The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Character Areas


HLCA 016 Cwm-mawr and Coed-y-Prior

View southeast towards Coed-y-Prior showing fieldscape and woodland

HLCA 016 Cwm-mawr and Coed-y-Prior

Area characterised as enclosed agricultural landscape with characteristic stone built farmhouses and cottages. Communication features including the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal. Ancient and other woodland.Back to map

Historic Background

The historic landscape area of Cwm-mawr and Coed-y-Prior is defined by the line of the Monmouthshire and Brecon canal to the east and by the extent of enclosed agricultural land to the west. Whilst this area has been included within the historic landscape it is not included in the world heritage site. The character of the area has strong similarities with much of the wider enclosed agricultural landscape of the Wye valley; the main reason for its inclusion in the historic landscape is based on the presence of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.

Early activity in this area is represented by a collection of possible long cairns, situated west of Castell Prydydd. At Ty Aur Farm a gold aureus of Claudius dating to 51/52 A.D. was found in indicating a Roman presence. Much of this area falls within the former manor of Llanellen, part in possession of the Priory of Abergavenny until its dissolution in 1546. Cwm Mawr (Listed: Grade II), thought to be the oldest house in the area is of fifteenth century date. This site, in addition to other early post-medieval farmsteads in the area, possibly has their origins in the medieval period; of sixteenth century date is Castell Prydydd (Listed: Grade II), Cwm-Celyn (Listed: Grade II) and Upper Llwyn-Celyn. Seventeenth century farmsteads include Middle Ninfa and Lower Ninfa among many others. Post-medieval charcoal burning also occurred in the area with evidence on The Punchbowl.

During the early nineteenth century, the only major change in the area was the construction of the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal. However, it seems that this development had very little direct impact on settlement in the area. Some minor quarrying related to the canal is evident in the area.

Cwm-mawr and Coed-y-Prior comprises an undulating landscape of enclosed valleys and formerly semi-enclosed hills now enclosed woodland (Coed-y-Prior). The area presents an overwhelmingly agricultural landscape of evolved, irregular small and medium size enclosures. Characteristic enclosure includes, dry-stone walls, stone faced banks with hedges, distinctive hedgerow trees, earth banks, hedges, ditches, sheepfolds and post and wire fences.

The area is also characterised by woodland and the activities of forest management. Ancient woodland survives at The Punchbowl and Blaen Ochram and has been replanted at Coed-y-Prior, and other broadleaf woodland exists in the area. Tree species predominant in the area, in particular at The Punchbowl are beech, ash, hazel, maple and oak. Charcoal burning was carried out in the post-medieval period and in more recent years forestry plantations have been established. The scattered farmstead settlement pattern of the area also forms a major characteristic. Most of the area's post-medieval buildings have been altered through the centuries; and thatched roofs have now given way to slate. An important surviving example, Cwm Mawr was rebuilt c.1590 in the characteristic regional style; two room in plan with semi-attic, Cwm Mawr is of white washed rubble stone, stone tiled roof with thick wooden ceiling beams and seventeenth century additions. Other examples of similar style are Cwm-Celyn and Upper Llwyn-Celyn. Also of interest is Castell Prydydd, a two-storey, whitewashed rubble farmhouse with slate roof carried on unusually massive timber brackets, which may have originally supported a stone roof. Other characteristic features include stone end chimneys with distinctive octagonal stacks.

Transport/communication features are also characteristic of the area including the canal and associated bridges and aqueducts (all Listed: Grade II), sunken lanes, footpaths and tracks.

The character of this area is predominantly rural and the links to the industrial heartland of the Blaenavon landscape is tenuous and based largely on the extension of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal to the south of Llanfoist.