Historic Landscape Characterisation

Penmon - Area 8 Din Sylwy limestone ridge PRN 33474

Din Silwy hillfort

Llanfihangel Din Sylwy


Key historic landscape features and processes

  • Din Sylwy, one of the largest iron age hillforts on Anglesey and a conspicuous tabletop landmark.
  • The preserve of dynastic freeholding families with their own bond tenants in the middle ages.
  • Coastal quarries on the northern cliffs with historic significance in providing limestone for the construction of the Menai Suspension Bridge

This character area is bounded by the coastline on the north side by the steep slopes down to Llanddona on the west side by Penmon on the east side and on the south side, the southern slopes of the limestone from Din Silwy to Llangoed church and Tyddyn Grugor.

Din Sylwy is one of the largest hill forts on Anglesey. It extends across 19 acres (7.7ha) and rises to the height of 160m OD, the highest point within this study area. The hill is defended by a single wall of limestone blocks, 2.5m wide. It has, however, the advantage of steep-sided slopes. The interior is relatively flat, stepping gently down three ledges of limestone from south to north. Roman artefacts of the third and fourth centuries have been recorded on the hill but these are not an indication of the fort's construction, which should fall within the mid to late first millennium BC.

There are a number of hut circle settlements and enclosures on the southern slopes of the limestone ridge, between 70m and 120m, north of Llaniestyn church, west of Mariandyrys and on the slopes down to the sea at Fedw Fawr and north of Tros y Marian (PRNs 2537. 2546, 2599, 2602, 2547 and 2553).

A hoard of five, tenth-century, Hiberno-Viking silver armlets have been recorded at the Dinorben limestone quarry, a short distance below the Din Sylwy hill fort.

A church, Llanfihangel Din Silwy, and a holy well nestle together in the shadow of the hill fort (PRNs 2598, 2597).

The limestone ridge from Din Sylwy to Penmon was the preserve of the freeholders within this study area. In 1352 the township of Din Sylwy was divided. Half of the township was in the hand of Rhys ap Gruffydd who held it as a freehold. The other half was bond, of the nature of tir cyfrif. The bond tenants of the Prince, not Rhys ap Gruffydd, had to mill at the Prince's mill of Llanfaes and were required to make the watercourse and carry timber and millstones for its repair. They also did carrying works to and from the maerdref of Llanfaes and to Penrhos, Conwy and Caernarfon. The presence of bond demesne tenants represents the last stage of a pattern which extends the length of the higher ground above Llanfaes from Crymlyn and Bancenyn to Bodynwy and Din Silwy, in the period before Crymlyn and Bancenyn were granted to the use of Penmon.

In 1608 Richard Ingram and Henry David held a Crown lease in the half-township of Dinsylwy Frenin (the bond component), including tenements which extended as far as a part of Marian and the hills above Penhwnllys.

In Penhwnllys, in 1352 there was just one gwely called Gwely Tudur ap Madog, held as freehold by William ap Gruffydd and David ap Rhys and others. Their tenure was exceptionally free, requiring only attendance at court. In Twrgarw, to the south of Penhwnllys, there was another gwely with the same name, Gwely Tudur ap Madog. David ap Rhys was again the principal heir to that gwely. The heirs of the two townships are clearly related, from a common stock, and it is indicative of the extent and range of these families that their influence extended beyond the boundaries of individual townships. Quite apart from the Prince's bond tenants in the township of Dinsylwy, the freeholders of these territories had their own bondmen.

The limestone ridge, itself, is not well populated but small clusters or hamlets developed on the southern slopes of the ridge, along lanes and particularly at the junction of roads and lanes where communication was feasible and where quarries opened up on the landward and seaward sides in the nineteenth century. One cluster developed above St. Cawrdaf's church, near Plas Newydd. Another developed to the south-east of Mariandyrys at Glan yr Afon. Earlier and more substantial houses became the focus of small estates or large farms. Tros y Marian and Eirianallt are two examples on different scales of operation.

Historic Landscape Character
Fields on the limestone ridge are more of a patchwork, smaller with less regular boundaries then, say the large fields of Llanfaes, Trecastell and the Rhos Llaniestyn area. Nevertheless, many straight boundaries occur and there are few instances in the pattern of fields to indicate the enclosure of former arable quillets as, for example, is the case in parts of Llangoed. The limestone ridge provides good material for walling, often overgrown with hedges and well populated with trees. Clusters of trees are otherwise generally found in the vicinity of houses and where ravines cut channels towards the sea coast or feed the streams which flow south east to Trecastell Bay.

Din Sylwy, with its table top profile is a conspicuous landmark from several directions as well as being an important visual component of the later prehistoric landscape.

The free holding townships of Din Silwy, Penhwnllys and Twrgarw have documentation which allows us to understand the significance and extent of dynastic territorial lordships, linked by kinship, as clan lands, a counterpoint to the tenurial patterns of the Bishop of Bangor's holdings within the study area generally, and the management of royal estate.

The quarrying of limestone from the seaward and landward sides of the ridge brings its own industrial character to this landscape and has generated small nuclei of population, within reach of the quarries, as a result.

Tros y Marian is a late seventeenth-century house on an elevated position on the ridge, sheltered by copses of trees. The house is of limestone, roughly coursed with dressed gritstone for detail. The façade incorporates a gabled profile central to the façade and flush with the wall. Windows are symmetrically arranged, three on each side of the door on the ground floor, repeated on the first floor. The front door carries a classical pediment and the chimney stacks are disposed at each end wall.

Eirianallt is a smaller seventeenth-century house or cottage with two rooms on the ground floor, a central entrance and central chimney stack. The house was probably of one and a half floors with half dormers and thatched. The walls were subsequently heightened in the nineteenth century, reducing the pitch. Both houses, relatively close to each other, lend character to the area.



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