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Penmaen Dewi

285 PENMAEN DEWI

GRID REFERENCE: SM746286
AREA IN HECTARES: 258.3

Historic Background
A small area of modern Pembrokeshire, comprising St David's Head, at the tip of the peninsula, and an adjacent stretch of the northern coastal cliffs. It lay within the medieval Cantref Pebidiog, or 'Dewisland', which was held directly by the Bishops of St David's, having represented the core of the bishopric from 1082 when it was granted (or confirmed) by Rhys ap Tewdwr, king of pre-Conquest Dyfed, to Bishop Sulien. The character area lies within the parish of St David's, which had a number of subordinate chapels, and even today preserves a remarkable ecclesiastical topography. However, the Penmaen Dewi character area is also notable for the survival of even earlier landscape elements, notably an agricultural landscape of prehistoric field systems but also prehistoric ritual elements. From 1115 onwards, when Bernard was appointed Bishop of St David's, Anglo-Norman systems of feudal government and ecclesiastical administration were introduced into Pebidiog, which was conterminous with the later Hundred of Dewsland created in 1536. However, Welsh tenurial systems appear to have persisted, though variously adapted, while many feudal rights and obligations continued into the early 20th-century. The survival of prehistoric field systems within the Penmaen Dewi character area suggests that little cultivation has been undertaken since then, and that the area has been marginal land for over 2000 years. The area is recorded as unenclosed common land of medieval or post-medieval date within the regional Historic Environment Record. However, Penbery in the east of the area was recorded within the manor of Welsh Hundred (with Tydwaldy) in the Black Book of St David's of 1326, when it comprised 4 bovates paying annually 5s 8d, and a recent survey by Murphy has identified medieval cultivation marks distributed through much of the area; these are, nevertheless, too superficial - or short-lived - to have seriously impacted upon the underlying landscape. The only medieval ecclesiastical element in the area is a possible church or chapel at 'Eglwys y Cathau' near Penbery. The area appears to have been unenclosed and for the most part unsettled down to the post-medieval period, and has remained mainly so to the present day. However, there is a deserted settlement - Maes-y-mynydd - in the centre of the area, which appears to have had origins within the later post-medieval period. The earliest record of the place-name is from 1829, but according to local tradition it was a Quaker settlement with a cemetery. It is shown with 6 or 7 houses and the present system of enclosures on the tithe map of 1840, and is claimed to have once comprised 13 houses. The community of families were mainly engaged in maritime activities, and the settlement was not abandoned until the early years of the 20th century. More recent landscape elements are mainly military and include world war two cliff defences, and 'Highwinds'; formerly a submarine listening 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.
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
Penmaen Dewi historic landscape character area occupies the extreme western tip of Pembrokeshire. It comprises the rocky headland of St David's Head, high north-facing sea cliffs and the craggy peaks of Carn Llidi, Carn Llidi Bychan, Carn Perfedd, Carnedd Llethr and Carn Penbery. Generally the land ranges from 40m to 70m, but a height of over 180m is achieved at the summit of Carn Llidi. Apart from abandoned fields at Maes y Mynydd, the whole is unenclosed and given over to very rough grazing. Management of the grazing has been neglected, and large tracts are now under gorse scrub, bracken and heather. There are no inhabited settlements: archaeological remains characterise the historic landscape. Clawdd y Milwyr iron age promontory fort on the tip of the headland excavated by the Reverend S Baring Gold at the end of the 19th century is the most prominent of these remains, followed by Coetan Arthur chambered tomb, two other neolithic chambered tombs, a defensive wall of unknown date and a field system. The last of these elements consists of long, straight, parallel, low rubble banks which run inland from the coast and up over the slopes of Carn Llidi and Carnedd Perfedd. Associated with these abandoned prehistoric fields are several circular enclosures and hut circles. Cultivation ridges, perhaps of medieval or post medieval date are also present. More recent archaeological remains comprise world war two defensive installations on the slopes of Carn Llidi, and a medium-sized quarry with abandoned buildings on the southeast slopes of Penbery. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path hugs the top of the sea cliffs. Other footpaths are also present. There are no buildings. However, the remains of 'Highwinds', a submarine listening station during world war two are still visible.

Recorded archaeology mainly relates to the surviving prehistoric landscape features, many of which are scheduled. It comprises mesolithic and neolithic finds, Coetan Arthur scheduled neolithic chambered tomb, scheduled prehistoric enclosures, scheduled prehistoric boundary walls and banks, and scheduled lynchets, three scheduled hut circles, two scheduled clearance cairns, and a possible bronze age round barrow. There are also a scheduled grave of unknown date, a scheduled medieval drystone shelter, a scheduled medieval enclosure, two areas of scheduled medieval cultivation marks, a scheduled medieval pound, a medieval boundary, and the possible church/chapel site of 'Eglwys y Cathau'. Post-medieval archaeology comprises a fold and other enclosures, a quarry and associated building remains, and world war two installations.

Penmaen Dewi is a distinctive historic landscape area. It has clear boundaries along the coast, and on all other sides where it stands in sharp contrast with neighbouring enclosed farmland.

Sources: Baker 1992; Baring Gould 1899; Charles 1992; Fenton 1811; Howell 1993; Howells 1987; James 1981; James 1993; Jones and Freeman 1856; Lewis 1833; Manby 1801; Murphy 2001; Rees 1932; St David's tithe map and apportionment 1840; Willis-Bund 1902

 

 

 

 

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