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Historic Background

This is a very large character area lying on the northern side of the Tywi valley and stretching from Nantgaredig in the west to beyond Llandeilo in the east. The valley was the major historic route corridor into West Wales and the Roman road from Carmarthen to Llandovery followed the interface between the alluvium and the solid geology on the north side of the Tywi, whose course is now more-or-less followed by the modern A40(T). During the historic period most of the area lay within the southern half of the commotes, and later hundreds, of Cetheiniog and Maenordeilo (Rees 1932). The two commotes were held of the independent Welsh lordship of Cantref Mawr until the establishment of the county of Carmarthen in 1284. The relative homogeneity of the present landscape may represent a historical unity of land-use. Ridge and furrow cultivation has been recorded in the Tywi floodplain but this northern margin may always have been largely pasture, and north of Llanegwad lay an area of waste or common called 'Killardun Forest' (Rees 1932). Enclosure within the area, furthermore, may have been of relatively late date, the majority of the fields being medium-sized and regular. Llanegwad is the only early nucleation within the area. It may represent a pre-Conquest church and settlement with a radial system of boundaries possibly perpetuating an infield-outfield system (Sambrook 1995, 59). It is the site of a parish church, a motte and later - under the patronage of the Bishops of St Davids - a small borough, now a village. To the north at Allt-y-ferin is a second motte which belonged to the Lordship of Carmarthen to the east (Area 183), and may be the site of the 'Dinweilir' taken by the Welsh and recaptured in 1159 (Jones 1952, 61). It was associated with a former chapel. The remainder of the area is divided between the parishes of Llangathen and Llandeilo Fawr. At the confluence of the rivers Cothi and Tywi lay the core of Maenor Brunus, mentioned in the 12th century Llandaff Charters but probably pre-Conquest in origin (Richards 1974, 119), with a chapel at Llandeilo Rwnws on the banks of the Tywi and another near Pontargothi. The significance of the location was such that it was named (as 'Ystrad Brwnws') as the site of a battle between the Normans and the Welsh in 1116 (ibid.); the use of the Tywi Valley as a routeway led to its being the site of a further battle, near Derwen Fawr, in 1257 (Rees 1932). Maenor Brwnws was granted, at an unknown date but probably during the late 12th century, to the Premonstratensians at Talley (ibid.). The post-dissolution grange was represented by the gentry houses of Wythfawr and Ystradwrallt, which had been established by the 1540s (Jones 1987, 199); the latter may retain the 'Ystrad' element from Ystrad Brwnws. Penllwynau also lay in Llandeilo Rwnws estate and was later a gentry home (Jones 1987, 150). Cilsaen near Llangathen is a late Medieval house that became part of the Golden Grove estate in the 17th century (Jones 1987, 32) but its origins are earlier, being associated with the later princes of Deheubarth and termed 'manor' in early Post-Medieval documentation. Court Henry has 16th century origins and is associated with a small area of 19th century parkland and a de novo 19th century church (Lloyd 1991, 37-46), while a second area of parkland at Allt-y-ferin is contemporary with the house of 1869 (Jones 1987, 6). The establishment of modern communications also influenced the settlement pattern. A turnpike, established in 1763-71 (Lewis, 1971, 43) more-or-less followed the line of the Roman road. The straight courses through Pontargothi and Derwen Fawr were however constructed under Thomas Telford in the 1820s (Carms Record office, Cawdor Maps 172) with the subsequent development of the two villages, and Felindre. The area is also crossed by the former LNWR main West Wales railway line which was opened, as the 'Vale of Towy Line', by the Llanelly Railway and Dock Company in 1858 (Gabb, 1977, 76). The present settlement of Nantgaredig is entirely modern and developed around the railway station.

Base map reproduced from the OS map with the permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Crown Copyright 2001.
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Description and essential historic landscape components

A very large character area on the north side of the Tywi Valley and including part of the lower Cothi valley. It rises from the flood plain of the Tywi at 20 m OD in a series of low rounded hills that achieve a maximum height of over 120 m. The whole area is enclosed by medium-sized fields which are under pasture, nearly all of which is improved - there is very little rough or rushy ground. The fields are divided by earth banks topped with hedges. Hedges are generally well maintained and in good condition. Many possess distinctive trees. There are numerous small stands of deciduous woodland, particularly on steep valley sides where it may be ancient, with conifer plantations on the very steep valley sides of the Cothi. Dispersed farms provide the dominant settlement pattern. Older survivors, such as Llethr Cadfan provide time-depth to the settlement pattern not readily obvious in the extant buildings. Superimposed on to this ancient pattern of dispersed farms is a more recent nucleated settlement pattern. Llanegwad village has Medieval origins but surviving buildings indicate that its development belongs to the 18th- and 19th-century, with rapid expansion in the 20th-century. Felindre is a loose cluster of 19th- and 20th-century dwellings, but other nucleated, clustered and linear villages such as Nantgaredig, Pontargothi and Derwen Fawr, while having a small core of 19th-century buildings, are now essentially late 20th-century developments. The area has, like much of the Tywi Valley, a parkland feel and small areas of 19th century emparking surround Allt-y-ferin House and Court Henry. The low accessible hills to the north of the flood plain allowed for the development of an important east-west routeway along the Tywi valley, from the Roman to the modern period, represented by the present A40(T). The modern settlements described above, except for Nantgaredig which developed around a railway station, tend to be located along this road.

The recorded archaeology of such a large landscape area includes a range of sites from all periods. The majority of archaeological features relate to agricultural land-use but there are also two motte castles, of which Allt-y-ferin was added to an Iron Age inland promontory fort, Bronze Age standing stones and a henge monument at Nantgaredig.

The parish church of Llanegwad was rebuilt in the 1840s and like the 19th century church at Court Henry is unlisted. The Grade II listed Llethr Cadfan farmhouse and its Grade II* listed granary are both 17th century, and the early 19th-century Llwynhelig House and stable-block are also both Grade II listed. The area otherwise has a relative lack of distinctive buildings but the largely 18th- and 19th-century Court Henry, which is Grade II* listed, preserves an earlier core and the home farm has good quality masonry buildings. Farmhouses are generally of 18th- and 19th-century date, stone built with slate roofs. Most are of two storeys and three bays, in the Georgian tradition, but larger examples are present. Associated with the larger farmhouses are large assemblages of farm buildings, these are often arranged in a semi-formal basis reflecting the higher status of the holdings. Farmhouses in the vernacular tradition are present, but in a lesser number that those in a polite style. Smaller farmhouses and those in the vernacular tradition tend to have a more limited and smaller collection of farm buildings, often compacted into a single range.

The boundaries of this area are not clear cut as most of the neighbouring areas share similar historic landscape components. Part of the boundary to the south lies against the flood plain of the Tywi, Dinefwr Park and Llandeilo town; these provide reasonably clear definition. Elsewhere to the south, and to the west and east there is no hard-edged border between this area and its neighbours, but rather a zone of change.






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