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Spite Inn Farm, Tirabad


Spite Inn Farm lies on the western edge of the Sennybridge Training Area (SENTA) and a programme of building recording has recently been completed on behalf of Defence Estates. The farm is currently abandoned and derelict the survey was undertaken to provide an appropriate record of the surviving structures, as well as to inform its the future management.


Right: Surveying the farm buildings using a reflectorless digital theodolite. Photo CPAT 2493-019

The farm is located 1.5km west-south-west of Tirabad and 6km south-south-west of Llanwrtyd Wells, in western Powys (SN 864410). The farm complex is typical of a range of agricultural buildings which has developed over time, centred around the stone-built farmhouse which is thought to have been used as an inn by drovers as they took their livestock from the pasture lands of west Wales to market in England.

Historical Background

It should come as little surprise that prior to the turn of the 19th century there is seemingly no documentary or cartographic information for the Spite Inn. Like thousands of small dwellings across Wales occupied by the lower classes of society, the Spite Inn would have been of no more than passing and minimal interest to those who commissioned and those who compiled maps, and assuming that the occupants paid rent and were relatively law-abiding they are unlikely to have troubled to any degree those who maintained manorial and estate records.

One myth that has grown up around the Spite Inn which can be traced back to local sources concerns the origins of its name. It has been stated that the Spite Inn had formerly been Ysbyty Inn, and that it was used as a hospital for the sick monks who came from Strata Florida to recuperate. The name Spite was thought to be derived from hospitium, a supposedly medieval Latin term which meant 'shelter' or 'guest house'. This tradition can be traced back seventy years to Mr S M Powell who in the early 1930s produced a paper on pilgrim routes linked to Strata Florida abbey. He identified no less than nine examples of the term 'Spite' applied to buildings and other features on routes in Cardiganshire and claimed that the Spite Inn at Tirabad was on an old Roman road, a speculative view which can now be dismissed.

However, the name is unlikely to represent a corrupt form of Yspyty, a term which in its turn had devolved from the Latin hospitium signifying a hospice in the original sense of the word, a place providing shelter, hospitality and comfort. In Wales it is a term associated with the military religious order, the Knights Hospitallers: Yspyty Meurig (now Ystradmeurig) in Ceridigion and Yspyty Ifan (in Conwy) were both Hospitaller properties.

farm complex

Right: Spite Inn Farm. Photo CPAT 2493-003

The Hospitallers, however, were not active in the Epynt region, their only Brecknock possession being the church at Llanfeugan in the Usk Valley well beyond Brecon. The upland estate (or grange) that we now know as Llanddulas or Tirabad was in the ownership of another monastic order, the Cistercians, and was a subsidiary to their abbey at Strata Florida. The Cistercians had granges but not yspytai. This was a termed used specifically in relation to the Knights Hospitallers' holdings. And in conversation David Williams has indicated that he cannot recall any other examples where the term is associated with the Cistercians and that its incorporation into his Atlas was based not on any original research but on Powell's article.

How the Spite Inn acquired its name thus remains a mystery, but it is as likely to be English as to have a Welsh derivation. Moore-Colyer noted a second tradition for this drovers inn, that it was opened to 'spite' the better known Cross Inn which lay around 3km to the east, although he was not inclined to believe it. Perhaps, however, more credence might be given to the tradition?

The early history of this hilly area immediately to the west of Epynt is obscure, other than its inclusion in the Cistercian grange in the Middle Ages. Davies suggested that by 1700 the land had passed into the hands of the Sackville Gwynne family of Glanbran in Llanfair-ar-y-bryn, north of Llandovery.

The sale catalogue for the Brecknock holding of the Glanblan Estate near Llandovery in Carmarthenshire, of which this upland formed a part in 1833, provides a perspective here for it terms the building, 'Tyrgorse or Spite Inn'. Of the thirty holdings that went to make up this part of the Glanblan estate, not a single one other than the Spite Inn had an English name. It is reasonable to speculate that the name was attributed to the property by English drovers and that Tygorse was its correct name, the one recognised by the Glanbran estate owners.

1st edition map

Left: Ordnance Survey 1st edition 25" map of 1888

Less than fifteen years earlier surveyors had plotted the Spite Inn during their preparatory work for the publication of the 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey 1" to the mile map. Their drawing from 1819/20 is currently the earliest to depict the building, which it names as Spite Inn.

In conclusion we can suggest that the farm was probably a smallholding established in the post-medieval era, perhaps even as late as the 18th century, and there is no evidence of any predecessor and certainly nothing of medieval monastic origin. Its original name seems to have been Tyrgorse and the English appellation, Spite Inn, was probably added when it started to be used by the drovers.

Development of the Farm Complex

Based on cartographic evidence and information from the building survey it is clear that the farm complex originally comprised the farmhouse with a barn or cow house and a pig sty on the opposite side of the track which ran through the farm. The Ordnance Survey 1st edition 25 inch map of 1888 depicts these buildings, as well as a small building on the south side of the track, just to the west of the farmhouse, of which there is now no trace. A barn was later added to the south-western gable of the farmhouse and the complex retained this form during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Further additions to the complex may be broadly divided into two constructional styles: post-built structures with corrugated iron cladding and roofing; and concrete block construction, with corrugated asbestos roofing. Although there is no supporting evidence, it seems likely that the former dates to the early 20th century and includes the barn appended to the south-west end of the farmhouse range, while the latter is possibly from the 1940s or later, and includes a variety of small additional buildings.

The Farmhouse Range

NW elevation

Right: Spite Inn Farmhouse, north-west elevation. Photo CPAT 2493-044

The farmhouse was originally constructed in lime-mortared, random stone rubble with brick used to form the chimneys, quoins, window and door reveals and sills, and ground-floor door and window arches. The roof has now collapsed but was slate-covered with ceramic ridge tiles, supported on two trusses with one purlin on either side. The house measures 8.45m by 5.6m and comprises two floors, the first floor being accessed by a timber staircase rising from a hallway inside the front door. The ground floor is divided into two rooms, separated by the staircase and hallways inside the opposing front and rear doors. The larger, north-eastern, room measures 4.6m by 4.1m and has a single window in the south-east wall which retains its original sash window. There is a central fireplace against the gable wall, which now has an inserted fireplace of possible 1950s date. No detail is now visible of the original fireplace which has been infilled. It was clearly substantial, however, extending into the room by 0.45m, and may have included a bread oven on the north-west side. The other room, presumably the parlour, measures 4.6m by 2.4m and has windows in either wall, both of which now have alloy frames. Interestingly, there is no sign of a fireplace, although there is a chimney built into the south-western gable end.

The first floor is divided into three bedrooms, the larger of which is on the south-western side of the stairs, measuring 4.6m by 2.45m, with an original sash window in the south-eastern wall. As with the room below, there is no evidence for a fireplace. The other two rooms measure 4.1m by 2m, and 3.2m by 2.6m, each with an original sash window, while the south-eastern room has a small fireplace.

barn interior

Right: The interior of the barn adjoining the farmhouse. Photo CPAT 2493-047

A barn was later added to the south-western end of the farmhouse, also of random stone rubble construction with a slate roof and ceramic ridge tiles. A pair of simple roof trusses supported single purlins on either side. The barn measures 8.15m by 5.6m externally and has large, opposing, central doorways. The south-western end of the north-west wall has been replaced in concrete block, presumably following a collapse. The south-western gable wall is of particular interest as it appears to have been raised to match the height of the farmhouse. The side walls, however, show no such alterations and it is therefore possible that the gable wall is a remnant from an earlier building.

SE elevation

Right: Spite Inn Farmhouse, rear elevation showing lean-to extensions. Photo CPAT 2493-056

During the 20th century the farmhouse was extended in four phases by the addition of a series of single-storey, lean-to structures, the earliest of which is likely to be a corrugated iron structure which was added to the south-eastern corner. This measures 5.5m by 2.5m and contains an old Rayburn stove, suggesting that this may have been added as an external kitchen. A large brick-built room with a corrugated asbestos roof was later added against the north-eastern gable, measuring 5.35m by 5.6m, with no direct access from the original house. This extension had a central door in the north-east wall, flanked by windows, with a rear door in the south-east wall. The original chimney within the stone-built gable wall was used by a cast-iron range set off-centre to the north-west. The structure was later enlarged by the addition of a pantry and bathroom on the south-east side, built in concrete block, again with a corrugated asbestos roof. A porch was added to the north-eastern door, perhaps at the same time. The space between the original kitchen extension and the later structures was infilled with a rather make-shift lean-to in timber and corrugated plastic, resting on a low concrete block wall.

NE elevation

Left: Spite Inn Farmhouse north-east elevation, showing two phases of extension. Photo CPAT 2493-059

Additional barns were appended to the south-west of the range, initially comprising a large corrugated iron-clad structure founded on cast-iron stantions, with an additional corrugated iron shed on the south-west corner. The latter is at a slightly higher level than the main barn, with several large boulders forming a step. These were later enlarged with the addition of lean-to structures on the south-east side founded on timber posts and again clad in corrugated iron. To the south-west of the surviving buildings there is a large levelled platform measuring around 11.5m by 8.7m that may have held a building for which there is now no surface evidence.

The Pigsty


Right: Spite Inn Farm pigsty. Photo CPAT 2493-039

The stone-built pigsty appears to be contemporary with the farmhouse. The pigsty originally measured 4.7m by 2.75m, and was divided into two bays, although an additional bay was later added to the south-east end, built of concrete block. The original roof has been replaced throughout with corrugated asbestos. A small, free-standing building of concrete block construction with a corrugated iron roof lies immediately to the south-west, with double doors opening onto the farmyard and a feeding trough against one wall. This may have been used as a shelter shed.

The Cow House Range


Right: Spite Inn Farm cow house. Photo CPAT 2493-038

Like the pigsty, the cow house appears to be contemporary with the farmhouse. It is somewhat irregular, measuring 10m in length, but increasing from 5.5m wide at the south-western end to 5.75m. The building has two narrow doors facing the farmyard and no windows. Internally, concrete block walling has been used to form five feeding stalls, with a passage along the rear wall, suggesting the that this was used as a cow house, although this may not have been its original function. The roof trusses have been replaced and the building is now covered with corrugated asbestos, although the base of two original trusses are visible embedded in the rear wall.

Later Cowhouse

Right: Spite Inn Farm - later cow house and outbuildings. Photo CPAT 2493-037

A further cow house was added to the north-eastern end of the building, of corrugated iron construction, and measuring 5.75m by 4.45m. Two doors open onto the farmyard, one giving access to a feeding passage against the gable wall of the original building, and the other leading into three feeding stalls.

A range of outbuilding, possibly shelter sheds, was added at right-angles to the main range, built in concrete block, and initially comprising a single building measuring 7.15m by 4.55m, with a later extension measuring 3.5m by 3.5m. Both have feeding troughs and are roofed with corrugated asbestos. A further structure was added to the north-east, measuring 4.55m by 4m, with a feeding trough and a wide doorway opening onto an extension to the farmyard, which is enclosed by a concrete block wall.

Barn/shearing shed

shearing shed

Right: Spite Inn Farm - later barn/shearing shed. Photo CPAT 2493-060

At the north-eastern end of the complex, close to the road, is a large barn measuring 11m by 5.55m, constructed of corrugated iron on a low concrete block wall. The original function of the barn is uncertain, although more recently it has been used for sheep shearing. A 5.4m-long open-ended extension may have been a cart shed or garage, and bears a date of 1963.


It is not possible to trace the documented history of Spite Inn Farm back before the first quarter of the 19th century, but from a sales document of 1833 it is evident that it had been known previously as Tyrgorse, probably indicating that it originated as a small farmholding before it became a drovers' inn. There is no convincing evidence to support the misleading tradition that its name reveals the former presence of a monastic grange on the spot. The name Spite Inn is first recorded around 1820 and persisted until at least 1888, although by 1905 it had become Spite Inn Farm, perhaps suggesting that its days as an inn were over.

The complex of farm buildings developed gradually from the original core, which comprised the farmhouse, a pigsty and a building which was latterly used as a cow house. All of the original buildings are constructed in random stone rubble, although the farmhouse was embellished with red brick on the corners, window and door openings, and chimneys. Architecturally, there is nothing to suggest that these buildings are any earlier than the late 18th century. Later additions included a stone-built barn appended to one end of the farmhouse, a range of barns in corrugated iron and several more recent buildings constructed in concrete block.

The farmhouse was originally a rather small, but well-built dwelling, with a kitchen and parlour on the ground floor and three bedrooms on the first floor. A series of lean-to extensions were added during the 20th century, including a small kitchen, later replaced by a larger, brick-built, kitchen, and finally a bathroom and pantry. Apart from the later additions, the original building has seen very little change over a period of around 200 years, although two of the original sash windows have been replaced and internally the kitchen fireplace, which possibly included a bread oven, has been blocked and replaced, and there is now no trace of any fireplaces associated with the chimney on the south-west gable wall.

The farmhouse, and indeed the other buildings, are typical of those one might expect to find on a small farm in mid Wales, and architecturally there is little of particular merit. The significance of Spite Inn Farm does not, however, lie in its architecture, but in its historic association with the drovers.

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