Ruined Brwynog Isaf farmhouse, Cwm Cowlyd
Around 10 households were sustained in this small upland valley in the 19th century. Three properties and a bridge in this area of the valley had the name Brwynog, which refers to the profusion of rushes (brwyn) across the boggy land. Isaf (lower) distinguished this farm from Brwynog Uchaf (upper), to the south west. In the early 19th century, Nonconformists met at Brwynog Isaf and Uchaf for worship, as there was no chapel in the valley.
In Victorian times, the Griffiths (or Griffith) family lived at Brwynog Isaf. In 1851 the head of the household was Robert Griffiths, aged 45, who farmed 300 acres. Also living here were his wife Anne and their four daughters and two sons, the youngest being John, aged two. By 1881 Robert, aged 76, was farming 400 acres with the help of his wife, son Griffith, daughter Ann and an “indoor” farm servant.
John had died aged 22 in 1870. He was the first person buried in the new cemetery of Capel Ardda, the remains of which you can see lower down the valley. The inscription on his gravestone is pictured below.
John’s early death was a shock to the small community. The poet Gwilym Cowlyd (William Roberts), who grew up at Tyddyn Gwilym (near the chapel), published a long elegy to John in which he referred to the paths they’d trodden and the slopes they’d climbed together.
Brwynog Isaf belonged to the Gwydyr Estate. In 1895 many estate properties were auctioned in Llanrwst, and Brwynog Isaf was bought by a Mr Swayne from Liverpool for £900.
Brwynog Isaf and Brwynog Uchaf belonged to Messrs Barker and Rogerson of Chester in 1900, when a council surveyor declared both insanitary: they had no privy accommodation, water was rising under the hearths and there was no means to ventilate bedrooms. The owners told the council that repairs were in hand and criticised the condition of the road leading to this part of the valley. However, a visitor to the valley in August 1916 noted that Brwynog Isaf was unoccupied.
With thanks to James Jones for the photographs