The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Character Areas


HLCA 013 Cwm Llanwenarth and Cwm Craf

Enclosed agricultural landscape of small, irregular fields, Cwm Llanwenarth: view to the north

HLCA 013 Cwm Llanwenarth and Cwm Craf

Enclosed agricultural landscape of evolved, irregular field pattern with traditional field boundaries and characteristic vernacular buildings: stone built farmhouses and cottages. Dispersed patches of ancient woodland and some plantation. The major industrial characteristic is related to transport networks. Historic associations.Back to map

Historic Background

The historic landscape area of Cwm Llanwenarth and Cwm Craf takes in the valley of Cwm Llanwenarth, following the natural ridgeline to the north using the minor road from Llwyncelyn Farm to Govilon as a convenient boundary. The southern and western boundaries are defined by the extent of enclosed agricultural land to the edge of settlement and canal along the north and east. HLCA013 is separated from HLCA016 by a boundary representing the extent of the World Heritage Site boundary.

This area lies in the parish of Llanwenarth forming part of the hamlet of Llanwenarth Ultra. Bradney mentions that Llanwenarth Ultra belonged to the manor of the Blorenge and that there was no manor of Llanwenarth itself. The area has a long history of agricultural settlement indicated by the prehistoric earthwork/camp at Scubor Ddu, while the early post-medieval farmsteads in the area are thought to have their origins in the medieval period; little recorded evidence survives from before the seventeenth century, however. From the early post-medieval period the agricultural economy incorporated the plantation of woodland for production of charcoal for use in ironworking initiated by the Hanbury family.

One of the earliest farmhouses in the area is Cwm Farm, which is of late sixteenth/early seventeenth century date. Other dwellings of early date include Bryn y Cwm Farmhouse, Brook Farmhouse and Llanfoist House, all of seventeenth century date; while the following farmsteads are thought to date from the eighteenth century: Upper Cwm Farmhouse, Garnddyrys Farmhouse, Ysgubor Abbot and possibly Llwyn-y-Fedw and Ty Trawst (ruinous).

During the nineteenth century major transport links were created in response to the increase in industrial activity in the surrounding areas. The Brecknock and Abergavenny Canal (now know as the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal), completed at Llanfoist in 1812, was important for transportation of iron, coal and lime. A wharf was constructed at Llanfoist c1822, linked to Hill's Tramroad on the Blorenge by a series of inclines (SAM: MM276) to transport materials from the Blaenavon ironworks and associated extractive sites to the canal. The inclines drop in three sections from 375m at the level of Hill's Tramroad to 120m at the wharf. Two turn-outs and three brake wheels remain and the formation of the incline is visible, along with parts of the retaining wall and some archways. The survival of related buried remains in the area is considered likely. A number of small quarries, which exploited both limestone and sandstone in this area, may be related to the initial construction of the canal and associated features such as the incline, as well as local building construction and agricultural purposes.

Bailey's Tramroad, which opened in 1821, also passes through the area to a junction with the canal at Govilon. The tramroad ran from the ironworks at Nantyglo and in this area followed a loop along the contour of Cwm Llanwenarth valley. A masonry tramroad bridge (SAM: MM204), situated near a later viaduct, spans the loop; both are now out of use.

Cwm Llanwenarth and Cwm Craf is characterised as an agricultural landscape, which retains characteristic evolved/irregular field pattern of small to medium sized enclosures and scattered farmsteads set within their holdings. A variety of agricultural field boundaries exist, including traditional dry-stone walls, stone-faced banks, hedges, sheepfolds, earth banks and some modern post and wire fencing. The current field pattern suggests that the area initially developed through the expansion of discrete holdings, such as Bryn-y-Cwm farm, within a largely open landscape, which has later been entirely enclosed. Subsequently the area of enclosure has been further increased through the process of encroachment along the boundary between the long established enclosed land and the open mountain during the post-medieval period. There is also some evidence for remodelling and coalescence of the enclosures around Brook Farm and Cwm Farm during the post-medieval period.

Early post-medieval farmhouses, mostly altered, are characteristic of the area. Examples are Cwm Farm additions with rendered elevations under a steep slate roof with stacks; Bryn-y-Cwm Farmhouse, also of one and a half storeys, a small rectangular stone building with modern slate roof and nineteenth century additions; and Brook farmhouse (rebuilt in the 1970s), a lobby-entry house with rubble-stone walls and slate roof. The following post-medieval farmhouses, typically two-storey constructed of rubble stone with slate roofs, were all heavily altered during the eighteenth and nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Upper Cwm, Llwyn-y-Fedw and Garnddyrys.

Of particular significance to the area is Llanfoist House (Listed Building: Grade II) of seventeenth century origin, remodelled and enlarged in the later eighteenth century and again in the mid nineteenth century when occupied by the ironmaster, Crawshay Bailey. Cadw listed building description records a "substantial mid-Georgian three-storey, double-pile, house. The original house has a symmetrical five-window rendered front with stone quoins, plat bands and a coved and bracketed eaves cornice under a hipped slate roof; chimneys removed. Small-pane sash windows with gently cambered heads and keystones to first and ground floors; horned nine-pane to second floor and twelve-pane below. Central entrance with massive panelled double doors and plain overlight; formerly with broad porch. Stepped down to left is the 1920's extension in similar style and given a Doric doorcase. Various extensions and modern alterations to rear but retaining a sash window with marginal glazing to centre; brick chimneys. Conservatory added to right hand side."

Nineteenth century cottages in the vernacular style of the area are also characteristic, most of which are now ruinous. They were commonly double-fronted of rubble stone with slate roofs; examples of these include Bryn y Cwm Cottage, Ty Moses, Little Pen y Graig, Hafod Illtyd, Maes-y-Nant among others in Cwm Llanwenarth. Of the period is White Lodge, thought to have been erected when Llanfoist House was owned by Crawshay Bailey, is a one and a half storey building, pebble-dashed walls and replaced slate roof with nineteenth century ridge tiles; it is now much altered and extended.

Transportation and communication links form a prominent characteristic, with elements ranging from canals and tramroads to the areas numerous footpaths tracks and sunken lanes. The most important are the canal and its associated features, many of which are Grade II listed structures. For example, Llanfoist Wharf boathouse formerly one of the earliest warehouses built to store iron products from Blaenavon; Boathouse Cottage; a tunnel under the canal with associated steps, and several bridges over the canal, one of which is cast iron on stone abutments and carried Hill's Tramroad. Near to Govilon is Bailey's tramroad bridge (SAM: MM204) a simple single-arched structure of excellent quality ashlar masonry. The springing of the arch are set back from the jambs, leaving a step, a feature characteristic of early nineteenth century industrial structures. Also characteristic are Hill's Tramroad Inclines (SAM: MM276), double-tracked and self-acting with walled structures either side of the track.

The area is otherwise characterised by ancient woodland at Pen-y-Galchen, Maes-y-Felin, Pen-y-Graig, Coed-y-person and Glebe Wood, some of which has been replanted. Charcoal burning platforms from earlier forest management/industrial activities can still be found in the area. Elsewhere, twentieth century forestry has been planted. The area has a number of historic associations, prominent among whom are the industrialists and engineers Crawshay Bailey, Thomas Hill, and John and Thomas Dadford.