Cymraeg / English
Historic Landscape Characterisation
Kerry and Churchstoke, Powys and Lydham and Bishop's Castle, Shropshire
Steep hillside and wooded cwms with small scattered farms, small nucleated settlements with chapels, and country houses set in parkland on lower, less steeply sloping ground.
Early prehistoric activity in the area is indicated by scatters of flintwork found during fieldwalking over a number of years in the area to the west of Great Argoed. Later prehistoric and possibly Roman settlement is probably indicated by a number of scattered single- and multiple-ditches enclosures between about 50-130m across, examples of which are known to the west of Fferm Bran (Crow Wood), to the north-east of Llan-y-harad, west of Mellington Hall, south of Aston Hall and possibly to the west of Bacheldre. Most of the enclosures have are known from cropmarks recorded by aerial photography, but the enclosure to the south of Pentre Wood still partly survives as an earthwork.
The area is crossed by a well-preserved stretch of Offa's Dyke, running from Mellingtom and Cwm, the sinuous course of the dyke in the area of Mellington Wood suggesting to some commentators that the landscape may have still been heavily wooded when the dyke was built in the later 8th century. Three settlements in the area are mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, Mulitune, identified as Mellington on the line of Offa's Dyke on the lower ground, Cestelop identified as Castlewright (Welsh Castell-wrych) on the higher ground, just to the east Offa's Dyke, and Hoptune which equates with the townships of Hopton Uchaf and Hopton Isaf, to the west of the dyke. Mulitune was assessed at about 360 acres (3 hides), and both Cetelop and Hoptune were assessed at about 240 acres (2 hides). All are said to have been waste at the time of the Conquest in 1066 and were still waste at the date when the Domesday Book was compiled. It seems likely that these two pre-conquest settlements had suffered during the campaigns of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn against the English in the 1040s, the waste area having been used as a hunting ground by the Mercian nobles, Siward, Oslac and Azor, at the time of the Conquest.
By the 19th century the area fell within the township of Bachaethlon in the parish of Kerry, the townships of Hopton Ucha and Issa, the townships of Bacheldre and Mellington in the parish of Churchstoke, the Welsh township of Castlewright in the English parish of Mainstone, and the Welsh township of Aston in the English parish of Lydham, and the township of Broughton in the parish of Bishop's Castle.
Key historic landscape characteristics
The character area occupies the sloping and steeply sloping ground north of the Kerry Ridgeway, looking north and overlooking the valleys of the Caebitra and upper Camlad, between a height of between about 150-250m above Ordnance Datum. On the lower ground towards the western side of the area, between Bacheldre and Binwilkin, are a number of large drumlins. The higher ground is broken by a series of steep-sided stream valleys running up to the crest of the hill, including Cwm Hopton and Cwmlladron. The solid geology is composed of Silurian shales with predominantly fine silty and clayey stagnogley soils, subject to seasonal waterlogging.
There are surviving areas of ancient semi-natural deciduous woodland on steeper slopes and cwms and along streams to the north of Mellington, in Cwmlladron, to the east of Drewyn, and in Pentre Wood and Cwm Cae, together areas of ancient replanted woodland as, for example, south of Pentrenant, with a number of more recent deciduous and coniferous plantations.
Present-day settlement is of dispersed, medium-sized farms tending to occupy roadside positions, within about 500-600m of each other, extending up to the higher ground, and with the larger halls at Pentrenant, Mellington and Pentre on the lower ground - Pentrenant Hall being an early 19th-century small country house in gothic style, and Mellington Hall being a somewhat larger gothic-style country house, dated to 1876, now a hotel, with lodge in the form of a gatehouse and another late 19th-century lodge at Shirley. Mellington Hall is set in parkland with fish ponds, plantations, icehouse and orchard, the parkland area now slightly reduced in extent from that shown on Ordnance Survey maps of the 1880s, Mellington School being a late 19th-century brick building with stone dressings and mock timber-framing, converted to community workshops. An earlier horizon of small, earlier 17th to early 18th-century timber-framed houses and farmhouses survive at White Hopton (Pied Hopton), Pant, Pentre Hall, and Upper Broughton (rendered), and extended and modified in stone at Lower House, Court House, Pentrenant Farmhouse and Cann Farm, and extended in stone and brick at Lower Cwm, with a number of 17th/18th-century timber-framed cottages in the small hamlet at Cwm. Farmhouses were often rebuilt in stone during the later 17th and 18th-centuries, as at Cwm-Linton, dated to 1654, many of those on higher ground being rendered or part-rendered, as at Upper Castlewright, Lower Castlewright, The Rolva, Upper Aston, Pentre-Willey and Cwm Cae. Later 18th and 19th-century houses and farmhouses are generally of brick, as at Sunny Bank, Red Hopton, Upper Broughton, Pentre House, and Upper Shirley. Farm buildings include a rare 15th to 16th-century cruck-framed barn with weatherboarding at Pant, a late 17th or early 18th-century weather-boarded timber-framed barn at Upper Broughton, the 18th/19th-century stone barns and outbuildings at Cann Farm, Red Hopton, Pentrenant Farm, Warbury, The Rolva, with some derelict stone outbuildings as at Pentre-cwm, weatherboarded outbuildings at Red Hopton, Warbury, Upper Broughton, and The Rolva, and 19th-century brick outbuildings at Lower Castlewright, The Rolva, Upper Broughton, and at Sunny Bank on stone footings. There are a number of brick-built nonconformist chapels in the area which are now mostly converted to other uses. They are generally sited within small nucleated settlements, as in the case of Cwm chapel, rebuilt in 1897, and Cwm Cae chapel built in 1867.
Present-day land-use is primarily as pasture. Medium and small-sized fields with irregular boundaries with low-cut multi-species hedges including holly, hazel and sycamore, with some hedge-laying, and scattered mature oaks within field boundaries. Most of the area had been enclosed by the 19th century, apart from some small parcels of land in the Hopton townships which were included in enclosure awards of the first decade of the 19th century, traces of medieval arable open-field cultivation are possibly indicated by an area of ridge and furrow near Red Hopton. Lynchets are common on steeper slopes, with some former field boundaries indicated by low banks or intermittent lines of trees or shrubs.
Most roads in the area take the form of winding lanes running along the contour between farms or up and down the hill, often in massive hollow-ways up to 5-6m deep. Some of these are likely to be of considerable antiquity, having formed in the centuries before metalled road surfaces were laid and road drains were constructed.
There are numerous scattered small roadside quarries particularly in the eastern side of the area, many of which are marked as 'Old Quarry' on Ordnance Survey maps of the 1880s and were probably for roadstone and building stone. Formerly there were water corn mills at Pentre and Mellington. Pentre Mill (or Cwm Crispin Mill), of large stone blocks, was built in the mid 17th century on the site of an earlier mill, and continued in operation until the early 20th century, the former mill buildings being partly converted to a house. Mellington Mill, formerly on the stream near Mellington Bridge, appears to have been first built at about the beginning of the 17th century. It was converted to a paper mill in the 18th century and demolished in the 1760s.
Earp & Haines 1971
Soil Survey 1983
Sothern & Drewett 1991
Thorn & Thorn 1986
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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