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Clywedog Valley
Historic Landscape
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Historic Landscape Characterisation

The Clywedog Valley: Fairdre
Trefeglwys community, Powys
(HLCA 1193)


Upland plateau and wooded hill edge and stream valleys with dispersed farms of medieval origin associated with irregular field patterns together with areas of more regular field pattern representing 19th-century enclosure of former common land.

Historic background

Part of the area formed a maerdref or bonded settlement. The settlement was attached to the principal court of the commote of Arwystli Uwchcoed based at Talgarth, about 4 kilometres to the east, in the valley of the river Trannon near Trefeglwys, where the lord’s main arable lands lay. In the 17th century parts of the area are described as the ‘village’ of Y Faerdref and parts as Tir Bwrdd, denoting lands belonging to the lord’s demesne. The settlement, perhaps represented by a cluster of farms, is first recorded in the 1290s, one of the few upland maerdrefi in Wales, and has been considered to provide a rare demonstration of the integration of upland and lowland holdings in a single bonded structure during the medieval period. Subsequently, the area fell within the manorial township of Esgeiriaeth in the 19th-century Montgomeryshire tithe parish of Trefeglwys.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Upland plateau and hill edge generally between a height of 300-445 metres above sea level dissected by steep-sided stream valleys draining northwards to the river Trannon, including the Nant Cwmcarreg-ddu. The western part of the area is covered with well-drained fine loamy or fine silty soils overlying rock, which historically has been best suited to stock rearing and woodland. The eastern part of the area is predominantly covered with slowly permeable seasonally waterlogged fine loamy soils derived from shale and mudstone drift deposits which has historically been best suited to stock rearing and some dairying on permanent or short-term grassland and some cereal cultivation. Extensive sinuous tracts of ancient semi-natural broadleaved woodland survive along the steep-sided stream valleys on the northern side of the area.

The two adjacent farms, Fairdre Fawr and Fairdre Fach, contain the placename element maerdre(f) indicating the presence of a medieval ‘hamlet’ attached to a chief’s court (together with the elements fawr ‘great’ and fach ‘small’), confirming the association with medieval settlement patterns noted above. The name Sofl-ceirch attached to a small farmstead towards the eastern side of the area is derived from the elements sofl (‘stubble’) and ceirch (‘oats’) suggests a traditional association with cereal cultivation. The area today is predominantly pastoral but small areas of cereal cultivation associated with the principal farms are indicated in the mid 19th-century tithe survey.

Early prehistoric activity in the area is suggested by the chance discovery of a probably Bronze Age axe hammer found near Fairdre Fawr.

Fieldscapes on the lower-lying ground to the north and east are dominated by large and small irregular fields probably representing a process of gradual clearance and enclosure of former woodland from perhaps prehistoric, Roman and medieval times, with larger straight-sided fields on the higher ground to the south and west probably representing the enclosure of former open grazing land. An area of straight-sided fields towards the western side of the area was the subject of parliamentary enclosure during the earlier 19th century.

Modern settlement is represented by dispersed farms, including some of probable medieval origin, Fairdre Fawr and Fairdre Fach, and Borfa-newydd which on placename evidence possibly originated as an encroachment on the edge of the former upland common on Bryn y Fan, enclosed as a result of the Arwystli enclosure act in the early 19th 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; Evans 1949-50; Jones 1964; Jones 1983; Morgan 2001; Richards 1969; Soil Survey of England and Wales; Sothern and Drewett 1991

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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