Home > Historical Landscapes > St David's >

Penmaen Dewi



Historic Background
A small area of modern Pembrokeshire, just south of St David's Head, conterminous with an area of blown sand, 'The Burrows', which developed during the historic period and now lies under grass. The area lay within the medieval Cantref Pebidiog, or 'Dewisland', which was held directly by the Bishops of St David's, having represented the core of the bishopric from 1082 when it was granted (or confirmed) by Rhys ap Tewdwr, king of pre-Conquest Dyfed, to Bishop Sulien. The character area lies within the large parish of St David's, which had a number of subordinate chapels, and even today preserves a remarkable ecclesiastical topography. In the Tywyn character area some of the ecclesiastical element may be early. The antiquarian Richard Fenton made dubious claims that a building - the original church of St David's - lay beneath the sand burrows, as well as his entirely spurious Roman 'station' of Menapia. However, the place-name 'the old church' has been recorded towards the east of the area, possibly referring to a later chapelry, and the chapel dedicated to St Patrick at Porthmawr bay, which lies at a potential embarkation point for early medieval pilgrims, has produced medieval cist burials. The character area appears to have been free of sand during the post Anglo-Norman conquest medieval period when 2 bovates of land at Trewilym, worth annually 20d, were recorded in the Black Book of St David's, of 1326, as belonging to the manor of Welsh Hundred. This arable land now lies beneath the sand burrows, which had formed by c.1800 when they were described by Fenton, and by which time they supported unenclosed pasture. This is shown as common land without settlements on the tithe map of 1840 extending slightly eastwards of the present limit. It was subject to Parliamentary enclosure in 1869, but this seems to have had little effect on the landscape, with few new fields and no new settlements. Enormous quantities of sand were removed during world war two for the construction of St David's and Brawdy airfields. Recent development is limited to a golf course a hotel and dispersed housing.

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
Whitesands Bay forms the western boundary of Tywyn historic landscape character area. From the beach the land rises rapidly to the east to approximately 25m, then more gently to a maximum of almost 60m. Almost the entire area is covered with wind-blown sand, forming a dune system along the coast with stable pasture over sand inland. Though subject to Parliamentary enclosure in the 19th century, the historic character of this area did not change much over the centuries, until the mid 20th-century, when a golf course and club house were established, and a hotel and several dwellings constructed. In addition, a large tarmac-surfaced car park with toilets, cafe and other facilities is located at Whitesands Bay to serve the large number of tourists who visit this part of the coast. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path runs along the western fringe of the area. Adjacent to the car park, protected by coastal defences, the remains of the medieval chapel of St Patrick lie beneath a grassy mound. Buildings are mostly of concrete and brick construction. Land-use consists of wind-blown sand close the coast, the golf course, and unimproved pasture at the southern limits of the area. Despite the 20th century buildings and the golf course, this area retains an unenclosed aspect, although a 'Pembrokeshire' hedgebank has recently been constructed across part of dune system. There are no listed buildings in the area.

Recorded archaeology comprises a submerged forest and mesolithic finds on the foreshore, where four further prehistoric findspots include three from the bronze age. There is a possible neolithic chambered tomb. The scheduled St Patrick's Chapel is associated with cist burials and may have early medieval origins. There is no field evidence for Menapia, while the place-name 'the old church' and the medieval settlement of Trewilym lie beneath the sand burrows. There is also a post-medieval quarry.

The open aspect and wind blown sand of this area distinguish it from the neighbouring historic landscape character areas of dispersed farms and fields.

Sources: Charles 1992; Fenton 1811; Howell 1993; Howells 1987; James 1981; James 1993; Jones and Freeman 1856; Lewis 1833; Manby 1801; Pembrokeshire Record Office QRE/10; Rees 1932; St David's tithe map and apportionment 1840; Willis-Bund 1902