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Montgomeryshire collections


Vol. 73 1985

The enclosure of the Llanidloes and Caersws Commons

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Included within the scope of the 1816 enclosure act for the manor of Arwystli were the town of
Llanidloes and the village of Caersws.1 Both settlements had been established by the lords of
Powys in late medieval times as boroughs with a weekly market, but Caersws had already
decayed by the sixteenth century, and at the time of the enclosure was just a hamlet contained
within the smallest of the five townships of the parish of Llanwnog the township boundary
possibly coinciding with that of the former borough. The developing woollen industry of West
Montgomeryshire was represented by a fulling mill in the northeastern corner of the village, but
the modern expansion of Caersws did not really take place until the coming of the railway in the
1860s and the creation of Moat Lane at the junction of the Cambrian and Mid-Wales lines. The
railway was also an important factor in the growth of Llanidloes, but the town had participated
much more strongly in the early nineteenth century flannel industry the explanation given in
the 1821 and 1831 census reports for its substantial increase in population. Llanidloes had in any
case kept its market and borough status, although an actual charter of incorporation had not
been traced. The lack of evidence to support a claim that the borough was a separate manor
from Arwystli meant that the enclosure commissioners decided eventually in 1824 that
Llanidloes was a mesne rather than an independent borough and its wastes were subsequently
divided and allotted like those of the rest of Arwystli. Much of the land which the burgesses had
used for depasturing their cattle and for purposes of recreation was in fact located just outside
the old borough on the floodplain and meadows of the River Severn and was known as the
Upper and Lower Greens an identical terminology being used for comparable lowlying
commons in the township of Caersws,4 and it is with the division and allotments of the two sets of
greens that this article is particularly concerned, although the enclosure of the other smaller
patches of waste in both settlements is also described.
The cross-shaped town had been planted in the thirteenth century on a ridge of high ground
cut through to the west by the Severn in a gorge immediately above the confluence with its
tributary, the Clywedog, and flanked to the north and south respectively by the Lletty Cochnant
and Nant Bryn Du the Severn and these two right-bank tributaries forming the greater part of
the boundary of the borough until it was extended in 1833. The old and new boundaries of the
'A summary of the enclosure is given in Ieuan E. Jones. "The Arwystli Enclosures 1816-1828", Mont. Coll., 71 (1983)
-The population of the entire parish increased from 2. 386 inhabitants in 1811 to 3.145 in 1821, with 1,984 inhabitants
living in the town. The town's population had increased to 2,562 persons by 1831, out of a total for the parish of 4,189.
'Second Report of the Commissioners on the Municipal Corporations of England and Wales, 1838, Borough of
Llanidloes (Montgomeryshire). 43-50. See also M. C. Jones, "The Territorial Divisions of Montgomeryshire", Mont.
Coll.. 2. (1869). 113: and E. Hamer. "A Parochial Account of Llanidloes," Mont. Coll., 4, (1871) 416; and 8, (1875)
228 and 236.
4Although the word "green' refers generally to common land in towns or villages, the Arwystli manorial court records
mention Rhiwen Green in Maestregymer and Llwyntew Green in Wig townships. Newtown Green, unlike those of
Caersws and Llanidloes. was specifically mentioned in the Cedewain enclosure act of 1796 and subsequent award. A
brief discussion of the enclosure of municipal commons is given in A. H. Dodd, The Industrial Revolution in North
Wales. 1933. 81-84.
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