Home > Historic Landscape Characterisation > Preseli >

Penmaen Dewi



Historic Background
A large character area on the eastern flank of Mynydd Preseli, in modern Pembrokeshire. The area contains an important neolithic/bronze age ritual landscape with a number of high-visibility monuments. During the historic period it lay within the medieval Cantref Cemaes which was brought under Anglo-Norman control by the Fitzmartins in c.1100. The Fitzmartins retained it, as the Barony of Cemaes, until 1326 when they were succeeded by the Audleys. The Barony was conterminous with the later Hundred of Cemais, which was created in 1536, but many feudal rights and obligations persisted, some until as late as 1922. Like most of the southeastern part of the Barony within Mynydd Preseli, the Pentre Galar area continued to be held under Welsh systems of tenure. This character area comprises poor quality land and appears to have remained unenclosed pasture and moorland, with common rights to pasture and turbary, until 1812 when it was enclosed by Act of Parliament and the present pattern of regular, straight boundaries laid out. However, there are two 'canol' farm-name elements which may imply earlier settlement. A 'Llety' farm-name is probably later, and possibly testimony to a mobile agricultural labour force in the 19th century. A main road through this area is marked on the Rees map as a medieval route, but was turnpiked between 1791 and 1809 under the Whitland Turnpike Trust. The present line is shown on Ordnance Survey sketch maps of 1809. There is a small, disused slate quarry at the western edge of the area. Settlement is still of low-density, and the loose cluster of houses at Pentre-Galar is largely a 20th century development. There was limited planting with forestry in the mid 20th-century.

Base map reproduced from the OS map with the permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of The Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Crown Copyright 2001.
All rights reserved. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown Copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings. Licence Number: GD272221

Description and essential historic landscape components
Pentre Galar historic landscape character area lies on the eastern side of Mynydd Preseli between 210m and 350m. The area lies in an open basin - the headwater valley of the Afon Gafel, a tributary of the Afon Taf - with a general slope downwards from west to east. Rocky outcrops and boulder spreads occur on higher slopes on the western edge of the area. The field system across the whole area was laid out in 1812 and forms a coherent pattern of small, regular enclosures. These generally approximate to a square shape, though areas of rectangular fields are also present. On higher ground boundary banks are composed of earth and stone, some containing foundation boulders that could be termed monoliths. Hedges that formerly topped these banks have virtually all gone. At lower levels the boundaries are earth banks with occasional stone and earth banks. Here the hedges are in better condition, but except alongside roads and tracks they are not well maintained and many are just lines of straggling bushes, overgrown and neglected. Wire fences provide stock-proof boundaries across the whole of the area. Agricultural land-use is almost entirely pasture, with a little arable. Most of the pasture is improved, though pockets of unimproved grazing exist, and rough rushy land and peaty deposits are found in some of the valley bottoms. Scrubby woodland is also present in the valley bottoms. Apart from a 20th century coniferous plantation on the western side of this area there few large trees, but overgrown hedges and the scrubby woodland lend a wooded aspect to substantial tracts of the lower-lying eastern side. The settlement pattern is of dispersed farms, cottages and houses. Older dwellings are almost entirely 19th century in the vernacular style, and are generally stone-built with slate roofs, two storey, and three bays, cement rendered and/or bare stone. Most are modernised. Single storey cottages of similar date and style are also present. Most of these dwellings are modernised. A ty-unnos or earth cottage site is present. Dispersed 20th century houses and bungalows in a variety of styles and materials are also present. Agricultural buildings are generally small, reflecting the size of holdings. The most common styles are: a single small, stone-built 19th century range; a mid 20th-century corrugated-iron barn and other structures; several small late 20th-century steel-, concrete- and asbestos-built structures. Black painted corrugated-iron barns are a feature of the agricultural holdings. Larger farms are present, and are characterised by a large assemblages of late 20th century agricultural buildings. Other structures include a post-medieval bridge. There are no listed buildings in the area. The A478 road crosses this area from north to south. It is clear from the field patterning that the road pre-dates the establishment of the fields. Other transport elements of the landscape comprise winding and straight lanes and tracks. In most examples there is a verge of several metres between the road edge and the enclosing boundary bank. A television transmitter mast situated on the eastern side of the area is a prominent element in the landscape. The area is rich in recorded archaeology, almost exclusively of prehistoric date. There is a mesolithic/neolithic findspot, and a neolithic stone-axe factory. However, it is neolithic/bronze age ritual features that predominate, including a possible henge, a possible ring barrow and a ring ditch, several soilmarks and a cremation, which form a complex around the axe-factory in the centre of the area. To the north of this concentration are one definite and two possible round barrows, a scheduled stone pair, a possible burnt mound, and prehistoric and Roman findspots. Later activity is limited to a post-medieval quarry.

The very regular field pattern clearly defines this historic landscape character area. Areas to the north, east and south have yet to be defined, but here there are irregular, old-established patterns of enclosure. To the west the semi-enclosed high ground of Crugiau Dwy provides a sharp boundary to Pentre Galar character area.

Sources: David and Williams, 1995; Dyfed Archaeological Trust 1997; Lewis n.d.; Ordnance Survey, Surveyors' Drawings, 2" to 1 mile, Sheet 188, 1809; Pembrokeshire Record Office D/HSPC/5/1; Rees 1932