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Bro Trefaldwyn Historic Landscape

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Bro Trefaldwyn

Architectural Landscapes

The historic landscape area contains a rich architectural heritage which richly illustrates the development of traditional forms of building and many important themes in the building history of the region as a whole. The built environment has considerable chronological depth, buildings surviving in significant numbers from the 16th century onwards. The buildings also cover a significant breadth in terms of function and social status, and are to be found in a broad range of settlement forms and topographical settings, and include hilltop and lowland farms, roadside cottages, small villages and a small market town, all of which give considerable diversity to the historic landscape. A broad range of building materials are represented, and it is in the context of the sequence in which these materials were used that the building history in Bro Trefaldwyn is explored in the following text.

Buildings of significant architectural and historical interest are to be found widely scattered throughout the historic landscape area, apart from a number of the more hilly or more lower-lying character areas. Altogether, there are up to about 170 listed buildings within the historic landscape area. The majority are either town houses, concentrated in the nucleated settlements at Montgomery, Chirbury and Churchstoke, or farmhouses and cottages in the surrounding countryside, together with a handful of other building types, including barns, mills, churches, small country houses and toll cottages.

The earliest surviving buildings and structures are predictably of stone, including the Edwardian castle at Montgomery and some surviving medieval fabric in the churches at Montgomery and Churchstoke, and in the church and remains of the Augustinian priory at Chirbury. The earliest castles and churches in the historic landscape area were most probably of timber, and although there is little or no visible architecture surviving from before perhaps the later 15th to early 16th century, added depth is given by the archaeological evidence of former timber buildings and structures of Iron Age date at Ffridd Faldwyn, of Roman and early medieval date in the vicinity of the Roman fort at The Gaer, and of medieval date inside the bailey of the earthwork castle at Hen Domen and subsequently within the defences of the medieval borough of Montgomery. The archaeological evidence being important, for example, in confirming a general transition from posthole to sleeper-beam construction techniques during the course of perhaps the 12th and 13th centuries.

The earliest surviving vernacular buildings are the 15th to early 16th-century cruck-framed farmhouses at the Old Smithy, Priest Weston, and at Hurdley Farm, Hyssington, together with the cruck-framed barn of similar date at Pant Farm. The two farmhouses were probably originally multipurpose buildings, having a central hall with hearth, open to the roof, and possibly with an integral animal byre at one end, the timber-framed walls, originally with panels of wattle and daub, set in low sleeper walls of random stone. The later 16th and 17th centuries saw the emergence of often two-storied and occasionally jettied timber-framed farmhouses and town houses of various sizes but of types characteristic of the Severn Valley in Montgomeryshire, of which a significant numbers have survived within the historic landscape area examples, notably in the Yr Ystog, Pen-y-lan, Aldress, Hyssington, Chirbury, Gwern-y-go, Weston Madoc, Cwm, and Wernddu character areas. A number have date inscriptions, including Churchstoke Hall with a date of 1591, Cwm Bromley with a date of 1633, Pentre Hall with a date of 1689, and Aston Hall with a date of 1691. Fir Court, Churchstoke is dated to 1685 and is associated with an inscription which reads 'what is here by man erected let it be by God protected'. A number of larger houses of this period are also known including the former hunting lodge at Lymore, the house at Marrington, extended in the Victorian period, and Bacheldre Hall, dated to 1615. Few smaller houses have survived, however, apart from cottages reused for other purposes at Wortherton and West Dudston. A number of timber-framed barns of later 16th to early 17th-century date have also survived, including those at Kingswood, Lower Aldress, Rockley, Sidnal, The Ditches, Upper Gwarthlow, Little Brompton, and Upper Broughton.

Medieval and earlier buildings in the region were probably almost exclusively thatched with reeds or straw, and although it was probably in common use up to the 19th century little evidence for the use of the material has survived in the area. From perhaps the later 16th century onwards slate has become the predominant roofing material for virtually all buildings in the historic landscape area, used in conjunction with ceramic ridge tiles from perhaps the 18th century onwards, although there was a very limited use of ceramic or concrete roofing tiles in the 20th century.

Stone had been used for the construction of castles and churches in the region from at least the later 13th century, but became increasing used for domestic buildings from the later 17th to early 18th century onwards, possibly due to a growing shortage or expense of suitable timber, especially in the character areas where quarried stone was more readily and immediately available. The provision of lime for building was probably a problem early on, documentary sources of the early 13th century suggesting that a limekiln was built at Snead for work on Montgomery Castle, presumably making use of a small outcrop of limestone in this area, to save importing lime all the way from Shrewsbury.

Some older timber-framed buildings were repaired or extended in stone, though some new buildings, like the farmhouses at Pen-y-lan and Glebe Farm, Old Church Stoke, which combined timber-framed and masonry traditions. Notable early stone buildings include the Old Post Office, Priest Weston and Brithdir farmhouse, Hyssington, the latter dated to 1695. Early to mid 18th-century stone buildings again include a number of farmhouses such as Brook House, Priest Weston, and probably Pentreheyling House, whilst those belonging to the mid to late 18th-century include Bridge House, Chirbury and Middle Alport, together with a number of town and village houses, including School House, Churchstoke and Brynawel, Hyssington, together with other examples in Montgomery, Chirbury, Churchstoke and Hyssington. Much of the early stone building is in random, uncoursed masonry of local stone, though sandstone, generally imported into the area, was used for quoins and other architectural dressings on a number of the larger houses from the 18th-century onwards.

Stone continued to be commonly used for the construction of domestic buildings well into the 19th century, including the early to mid 19th-century farmhouses and houses at Woodmore, and The Llanerch, Hyssington, again with stone quoins, some brick houses, such as Ivy House, near Churchstoke, being rendered, stuccoed or roughcast. A number of the smaller 19th-century country houses in the historic landscape area were also built of stone, notably Pentrenant Hall and Mellington Hall and its gatehouse, as well as for the new or rebuilt Victorian churches and nonconformist chapels. Stone was used for the construction of a number of industrial buildings, including the probably 17th-century mill at Pentre Mill, built of large square blocks, the possibly late 18th-century mill building at Bacheldre, and Walkmill in Marrington Dingle, dated to 1802. Several of the early 19th-century toll houses, such as Toll House farmhouse and Toll Cottage, to the south of Llwynobin in the Weston Madoc character area, are also of stone.

Brick made its first appearance in the area as a building material in the early 17th century, when it was used for the construction of a number of more prestigious buildings such as the new mansion built by Sir Edward Herbert in the inner ward of Montgomery Castle between 1622-25, a building demolished in 1649-50. Early bricks found within the castle show that the building made use of shaped bricks with architectural mouldings, suggesting that like a number of buildings of late 16th and early 17th-century date in Shropshire the use of this material at this date was the result of an association with families linked to the Royal Court. A further early brick building in the area which has now sadly been lost is the late 17th to early 18th-century hall at Nantcribba, destroyed by fire in about 1900. Brick became more commonly used during the course of the 18th century, and until the early 19th century many of the brick-built houses in the area were of materials manufactured locally, on the farm or the estate. Local small-scale production generally gave way to local commercial production and then to the use of products from brickworks outside the area during the course of the later 19th and early 20th century (see section below on industrial landscapes).

As well as the use of brick for new buildings throughout the 18th century, it was also widely used for extending or repairing existing timber-framed buildings, replacing earlier wattle and daub panels on timber-framed buildings, the earlier timber-framed farmhouses at Timberth, Upper Gwarthlow and Great Moat Farm, for example, being encased in brick in the later 18th and 19th centuries. The chancel of the parish church at Chirbury was built in brick in 1733, and was also used for quoins and window and door openings on a number of stone buildings at this date.

New brick farmhouses and a number of other houses of substance were built wholly in brick in the 18th century, including those at Castle Farm, Montgomery, Llwynyrhedydd and Rockley. Other larger or imposing Georgian brick buildings of the later 18th century included Pen-y-bryn Hall, the house which became the Herbert Arms Hotel and the Church House, Chirbury, Pentre House, and the stylish, rendered farmhouse at The Gaer. The extensive Pool-Montgomery Union Workhouse of 1793-95 was also built in brick. Small country houses and larger stylish houses and farmhouses continued to be built in brick in both town and country during the early to mid 19th century, as in the case of Broadway House, a Regency style villa, The Meadows and Gunley Hall, and East Dudston farmhouse. Dovecotes and other garden features were also built in brick to accompany a number of the small country houses in the later 18th or earlier 19th centuries, as at Gunley Hall, Nantcribba, The Gaer and Chirbury Hall. The use of brick was also favoured by a number of the local landed estates which had grown to prominence during the 18th and earlier 19th centuries, including Upper Alport farmhouse built in about 1830, belonging to the Marrington Estate, and the farmhouse at Nantcribba belonging to the Leighton Estate dating to the 1860s.

Extensive use of brick was made for new farm buildings which resulted from the planned development of a number of the larger farms and estate farms in the early to mid 19th-century, including the model farm complexes at Gwern-y-go and Nantcribba. Brick was also used for a number industrial buildings, and for a number of new nonconformist chapels which appeared in both town and country during the course of the 19th century, as in the case of Stockton Mill and Green Chapel and its attached chapel house. Modern housing is almost invariably in brick, though a variety of different building materials have been used for agricultural buildings during the 20th-century, the most notable developments being the use of corrugated iron and other forms of sheeting on both existing and new buildings, and the widespread use of steel-framed construction.

Individual buildings are sometimes important in their own right. Otherwise, they may form part of a complex of contemporary buildings, in the case of the 17th-century half-timbered farmhouse, barn and cowhouse at Rockley, or the early 19th-century Gunley Hall with its associated dovecote, garden features and parkland. Nantcribba with farmhouse, model farm and workers' cottages, are in turn important in forming part of the Leighton Estate, one of the most exceptional examples of Victorian estate development in Wales. In other instances it is the sequence of buildings that is of interest, and whether the changes that took place were part of a planned reorganisation or whether they were the result of a more organic process. Likewise, the remodelling of individual buildings can be of significance for its the evidence it provides of changing use, prosperity and fashion, as in the example of Bacheldre Hall, where the early 17th-century hall was given a new Georgian stone front in the early 19th century.

The buildings in the Bro Trefaldwyn form an important visual element of the modern landscape and also shed light on the history of settlement and land-use in the historic landscape area. The surviving buildings, combined with buried archaeological evidence, are equally important in providing a well-documented sequence of building styles in this central borderland area. A broad range of different types of building and social status are represented in both urban and rural contexts. In the countryside the built heritage helps to chart the emergence of a class of yeoman farmers in the later medieval period, the rise of the landed estates and the gentrification of the countryside during the 18th century, the development of Victorian model farms, the smallholdings movement, the advent of modern mechanised farming in the countryside. Buildings in the towns and villages are also important from the point of view of cultural history, illustrating the changing lifestyles and prosperity of a broad cross-section of society - from, labourers and tradesmen on the one hand to the professional classes and gentry on the other.

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