ABC Historic Landscape Mapping Programme

Below are some results and conclusions of ABC’s Historic Landscape Mapping Programme - a 'landscape-scale' study of abandoned traditional and vernacular buildings.

Our aim was to identify and record all the derelict and abandoned traditional buildings within Myddfai Community, and the wider Western (Carmarthenshire) area of Brecon Beacons National Park (approximately 230 square kilometres in total). 

The Historic Landscape Mapping Programme underpinned the first year of ABC’s Grass Roots Heritage Project.Dyfed Archaeological Trust (DAT) gave support to the programme, and were project partners for the first element. Information gathered during the project has become part of the local Historic Environment Record (HER) held by DAT, based in Llandeilo, so that it’s available for further study.

An initial desk-based assessment was carried out, where historic and modern Ordnance Survey (OS) maps were compared to create a new map of buildings which were in use at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries and are now abandoned. This was followed by site visits to over 50 of the buildings identified, many with the help of our volunteers. 

In total 281 sites of abandoned or derelict homesteads were identified by ABC, of which only 54 had existing records, resulting in the creation of 227 brand new records of derelict and abandoned buildings, and sites of buildings which were occupied at the close of the 19th century, within the study area.

The evidence gathered shows the level of rural depopulation in Wales during the 20th century, and demonstrates very clearly that rural communities were considerably larger during the late 19th and early 20th centuries than they are now. The abandoned buildings identified tell of life in the recent past, and many evidence a strong thread of continuity which stretches back through Welsh history. The Historic Landscape Mapping Programme has shown that, of the abandoned buildings which were homes at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, many have been lost completely; some have barely any above ground remains surviving. The condition of the remains of the upstanding buildings is deteriorating very rapidly.

These buildings are a valuable, but often misunderstood, rapidly disappearing and under-represented resource for understanding Wales’ cultural past. But their significance and value is still not widely recognised, despite their clear cultural importance.

ABC’s Historic Landscape Mapping Programme has started to collate more detailed information on many abandoned buildings, and collect associated local knowledge, but there is so much still to be done, and it needs to be done very soon. This study covered a relatively small area but has highlighted the huge number of previously un-recorded sites of this type. Derelict and abandoned traditional buildings are a feature of the rural landscape throughout Wales, and these issues, and this project are equally relevant to other areas.

The buildings identified during ABC’s Historic Landscape Mapping Programme are about more than history. The small homes represented by the ‘lumps and bumps’ forgotten in fields and by the roadside have direct relevance to the very modern need for sustainability in building materials and practice. Many of these buildings were not designed beyond the basic needs of day to day existence, but their use of locally derived, home-grown materials, which are infinitely re-usable, recyclable and ultimately biodegradable, show potential ways forward for housing a growing population in buildings which are genuinely ‘sustainable’ in terms of life expectancy, energy consumption and end-of-life breakdown. We should not ignore these ‘small but perfectly formed’ models for sustainable building practice!  

 

During 2017 ABC ran a series of community events and workshops as part of our Grass Roots Heritage Project.  These events were focused around Myddfai and Llanddeusant in the north-western corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The many abandoned traditional buildings which came to light during our Historic Landscape Mapping Programme, helped to inform the focus of the workshops and events throughout the year.

The last year has been an amazing opportunity to celebrate and share this very local heritage. It’s been really good to take time to appreciate some of the fascinating hidden histories which are right on our doorsteps, but which are often overshadowed by ‘big heritage’ like castles and stately homes. Our community events meant we met lots of new people and were able to provide support and advice about looking after older buildings that survive in this part of rural Wales, and also hopefully inspire those involved in the project about the rich cultural heritage that these small abandoned buildings represent. Adfer Ban a Chwm worked with over twenty volunteers who helped to record some of the buildings identified through our mapping programme, and talked to many local people throughout the project and at our five key events.

See our news section and project pages for more information

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Felin Uchaf, Llanddeusant, Llangadog, Carms. SA19 9UH
helenw@abcwales.org.uk

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