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Cymraeg / English
Tanat Valley Historic Landscape
Character area map

Historic Landscape Characterisation

Dyffryn Tanat / The Tanat Valley:
Penybontfawr, Penybontfawr, Powys
(HLCA 1020)

CPAT PHOTO 806.03a

19th-century village and surroundings, with church, chapel, school and inn which grew up junction of turnpikes, and superseding more remote medieval parish centre.

Historic background

Administratively, the area would have fallen within the commote of Mochnant Uwch Rhaeadr, Montgomeryshire. It formerly lay within a detached portion of the medieval ecclesiastical parish of Pennant Melangell whose parish church lay in Cwm Pennant about 7km to the west. St Thomas's Church was built at Penybontfawr in the mid 19th-century to meet the needs of the expanding population in the lower portion of the parish. It later became the parish church of Pennant Melangell, when the upper portion of the parish was merged with Llangynog parish. The village of Penybontfawr, (formerly known as Bont Fawr) is almost exclusively of 19th-century date, being unique in Montgomeryshire in being a relatively recent roadside hamlet that went on to become an independent civil community.

Key historic landscape characteristics

The character area is defined to include the village of Penybontfawr on the flat low-lying valley bottom, together with the enclosed farmland on gently sloping ground near the mouth of Cwm Hirnant and Cwm Fedw to the south. Predominantly north-facing slopes, generally between about 130-230m OD. Also included in the area is part of the upland area of DÔs Eithin with crags and rocky outcrops, with rises to a height of about 360m within the character area.

The settlement of Penybontfawr owed its existence to communications, lying at the crossroads of the turnpike between Oswestry, west Wales, Shrewsbury and Bala. The terraced cottages, bridge, old chapel (1835), church (1855), school, chapel (1867), inn (Railway Inn), vicarage, and former mill, are all 19th-century in date. 20th-century housing estates towards north, east and south of original core. Some of the farms in the countryside around the village are older, including Peniarth-uchaf with a late 15th to early 16th-century cruck-built building, the early 17th-century stone farmhouse at Penybont Farm, though the buildings at others are more recent, including the 18th-century stone farmhouse at Parc Farm and the 19th-century stone farmhouse with brick dressings at Peniarth-isaf, with stone and brick outbuildings. 18th/19th-century stone farmhouse and outbuildings at Bryn Aber also with brick dressings, with earlier timber buildings possibly indicated by building foundations of rounded boulders with walls of quarried stone above. Bryn Aber Hall is a mid 19th-century rendered 'villa', formerly with a Tuscan porch, built by Maurice Powell Bibby, attorney, poet and harpist, with mature planted trees in the field to the north and east giving the effect of parkland.

Medium-sized and often irregularly-shaped fields, predominantly pasture, within the southern part of the character area, probably representing a combination of early enclosure of the higher sloping ground, associated with farms such as Peniarth-uchaf, and 18th- to 19th-century enclosure of the valley-bottom meadow-land. There is a tendency for the boundaries, often overgrown hedges, to be set out along the contour, some being associated with lynchets. Some ridging in lower-lying fields near river.

Penybontfawr also lay on the now dismantled Tanat Valley Light Railway, in operation to the west of Llanrhaeadr between 1904 and 1952, the site of the station to the north of the village, on the far side of the Afon Tanat, having recently been built over. The aqueduct carrying water from Lake Vyrnwy passes invisibly, below ground, just to the west of the village. The bridges at Penybontfawr across the Hirnant and across the Tanat replaced earlier fording points on the roads and tracks which linked the older farms in the valley bottom with areas of summer grazing on the hills to the south and south-west.


Britnell 1994a
Hancock 1872
Haslam 1979
Silvester 1992
Smith 1988
Sylvester 1955-56
Thomas 1911

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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