Site: Seven Sisters

Name:Seven Sisters (Clwydi Banwen) [Also: Panwen Brydhin] CISP No:SVNSS
Place:inc Grid Ref:SN 1100 8700 (GB)   Map
Parish:Cadoxten-juxta-Neath (Tregatwg Nedd) Stones:1
County:Glamorgan (Morgannwg) , Wales Saint(s):none
Site Type:landscape setting

Site Notes

Westwood/1865, 59--60, `I am indebted to the Rev. T. Williams of Tir-y-Cwm, Ystrad, near Swansea, for the following account of the locality mentioned by Gough:

` ``The Sarn Helen, or Sarn y Lleng, is the military road that joins Neath to Chester. It traverses a long ridge which commences about three miles from Neath; and ceases to be a ridge about seven miles further, close behind Aberpergwm, that is, to the north of the Vale of Neath. The road is as plainly evident all along this ridge as any parish road. In many places flagstones are seen, and the kerbstones by the side. The farm where the road emerges from the valley, or enclosed land, is called Letty-rafel, i.e., Letty Travaelwr, Anglicè Traveller's Rest. This ridge is called Cefn Hir fynydd; in some maps, Hir fynydd. At the extremity of the ridge, where it leaves the mountain, it turns sharp to the north, almost at right angles, so as to cross the Banwan valley at the easiest place. The whole valley is a `banwan,' or boggy place, abounding with snipes, plovers, and occasionally bitterns. At this angle there are gates, as the mountain here becomes enclosed land; and within the enclosure there are two tumuli, about six or seven yards in diameter. On the larger one was this stone; whether upright or horizontal, I know not.' [The term `pillar' applied to it by Gough would imply the former.] `These are considered as fairy rings by the peasantry. After descending a very wet and steep side of a hill, where extra pains appear to have been had recourse to, to elevate the causeway above the adjacent ground, on the flat beneath is an old thatched house, known from the olden time by the name of the Tavern y Banwan. A farmhouse is called Tonyfildre (Ton-yr-efil-dre), `the smithy of the town'; another, where there are evident remains of an encampment, is called Ton-y-castell, `the castle hill'; and a small farm is called Y Disgwylfa, i.e., `the look-out,' or the outpost. Further than this I have not traced the road; but I have seen it in its onward course, here and there, on the mountains. As Ton-y-castell and these small hilly farms all lie close together, about twelve or thirteen miles from Neath, I presume here a regiment would halt on the first night, between this and the Gaer, in the Vale of Usk, about fifteen miles, the next day's march.

`I do not perceive that any attempt was made during the Society's Meeting at Brecon to trace this road. I think I have seen traces of it on the Eppynt mountains; and about fifteen miles from the Gaer on the Eppynt there are three large tumuli, where the army might have encamped for the night. The next place I have met with it is on Llandrindod Common, leading to the perfect and beautifully situated encampment called Cwm. Here there are the remains of a large walled encampment with massive walls, and the river Ithon defends it on two sides. I have heard that some years back the ovens were seen. This would be about half way from Neath to Chester. On the Common are several campi aestivi.'' '

Fox/1939, 32--34: `This stone formerly stood near the point marked Clwydi Banwen at the top of a steep foothill of the Hirfynydd ridge, overlooking the extensive marsh of Banwen Pyrddin.[3a] About a mile northwards as the crow flies, the Sarn Helen leaves the south gate of Coelbren fort pointing straight towards this hill; its course through the new colliery village of Tirbach is marked on the 6-in. O.S. maps and it formerly existed as a raised causeway.[4] The straight alignment continued part of the way up the steep slope ; pieces of the road are still visible beneath tips and mine workings. Past Tyn-yr-heol the track curves a little round the side of the hill, making for the Clwydi Banwen saddle. From here to the top it becomes a regular pack-horse track, consisting of several hollow-ways, and all trace of Roman construction is thereby obliterated; nevertheless, I think the probabilities are in favour of the close approximation of this track to the Roman line.[1a] At Clwydi Banwen the track passes through a gate in the stone wall and then turns at right angles to begin the ascent of the Hirfynydd ridge proper. The stone is recorded to have stood `within the enclosed land,' i.e. on the Coelbren side of the gate, a spot now much disturbed by old workings.

`The stone, then, like Maen Madoc was set up beside an existing Roman road, in a place where there is every likelihood of it being crest sited from the northern approach. The position must have been selected by people living in the Coelbren area or the adjacent foothills, not on the high moorland; descending from Hirfynydd the site is inconspicuous.

`There is good evidence that originally it stood on a small barrow or `intrenchment.' Bishop Gibson in his additions to Camden's Britannia described it in the following well-known passage, quoted here again for its delightful naïvety : ``There is also another a place call'd Panwen Brydhin in the parish of Kadokston or LhanGadok about 6 miles above Neath. It is well known in that part of the county by the name of Macn dau Lygad yr ych,[2] and is so call'd from two small circular entrenchments like cock-pits; one of which had lately in the midst of it a rude stone pillar about 3 foot in height with this Inscription, to be read downwards...But what seem'd to me most remarkable were the round Araoe, having never seen or been inform'd of such places of Burial elsewhere. So that on first sight, my conjecture was that this had happened on the occasion of a Duel, each party having first prepar'd his place of interment : and that therefore there being no stone in the centre of the other circle this Inscription must have been the monument of the party slain. It has lately been removed a few paces out of the circle and is now pitched on end at a gate in the highway.''[3b]

`The Rev. T. Williams, writing in 1853, described these entrenchments as ``two tumuli about 6--7 yards in diameter,'' and stated that it was from the larger that the stone was removed to Neath by Lady Mackworth in 1835[1b] No trace of such earthworks unfortunately exist to-day, owing to the disturbance of the


`[3a] Its position is exactly described in a letter to Westwood by the Rev: T. Williams, of Ystradgynlais, a son of Rees Williams of the adjoining estate of Aberpergwm, in 1853. We may infer that he had seen it in position before it was removed to Neath eighteen years before; see Arch. Camb., 1865, p. 59.

`[4] Ibid., and Colonel Morgan, Arch. Camb., 1907, p. 132.

`[1a] Colonel Morgan records ``foundation and pitching'' at Clawdd-y-Fanwen (=Clwydi Banwen), loc. cit., p. 132.

`[2] `The stone of the two eyes of the Ox.'

`[3b] Britannia, II, p. 739.

`[1b] Arch. Camb., 1865, p. 59.'