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CANASTON AND MINWEAR WOODS

GRID REFERENCE: SN 058139
AREA IN HECTARES: 542

Historic Background
A large area of woodland at the head of the tidal section of the Eastern Cleddau lying within the parishes of Newton North and Minwear and extending into Narberth and Slebech parishes. The area has been thickly wooded over a long period of time with much of it falling with the boundaries of the medieval Narberth Forest, recorded since the early 12th century. It survives in part as Canaston Wood. The Manor of Canaston was a member of Narberth Lordship (and parish), but appears to have been a late creation, first mentioned in the 14th century. The Barlows of Slebech acquired it in c.1600, along with Toch Wood to the north. George Owen singled out Canaston and Minwear Woods for specific mention in his list of the greater woods of Pembrokeshire in c.1601. Pickle Wood was also mentioned in c.1603. Despite its wooded nature, the character area contains two high-status domestic sites, one of them, Castell Coch, manorial. This is a hall-house of the 14th century lying within a moated enclosure, was the centre of the Manor of Newhouse, another member of the Lordship of Narberth, possibly coterminous with the parish of Newton North. The manor appears to have been a late creation, as an assart from Narberth Forest, under the Mortimer lords of Narberth in the later 13th century. It was acquired by the Barlows of Slebech in the mid 16th century but may have been abandoned as early as 1670. Minwear parish is relatively large and is probably not coterminous with the medieval Manor of Minwear. Robert FitzLomer - presumably the Lord of the Manor - granted the parish church to the Knights Hospitaller at Slebech (located in the neighbouring area to the west) at some period prior to 1231. The Knights Hospitallers were later granted ‘all the wood of the manor’, including the site of the later Sisters’ House, a complex of domestic buildings representing a gentry house that was established in the 16th century, again under the Barlows. This is the second of the two high-status domestic sites in the area. The buildings are associated with a number of enclosures and trackways, and a spring, in total occupying 2.1 ha. The Barlows abandoned the site in the 18th century, leasing it out as a number of tenements, and it was given over to agricultural use. Along with Slebech, it was acquired by William Knox in the late 18th century but appears to have been abandoned by the mid 19th century. Communications have been important in the development of the area. Canaston Bridge is medieval in origin, carrying the main medieval east-west route (now the A40) over the Eastern Cleddau, and a ferry operated between Minwear and Slebech until the post-medieval period. The thick woodland also encouraged the early establishment of industries within the area. George Mynne, an English ironmaster, erected a charcoal-fuelled blast furnace at Canaston Wood in 1635. In the lease for the furnace, Mynne was granted the right to take timber from the woods. An iron forge was established at Blackpool, now Blackpool Mill, by 1760 when its lease confirmed the owner, Robert Morgan of Carmarthen, ‘the right to cut timber in Canaston Wood within four miles of the forge’. A possible charcoal-burning platform has been identified. Ore for the furnace was extracted locally. There may have been an iron mine at Minwear in the early 17th century. In 1793 William Knox paid for excavations at Slebech in the hope of finding silver, but he had mistaken old iron ore pits for silver mines, almost certainly associated with the early Canaston furnace. The industries had declined by the early 19th century. Estate maps of the late 18th century show the extent of woodland to be very similar to that of today. In 1794, Hassell recorded that most of the woodland was oak and that it was managed for charcoal production and bark for tanning, but that good charcoal timber was running out. Indeed, the estate maps show those areas of woodland that had been recently felled, thinned and coppiced. Although the area of woodland had changed little by the mid 19th century, during the 20th century conifers replaced large tracts of former deciduous wood.

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
This historic landscape area lies across the north and south valley sides and surrounding hills of the upper reaches of the Milford Haven waterway. The overriding component of this landscape is woodland. Deciduous woodland cloaks the lower slopes along the banks of the Milford Haven waterway, or Eastern Cleddau as it should be termed in these upper reaches, and parts of the northern valley side, but commercial 20th century coniferous plantations dominate this area. Open areas are few, and consist of a few fields, such as those on the valley floor close to Blackpool Bridge. Included in this area are the water pumping station at Canaston Bridge; Canaston Bridge itself which is Grade II listed; Blackpool Mill, a Grade II* listed four storey, five bay Georgian structure, now a popular tourist attraction; Blackpool Mill Bridge, a Grade II* listed single-arched stone built structure; Castell Coch, a medieval defended house, deserted and ruinous; and the Sisters’ House, an early modern farmstead with a massive stone barn, now all ruinous. As well as tourist facilities at Blackpool Mill there are woodland walks and picnic places. In addition to the archaeological sites of Castell Coch and the Sisters’ House there are three iron age hillforts, limekilns on the shore of the waterway, and the sites of an iron furnace and iron forge. The latter two sites are of great importance - Mynne’s furnace in Canaston Wood remains the only known blast furnace from this crucial period in the development of the Welsh iron working industry, and woodland in the 17th century and 18th century was managed specifically to produce charcoal for the furnace and forge.

This is very distinct historic landscape area, and contrasts sharply with the surrounding landscape of fields, farms and parkland.

Sources: Hassell 1794; Ludlow 1997c; Ludlow 1997d; Narberth Parish tithe map 1842; NLW SLEBECH MAPS 32-35, 40; Owen 1897; Page forthcoming; PRO D/RTP/SLE/80; Slebech, Minewere and Newton Parishes tithe map 1847; Walker 1989

 

 

 

 

 

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