The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Character Areas


037 Reynoldston

Photo of Reynoldston

HLCA037 Reynoldston

Post-medieval/medieval settlement and agricultural landscape and manorial centre: former medieval settlement; varied feldscape; organic settlement core; dispersed farmsteads; medieval church; prehistoric domestic defensive features; remnant woodland; and historic associations. Back to Map

Historic Background

The historic landscape area of Reynoldston represents the former main manor of Reynoldston excluding Stouthall estate. The boundaries of the area are long standing following a stream to the south, the edge of Cefn Bryn Common to the north and east and the lane from Puck's Hollow to Frog Moor to the west.

There is no doubt that this area was occupied during the prehistoric period giving its close proximity to Cefn Bryn, remains here include Neolithic chambered tombs as well as numerous Bronze Age monuments. A standing stone (00163w) of supposed Bronze Age date is reported in the area; however, this has been unobserved since the 1970s. Reynoldston camp (00161w; 94607; SAM GM195) is considered to be of Iron Age date and occupation appears to have continued into the Roman period, as is indicated by the discovery of Roman pottery at the site, recorded by Samuel Lewis in 1833. This site may have seen continuation of use into the medieval period, being the supposed original site of the Lucases medieval house before Brynfield (see below).

This area originally fell within the Welsh medieval Cwmwd of Gwyr, a subdivision of the Cantref of Eginog. During the reorganisation of the post-medieval period the area formed the parish of Reynoldston in the Hundred of Swansea, within the County of Glamorgan. Samuel Lewis suggests that the manor derived its name from Reginald de Breos. Reynoldston is listed as being an 'old knights fief' in a charter of 1306, however it is considered that this charter reflects the territorial ambitions of its sponsor, William de Breos VII, and is therefore suspect. It has been postulated that the manor of Reynoldston along with its detached part formed part of the sub-manor of Weobley, and part of the Lordship of Landimore (Nicholl 1936, 40). It is thought that during the pre-Norman early medieval period this area fell within the bounds of an extensive Welsh 'maenor', which comprised the western and northern limits of Gower.

The manor of Reynoldston is known to have been the property of the Vernons of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire from the fourteenth century until the death of Sir George Vernon in 1567. It passed by marriage to Sir Thomas Stanley of Tong, Shropshire and was then sold in 1574 to Sir Edward Herbert, the younger son of the 1st Earl of Pembroke (James 1983, 184). Gabriel Powell's survey of the lordship of Gower in 1764, based on an updated survey of 1630 and 1665, informs us that the infant Thomas Mansel Talbot held the manor of Reynoldston. This and the earlier surveys detail the boundaries of the detached part of the manor, which follow the present community boundary.

The area may have had earlier ecclesiastical origins given that a Pillar Cross of ninth century date (00163w; SAM GM089) was found nearby at Stouthall. The present church of St George (00107w; 229655; LB 22848 II) occupies the site of the medieval church supposedly founded by Sir Reginald de Breos in the thirteenth century (Carlisle 1811). The only surviving feature of this church is a built-up obtuse lancet in the south wall of the chancel (Orrin 1979). The medieval church survived until 1866, and by then was in a rundown condition. Glynne describes the church in 1849 having a nave, chancel, west bellcote and porch with a 'very rude pointed' chancel arch and what appeared to be a rood stair on the north side, round headed lancet on south wall of chancel (mentioned above) and no north windows (Evans 1998).

The settlement of Reynoldston remained rather small even up until the map of 1784. The church is situated near the village green within a polygonal churchyard (05251w). The main core of the settlement is confined to a small area around the church comprising scattered holdings to the north, and to the northeast smaller holdings are situated on the edge of the common with a cluster of cottages south of the church around the main cross roads. The main farm situated just south of the church is today known as Box Farm (01716w; 18073) and possibly dates back to the seventeenth century. Post-medieval dispersed farmsteads are found along the edge of the common to the west and east of the church, these include at this time Little Reynoldston and Hill's Farm also dating from at least the seventeenth century. A cattle watering pond was situated within the green, leading from a spring on the common. Close proximity to the common allowed the operation of a dual agricultural system combining arable fields for farming with common land for grazing of livestock. The main landowners at this time were the Hancornes, Popkins and Lucases, however, sharelands are still visible, although many of the holdings had begun to be consolidated.

The tithe map of 1838 shows further settlement along the edge of the common as well as some ribbon development along the main north-south road from Cefn Bryn, including Grove Cottage. The majority of farmsteads appear well established and additions have been made to Hill's Farm (02683w; 19030) and Little Reynoldston in particular. Very few strip fields remain at this date, the field system being amalgamated into small irregular-shaped enclosures many with rounded corners. Two cottages known as Brooke cottage and Park View located in the area south of Box Farm appear at the same location on both the first Edition OS and estate map of 1784, this could suggest survival of earlier domestic dwellings, but, this would need to be confirmed by further research and field investigation. Additionally, many of the smaller holdings and cottages established during the eighteenth century along the fringes of the common to the northeast of the church may in part have been replaced by the nineteenth century, a process which has continued to this day. Many of the outlying farmsteads appear to be of at least eighteenth century and may have had medieval precursors. Dispersed farmsteads of nineteenth century date are Hayes Farm and Corner House. The field system today largely represents that of the first edition map with the removal of the occasional field boundary.

Brynfield House (01494w; 18124) situated just below the edge of the common, north of the earthwork (00161w) was part of the Lucas family's estate of Stouthall. Dilapidated at the end of the eighteenth century and known as Shepherds Lodge, it was later rebuilt by the lessee the Reverend James Edwards, Rector of Reynoldston (Thompson and Lucas 1995). The house was later occupied by Colonel John Nicholas Lucas before being leased by Sir Gardener Wilkinson and his wife Caroline (maiden name Lucas) in 1866 (Thompson 1995). It was suggested by P. J. Williams in the 1920s that the earthwork, within the grounds of Brynfield house was the original medieval location of the Lucas family's residence. During renovation of the house at Brynfield, Wilkinson discovered painted glass at the base of an old wall; this glass has since been dated c.1400 and is of English origin, indicative of an early high status building.

Reynoldston became a more substantial settlement by the mid-nineteenth century. At the end of the century it boasted a post office, hotel, Methodist chapel, brewery (33314), blacksmith and rectory, and documentary evidence informs us that people of the village continued traditional rural crafts. Like the rest of Gower local quarries and limekilns (02467w) provided lime for agricultural use. Annual fairs were certainly a big event during the nineteenth century; traditionally harvest fairs were held in mid September. These took place on the Upper Green outside the King Arthur Hotel and featured a variety of stalls.

St George's church was rebuilt between 1866-67 at the behest of the Reverend John Davies. Designed by Prichard and Sneddon, Whitehall it was constructed on the foundations of the earlier church with a larger nave than the original church. It consists of nave, chancel, north transept, west bellcote, south porch and vestry. Monuments of seventeenth and eighteenth century date dedicated to the Lucas family are mounted on the walls of the transept and nave (Evans 1998). In 1906 a small vestry was added in the northwest angle of the transept and nave, with heating apparatus in its basement.

A few years later (1869) a Wesleyan Methodist chapel (9643) was founded near the edge of the common northeast of St George's. This had been long awaited as Methodism in Reynoldston had been well established since the end of the eighteenth century, preaching often taking place at people's homes. The most well known Methodist preacher was Thomas Coghlan (Neilson 1989) who preached throughout the Gower into his nineties. The village blacksmith, he came to Reynoldston in 1867 and was well respected within the community, playing an active role in public life and supporting the rights of those who owned small holdings and labourers. Grazing of livestock on the common continues to the present day.

Reynoldston saw its most substantial growth in the twentieth century particularly during the latter half. This largely consists of ribbon development along the main road running along the edge of the common southeast of Brynfield past Little Reynoldston with some infilling of the central cluster and expansion of the village centre westwards. Piecemeal development in the area for housing is still ongoing.