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304 YNYS SELYF - PREHISTORIC FIELDS

GRID REFERENCE: SM716093
AREA IN HECTARES: 199

Historic Background
An area of modern Pembrokeshire comprising the land surrounding Old Farm on Skomer Island (Ynys Selyf), that lies just off of the western tip of Pembrokeshire, at the southern end of St Bride's Bay. Administratively, the island formed part of the medieval Lordship of Haverford, under the control of the earls of Pembroke, and later the crown, and until recently formed a detached portion of the parish of St Martin, Haverfordwest. The island was farmed during the prehistoric period and the physical remains of field systems with cultivation marks, enclosures, clearance cairns, huts, dams and even settlements, survive more-or-less undisturbed in this peripheral area, which occupies nearly two-thirds of the island. The remains cannot be closely dated but Evans noted that 'nothing like the arrangement of the fields or the shape of the huts is known from the Roman or later periods' and ascribed to the features to a date-range from the neolithic to the iron age periods. Their exceptional survival is due to the fact that though the island was rented for the seasonal depasturing of cattle during the middle ages, and was rented annually for 4 7s in the 16th century, there appears to have been little permanent settlement until the 18th century when the present farm was established in the central part of the island. No medieval or later settlement is recorded in this peripheral area. During the medieval period rabbits were deliberately introduced to the island and exploited for their flesh and skins. Warreners came to the island each winter to catch rabbits, and Treasury records from 1325-6 list payments to three rabbit-catchers, who with the aid of ferrets and nets supplied 'carcasses and skins of rabbits' worth 13 12s. Later in the 14th century there is a record of a combined ferreter's house and carcass store on the island, in an unknown location. Rabbit farming intensified during the 19th century and continued until 1950. Some lime-burning, from the native bedrock, was also undertaken within the area during the 18th- and 19th-century. The island is now a national nature reserve managed by the West Wales Wildlife Trust on a lease from the Countryside Council for Wales.

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
Ynys Selyf - Old Farm historic landscape character area consists of the central, fairly level - 70m to 75m - part of Skomer Island in which Old Farm is located. It is divided by dry-stone walls and banks into a system of fairly regular, small fields. The fields and farm were established in the 18th- and early 19th- century, but the farm buildings, including the house, probably date to the mid 19th-century. The farmstead has a typical 19th century layout, with a modest collection of outbuildings set close to the farm. Other buildings within the area are confined to the roofless remains of the earlier, late 18th- or early 19th-century farmhouse. Within the fields are two ponds. Intensive cultivation of the fields has produced a pattern of long, straight cultivation ridges. Agriculture is no longer practised on the island, and the abandoned field system is under bracken and rough grassland. There are tracts of boggy ground. Basic accommodation for the small number of over-night visitors to the island is provided in the farmstead buildings.

Recorded archaeology comprises some prehistoric features including a scheduled settlement and field system. There is also a scheduled medieval house platform, and a possible medieval hut platform.

This is a well defined historic landscape character area. It is surrounded and separated from the prehistoric fields character area of the island by a clear perimeter wall.

Sources: Dyfed Wildlife Trust n.d.; Evans 1986; Evans 1990; Grimes 1950; Howells 1968; Lewis 1833; Owen 1911

 

 

 

 

 

 

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