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Bro Trefldwyn Historic Landscape
Character area map

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Bro Trefaldwyn: Trefaldwyn
Montgomery, Powys
(HLCA 1070)


Important medieval borderland town and castle and its associated open town fields, superimposed upon pre-Norman and Norman settlement and field systems.

Historic background

The area falls wholly within the 19th-century ecclesiastical parish of Montgomery. Early settlement is possibly indicated by a cropmark enclosure about 40m across, to the north of Little Lymore, which may belong to the Iron Age or Roman periods.

Earl Roger built the earth and timber, motte and bailey castle now known as Hen Domen about 1.5km to the north-east of the town shortly after the fall of Mercia in 1071, naming it Muntgumeri after his home in Normandy. Trefaldwyn, the Welsh name for the town, meaning 'Baldwin's town'. The place-name is first recorded as 'Baldwin's castle' (Chastell Baldwyn), probably after Baldwin de Boulers upon whom Henry I conferred the lordship of Montgomery after 1086, both the Norman and Welsh names being subsequently transferred to the new town of Montgomery, created in the early 13th century. The castle at Hen Domen became an important, by guarding the ford across the river Severn at Rhydwhiman (see Trehelig-gro character area), by acting as a means of controlling the areas which had been deserted due to Welsh incursions before the Norman Conquest, and by acting as a springboard for Norman incursions into Wales. Trading activities took place at this new settlement, possibly either within the castle bailey or on an unidentified site nearby, such as in the area of the present hamlet of Hen Domen.

Excavation and fieldwork at Hen Domen has revealed evidence of earlier, pre-Norman activity, including a timber building of posthole construction below the castle defences, together with elements of an earlier ridge and furrow field system and traces of an earlier, probably Anglo-Saxon settlement just to the west of the castle. The settlement has no documented history, but like a number of others in Bro Trefaldwyn which are mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, has possibly been one of a number of Mercian settlements founded to the west of Offa's Dyke in the 9th century but abandoned due to warfare between the Mercia and the Welsh kingdoms in the early 11th century.

Friction continued between the Welsh kingdoms and the Norman held territories throughout the later 11th and 12th centuries. In one instance, in 1095, the castle at Montgomery was attacked and its garrison killed. Finally, in 1223, during the reign of Henry III, in the face of renewed hostilities between Llywelyn ap Iorwerth of Gwynedd and neighbouring English lords, work began on the construction of a new royal stone castle on the hillside to the south-east, followed by the construction of a new town, which received its first charter in 1227.

Montgomery church was probably started in the 1220s, the new parish of Montgomery probably also being created at this time from the earlier larger parish of Chirbury, whose priory in the 1220s also gave up land belonging to an old hermitage on a site near the new castle. Much of the original medieval road plan remains together with the earthwork defences, particularly on the east and west, but there are only slight visible remains of the town wall, on the northern side. Relatively little archaeological excavation has been undertaken within the town, though the archaeological potential has been clearly shown by one site in Pool Road, where a sequence of timber building techniques from posthole to sleeper-beam construction at a period in about the 13th to 14th century has been demonstrated. It appears to have been a thriving market town and borough during the medieval period, but like some other border towns underwent a decline in the late medieval period when it ceased to have a military function. Speed's map of the town of 1610 shows many vacant areas in the northern and eastern sides of the town. Unlike a number of other borderland towns it failed to develop as an industrial centre in the post-medieval period.

The castle was already in a state of disrepair early in the 14th century, but continued to be maintained on a caretaker basis, becoming strategically important again at the height of the Glyn Dwr rebellion in the early years of the 15th century when its garrison grew to as many as 50 men-at-arms and 150 archers. In the 1620s Lord Herbert of Chirbury built a new brick mansion in the inner ward.

During the Civil War the castle was surrendered to the Parliamentary army on 4 September 1644 and besieged by Royalist forces between 7-18 September, regrouping after their defeat at Marston Moor in July, by which time the Royalist forces had swollen to a combined force of between 4,000-5,000 infantry and cavalry. On the 18 September the Royalist force was joined in battle with a Parliamentary army of about 3,000 troops in what was one of the largest battles in Wales during the course of the Civil War, resulting in the death of up to about 500 soldiers. The battlefield probably occuped most of the ground on the north-east side of the character area, between Lymore Park and Offa's Dyke on the east and Hen Domen on the west. Systematic metal detector surveys in parts of the area have revealed military finds including musket, carbine and pistol shot, and provide graphic evidence of the disposition of troops during the course of the battle, in which the Parliamentary army was victorious. Aerial photography has revealed possible remains of Civil War siegeworks or encampment near the junction of Sarkley Lane and the road leading towards Forden (A4388). Large parts of the castle and the Herbert's new mansion of the 1620s were eventually demolished in 1649-50.

Key historic landscape characteristics

The land within the character area falls from the steep cliffs near the castle, at about 210m above OD, down to the more gently sloping fields north of the Camlad, at about 80m OD, and faces predominantly towards the north-east. The solid geology is composed of Silurian shales, overlain by ridges of boulder clay. Soils on the lower-lying ground are predominantly fine silty, clayey and loamy stagnogleys, subject to seasonal waterlogging in some areas.

The medieval town of Montgomery was built on the lower ground below the castle to the was determined by the defensive position occupied by the castle, and although much of it was unsuited to a regular layout it nevertheless proved possible to establish a substantial borough on the sloping ground below the castle, and is the best preserved of the medieval towns of mid Wales, the medieval road pattern being dictated by a slight valley below Castle Rock and the spur beyond it, below the church. The town was defended by substantial ditches possibly accompanied in the early phases by timber defences replaced in stone with some interval towers later in the 13th century, with four gates, Cedewain Gate on the west, Arthur's Gate on the north, Chirbury Gate on the east and Kerry Gate on the south. Little of the original defences still remains visible, though they were described by Leland in the 1530s as 'great ruines of the waulle' with 'broken towrets, of wiche the whit toure is now the most notable'.

A stream known as Shitebrook formerly ran across the town from a position between the Town Hall and the Church and through the medieval town defences to the north of Chirbury Gate, which has given rise to a depth of waterlogged deposits which are of potential palaeoenvironmental significance.

The oldest surviving buildings in the town are the castle and St Nicholas's Church, both of which have surviving 13th-century stonework, the stalls having been brought from the former Augustinian priory at Chirbury at the Dissolution. The earliest domestic and commercial buildings are likely to have been largely of timber, the excavation of one burgage plot in Pool Road showing a change from post-built to sleeper-beam, probably cruck-framed construction between about the 13th and 14th centuries. The earliest surviving timber buildings are a number of 16th-century timber-framed houses, together with a number of 17th- to early 18th-century timber-framed houses, now with brick infill. Stone and brick became more commonly used in the 17th and 18th centuries, relatively early brick buildings in the town including Clawdd-y-dre with a datestone of 1726. Other Georgian brick buildings include the former Charity School of 1747 on Pool Road and the Town Hall of 1748. By the 1830s Lewis considered it to have 'a prepossessing aspect, well adapted to render it the residence of genteel families'. Other notable buildings include the County Gaol of the 1830s in brick faced with stone, and with a stone arch of 1866, the stone Presbyterian Church with sandstone dressings of 1885 and the Wesleyan Chapel and School on Pool Road in brick with stone dressings, of 1903. The town has a number of cast-iron public hand water-pumps of the 1870s. Modern housing is focused on each of the four medieval gates, with late 19th- and 20th-century expansion of town beyond the medieval defences on the north-east, between Arthur's Gate and Chirbury Gate.

On the outskirts of the town as far a Hen Domen is a scattering of small farms and smallholdings, with a small number of medium-sized farms beyond, most of which are probably of early post-medieval and more recent origin, some of which probably colonised the former open-fields of the medieval town. The earliest surviving buildings in these areas include the small 17th to early18th-century timber-framed houses with slate roofs at Siglen and timber-framed cottages at Stalloe Cottages and Clift Cottage to the west of Sarkley. There are relatively few early brick buildings outside the town, one of the few exceptions being Castle Farm, an 18th-century farmhouse with unusually asymmetrical gables. 18th/19th-century brick farmhouses include Rhydwhiman Farm, Pwll, Stalloe, Burnt House, and Sarkley, the latter added to an ?18th-century timber-framed building, with 18th to early 19th-century rendered brick farmhouses at Little Lymore and Hen Domen. There are 19th/20th-century brick roadside cottages and small houses at Hen Domen, invariably with slate roofs, and a number of modern bungalows at Hen Domen. A stone barn at Rhydwhiman Farm is one of the relatively small number of surviving stone outbuildings. Other buildings include a weather-boarded barn at Siglen, 19th/20th-century brick outbuildings at Stalloe, and fairly ubiquitous 19th/20th-century timber-framed and steel-framed outbuildings elsewhere, often clad in corrugated iron, and small timber-framed dutch barns. A number of fields have reused railway waggons. Other buildings in the countryside include the 19th-century brick signalman's cottage at Hen Domen, and 20th-century light industrial buildings at Hen Domen and on the northern outskirts of Montgomery

Modern land-use in the fields outside the town is predominantly pasture with occasional arable. The present-day field pattern shows little change from the mid 19th century, apart from the loss of some field boundaries, and seems to largely represent early post-medieval enclosure of the original open-fields belonging to the medieval town of Montgomery. These consist of long rectangular strip fields running along the contour, with lanes in hollow ways and green lanes running between medieval arable open-fields. There are numerous low lynchets on sloping ground, with remnant medieval and earlier ridge and furrow in places. Generally low-cut multi-species hedges, predominantly hazel and hawthorn, with some blackthorn, holly and elder, some former and some more recent hedge-laying, and some low hedge banks. Gorse scrub appears on the steeper slopes.

Following the Edwardian conquest of Wales in the later 13th century the ford at Rhydwhiman ceased to have the political significance it had had in earlier times, and although the castle evidently continued to have some military significance until the mid 17th century the major axis of communication between the Midlands and mid Wales was to gradually shift in favour of the Welshpool-Newtown route with the coming of the canal in the later 18th century and the railway in the later 19th century. The road system around Montgomery was entirely transformed in the wake of the Turnpike Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries when new roads cutting across earlier field boundaries were built northwards to Forden (A4388), probably replacing an earlier winding lane via Thornbury, and eastwards to Chirbury (B4386) via Winsbury, part of which is marked by a hollow-way near Little Lymore. Milestones with cast-iron plates survive along both roads. A number of the earlier roads and lanes run in deep hollow ways, such as the lane leading to Rhydwhiman ford, which is up to 4-5m deep in places. Part of the earlier course of the road towards Sarn, just to the south of Montgomery, is represented by a deep hollow-way just to the west of the present road. A new approach from the direction of Caerhowel bridge (B4385), was created in 1845, the road to the west having formerly taken a more circituitous route via Sarkley farm. The western side of the area is crossed by the line of the Cambrian Railway of 1860, running between the former railway station at Forden and the bridge across the Severn at Cilcewydd, cutting across a number of pre-existing field boundaries and lanes, the former Montgomery Station having been on the western edge of the character area. Road bridges such as Salt Bridge are mostly recent replacements of earlier structures.

There are few visible remains of former processing industries in the area, including the 'Stanlawes Mill' first recorded in the mid 13th century, to the north of Stalloe farm. The mill, which possibly continued in use until the 19th century, was apparently only worked when there was sufficient water in winter, its position being marked by a partially dried out mill pool. Other industrial activity was represented the gas works on the site now occupied by the fire station on Chirbury road. There are a number of former stone quarries, including the Castell quarry below Montgomery Castle.

Published sources

Anon 1887; 1888b
Ashton, & Garwood 1985
Barker & Higham 1982; 1992
Barker & Lawson 1991
Beresford 1967
Britnell & Jones 1989
Brown, Colvin & Taylor 1963
Charles 1938
Clark 1877a
Davies 1995
Drinkwater 1906
Earp & Hains 1971
Gibson 1991b
Haslam 1979
Howells 1875
Jones & Britnell 1998
Hogg & King 1967
Knight 1992; 1993; 1994
Lavender 1951-52
Lewis 1968
Lewis 1833
LUAU 2000
Lloyd 1948; 1955; 1963-64; 1965; 1971-72
O'Neil & Foster-Smith 1940
O'Neil 1942
Pennant 1783
Sandford 1877
Silvester 1992
Soil Survey 1983
Soulsby 1983
Taylor 1947
Tucker 1958

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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