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Historic Background

An east-west strip of land in modern Pembrokeshire, occupying the ridge of highest ground within the Pen Caer peninsula. This character area exhibits evidence of very early land-use in the form of defended settlements, ritual monuments and field systems. The landscape is characterised by weathered rock outcrops, augmented by large numbers of glacial erratics, a ready source of stone for the several neolithic chambered tombs. The bronze age is represented by both standing stones and round barrows. However, it is the remnant iron age landscape that still dominates the area. The large multivallate hillfort of Garn Fawr, to the western end of the ridge, is nuclear to a number of radiating dry-stone boundaries which, at least in part, appear to represent a contemporary field system. There are a number of smaller hillforts strung out along the ridge. During the medieval period the area formed part of the medieval Cantref Pebidiog, which was conterminous with the later Hundred of Dewsland created in 1536. It 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-Anglo-Norman Conquest Dyfed, to Bishop Sulien. From 1115 onwards, when Bernard was appointed Bishop of St David’s, Anglo-Norman systems of feudal government and ecclesiastical administration were introduced into Pebidiog. The Garn Fawr character area occupied Villa Grandi, which was referred to as a manor in 1326 (when Pebidiog was subject to a detailed survey) but possibly not in the formal, Anglo-Norman sense. Welsh tenurial systems appear moreover to have persisted, although variously adapted, while many feudal rights and obligations continued into the early 20th-century. There is little direct evidence for medieval settlement within the character area itself, but the condition of the Garn Fawr boundaries suggests that the area had been at least partly farmed as the boundaries were maintained during this period. The remainder of the area may have been rough grazing, and largely unenclosed. An estate map of 1837 shows that an outlying property held a narrow field strip within the area, suggesting that it once had been common land that was subsequently subdivided among the adjoining properties. The outlying property in question, Tai-bach, was itself recorded in the 17th century. The present large, regular fields are characteristic of later post-medieval enclosure, although the boundaries are similarly of dry-stone construction. The field system has changed little since the mid 19th century. The generally marginal, poor quality of the land is testified by the names of two farms – one, ‘North Pole’, is suggestive of later 19th century origins while another, ‘Llys-y-fran’ (or ‘Crow’s Palace’), is clearly a post-medieval irony, although it is recorded as early as 1640.


Description and essential historic landscape components

Garn Fawr is a relatively small historic landscape character area covering the highest point of the Pen aer/Strumble Head peninsula. It consists of several, small, inter-connected pockets of rough, craggy moorland, interspersed with a few fields of improved pasture, on the crest of an east – west ridge. The highest point at over 210m lies at the western end close to the sea and is occupied by the iron age forts of Garn Fawr, Garn Fechan and Ysgubor Fawr (all are Scheduled Ancient Monuments). The massive rubble and earth ramparts of the forts are a prominent landscape feature. Low walls and stony banks radiating out from these forts divide the moorland into small fields and represent one of the few pieces of evidence for prehistoric fields directly related to settlement sites in southwest Wales. At lower levels in the neighbouring landscape character area bordering the moorland these ancient boundaries are perpetuated in the modern field system. On the lower moorland to the east of the forts, further collapsing dry-stone walls and rubble banks testify that this too was divided into fields, perhaps in the historic period, and was perhaps more highly cultivated than today. Some wire fences now run across the area. Apart from a few small fields of improved pasture all is now rough ground. There are no inhabited buildings in the area, and the only standing structures are what are probably World War 2 brick buildings in the saddle between Garn Fawr and Garn Fechan. In addition to the hillforts, there are several chambered tombs, standing stones and round barrows in this area. Carn Fawr is a popular visitor attraction, and several paths wind their way up to its summit.

Garn Fawr is a distinct historic landscape character area. It contrasts with the surrounding, lower-lying landscape of fields and farms.

Sources: Charles 1992; Hogg 1973; Llanwnda Parish tithe map 1845; Pembrokeshire Record Office D/JP/193; Rees 1932; Willis-Bund 1902



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.
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