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SN 776421

Historic Background
An area in the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains either side of the headwaters of the River Tywi, which formed the boundary between Cantref Bychan to the east and Cantref Mawr to the west. Cantref Bychan was invaded by the Anglo-Normans under Richard Fitz Pons who established a caput at Llandovery in 1110-16 (Rees n.d.) and was acquired soon after by the Clifford lords of Brecon as the Lordship of Llandovery. Cantref Mawr remained an independent Welsh lordship until 1284. Both retained native tenurial customs until the end of the Medieval period when they were united within modern Carmarthenshire. Much of the area east of the Tywi lay within the Manor of Nant-y-bai, which had been granted as a grange to the Cistercians of Strata Florida, probably by Gruffydd ap Rhys in c.1200. The nucleus may have lain at Bron-y-cwrt within Area 216 (Williams 1990, 58). It was an upland grange, probably operated by tenant farmers primarily concerned with the mountain pasturing of animals, although the present mill has origins as a Medieval corn mill indicating that arable was undertaken in pockets of good soil (Sambrook and Page 1995, 18). The name Rhandirmwyn contains a 'shareland' element (rhandir), suggesting that the tenants held their land by inheritance, with perpetual right to their holdings (Rees, 1924, 200). The manor continued after the Dissolution as the Ystrad-ffin estate. A survey of 1629 (Carmarthenshire Record Office, Lort Muniments 17/678) shows that it contained most of the surrounding farms and demonstrates that the present settlement pattern was more-or-less already in place; the present system of medium-sized irregular fields may also have been established. Pwll-priddog, which has Medieval origins, was held separately from both the manor and the grange by the Morgan family (Jones 1987, 168). The area is chiefly characterised by former lead mining which may have begun under the Cistercians (Williams 1990, 58), or even the Romans (James 1982, 34); it was certainly undertaken in this area by the late 13th century, the crown taking the 'eleventh foot' of the ore in taxation (Rees 1968). This would imply that a mining community, of unknown size, may have existed in the vicinity of Rhandirmwyn and Nant-y-bai. Rhandirmwyn may have been comparatively large by the 18th century - possibly exceptional by local standards - as the mines employed 400 workers in 1791 (Sambrook and Page 1995, 23), and the present nucleation features worker terracing, and the new church of St Barabas from the mid 19th-century. Lead mining ceased in the early 20th-century. The presence of coal is noted in the place-name 'Nant-y-glo' and a quarry operated in the southern part of the area. The later 19th- and 20th-century have mainly been characterised, however, by scattered development of cottages and dwellings. A sewage works has been erected to the south of Rhandirmwyn.

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.
All rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown Copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. Licence Number: GD272221

Description and essential historic landscape components
Rhandirmwyn character area lies in the upper Tywi valley where the sides open out to form a large bowl-shape. The valley floor lies at between 100 m and 120 m, and the valley sides within this area rise to over 180 m. This is a complex area as it consists of small irregular fields, dispersed farms, woodland and conifer plantation, lead mines and their associated communities, and 19th- and 20th-century cottages and houses. Improved pasture is the dominant land-use within the system of small, irregular fields, but large pockets of rough and rushy ground are present, particularly towards the valley floor. Boundaries consist of earth banks topped with hedges. Hedges are in poor condition with less than 50% stockproof. Most are either overgrown or derelict. Wire fences supplement the hedges. Many of the hedges have distinctive trees, and these together with the numerous deciduous copses and small conifer plantations lend a wooded aspect to the landscape. The ancient settlement pattern in this area comprises dispersed farms. These are stone-built with slate roofs, and generally date to the 19th century. Most are two-storeys with three bays and tend to be in the vernacular tradition, though examples in a more polite Georgian style are present. Stone-built outbuildings are present at most farms, as are large agricultural buildings. Remains of the lead mining industry lie mainly outside this area, but Rhandirmwyn community which grew up to serve it is located here. It consists of dispersed stone-built dwellings and chapels of 19th century date. Individual houses and cottages are present, as are terraces of two-storey and single storey houses. Stone-built worker cottages of 19th century date, and 20th century brick built worker houses are situated in isolated locations alongside roads away from the main community. Recent housing consists of individual dwellings.

Recorded archaeology chiefly comprises lead mining features and buildings, but includes a Bronze Age standing stone and round barrow, and two possible barrows, an Iron Age hillfort and possible Medieval well and chapel sites.

There are a number of distinctive buildings but few of them are listed. Nant-y-bai mill is Grade II listed, with an overshot, timber and cast-iron wheel and corn-drying kiln within. Dugoedydd and Pwll-priddog have both been rebuilt. The church, worker housing, post office and public house in Rhandirmwyn should be noted. There are several nonconformist chapels

This is a distinct area. It is well defined by conifer plantations to the northeast and west, and by high semi-enclosed land to the east and south. To the north and to the southwest definition is less good; there is a zone of change rather than a distinct border.




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