Site: Cefn Gelli-gaer

Name:Cefn Gelli-gaer [Also: Kevn Gelhi Gaer] CISP No:FCHRW
Place:Fochriw Grid Ref:ST 340 1040 (GB)   Map
Parish:Gelli-gaer Stones:1
County:Glamorgan (Morgannwg) , Wales Saint(s):none
Site Type:landscape setting

Site Notes

Letter of Edward Lhwyd, 1693, published in Lhwyd/1848, 310: `Close under this stone, there's a small round trench, about 6 yards over; with a square area & c. within it'.

TS/1862, 134: `There is a kistvaen in this neighbourhood still in good preservation. The kist measures four feet by two feet six inches. The top stone measures six feet six inches by four feet ten inches. This was opened by Lhuyd, and found to contain an urn with ashes of burnt bones, as appears from his additions to Camden's Britannia (Gough's ed.) iii, 127'.

Westwood/1879, 2--3: `On a mountain near Kevn Gelhi Gaer, not far from Caerphilly on the way to Marchnad y Wayn, stands a maen-hir with an inscription given by E. Lhwyd in Gibson's Camden, p. 616, and in Gough's Camden (ii. p. 498, and ed. alt. iii. p. 127), represented as it appeared in 1693, and as copied in my Plate. After leaving Merthyr Tydvil and passing through Dowlais two great ponds are arrived at, a little east of the third mile-stone from Merthyr Tydvil on the way to Abergavenny. The cart-road to Gelhi Gaer runs southward from this spot, passing to the east side of a farm about half a mile from the Abergavenny-road, then winds round another mountain to the south, with several small farm-houses on its eastern slope, into the valley, and the maen-hir is seen standing very conspicuously about a furlong to the west of the road, about three miles and a half from the Abergavenny-road... In the letters of E. Lhwyd, preserved in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, is one dated October 10, 1693, in which this inscription is copied, and it is further stated that `close under this stone there's a small round [represented as oval] trench about 6 yards over, with a square area, &c., within it. My thoughts are that in ye area in ye midst, a man lies buried'...In Mr. Lukis's Memoir on the Cromlechs, &c., near Cardiff (Arch. Camb., 1875, p. 183), this maen-hir is mentioned as standing on the south edge of a small double circular embankment, or a circle within a circle, 33 feet in diameter'.

Macalister/1949, 153: `Certain cist graves in the neighbourhood (illustrated 1875, 1879) do not appear to have any essential connexion with the inscription'.

Fox/1939, 34--35: `This stone, with its defaced inscription, stands on the east side of Gelligaer Common above the valley of the Bargoed Rhymney at the head of which is the colliery village of Fochriw. The long moorland ridge rises slowly and steadily northwards from Gelligaer village and reaches a well-defined summit at Carn Bugail (1,570 ft.) a little to the north-west of the stone. Thereafter the ridge slowly rises again till it joins the main tableland of south Breconshire and north-west Monmouthshire. Cairns and finds on the ridge are evidence of prehistoric occupation and indicate the use of a traffic way down its spine. At its south end was the Roman fort of Gelligaer, on the outskirts of the present village, and the modern road northwards, Heol Adam, is thought to coincide in parts with the Roman route to a settlement at Penydarren, Merthyr Tydfil, which proceeds over the Beacons to the fort at Brecon.

For some three miles up the spur, the metalled road keeps a direct course along the crest of the ridge and no doubt represents the approximate Roman line; the narrowing of the ridge at intervals, as near Tyla-glas Farm, precludes any great error. North of B.M. 1255.2, this line coincides intermittently with several grass tracks, none of which shows any sign of Roman construction. Beyond the Bedlinog-Fochriw road, the same alignment brings the road to the eastern side of the ridge, crossing the portion of the plateau on which the stone is standing and thereby avoiding the top of the Carn Bugail. It is impossible without excavation to fix the exact course of the road at this point, but since the plateau on this side only extends laterally for 400--500 yards, we are justified in thinking that the stone stood in full view of, and probably close to, the Roman road.

Approached from Gelligaer, the site is inconspicuous, but from the north the stone surprisingly appears on the skyline. The position again has been carefully chosen on a slight shoulder and, I suggest, near the highest point traversed by the Roman road. The inscription is on the north-east angle of the stone, and is designed therefore to be read from the eastern side.

Former observers have recorded that this stone stands at the edge of a small enclosure, of which various plans have been given. It consists to-day of a low earthen horseshoe-shaped bank, measuring 35 ft. in diameter overall, with the stone in the gap at its south-eastern base. The material for the bank seems to have been partly dug from a small internal ditch, in which the pole in the photograph (Pl. I (b)) is set up. The area so enclosed (16 ft. 9 in. in diameter) has been extensively dug over, no doubt by the same band of miners who are alleged to have mutilated the inscription in 1875; Camden described it and planned it as `a square Bed or Area,' and his supposition that `in the Bed or Area in the midst, a person has been interr'd', is acceptable'.

RCAHMW/1976, 36: `set in a small enclosure...about 425m above O.D. on this ridge close to the Roman road from Gelli-gaer to Penydarren.

The enclosure formed by a low bank 2.0m wide and 0.3m high is horseshoe-shaped, roughly 8.0m by 9.0m and open on the S.E. side where the stone is situated. Lhuyd described a square `bed', presumably a cist, inside the enclosure and thought that it had been for a burial, but all that remains is a depression caused by digging. The whole structure may thus represent the remains of a bronze-age burial (the cist and mound) in which the stone either was set originally and was later inscribed or was entirely a later feature, but in its disturbed condition there can be no certainty as to its age'.