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Historic Background

A fairly large area within modern Carmarthenshire consisting of dispersed farms, fields and scattered woodland stands. It lies within the medieval Cantref Emlyn, in Emlyn Uwch-Cych commote. Cantref Emlyn had been partly brought under Anglo-Norman control in c.1100 when Emlyn Is-Cych commote, to the west, was reconstituted as the Lordship of Cilgerran. Numerous castles were established in Uwch-Cych - none of which has any recorded history - but the commote was back under Welsh control by the 1130s, and remained such throughout the 12th and early 13th centuries. It was appropriated by the Anglo-Norman Marshal Earls of Pembroke in 1223, but was granted to Maredudd ap Rhys, with whose family it remained until finally annexed by the English crown in 1283. In 1536, it eventually formed part of the Hundred of Elvet in Carmarthenshire, when Is-Cych joined Pembrokeshire. Uwch-Cych was granted to royal favourite Sir Rhys ap Thomas in the late 15th century, reverted to the crown in 1525, and was then granted, in 1546, to Sir Thomas Jones of Haroldston, Pembrokeshire. It remained in this family for several generations, eventually passing by marriage to the Vaughans’ Golden Grove Estate, which in the 19th century still owned almost all the land on the southern side of the Teifi from Pentre-cwrt in the east to Cenarth in the west. The medieval Welsh tenurial pattern - with neither vills nor knight’s fees - has been largely responsible for the dispersed settlement within the region.

The southern part of this area appears to have formed part of the medieval Garth Gywddyll Forest that stretched away to the southeast, and was presumably unfarmed, unenclosed land. However, the northeast part of this character area, east of Pentre-cwrt, belonged to a different landholding and tenurial regime, having been part of Maenor Forion Grange. This grange was established during the second half of the 12th century, when the land was granted to the Cistercian Whitland Abbey by the sons of the local Welsh lord Maredudd of Cilrhedyn. Its nucleus appears to have been at Court Farm, where a granary was present, and which was apparently a summer retreat for the abbot. Two mills, a corn mill and a fulling-mill (part of the leat of which can be traced) were located on the Afon Siedi at Geulan Felen, demonstrating that the abbey was possibly an early pioneer in the cloth industry that would come to dominate other parts of this Register Area. The grange chapel lay just outside this character area, probably on the same site as the present St Mary’s, a chapel-of-ease to Llangeler parish. The early medieval Decabarbalom Stone, found near the chapel, suggests earlier origins. It is associated with a motte, ‘Pencastell’, which may have been an earlier grange nucleus. Otherwise, we know little of the land-use within the grange, as Maenor Forion was one of the very few Welsh granges not to be subject to an Exchequer Proceeding (Equity) after the Dissolution, from which much of our knowledge of grange management is derived. Most of Whitland’s estates were held, at the Dissolution, under various leases, tenurial systems, rents and obligations belonging to Welsh law. In general, the abbey’s Carmarthenshire properties paid money rents, and contributions of cheese, capons and oats, while the Ceredidion properties made contributions of wool, sheep and lambs. However, it is far from clear whether or not these arrangements perpetuate long-standing arrangements of earlier origin. Nevertheless, the survival of a diversity of rents, in both cash, kind and service, suggests that they correspond with earlier villein obligations, and it has therefore been suggested that Whitland exploited its granges along native lines from the first, and therefore land-use and settlement were probably similar inside and outside the grange. The grange became crown land at the Dissolution in 1536 and was sold during the reign of Charles I to John Lewis of Llysnewydd and Thomas Price of Rhydypennau, the latter’s portion passing onto D L Jones of Derlwyn. Apart from the disposal of small parts of the properties, the greater part of the former grange remained in these family hands until at least 1900, forming the core of two large estates.

The present landscape throughout this character area mainly comprises medium-large regular, rectangular fields of late enclosure. They probably date from the late 18th century - although some of the individual farmsteads will probably be older - and appear to be contemporary with the present road system which follows the enclosure axis and boundaries. The present A484, which runs from north-south through the area, was built new as a turnpike road in the late 18th century. The first comprehensive map cover, the tithe map of 1839, shows a landscape not dissimilar to that of today. There are a few minor differences, such as small blocks of strip fields close to Saron and some small pockets of unenclosed land. Both of are now regular fields. The only settlement clusters on the tithe map are at Llangeler, with approximately four dwellings, and Pentre-cwrt with c. 20 houses. Pentre-cwrt is possibly post medieval in orgin as is the nucleation at Llangeler, although it developed around a medieval church which was also the property of Whitland Abbey, the grant of which was confirmed by King John 1199-1216. Llangeler - also known as ‘Merthyr Celer’ - was a multiple church site, with a ‘capel-y-bedd’ (‘saint’s grave chapel’ or ‘founder’s grave chapel’) formerly lying south of the church. A well-chapel lay 150m northeast of the churchyard. Both the churchyard and the well-chapel may have occupied a very large circular outer enclosure represented by field boundaries. The ‘merthyr’ element is regarded as an indicator of early medieval origins.


Description and essential historic landscape components

Llangeler historic landscape character area lies on the undulating north-facing valley side of the Afon Teifi. Its northern edge borders the floodplain at about 50m above sea level from which the land rises gently to over 200m above sea level at the area’s southern boundary. It is an agricultural historic landscape character area consisting of dispersed farms, fields and scattered woodland stands. Agricultural land-use is almost entirely improved pasture. The hedges set on earth or earth and stone banks and which bound the medium-sized irregular fields are generally well maintained, but some are overgrown, and many have large trees in them. This creates a wooded aspect to the landscape in some parts of this area, especially where it occurs in combination with deciduous woodland on some of the minor, steep valley sides. Roads and lanes are narrow and winding and flanked by large hedgebanks, except for the two main north-south roads, the A484 and the A486. Stone is the main, and almost exclusive, building material in older structures. Generally Teifi valley slate is more common close to the Teifi - laid as uncoursed rubble, but there are some examples where the stone has been cut and laid in courses - in the northern part of this area, with locally-sourced stone predominant elsewhere.
Many of the houses are cement rendered and colour-washed, but where visible and on unrendered houses and agricultural buildings this is clearly over stone. Commercial north Wales slate is the common roofing material. There are few pre-19th century buildings. The majority of farmhouses date to the mid to late 19th century, and are in the typical southwest Wales style – two storey and three-bay with a central front door and five symmetrically arranged windows –a style that owes more to the polite Georgian tradition than the vernacular. Vernacular houses are present, such as the listed two storey, three bay example at Henfryn, but these are not common. More substantial, earlier, houses firmly in the Georgian Period and style, such as the listed examples at Tanyralltddu, Shadog and Penyrallt and the unlisted Rhydybennau, are also relatively rare. Penyrallt is a gentry house, with a home farm including several listed outbuildings, but is nevertheless relatively modest, with two storeys and three bays. Old agricultural outbuildings are of 19th century date, of bare stone, apart from a few later, brick examples, and in most instances of one or two ranges, set informally around the farmyard. There are examples of buildings in a more formal setting around a courtyard, perhaps indicating estate farms. Penyrallt with its separate home farm is of a higher social level than the other farms. Most functions are catered for in the farm outbuildings indicating a mixed arable/pasture economy in the 19th century. Working farms have modern steel and concrete outbuildings, but these are not on a large scale. Some mid 20th century corrugated iron round-headed barns survive on some farms. The hamlet of Llangeler, focused on the medieval church, is the only notable grouping of agricultural buildings, with 19th century farmhouses and buildings and several 19th century single storey worker cottages. Pentre-cwrt, the only other settlement cluster, is an old industrial settlement founded on the woollen industry. Several late 19th century stone built substantial mill buildings survive close to the village, at Llwynderw, Alltcafan and Henfryn. The village consists of a loose cluster of late 19th century two storey terraced, semi-detached and detached worker houses and single storey cottages with late 20th century houses and bungalows spreading along the approach roads. Dispersed late 19th century two storey worker houses, often in short terraces, can be found at several locations close to Pentre-cwrt and along the lower valley slopes close to the Teifi, such as Bwlchmelyn and Hannerfordd.

There are over 45 recorded archaeological sites in this historic landscape character area. Most are of 19th century and later buildings, but other sites such as the Iron Age hillfort at Henfryn, the grange features and the multiple church complex at Llangeler provide time-depth to the landscape. None of these earlier archaeological sites, however, now strongly characterise the area.

Llangeler is not an easy historic landscape character area to define. To the west valley side woodland and industrial settlements provide good contrast and a hard boundary, as does the floodplain of the Teifi to the north, but elsewhere this area shares many of the characteristics of its neighbours and therefore the boundaries are a broad zone of change rather than hard-edged.

Sources: Cal. Patent Rolls, Elizabeth Vol. 2, 1560-1563, London 1948; Craster, O E, 1957, Cilgerran Castle, London; Jack, R I, 1981, ‘Fulling Mills in Wales and the March before 1547’, Archaeologia Cambrensis 130, 70-125; Jones, A, 1937, ‘The Estates of the Welsh Abbeys at the Dissolution’, Archaeologia Cambrensis 92, 269-286; Jones, D E, 1899, Hanes Plwyfi Llangeler a Phenboyr, Llandysul; Jones, E G, 1939, Exchequer Proceedings (Equity) concerning Wales, Cardiff; Lewis, S, 1833, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales 1 & 2, London; Llangeler parish tithe map 1839; Lloyd, J E, 1935, A History of Carmarthenshire, Volume I, Cardiff; Ludlow, N, 2002 ‘The Cadw Early Medieval Ecclesiastical Sites Project, Stage 1: Carmarthenshire’, unpublished report by Dyfed Archaeological Trust; Ludlow, N D, forthcoming, ‘Whitland Abbey’, Archaeologia Cambrensis; National Library of Wales Vol 17 map book 1796; Rees, W, 1932, ‘Map of South Wales and the Border in the XIVth century’; Rees, W, 1951, An Historical Atlas of Wales, London; Regional Historic Environment Record housed with Dyfed Archaeological Trust; Richard, A J, 1935, ‘Castles, Boroughs and Religious Houses’, in J E Lloyd, A History of Carmarthenshire Volume I, 269-371, Cardiff; Williams, D H, 1990, Atlas of Cistercian Lands in Wales, Cardiff



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


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