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Bro Trefldwyn Historic Landscape
Character area map

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Bro Trefaldwyn: Wernddu
Churchstoke, Powys and Lydham, Shropshire
(HLCA 1080)


Low-lying poorly drained land along the upper Camlad, with major through routes along the valley sides, widely scattered farms, mills, and wetlands.

Historic background

One of the few early settlements was at Aston, occupying the slightly higher ground towards the eastern end of the character area. It is recorded as Estune in the Domesday Book of 1086, in the hundred of Witentreu, and assessed as holding about 240 acres (2 hides). This Mercian settlements was one of a number in the region which are said to have been waste at the time of the conquest in 1066 and were still waste in 1086, having probably suffered from Welsh attack during the campaigns of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn in the 1040s. A second Domesday settlement is recorded at Lach, The Lack, at the western end of the character area, which held about 45 acres (11/2 virgates). This settlement had also been waste at the time of the Conquest but had evidently recovered by 1086.

Before the end of the 12th century a small community of Augustinian canons was founded at Snead, which had transferred to Chirbury by 1194. The early community was probably located at the site of the church of St Mary the Virgin at Snead, just outside the historic landscape area, and set within a rectangular 'moated' enclosure. The church began a dependent chapel of St Michael's Church at Chirbury and which became the parish church of the parish of Snead in the diocese of Hereford following the dissolution in the 16th century.

Having once formed part of Chirbury hundred, the township of Aston, together with the townships of Mellington and Castlewright were sold to the bishops of Hereford, becoming subsequently known as the manor of Bishop's Teirtref or Teirtref Esgob ('bishop's three towns'). The whole of the area within the character area had been enclosed by the late 18th century. By the 19th century the western end of the area fell within the townships of Mellington, Churchstoke, and Hurdley in the parish of Churchstoke, and the eastern end fell within the parish of Snead, the township of Aston in the English parish of Lydham, and the township of Broughton in the English parish of Bishop's Castle.

Key historic landscape characteristics

Broad, flat and low-lying valley along the upper reaches of the Camlad, between a height of 120-50m above Ordnance Datum, with fine silty and clayey stagnogleys, subject to seasonal waterlogging. During the late glacial period the upper Camlad valley appears to have held a lake held back by ice, disrupting earlier drainage patterns, water escaping to the Rea valley to the north and creating the Marrington Dingle gorge. Extensive waterlogged areas still remain throughout the valley and as a consequence an extensive system of ditches were dug to drain much of the land, some of which probably date to the late medieval and early post-medieval periods.

Present-day settlement is confined to a small number of medium-sized farms which generally occupy the slightly higher ground around the margins of the area. An earlier horizon of timber-framed buildings is represented by the 17th-century timber-framed farmhouses at Aston Hall, Owlbury, The Lack, Lower Mellington and The Farm, and 17th/18th-century roadside cottages at Craigfryn and to the east of Court House, Mellington. There are stone-built mill buildings at Broadway Mill, a water corn mill fed by a leat and millpond taken from a stream which is a tributary to the Camlad, midway between the watermills at Churchstoke and Snead. The mill is first mentioned in the early 17th century, and although later described as being in ruins it was back in operation by the early 18th century, ceasing working in the 1950s. Late 18th to early 19th-century and later buildings are invariably in brick, including the large farmhouses at Wernddu and The Meadows, both with remains of earlier stone outbuildings, the former 19th-century mill building at Snead, with 18th-century stone house attached, and again with remains of leat and millpond, and the Primitive Methodist Green Chapel and chapel house of 1867, partly rendered, near Plas Madoc.

Present-day land-use is predominantly grassland with extensive areas of reeds in waterlogged areas. Medium-sized fields with low-cut often hawthorn hedges, some hedges becoming intermittent and being replaced by post and wire fences, and scattered taller trees in the hedgerows and taller alders and willows along watercourses, a number of field boundaries having been lost since the later 19th century. A distinct pattern of strip fields to the north of the Camlad near Simon's Castle in Hurdley township appear to represent medieval arable open-field cultivation. The field pattern appears to represent gradual enclosure in the later medieval and early post-medieval periods hand in hand with drainage schemes. To the south of Lower Mellington is an area of ridge and furrow, which is possibly of post-medieval rather than medieval date and associated with a land drainage scheme. By virtue of the wetland areas, part of the area near Owlbury forms part of a Countryside Stewardship scheme.

The northern and southern sides of the valley land are bounded by modern roads on the line of earlier turnpike roads with few metalled roads crossing the damper ground in the valley bottom. Those which do, take the form of narrow twisting lanes with roadside ditches, often running slightly sunken hollow-ways, up to 1m deep.

A cluster of ponds towards the eastern end, between Aston and Snead are old clay pits associated with the former Owlbury Brick and Pipe Works, to the east of Lower Aston, still in production in the 1880s, of which little remains visible apart from a few scattered wasters.

Published sources

Arnold 1993
Barton 1999
Chibnall 1973
Earp & Haines 1971
Haslam 1986
Silvester & Frost 1999
Soil Survey 1983
Thorn & Thorn 1986
Willans 1934

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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