Manor of Caegurwen
The Manor of Caegurwen encompassed the land occupied by the present-day villages of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen, Lower Brynaman, Cwmgors and Tairgwaith.
Once part of Cantref Eginog the area was within the pre-Norman principality of Deheubarth but the coming of the Marcher Lords led to its inclusion within the Norman Lordship of Gower. In the early middle ages this was Gower Uwch Coed, bordering the Commotes of Iscennen and Perfedd which remained under independent Welsh control until the conquest of 1282. It continued as a disputed border area into feudal times but its present status (currently within Neath Port Talbot and bordering Carmarthenshire) is that of the Manor of Caegurwen formed in the later middle ages. Many would argue that this makes little sense today given its integration within the Aman Valley and orientation towards Ammanford.
The Manor of Caegurwen was probably administered from Neuadd Wen which lay in the north-west corner of the manor, between the Aman river and its tributary the Garnant stream. An alternative or possibly earlier centre was two miles further south at Maerdy. Caegurwen was surveyed in 1610 when the Lord of the Manor was William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. Neuadd Wen was occupied by William Price, Esquire. The manor had been granted to the Herberts by Queen Elizabeth in 1560. Prior to that it had been in the possession of Sir Rhys ap Thomas, a powerful supporter of Henry Tudor. He appears to have rebuilt Neuadd Wen as a hunting lodge, recorded as such by Rice Merrick, the Glamorgan historian and genealogist who died in 1587. According to Rees (1991: 48):
"It seems probable that there was some sort of hall or residence at Neuadd Wen long before Sir Rhys' time. What seems to have happened is that Sir Rhys ap Thomas rebuilt or developed this house as a hunting lodge. Neuadd Wen was not too far from Sir Rhys' homes at Abermarlais and Newton. It was also well suited for the chase because of its proximity to the ancient forest of Glyn Amman lying on the south-west side of the Black Mountain. The country to the north and west of Neuadd Wen still remains heavily wooded."
A Baron Court held at 'Noyadd Wen' in 1610 listed 'messuages and tenements with appertunances' and lands in the manor of Kaegurwen : (Clarke, 1883; also mentioned in Davies, 1967):
- Eskair y llwn kyll (Cwmllynfell) - held by David Thomas ap Morgan
- Bryn Yeddis Gwylfa - held by Jenkin ap Rees and Rees ap Jenkin his son
- Clyn y boydy - held by Richard ap Rees
- Tir vellin dawe - held by Thomas John ap Richard and Lln Jenkins
- Maes hir - parcel of land, arrable, meadow and pasture - held by Richard ap Rees
- Tyn y nant llwyd - held by the same Richard and Margaret Verch Jevan
- Tir Walter ychan alias Tir y bailie - held by Richard ap John and John ap Richard his son
- Tir nant y gurnos alias Coed y ffalde - held by John William Price
- Pant y bara alias Coed y ffalde - held by Hopkin Rees Griffith and John Morgan Richard
- Blaen nant meilir - held by Philip Rees ap Jenkin
- Tir nant y gasseg - held by John Rees ap John
- Cwm nant hopkin - held by Lln ap Jevan
- Tir yn y gors - held by David Rhitherch
- Tir llwyn tanglws - held by Lln Morgan
- Tir y wayn ucha - parcel of lands, arrable, meadow and pasture - held by the same Lln
- Gwayn David Gam alias Gwain Shenkin - held by Jenkin David and Richard Jenkin his son
- Tir Morgan ap Jevan Gwyn - as above
- Blaen y nant hir - held by the aforesaid Jenkin David and William John ap Gwillim
- Yn herg ddu - half an acre of land arrable held by the aforesaid Jenkin
- Tyr y Kae dy - held by John Richard David ap Owen and Rees Morgan William
- Blaen y nant bach - held by Thomas John David
- Tir llidiet alias Tir David ap Jevan dy Price - held by John Richard Hopkin and Anne John wido
- Wern bwll - held by Rees ap Richard and Catherine John wido
- Tir y bryn dy - held by Owen ap Griffith
- Tyr y clawdd coch - held by John Lewis and Elisabeth Morris, occupied by Jevan Lloyd Lln
- Glan y Garnant with free ingress and regress to the Commons of Gwayn cae gerwen - held by Jenkin David and David John David
- Tir cors y to alias Ty yn y wern - held by David Hopkin
- Tir y tair derwen - held by Jevan David ap Jevan
- Tir blaen y Gwalter Thomas yn y wain - held by Richard John David ap Owen
- Llety Owen Gwyn - held by Gwalter Thomas ap Morgan
- Brynllefrith - held by Hopkin John Thomas and Elizabeth Morgan widow
An indication of where some of the properties were located come from the following extracts (Clarke, 1883):
"Item, they present and say, that the Lord hath within the said Lordship by himself or his undertenants one house called y Noyadd wen with certain lands thereunto belonging, now in the hands of William Price Esq. and his undertenants there between the ditch that divideth the same from the common called Gwaun Cae Gurwen of the east part, of the ditch that divide between the same and the lands now in the hands of Wm Thomas Jevan Coch being the Lord's demesne lands and the lands of Jenkin David now in the occupation of Rhitherch Jenkin with the brook called y Garnant of the south part, the river of Aman of the west part, the lands caled Clyn y boydy of the north part.
"Item, they present and say, that the Lord hath there three other tenements as his demesne lands, whereof one is called y Bwllfa wen in the hands of William Thomas Jevan Coch between a ditch that divideth the same from the common called Cae gur- wen of the east part, the brook cald y Garnant of the south part, the land of Jenkin David now in the tenure of (blank) of the west part, the ditch that divides the same from Tir y Noyadd aforesaid of the north part, and is holden by a lease for years unexpired, at the yearly rent and custom duties, in the same lease expressed.
"The second messuage and tenement is in the hands of John David and Laurence Williams, and is called Mayndy tir Bees, between the lands of Thomas John David of the east part, the place called y Cwm bach of the south part, the brook called y Nant hir common Gwain Kaegurwen of the west part and north part, which is likewise holden by a lease for years unexpired as aforesaid.
"The third tenement is in the hands of William Thomas David, called Blaen nant melin, being and butting there upon the commons called Cam Vredydd and the lands of Phillip Bees ap Jenkin of the south part, the lands called Pant y bara of the west part, the commons of the Lords and tenants of the north and east part, which is likewise holden for years unexpired as aforesaid."
George Thomas Clark (1883) The Land of Morgan: Being a Contribution Towards the History of the Lordship of Glamorgan, Whiting.
John Henry Davies (1967) History of Pontardawe and District, Christopher Davies (Publishers).
David Rees (1991) "Neuadd Wen: Changing Patterns of Tenure" in Sir Gar: Studies in Carmarthenshire History ed by Heather James.
A journey through the Waun of my childhood - marvellous description of the community 60 years or so ago by John Phillips
Old Characters of Cwmgors and Gwauncaegurwen from the year 1840 - index and translation of "Hen Gymeriadau-Cwmgors a'r Waun o'r flwyddyn 1840" (Jonah Evans, 1907)
Annibynwyr Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen - translation by Gareth Hicks (The history of the chapels of Carmel, Gwaun-cae-Gurwen and Tabernacle, Cwmgors) of Llywelyn Huws' (1942) book.
My evacuation: Gwaun Cae Gurwen - wartime evacuation (on the BBC site).
Old Counties and Islands