Land-enclosures wall, near Llithfaen

Land-enclosures wall, near Llithfaen

Near the car park and the dog-leg in the Wales Coast Path stand the remains of the Wal Fawr ("big wall"), which symbolises the contentious enclosure of common land here in the early 19th century.

At the start of that century, large areas of Wales remained common land, where anyone could graze livestock. There was also an ancient Welsh custom that anyone who built a house in one night, with smoke emerging from the chimney at dawn, became owner of the land on which it stood.

Since medieval times, enclosures had privatised the most fertile land in Wales and England, and in 1812 attention turned to the Llithfaen area. Surveyors and lawyers began to prepare for the best farmland to be enclosed, which would end commoners’ right to use it. Anyone who claimed land ownership under the tŷ unnos (one-night house) custom would be evicted unless they could prove long-term residency.

The officials were pelted with stones by local residents but returned a few days later with soldiers. The protests continued into 1813, when Robert William Hughes was captured. He was regarded as the ringleader, having used a large sea shell as a megaphone at protests. He was transported with other convicts to Botany Bay (now part of Sydney), Australia.

It’s thought the Wal Fawr was built c.1815 by former soldiers, released from military duties after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo brought an end to the years of war with France. The wall runs straight from north west to south east, marking the limit of enclosed land. There is contrasting vegetation each side of the wall, as you can see in the aerial view below. Near the village are numerous rectangular fields – tell-tale signs of enclosed land.

The Gwyn Plas Trail, in memory of local historian Gwyn Elis, follows the wall and passes Cae’r Mynydd, home of Robert Hughes before his capture.

View Location Map

Gwyn Plas Trail online – map and more local history