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The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust News - old stories

Y Graig, Abergavenny

CPAT has recently completed a detailed survey of a facinating series of structures and earthworks preserved within forestry at Y Graig, near Abergavenny. The significance of Y Graig first came to light as a result of the Welsh Heritage Assests Project which revealed over 30 structures forming a dispersed deserted settlement now lying in an area of regenerated broadleaf woodland and conifer plantation. The survey was undertaken on behalf of Forest Enterprise to assist with the future management of the area, which is preserved as a scheduled ancient monument.


Right: One of the ruined buildings within Y Graig CPAT cs03-10-21

The settlement at Y graig provides an interesting insight into rural life during the 18th and 19th centuries. The small community seems to have developed on the edge of commonland, with a number of possibly inter-dependent smallholdings providing a level of self sufficiency.

The extent of the settlement was depicted by the Ordnance Survey during the late 1800s and the project involved the detailed digital mapping of structures and boundaries from this source, followed by a programme of field survey to check the results and add further detail to the overall plan.


Left: Part of the settlement at Y Graig as depicted by the Ordnance Survey in the late 1800s

The survey has enabled the majority of structures to be accurately located and mapped and the results have greatly increased our understanding of the settlement, which consisted of around 20 houses. In general, each house seems to have been the centre of an individual smallholding, the extent of which can usually be identified by its surrounding enclosure, defined by what are often substantial dry-stone walls. The construction of these walls would have acted not only as a boundary but also as a convenient method of clearing the surface stone to improve the land within. Each holding appears to have been associated with a series of levelled terraces, constructed to maximize the area available for cultivation. A number of the holdings have one or more ancillary buildings, such as privies and pig cotes, and one building clearly functioned as a bakery. In one area an interesting series of structures known as kid pens show that at least some of the inhabitants kept goats for the production of milk.

The surviving evidence suggests that each smallholding is likely to have been largely self-sufficient, with limited space for cultivation and grazing land available on the adjacent commons. It would seem, however, that some resources may have been shared by the community as only a few houses have bread ovens.

Nigel Jones, June 2003

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