The location of Llan Awst

Since I read in G. H. Doble’s Saint Mewan and Saint Austell that there was a related place in Wales named Llanawystl, I have tried to find out where this might be, as I mentioned here. In particular I was working from a reference in George Borrow’s Wild Wales, where he says that in 1854 he “passed by Llanawst and Machen” as he travelled East along the Rhymney valley towards Newport.  But no such place as Llanawst is known today.

I have now located Llanawst, or Llan Awst as my source spells it.  This was only through the aid of others – of whom more anon – and through the marvellous online resources of the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW).

The location of Llan Awst is shown on a Welsh Tithe Map, produced in 1844, together with lists of fields and owners, and accessible online, together with three fields in a triangle around it.  The map has the title “Plan of the parish of Bassalleg in the County of Monmouth”, produced by a professional surveyor and valuer, William Jones.  A useless low-resolution copy of the map can be found here.  But the high-resolution version is incorporated into the Welsh Tithe Maps website of the National Library of Wales.  Field number 927, named “llanawst field” is online here.  If you zoom the map out a little, you will be able to check the box marked “Tithe Map Overlay”.  The hamlet of Llan Awst instantly becomes visible.

Llan Awst, on the Bassaleg Tithe Map (1838-1850

If you uncheck the tithe map overlay, and choose the satellite view, you can at once see the modern landscape.

The location of Llan Awst today, on the A468 between Lower Machen and Rhiwderin.

It is also possible to show the Ordinance Survey map, ca. 1900, for the same area, where we discover that it is labelled “Maypole Inn”.

Llan Awst / Llanawst, as the Maypole Inn, ca. 1900.

It is quite clear that little has changed in the last 170 years, except that the name has been lost.

This I owe to Dr James January-McCann, Place Names Officer at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, who in response to an email to the RCAHMW kindly did a search.  I had discovered one field, but he located three fields in the tithe map which, under various spellings, bear the name of Llan Awst.  It was while scrolling over the map on the website that I spotted the hamlet of Llan Awst itself.  The fields are numbered, and are all visible on the map above.  Here they are:

  • Field 838, “Cae Lanawst”.  Tithe map here, RCAHMW info here.  This field is to the west of the hamlet, and is let to the Rev. Augustus Morgan, and owned by Borrow’s great landowner Sir Charles Morgan.
  • Field 927, “Llanawst field”.  Tithe map here, RCAHMW info here.  This field is to the south of the hamlet, and was part of the Park House farm at the time.  Again it was owned by Sir Charles.
  • Field 954, “Cae Llanwst”.  Tithe map here, RCAHMW info here.  This field is across the road to the north-east of Llanawst.  Like 838 it was occupied by Rev. Augustus Morgan and owned by Sir Charles.

(“cae” is Welsh for “field”).  The three fields form a triangle around the building that was the Maypole Inn in 1900, according to the OS map.  This tithe map was completed in 1844, and George Borrow’s visit was in 1854.

Llan Awst, or Maypole, appears to be much the same size as it was 170 years ago.  By 1900 it was known as The Maypole Inn.  I corresponded with Mr William Graham, former Member of the Welsh Assembly, whose family go back a long way in the area as surveyors.  He tells me that the Maypole Inn was a “rhubarb inn”: an establishment where unlicensed  and untaxed moonshine, distilled from rhubarb, might be purchased.

If the inn existed in Borrow’s time, and he stopped there for refreshment, then this would explain his mention of this otherwise unimportant place.

Today the hamlet can be viewed on Google Streetview.  It is not imposing, at least from the road side.  Indeed I would not have thought the buildings were much older than a century.  I cannot tell whether there are today one or two distinct dwellings. For the convenience of other researchers, the modern address of this, or of one of them, seems to be Maypole House, Rhiwderin, Newport NP10 8RP (I have requested that this text be added to Google Maps; it would have saved a lot of scrolling and clicking).  Note that this is NOT the town of Maypole, elsewhere in Monmouthshire.  Nor is Llanawst the town today spelled Llanrwst in North Wales.  Both are liable to confuse the enquirer!

Mr Graham kindly sent me a couple of photographs.  Here is the North side, facing the A468:

Maypole House, North elevation, 2021.

And the south side:

Maypole House, South elevation, 2021

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All this information I owe to the help of Dr Wayne Barnett, the Rector’s Churchwarden at Lower Machen, who replied to my email to the Rector of Machen.  He worked hard on this, and also put me in contact with almost everyone else.

So I’ve ended up with more information than will fit conveniently into one post!  So for more information on Llan Awst, and just what these “tithe maps” are, please go on to the fourth post in this series, here. (Once I have written it!)

The posts in this series:

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