The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd.

Character Areas

Lower Wye Valley

026 Pen-y-Fan

Image showing dispersed settlement with three houses and drystone wall in foreground.

HLCA 026 Pen-y-Fan

Evolved irregular agricultural landscape with dispersed settlement: varied small-medium enclosures, including initial and successive irregular enclosures and more regular infilling; traditional field boundaries; scrub/unmanaged land; orchards; settlement pattern: loose dispersed scatter of houses and cottages, basically smallholdings; Communication features; tourism ('Swiss chalet' caravan park). Back to map

Historic Background

The historic landscape area of Pen-y-Fan is an area of post-medieval and modern settlement in a formerly predominantly agricultural landscape; it is a detached hamlet of the village of Llandogo. The area is bounded on all sides by woodland; the ancient woodland of the Wye Valley to the east, and more recent plantation to the west, and the cleared area was almost certainly historically won from the woodland. It occupies a shallowly sloping plateau above the heavily wooded steeply sloping valley side north of Llandogo. Historically, the area fell within the parish of Llandogo, significant areas of which once belonged to the Duke of Beaufort. Although some of the land in this character area belonged to the Beaufort estate, the majority of it was divided amongst several smallholders.

The area appears to represent woodland clearance and encroachment on the plateau and the resulting fieldscape and settlement are likely to be early post-medieval, or even medieval in date; the irregular curvilinear form of some of the enclosure is suggestive of early origins. The tithe depicts a landscape dominated by smallholdings; the small plots of frequently unconsolidated holdings appear not to have been rationalised by the mid-nineteenth century. The exact date of these enclosures (chiefly arable at the time of the Tithe) and any associated settlement will only become known following further fieldwork and documentary study, however, dispersed land parcels within holdings often indicates a medieval pattern. The tithe map (1844) shows a dispersed scatter of cottages, largely isolated within their associated holdings but connected by a network of lanes. Earlier cottages survive, though generally in a substantially altered and extended state, in particular since the 1920s.

The Beaufort estate owned parcels of land in the area; the other major landholders were the Reverend David Jones, and John, Amos and James Hodges. The tithe map lists a patchwork of individual owner-occupiers. This small-scale piecemeal and generally disconnected development since the tithe map is perhaps reflected in continued disparate land ownership. More recently there has been a trend away from agricultural smallholdings towards sub-urban 'residential' settlement, with detached modern houses augmenting the agricultural holdings and cottages.

Historic Landscape Characteristics

Pen-y-Fan is characterised by an evolved irregular fieldscape with associated dispersed post-medieval settlement, possibly with earlier origins, augmented by twentieth century development of detached housing. Some limited, much dispersed settlement is depicted on the tithe map of 1844, and this remains almost completely unchanged up to 1921. Twentieth century development conforms to the pre-existing loosely dispersed settlement pattern, and tends to stand within large plots of land, while generally respecting the boundaries of the pre-existing agricultural enclosures, allowing the original field pattern to be maintained. The earlier buildings, with the exception of the 'Duke's House', which at the time of the tithe belonged to the Duke of Beaufort (leased to a John Hodges), predominantly comprise cottages, generally constructed of coursed stone with slate roofs, while the modern buildings are typically rendered with slate or pantile roofs. A recent addition to the settlement landscape is a caravan park, with large static chalet-style caravans, which adds a leisure and tourism element.

Historically agriculture, and related arboriculture were the dominant land uses and the field pattern is typical of early piecemeal encroachment from woodland/or waste. The pattern of small irregular enclosures is largely unchanged from that of the mid-nineteenth century, with a mixture of arable and pasture, and a few orchards. While the area contains a number of smallholdings or small farms, information on historic sites in the area is limited and there are presently only two HER registers, these are two associated structures/buildings; a dry-stone walled building probably a house and animal shelter (PRN 07104g) and an associated red brick pigsty (PRN 07105g).

Other characteristics include communication and transport characterised by winding sunken lanes, often bounded by dry stonewalls, and stone-faced or earth banks topped with hedges. The area can also be characterised by its forestry, ancient woodland bounds it on three sides, and the area was probably won from the woodland and cleared historically. Forestry continues to be important within the area, particularly on the fringes, and existing as patches between enclosures. Hedges with distinctive mature hedgerow trees bound the majority of the enclosures.

This area appears to have developed along similar lines as areas of forest clearance to the nearby semi-urban 'residential' area of 'The Narth' (HLCA028), though with less intensity, retaining more of its rural agricultural character intact. There are also associations with the neighbouring area of Hael Woods (HLCA027), where cider milling was an important aspect; there are several orchards within the area of Pen-y-Fan, which may have supplied the local cider mills (PRN 07103g).