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The full version of the article about Llanfedw chapel by Diane Brook is printed below, as promised in our latest newsletter.

A Lost Chapel

The Ruperra area has several major standing monuments: the castle, the newly cleared hillfort and even a medieval house at New Mansion[1]. Until at least the later eighteenth century, there was also a chapel building, possibly of medieval date and almost certainly of medieval origin.

The chapel site is known as it was shown as a single-celled rectangular building on an estate map of 1764 , labelled ‘Old Chapel’. A later copy is annotated ‘an old ruined chapel’. It lay east of the castle, on the east boundary of a field named ‘Chwech (?) erw’r chapel’ (Six acres chapel). To the north-east another field is marked ‘Ca’r chapel’ (Field of the chapel). By 1922, the large scale six-inch Ordnance Survey map show the site as an antiquity, ‘Church (site of)’. The Ordnance Survey record card noted ‘pebbles, small slabs at site, no traces of the graveyard enclosure’. An air photograph of the site taken in 2001 shows both the building and the field boundary entirely disappeared under smooth pasture.

The chapel may be Llanfedw, a place-name noted several times in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries variously as Landuedu, Landivedu, Lanvedure, Lavendo, Landivedon and Lanvedue[2]. Some of the references are to a manor (manerium), some to a mill but none clearly to a church or chapel. The site is clearly located in the Ruperra area by its position in lists after Rutheri (Rudry) and mentioning it as being in ‘Seghunit’ (Senghenydd commote) and ‘Under Kaath’ (Lower or Is Caiach) sub-commote.

The probable ‘llan’ element in the place-name further suggests this is the name of the Old Chapel site. ‘Llan’ is the prime ecclesiastical place-name element in Wales and its use dates back to the earliest documented church sites in Wales, in the sixth and seventh centuries. But, it can also be a mutated form of ‘glan’ (valley), especially in south-east Wales where the ‘ll’ spelling was apparently not pronounced with the aspirated sound used elsewhere in Wales, making confusion with ‘lan’ for ‘glan’ more likely.

The second element is possibly a mutated form of ‘bedw’ (beech tree) and may be assumed as the same as the final element of the neighbouring parish name, Michaelston-y-fedw. Alternately, the ‘fedw’ element could be from a lost early medieval personal name, as so many church sites name ‘llan’ are combined with such names, Llandough for example. There is a ‘Lan Bedeui/Lan Vedeui’ in the Book of Llandaff, the lost ecclesiastical name for the church at Penterry in eastern Gwent[3].

It is interesting that Llanfedw chapel, if the old chapel site was indeed named Llanfedw, is not listed in the any of the medieval church tax lists, even as a passing mention as an unnamed chapel of a larger church. Nor is it mentioned in early post-medieval lists of churches and chapels. By 1833, Samuel Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of Wales calls Llanfedw only ‘a hamlet of Michaelston-y-fedw’. Most of the known medieval chapels of south-east Wales are mentioned by name as ecclesiastical sites either in some medieval document or by the sixteenth or early seventeenth century.

There are exceptions where sites may be suggested only by a field name on a tithe or estate plan such as Llanfair in Llandough by Cowbridge. Other sites have only single mentions and have not even been located on the ground, such as Capel Senny recorded on Speed’s map of 1610 in the southern Breconshire uplands.

Looking at the wider pattern of church provision in the medieval period in Wales and the Celtic West in Britain may help to set Llanfedw in context.[4] The broad lines of development start in the early post-Roman period with the early great monasteries such as Llantwit Major, Llancarfan and Llandough in Glamorgan and sites such as St. David’s, Caldey Island and Llandeilo in south-west Wales. The church at Llandough was found to lie in the midst of a large Roman and post-Roman cemetery with nearby villa, bly suggesting some continuity with the Roman period.

Over the following centuries before the Norman Conquest, these major sites had daughter churches set up in their areas of influence, often named for the mother-church’s saints, for example the many Llanddewi and Llandeilo sites, whilst others had churches with their saint’s dedication, such as the Cadoc churches linked to Llancarfan in Glamorgan. As well as monasteries, there were bishop-houses in early medieval Wales, similar to the monasteries but ruled by a bishop, not an abbot.

Another proposed pre-Norman line of development is sites which originated as burial grounds some of which eventually were enclosed and provided with a church or chapel. Indeed, these sites might be the origin of some of the daughter churches of the monastic centres as well as of other sites.

The Normans are credited with the introduction of the true parochial system, with all churches organised into territorial dioceses with a bishop in charge of local ecclesiastical organisation, including superiority over any local monastic foundations. In addition, manorial chapels (which often later became parish churches) are attributed to Norman foundation in Wales.

Although these lines of development are probably broadly correct, there are numbers of minor chapels such as the Llanfedw site which suggest there are further possible models. William Rees marked Llanfedw as a church site on his 1933 map of south Wales in the fourteenth century[5]. In the accompanying text, he notes that there were both monastic and ‘secular’ (non-monastic) churches and states that all small administrative units such as manors and the Welsh maenor and gwestfa would have been provided with a chapel. This recognises that not just the Normans provided their land holdings with chapels. In fact, the chapel founded and endowed by a landholder on his own property has a history dating back to the earliest post-Roman period, being known in France as early as the sixth century. Thus there were almost certainly several types of church site being founded throughout the early and later medieval periods in Wales. Some sites of all types will have gone out of use at different times throughout the centuries, leaving more or less evidence of their existence. The minor status and loss of use of a site does not indicate whether it was a very old foundation. Just such a lost minor site in Breconshire is noted to have been the find spot of an Early Christian Monument of the earliest type, fifth to seventh century A.D.[6]

Thus it is possible that the Old Chapel and the Llanfedw place-name indicate a very minor secular chapel which could date back even before the Norman conquest of south-east Wales.

The Llanfedw chapel site offers some interesting archaeological potential. The site is completely open and level, under grass. Intriguingly, there are several finds listed at the National Museum of Wales as found at the chapel site; a cast nail of copper alloy of uncertain age, a post-medieval silver coin, a Late Bronze Age socketed axe, 950-750 BC, and a Roman bow brooch, probably 2nd century AD. The finds suggest the area has been a focus of settlement or some form of human exploitation for several millennia.

Geophysical survey could be used to investigate whether there are any remains of the chapel building and whether any graves or enclosure may have once existed. It could also indicate if there was ever any settlement in the area of the chapel, perhaps Lewis’s hamlet of Llanfedw. Excavation would be needed to provide dating evidence and sequences of dates for the site and answer questions about the foundation period of the chapel.

Such sites can have surprisingly large potential. Capel Maelog in Radnorshire was also a lost chapel site with a former ‘llan’ place-name, with the building recorded into recent times but completely dismantled by the late twentieth century. On excavation, the full plan of the later medieval church was found as well as pre-Norman burials and enclosure and underlying Roman field boundaries.[7] Llanfedw might have an equally interesting sequence but only excavation could tell.

There is also more historical work to be done. Exactly when was the building finally torn down? Was any drawing or description of it ever made, perhaps in an unpublished diary or letter? Are there any minor medieval or post-medieval mentions of the site which do identify it definitely as a chapel?

Any new information should be reported to the Ruperra Trust.

Diane Brook March 2004


[1] New Mansion, Archaeology in Wales 1974, 44.

[2] Clark, GT. 1910 Cartae et alia munimenta quae ad dominum de Glamorgancia pertinent. London. 6 volumes, III, 845-48, c. 1281, ‘Lavendo, Mill of Landivedon.’, IV, 901-4, ‘Lanvedue manerium., 1295-6; Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem Henry III – Edward III, 13 volumes, London HMSO, 428, 23 Edw III – (Lordship of?) Kaerphilly – ‘over Caagh & Merthir’ aand under Caagh – Retheri (sp?) & Landuedu, 8 Edw II (p538) – “Under Kaath – Landivedu…. mills, - Landiuedu.”

[3] Evans, J. Gwenogfryn & Rhys, J. (eds.) 1893 The Text of the Book of Llan Dav. Oxford, 218, 274.

[4] See author’s discussions in Brook, D.L. 1981 ‘Early Ecclesiastical Sites in South-East Wales’, unpublished MA thesis, Cardiff University; 1985-8 ‘The Early Christian Church in Gwent’ Monmouthshire Antiquary, 5, 67-84; 1992 ‘The Early Christian Church east and west of Offa’s Dyke’, in Edwards, N. & Lane, A. (eds.) The Early Church in Wales and the West, 77-89; ‘Early Christian Archaeology of the Southern Marches of Wales’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Cardiff University.

[5] Rees, W. 1933 South Wales and the Border in the Fourteenth Century. Southampton, Ordnance Survey.

[6] Nash-Williams, V.E. 1950 The Early Christian Monuments of Wales. Cardiff, 69, No. 42. Powell, R.F.P. 1986-7 ‘The Place-Names of Devynock Hundred: Crai’, Brycheiniog, 83, 94.

[7] Britnell, W. 1990 ‘Capel Maelog, Llandrindod Wells, Powys: Excavations 1984-87’, Medieval Archaeology, 34, 27-96.

Written objections by Ruperra Conservation Trust to the Planning Application regarding Ruperra Castle in June 2002.

Insufficient Information to Explain the Scope of the Applications

The drawings submitted and the accompanying letter do not adequately define the works proposed to the listed buildings on the site.
No drawings have been submitted which confirm the amount of demolition proposed to the listed buildings, nor the extent of new build proposed.
Further, no detailed structural report has been provided to explain what works are necessary and why the approach adopted by the applicant is appropriate.
In our view the lack of annotation on the drawings raises serious questions about what precisely is proposed e.g. the accompanying letter refers to the external walls of the Castle being rebuilt/repaired as necessary. This could amount to a complete demolition of the existing structure – such an approach is totally unacceptable.

In conclusion, given the importance of the listed buildings and the necessity for a detailed application, we feel the level of information provided with these applications is inadequate and we are surprised the application has even been accepted as valid.

The Principle of an Enabling Development.

The purpose of the new build proposed on this site is, we assume, to generate sufficient capital to enable the funding of the full restoration of the castle and the other listed buildings. However, the applicant has provided no detailed justification for the strategy he has adopted.

In our view, if the principle of enabling development is to be accepted, then the submission of a full financial viability report is necessary. This would allow the level of new build necessary to fund the restoration to be identified. As it is, we have no basis on which to judge whether 1 house or 1000 houses are necessary to fund the repairs.
In addition, we would question why the applicant proposes works to the listed buildings that are insensitive and inappropriate given the sole benefit offered by this scheme is the restoration of the listed buildings.

The Principle of Housing Development

The principle of providing market housing on the scale proposed appears to be directly contrary to policies contained in the Caerphilly Council’s adopted plan (specifically policies Ce1 and Ce2) and also contrary to policies contained in the Council’s deposit plan (specifically polices C1 and C11), in that the principle of housing development would have an unacceptable adverse impact on the character, amenity, landscape and nature conservation of this area of Special Landscape Value

Ce2 Adopted plan. ‘Development proposals which significantly alter the existing natural appearance or harm wildlife habitats in special landscape areas will not generally be permitted.’ (See objectives 2 and 3)
C1 Deposit Plan ‘Development in the countryside will only be permitted where it will not have an unacceptable impact on character, amenity, landscape, and nature conservation value of the area or where acceptable mitigating measures within the control of the developer can be provided.’
C11 Deposit Plan Special Landscape Areas. ‘Development will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that there will be no unacceptable impact on : A Features of landscape interest or nature conservation importance.’

Further, the Trust is of the view that the new development proposed would adversely affect the setting of the listed buildings on the site and also the value of the Castle as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, through destroying its setting, character, and historical interest. The new development would not enhance the character and appearance of the area and is contrary to Adopted Plan policies BE2 and BE3 and Deposit Plan policies HE2 HE3 HE4 HE6 HE8

(Adopted Plan.)
BE2 Development proposals affecting buildings and structures of local importance and historic gardens will not be permitted where they destroy or harm their character and quality or that of their immediate surroundings unless the building has become so derelict or structurally unstable it is unable to be saved.
BE3 Scheduled Ancient Monuments and their immediate environments will be protected from development by only permitting proposals which preserve them as features of historical interest.

(Deposit Plan)
HE2 ‘Development and proposals affecting listed buildings or structures will only be permitted where they would preserve or enhance the character and quality of the building and/or its setting.’
HE3 Demolition of buildings which are listed or make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of a conservation area will not be permitted unless the building is structurally unsafe and cannot be made sound for technical or economic reasons….
HE4 Development, change of use or demolition will only be permitted in conservation areas including the following ….(Ruperra Castle and Park)….where it preserves or enhances the character or appearance of the area.
HE 6 ‘Proposals which protect or enhance scheduled Ancient Monuments and their settings will be permitted subject to satisfying other development criteria……
HE8 Proposals which have an unacceptable impact on the appearance, setting, character and quality of the following historic Parks Gardens and landscapes will not be permitted….(Ruperra Castle, Draethen)

Level of Demolition Proposed
(See HE3 and HE4 above)

The proposals to demolish the outer wings of the glass house are not based on any structural analysis. In our view, the glass house was in good condition when we last had access to it in the late 1990s. Although the glass was damaged, the woodwork frame was not rotten and we have no reason to believe that it could have deteriorated to such an extent that partial demolition can now be justifiable. With some creative thought a viable use for this building could be found.

We are unable to comment on other elements of demolition to the other listed buildings on the site because inadequate information has been provided.

The Grouping of the New Build Elements

The layout of the new housing gives the appearance of a suburban setting and is wholly out of place with the character, spirit or quality of Ruperra Castle’s landscape setting. In particular the positioning of the individual buildings EO4 EO5 EO6and E15 (the Lodge) are inappropriate to the landscape setting.

There is no historical precedent for a lodge in the position proposed (E15). This building will be highly visible in views from the south and will adversely affect the setting of the Castle. Further, the three storey height of the proposed building would make the building particularly intrusive.
The buildings EO2 and EO3 would also be highly prominent in long views of the castle from the south and would adversely affect the historic garden setting.
The courtyard, comprising the eight units (EO7 to E14) is considered to be positioned too close to the castle. The garage court and separate car parking spaces are positioned in a highly prominent and detrimental position adjacent to the Castle itself.

The whole layout seems to be designed to maximise private garden space rather than to respond to the historic garden and landscape setting. There are no proposals for landscaping the remaining garden or a maintenance plan for how these or the glasshouse will be maintained.

There is also no information to clarify the number of mature trees which will need to be cut down or to justify their loss.

Detailed Design of the New Build Elements

The design of the new build makes no attempt to reflect the quality, form and design of the listed buildings within the site. The materials proposed appear to be insensitive and modern, although little information has been provided.
The scale of the three storey buildings is particularly unacceptable as these structures would dominate the existing listed two storey out buildings.
In our view the extensive use of bly coloured render would be jarring and would not enable the buildings to blend in with the landscape as do the present buildings. We feel that new build should specifically designed to be appropriate to the setting and be complementary to the important listed buildings rather than competing with them and that the materials should be of the same high quality i.e. Welsh slate, stone, hardwood.

Alterations to the Listed Buildings

We are extremely worried about the poor quality of materials proposed for refurbishing the listed buildings, e.g. the use of reconstituted interlocking concrete slate tiles to the outbuildings and reconstituted stone and concrete floors to the castle. Given that the whole purpose of this scheme is to restore these buildings and bring them back into use, the aim should be a scholarly, conservation based repair. The proposed approach adopted by the applicant is, in our view, completely unacceptable.

The loss of the existing stable fittings undermines their listed status as a good example of Edwardian stabling with their original fittings intact.

The approach for residential conversion of the castle is not based on a condition report, historical analysis or a conservation plan identifying surviving historic elements that are important to the character of the building and which should be conserved. In particular the cantilevered staircase in the style of Robert Adam would be demolished and any remaining fireplaces would appear to be lost. Given the lack of information about the extent of alterations proposed to the existing fabric, we find it difficult to provide any further meaningful comment.

The design of the roof structure to the Castle to accommodate unspecified heating/ventilation plant would appear to be higher than necessary. We are concerned that this may be to facilitate air conditioning which in our opinion would be entirely inappropriate for this building.

No provision appears to have been made for a lift overrun. Indeed we would question the need for a lift as there is no level access to the building and the flats would be unlikely to be suitable for persons with disabilities.

Other Matters

Although the accompanying letter refers to an archaeological report, the report has not been submitted.
The applicant has also failed to submit an assessment of the scheme using the criteria set out in the Welsh Office Circular 61/96.
There is a lack of clarity regarding the possible impact of additional traffic generated by this proposed development on the local highway network.
No details have been provided regarding the extent of works required to upgrade both the adopted and the unadopted highway network.
No information has been provided on the impact of the development on the rare lesser horseshoe bat which, it is believed, roosts in the stable block
There is no mention of the provision of any public access to the site. This is a great pity as the site is of considerable historic interest


The Trust bly feels that the proposed development is both hostile to and destroys the special character of this wonderful group of listed buildings and this unique setting. Also it fails dismally in the overriding objective of restoring these buildings and securing their future. This site is an important part of the heritage of South Wales and this scheme represents a lost opportunity for the public to enjoy it as they should be able to.

Further Objections regarding Nature Conservation

The development will materially effect the viability of populations of lesser and greater horseshoe bats known to use the buildings as maternity roosts, and thought to use them at other times of year. The application makes no reference to these species which are fully protected under UK and European legislation. There is a legal obligation on the part of the council and developer to ensure that these species are fully mitigated for in any development. The maternity roost of greater horseshoe bats is only the fourth such found in Wales. The objectives in the deposit UDP include the following statements:

1. To protect the countryside from inappropriate development
2. To identify, protect and enhance sites of nature conservation and earth science interest and ensure the diversity and quality of habitats and features are maintained.

The plan states that an inclusion of a new paragraph after paragraph 6.3, 6*, should read:
‘Where a proposal will threaten a habitat which supports a nationally important wildlife or plant species, development will be resisted. ………In all instances regard will be paid to the requirements outlined in the EEC Habitat Directive. Sites known to be valuable in nature conservation terms but which are not designated will be protected through additional policy measures’.

In addition paragraph 6.13 states:
‘Old buildings………can contain roosts for bats and barn owls which are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.Where protected species are found………the scheme should where possible make provision for the retention of the protected species’.

Further, Policy C1 states that:
‘Development………will only be permitted where it will not have a harmful impact on the character, amenity, landscape and nature conservation value of the area’.

Policy C2, Infill development in the countryside quite clearly mitigates against this application, and on this alone, it should be unlikely that the application would be acceptable. Further, policy C3, Extension of Buildings in the Countryside, states:
‘There will be no unacceptable impact on the visual amenity of the surrounding area’.

It is our contention that this application would completely alter the visual aspect of the site and its suitability for species that are internationally important. The planning application makes no case for the destruction of a habitat of major importance for bats, and also makes no case for the scale of the development within a conservation area and a registered site in the historic parks and gardens registry.