As yet there is no evidence of settlement in the
area during the medieval pre-conquest period and it appears that
unlike other lowland areas within the Middle Wye the area remained
relatively remote from nucleated centres of population until perhaps
the 18th and 19th centuries when both Felindre and Three Cocks emerged
as roadside settlements on the turnpike roads between Talgarth and
Hay. Following the Norman conquest the area fell within a sub-lordship
of Glasbury, lying between the strategically more important sub-lordships
of Hay and Talgarth.
Gwernyfed is thought to have originated as a holding
granted to Peter Gunter by Bernard de Neufmarché following the conquest
of Brycheiniog, perhaps in an area that was still extensively wooded
at that period. By the 14th century an English-held subtenancy had
been established at Felindre to the east and a Welsh subtenancy
had been established at Tyle-glas to the west. A manor house had
been built at the site of Old Gwernyfed by the later medieval period,
possibly to one side of a deer park covering an extensive tract
of land stretching from the foothills of the Black Mountains near
Felindre to the banks of the Llynfi at Aberllynfi. The deer park
appears to have survived with relatively little alteration until
the later 18th century and encompassed the area of Little Lodge
and Tregoyd Mill to the north-east and Gwernyfed Farm and Tyle-glas
to the south-west. The manor house at Old Gwernyfed was extensively
rebuilt at the beginning of the 17th century. Probably also belonging
to this period are the traces of a formal terraced garden laid out
with earlier fishponds behind the house, of which the earthwork
remains of a terrace and the stone pillars of a gated entrance survive.
The principal residence of the owners transferred to Llangoed Hall
near Llyswen in about the 1730s, though various ornamental elements
were added to the deer park during the later 18th century and the
early 19th century, including a series of radiating tree-lined avenues,
a fountain and a maze. The formal gardens behind Old Gwernyfed appear
to have become disused by the middle of the 18th century when the
area of the gardens is shown as an orchard.
The large Jacobean-style country house of Gwernyfed
Park was built in the northern side of the park in the 1870s and
1880s, and said to be on the site of an earlier hunting lodge, together
with walled kitchen gardens. This new house, with its long drive,
lodge and massive wrought-iron gates was orientated upon the newer
lines of communication to the north, passing through Three Cocks
and Treble Hill, Old Gwernyfed with its attached farm buildings
becoming the home farm. At this stage the park still extended to
over 300 acres. Ornamental plantings of firs and beech were made
throughout the park in the later 19th century, much of which still
survives, though following the break-up of the estate in the 1950s
most of the parkland was divided into arable fields by means of
post and wire fences.
The origin of the place name Gwernyfed has been the subject of
much dispute, but suggestions have included the poetic 'sacred grove'
and the more prosaic 'soaking bog'.
Key historic landscape characteristic
Low-lying, flat to gently sloping landscape, generally facing north-west
and lying at a height of between 100-150m above Ordnance Datum.
Present-day landscape is a combination of pasture, arable, garden
and parkland, with some mixed deciduous and conifer plantations.
Soils are predominantly well-drained fine loamy reddish soils (Milford
Series) overlying sandstone bedrock. Present-day land-use is partly
pasture with some arable and fodder crops.
Settlement within the character area is largely
confined to the two large and important houses at Old Gwernyfed
and Gwernyfed Park and associated farms and farm buildings. Old
Gwernyfed on the southern side of the area (now a hotel) is a large
early 17th-century Jacobean manor house built in sandstone rubble,
the south-west wing of which has been in ruins since a fire in about
1780, with a pair of circular Tudor dovecots with conical roofs
in the original forecourt. The house forms part of a complex which
includes largely 18th to 19th-century sandstone rubble farm buildings
arranged around a courtyard, some with ventilation slits, some of
the later buildings with brick dressings, and including a water-powered
threshing barn fed by leat, installed in 1890s. Gwernyfed Park House
on the northern side of the area (now a school) is a large country
house in a neo-Jacobean style of the 1870s, built in sandstone ashlar,
with stable block, lodge and gates, kitchen garden, and glasshouses.
Tyle-glas, one of the few farmhouses in the area, is a complex of
18th-century rendered farmhouse and sandstone rubble outbuildings,
Jones & Smith 1964;
Powys Sites and Monuments Record;
Soil Survey 1983;
For further information please contact the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust at this address, or link to the Countryside Council for Wales' web site at www.ccw.gov.uk.