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Vale of Llangollen
Historic Landscape
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Historic Landscape Characterisation

The Vale of Llangollen: Maesyrychen
Llantysilio Community, Denbighshire
(HLCA 1145)

CPAT PHOTO 1766-91

Open moorland with extensive remains of predominantly 19th-century slate quarries, waste heaps, tramways and inclines.

Historic background

Anciently, the area formed part of the early medieval Powys and the subsequent early medieval kingdom of Powys Fadog. Following the Edwardian conquest of the later 13th century it formed part of the marcher lordship of Bromfield and Yale. At the Act of Union in 1536 it formed part of the newly created county of Denbighshire.

Slate quarrying appears to have begun at a number of the quarries on land belonging to the Wynnstay Estate within the character area in the 1690s, one of the earliest written record being by the antiquary Edward Lhwyd who recorded hearing blasting from the Moel y Faen Quarry in 1696. Early quarrying also appears to have been carried out in the immediately adjacent area, lower down the hill on the hillslopes above Pentredwr (in the Pant-y-groes character area). Products from the various quarries included roofing slates and finely finished slabs for a variety of purposes including work-surfaces, hearths, gravestones and billiard tables. These goods were formerly finished on site and transported first by trackway, the by means of the Horseshoe Pass (Bwlch Oernant) and from 1852 by a tramway system linking a number of the quarries. The tramway carried material to the former slate mill and canal wharfs and subsequent railway sidings at Pentrefelin, a total distance of about 7.5 kilometres to the south, by means of horse-drawn wagons and a series of inclines. Large-scale production took place between the mid 19th century and the 1940s. The workforce was principally housed in the farms and villages below the hill-top, at Pentredwr in the Eglwyseg valley to the east, in the area of Rhewl and Llandynan in the Dee valley to the south-west, and in the Alun valley to the north where a complex of quarrymen’s cottages were built at Tai-newyddion probably early in the second half of the 19th century.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Predominantly unenclosed heather moorland between a height of about 200–540 metres above sea level, with an underlying solid geology of Silurian shales. The present-day land use is predominantly as unimproved upland pasture and for recreation, though there is some small-scale slate extraction still taking place at the Berwyn quarry.

Former slate quarrying at the Craig y Glan, Moel-y-faen, Oernant, and Clogau (Berwyn) slate quarries has left a landscape visually dominated by extensive heaps of quarry waste and deep and extensive excavations, occasionally filled with water and adits. Ancilliary structures include traces of engine houses and other mill buildings, tramways sometimes still accompanied by slate sleepers, and inclines at the Clogau quarry and just above Maesyrychen. The hill is criss-crossed by numerous tracks and footpaths used by quarrymen on their daily journeys between the quarries.

The eastern boundary of the character area is partly defined by the Horseshoe Pass road, a turnpike road (since improved) built in 1811 to replace the former turnpike road across the hills, which ran along the lower Eglwyseg valley through Pentredwr. The modern road is overlooked by a Second World War concrete pill-box of about 1940.

Intense recreational pressures including motor bike scrambling within the area, particularly from the 1980s onwards, has given rise to problems of erosion affecting vegetation, soils and mining remains.


CPAT Historic Environment Record; Crane 2000; Denbighshire Countryside Service 2003b; Edwards 1985; Lhwyd 1909–11; Llandegla 2003; Martin 1999; Richards 1991; Richards 1995; Silvester and Brassil 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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