The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological
Trust Historic Environment Record
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FIELD SYSTEM AT THE VILE, RHOSSILI
Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 00152w Trust : Glamorgan Gwent Community : Rhossili Unitary authority : Swansea NGR : SS41308770 Site Type (preferred type first) : Medieval Field system Status :
Summary : Well preserved medieval open field system, on the promontory west of the villages of Rhossili and Middleton. Some of the strips still retain their original divisions of uncultivated baulks known as landshares'.
Description : The fields on the promontory west of the villages of Rhossili and Middleton have preserved a rare survival of a medieval open field system. A drystone wall encloses around 158 ha of fertile arable land with common grazing on the surrounding cliff tops were the soils are too thin for productive agriculture. Three main cart tracks give access to the area from Rhossili and Middleton, dividing the promontory into four strips between 180m and 230m long, ranging from 15m to 70m wide. The arable land is mostly divided into blocks of narrow strips, although some have been amalgamated into larger holdings. The fields range in size from 0.3 ha to 1.6 ha, the commonest being 0.6-7 ha. Some of the strips still retain their original divisions of uncultivated baulks around lm wide, known as `landshares', although many have now been enclosed with more permanent barriers of large earth banks and drystone walls. These narrow strips were a common feature of medieval field systems, especially characteristic of lowland South Wales. Each strip could be individually owned and farmers strips would be spread out over relatively large areas to ensure an equal distribution of good and poorer quality land between the farmers. The landshares that divided the fields would formerly have been wider and more numerous, not only serving as divisions but also as paths to give access to the strips and areas on which to cut the hay and similar activities. An integral part of this medieval farming system would also have been the common grazing rights the farmers would have had on the cliff tops and nearby Rhossili Down. Remarkably this area has retained these divisions which were commonly amalgamated into larger fields throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The manorial maps of 1780 and the Tithe map of 1845 shows a very similar pattern of strips as today although the area of landshares was considerably more extensive. It is believed the field system managed to survive to the present day because the area was used for market gardening. Today the N.T. have purchased large areas of the Vile to ensure its preservation. (02)
Dillon, E., and Latham, J. , 1986 , The South West Gower Properties - Part Two
01/PM Record Card/OS/1956/SS 48 NW 22
02. P Poucher (2003-04) The National Trust Archaeological Survey: South west Gower properties, Rhossili - Mewslade
Events : E003807 : South-West Gower National Trust Properties (year : 1986) E004840 : The National Trust Archaeological Survey South West Gower properties: Rhossili-Mewslade (year : 2003)