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Montgomeryshire collections

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Vol. 82 1994

The boundaries of the parish of Pennant Melangell

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PENNANT MELANGELL PART 1
The Boundaries of the Parish of Pennant Melangell
W. J. BRITNELL
Today, the hamlet of Pennant Melangell (SJ 024264) falls within the community of Llangynog
in the north-east tip of Montgomeryshire, the first element of the name having survived until 1987
to denote the Community of Pennant, a detached portion of the medieval ecclesiastical parish
which encompassed Penybontfawr, four miles to the east of Pennant Melangell. As noted by
Samuel Lewis in the 1880s, 'the parish is remarkable for the irregularity of its boundaries; some
portions of it being separated from others by the intervention of the parishes of Llangynog,
Llanrhaiadr, and Hirnant; and some houses included within its limits are situated in the market
town of Oswestry'.1 Indeed, the extent of the parish in the late 19th century is poorly defined,
and is even less certain further back in time. The parish evidently consisted of a number of
dispersed portions well before the late medieval period, and although the reason for this
irregularity remains obscure it may have its origins in scattered land-holdings, the sharing of
upland summer grazing by several dispersed townships, and possibly the fragmentation of more
extensive secular and ecclesiastical districts in the earlier medieval period.
Until the division of northern and southern Powys in 1166, Pennant Melangell fell within
Mochnant, a cantref formed by the combination the commotes of Mochnant Is Rhaeadr and
Mochnant Uwch Rhaeadr (Mochnant, above and below the Rhaeadr), divided by Afon
Rhaeadr (fig. 1. 1).2 The major clas church at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant fell at the centre of
the cantref, on the dividing line between the two commotes, and had presumably formed the
focus of an extensive ecclesiastical district dating from at least the 9th century (fig. 1.2).3 In
the Norwich Taxation of c. 1254 the church (ecclesia) at Pennant fell within the deanery of
Marchia, one of eight deaneries within the diocese of St Asaph, which took in most of the
lordships of Whittington and Oswestry and the whole of Mochnant.4 Following the death of
Gruffydd ap Madog Maelor in 1269, northern Powys, Powys Fadog, was subdivided into
minor princedoms, the cantref of Mochnant being split into its two constituent commotes, the
northern portion of which was to form part of the Marcher lordship of Chirk. The partition of
the cantref cut the ecclesiastical parish of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in two, along the
boundary which in the Act of Union of 1536 was to become formalised as the boundary
between the counties of Denbighshire and Montgomeryshire.5 In the Lincoln Taxation of c.
'S.Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales, (London, 1883).
2M. Richards, Welsh Administrative and Territorial Units (Cardiff, 1969), 175, 296; note that the locations of
Llangynog and Pennant have been inadvertently interchanged on Map 76 on p. 296.
C.A.R. Radford & W.J. Hemp, The cross-slab at Llanrhaiadr-ym-Mochnant, Archaeologia Cambrensis 106 (1957),
109-16.; C.A.R. Radford & W.J. Hemp, Pennant Melangell: the church and the shrine, Archaeologia Cambrensis 108
(1959), 81; J.W. Evans, The early church in Denbighshire, Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions 35 (1986), 74.
4E.R. Morris, A valuation for Tenths in the Diocese of St Asaph c. 1253, Montgomeryshire Collections 21 (1 887), 33 1
338; D.R. Thomas, The History of the Diocese of St Asaph, vol. I, (2nd edn, Oswestry, 1908), 41; D. Pratt, St Asaph Diocese,
1254, Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions 42 (1993), 112.
5D. Pratt, Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochant's market charter, 1284, Denbighshire Historical Society Transactions 34 (1985), 80.
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