Case Studies - Commons - Wales

Case study: Cwmdeuddwr Commons, Powys, Wales – (3) Cwmdeuddwr Commoners’ and Graziers’ Association


Type of institution for collective action

Commoners’ association

Name/description institution


Cwmdeuddwr Commoners’ and  Graziers’ Association







Name of city or specified area


Llansantfraid Cwmdeuddwr Civil Parish, Elan and Claerwen Valleys

Further specification location (e.g. borough, street etc.)

Cwmdeuddwr Common (RCL 36)

Patron Saint of this institution



Amount of area and boundaries (for institutions related to landed property)

Registered common land area: c. 1,887.16 ha


Foundation/start of institution, date or year



Foundation year: is this year the confirmed year of founding or is this the year this institution is first mentioned?

Year of foundation.

Foundation act present?


Yes, a constitution is in existence.

Description of Act of foundation


A written constitution set outs the terms of the association.

Year of termination of institution


Not terminated: still in operation.

Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?

See above.

Act regarding termination present?

See above.


Description Act of termination

See above.


Reason for termination?

See above.


Recognized by local government?

As a voluntary association it does not have legal power over members, but it is recognised as a negotiating body for agreeing agri-environment schemes.

Concise history of institution


This case study centres on upland pastures in the Elan and Claerwen valleys, in the parish of Llansantfraid Cwmdeuddwr in Mid Wales.  Originally forming the upland grange for Strata Florida Abbey, this area comprised the two manors of Grange of Cwmdeuddwr and Cwmdeuddwr, which came into single ownership in 1825 (Cwmdeuddwr Case Study 1).  The upland landscape provided the community with pasture for livestock (organised through a pattern of ‘sheepwalks’: areas of grazing reserved for designated flocks); peat (an important fuel into the twentieth century); and estovers.  This pattern of landownership and land use went through dramatic changes in the late nineteenth century, when large areas were purchased by Birmingham Corporation for the creation of reservoirs.  Birmingham’s purchase created a large new estate – the Elan Valley Estate – replacing common rights with tenancies (Cwmdeuddwr Case Study 2); whilst those remnants of waste not purchased were put together to form Cwmdeuddwr Common (Cwmdeuddwr Case Study 3, i.e. this study).  Though these contiguous lands have different legal status, they remain open and unfenced, and continue to be used as communal hill grazings today.


Institution: Cwmdeuddwr Commoners’ and Graziers’ Association

When Birmingham Corporation purchased large areas of the Cwmdeuddwr uplands – which

became the Elan Valley Estate – the remainder of the Cwmdeuddwr lands became Cwmdeuddwr Common (RCL 36).  This new area in fact comprised sections of the wastes of both the manors of Grange of Cwmdeudder and Cwmdeuddwr.  Thus the boundary between the land areas of the Elan Valley Estate and Cwmdeuddwr Common was artificial, determined by the watershed rather than historic territories, and indeed the new boundary remained unfenced.  There were many overlapping interests.  Some of the tenants of the Elan Valley Estate also had common rights to Cwmdeuddwr Common, and for many years they had a joint collective association, the Elan Valley Graziers’ Association.  This body had to split in 1990 when the different land ownership and legal status of the two areas required separate negotiations for Environmentally Sensitive Area agri-environment schemes.   At this point, the Cwmdeuddwr Commoners’ and Graziers’ Association was set up for Cwmdeuddwr Common.  Thus the post-manorial management institutions have perhaps been less influenced by dramatic changes in landownership than by external agrarian policies.


The Cwmdeuddwr Commoners’ and Graziers’ Association is an active body with the standard structure of a voluntary association, with a chairperson and officers.  The Association has managed the commoners’ entry into agri-environment schemes and continues to monitor compliance. The focus is on local, informal negotiation to resolve breaches of rules and grazing problems.  The Association also attempts to regulate traffic (a road runs across the common) and to minimize damage by off-road vehicles.


Some degree of communal management is visible in the landscape itself, notably in the twentieth-century washfold, in use until the 1970s, and the sheep sorting fold in the Nant Gwynllyn valley, which were used by different commoners, rather than being private folds.

Special events? Highs and lows? Specific problems or problematic periods?

Highs: collective negotiation of agri-environment agreements.


Numbers of members (specified)

Not known.

Membership attainable for every one, regardless of social class or family background?

Open to those with rights to Cwmdeuddwr Common.

Specific conditions for obtaining membership? (Entrance fee, special tests etc.)

Open to those with rights to Cwmdeuddwr Common.

Specific reasons regarding banning members from the institution?

Not specified.

Advantages of membership?

Particpation in decion-making; collective negotiation of agri-environment agreements.

Obligations of members?

Not specified.

Literature on case study

  • B[anks], R. W. 1880. ‘The Grange of Cwmtoyddwr’, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 4th ser. XI (1880), 30-50.
  • Clywd-Powys Archaeological Trust, ‘The Making of the Elan Valley Landscape’ at
  • Davies, Elwyn,  ‘Hafod, Hafoty and Lluest: their distribution, features and purpose’, Ceredigion 9 (1) (1980), 1-41.
  • Rodgers, C. P., E. A. Straughton, A. J. L. Winchester and M. Pieraccini, Contested Common Land: Environmental Governance Past and Present (London, forthcoming in 2010).
  • Silvester, R. J., ‘The Commons and the waste: use and misuse in mid-Wales’, in I. D. Whyte and A. J. L. Winchester (eds), Society, Landscape and Environment in Upland Britain (Birmingham: Society for Landscape Studies, 2004), pp. 53-66. 

Sources on case study

Oral evidence and focus group data collected by the Contested Common Land Project (contact via website: see below).  See also common land register for registered common RCL 36 (Cwmdeuddwr), held by Powys County Council.

Links to further information on case study:

See Contested Common Land website:

Case study description provided by:

Dr. Angus Winchester, Lancaster University

Dr. Eleanor Straughton 




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