CPAT Regional Historic Environment Record

PRN 15760 - Welshpool / Y Trallwng (multiple site)

NGR :- SJ2243207556 (SJ20NW)
Unitary authority :- Powys
Community :- Welshpool
Prefered site type :- Multiperiod - Settlement (Multiple - Intact )

1 Location

1.1 Welshpool functions as a nodal point on the edge of the Severn Valley with three main roads intersecting here including two trunk roads, the A483 and the A458.

1.2 Set on the western slopes above the Severn flood plain at the point where the Nant-y-caws Brook (also described as the Lledan Brook) converges on the river, Welshpool's historic core is enveloped by 19th and 20th-century housing on the west, south and north, and by a lower-lying industrial zone to the east.

2 History

2.1 Records of 1253-4 provide the earliest names for the town. Capella de Trallu'g means 'pool town' and the latinised form Pola also appeared. Leland is credited with the first reference to Welshpool around 1530. The Pool was a large sheet of water, now much reduced in size, in Powis Park.

2.2 Welshpool is said to have been the site of churches founded by St Cynfelyn and his brother Llywelyn in the 6th century. The location and nature of these churches and any accompanying settlement remains unknown.

2.3 Domen Gastell, a motte and bailey castle was thrown up closer to the flood plain, but at what date is uncertain. The earliest reference which seems to relate to this earthwork comes in 1196, but it is possible that it was constructed as early as 1111. It may have continued in use into the later 13th century, but at this time and possibly even earlier Powis Castle became the major stronghold in the neighbourhood. Thus, the reference to houses surrounding a castle at Welshpool being razed for defensive purposes unfortunately cannot be attributed to a specific fortification although it seems more likely that dwellings would have grown up around Domen Gastell than Powis Castle.

2.4 The borough of Welshpool may have been established by the Prince of Powys as early as the 1240s when the burgesses received a foundation charter. A market was recorded in 1252 and forty years later there were 106 taxpayers in the town, a total which had risen to 225 by 1322.

2.5 In 1253 a documentary record confirms two ecclesiastical buildings in the town (Ecclesia de Pola and Capella de Trallug).

2.6 The Glyndwr rebellion and the general decline apparent in many Welsh border towns in the 15th and 16th centuries, seem to have had a restricted effect on Welshpool, to judge from the picture of the town on an estate map of 1629. Leland termed it the best market in Powysland in the 1530s, replacing Montgomery as the regional centre because of its better location.

2.7 The growth of the flannel industry during the late 18th century added fresh impetus to the development of the town, though it has been argued that it failed to become a predominant urban focus in Wales because of competition from towns higher up the Severn Valley. The construction of the Montgomeryshire Canal at the same time added to its importance, and the railway arrived in 1862.

3 Buildings and Archaeology

3.1 The church of St Mary has a complicated architectural history. Haslam suggests it was refounded in c.1250 and that much of the tower dates from that century. The rest of the building appears to have been added to during nearly every subsequent century, and was restored twice in the Victorian era. Inside there is little that predates the 19th century.

3.2 A considerable number of the buildings in the centre of the town have been listed, invariably Grade II apart from St Mary's church which is the sole Grade I structure. There is nothing to be gained from cataloguing all of these, but it is worth drawing attention to the earliest buildings. Nos 5 and 6 Mount Street (PAR 30699 & 30700) are thought to be 15th-century timber-framed cottages, while The Mermaid (PAR 30684), no.1 Mount Street (PAR 30697) and no.38 Mount Street (PAR 30707) are attributed to the 16th century. It is no coincidence that all of these lie at the top of the town away from the commercial centre where the demands for refurbishment are always likely to have been greater. In this respect the recent uncovering from beneath its later veneer of a timber-framed first-floor hall-house lying back from Broad Street in Hopkin's Passage is instructive.

3.3 Powis Castle also has a Grade I listing.

4.1 A second-century Roman burial (PAR 119) in the area of the Smithfield was discovered in 1959, and stray Roman coins have also come to light within the town (e.g PAR 117 at the Town Hall).

4.2 The 'Old Church' (PAR 4438) lay at the junction of Mill Lane with Salop Road. Traditionally associated with Llywelyn's church, the building that was still standing as a ruin in the 18th century was erected in 1587, but badly damaged by fire in 1659. However, Capel Sainte Lleu'n which stood south of the present church and Salop Road was referred to in a will of 1545. The discovery of human remains in 1986 attests the presence of an adjacent graveyard.

4.3 Domen Gastell (PAR 120; SAM Montgomery 19) is a well-preserved motte, but the bailey has suffered from re-use as a bowling green.

4.4 St Mary's church (PAR 5504) is generally considered to have been founded with the borough in the 13th century. However, it lies on the opposite side of the Lledan Brook from the borough. Its position on a spur above a watercourse is typical of early medieval foundations and Soulsby has commented on the fact that an estate map of 1629 has the statement 'Welshe towne' printed adjacent to the church. The map also implies an oval churchyard - in contrast to the rectangular area today - but this could be no more than a stylistic device employed by the cartographer. Overall, a strong case can be made for this being an early church and by extension the earliest settlement at Welshpool should be in the Salop Road/Mill Lane area, previously favoured by the Romans.

4.5 The layout of the town is essentially linear with the main axis, Broad Street lying on the southern edge of the Lledan Valley. By 1629 both the town hall and the market house as well as the market cross were located in the centre of this thoroughfare. Several lanes run off Broad Street to north and south with a road intersection (now Berriew Street and Church Street) at its eastern end. Narrow burgage plots remain clearly defined on Broad Street and Berriew Street, and it is evident from the estate map of 1629 that at that time (and by implication in previous centuries) Broad Street was the main focus. A feature of this urban pattern is the numerous narrow alleys, many of them named, which ran off the main street.

4.6 The agricultural dimension to medieval and early post-medieval Welshpool is largely lost. Sub-divided fields once covered a substantial area of lower ground between the town and the Severn and are depicted as such on an estate map of 1663 but these have been almost completely erased by the modern industrial development. Depicted on the map was 'the Ould Field' near a later farm called Henfaes which is probably the earliest area of cultivation. Nevertheless, ridge and furrow cultivation has been recognised in various places, both in Powis Park and in the hills surrounding Welshpool and it may be that some of this is of medieval origin.

4.7 Powis Park contains other significant earthworks including an enclosure (PAR 5643), just above the Oldford Estate, which is probably medieval, though it bears a passing similarity to a Roman military site.

Bleaze, H map , 1629 , , Photocopy
Brown, R L , 1998 , The Church of St Mary of the Salutation, Welshpool , Sayce papers 4 .
CPAT visit form , 1992 , ,
Jones, M C , 1874 , "Welshpool: Materials for the history of the parish and borough ", The Montgomeryshire Collections 7 , 306-319 .
Jones, N W, Silvester, R J & Britnell, W J , 2003 , Montgomery Canal Conservation Management Strategy. Landscape Archaeology Assessment , CPAT Report 550 .
Lewis , 1730? , ,
Morgan, R , 1977 , "The foundation of the borough of Welshpool ", The Montgomeryshire Collections 65 , 7-24 .
Owen, R , 1937 , Town Planning in Welshpool , Sayce Papers 5 .
Rowley, T , 1981 , "Deserted Medieval Towns of the Welsh Border ", Popular Archaeology , .
Silvester, R J , 1992 , Montgomeryshire Historic Settlements , CPAT report 40 October 1992 .
Trant, I , 1986 , The Changing Face of Welshpool ,
Welsh Tourism Joint Marketing Group , 1986 , ,
Wesh Tourist Board , 1985 , ,

record created 31/12/1995 CM95 - copyright CPAT , last updated 28/01/2003
The above data are supplied by CPAT in partnership with its Local Authorities and the partners of END, CPAT SMR partnership, 2005 (and in part Crown, 2005 - as indicated)

CM - 15/04/2005 ( 17:19:44 ) - HTML file produced from CPAT's Regional HER
Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, Curatorial Section, 7a Church Street, Welshpool, Powys SY21 7DL.
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