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Bro Trefldwyn Historic Landscape
Character area map

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Bro Trefaldwyn: Hyssington
Churchstoke, Powys and More, Shropshire
(HLCA 1073)


Undulating, lower hill land, early medieval and medieval nucleated settlement with church and earthen castle, in a landscape of scattered later medieval farms.

Historic background

The earliest evidence of human activity in the area is represented by the important middle Bronze Age axe factory site which produced a distinctive form of axe-hammers from the picrite which outcrops on the hillside to the north of Cwm-mawr. Later prehistoric settlement is represented by a cropmark enclosure about 70m across to the south-west of Bagbury.

Towards the end of the 12th century a small community of Augustinian canons was founded at Snead on the upper reaches of the Camlad, the community being granted the right to assart extensively in the woods and moors around Snead, indicating that at this date extensive areas of natural woodland still survived in the area. In the 1220s the wood of Sneth is described as extending from the high road of Snead to the road between Baggebiri (Bagbury) and Husington (Hyssington). By 1194 the community had moved to Chirbury whose extensive parish at that date probably included a dependent chapel amongst others at Hyssington and Snead, the priory at Chirbury appropriating the chapel at Hyssington in 1316. Woodland clearance was evidently still actively under way in the 13th century, when timbers were prepared in the forest of Snead for Montgomery Castle. The Domesday settlement of Stantune has sometimes been identified with Hyssington, but there is no certain evidence. The place-name Hyssington with its ingtun ending, first recorded in the early 13th century in the form Husinton, suggests that it originated as an English settlement. Snead also has an Old English origin, meaning 'isolated wood' or 'clearing'. The motte and bailey castle at Castle Hill, Hyssington was probably founded some time during the 12th to early 13th century, there being some uncertainty whether the castle at Sned recorded in the 1230s was this castle or alternatively Simon's Castle, near Churchstoke. Bagbury, on the eastern edge of the character area, is another early settlement, first recorded as Baggebury in 1291, the 'bury' or burh probably referring to the hillfort known as the Roveries, slightly to the east. The township and settlement at Hurdley, just below Todleth Hill on the western side of the area is mentioned in documents of the 1330s, and therefore seems to represent the expansion of farms onto the margins of the upland during the middle ages, the name probably having the meaning 'shepherd's clearing'.

By the 19th century the eastern part of the area fell within the township of Hurdley in the parish of Churchstoke, the eastern part in the parish of Hyssington, and the south-east corner in the parish of Snead, the latter two created in about the mid 16th century following the closure of the priory at Chirbury.

Key historic landscape characteristics

The topography of the character area is composed of undulating land on the southern slopes of Corndon Hill, predominantly facing south, between a height of between 150-370m above Ordnance Datum. The underlying solid geology is composed of a number of discrete outcrops of an igneous rock known as picrite in the area of Cwm-mawr, outcropping in a number of places, which have intruded into the Ordovician shales which cover most of the remainder of the character area apart from a band of volcanic rock across the eastern side of the area to the east of Hyssington. Soils overlying the Ordovician shales are mostly slowly draining and seasonally waterlogged stagnogleys, and the soils overlying the igneous rock in the north-west of the character area and along the eastern side are better drained, brown podzolic soils. Small and scattered areas of remnant ancient semi-natural deciduous woodland survive on steeper slopes on the eastern side of Todleth Hill, north of Llanerch, in the area of Upper Snead, with an area of ancient replanted woodland at The Llan.

The settlement pattern appears to indicate late medieval and early post-medieval expansion away from a more ancient nucleated church and castle settlement at Hyssington. The former medieval chapel dedicated to St Etheldreda was rebuilt in 1875, set in a sub-rectangular churchyard with yew trees and drystone wall lies in the shadow of the motte and bailey castle on Castle Hill, representing an early focus of settlement to which Churchyard Farm or Inn (Pinfold) and a cockpit had become attached. The present-day focus of the settlement at Hyssington, some way to the south of the church and castle, seems to represent a development away from the earlier focus, perhaps closer to the road from Churchstoke to Shrewsbury, with 18th/19th-century stone houses and cottages, stone Primitive Methodist chapel of 1889, school of 1872, village hall, former smithy and even older smithy at Efail Hen, with some modern houses on the outskirts. In the countryside around are scattered farms, between 500-1000m apart. The earliest surviving buildings in the area are timber-framed, including the 15th to 16th-century cruck-framed longhouse encased in random stone in perhaps the 18th century. Subsequent to this is the elaborate early 17th-century timber-framed house at Hurdley Hall, together with simpler early to mid 17th-century timber-framed buildings at Hyssington Farm, Cefn Farmhouse, Bank Farm, Broadway Cottages, Cwm-mawr, Little Hurdley and Old Llannerch, and partly with roughcast rendering in the case of Pultheley farmhouse. Late 17th and 18th-century stone farmhouses and farm buildings appear to have been invariably stone-built, as in the case of the rebuilding at Cwm-mawr, at Brithdir, where the house is dated to 1695, and at Woodgate Farm and Yew Tree Farm, rendered at The Briars. Traditional weather-boarded outbuildings at Woodgate Farm, with 20th-century steel-framed dutch barns and outbuildings at a number of farms including Woodgate Farm, Brookhouse. Some farms now abandoned, as in the case of the small 18th-century stone farmhouse and dilapidated stone barn at Cabbulch (Cubbulch). 19th-century and later building was invariably in brick, as in the case of the Llanerch, a large mid 19th-century house with stone quoins.

The present-day field pattern has remained largely unchanged since at least the early 19th century. On the lower-lying ground are small irregular fields with multi-species hedges, some of which are laid though many arre overgrown, and with taller trees along water courses. Areas of medieval arable open-field cultivation are suggested by the incidence of maes field names in the mid 19th-century tithe apportionment, indicating an area of medieval open-field arable either side of the stream just to the west of church and castle at Hyssington and at Maesissa Green to the south of the village. Lynchets appear on steeper slopes, and there are areas of surviving ridge and furrow suggesting medieval open arable in a number of places in the area, including fields to the south of Hyssington castle, to the east of Cabbulch, to the west and north of Bagbury, and to the north of Upper Snead. Most of the area had been enclosed by the mid 19th century, with the exception of small areas of common land in the hamlet of Hyssington and just to the east of Llan wood. Also shown unenclosed at that time was a narrow lane leading northwards from Woodgate Farm giving access to the upland grazing on Corndon Hill, also known as Corndon Forest, from the lower-lying farms in the character area, which were subject to enclosure awards in 1857. Fields on some of the higher ground to the north of the area probably represent post-medieval enclosure and often have hawthorn hedges, now often thinning or overgrown. On higher ground some of the field boundaries are formed of drystone walls.

Some of the roads, green lanes and trackways in the area are clearly of considerable antiquity, running in hollow-ways and green lanes between farms. As noted above the road between Bagbury and Hyssington is recorded in documents of the early 13th century. The narrow, twisting lane between Brithdir and Woodgate Farm with more widely spaced roadside hedges suggests the formalisation of an earlier and much broader track, probably having been used for herding animals from lowland farms up onto the higher mountain pastures of Corndon Hill. A number of improvements were made to the roads in the 19th century including the 'New Road' cutting across past Llanerch, replacing the more ancient lane to the north, to join the Minsterley road (A488) turnpiked in 1822, with the former toll house at Toll House Farm, built of random stonework with brick quoins.

There are traces of shallow quarries on the picrite outcrops to the north of Cubbulch which are possibly of Bronze Age date. Scattered small roadside stone quarries in the area south of Hyssington are shown on Ordnance Survey maps of the end of the 19th century. Some of these are marked as 'Old Quarry' and had evidently ceased production, though a number were possibly still producing small quantities of roadstone and building stone at that date.

Published sources

Brown, Colvin & Taylor 1963
Charles 1938
Chibnall 1973
Clough & Cummins 1979; 1988
Coope 1988
Earp & Haines 1971
Eyton 1854-60
Haslam 1979
Hogg & King 1967
Mountford 1928
Roe 1979
Shotton, Chitty & Seaby 1951
Silvester 1992
Soil Survey 1983
Sothern & Drewett 1991
Thomas 1916
Thorn & Thorn 1986
Toghill 1990
Willans 1908

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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