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Some Glimpses of Seventeenth Century Monmouthshire. G.W.J. Lovering So momentous have been the social and economic changes in this county since the advent of the Industrial Revolution that we inevitably have them in mind when we look back at any previous age. To the environmentally conscious of today, the image of pre- industrial Monmouthshire is of an untarnished, idyllic landscape of unspoiled, wooded hills and valleys and unpolluted streams traversing a sparcely-populated countryside. To those of us most consious of an accelerating rate of change in everything around us, it is also easy to look back upon these far-distant days as an age of tranquility and stability, with little to disturb a traditional, conservative way of life. And, with the later changes in mind, this can be taken as a fairly accurate picture. Indeed many of the records of the 16th and 17th centuries can justly be used to illustrate this idyllic image. Great expanses of deciduous woodland were to be found throughout the county. In the reign of Henry VIII Leland described the wooded valley above "Dyffryn Risca" "as it were a forest ground". A record of the manor of Wentland and Bryngwyn in 1616 makes mention of the large woods that covered the western slopes of the Afon Lwyd Valley above Pontypool and the eastern slopes of the Ebbw valley, a picture that contrasts with the bare hillside of today. It was the beechwoods in particular that were such a glorious feature of the pre-industrial valleys. Great tracts of the ancient forest lands were still intact at the beginning of the 17th century: Went wood was much more extensive than today, extending through Coed Uifos, Cefngarw, Chepstow Park and the Fedw to the Wye. In addition there were great stretches of open, unenclosed land, where woodland had been partially cleared in previous centuries. The whole of the Trellech plateau, for example, stretching southward from Mitchel Troy Common and Penallt, remained a mixture of open scrubland and woodland. A century and more later, Charles Heath described the large herds of goats and the plentiful game that existed there before enclosure. Earlswood was another such area, and in the valleys the word 'coedcae' usually denotes a rough upland grazing of this type. Similar if smaller areas of waste and common land were to be found throughout the county, and the universal field pattern to which we are so accustomed was far from complete in the 17th century. In the Usk district, in particular, much of Glascoed, Monkswood, Coedcwnwr and Gwehelog were waste lands where there were extensive common rights. The same is true even in places where more developed agriculture would have been expected: the parishes of Tregaer and Penrhos2 included extensive