If the origins of this local landmark were ever documented, they are lost in the mists of time; local historians must do what they often do: combine what scraps of evidence are available with credible conjecture based on reasonable assumptions.
The Laleston Pound is remarkably well preserved, given that it is not considered sufficiently important to attract much attention from the likes of Cadw or the National Trust. However, such buildings are of considerable local importance and Laleston Community Council recognised this fact in the 1980s. Without the authority to formally “adopt” the building, the council voluntarily became its “carer”, and invited one of the training agencies that sprung up in that decade to undertake a sympathetic renovation. This is marked by a brass plaque near the doorway.
It is likely that the present building dates from the late medieval period, but there was probably some sort of animal pound there considerably earlier, which has been re-built several times. In Norman times there was a four-way cross-roads leading to the pound’s “traffic island” where today there are just three roads. The disappeared fourth road is today part of the Laleston public footpath network and the right of way is accessed through a kissing gate opposite the pound, going diagonally across the field to a style on Rogers Lane.
This path takes you through the site of the now disappeared village of Llangewydd. It is believed that the demolition of Llangewydd and its church was ordered by one of the less philanthropic abbots of Margam, who calculated that the land was worth more to the monastery rented out for farming rather than as the site of a village. This story might have been influenced by another senior churchman with a grudge against the said abbot, or it could have been invented as Tudor propaganda during the dissolution of the monasteries – or it could be true!
This four ways crossroads is where a north-south pilgrim path (The Ffordd y Gyfraith or The Way of the Law) meets an east-west drovers’ road (Llangewydd Road), which according to H.J.Randall’s history of Bridgend (1955) was a pre-historic ridgeway.
It follows that this would have been a very strategic place for a landowner to put a pound, as a revenue earner, so that a fee could be charged to farmers collecting stray animals that had been impounded. Some sort of governing authority was needed in order to be entitled to collect such fees, and the Monks of Margam are the most likely, due to the length of time that they had authority in the area, although there are other candidates, such as the manor of Court Coleman.
It is known that the ancient borough of Kenfig had a pound, and in Pyle there is a street called Ffald Road (ffald is Welsh for pound), and locals of a certain age can remember an old pound, which was mentioned in A.L.Evans’ “The Story of Kenfig” (1960). One of the stones in this structure was found to be an old Roman milestone, which was extracted and taken to Swansea Museum.
The Pyle ffald was demolished c. 1970 when the Leo’s supermarket (now Asda) entrance road was built. There was no fuss, the council just came along and demolished it!
Incidentally, this act of civic vandalism was accompanied around the same time by the demolition of Bridgend’s unique and marvellous Town Hall. Luckily, rumoured or actual plans for a similar fate for Porthcawl’s Grand Pavilion were frustrated by public opinion.
The Welsh word ffald is very similar to the English word fold (as in sheep-fold). In sheep dog trials the largest fold is called the “pen-fold”. Pen is Welsh for head, and Penfold, meaning head-fold, demonstrates how some English words are actually derived from Welsh, whose ancient form was the language of most of Greater Britain before the Romans arrived.
So the Old Pound at Llangewydd is a local treasure, with a long history. Many thanks to the clerk and members of Laleston Community Council for being very proactive in caring for it.
Dr. Charles Smith
With acknowledgement to Mr. Neville Granville, MA, Cefn Cribwr.