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Neuadd Barn, Cloggau, Radnorshire


Introduction

Neuadd Barn at Cloggau, Radnorshire, was purchased during 1998 for conversion into a dwelling. The new owners had bought, what they thought was a semi-derelict "field barn", typical of many in Wales, but the presence of massive timber framework inside, the name "Neuadd" meaning "Hall" in Welsh, and earthworks in the surrounding fields possibly relating to an early garden, all suggested that this building had once been something grander. As a result of an initial study of this evidence by the Radnorshire Planning Department of Powys County Council, Cadw: Welsh Historic Monuments and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, the barn was listed as a building of national importance by the Secretary of State for Wales.

Neuadd barn, exterior

Right: Exterior of the north gable-end and rear of Neuadd Barn, Cloggau. Under the clap-boarding, the original timber framework survives, but below can be seen the replacement stonework. Beyond, at the far end, can be seen part of the 19th century cow-byre extension. © CPAT

As part of its conversion into a modern dwelling, it was necessary to remove all floor material up to a depth of 40cm below the existing level, requiring archaeological excavation. However, this enabled archaeologists to attempt to answer several questions about the building, such as whether the existing stone flag floors were original, identify and locate the position of the original hearth or fireplace, and obtain artefactual evidence about the lives of the former inhabitants and for dating. It was also important to record the surviving timber framework, which would guide conservation considerations. During December and January 1998/99, CPAT were able to record the building, earthworks and excavated archaeology, prepare a site report and answer some of these questions, as part of a watching-brief during the early stages of conversion.

Work was carried out here as a condition of the Listed Building Consent, required to develop the site by the local planning authority. It has not only provided an invaluable insight into the history of this particular building, but has also proved extremely useful in demonstrating the amount of information that can be gained by the targeted recording and archaeological investigation of a standing building during redevelopment.

About the Building

Neuadd barn, timber frame

Right: Interior view of Neuadd Barn, Cloggau. This view really shows off the massive framework that formed the half-timbered walls of the house - clearly this was once more than just a barn! On the right, upper side can be seen a surviving door opening, with its rounded head. © CPAT

Careful examination of the structure suggests that the building as it stands today is a 19th-century stone-built barn and cow house range, incorporating the remains of an impressive early storeyed timber-framed house. Four phases of development can be deduced:

  1. In the late 16th century - a new, three bay timber framed storeyed house was built, probably of the end chimney lobby-entry plan type, similar to other early storeyed houses known to have existed in the locality
  2. In the 17th century - two phases of rebuilding took place, with part of the timber frame at ground floor level replaced with a stone wall and windows, reusing portions of old framing as sills and lintels
  3. Sometime in the early 19th century - the house was converted into a three bay barn by removing the chimney and ceilings, and further parts of walling were replaced by stone
  4. The cow house at the southern end was added in the late 19th century, resulting in the building we see today

Neuadd barn, elevation drawing

Left: One of the drawings, prepared by Brian Williams for CPAT, of the surviving half-timber frames that once formed the walls of the farm or "hall" at Neuadd, Cloggau. The small marks next to several of the timber joints are "carpenter's marks" originally used to help in assembly of the framework whilst still flat on the ground. © CPAT

One of the surviving internal wooden frameworks incorporates rounded (elliptical) doorheads on the ground-floor (two doorways) and on the first-floor (one doorway), and with decorative diamond bracing in the apex. Another of the wooden frames, at the northern gable-end, survives from first-floor level only, and incorporates two substantial pre-glazing diamond mullioned windows, whilst the eastern side frame (at the back of the building) also survives from first-floor level only, and also incorporates evidence of window openings. Numerous 'carpenter's marks', or incised symbols, can still be seen on these wooden frames.

About the Finds (by Sue Anderson)

A total of 127 finds was collected from layers beneath the floors and from drains, and included pottery, building material, glass, animal bone and clay pipes. The earliest pottery consisted of a few sherds of late medieval green glazed red wares. The largest group of pottery from the site, however, consisted of sherds from several post-medieval glazed and unglazed red earthenware vessels, including large parts of two pancheons, both with internal brown glaze, of 18th-century or later date. Other fragments included some thick coarse sherds which may be derived from horticultural vessels. Three sherds of post-medieval red ware vessels, decorated with white or brown and tan slip decoration on a white slip background, probably date to the 17th or 18th centuries. Other slipwares of this date were of Staffordshire type, in relatively coarse cream fabrics, probably made at Buckley (in NE Wales) or Bristol. Most were glazed yellow with brown slip decoration, one with agate-type decoration, and were in the form of press-moulded flatwares and hollowares. Some sherds of brown mottled glazed vessels were also attributed to Staffordshire, but could have been produced elsewhere. Later wares included two small sherds of creamware, one Whieldon-type plate rim, one mottled ware sherd and one piece of creamware with pale green patches of 18th-century or later date. Stonewares of the same period included Staffordshire white salt-glazed stoneware plates with bamboo and basket rim decoration, a tankard rim, and a Staffordshire white-dipped stoneware tankard rim. There was also one sherd of Westerwald stoneware with cobalt blue decoration.

Neuadd barn, excavation

Right: Excavation of the floors of Neuadd Barn in progress. In the foreground can be seen fragments of the original floor flag-stones, cut through by a 19th-century drain, and with the lower part of one of the timber frames and stone footing beyond. © CPAT

Other finds included fragments of building material, probably a peg tile, post-medieval glass window fragments, animal bone of uncertain species, clay pipe stems and bowl fragments from the 18th century or later, and glass vessel fragments. One unidentified object, an irregular grey and black sphere may be a ball of waste glass.

The pottery is generally typical of material found elsewhere in Britain at this period, with locally made coarse pottery still in use, but some vessels in the more popular white earthenwares used as table ware. The pottery suggests occupation by people of at least middle status in the later 17th and early 18th-century period. There are no apparent groupings of pottery on the site, and the small amounts from drain fills, crevices between floor slabs, and the floor make-up, generally suggest that the area was cleared of any domestic rubbish before the later stone floor was laid, and that there was little use of ceramics in the building following this phase. The presence of four sherds of earlier pottery would seem to suggest late medieval occupation on the site. There is no indication of occupation later than the 18th century, although there is some indication from the artefacts that the building was still in use.

About the Site

CPAT also made a survey of the surrounding land which included various banks and hollows on the hillside to the rear of the main building, together with several levelled areas to the front. Also, a now disused trackway, descends the hillside, passing through the rear yard and continuing around the south side of the house, to follow the line of the present access track to join the valley road in front of the house. Walls from several smaller buildings were also recorded on the hillside, together with banks and hollows of indeterminate date. Both the hill trackway and the outbuildings are indicated on an undated, but probably early 19th-century, property map, now at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, together with various lean-to structures. The map also indicates a "mill meadow" beside the valley stream, also part of the property belonging to Neuadd. Whilst undertaking the field survey, two levelled areas were identified at the front (south side) of the house, which may have been terraced gardens or horticultural areas.

Conclusions

Excavation provided some archaeological dating evidence, but some of this may be residual. The upper stone-flag floor, initially thought to be domestic, probably dates from the building's conversion into a barn in the early 19th century. Below this, were several agricultural-style drains containing early 19th-century pottery, glass and clay pipes, which cut through the remnants of an earlier stone floor. This in turn overlay a curving, slab bottomed drain draining from the rear yard area, to pass under the south bay of the house and later cow-byre extension. This drain appeared more domestic in character and contained pottery and clay pipe fragments from the end of the 18th century. No evidence of a hearth, fireplace or chimney breastwork was found. All this suggests that most 16th and 17th-century artefacts, and any earlier structures or hearths had been scoured away by later activity. The land survey recorded the remains of smaller out-buildings to the rear, and revealed a probable terraced garden at the front, as well as setting the current building in its wider landscape context.

Similar examples of this type of half-timbered, three-bayed house are known to have existed in other parts of Radnorshire and eastern Wales. A good example of how this house must have looked in its heyday can be seen in the form of the Abernodwydd house, from Llangadfan, Montgomeryshire, now reconstructed at the National Museum of Wales, St Fagans, near Cardiff. The excavation and survey at Neuadd, Cloggau has added considerably to our knowledge of this type of house, typical of eastern Wales, and provided an interesting insight into the life of its inhabitants in this part of the Welsh borderlands, prior to its conversion into a modern dwelling.

Copleston, P - 1999, Neuadd Barn, Cloggau, Radnorshire: An Archaeological Watching Brief, CPAT Report no. 307
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