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East Fforest Fawr and Mynydd-y-Glôg
Historic Landscape

Historic Landscape Characterisation

East Fforest Fawr and Mynydd-y-Glôg


Standing buildings are present in just half of the historic landscape character areas, the valleys of the Mellte, Hepste and Cadlan, characteristic of the kind of farming communities that have survived around the fringes of the extensive moorland of Fforest Fawr. Hepste-fawr is the single designated Listed Building, though the general form and character of the surviving buildings in the absence of surviving documentary evidence represent a vital and coherent expression of the social and economic history of the areas of enclosed farmland which fall within the historic landscape from at least the later medieval period up to the present day.

The majority of the surviving buildings are farmhouses and farm outbuildings. Some surviving buildings are likely to be of 17th- and 18th-century origin, but a number of these as well as some of the farmhouses rebuilt in the 19th-century appear from their orientation across the slope and the arrangement of outbuildings in line, to be derived from medieval or early post-medieval longhouses which provided for human accommodation at the upper end and animal accommodation at the lower end. Buildings of this form in the Hepste valley, generally associated with early cattle husbandry, include Hepste-fawr, mentioned in Iorworth Peate’s The Welsh House (1940), and the farmhouse at Neuadd. The farmhouses of 17th- to 18th-century date in the Cadlan valley at Nant-maden, Coed Cae Ddu and formerly at Gelli-ffynhonnau-isaf, were aligned across the slope, suggesting the rebuilding of structures of medieval or early post-medieval origin.

In some instances there are suggestions that entirely new farmhouses were erected in the 18th and 19th centuries, replacing earlier structures. These later farmhouses, by contrast, followed the general custom of being built along the contour, such as the farmhouse at Llwyn-celyn whose plan and a large chimney suggests an origin in the 18th century. A good number of the farmhouses associated with farms of potentially medieval or early post-medieval origin appear to have been substantially rebuilt or replaced during the 19th century, however. The 19th-century farmhouse at Tirmawr lies along the contour but most probably replaced an earlier building of medieval origin represented by an abandoned house platform. The 19th-century farmhouse at Tir-dyweunydd is associated with a range of buildings arranged across the slope, suggesting that it may possibly include an earlier house. Likewise, the layout of farm-buildings at Beili-helyg, with 19th-century farmhouse, corn barn and cowhouse in line, also appears to represent the rebuilding of an earlier complex. Other farm complexes adopted a simple arrangement of outbuildings parallel with or at right-angles to the farmhouse. The later 19th-century farmhouses and outbuildings at Tai-hirion and Gelli-ffynhonnau-uchaf, both with details in yellow brick, are again probably both at farms of earlier origin.

Many of the surviving farm buildings are later 18th to 19th-century in date, illustrating the typically mixed farming economy of that period. A majority of farms in the area were tenanted at this period and it is therefore probable that many of these improvements, perhaps carried out hand in hand with the small-scale reorganisation of field boundaries, suggested above, were influenced by some of the estates with holdings in the area. Characteristic farm buildings include small corn barns with ventilation slits and central doors, stables, cowhouses and granaries, sometimes combined into a single structure, of which examples survive at a number of farms, including Hepste-fawr, Tirmawr and Neuadd in the Hepste valley and at Beili-helyg, Garw-dyle and Coed Cae Ddu in the Cadlan valley. More extensive building work is evident at Wern-las where the farm layout suggests the influence of the 19th-century model farm. Here and elsewhere in the area the improving influence of the Brecknockshire Agricultural Society, established in the mid 18th century, is perhaps evident. Walter Davies in his General View of the Agriculture and Domestic Economy of South Wales, published in 1814, notes the improvements in both farming practice and buildings inspired by the Brecknockshire Agricultural Society, founded in 1755: ‘Their improvements gradually extended to the remotest corners of the county; even in the hundreds of Dyfynog and Buallt, we recognise the superior buildings and farm-yards of the Brecon Society’. In particular he notes the characteristic form of corn barn in Brecknock with ‘double folding-doors on each side of the barn floor, for convenience, especially during precarious harvests, of driving in a load of grain under cover’.

Many of the former cottages and smallholdings in the area have not survived, a rare example of workers’ housing being the pair of later 19th-century roadside cottages called Gelli-neuadd, on the lane north of Penderyn, which probably housed either agricultural or quarry workers.

Apart from a number of farmhouse and cottage renovations, much less investment in building was made during the 20th century, except in the case of rare dutch barns and recent steel-framed buildings for the storage of hay and straw and for lambing and occasional temporary or movable structures in non-traditional materials.

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