Traditionally, Wales was a land of dispersed homesteads and small hamlets. The medieval Code of Hywell Dda specified that a hamlet could consist of no more than nine houses or hearths. This pattern was a reflection of the old economy based upon subsistence farming and transhumance dairying with the winter base camp ( hendre ) at a lower elevation and the summer camp ( havod ) in the uplands. The earliest towns were those founded by the Normans in the south and the coastal strips. After the English conquest in 1292, county administrative and market towns were established, but these usually remained centers of English social life. During the industrialization of the south, larger towns and cities arose but the older rural pattern remained in the uplands and the north.
In the mining communities of the southern vales, slate-roofed and stone-walled row houses often stretch for miles along the valley slopes. Most of these were built in the late nineteenth century.