The Archaeology and History of the Precinct and Demesne

The topographic and environmental setting: This is a classic upland landscape with long-term settlement and farming on the lower valley floors above the flood plain and on the slower slopes of the mountain areas. The flood plain at this northern end of the Afon Teifi is dominated by the spectacular raised bog of Cors Caron and farms exist in niches of good land. The mountain areas are, at their remotest still open moorland, although historically they have been encroached by farms in the modern era. Many of these failed in the agricultural recessions of the 19th and 20th centuries with some of their land being taken up by the Forestry Commission for coniferous forest in the last couple of generations.

The Demesne: The demesne consists of an area of some 2 square kilometres defined by the boundaries of the precinct and the land beyond which was reshaped by the Abbey as a demesne of specialist farms and production zones to provide for its own direct consumption needs. This is where the landscape seems to have been most radically altered by the Cistercians as they designed and built their operations at Strata Florida.

The Abbey Precinct and buildings: A primary objective of the archaeological work in Phase 1 has been to establish the extent of the original Abbey Precinct and to determine the quality of archaeological survival where very little survives above ground. We have found that the Abbey extent is exceptionally large, in the order of 45 hectares, and that there is a great survival of field remains in both the precinct and its environs. We are sure that there is the normal division between an Inner and Outer Precincts with the main masonry buildings within the former, as revealed by geophysics, soil survey and excavation.

The post-medieval plas and its landscapes: Following the Dissolution in 1539, the site of the Abbey and its estates passed first to the Devereux family. These were then dispersed in the next decades to a number of old Welsh gentry families and to a small number of in-comers, most notably the Stedmans. By 1567 they owned the Abbey site and then went on to acquire various of the former Abbey granges. Most notable among the older families were the Powells of Nanteos and the Vaughans of Trawscoed who are also prominent in the Strata Florida narrative. The project has studied the buildings, designed landscapes and properties of these great estates and considered too the more recent history of their decline and the rise of the smaller freehold farms of today.

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