinous examples, all now slate-roofed. These are relevant to the early stage of encroachment. There are small neat terraced rows of four and five cottages, single storeyed and rendered which will have been erected towards the middle of the nineteenth century. Towards the end of the century, the houses which are built there become more ambitious, two-storey, some architect designed. More recently, very large bungalows and two-storeyed houses of brick and rendered materials have been erected, complete with garages and conservatories.

The winding south-western road down the slope, towards the bay is a continuation of the Ffordd Deg which crosses Rhos Llaniestyn from Beaumaris. Alongside, is the complex of an Arts-and-Crafts inspired development which includes the early twentieth century hotel at Wern y Wylan. The ambitious project to provide a cultural focus and visitor facility did not materialise and the hotel now offers self-contained holiday appartments. Immediately adjacent, a housing development of eleven modern large detached bungalows and two-storey houses has been built among the rocky, wooded slopes in complete contrast to the character of the early village on the shoreline


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