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Clywedog Valley
Historic Landscape
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Historic Landscape Characterisation

The Clywedog Valley: Staylittle
Trefeglwys community, Powys
(HLCA 1188)


Upland basin at the head of the river Clywedog with cluster of earlier prehistoric burial monuments; the area formed part of a medieval monastic grange and provides some evidence of seasonal upland settlement of medieval to early post-medieval date together with loose cluster of upland farms, nonconformist chapels, church and early Quaker cemetery that emerged during the later 18th and 19th century on the former drovers’ road and turnpike road between Llanidloes and Machynlleth; new forestry village of 1949/50 associated with the planting of Hafren Forest.

Historic background

The northern part of the area appears to have fallen within the grazing lands of Bothreiswall and Pannaubacho granted to the Cistercian abbey of Strata Marcella near Welshpool by Gwenwynwyn, prince of southern Powys, in 1187. The southern part of the area appears to have formed part of the pasture lands between the Clywedog and Afon Lwyd granted by Cadwaladr ap Hywel, son of the ruler of Arwystli to Strata Marcella in about 1195-96. A confirmation of the latter grant in 1207 makes a specific reference to a field beyond the Afon Lwyd called Llanerch Cwmllwyd which seems likely to equate to the enclosed fields at Dolydd which are the only recorded fields south of the Lwyd. Both lands were probably held by the abbey up until its dissolution in the mid 16th century when it formed part of the manor of Talerddig. The area fell within the manorial townships of Esgeiriaeth and Glyntrefnant in the 19th-century Montgomeryshire tithe parish of Trefeglwys and in the manorial township of Penegoes Uwch-y-coed in the Montgomeryshire tithe parish of Penegoes.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Shallow upland basin and surrounding hill edge slopes, at a height of between about 300-450 metres above sea level at the headwaters of the Clywedog and its tributaries, the Nant yr Hafod, Nantcriafol and Afon Bachog. Well-drained fine loamy or silty soils over rock on hill slopes, with slowly permeable upland soils, with some seasonal waterlogging, with peaty surface horizons on mudstone and shale drift deposits on the lower-lying ground. Historically the land has been best suited to stock rearing on moorland and some permanent pasture of moderate grazing value and some conifer woodland. The conifer woodland at Llwyn-y-gog was planted in the 1940s and 1950s partly as a shelter belt for the adjacent housing estate.

Placenames provide some evidence of historic patterns of land use and settlement in the area. A significant number of these names within the historic landscape area illustrate an historical association with grazing and stock rearing. The farm Gwartew (formerly Gwair-tew) derives from the elements gwair (‘hay’) + tew (‘thick’). Dolbachog, Dolydd Llwydion and Dol-gwyddel-uchaf contain the element dol /dolydd (‘meadow/meadows’). Grazing is further implied by Pen-y-ffridd which contains the element ffridd (‘enclosed moorland’) and Rhos-goch which includes the element rhos (‘moorland’). The stream and farm name Nant-yr-hafod includes the element hafod suggesting that some habitations may have originated as seasonally-occupied upland settlements. The name Staylittle, first recorded as Stay-a-little, appears to date from the first decade of the 19th century and derives from the name of a former inn on the drovers’ road and later turnpike road between Llanidloes and Machynlleth.

A flint scraper found near Nant-yr-hafod and a cluster of 6-7 Bronze Age burial mounds around the head of the Clywedog and its tributaries near Llwyn-y-gog, over an area of 1.5 kilometres across, provide significant evidence of early land use and possible settlement in this area at the head of the Clywedog. These are possibly to be associated with the exploitation of upland pastures during the summer months, conforming with a seasonal pattern of land use suggested by evidence from later periods.

Early settlement and land use, possibly originating as upland seasonal settlements in the medieval to early post medieval periods, is represented by a cluster of relict house platforms and by an underlying pattern of existing or former small, dispersed farmsteads such as Hirnant, Dolbachog, Dolydd, Llwyn-y-gog, Pant-y-chwarel and Pant-y-rhedyn. The farmsteads are associated with small irregular field patterns which have the appearance of discrete encroachments onto formerly unenclosed upland grazing which may have originated as hafodydd or seasonally-occupied houses. The north-eastern corner of the area, represented by a patchwork of relatively small straight-sided fields between Rock Villa and Pant-y-chwarel, was subject of parliamentary enclosure in the early 19th century. Much of the intervening areas between the dispersed farms formed part of the manor of Talerddug that was excluded from parliamentary enclosure, but which appears to have been generally partitioned by large straight-sided fields since the 1880s.

The area sits astride important historical lines of communication across mid Wales including the possible course of the Roman road from Caersws to the fortlet at Penycrocbren which is thought to run across the northern side of the area, and possibly marked by the line of the hollow-way near Hirnant farm and the later drovers’ road and turnpike road between Machynlleth and Llanidloes. Before the construction of the Clywedog Reservoir in the 1960s the main road (B4518) south from Staylittle took the more circuitous route towards Dinas via Gwartew. A former water cornmill at Felin-newydd, operated by water sluiced by leat from the Clywedog, is recorded as being in operation in the later 19th century.

The dispersed settlement at Staylittle (Penffordd-Lâs) was in existence by the later 17th to early 18th century, probably due to its position on the edge of unenclosed common land roughly midway between Llanidloes, Machynlleth and Llanbrynmair. A number of small scattered quarries probably represent sources of building stone during the post-medieval period. In the early 18th-century the farm at Esgair-goch became an important focus of Quakerism in Montgomeryshire, with a Meeting House, to which a burial ground, the Quakers’ Garden, was attached. Though not itself a mining village, houses here and elsewhere in the area probably provided accommodation for miners during the 19th century working at the Dylife and Dyfngwm mines to the west and north-west. It also became an a significant rural centre of nonconformist worship for the local farming and mining communities, with both a Methodist chapel, formerly at Rock Villa, established in 1806, and rebuilt in 1875, and a Baptist Chapel first built in 1805 and enlarged in 1859. A new school was built which opened in the 1874. Rural depopulation resulting from the collapse of the mining industry and farm amalgamations during the 20th century led to the abandonment of farms and smaller cottages and chapels, some of which have been renovated as second homes.

The small estate at Llwyn-y-gog was created as a new forest village by the Forestry Commission between 1949-51 to house workers needed for the newly-planted Hafren Forest. Originally planned as a village of 80 houses, shop, school and village hall, only 20 worker’s houses and a temporary village hall and a forest manager’s house were built, which were eventually sold off by the Forestry Commission.


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; Barton 1997; Burnham 1995; Carr 1992; Davies 1973; Edlin 1952; Godwin and Toulson 1977; Hamer 1879; Jones 1983; Moore-Colyer 2002; RCAHM 1911; Richards 1969; Silvester 1992; Soil Survey of England and Wales; Taylor 1989; Thomas 1997; Thomas 1955-56; Thomas 1997; Williams 1990

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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