Cymraeg / English
Historic Landscape Characterisation
The Middle Wye:
Clyro and Glasbury, Powys
Small medieval nucleated church and castle settlements on valley edge, and medieval and later scattered farmsteads on lower-lying hill land in landscape of small irregular fields, representing gradual encroachment on upland commons.
Early settlement in the area is indicated by scatters of flintwork of Mesolithic, Neolithic and early Bronze Age date, a Neolithic polished stone axe, and the remains of the Neolithic chambered tomb at Court Farm, just to the south-west of Clyro. Settlement in the Iron Age period is suggested by the earthwork enclosure on Bryn-yr-hydd Common. The character area fell along the southern edge of the Welsh medieval kingdom of Elfael, whose boundary at this point lay along the river Wye on the south and probably along the line of Cilcenni Dingle on the west. The area formed part of the medieval ecclesiastical parishes of Clyro and Llowes. The earliest evidence relating to St Meilig’s church, Llowes, is a decorated cross of the 11th-century, but both the church and the settlement around it possibly date to the early medieval pre-Conquest period. The early history of St Michael’s Church at Clyro is less clear. Parts of the church are possibly of early 15th-century date, though the church and associated settlement may have been first established in association with the earthwork and stone castle, known as La Royl, to the south-east of the village. The castle is first mentioned in 1396, but it may have had its origins in the period between the late 11th to 13th centuries. Castle Kinsey motte and bailey at Court Evan Gwynne is again likely to this period. Buildings at Court Farm, Clyro, include part of medieval stone buildings probably belonging to a monastic grange of Cwmhir Abbey, Radnorshire. At the Act of Union in 1536 the area fell within the hundred of Painscastle in Radnorshire. In the mid 19th century the area fell within the tithe parishes of Clyro and Llowes.
Key historic landscape characteristics
The area occupies low, south-facing undulating hills, overlooking the floodplain of the river Wye, between a height of between 80–244m above Ordnance Datum. The soils are predominantly well-drained fine reddish loams overlying sandstone bedrock (Milford Series). The present-day land-use is predominantly pasture, with areas of modern conifer plantation on steeper slopes, as at Cwm-Sirhwy Wood, Forest Wood and Pen-y-lan. There are some areas of ancient semi-natural broad-leaved woodland along some of the steep-sided stream valleys such as Clyro Brook, Garth Dingle, Fron Wood and Cilcenni Dingle. Small remnant areas of unenclosed upland Common Land survive at Llowes Common and Bryn-yr-hydd Common, with birch scrub, and bracken.
The present-day settlement pattern includes the small nucleated villages at Clyro and Llowes on low-lying ground on the edge of the floodplain of the Wye, together with a pattern of dispersed medium to small-sized farms about 300–900m apart, mostly on the higher ground, in many cases lying within their own lands and approached by farm tracks. The large country house of the 1840s at Clyro Court approached by a long drive to the south-west of Clyro and is set out in a dominating position above the former turnpike road to the south.
Surviving medieval buildings include part of the fabric of St Michael’s Church at Clyro and the pointed arches in a barn at Court Farm, Clyro, which are believed to be part of the a monastic grange belonging to the Cistercian abbey at Cwmhir.
A number of building platforms on sloping ground to the north of the village of Llowes possibly represent abandoned medieval or later house sites. The earliest surviving domestic buildings are of late medieval to early post-medieval date and include a number of cruck-framed timber buildings rebuilt in stone in the 17th–19th centuries. This building horizon is represented by several dwellings in the village of Clyro, the Old Vicarage and Radnor Arms in Llowes (both of which area based on late medieval hall houses), and Bryn-yr-hydd farmhouse and barn, the farmhouse at Bryn-yr-hydd possibly being derived from a longhouse plan. Other farmhouses, and larger and smaller dwellings built anew in the 17th to early 19th centuries are generally of stone rubble, as at Moity farmhouse, Parciau, and cottages within the villages of Clyro and Llowes. A number of 17th- to 18th-century stone farm buildings survive, occasionally with stone gable walls and weatherboarded sides, including a linear range of buildings at Moity Farm, Gaer Farm, a hay barn at Court Evan Gwynne and a converted stone hay barn within the village of Llowes. Stone rubble, sometimes rendered or roughcast, continued to be the predominant building material in the area in the 18th to early to mid 19th-century, as in the case of houses and farmworkers’ cottages within the village of Llowes and Clyro, including some with brick window and door dressings. Local stone roofing tiles were probably commonplace before the widespread adoption of slate in the later 19th century. Stone tiles survive on a number of buildings, including the Old Vicarage, the Radnor Arms and Barn Cottage in Llowes and Sacred Cottage and a number of other cottages in Clyro.
Clyro in particular expanded following improvements to the road system from the later 18th century onwards, notable buildings of this period including the earlier 19th-century Baskerville Arms Hotel, the former stone Victorian school, Clyro Court (now the Baskerville Hall Hotel), and the former stables and coachhouse to Clyro Court (now Cil y Beiddiau) and the stone-built Victorian school and Schoolmaster’s House. Clyro Court and a number of later 19th-century buildings, such as the Vicarage House at Llowes, were built in ashlar masonry, or had ashlar dressings.
Traces of ridge and furrow on west side of Clyro possibly represent former medieval open fields belonging to the village. The modern agricultural landscape is dominated by small and irregularly-shaped fields, with lynchet formation on the steeper slopes indicating that more widespread cultivation in the past. Most of the field boundaries are formed of multi-species hedges, including hazel, holly, and blackthorn. Small areas of unenclosed land at Bryn-yr-hydd Common and Llowes Common appear to represent the remnants of more extensive areas of upland grazing, perhaps enclosed during the course of the 18th century. Relatively late enclosure appears to be indicated by a pattern of medium-sized rectangular fields with single-species hedges to the north-west Llowes Common, in the area between Old Forest and Fforest-cwm. A number of the upland farms evidently represent earlier phases of encroachment in the medieval and late medieval periods, with occasional drystone wall field boundaries and low clearance banks on some of the higher ground. Many of the farms and houses in the area were associated with orchards in the 19th century, particularly in the area around Clyro, of which some remnants survive.
A pattern of early winding roads, lanes and footpaths links the farms, townships and village centres, many of which are likely to be of medieval origin. The lanes generally skirt around the field boundaries, some occupying hollow-ways up to 3m or more in depth, which formed in the period before the introduction of metalled road surfaces. Surviving from the turnpike era of road transport are milestones near Clyro, Courtway and Llowes and Bronydd.
Processing industry is represented by several former water corn mills. Llowes Mill on Garth Brook, a tributary of the Wye is first mentioned in the 1840s; it ceased working in about 1920 and is now derelict. The Clyro Brook in the village of Clyro once provided power for two water corn mills, Pentwyn Mill and Paradise Mill, both possibly of 18th century origin. Pentwyn Mill had probably ceased working by 1840, whereas Paradise Mill was last worked in 1940. Extractive industry is represented by a number of small stone quarries which were probably worked for building stone from about the 17th century onwards.
Defensive structures within the area include the possibly Iron Age earthwork Bryn-yr-hydd enclosure, Castle Kinsey motte and bailey at Court Evan Gwynne, and Clyro Castle, which has a motte-like platform with possible foundations of stone shell keep.
Important religious buildings include the churches within the medieval nucleated settlements at Llowes and Clyro, both of which were substantially rebuilt in the 1850s. The former early 19th-century New Zion Chapel near Moity Farm, is built of stone rubble. Like many nonconformist places of worship in the area it is characteristically sited in isolation on the higher ground, where it would have served a dispersed rural community.
In terms of cultural associations, the area is well known for its links with the writings of the diarist Francis Kilvert, curate of Clyro between 1864–76. Clyro Court is associated with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who is said to have stayed at the house (built by the Baskerville family) to write The Hound of the Baskervilles, serialized in the Strand Magazine between 1901–02.
Bartley 1960a; 1960b
Powys Sites and Monuments Record
Silvester 1994; 1997b
Soil Survey 1983
Sothern & 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 www.ccw.gov.uk.
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