The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Mynydd Margam Historic Landscape Character Areas

Historical Processes, Themes and Background

The Geological Background and the Natural Landscape

The historic landscape area of Mynydd Margam, some 3,295 ha in area, is located within the dissected plateau of the upland region of Glamorgan, the southwestern edge of the Blaenau Morgannwg. The main part of the area comprises the upland area of Mynydd Margam; the heighest point being the currently forested summit of Mynydd Margam at 349m OD. Mynydd Margam comprises a high slightly undulating but fairly wide upland ridge, running westnorthwest - eastsoutheast summiting at heights between 244m and 349m OD. The west and south of the area is characterised by steep lower slopes, eg Graig Fawr (HLCA 003) and Graig-Goch (HLCAs 001 and 016), with a break of slope at around 180m OD, and deeply entrenched valleys, such as Cwm Brombil (HLCA 003), Cwm Maelwg (HLCA 002) and Cwm Phillip (within HLCA 001 and HLCA 010), often wooded or previously wooded. Above these, typically are flat-topped ridges or spurs, which adjoin the main Margam ridge, such as Mynydd Brombil (HLCA 004, including Ergyd Uchaf and Ergyd Isaf) and Cefn Crugwyllt (HLCA 002).

The extent of the landform subject to characterisation is as follows: the north edge of the area is defined by Cwm Dyffryn and the course of the Ffrwd Wyllt, and the industrially altered valley of Nant Cwm Farteg, to the west and south range the deeply entrenched valley sides of Mynydd Brombil, Cefn Crugwyllt and Moel Ton Mawr. The eastern edge of the historic landscape as defined on the register, artificially cuts across the upper slopes of Mynydd Margam between Moel Ton Mawr and Moel Sychbant, and thereafter follows the forestry edge across Cwm Sychbant to Cwm Farteg. The area used for the purposes of the characterisation study extends east of the historic landscape boundary and is defined by western side of the Llynfi Valley (ie. the extent of the urban and industrial areas of Maesteg and Pont Rhyd-y-cyff and its associated industrial communication corridor of the Llynfi Valley). As a result the area takes in the entire area of enclosed slopes north of Nant Bryn Cynan and Nant-y-Gadlys.

Mynydd Margam (HLCA 010) at the centre of the historic landscape is the source of a number of tributary streams feeding the main river systems of the area; feeding the Afon Cynffig (Kenfig River), Afon Ogwr and the lesser Afon Ffrwd Wyllt. The source of the Afon Cynffig is located on the southeastern side of Mynydd Margam, just below the summit near Twmpath Diwlith, while the main body of the upland core of Mynydd Margam is divided from the hills of Mynydd Bach and Moel Gallt-y-cwm by the west flowing streams of Nant-y-glo and Nant Cwmwernderi and the east-flowing Nant Sychbant, respectively within Cwm Wernderi and Cwm Sychbant. Mynydd Bach and Moel Gallt-y-cwm are separated by the narrow stream valley of Nant-y-boda, while the west and southern slopes of Mynydd Margam are cut by numerous deeply entrenched stream valleys, from north to south: Cwm y Garn; Cwm Gwineu; Cwm Rhys; Cwm y Geifr; Cwm y Brombil; Cwm Maelwg; Cwm Caetreharn; Cwm Philip and Cwm Cynffig. The main valleys dissecting the eastern flanks of Mynydd Margam are Cwm y Goblyn, Cwm Sychbant, Cwm Cerdin, and Cwm Nant-y-Gadlys with Cwm Nant Bryncynan. It is generally within these deep valleys that areas of Ancient and other natural/semi-natural broadleafed woodland survive, such as within Cwm y Brombil (HLCA 003) and Cwm Nant-y-Gadlys (HLCA 012).

The solid geology of the area is Carboniferous sandstone of the Llynfi and Swansea beds and the Lower Pennant Measures, which is characterised by thick massive feldspathic and micaceous sandstones and grits (George, N 1970, 89-94). The landscape of the area was altered during the Pleistocene period, approximately 18,000 years ago, by glaciation to create the landscape we know today. The principle glacial collecting point in South Wales was the Carmarthenshire Fans and the Brecon Beacons, the northern face of which was the source of numerous corrie glaciers. The Pennant escarpment and Craig-y-Llyn was the only barrier effectively to deflect the main Fans-Beacons ice-flow and created an icecap of its own. It was this force of ice, which modified the valleys of the area, icluding the Afan, Llynfi, and Ogwr (Ogmor) Valleys (George, N 1970 126-7).

The drift geology of the area is devided between stagnohumic gleys including peat soils on the upland core and brown earths elsewhere (Caseldine 1990). On the high ridges and summits of Mynydd Margam (largely HLCAs 004, 010, 013 and 014 and part of HLCAs 001 and 002) soils of the Gelligaer formation (Palaeozoic sandstone) predominate; typically loamy permeable upland soils over sandstone with a wet peaty surface horizon and bleached subsurface horizon, some with thin ironpan, and local rock and scree, providing wet moorland habitats and being of poor and moderate grazing value (Soil Survey of England and Wales 1983, 16). Peatland vegitation, such as sphagnum mosses, sedges and and rush predominates, particularly outside areas modified through coniferous plantation. The lower the slopes and spurs (largely HLCAs 001, 002, 003, 005, 007, 008, 009, 015, 016 and 017, and in part 012) are dominated by soils derived from Palaeozoic sandstone of the Withnel 1 type; well drained loamy soils over sandstone usually on steep slopes, including some fine loamy soils with slowly permeable subsoils subject to slight seasonal waterlogging, local areas of bare rock. These soils form acid grassland habitats with good grazing value in upland contexts (Soil Survey of England and Wales 1983, 14). Drift from palaezoic sandstone, mudstone and shale (Wilcocks 1; Soil Survey of England and Wales 1983, 18) predominates the soils of the eastern valleys around Llangynwyd (HLCAs 005, 011 and 012). The latter comprises slowly permeable seasonally waterlogged fine loamy and over clayey upland soils with peaty surface horizons (acidic where not limed) and includes coarse loamy soils affected by ground water in places. The result being typically wet moorland habitats of poor and moderate grazing value. The southern edge of the Historic Landscape (ie HLCAs 006 and to a much lesser extent HLCA 001) is typified by glaciofluvial or river terrace drift (Wick 1); characterised by deep well drained coarse loamy and sandy soils, locally over gravel. The soil conditions favour cearals and some horticultural crops in lowland areas, in addition to stock rearing. A limited area of drift from Palaeozoic and Mesozoic sandstone and shale (Brickfield 2) appears in HLCA 001; characterised by slowly permeable seasonally waterlogged to well drained fine loamy soils; though generally HLCA 001 is dominated by Withnel 1 (see above; Soil Survey of England and Wales 1983).

While limited pollen analysis has been carried out on archaeological sites in the region, these have concentrated on the analysis of material associated with the Bronze Age, and later periods. As a result local evidence of the earlier environmental conditions and indeed during the immediate post-glacial period is limited. It is assumed that as climatic conditions gradually ameliorated following the last glaciation, dense native woodland gradually extended over the area. The effects of man on this woodland is fairly dramatic; with progressive felling implied at least from the Neolithic, supported by finds of axes of the period from throughout the area. Pollen analysis from the Bronze Age burial cairn on Crug-yr-Afan, in the Rhondda, indicates a contemporary environment of heathland, with an open tree cover dominated by oak. Evidence suggests that by the end of the Bronze Age, the upland areas of Margam, like most of the uplands were covered by extensive blanket peat (Caseldine 1990).

It is likely that the higher less precipitous slopes, including the ridge plateaux of Mynydd Margam (HLCAs 004, 010, 013 and 014), had been extensively cleared of woodland from an early period; at least by the early Bronze Age, given the concentrations of funerary and ritual features, especially cairns, such as Ergyd Isaf (SAM Gm 160; HLCA 004) and Twmpath Diwlith (PRN 754w; HLCA 013). The regeneration of woodland prevented through established and prolonged use for stock rearing (cattle) during later prehistoric period; this is evidenced by the presence of 'fortified' enclosures along the periphery of the upland plateaux, such as the camp on Moel Ton mawr (HLCA 013) and Y Bwlwarcau (HLCA 005). While continued use or re-use of the higher ground within the area for grazing throughout the medieval period is similarly attested by reoccupation of late prehistoric sites and the establishment of new settlement sites along the fringes of the upland, such as the long-hut settlements on Mynydd Brombil (HLCA 004).

The extent of Ancient Woodland is demonstrated by cartographic sources; Hill's survey of the Margam Estate of 1813-14, the Ordnance Survey maps of 1814, and the 1st edition 6 " OS maps 1884-5. It is evident that by the post-medieval period the effects of man had had a fairly drastic affect on tree coverage within the area with woodland surviving in restricted localities. By 1884-5 the largest concentration in 1884-5 of woodland within the study area was in the vicinity of Margam Park, ie just to the north at Graig Cwm Maelwg and within Cwm Philip (HLCA 002, and at Graig fawr (HLCA 003). Other tracts of woodland included Graig-y-Capel and Graig-y-Twr within the Park at Margam (HLCA 001), the wooded slopes of Graig-y-Lodge extended beyond the Park forming a corridor of woodland (Coed Ton mawr) along the slope of Graig-goch (HLCA 016) southeastwards to the densely forested slopes of Cwm Cynffig (outside the study area). The development of the area's forests during the post-medieval period is delt with in section 6.5, below.

Today, apart from small areas of natural Ancient Woodland at Coed Ton mawr, Graig Goch (HLCA 016), within Cwm Cerdin and near Llwydiarth (HLCA 005) and the northeast flanks of Cwm Nant-y-Gadlys (HLCA 012), the remnants of formerly more extensive natural native woodland survive as replanted pockets. The areas of replanted Ancient Woodland are located within HLCAs 001, 002, 003, 010, 012, and 016 (Southern 1986). The surviving Ancient Woodland is primarily located in the deeply entrenched stream and river valleys of the area, and on the steeper slopes or escarpments.

Back to top of page

The Administrative Landscape

The administrative function of the landscape is perhaps best illustrated by HLCA 001, with its late prehistoric hillfort (Mynydd-y-Castell; SAM Gm 162), early medieval and later medieval monastic foci, though elements of administrative landscapes or features visible in a number of other character areas, for example (HLCA 005 and 013).

The historic landscape area of the Mynydd Margam comprises the modern communities of Bryn, Margam, and Tai Bach within the current Neath Port Talbot County Borough, and the communities of Llangynwyd Lower, Llangynwyd Middle, and Maesteg within Bridgend County Borough. The current boundary between Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend closely reflects the main watershed between the Llynfi/Ogmore river valley systems and those rivers and streams, which flow west into Swansea Bay. The area was divided between the old ecclesiastical parishes of Margam and Llangynwyd; the civil equivalents being largely coterminous within the bounds of the historic landscape, except that of Llangynwyd, which was sub-divided into Lower and Middle.

Apart from natural barriers, such as streams and rivers, the earliest territorial boundaries in the area are those demarcated by prehistoric funerary monuments, mostly cairns of the Bronze Age (2300-800BC), such as Twmpath Diwlith (PRN 754w), the cluster of cairns around Llyndwr Fawr (PRNs 751w; 752w; 753w, (SAM Gm 443), and the Port Talbot Tumulus 763w), which occupy the high ground above the valleys. Carreg Bica standing stone (destroyed, PRN 711w; SS83489123; HLCA 010) also appears to have demarcated the ancient boundary line and the adjacent upland route of Heol-y-Moch. These features were without doubt highly conspicuous within the upland landscape during the prehistoric period with an equally significant social and ritual aspect, and could well have acted as visible markers of physical as well as spiritual zones in the landscape of the period . It is arguable that some form of continuity, at least in terms of visual significance, is implied by re-use throughout later periods of these prehistoric features as route and boundary markers; the western boundary of Margam is visible through at least the medieval periods to the present day with modern boundaries, such as ecclesiastical parish, modern community, and County Borough boundaries continuing to utilise these early features. The later boundaries also appear to conveniently follow, more or less, the ancient ridegway route known as Ffordd-y-gyfraith, or Heol-y-Moch (the current Coed Morgannwg Way and Ogwr Ridgeway Walk). Numerous boundary stones and markers of post-medieval, and possibly earlier date demarcate the various holdings on Mynydd Margam, as well as its limits, these are detailed on the 1st and 2nd edition OS and earlier estate maps.

The distribution and scale of late prehistoric and medieval settlement could present an indication of the administrative landscape throughout the period. The larger of the fortified hill top settlements/enclosures of Iron Age/Romano-British (800BC-AD410) date in the area, ie Mynydd-y-castell (SAM Gm 162; HLCA 001), the multi-phase earthworks of Y Bwlwarcau (SAM Gm 59; HLCA 005) and Caer Cwm Phillip (SAM Gm 057; HLCA 015) may all have had some element of 'administrative' function.

The present boundary within the area are known to be of some antiquity: the bounds of the ecclesiastic parish of Margam, closely reflects those of the main medieval monastic lands of Margam (Rees 1932; Williams 1990) and is thought to reflect the even earlier boundary between the early medieval parochiae of Margam and Llangynnd (Knight 1995), the same boundary is also considered to be that between the pre-existing medieval commotes (Richards 1969). The line of the boundary is illustrated by the location of the 6th century Bodvoc stone (ECM 229; PRN 809w) inscribed BODVOC-HIC IACIT / FILIVIS CATOTIGIRNI / PRONEPVS ETERNALI VEDOMAV ('the stone of Bodvocus-he lies here, the son of Catotigirnus and great grandson of Eternalis Vedomavus'), set on a Bronze Age cairn (PRN 753w; SAM Gm 443) at the boundary and adjacent to the ancient ridgeway route of Heol-y-moch or Ffordd-y-gyfraith; this might indicate continued use or at least re-use of the area as a traditional territorial boundary.

On morphological grounds its possible that the churchyard enclosure, or llan, of St Cynwyd, ie Llangynwyd, may date from the the late prehistoric or Roman period (cf. Whitton, Jarrett and Wrathmell, 1981); this might indicate, at least, reuse of an earlier enclosure, and settlement site, possibly with some important administrative function, which is later supplanted by a religious function during the early medieval period.

The historic landscape is situated within the post-medieval County of Glamorgan, which prior to the Norman invasion was part of the early Kingdom of Glywysing, named after an eponymous early King, Glywys; during the 10th century the area became known as Morgannwg, from its ruler Morgan (Morcan) Hen (c 930-74), later Glamorgan, ('Gwlad Morgan') the medieval lordship (Knight 1995). According to tradition Glywysing or Morgannwg was divided into seven administrative regions or cantrefi, while 12th century sources assert that these were named after the sons of Glywys. The Margam historic landscape area lay within the cantref of Margam. Traditionally each cantref was divided into cwmwd, or commotes, each comprising estates or maenorau made up of a number of trefi, or townships. The exact form of the pre-Norman commotes of the area is largely speculative, however recent work (Knight 1995) has proposed a Cantref of Margam (Afan), which extended from the River Tawe with its southern boundary at either the River Cynffig (Kenfig) or Ogwr (Ogmore) the boundary of the medieval rural deanery of Kenfig.

While a main eccleasiastic centre is considered to have existed at Margam (HLCA 001), it is also possible, given the number of location of the late prehistoric (with potential early medieval occupation) defended site of Mynydd-y-castell, and the cluster of other hillslope enclosed sites (eg Moel Ton-mawr Camp, and Y Bwlwarcau), that Margam was also of secular administrative significance, possibly a commotal, if not cantrefal centre.

Another contender for a regional secular focus, other than Margam is the site of Hen Gastell (Wilkinson 1995) further to the north, at the mouth of the River Neath, it is considered that this site may have held commotal status with its ecclesiatic equivalent at Baglan (Knight 1995).

Crossridge dykes such as that near Caer Blaen y Cwm Iron Age Camp (SAM Gm 58; HLCA 013), possibly of prehistoric, but generally thought to be of early medieval date, may have had some administrative function. These sites, including the above, appear to have been located as to control the access along the ridgeway routes, and are also frequently found at established boundaries, such as between commotes and cantrefi.

The existence of a major early medieval church is at Margam is indicated by a number of Early Christian inscribed stones; this is considered elsewhere (see section 6.3). During the medieval period, itself, the main focus of administration was the Cistercian abbey of Margam (HLCA 001), which controlled the area through a system of granges such as at Hafod-y-porth (HLCA 010). The importance of Margam as an administrative centre continued after the dissolution of the monasteries, and the crown sales of the former monastic properties of Margam (in 1540, 1543, and 1546). During the post-medieval period Margam became the main seat of one the most influential of Glamorgan families, the Mansels.

Following the reorganisation of the area after the Norman annexation of the area, the historic landscape area was divided between Cynffig and the lordship of Tir Iarl, the latter being demesne land of the Earls of Gloucester, lords of Glamorgan (Richards 1969; RCAHMW Vol III, pt 1a, 1991). Llangynwyd Castle, or Castell Coch (SAM Gm85; RCAHMW Vol III, pt 1a, 1991; HLCA 005) was the administrative focal point within the lordship of Tir Iarl. The relative isolation of the administrative centre is viewed as surprising, and the Royal Commission suggest, that despite a lack of tactical value, its importance lay in its strategic value as 'an advanced base against' the Welsh lords of Afan (RCAHMW Vol III, pt 1a, 1991, 258). However, other locational factors may have been at play; the site is considered to be constructed on an existing 'late prehistoric' inland 'promontory' fort, based on the large outer enclosure or bailey, evidence elsewhere points to these sites being occupied during the early medieval period, and not necessarily being of prehistoric date (cf Dinas Powys; Alcock 1987). It is just possible that the Norman castle was built on the site of the main secular administrative centre of the commote of Llangynwyd, transferring control from the earlier centre of power.

Back to top of page

Funerary, Ecclesiastical and Legendary Landscapes

The earliest and perhaps most visual features of the pre-industrial landscape throughout the area are funerary monuments located within the uplands dating to the Bronze Age (2300-800BC); these features are arranged in two main clusters or groups; one towards the western end of the Mynydd Margam ridge including two Bronze Age Cairns, or round barrows at Ergyd Isaf (SAM Gm 160; PRNs 741 and 742; HLCA 004), and nearby at Ergyd Uchaf (SAM Gm 159; PRN 749w; HLCA 010), and a second grouping at the head of Cwm Cynffig, including a two cairns near Llyndwr Fawr (PRNs 751w and 752w; HLCA 010), a ring cairn (PRN 753w; HLCA 010), the 'supposed' original site of the early medieval inscribed Bodvoc stone (SAM Gm 443; HLCA 010), to the south the so called Port Talbot Tumulus (PRN 763w; HLCA 013) and at Waun Lluest-wen another ring cairn (PRN 115m; HLCA 013), and Twmpath Diwlith (PRN 00754w; excavation in 1921 revealed a cist burial; HLCA 013). Outliers include the possible barrow of Mynydd Margam Beacon (NPRN 307,286; HLCA 010), also considered to be a maritime defensive feature of medieval date, and to the south west the near destroyed Rhyd Llechws round barrow, just south east of the summit and the round barrow on Moel Ton mawr (PRN 00755w; HLCA 014). Several of these sites were excavated on behalf of the National Museum of Wales by Dr RE Mortimer Wheeler in 1921 (RCAHMW. Glamorgan Inventory, Volume 1, Part 1); the Royal Commission record that all of the barrows and cairns excavated had been previously damaged and that 'some of the the mounds had been built of irregularly cut turves, and yielded a few flint flakes during excavation.

Of particular interest is the barrow of Twmpath Diwlith (PRN 00754w; SS 8322 8879; HLCA 013), this was found to have been constructed of turf over a rough cist-burial containing fragmentary burnt bones', the site had later been enlarged with earth and a secondary interment (disturbed) inserted. The important 6th century Bodvoc stone (ECM 229; PRN 809w; replica, original in NMW) inscribed BODVOC-HIC IACIT / FILIVIS CATOTIGIRNI / PRONEPVS ETERNALI VEDOMAV ('the stone of Bodvocus-he lies here, the son of Catotigirnus and great grandson of Eternalis Vedomavus') is set into the adjacent ringcairn (PRN 753w; SAM Gm 443; SS 8306 8878; HLCA 010). The 1st edition 6'' OS map of 1884 shows the then location of the stone on the 'tumulus' immediately east of the ancient ridgeway route of Heol-y-moch (an extention of Ffordd-y-gyfraith), and names it as careg-lythrog (inscribed stone). There is a possibility that the Bodvoc stone may have originally have been associated with Twmpath Diwlith, especially in the light of the secondary burial; this is, however, largely speculative.

The significance of the Bodvoc stone is enhanced by its location close to a well-established civil and ecclesiastic boundary; the boundary between the parishes of Margam and Llangynwyd ('yr Hen Blwyf') and the boundary of main monastic lands of Margam during the medieval period (Rees 1932; Williams 1990), the stone's location is thought to reflect the even earlier boundary between the early medieval parochiae of Margam and Llangynnd (Knight 1995).

An interesting tradition associated with Twmpath Diwlith is as the place where the reknowned Welsh literary figure Ieuan Fawr ap y Diwlith, was discovered as a child by the bards of Tir Iarl.

The site of the Carreg Bica (HLCA 010) standing stone near the ancient ridgeway route of Heol-y-Moch may also originally have had a ritual significance, in addition to its more obvious function as a route/boundary marker. These features remain visible in the landscape and indeed as visible features, in an often-featureless landscape, continue as reference points for current administrative boundaries.

Undoubtedly the most significant place of ecclesiastical importance and of legendary note within the Margam Historic Landscape is undoubtedly Margam itself (HLCA 001), eponominously associated with 'Morcan' or Morgan Hen (c 930-74), ruler of Morgannwg and on the available evidence thought to be one of three major parochial churches of the cantref of Margam during the early medieval period, the others being located at Merthyr Mawr and Baglan. The identification of the early medieval ecclesiastical site at Margam is inferred from an important group of decorated an inscribed stones (of the 9th-10th centuries) found in the immediate vicinity of the later Cistercian Abbey. The 'Conbelin' stone, a large disc-headed slab-cross set in a socket stone, is considered to be indicative of a monastic enclosure, while other pre-Norman stones appear to have been associated with burial. The site of the early medieval monastic church is thought to have stood approximately on the site of the later Abbey Church; while no specific topographic features were previously identified to indicate the extent of the monastic enclosure (RCAHMW); a possible clue is available in the cartographic evidence: the former existance of a polygonal or circular churchyard enclosure, typical of early medieval establishments, is depicted in Hill's Estate Survey of 1814 enclosing the area around the Abbey church at Margam. An additional early medieval ecclesiastic site has also been tentatively identified nearby at Cryke, Capel Mair (PRN 0765w; Hen Eglwys) also based on churchyard morphology, with evidence of a circular or polygonal enclosure/church yard (Evans 2003). The early medieval monastic establishment at Margam is thought to have served the geographic area between the Afan and Kenfig rivers, with another early church site associated with St Non, mother of St David indicated through placename evidence and by ECMW 198 located some 1.6km to the south at Eglwys Nynnid (Eglwys Nynydd; HLCA 006).

Also within the area of the historic landscape characterisation study is the early church site of Llangynwyd (HLCA 005), serving a separate early medieval parish within the cantref of Margam (Knight 1995).

The churchyard enclosure, or llan, at Llangynwyd (yr hen fynwent; HLCA 005), associated with the 6th century church of St Cynwyd, is on morphological grounds of a type known elsewhere to date from the Roman period (cf. Whitton, Jarrett and Wrathmell, 1981). Other sites within the historic landscape offer possible prehistoric parallels, such as Caer Blaen-y-cwm, and Y Bwlwarcau, all of which have similar morphological elements. This could indicate, at least, reuse of an earlier enclosure/settlement site, if not continuity of occupation over a considerable period; the site eventually developing a funerary and ritual significance during the early medieval period (HLCA 005).

Documentary references also allude to other medieval ecclesiastic features with early medieval origins such as, the chapel of St Illtud (Ylltit) with its associated cemetery near Gadlys Farm and numerous holywells throughout the area, most of unknown date, though probably of ancient, even pre-christian origin (Richards 1982, 56-7).

The main eccleasiastical landscape theme of the later medieval period is provided by the Maragm Abbey (HLCA 001); a significant eccleasiastic focal point with its attendant chapelries and granges. In 1147 the lands at Margam were granted by Robert of Gloucester, lord of Glamorgan, to St Bernard's abbey of Clairvaux, for foundation of a new Cistercian house of Margam. The nave of the 12th century church survives, in use as the parish church. At the start of the 13th century the Abbey was re-constructed by Abbot Gilbert (1203-13); the chapter house and the eastern part of the church, presbytery, choir and transepts date from this time. The monastic remains at Margam, in particular the Abbey church of St Mary's (grade A; SAM Gm 5), Chapter House (grade I; SAM Gm 5), Infirmary (grade I; SAM Gm 5), and Hen Eglwys (grade II; Gm 163) are extemely important elements in the landscape and potent visual reminders of the area's medieval ecclesiastic significance.

The various granges associated with Margam Abbey had an important influence on the development of the landscape of the area in terms of agriculture and settlement; stock husbandry (ie cattle and in particular sheep) was further developed during monastic control of the area and indeed Margam became reknowned as a wool producing centre; the Taxatio of 1291 and poll tax return of 1379 indicate the large scale nature of sheep-farming during the period within the area's held by Margam (Owen 1989, 215; Cowley 1977, 86-9; Williams 1962, 174). The resultant settlement pattern appears to have been one of dispersed farmsteads or granges around the perimeter of Mynydd Margam (see in particular HLCAs 001 - 004, 006, 009, 010, and 017); granges within the historic landscape character area were Cryke Grange with its mill site and 14th - 15th century 'Bath House' Holy Well (SAM Gm 545), Hafod-y-porth, Llanfugeilydd (Cwrt-y-defaid or Sheeps Grange) with its medieval cemetery, Llangyfelach (later Maes y court) and Whitecross granges (RCAHMW, 1982, 275-6; Williams, 1990, 48-52), some of which appear to have been utilised on a seasonal basis (see section 6.4 and 6.5).

During the later medieval period the church at Llangynwyd was mentioned in a charter of 1128 confirming the possessions of the see of Llandaff. Llangynwyd church was appropriated by Margam Abbey in 1353 without royal licence (Glamorgan County History Vol III, 143); the connection with Margam was to last until the dissolution of the Abbey in 1536-7.

The existing ecclesiastic foci in the area continued into the post-medieval period; the Mansel family held the advowson of the parish church within the former monastic abbey church at Margam (HLCA 001) and the church of Llangynwyd (HLCA 005).

An addition of the period are non-conformist chapels; these are, however, relatively scarce within the Margam estate itself, which retained a strong hold on the established religious allegiances of the area. Bethesda Chapel (HLCA 005) of 1795-1799 represents an important focus for the development of the nonconformist church in the area and was the senior church the Congregationalists/Independants of the area.

Back to top of page

Settlement Landscapes

The earliest evidence of human settlement in the Mynydd Margam area is represented by a small mixed assemblage of flint tools dating to the Mesolithic (10000-4400BC), Neolithic (4400-2300BC), and early Bronze Age (2300-800BC) periods with only slightly larger concentrations of material evidence, so far located beyond the historic landscape boundaries; mesolithic material is evident west of Blaen Rhondda, while neolithic evidence is largely restricted to the coastal fringe around Baglan Bay and Margam Beach, and includes a thin-butted stone axe of late Neolithic date (Greaves-Brown; Evans 1982). It is considered that this evidence of human activity represents temporary upland hunting camps, occupied by hunter-gatherer groups as part of a seasonal migration pattern between the coastal lowlands and the upland Blaenau.

There is significant evidence for activity in the Mynydd Margam area during the Bronze Age; however this is predominantly related to upland funerary monuments. The whereabouts of settlement is largely based on stray finds of flint tools, the distribution being similar to earlier periods. The effect of human activity on the natural vegetation of the area is clear from pollen analysis carried out in the locality; this is at its height at the end of the Bronze Age, and it is perhaps no surprise that the first major impact of human settlement on the physical environment of the area dates to this and the following period, the Iron Age.

While settlement/agricultural/defensive sites of the late prehistoric period are exteremely evident in the area, the available evidence on settlement development during the late prehistoric, Roman-British, and early medieval periods is largely untested. The most visible remains in the area are relict prehistoric settlement/agricultural features with a defensive aspect, such as the Iron Age hillfort (Mynydd-y-Castell hillfort; PRN 758w; SAM Gm 162; HLCA 001) and the impressive Iron Age defended hillslope site of Y Bwlwarcau (PRN 116m; SAM Gm 059; HLCA 005), with its pentagonal internal enclosure; the latter site is noticeably located on the edge of, and demarcates, the enclosed land to the east of Mynydd Margam and is demonstratably orientated and associated on the lower lying enclosed slopes to the east.

Mynydd-y-Castell within Margam Park (PRN 758w; SAM Gm 162; HLCA 001) set on the summit of an isolated hill with comanding views of the surrounding landscape comprises a D-shaped univallate hillfort enclosing an area of 2.7ha. The defences comprise a massive bank or scarp accompanied by a ditch with counterscarp bank with an entrance on the SW defined by slightly inturned ends of the inner scarp; evidence exists which suggests a smaller enclosure was originally intended for the site, but apparently abandoned before completion in favour of the larger extant site. The interior of the site is apparently unploughed and appears devoid of early habitation, apart from a round levelled area at the S end, which resembles a hut-platform, though discounted by RCAHMW as being of modern origin (RCAHMW Glamorgan Inventory, Volume 1, Part 2).

Y Bwlwarcau (PRN 116m; SAM Gm 059; HLCA 005) numbers among several 'defended' enclosures in the vicinity, which appear to be controlling access between the valleys, ridgeway routes and the higher pastures of Mynydd Margam. The site comprises a multi-phase earthwork with an inner enclosure of 0.3 ha surrounded by two or three earlier concentric banks and ditches enclosing a total area of 7.2 ha. The inner enclosure, its entrance on the E, is defined by a prominent bank, ditch and counterscarp bank, which appears to have been superimposed on an earlier one of c 4.4ha, with similar but slighter defences of an interrupted type. Parallels exist for the latter, which indicate a possible neolithic date (cf Beech Court Farm Enclosure; Yates 2002). An equilateral yard against the inner boundary bank is thought to be associated with the inner enclosure (RCAHMW Glamorgan Inventory, Volume 1, Part 2; Fox and Fox 1934). It is considered that the inner enclosure represents a later phase, probably late Iron Age or Romano-British in date.

A similar site on a slightly smaller scale is the angular defended enclosure of Moel Ton-mawr or Caer Cwm Phillip (PRN 758w; SAM Gm 057; HLCA 015), again set on a hillslope location, this comprises two polygonal enclosure banks with annex; the inner trapezoidal enclosure, just over 0.4ha, is defended by a ditch between two banks, the outer bank or counterscarp is abscent on the angles, has an entrance to the NE and is located asymmetrically and to the S within the larger pentagonal enclosure, which is c 2.7ha in area and with its entrance on the E (RCAHMW. Glamorgan Inventory, Volume 1, Part 2; Fox and Fox 1934).

The enclosed site of Caer Blaen y Cwm (PRN 759w; SAM Gm 058; HLCA 013; Glamorgan Inventory, Volume 1, Part 2; Fox and Fox 1934), situated on a broad mountain spur, gently sloping to the S, comprises a quadrangular enclosure of 0.1ha, defended by a ditch between two banks, with its entrance to S, utilised by a later hollow way.

Another late prehistoric defended site, possibly associated with Y Bwlwarcau, given its proximity, down slope from the latter is the late prehistoric hillfort, which is thought to underly the medieval ringwork castle of Llangynwyd Castle or Castell-coch (SAM Gm 85; HLCA 005), located on a promontory between Cwm Cae-lloi and Nant-y-castell (RCAHMW Volume 3, Part 1a).

Other small univallate hillslope enclosures of possible late prehistoric date include: the scheduled camp to the E of Ton mawr (SAM Gm 090; HLCA 015); an irregular ring of 0.3ha, defended by a single rampart, now visible as a bank around the western half and a scarp elsewhere, an outer ditch is added to the defences on the NW, the entrance lies to the SW. A similar site lies within forestry at Cwm Phillip West, (PRN 774w; SAM Gm 056; HLCA 010) also known as the 'Danish Camp', a simple oval enclosure defined by a single bank (RCAHMW. Glamorgan Inventory, Volume 1, Part 2; Fox and Fox 1934). Lesser enclosed sites include the enclosed site above Taibach (Nprn 54,457; HLCA 003) and Halfmoon Camp (Prn 0745w; SAM Gm 477; HLCA 003), an oval enclosure, 53m NW-SE by 37m set on a S-facing spur overlooking Margam Abbey (RCAHMW. Glamorgan Inventory, Volume 1, Part 2; Fox and Fox 1934).

The majority of the defended sites of the area are situated, like other examples of their type, either on what would have been high open moorland, or in the case of those sites, eg Y Bwlwarcau, in Llangynwyd at the upper margins of the medieval enclosed land; their location would suggest occupation on a seasonal basis, when animals were moved to the higher pastures during the summer. The hill-slope location, small central enclosure and, widely spaced outer banks (where extant) is more suggestive of a primarily pastoral function; the layout lending itself more easily to the function of stock raising and protection, and control of upland pasturage, rather than effective defence of a larger territory. This is especially so when the lack of intervisibity between sites is considered; the sites appear to be controlling the use of pasturage on the gentle-sloping upland plateaux and ridges, with smaller outlying (possibly later) enclosed settlement located at the break of slope above Cwm Cynffig, Cwm Philip, Cwm Maelwg, and Cwm Brombil, allowing control of the summer grazing, while providing a secure visual link to adjacent valleys.

None of the late-prehistoric enclosed sites within the area have been excavated, and no definite evidence for habitation has been established. On morphological grounds, and in the absence of excavation, it is appears that at least two main phases of landscape developement are represented by these monuments: an earlier phase, prehistoric (possibly neolithic/early Bronze Age by analogy), represented by the earlier larger concentric enclosures of Y Bwlwarcau (PRN 116m; SAM Gm 059; HLCA 005) and possibly the massively defended Mynydd-y-Castell within Margam Park (see below for conjectured early medieval occupation of the latter; PRN 758w; SAM Gm 162; HLCA 001). A later phase, based on similarity of morphology, ie double banked and ditched enclosures of similar size (0.1ha - 0.4ha), is postulated, as represented by the reconstruction of Y Bwlwarcau (PRN 116m; SAM Gm 059; HLCA 005), specifically the addition of the inner enclosure and the associated yard, the construction of the angular defended enclosure of Moel Ton-mawr (PRN 758w; SAM Gm 057; HLCA 015), and Caer Blaen y Cwm (PRN 759w; SAM Gm 058; HLCA 013). Given the lack of excavation and dating evidence it uncertain as whether this phasing might relate to the late prehistoric or Roman-British periods; or might even for example relate to early medieval settlement, characterised perhaps by reoccupation of late prehistoric enclosures, closely followed by construction of other enclosures as a response to social fragmentation or increased competition for use of upland grazing; a factor which might be mirrored by increased landscape partition elsewhere.

The extent of early medieval settlement in the area is unknown; however it is likely that some measure of continuity of native settlement carried over from the late prehistoric/Roman period. No definite settlement sites of the early medieval period are known for the area; re-occupation, or even continuity of use, of late-prehistoric settlement and enclosures, into the early medieval period and conversely from the period into the medieval period proper, might explain the dirth of settlement sites ascribed to the early medieval period. A potential clue might be supplied by sites such as the churchyard enclosure, or llan, at Llangynwyd; this is of a type, known elsewhere to date from the late prehistoric/Roman period (cf. Whitton, Jarrett and Wrathmell, 1981); it is possible that after the 6th century an ecclesiastic function developed here, which later supplanted any former secular (or even dual secular/ecclesiatic function) the site may have had.

The status of Margam (HLCA 001), and the whereabouts of settlement in the area during the early medieval period is of considerable interest: a find of imported Frankish glass indicates that the site was open to wider patterns of exchange and trade during the period (cf Hen Gastell, Wilkinson 1995), while the hillfort of Mynydd-y-castell, in terms of morphology and location, is at variance with most of the other 'defended' enclosures (see 6.6) within the historic landscape, being of a massively defended 'promontory' or 'summit' type (similar to but on a larger scale than the site at Hen Gastell), and with a possible internal dwelling platform. Other evidence, such as the proximity to an early medieval ecclesiastic site of considerable importance, the find of high status imorted glass nearby, the vantage of the site over the surrounding territory, but also over the nearby coastal zone; and the established association with and importance of Margam to its hinterland in terms of territorial claims, both administrative (commotal/cantrefal centre?) and ecclesiatic (early medieval parochial centre), is compelling; given the duality of high status sites noted elswhere, it is considered reasonable to view the site of Mynydd-y-castell as a potential important early secular site of the early medieval period located in close proximity to its ecclesiastic counterpart.

During the medieval period the settlement of Llangynwyd (HLCA 005) developed into a nucleated settlement, focused on its early medieval core, the church of St Cynwyd. Relict archaeological landscapes characterised by deserted upland settlement, and comprising groups of house platforms of medieval/post-medieval date frequently associated with field systems and other agricultural features, including pillow mounds, are typically located at the break of slope, above the steep and formerly densely wooded west-facing slopes to the north of Margam such as the group of up to 8 medieval house platforms, two enclosures and a group of between 3 and 5 ditched pillow mounds (PRN 01994w; NPRNs 15,371; 54,460; and 300,892) within HLCA 004 and another group of two hut platform sites (Nprn 54,458 and Nprn 54,459) and associated pillow mound (Nprn 54,461) within HLCA 003 on Mynydd Brombil.

At the same time occupation of the many of the enclosed late-prehistoric sites appear to have continued or to have been re-established; platform houses (probably occupied as seasonal hafodtai/hafodydd, or summer dwellings associated with permanent winter settlement sites or hendrefi elsewhere in the vicinity) are typical settlement features, reoccupying the defended enclosure of Y Bwlwarcau (PRN 00116/NPRN 301,303 and PRN 01323/NPRN 15,248; SAM Gm 59; HLCA 005) and established around Lluest-wen (PRNs 00112-00114; NPRNs 15,349-15,351; HLCA 005). These sites, in occupation during the 13th and 14th centuries, appear to have been progressively developed during the early post-medieval period; some becoming established as permanent settlements in their own right during the period. The farmstead of Lluest-wen with its associated enclosures and post-medieval lluest site is a good example; the property of the Margam estate during the post medieval period, and probably monastic property belonging to the Cistercian Abbey at Margam before, given the 'wen' element of the name. Simlar processes appear to have been in operation elsewhere in the area with a fragmentary settlement/enclosure pattern developing into the wider enclosed agricultural landscape seen today. The enclosure pattern immediately adjacent to the settlement of Llangynwyd (HLCA 005) retains fossilised elements of a medieval 'open field' system, namely fossilised quillets or strip fields; a field pattern possibly imposed on the pre-existing early medieval settlement with its Llan or church enclosure.

The cartographic record and place-name evidence affords some indication of the location of medieval settlement along the valley floor, as on the higher ground, i.e. hendre, gaeaftref (eg Goetre) and hafod place-names. The surviving settlement features of the period are predominantly platform houses, longhuts, typically in set out pairs; these upland dwellings or hafodau appear to have been occupied on a seasonal basis and were associated with pastoral agriculture, chiefly based on the rearing of cattle. The platform house sites are typically situated at the upper break of slope of the valley side along the periphery of the extensive upland pasture, the location frequently reflects the upper extent of the post-medieval enclosure and encroachment. Further study of the cartographic and other documentary evidence may allow a correlation to be made between the distribution of known upland summer settlement and that of the lower winter settlement.

Platform houses, such as those on Mynydd Brombil and at Y Bwlwarcau, and the remains of hafodau throughout the area recall exploitation of the uplands, often on a seasonal basis, for cattle, and later sheep, farming during the medieval and post-medieval periods. During the early post-medieval period it is thought that the hendre-hafod system was gradually superseded through a change in pastoral practice (It is possible that this process may have been accelerated in the Margam area as a result of monastic influences). The main aspect is a transition away from the seasonal movement of kinship groups with their cattle to communally organised individual shepherds. It is considered that lluest sites, such as Lluest-wen, belong to the latter system (Locock, 2000). It is also possible that Cistercian land management may have had a strong influence on the development of the system; the appropriation of secular estates and lands (including pre-Norman Welsh monastic holdings) by the Cistercians is likely to have disrupted pastoral practice along the lines of traditional kinship groups in favour of a system controlled by lay-brothers, in conjunction with a tendancy towards large-scale sheep farming.

The lands granted to the Cistercians at Margam after 1147 were divided up into large holdings or granges, such as: Cryke (Crick) Grange, the 'home farm' of the Abbey with a mill site (Cryke Mill), holy well (the 'Bath'), and 15th century Chapel of Hen Eglwys (HLCA 001) all centred on Cwmbach, to the N of the Abbey buildings at Margam, as well as extensive lands around to the N around Craig Crugwyllt (HLCA 002); the Grange at Groeswen, destroyed by Motorway construction, but with extensive land within Cwm Brombil (including coal pits) and Cwm-yr-Geifr (both within HLCA 003), and the well documented Grange of Hafod-y-porth, which included the 'Fredulles' mill site at Ffrwd-wyllt, Goetre (RCAHMW, 1982, 274-277; Williams, 1990, 48-52).

Many of the granges appear to have developed from existing secular kinship holdings and several in the historic landscape area seam to have, initially at least, retained the physical elements associated with the Hendre-Hafod system intact, ie the kinship holdings. Examples include the Grange of Hafod-y-porth (HLCA 010), which in addition to its hafod, or upland summer settlement, at Waun-y-capel, retained its winter settlement with its mill adjacent to the Ffwdwyllt at Goetre (a corruption of gaeafdre, or winter settlement; HLCA 009); another example is that of Groeswen, or Whitecross Grange, with its main winter settlement indicated by the field name of Cae Goytre, which possibly had an associated hafod within HLCA 003, either in the vicinity of Cwm-yr-Geifr, previously known as 'Cwm yr-Havod', or otherwise in the area of Cwm-y-Brombil (Hall 1814; Evans 1982; RCAHMW, 1982, 274-277; Williams, 1990, 48-52).

The impact of the Cistercians on the landscape at Margam is noted elsewhere (eg Graves-Brown 2000; Wessex Archaeology 1996 and 1997), in relation to granges set with low-lying levels landscape, where drainage and watermanagement improvement was undertaken, such as at grange of Llanfugeilydd, Cwrt-y-defaid or Sheeps Grange which included the church site of Eglwys Nynydd (HLCA 006; Wessex Archaeology 1996 and 1997).. However, the effect of monastic land appropriation on settlement pattern during the medieval period has not been studied in detail; and while significant for the local populace, who were displaced from ancestral kinship holdings (Evans 1982, 22-23), the impact on the physical settlement pattern appears to have been negligible at least within the area of the historic landscape. Here it appears the pre-existing secular settlement foci were simply adopted and adapted for monastic agricultural purposes; some settlements may have eventually gone out of use such as the seasonally occupied, platform house settlements on Mynydd Brombil (HLCA 003) and elsewhere, while others like Hafod-y-porth (HLCA 010) were further developed and were later to support settlement into the post-medieval period.

The Welsh kinship system with its particular customs, legal system, land tenure and inheritance survived longer in the upland area Llangynwyd, than the areas further south, which had been subject to early Norman domination; the effect this had on the development of post-medieval agriculture and the agricultural holdings themselves is of interest. Most of the freehold farms within the Mynydd Margam/Llangynwyd area appear to have been established by the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries; though the processes behind their development and the date at which this occurred are as yet not fully understood, and require further detailed study. Some may have evolved from former monastic property and relate to a process which started some time prior to the dissolution; though it was usual for Cistercian monastic granges to be operated by lay-brothers, and this appears to have initially the case, following the black death of 1348, granges were increasingly leased out to lay tenants, as occurred at Hafod-y-porth (RCAHMW, 1982, 274-277; Evans 1982, 20-24).

During the post-medieval period landownership the area was held largely by four estates: Margam, the main landholder, Gadlys, Dunraven and Goetrehen. The main settlements continued to develop along agricultural lines, the parochial centre and village of Llangynwyd (HLCA 005) dependent on the local agricultural-based economy during the early post-medieval period, with a loose scatter of farmsteads of 16th and 17th century date, such as Llwydiarth and Gelli-lenor, being the main-stay of both the economy and of local Welsh culture. The surviving post-medieval farmsteads are generally downhill-sited and set on sheltered, gently sloping hill-side/spur locations, with a high percentage of a single linear range type in layout. Many of the post-medieval settlements are considered to have medieval precursors, in particular Caer Emi, (HLCA 005) Gelli Eleanor (HLCA 005), and Pentre (early-mid 17th century with attached farm range, listed grade II; HLCA 005), among others in the region referred to in the Margam Charters of the 13th and 14th centuries. Some of the farms strongly associated with important Welsh cultural and literary figures, such as the Tir Iarl poets Rhys Brydydd (15th century; Gadlys) and Dafydd Benwyn (16th century; Llwydiarth).

The majority of the best surviving early post-medieval settlement is located in the area around Llangynwyd, within HLCAs 005 and 012. Examples within HLCA 005 include the Old House Inn (17th century core with thatched roof, listed grade II), Gilfach Ganol (16th century, with later additions, listed grade II), Llwydiarth Farm (16th/17th century, listed grade II*), and Pentre Farmhouse. Also of interest is the Corner House Inn, which was formerly the parish tithe barn; between 1761-62 used by Welsh Circulating Charity Schools promoted by the Rev Griffith Jones, Llanddowror.

Gadlys (HLCA 012), the gentry house at centre of the Gadlys estate, dating from between the 16th and 18th centuries. The house belongs to the Renaissance group: central stair-passage type with gable-entry stone stairs (without outshut), broach stops on ceilings beams, thatched roof, and bakehouse. Other Renaissance central stair-passage houses exist at Cwm Maelog (HLCA 002).

An interesting example of a regional house with chimney backing on the entry and outside cross passage plan with fireplace stair and an associated four-bay barn is found at Brombil Farm within Cwm y Brombil (PRN 1731w; HLCA 003).

A further cluster of early post-medieval farmsteads is located on the former monastic grange of Cwrt-y-defaid (Eglwys Nynydd; HLCA 006). Apart from the remains of Eglwys Nynydd farm (ie Tithe barn, outbuildings and farmhouse), noteable post-medieval vernacular buildings include Old Park (listed grade II; HLCA 006), a late 17th century four-unit, central stair-passage house, of L- shaped plan and two-storeys, with a kitchen at the outer end of each range and varied stone doorways, including one with an entablature on brackets. The house contains a late 17th century staircase thought to have originated from the demolished Margam Abbey mansion. The 18th century Cwrtydefaid Cottages (HLCA 006), examples of two-unit, direct entry houses with hall and heated outer rooms, typical of the Gower, Vale and Blaenau.

Lletty-piod, or Lade Pade, (HLCA 017), at the north of the historic landscape area, is another example of a post-medieval direct entry, end chimney house.

The settlement pattern of the now forested area of enclosures within the enclosed lower slopes and valleys of the Mynydd Margam aea (HLCA 010 (B), while essentially post-medieval in date, comprising a loose dispersed scatter of farmhouses and cottages, including Blaen-Maelwg, Llan-Ton-y-Groes, and Nant-y-Glo farmsteads, and farmbuildings at Wernderi and Hafod, is considered likely to have at least medieval precursors.

Agricultural settlement associated with landless labourers are poorly represented in the archaeological record, a few are known, such as Ty'n-y-parc (HLCA 015), typical of a landless estate worker's settlement, erected before 1814 along side the track to Llangynwyd is interesting, on the edge of the enclosed land adjacent to Ton mawr, while also in HLCA 015 is a similar example, which appears to have later developed into a small holding, tyddyn of Ton-y-grugos built between 1814 and 1884.

The former village of Margam (within HLCA 001), a post-medieval foundation indicated on an estate map of 1813 and depicted on the Delamotte painting of Margam (NMW; early 19th century), was located near the surviving almhouses, a linear development leading from the Abbey gateway. This settlement appears to have been cleared away during the 1830s and 40s, its site incorporated into the kitchen gardens, and the inhabitants rehoused at a new settlement at Groes, laid-out by Haycock (RCAHMW Glamorgan, Adams, D J, 1986). This in turn was entirely removed by the construction of the M4 motorway during the latter half of the 20th century. An outlying portion of the original settlement at Margam, centred on the Pound, an enclosure for sorting stray sheep found on Mynyd Margam survives (HLCA 008); this settlement is based on a loose cluster of post-medieval farms and cottages, in the local vernacular/estate tradition with gardens/cultivation plots. Surviving post-medieval vernacular buildings, chiefly of 17th-19th century date include: the early 19th century Old Vicarage (formerly Margam Cottage; Listed grade II); Margam Cottage, a formerly thatched post-medieval house dated 1693, of direct entry, end chimney type with hall, outer room, and adjoining farm buildings (formerly Cwm Cottage; Listed grade II); and Grove Cottages, mid-late 19th century (Listed grade II). During the 20th century, ribbon development of suburban residences augmented the residential nature of the area. Other characteristic features. The current settlement at Margam originated as a small hamlet during the early post-medieval period, originally named.

The remaining settlements of the historic landscape are mainly industrial railside settlements characterised by linear ribbon and grid street patterns, such as Goetre and Bryn (both within HLCA 009); the earliest characteristic building type being the terraced house namely at Goetre (East Street and Emroch Street) and at Bryn (Station Terrace and Gallt-y-cwm Terrace). At Bryn the earlier 19th century industrial settlement associated with the Bryn Colliery and Tramway developed further around the later railway (PTR) station during the early 20th century, while at Goetre expansion characterised by later 20th century social housing predominates. A significant visual feature at Goetre is its large cemetery (constructed according to plans finalised in 1915).

The surrounding industrial urban fringe (HLCA 017) is typified by loosely dispersed and minor ribbon development of post-medieval farms and cottages; smallholdings appear to make up a significant portion of the overall land holdings and there is a notable concentration of corrugated iron outbuildings. The break-up of the Margam Estate during the mid-20th century has accelerated the fragmentation of the area's holdings, while some farmsteads have been abandoned, eg Lletty-piod.

A recent addition to the built character of the area is the dense clustered or nucleated planned 'executive-style' settlement based around converted post-medieval farmstead of Eglwys Nunydd (HLCA 006).

Back to top of page

Agricultural Landscapes

The general backgound to the development of agriculture within the area has been covered in some detail by A Leslie Evan's in The Story of Taibach and district (Evans 1982, 28-37), while additional material is supplied on the parish of Llangynwyd by Brinley Richards's History of the Llynfi Valley (Richards 1982, 40-56). Historical information specifically relating to the Margam Estate and its management during the period 1830-1918 is also available in D John Adams Glimpses of Margam Life 1830-1918 (Adams 1986), with chapters devoted to such diverse topics as land agents, wages and tenants (ie estate management), woods and gardens, general (agricultural) work and deer, the welfare state and the formation of wealth (ie shipping and industrial ventures).

The traditional agriculture of the Margam and Llangynwyd areas was based on a system of mixed farming, however it was the pastoral element, the rearing of livestock, which has always been predominant and current archaeological thinking reflects this; for example the prehistoric enclosures of Y Bwlwarcau (PRN 116m; SAM Gm 059; HLCA 005); Moel Ton-mawr (PRN 758w; SAM Gm 057; HLCA 015), and Caer Blaen y Cwm (PRN 759w; SAM Gm 058; HLCA 013) are characterised as being of 'pastoral' types on morphological grounds, they appear to represent a type of stock enclosure or 'buarth' site type; their layouts more suited to corralling cattle than the defence of an area.

As outlined in the settlement section above, an agricultural pattern dominated by seasonal based pastoral system appears to straddle both the late prehistoric, early-medioeval continued into the medieval period: this system is associated with the use of upland pasture during the summer months and based on seasonal migration to upland settlements. The remains of relict medieval settlement with associated field systems (e.g. the group of medieval house platforms (NPRN 54,458 and NPRN 54,459) with associated pillow mounds at Mynydd Brombil (NPRN 54,461), enclosures and hafodau, (e.g. at Y Bwlwarcau, around Lluest-wen and at the monastic grange site of Hafod-y-porth) attest to this continued use; while indications of the whereabouts of the main winter settlements, or hendre, of the valley bottom are indicated by cartographic and other documentary evidence. The stock would have been predominantly cattle, during the prehistoric and early medioeval period, but sheep are also evident, especially during the medieval period, when much of the area was farmed by monastic granges of the Cistercian Abbey of Margam; such as Hafod-y-Porth (HLCA 010).

Generally the surviving enclosure within the Mynydd Margam and Llangynwyd areas is predominantly an evloved landscape characterised by a patchwork of small and medium sized irregular fields, as depicted 1st edition OS maps, with the steeper slopes, especially along the western edge of Mynydd Margam and Mynydd Brombil formerly densely covered by woodland. Boundaries, marking the extent of late medieval and early post-medieval encroachment and enclosure on the slopes, are mainly of dry stone construction, though cloddiau and hedged banks are also evident. The majority of the field systems in the area were established by the early 19th century, with only minor additions and some rationalisation of enclosure occurring during the period upto 1884 (Hall 1814; OS 1st edition 6-inch 1884). The exceptions are HLCA 004, an area of enclosed upland part of the Margam Abbey Estate, progressively enclosed from the 18th century and currently dominated by large regular fields, mostly enclosed by post-and-wire fences.

The impact on the agricultural landscape of monastic land appropriation within the historic landscape is generally subtle; while there are in places more regular field patterns with larger enclosures than in Llangynwyd (HLCA 005) for example, these are often side-by-side with irregular evolved field patterns (see HLCAs 002 and 003). It is possible that piecemeal standardisation occurred, when new fields were cleared from the woodland as for instance at Cefn Crugwyllt (HLCA 002), where regular linear fields indicate the fossilisation of regularly laid out quillets. While the fields at Ton-mawr farm (HLCA 015) and in the area around the grange of Hafod-y-porth (HLCA 010), and Gallt-y-cwm (HLCA 017), are on average larger and more regular than elsewhere outside the boundaries of Margam Park, these can be shown to be due as much to post-medieval developments and rationalisation rather than monastic controls (Hill 1814, OS 1st edition 6-inch map 1884). The main impact of monastic and indeed later continued estate management during the post-medieval period is reflected in the survival of large areas of open, mountain grazing until relatively recent times. The influence of the Margam Estate and the Cistercians before can be seen as having had a generally restricting or limiting effect on enclosure, whilst preventing fragmentation of the holdings through partative succession and thus maintaining overall larger farm size (cf Hafod-y-porth in HLCA 010 with Llwydiarth in HLCA 005; Hill 1814, OS 1st edition 6-inch map 1884). Former monastic land in the historic landscape is found primarily within HLCAs 001-004, 006-010, and 013-017; beyond this area HLCAs 005, 011 represent a mixture of monastic and secular lands.

During the post-medieval period landownership within the area was divided between four main estates: the main landholder Margam, Gadlys, Dunraven and Goetrehen. Margam estate land within the historic landscape is found primarily within HLCAs 001-004, 006-010, and 013-017; with mixed ownership beyond within HLCAs 005, with all four landed estates represented; HLCA 011 is divided between the Gadlys and Margam Estates while HLCA 012 forms the heart of the Gadlys Estate. Margam Estate land in the areas of mixed ownership includes land aquired under secondary estate expansion during the 17th century.

Physical reminders of post-medieval agriculture include sheepfolds, sheep shelters, boundary markers and lluest sites. The latter were upland shelters probably used by individual shepherds on a seasonal basis; and indeed a tradition exists which supports this. Although cattle production continued during the post-medieval period, sheep farming became the mainstay of agriculture. The farmers of the region frequented the markets or fairs at Neath, and Bridgend, using Porthmyn or drovers, whenever it was necessary to convey stock to markets further afield.

Although predominantly pastoral, a limited, though sufficient, amount of arable production was maintained, chiefly oats, barley and wheat and also the traditional root crops, later supplemented by pottoes. The high plateau itself was seldom cultivated, and only then during times of extreme hardship. Corn was grown in the more fertile fields on the alluvial flats and meadows along the coastal strip below Margam and within the area of Cwrt-y-defaid and Eglwys Nynydd (HLCA 007); elsewhere the cereal production was carried out on valley side terraces, where the farms were generally located, while oats were frequently cultivated in the valleys

Farming as practised in much of the area continued along traditional lines during first half of the 19th century; the usual form of plough in the uplands during the 18th and 19th centuries was the primative breast-plough, while the old Welsh plough drawn by a pair of oxen also remained in use, surviving into the latter half of the 19th century in the area around Goetre, as did the use of traditional flails. The main agricultural transportation of the period was by pack-horse, or car llusg, primative sleds used on mountain roads (Evans 1982, 32),. The state of agriculture in the region improved only after 1850, with increasing industrial markets and the end of the agricultural depression.

Agriculture fostered a variety of crafts, trades and small-scale industries, characteristic of a self-contained and secluded rural community, these including blacksmiths, masons, sawyers, hoopers, woollen manufacturer, weavers, tailors, thatchers and shoemakers. From the medieval period until the first half of the 19th century water grist-mills were used to process wheat, corn, barley and oats; with mills located at Cryke Mylle' (monastic mill; HLCA 001), Cwm Brombil (monastic mill; HLCA 003); Tal-y-Fedw grist mill, Cwmfelin (Margam Charters; later Gadlys woollen mill; HLCA 012); mills at Goetre on the Ffrwdwyllt (monastic 'Fredulles Mills' part of Hafod-y-Porth grange, including 'New Mill' of 1520; HLCA 009); the latter are thought to have been located near the site of the 19th century Dyffryn Mill, Goytre (1st edition OS map of 1884; Evans 1982; Richards 1989; Williams 1990, & 2001).

Sheep farming continued to be of importance to the area following the dissolution of the monasteries, becoming the mainstay of agriculture during the post-medieval period. Shearing of sheep was carried out on a communal basis, and while black wool was set aside for knitting stockings, the remainder was either spun into yarn on domestic spinning wheels or woven into cloth or flannel; the finished product then taken to the local pandy or fulling mill.

The Pandy or fulling (woollen) mill at Gadlys (HLCA 012) probably dates to the 18th century, being constructed on the site of a former grist-mill; the site, with brief interludes of abandonment during the 1840s, later use as a brewery and chemical works continued in production until the early 20th century (Richards 1989).

The agricultural landscapes of the area can be divided along the following broad lines:

Unenclosed upland landscapes: primarily within HLCA 010 (now afforested) and comprising the sub divisions of Mynydd Margam (HLCA 010C) and Mynydd Bach (HLCA 010A), typical features include boundary stones, delineating post-medieval (or even earlier) land divisions; the similarly afforested HLCA 014; and HLCA 013, the surviving un-affforested area of a open upland grazing; while HLCA 011, Waun-y-Gilfach an area of formerly open mountain moorland or 'waun' south of Cwm Cae-lloi was utilised in a similar way.

Early evolved and irregular enclosed upland landscapes: HLCA 002 (part) distinctive boundaries including drystone wall, stone-faced banks and stone-faced banks with hedges fully established by the start of the 19th century; an irregular core of early enclosure, characterised by small enclosure size, around the earlier settlements, including blocks of medieval strip fields; dispersed nature of occupancy of holdings indicates survival of earlier medieval infield-outfield system (Hill's Estate map, 1814; 1st edition 6-inch OS map 1884); HLCA 010B and D, evolved/irregular and varied enclosure as detailed on estate plans of 1814 and the 1st edition OS 6" maps of the 1884/5.

Early evolved regular enclosed upland landscapes: HLCA 002 (part) regular and linear fields, representing an expansive phase on Cefn Crugwyllt, cartographic evidence indicates the area on Cefn Crugwyllt in the process of being enclosured by the the late 18th /early 19th century from the surrounding sheepwalk (Hill's Estate map, 1814; 1st edition 6-inch OS map 1884); HLCA 016 traditionally layland (ie 'Ton', or 'Tir Porfa'), that is grazing land left fallow on a rotational basis. The field layout of the area, fully established by the early 19th century has further evolved since; regular and linear fields are depicted on the 1814 survey with numerous quillets or strip fields shown, probably of medieval or early post-medieval date. By the publication of the 1st edition OS 6" map many of the latter have been amalgamated and the field pattern rationalised. Boundaries of various dates, including hedged banks, dry-stone walls and hedges surround evolved but relatively regular medium sized fields, ranged along the lower SW facing slopes of Moel Ton Mawr.

Early evolved mixed (both irregular and regular) enclosed lower valley side landscapes: HLCA 005 an evolved agricultural landscape characterised by varied evolved/irregular field pattern of irregular small and medium enclosures, which retains elements associated with a medieval 'open field' system, namely fossilised quillets or remnant strip fields, a field pattern apparently imposed on the pre-existing early medieval/late prehistoric landscape.

Early evolved enclosed, valley side location: HLCA 003 large enclosures, developed on formerly unenclosed steep lower slopes of Mynydd Margam overlooking the coastal zone, and centred on evolved irregular fieldscape of small fields, possibly of medieval or earlier origin with deeply entrenched side valleys, such as Cwm y Brombil; HLCA 012 Nant-y-Gadlys and Bryn Cynan valleys with evolved enclosure and wooded stream terrace location.

Early evolved regular enclosed coastal landscape: HLCA 006 Varied post-medieval fieldscape of both irregular/evolved and regular large fields intersperced with occasional coppices or coverts of broad-leafed woodland.

Early evolved irregular enclosed coastal landscape: HLCA 007 low-lying undulating agricultural landscape slightly inland of HLCA 006 and set along the base of Graig-Goch, characterised by small evolved/irregular fields, which have in places partially reverting to broadleafed woodland and unmanaged scrub.

Late regular enclosed upland landscapes: HLCA 004 upland progressively enclosed from the 18th century, though dominated by 20th century regular enclosures with post and wire fencing; HLCA 015 enclosed improved and semi-improved upland grazing (over former deer park associated with Margam Park) set out as large regular enclosures with distinctive field boundaries, progressively enclosed during the post-medieval period, including hedge banks, 'cloddiau' and drystone walls (Hall 1814; 1st edition 6-inch OS map).

Back to top of page

Military and Defensive Landscapes

While there are defensive aspects to several of the landscapes within the Historic landscape, or indeed military/defensive aspects to sites within the HLCAs, these are not by and large primary characteristics. The role of many of the 'prehistoric' enclosures or 'hillforts' of the region such as Mynydd y Castell hillfort (PRN 758w; SAM Gm 162; HLCA 001), and Y Bwlwarcau (PRN 116m; SAM Gm 059; HLCA 005) may not have been strictly defensive or military in nature; it is now considered that at least some of these features were related to pastoral upland agriculture, stock management and control of upland grazing. Defence may have been involved but it is equally likely that other issues including status, 'administrative' function, and social organisation are represented by some of these sites.

Infact Margam has little in the way of truly defensive or military landscapes; the earliest 'defended', structures surviving in the landscape eg Y Bwlwarcau (with its possible Neolithic precursor, see 6.4, above), Moel Ton-mawr (PRN 758w; SAM Gm 057; HLCA 015), and Caer Blaen y Cwm (PRN 759w; SAM Gm 058; HLCA 013) are considered to be Iron Age (800BC-AD100) in date; and are considered typical of a 'pastoral' type of enclosure more in keeping with a function of corralling livestock, rather than defence of territory. Similarly the lesser enclosed sites of the area, small univallate hillslope enclosures of possible Iron Age date such as the scheduled camp to the E of Ton mawr (SAM Gm 090; HLCA 015); Cwm Phillip West, (PRN 774w; SAM Gm 056; HLCA 010); and Halfmoon Camp (Prn 0745w; SAM Gm 477; HLCA 003) are considered more characterstic of agricultural settlement, ie farmsteads, than purely defensive or military structures (these sites are discussed further in sections 6.4 and 6.5 above).

The possible exception is Mynydd y Castell hillfort, an impressive univalate enclosure, 260m N-S, 135m wide and 2.7 ha in area, D shaped with straight east side; the defences comprise 'massive bank or scarp accompanied by ditch with a counterscarp bank' with no visible revetment and a single entrance at the SW. The defences of the site shows evidence for at least two phases of construction; the first phase work comprising the enclosure of a smaller area being apparently abandoned prior to completion and superceded by a second phase encompassing a larger defended area (RCAHMW Glamorgan Inventory, Volume 1, 19-20, Part 2; Fox and Fox 1934). The massively defended Mynydd-y-Castell within Margam Park is at variance with the general hillslope enclosure type for the area; the substantial ramparts at Mynydd-y-castell enclose an isolated hill and command extensive views over the surrounding landscape and coastal zones, while the site's location at an established administrative focal point (ie with ecclesiastic, parochial, commotal and possibly cantrefal importance) as indicated from at least the early medieval periods are suggestive of functions other than simple pastoral control, such as defence, as well as socio-economic functions: administration and the control of trade and hint at the area's (ie HLCA 001) wider significance. However, give the current lack of modern survey and excavation, the above assertions are speculative and largely based on circumstantial evidence and analogy.

Later defensive/administrative functions are represented by Llangynwyd Castle (SAM Gm85; HLCA 005), a medieval Norman ringwork castle, with 12th and 13th century phases, (reconstructed by Gilbert de Clare in the 1260s). The site, originally with a great gatehouse with twin drum towers, was partly excavated in 1906 (RCAHMW). The location the site, isolated and at distance from the main settlement of Llangynwyd has been remarked upon, and it has been suggested the overriding factor in the sites location was one of defence and early warning of attack from the north and east. There is, however, evidence that the site overlies an earlier promontory fort, possibly of late prehistoric date, while another possibility, which should not be discounted is the possibility that it might occupy the site of an early medieval settlement of regional significance, perhaps controlling use of the upland pasturage of ffridd; the administrative/controlling function of the earlier being transferred.

Other defensive aspects of the landscape include defensive features associated with World War II, namely the Home Chain Low radar station (PRN 02995w; SAM Gm 488; HLCA 003).

Back to top of page

Parkland and picturesque landscape

The only parkland or picturesque landscape within the area is that of Margam Park itself, a registered park and garden (Site Evaluation Grade I; Ref number PGW (Gm) 52 (NEP)). The park, comprising: a deer and landscape park, pleasure grounds, gardens, and former kitchen garden, has been graded for the following reasons:

'Margam Park is a multi-layered site of outstanding historical importance. It includes prehistoric and Cistercian abbey remains, and has Tudor, eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century garden and landscaping phases. Of particular importance are the very fine walled deer park, the banqueting house fašade, the outstanding Georgian orangery & the Citrus House and the nineteenth-century gardens with their fine collection of trees and shrubs. The 1950s garden of Twyn-yr-hydd is a delightful and well preserved period piece within the park.' (Cadw; ICOMOS UK, 2000, Glamorgan: Register of Landscapes, Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales. Part 1 Parks & Gardens)

The historic area of park encompasses a larger area than that contained on the register of parks and gardens; and originally extended to take in HLCA 001, with adjacent areas of HLCAs 010 and 015, encompassing the former Upper Park, beyond.

The park is described in considerable detail in the register of Parks and Gardens; '´Margam Castle is a huge, Romantic, nineteenth-century mansion in Tudor and Gothic style, set in a large park on the east side of Swansea Bay, to the south-east of Port Talbot. The spot was deliberately chosen for its historic associations and picturesque position at the foot of a wooded historic hill, with the ruins of Margam Abbey and the eighteenth-century orangery visible to the west. Twentieth-century development, in the form of the Port Talbot steelworks and the M4 motorway, have considerably affected the original picturesque setting´. Cadw; ICOMOS UK, 2000, Glamorgan: Register of Landscapes, Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales. Part 1 Parks & Gardens).

The park at Margam can be divided into three main areas: the first (HLCA 001) is the low-lying ground to the south, bounded on the west by the main grounds and gardens and on the north by the steep ridge of Craig-y-Lodge; secondly (HLCA 001), the wooded valley, lake and hillfort at the west end of the park; and the northern part of the park (partly within HLCA 010 and 015), situated on a high, rolling plateau above the ridge, and bounded by the valley of Cwm Philip to its north-west. Each part differs slightly in character and use. Hall's estate map of 1814 shows these three varying areas and gives them Little Park, Great Park and Upper Park, respectively.

The development of Margam (HLCA 001, and the parts of HLCA 010, 015) as parkland and as a picturesque/ornamental landscape or picturesque began with the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536, when Sir Rice Mansel of Oxwich and Old Beaupre acquired most of the ex-monastic estates. By the late 16th century a 'faire and sumptuous house' had been erected, incorporating some of the monastic buildings, and stables added during the late 17th century. Under Thomas Mansel Talbot the mansion at Margam was abandoned in favour of Penrice Castle on Gower and developed as a pleasure garden, finalised by 1814, and dominated by an imposing Orangery in the Palladian style the largest in Britain, built 1787 - 90 to designs by Anthony Keck. The present internal layout of the park is largely the work of C R M Talbot, who transformed it from 1828 onwards, after returning the family seat to Margam. He was also responsible for the construction of the new Tudor-style house (1830-5 by Thomas Hopper; site architect - Edward Haycock) - a mansion unique in scale within Glamorgan. The irregular plan and pinnacled, chimneyed and castellated skyline of the house give it a Romantic appearance. It is built of local Pyle ashlar stone, arranged around three courtyards, one in the centre of the main block and two former service courts to the east. There are two main storeys, with a gabled third storey. The surfaces of the building are ornamented with carvings and sculpted heraldic panels. A dramatic two-storeyed octagonal tower with attached stair turret and surmounted by a viewing room is located at the centre of the building. The house is aligned east-west with its main entrance front on the north. Another interesting structure erected during the period is the 'temple of the four seasons', which incorporates the fašade of the late 17th century Summer Banqueting House, re-erected in 1835(Cadw; ICOMOS UK, 2000).

The park contains a number of other typical estate buildings of the 1840s in Tudor style, also attributed to Haycock such as the west lodge near the church (gabled, tall chimneystacks).

The former village of Margam, a post-medieval foundation indicated on an estate map of 1813 and depicted on the Delamotte painting of Margam (NMW; early 19th century), was located near the surviving almhouses, a linear development leading from the Abbey gateway. This settlement appears to have been cleared away during the 1830s and 40s, its site incorporated into the kitchen gardens, and the inhabitants rehoused at a new settlement at Groes (RCAHMW Glamorgan, Adams, D J, 1986).

The fortunes of the estate waned after 1890 when the male line died out; later during the Second World War the house was put to military use, the contents having been sold in 1942. In 1977, following its acquisition by Glamorgan County Council, the house was extensively gutted by fire. Under its successor, West Glamorgan County Council, the house was consolidated and restored and the estate subsequently established as a Country Park.

Back to top of page

Transport and Communication

The earliest communication networks known in the area are the ridge way routes, cefn-ffyrdd, which traversed the upland massif of Mynydd Margam, one route, Cefn Ffordd, or Ffordd-y-gyfraith, ran NW-SE along the length of Mynydd Margam (HLCA 010) from the Ffrwd-wyllt valley in the north via Rhyd Blaen-y-cwm (HLCA 013) and south east towards Mynydd Baedan to Mynydd Baedan south beyond the historic landscape where it divided (RCAHMW 1976, Vol I, II; Rees 1932; Yates 1799 map); another ran between Margam and Llangynwyd.

George Yates Map of 1799 shows the route of the parish road from Taibach to Llangynwyd via the 'Cross of the Hand'; the route 'diverted' (ie closed off to public use) in 1829 to avoid crossing the park ran north of the Abbey buildings and crossed the park diagonally east-west before exiting on the northeast side near site of the current Lodge Uchaf. Many of the stretches of 'intrenchments' and holloways noted within HLCAs 015, 013 and 014 can be interpreted as the remnants, and variations, of this important route between Margam and the Llynfi Valley area. The Margam estate, both the monastic Cistercian Abbey of the medieval period or the later post-medieval gentry seat had significant landholding interests covering an extensive area including Llangynwyd, and the Llynfi Valley; the route through the park would have provided a vital and busy link to the landholdings of the area. It is also likely that this route is of some antiquity and no accident that the route links several of the area's most imposing late prehistoric (Iron Age) defended enclosures, many of which have evidence of occupation during the early medieval and/or medieval periods, whether continued or reoccupation. The prehistoric sites on this route include Mynydd-y-castell hillfort (SAM Gm 162; HLCA 001), and Y Bwlwarcau, a multi-phase earthwork with an inner enclosure (SAM Gm 59; HLCA 005), with in between Caer Cwm Phillip (SAM Gm 057; HLCA 015), Caer Blaen y Cwm (SAM Gm 58; HLCA 013), which dominates the upper portion of Cwm Cynffig, the Kenfig Valley; the latter is associated with a crossridge dyke, possibly also of late prehistoric date, but also thought significant during the early medieval period.

It is considered likely that these routes have been in use since prehistoric times, and that these routes survive into the medieval period, with access along them controlled by early medieval cross dykes (8th-9th century), the example in the area being the cross-ridge dyke at Rhyd Blaen-y-cwm. The use of cross dykes is fairly widespread in the region (i.e. Ffos Toncenglau (SAM Gm 118), near Bedd Eiddil at Bryn-du (SAM Gm 285), at Bwlch-yr-Afan (SAM Gm 246) and at Bwlch-y-Clawdd (SAM Gm 500) in the Rhondda); these are placed at strategic positions on what appear to have been contemporary administrative boundaries. In the case of the current study area, the dyke is located at the junction of the early parochial boundaries of Margam and Llangynwyd, on the line of the conjectured commotal boundary (Knight 1995), which is later fossilised by the boundary of the main body of the Cistercian held monastic lands associated with Margam.

Other important routes include the B4283 (HLCA 004), the medieval Water Street (also known as Heol y Sheet, Heol Las, etc), on the line of the main coastal Roman Road between the forts of Nidum (Neath) and Caerleon (or the closer but as yet conjectured fort at Kenfig) and the current A48.

The network of minor roads, tracks and paths leading over the valley sides into the uplands dates from the pre-industrial period, and are depicted on both the 1st edition OS, Tithe map for Llangynwyd, Hill's 1813/4 Survey of the Margam Estate and earlier maps. Many of communication routes appear to have evolved to link prehistoric, early medieval and later medieval sites, such as the early medieval ecclesiastical centres of Eglwys Nynydd, Llangynwyd and Margam as well as civil administrative centres. This network became more complex by the early post-medieval period, to serve the many freehold and leasehold agricultural holdings, which were established from the late medieval period (late 14th century) and in particular following the dissolution of the monasteries.

Minor routes, tracks and footpath, exist throughout the landscape; these vary in date and purpose, such as those within HLCAs 011, 012 and HLCA 017. The subject requires further in depth study, as many will have varied in importance, gone in and out of use as their purpose has altered and as alternate routes have taken precedence.

The rise of industry, principally iron and coal, in the area along the eastern fringe of the historic landscape, ie within the Llynfi Valley, was advanced by the construction of the Duffryn, Llynvi and Porthcawl Railway (engineer John Hodgkinson) in 1828. The line, 4ft 7in. gauge with edge rails of the type, which later became universal, ran for 25.7km, and linked the ironworks of the Llynfi Valley to the port of Porthcawl, defines the eastern limits of the study area (HLCA 005). It is during this period that the focus of settlement in the area moved away from the old parochial centre of Llangynwyd to the then newly developing industrial settlement of Maesteg, in the valley bottom to the east. The only other railway within the landscape are the Port Talbot Railway's line between Port Talbot's Dyffryn Junction and Maesteg, built c 1898; the latter encompassed the route of the earlier Goetre Level Tramroad (1st edition OS 1885) towards Margam Copper Works (HLCA 009).

Other minor industrial communications within the landscape include the horse drawn Brombil Tramroad (HLCA 003) constructed in 1838 to connect the Cwm Brombil to the Vivian's Taibach Copper works, and the Tramway associated with the quarry at Tonmawr (2nd edition 6-inch OS map; HLCAs 013 and 015)

Back to top of page


It is likely that some form of industrial activity was being carried out in the area from the prehistoric period, however the first direct evidence dates to the medieval period and specifically to coal pits under the control of Margam Abbey, such as at Brombil (HLCA 003). Exploitation, however appears to have remained small scale until the post-medieval period, when the potential of the area's mineral wealth was fully realised. Industrial remains are mainly concentrated along the fringe of the landscape, with mineral (coal) prospection and later exploitation generally limited to the western valleys of Cwm Brombil and Cwm-yr-Geifr, within HLCA 003, and along the Ffrwdwyllt Valley evidenced by disused coal levels, such as the Goetre Level (1st edition OS 1884; HLCA 009), and old coal levels depicted with HLCA 010 (2nd edition OS map of 1900) as well as disused patch-workings just beyond the boundary of the historic landscape at Cefn Gethin, on the north side of Cwm Farteg.

During the latter part of the 18th century collieries were opened in Cwm y Geifr and Cwm Brombil (HLCA 003) by the English Copper Company to meet demands of the Copper industry and 1777 and 1780, with further expansion during the early 19th century, necessitating the construction of the horse drawn Brombil Tramroad in 1838 improving links between the coal levels and shafts at Cwm Brombil and the Vivian's Taibach Copper works. Cwm Brombil Colliery finally closed in 1880.

Within the Llynfi valley bordering the historic landscape to the east, both coal and iron, formed the basis of industrial development; construction in 1828 of the Duffryn, Llynvi and Porthcawl Railway (4ft 7in. gauge; engineer John Hodgkinson) linking the ironworks of the Llynfi Valley to the port of Porthcawl was a major impetuous in the industrialisation of the area around Tondu and Maesteg.

Other industrial activities represented, largely within HLCA 010 include small scale stone quarrying, gravel extraction (gravel pits), charcoal burning and minor water supply.

Back to top of page