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Vale of Llangollen
Historic Landscape
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Historic Landscape Characterisation

The Vale of Llangollen: Gafaeliau
Llantysilio and Llangollen Communities, Denbighshire
(HLCA 1141)

CPAT PHOTO 1766-184

Isolated tract of the Dee valley west of Llangollen, with lowland and upland margin farms and fieldscapes of medieval and later origin; Victorian country houses, parkland and gardens, estate farms and cottages; small nucleated settlements partly associated with former slate mining.

Historic background

Early, prehistoric settlement is suggested by the discovery of a small late Bronze Age hoard of socketed bronze axes and a leaf-shaped spearhead found in Llantysilio parish though there is little clear evidence of settlement and land use before the medieval period. By the 7th or 8th century the area fell within the Welsh kingdom of Powys, and from the late 12th century within the subdivided northern portion of the kingdom, known as Powys Fadog. Llantysilio Church had been founded by at least the 12th century probably serving a dispersed rural community in the area. Following the Edwardian conquest of Wales in the late 13th century the area to the south of the Dee fell within two newly-created marcher lordships — that of Chirkland to the south of the Dee and that of Bromfield and Yale to the north of the river. Being isolated from the remainder of the lordships it appears that a number of small freehold farms had come into existence by the early 14th century and probably much earlier, whose economy is known to have included the rearing of lambs, pigs, oats and nut-gathering. The 17th and 18th centuries saw the emergence of estate farming, principally that of the Llantysilio estate which began to be dispersed following the Second World War.

Key historic landscape characteristics

The area forms a distinctive tract of the Dee valley to the west of Llangollen which because of a distinctive loop in the river is isolated from the major east-west lines of communication. The valley bottom is generally between 130–150 metres above sea level, but the area has also been drawn to include a number of hill farms on the southern margins of Llantysilio Mountain and the small upland area in the loop of the river which rise to a height of over 300 metres.

Predominant modern land use is pasture with 20th-century conifer plantations and some ancient remnant broadleaved woodland on steeper ground and around the upland margins and several small discrete areas of unenclosed upland. Fieldscapes are dominated by small irregular fields with some large irregular fields and a small area of possible reorganised medieval strip fields to the south of Llandynan. Field boundaries on lower-lying ground predominantly multi-species hedges, some now outgrown, with post-and-wire fences around the upland margins.

Several contrasting settlement patterns are evident within the area. Around the margins of the upland on either side of the valley is a landscape of dispersed farms probably of medieval and late medieval origin. Much of the lower-lying ground in the Dee valley and the relict meander of the Dee to the eastern side of the character area is occupied by the estate farm and farmland of Llantysilio Farm and associated farm workers’ cottages and the smaller Plas Berwyn estate, Rhysgog, with its late Georgian house of 1836 and associated coach-house and stables. The area includes several small hamlets. The origin of Llandynan is obscure, but was in existence by the 14th century and judging by place-name evidence may have originated as a church settlement. Both Llandynan and Rhewl appear to have benefited from lying on an 18th and earlier 19th-century drovers’ road across Llantysilio Mountain via Cymmo, with facilities said to have been provided at the Sun Inn at Rhewl and Ty-isaf farm, Llandynan. The settlements, each with a nonconformist chapel, also provided accommodation for quarrymen working at the Berwyn slate quarries in the later 19th and earlier 20th centuries about half a kilometre to the north. Llidiart Annie is one of the few rural local authority housing schemes in the area, built in about the mid 20th century in a cottage style next to the school built in 1858 for the education of workers’ children in Llantysilio parish.

The southern part of the area along the Dee is characterised by a picturesque landscape encompassing Llantysilio Hall, Llantysilio Church, Bryntysilio, and the Horseshoe Falls. Llantysilio Hall is a substantial stone-built country house of the 1870s in Victorian Jacobean style; stables, yard and coach house with an early 18th-century walled garden and avenue of 18th and later 19th century and two-storey lodge. The present house replaced an early Georgian brick-built hall which in turn had probably replaced a much earlier farmhouse.

The substantial stuccoed Italianate Bryntysilio house and its gardens were established in the 1860s and 70s overlooking the Horseshoe Falls, built by Thomas Telford across the Dee to supply water to the canal at Llangollen in the early years of the 19th century.


Cadw 1995; CPAT Historic Environment Record; Cadw Listed Building Lists; Coulter 1986; Davies 1929; Ellis 1924; Hubbard 1986; Lloyd-Williams and Underwood; Quartermaine et al. 2003; Radford and Hemp 1959; Sivewright 1986; Silvester 1995; Silvester 1999; Wheeler 1923; Wheeler 1925; Sherrat 2000; Thomas 1908-13.

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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