>> Michaelston / Leckwith History
The earliest sign of human occupation in the area start with a flint axe head found between Michaelston-Le-Pit and Dinas Powys. Still visible today are the massive iron age ramparts at nearby Caerau which were occupied from about 600 B.C. until the 3rd century A.D.
Almost hidden in the woods at Cwm George is a small but highly important hill-fort. Originally the site of an earlier fort from around 300 B.C., the current set of four banks and ditches was probably the highly defended home of local princes during the early Dark Ages – 5th to 7th centuries A.D. The hill-fort is in fact the richest, best preserved and most fully excavated of its type in the whole of Wales and is considered one of the classic archaeological sites of early medieval Britain.
Written records of the village start with the arrival of the Normans. St. Michael And All Angels church was probably built by a member of the Reigny family and was referred to as St. Michael de Renny in 1254 (Taxation of Norwich). It was then valued at “four marks". There is plenty of interest inside the church including a medieval font, carved wooden chairs depicting scenes from the Civil War, a three-decker pulpit - the only one in the Vale, and various memorials. The memorial to Thomas Rous from Cwrt Yr Ala records that he was wounded at the battle of Coruna in 1809 and has the family motto "Vescitur Christo" - We feed on Christ.
The first lord of the manor of Michaelston is recorded as Walter de Reigny in around 1260. The old farmhouse in the centre of the village, Tile House, also dates from around that time.
Michaelston-Le-Pit continued as farming village with a mill and a number of farms, mainly working for the estate house, Cwrt Yr Ala, well into the 20th century. The house is named after the Ralegh family who owned the estate in the 14th century. The most famous of the Ralegh family was an Elizabethan adventurer from the Devon/Somerset side of the family, Sir Walter Raleigh.
After the Civil War the Cwrt Yr Ala estate was purchased by Colonel Philip Jones. He was a trusted councillor of both Oliver and Richard Cromwell, and as Comptroller of Cromwell's household would have been responsible for arranging Oliver Cromwell's funeral. After Colonel Jones bought Ffonmon in 1664, Cwrt Yr Ala became part of the Ffonmon estate and remained so until around 1789 when it was bought by Robert Rous. By 1803 Robert Rous had made many improvements to Cwrt Yr Ala , and Benjamin Malkin an his tour of South Wales described it as: "an elegant villa, in a most delicious retirement, belonging to Mr. Rous...... Anything more beautiful on a small scale cannot be conceived. The house, which stands on a pretty stream artificially widened and improved running down into Barry Harbour looks to the left upon an undetermined dingle, with a picturesque rock of limestone, surmounting its ample furniture of wood"
The house was rebuilt in the Georgian style in 1939 by the prominent Cardiff industrialist and coal magnate Sir Herbert Merrett. His son Norman Merrett was a spitfire pilot who was lost in action in WW2, and Norman Cottages in the village are named in his memory. The Second World War saw decoy lights set up across the Lawns towards Caerau to fool German bombers, and a number of bomb craters can still be seen in the fields around the village.
The closure of Home Farm (now Tile house) in the centre of the village in 1994 meant an end to the way the village had worked for centuries. In recent times a new farming enterprise has started at the edge of the village with a state of the art milking parlour, so Michaelston Le Pit can claim, once more, to be a farming village, and winning the "Best Kept Village" award in 2011 indicates that Michaelston Le Pit is still has a vibrant village community.
- Playing field with seating and lovely views.
- Nearby Woodland Trust Site with car park, great for walks.
- Victorian letterbox.
- Good network of local footpaths connecting to Dinas Powys, Leckwith and Penarth.
- Medieval church still in full use.
Leckwith Village History
Geographically, Leckwith has always been difficult to define. In the last century when it was a parish the name also included the area between Leckwith Hill and the edge of Cardiff as far as the railway when this was open country and marshland. This land is now the sites of Cardiff City football ground, athletics stadium and shopping malls and, although sometimes still referred to as Leckwith, is part of Cardiff and quite separate from Leckwith village which is at the top of Leckwith Hill and in the Vale of Glamorgan. Current maps show that as well as the small built-up area along the B4267 and surrounding open land, Leckwith village includes Leckwith Hill, known as Cock Hill, down to the river Ely. The name itself is equally confusing since while Leckwith remains the formal name, the modern Welsh version is Lecwydd, the original Welsh name was Llechwydd while the original name on old maps was Lequeth. This may represent the Norman influence in this part of South Wales but the origin is obscure.
The early history show that this was a manor belonging to Cardiff Castle and supplied farm products to the castle from the mid 1400s to 1926 when the farms were sold off. It has always been, and still is, an agricultural region, based on scattered farms and a small collection of houses on the B4267 to Llandough. Leckwith was always very self-sufficient, Victorian inhabitants being described as farmers, lime burners, dairymen, bridge keepers and so on. It is remarkable that even though very close to urban Cardiff the unspoilt rural nature of the area and its extensive woodlands have not changed for centuries. It is the closest part of the Vale of Glamorgan to Cardiff City giving a unique combination of rural environment and seclusion and easy commuting to both the city centre and the M4 and being in an elevated position there are magnificent views over the Bristol Channel, Cwrt-yr-Ala valley and the hills north of Cardiff.
Leckwith no longer has a parish church (St James), the building having become derelict many years ago and is now converted into two houses. The common, known as the Gower, is situated behind the row of 1950’s houses on the main road facing the Green but this is now much smaller than it was in Victorian times. It is owned and maintained by the Community Council.
The old stone bridge over the river Ely at the bottom of Leckwith Hill remains intact and in continual use. This was built in the 16th century with triangular recesses, three arches and single track width, and is accompanied by the bridge keeper’s house, itself once a farm. The bridge is Grade 11 listed but as far as traffic is concerned has been superseded and largely concealed by the concrete bridge built alongside it in 1935. It is the sole entrance to the small industrial estate along the Ely river so although five centuries old it is still able to withstand heavy vehicles.
The prehistory of the area turns up occasionally. Near the bridge in 1928, at the old pre-barrage tidal reaches of the river Ely, a man with the unlikely name of Jockenhovel O'Connor discovered a hoard of bronze-age armaments from around 600 BC - one rib and pellet socketed axe, one socketed axe fragment, four leatherworking knives, two socketed sickles, two razors and a chariot pole cap, now in the national museum. (Peter Finch Archive)
Leckwith old bridge, A4232 in background. (Peter Finch)
The sites of most of the old farms in Leckwith remain, White Farm and Yynyston have been developed for private housing, Brynwell, Woodlands and Bullcroft remain as single buildings while Beggan remains a fully working farm with its own Cock Hill vineyard as well as a herd of Welsh Black cattle. Other houses include the Forester’s cottages on the Gower common, built when the Forestry Commission managed much of the local woodland, and a small number of stone built Victorian houses. The ruins of an old long house remain beside the church.
The 95 and 95a service runs from Barry to Cardiff every 15 minutes and stops at Leckwith Green. Click here for the website.
The Ely Trail.
This runs along the whole length of the River Ely within the Cardiff City Council boundary. The Trail is a mainly off-road stone-dust path suitable for cyclists and walkers and it is possible to walk and cycle from Cardiff Bay to St. Fagans.
You can join this part of the Trail from Leckwith Road at the foot of the hill. Click here for details
The area has many public rights of way across the fields to Michaelston-le-Pit, Wenvoe, Ely and Dinas Powys and the area is very popular among walkers and ramblers as well as birdlife enthusiasts.