Medieval and Early Modern
The departure of the Romans from Snowdonia resulted in political, social and religious changes. Unfortunately, historical sources and archaeological evidence for the earliest period is limited. The most frequent monument observed for this period includes Early Christian memorial stones. Many of these stones are found in close proximity to churches, early cemeteries and lines of former Roman roads. Snowdonia contains only one settlement that has been dated to this phase, the hillfort site of Dinas Emrys, near Beddgelert. One of the most defining characteristics of this period, is the development of the church, which appears to have been reintroduced to the region during the fifth and sixth centuries. During the reign of the Welsh Princes, Cistercians were actively encouraged to found new monasteries. This resulted in large tracts of land being cultivated and sheep farming taking place on a large scale.
Castell y Bere (© Bryn Roberts)
Castell Harlech (© SNPA)
Prior to English conquest, secular land in the region was divided into areas known as a commote. Each commote had a royal court that undertook administration, justice and tax collection duties. Unfortunately, limited archaeology and geographical information has made it difficult to locate these former courts. This period saw the rise of the last rulers of Wales, notably Llywelyn the Great and Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. Their reigns resulted in the construction of a number of stone castles; these were built to protect their borders and control the main trade routes. Following English conquest, some of these castles were adapted and reused. Edward I also built a number of castles and associated boroughs in Wales, including the World Heritage Site of Harlech Castle. These castles served both military and administrative functions for the newly established shires.
Castell Dolwyddelan (© Jeff Buck)
This period also saw the establishment of towns and villages that are still in use today, including Beddgelert, Dolgellau and Bala. Rectangular shaped buildings also became the prominent form during this period. Snowdonia contains thousands of surviving stone foundations and evidence also exists of post-built and timber framed buildings. Another dominant feature in Snowdonia are its stone walls, whilst it is difficult to date these, it is probable that some of these originate from the Medieval and early modern period. During this time, travel was done by horse and foot and several traces of these old routes and associated bridges still exist today.