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Caersws Basin
Historic Landscape
Character area map
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Historic Landscape Characterisation

The Caersws Basin: Maesmawr
Caersws, Llandinam, Aberhafesp and Mochdre communities, Powys
(HLCA 1183)


Fieldscapes predominantly of large irregular fields along the floodplain of the river Severn and its margins, some of which appears to represent enclosure of meadow land associated with a group of high status estate centres which came into being in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Historic background

The area formed parts of the manorial townships of Esgob and Castle, Surnant, Wig, and Caersws in the tithe parish of Llanwnog, the townships of Carnedd, Gwernerin and Llandinam in the parish of Llandinam and the township of Penstrowed in the parish of Penstrowed.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Lowlying and relatively flat valley bottom and floodplain of the river Severn between Llandinam and Penstrowed between a height of 120-130 metres and including the lower reaches of the river Cerist, Garno and Manthrig Brook and their confluence with the Severn. The solid geology throughout the character area is masked by fluvioglacial drift deposits including a number of glacial drumlins and Boulder Clay deposits on the rising ground to the east and north-east of Caersws, in the area of Llwyn-y-brain. The main valley floor is composed of a series of river terraces, palaeochannels and alluvial fans overlain in the river floodplain by silty alluvial sediments deposited by river action with some gravel bars resulting from reworking of earlier gravels. Parts of the main river channel are liable to frequent flooding and there are active river meanders and cut-offs. Some modification of the river channel downstream from Llandinam was carried out in conjunction with the construction of the railways between the 1860s and 1890s. In addition, over a 1-kilometre length of the river was straightened near Llandinam Hall probably between 1840 and 1886, but has since reverted to an irregular pattern of meanders. The soils within the floodplain are deep and silty and economically best suited to dairying and stock rearing on permanent and short-term grassland, and some cereal production where the risk of flooding is low. To the north-west of Caersws, is an area of impeded drainage along the lower Manthrig Brook and localized prehistoric lowland peat deposit, up to 2 metres deep and several hundred metres across, spans the north-western boundary of the character area, close to the confluence of the Garno and Severn.

Bordering the river is a characteristic pattern of large irregular fields, largely influenced by present and former meandering river channels, which probably mostly developed by a process of gradual enclosure during the later medieval and early post-medieval periods. The fieldscapes on the rising land to either side of the floodplain are dominated by both large and small irregular fields which again probably represent a gradual process of clearance and enclosure by free hold farms from medieval or earlier times. Distinctive patterns of more regular and straight-sided fields in the area of Maesmawr Farm and Maesmawr Hall, between Llwyn-y-brain and Gwynfynydd and to the east of Carnedd appear to represent landscape reorganisation associated with the development of a number of estates in perhaps late medieval to early post-medieval periods. A number of small lowland commons in the vicinity of Caersws were the subject of parliamentary enclosures in the early 19th century, namely Gwern Wyon along the Manthrig Brook to the north of the village, Upper Green, whose name is preserved as The Green, which lay on the floodplain of the Garno to the west of the village, and Lower Green which lay on the floodplain of the Severn to the south and east, each of which had been encroached upon by cottages by that time. Clusters of straight-sided fields resulted from landscape reorganisation associated with the construction of the railways between the 1860s and 1890s. Flood defences along the Garno and Severn appear to have been built at Caersws in the later 19th century, partly in conjunction with the construction of the railways, and during the 20th century.

Most of the placenames relate to relatively recent settlement and communications features though an indication of traditional land use may be indicated by the element maes in the name Maesmawr, indicating perhaps a large open field, dol in Dolhafren indicating meadow land, and perhaps light woodland by the element llwyn (‘grove’) in Llwyn-y-brain.

Prehistoric settlement and land use in the area, above the floodplain of the Severn is suggested by a cluster of penannular ring-ditches which have been identified by aerial photography near Moat Lane, north of Porth Farm and a single possible example to the south of Red House Farm which may either represent house sites or former burial mounds. Iron Age settlement and land use is indicated by a possibly unfinished ditched enclosure, enclosing an area of up to about 4 hectares, which has been identified just to the east of the Manthrig Brook, to the north-east of Caersws village.

The Roman conquest period, between about AD 50-78 is represented by an earlier Roman fort on a bluff overlooking the river Severn at Llwyn-y-brain, just to the east of Caersws that has been identified by aerial photography, superseded by the more permanent fort just to the north of the modern village of Caersws.

A cluster of small, single or double-ditched rectangular and sub-rectangular enclosures possibly representing Roman farmsteads have been identified by aerial photography on the lower lying ground above the floodplain encircling Caersws, suggesting that during the Roman period the area became fairly intensively farmed. An example of one of these possible Roman farmsteads has been identified in the area between Henfryn and Gwynfynydd to the north of Caersws and near Dolhafren south of the river. Following the Roman period the administrative focus of the area appears to have shifted to the nucleated church settlements at Llandinam to the south of the Severn and Llanwnog to the north and although there is little evidence of the nature of settlement and land use throughout the early medieval and medieval periods it appears that much of the character area, particularly along the floodplain of the river Severn, may have survived as unenclosed grazing land throughout this period.

The countryside around Caersws seems to have undergone a spurt of development during the 16th and 17th centuries with the erection of a number of widely dispersed, high status halls and farmhouses sited on the edge of the floodplain, as at Maesmawr Hall, Llandinam Hall, Llwyn-y-brain and Carnedd. Some of these properties became the focus of landed estates and may have been associated with the enclosure of former common meadows along the Severn and its tributaries. Some areas of lowland common in and around the village of Caersws and the lower Manthrig Brook survived, however, until the early 19th century when they were the subject of the Arwystli enclosure act.

Changes to the landscape came with the improvements to the road network were undertaken during the later 18th and earlier 19th centuries and the building of the railways in the later 19th century. The earlier turnpike west of Newtown took the route north of the river, via Aberhafesp, though most traffic subsequently adopted the new route south of the river via the straight stretch known as the Long Length and the stone bridge crossing the Severn at Caersws, built to replace an earlier timber bridge in the early 1820s. The course of the railway lines from Llanidloes to Newtown and from Newtown to Machynlleth and from Caersws to the Van mines north of Llanidloes were built across parts of the character area in the 1860s and 1870s.

Artificial changes to the channel of the Severn downstream of Llandinam were made in 1859 with the construction of the railway to Llanidloes. The river channel was also straightened by means of a 1 kilometre channel near Llandinam Hall probably between 1840 and 1886, though the river has since reverted to a meandering course. Flood defences were built to the south and west of Caersws possibly in association with the construction of the railways in the late 19th century.

The present-day settlement pattern is dominated by a pattern of widely dispersed farms including those at Maes-mawr, Maes-Mawr Farm, Dolhafren, Red House and Ty-mawr which may have developed as estate farms in the 19th century, to which additional buildings were added during the 20th century. Of the 16th and 17th-century halls and farmhouses within the area, Llandinam Hall, Llwyn-y-brain and Carnedd likewise were developed as working farms in the 19th and 20th centuries whilst Maesmawr Hall was converted into a hotel in the 20th century.


Historic Environment Record; Cadw Listed Building descriptions; modern Ordnance Survey 1:10,000, 1:25,000 mapping and 1st edn Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 mapping; Anthony 1995; Barker 1991; Barker 1993; Barker 1997; Barton 1997; Baughan 1980; Collens 1988; Colt Hoare 1806; Conway Davies 1943-44, 1945-46; Cozens 1953; Cozens et al. 2004; Davies 1829; Davies 1977; Davies and Jones 2006; Evans 1949-50; Foster-Smith 1978; Gater, Gaffney and Gater 1990; Gater and Ovenden 1991; Gibson 1998; Grant 2003; Hooke, Horton, Moore and Taylor 1994; Howell 1875; Jones 1961; Jones 1983; Jones 1985; Jones 1987; Jones 1993; Lea 1975; Lewin 1987; Mass, Brewer and Macklin 2001; Morris 1979; Owen 1990; Owen 1993; Peate 1940; Pennant 1783; Pritchard 1962; Pryce 1886b; Putnam 1961-62; Soil Survey of England and Wales; Spurgeon 1966; Thomas 1955-56; Toller 1997

For further information please contact the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust at this address, or link to the Countryside Council for Wales' web site at

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