The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Character Areas


020 Weobley, Leason and Llwn-y-bwch

Photo of Weobley, Leason and Llwn-y-bwch

HLCA020 Weobley, Leason and Llwn-y-bwch

Post-medieval/medieval agricultural landscape and former manorial centre: post-medieval cluster and ribbon settlement; post-medieval agricultural features; traditional field boundaries; historic associations; post-medieval rural industry; prehistoric ritual and settlement evidence. Back to Map

Historic Background

The historic landscape area of Weobley, Leason and Llwn-y-bwch roughly equates to the extent of the core of the later medieval sub-manor of Weobley, excluding the coastal strip to the north and the periphery (HLCA 028 Hillend) along Cefn Bryn to the south, and other detached areas at Crofty, Penclawdd and elsewhere. The area of Weobley and Leason was originally located within the Welsh medieval Cwmwd of Gwyr, within the Cantref of Eginog, later the area formed part of Gower Wallicana, held under the manor of Landimore and later the knight's fee of Leason or Weobley. During the reorganisation of the post-medieval period the area fell within the Hundred of Swansea in the County of Glamorgan.

It has been conjectured that during the early medieval period the area formed part of a much larger 'maenor', remnants of this large estate survived in a much-reduced form following dismemberment under Anglo-Norman control. It is thought that Payn de Turbeville inherited this larger Welsh unit, and that this larger holding was broken up as a result of grants to religious orders, so that by the 12th century the manor retained only the dispersed sub-manors of Rhossili, Landimore and Llanrhidian (Draisey 2002). The area of Weobley and Leason as a separate entity and knights fee appears to date from 1304, when John de Turbeville, then lord of Landimore, granted the western portion of sub-manor of Llanrhidian to David de la Bere, who thereafter held it as the demesne lord (Nicholl 1936, 168, 173; Draisey 2002). Later references claiming the area to be one of the Ancient Fees of Gower are considered to be unreliable (Nicholl 1936, 186).

The castle of Weobley (00100w; 27996; SAM GM010; LB 11534 I) was established in the 14th century by the de la Bere family, who had connections with Weobley in Herefordshire; the two earliest phases of construction have been attributed to David de la Bere, c.1304-1327. The earliest surviving work includes the hall, sections of the east curtain wall, and two southern towers. Beneath the hall is a kitchen and at its northeast corner a stair turret rising to a lookout. To the east side is a much altered set of rooms with large fireplaces at ground and first floor levels, and to the west side a solar above store rooms and an entrance gatehouse. The considerable alterations especially at the west side are taken to be a second early phase, implying a decision to reduce the ambitiousness of the plan. According to a report of 1410, the castle of Weobley was severely damaged during the Glyndwr rebellion, however little further alteration occurred until the late fifteenth century, when Weobley came into the ownership of Sir Rhys ap Thomas of Dinefwr. Further improvements to the house during the period constituted the third and final phase; he improved the entrance to the Great Hall from within the ward by adding a two-storey porch block. The central section of the south range is also attributed to Sir Rhys; this appears to have incorporated a first-floor chapel, but is now ruined. The lordship passed to the Crown under Henry VIII and thence to Sir William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. Later the castle became the property of the Margam estate, by this time it had fallen into a 'decayed' state, so much so that by 1665, William Seys, the tenant of the time was farming the demesne lands from a new farmhouse adjacent to the ruined castle (Cooper 1998, 17-18). As one of the better preserved fortified dwellings in Wales, the castle has been in official guardianship since 1911 (Newman 1995, 394-396; Williams 1998, 13-14, 21, 38-45; RCAHMW 2000, 380-404).

Of the adjacent settlement of Leason, little is recorded; the settlement appears like Weobley Castle to date from the enfeoffment of de la Bere at the end of the 13th/early 14th century. In a list of 25 fees dating to 1353 (Cartae, IV, 284) Leason (variously Leiston, Leisanton, or Leasanton) is mentioned, though Weobley is omitted (Nicholl 1936, 168, 173), is considered that the fee of Weobley and Leason were one and the same, and that the medieval settlement at Leason was probably founded to support the adjacent castle and manor of Weobley. The place name of Leason, Leysanteston 1304, may be an English rendition of a Welsh original, incorporating the welsh masculine name Lleision, a Welsh form Treleison which is recorded in 1641 (Gwynedd Pierce Place-names in Huw Owen 1989). Leason is recorded as a hamlet of Llanrhidian in the late sixteenth century by Rice Merrick (James 1983, 119). Cooper's study of the parish of Llanrhidian conjectures that the effects of the Black Death and the unrest of the fourteenth century undermined the local economy to an extent that the prevalent open field system was at least partially abandoned with the result that individual holdings started to be consolidated, so that by the 1750s the medieval settlement and agricultural landscape had been considerably altered. It appears that by this date while the infrastructure layout of the area (lanes) remained essentially unchanged, though emphasis had shifted away from the traditional east-west route along the coastal escarpment above the marsh linking the demesne lands of Weobley Castle, the settlement of Leason and Llanrhidian beyond. The former west-east route appears to have been supplanted by the lane to Oldwalls and the Kings Highway. The routes leading north to the coastal marshland pasture remained important, especially that of Leason lane, which passed Leason Well en route to the marsh (Cooper 1998, 24-25).

This change in emphasis probably reflects the reduced status of Weobley Castle, and in fact the severance of its former relationship with its ancillary settlement of Leason. Both Weobley and Leason appear to have been operating as largely consolidated and independent agricultural holdings by this period. Hedgerow analysis has indicated enclosure of the former common field strips occurring continuously from the early Tudor period, with the fields east of the lane to Leason being enclosed first. Estate plans show that by 1785 most of the area around Leason had been consolidated into long rectangular fields, with a few strips surviving (Cooper 1998, 26). The field pattern then established survives little changed up to the survey of the first edition 25-inch OS map and beyond to the present day, apart from very minor amalgamation of the smallest enclosures, carried out during the latter half of the twentieth century.

The first edition OS 25-inch map shows a settlement layout of three distinct clusters at Leason. The main settlement at Leason comprises a cluster of twelve or so farm buildings and cottages, which comprise Middle Leason and Leason Farm, arranged at the junction of the east-west lane and the lane to the main highway. Located slightly apart to the east are the single range of Lower Leason and its associated cottage. To the north of the settlement area are a number of smaller enclosures set within a curvilinear boundary; this area probably comprised the core area of the medieval settlement. Leason Homestead or Farm is shown slightly separate at the western edge of the settlement within its own series of enclosures, including an orchard; in 1878 the farm comprised a farmhouse, of some status, probably of eighteenth century date, with conjoined L-shaped range of farm buildings at the west. In 1851 this was the home of John Dunn, a farmer of 70 acres, and his household. A further range of detached outbuildings or cottages lie to the northwest, while to the north the ruins of a cottage are shown; this was occupied in 1851 by George Edwards, a butcher, and his family.

The first edition 25-inch OS map indicates an area of rough land, partly forested, corresponding to the escarpment, which traverses the entire area from east to west to include the promontory on which Weobley Castle stands. This includes an area known as Leason wood, which probably extended the entire length of the escarpment. Within this area to the north and east of Leason a number of small quarries and at least four limekilns are shown; all are disused by the second edition. The first edition depicts the ruins of Weobley Castle and adjacent to the south the almost completely enclosed rectangle of Weobley Castle farm (now partly demolished), to the west within woodland below the castle is an area of quarried outcrop and an old limekiln. At the eastern boundary of the area is the post-medieval settlement of Old Walls, which is shown extending in ribbon fashion along the main east-west highway (the current B4295) from a junction, near the Grey Hound Public House, with the lane west to Llanmadoc, and a green lane leading south to open Common of Cefn Bryn. This settlement comprised approximately ten buildings, mainly cottages or smallholdings, fronting the highway, and included the Calvinistic Methodist Ebenezer Chapel, and a smithy. A number of dispersed farmsteads are also indicated, including Windmill farm with two ranges across a yard, Tir-coed a quadrangle of buildings with central yard and separate dwelling, and Mansel's Fold, an extensive irregular arrangement of long ranges located on a triangular site at the junction of the main highway (B4295) and the minor curving lane to Windmill Farm. The majority of the dispersed farmsteads appear to be located close to the pre-existing lines of communication, apart from the farmstead of Tir-coed, which appears to represent a farm in part won from the woodland, which formerly cloaked the southern margins of Cefn Bryn. The first edition also depicts the entrenchments of the defended enclosure (prehistoric or early medieval in date) known as Stembridge Hillfort or Pencynes, overlooking the upper reaches of the Burry Pill valley system at Stembridge.

Encroachment onto the waste of along the northern flank of Cefn Bryn southwards from the former share lands of Weobley appears to have occurred during the post-medieval period. The boundary with the common appears to have been established by at least the early eighteenth century and has seen little change since. At the very edge of Cefn Bryn Common, as depicted on an estate map of 1785, was the now long abandoned Tre Coed (Tre Coyd) House (which appears to have been replaced by a more convenient dwelling further to the north by the time of survey of the Llanrhidian tithe map in c.1840).

The first edition 25-inch OS plan shows a sheepfold at the site of the pre-19th century Tre Coed House (extant in 1785, but no longer evident by the tithe map of c.1840) at the junction with Cefn Bryn Common, whilst an additional single range building (shown also on the tithe map) is indicated lying to the north well within the holding (i.e. within the estate of Tre coed), near to the track which extends north to the main east west highway to Llangennith. Again, this building appears at the junction of rough and improved grazing with a curving boundary extending to the northeast, which forms the divide. Though, by this date the holding of Trecoed is completely enclosed, the location of this building and the field pattern to the southeast of the area characterised by rough grazing suggests this represents a final phase of encroachment, probably of eighteenth century or earlier date.

The extent of post-medieval encroachment onto the waste along the southern margins of the area is also represented by Llwyn-y-bwch (02700w; 19235) a post-medieval single-unit, direct-entry, end-chimney house with a date stone of 1717 bearing the initials H G M, joist-beam ceiling and bed cupboard (RCAHMW 1988, 611). The first edition OS 25-inch map shows the farmhouse with its detached L-shaped range of outbuildings (37594) to the west set around the north and east sides of a rectangular yard, the section along the eastern side may incorporate an earlier short north-south aligned rectangular building depicted on the tithe of c.1840. Llwyn-y-bwch (variously Llyn-y-bwch, Llyn y bough, and Lan y bough) is also interesting as by the post-medieval period it is recorded as reputedly being a manor, consisting of one tenement of lands; in 1650 the manor was in the ownership of Sir Edward Mansel (Draisey 2002, 109-110), and by the time of Gabriel Powell's survey of the Lordship of Gower of 1764 a Thomas Gorton was in possession (Morris ed 2000, 47).