Open Letter to Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney and the fans of Welcome to Wrexham

I hope you are watching Welcome to Wrexham, in the USA on FX and Hulu! All jesting aside, with over a million books sold to date, Sarah Woodbury is the author of more than forty novels, all set in medieval Wales. You can preorder The Honorable Traitor, the 15th Gareth & Gwen Medieval Mystery at all retailers worldwide! https://www.sarahwoodbury.com/books/the-honorable-traitor/ We have a variety of types of videos on this channel. All of our historical videos can be found here in order: https://www.sarahwoodbury.com/making-sense-of-medieval-britain-videos/ To connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahwoodburybooks/


Birdoswald Roman Fort

Birdoswald is the most well-preserved of any of the 16 forts along Hadrian’s Wall. The wall here was begun in turf around 122 AD, some of which is still visible today. Then, starting in the 130s, the wall was rebuilt in stone 50 meters to the north. Today the wall at Birdoswald is the longest surviving contiguous portion of Hadrian’s wall. In addition to the turf wall and later stone wall, visible remains at Birdoswald also include the headquarters building, granaries, barracks, and the only exercise and drill hall found in a Roman auxiliary fort. Birdoswald was occupied from 122 until approximately 400 AD, primarily by soldiers from Dacia, now modern day Romania. The Roman policy was to recruit soldiers from people they’d conquered and then send them to faraway places. In so doing, they severed the soldiers’ connection with Read more…


Llansteffan Castle

Llansteffan is located on the south coast of Wales, It was built by the Normans as part of their conquest of South Wales. The site itself has been occupied since the Iron Age, since it provides commanding views of the Tywi estuary. Even today the original earthwork fortifications can still be seen, and they were incorporated into the defenses of the later Norman construction. As it exists today, the castle is very much a ruin, consisting of a curtain wall and towers, all dating to the 12th and 13th centuries. After the Normans completed their conquest of Wales, it fell into ruin and by 1367 was what Wikipedia describes as “a poor state”. I was excited to visit the castle because some of the people who fought over the castle, both Norman and Welsh, appear in my Gareth and Gwen Read more…


King Edward and King Arthur

Both King Edward and King Arthur have been the topic of other videos. Today I wanted to put them together, specifically to talk about how the Normans, in a triumph of medieval propaganda, claimed King Arthur for themselves and King Edward, in particular, used the King Arthur legend to justify his conquest of Wales. Many historians don’t believe King Arthur ever existed, but medieval people were certain that he did. The first mentions of him are in Welsh sources, namely the Welsh bards Taliesin and Anieren, writing in the 6th and 7th centuries respectively. To them, Arthur was a late 5th century British war-leader, credited with holding back the Saxon advance for a generation.  With the coming of the Normans, the story of this Welsh warlord, who might not even have been a king, was expanded and embellished (and outright Read more…


White Castle

White Castle is one of three castles, along with Grosmont and Skenfrith, that became part of the aptly named “Three Castles” lordship. This designation came about as part of the Norman conqueror’s attempt to ensure their control of the borderlands between Wales and England, particularly the road to Hereford. The castle was commissioned initially by William Fitz Osbern, the first Lord of Hereford, when it consisted of earthworks with timber defenses. After the wars with Wales starting in 1135, King Stephen consolidated the control of these three castles into a single lordship and had them rebuilt in stone. Control of the castle went back and forth between several owners, among them the powerful Burgh and Braose families, depending on the whims of whoever was king at the time. Hubert de Burgh, in particular, fell out with royal authority three times, Read more…


Cilgerran Castle

Cilgerran is a medieval castle located above the River Teifi. It was begun by Gerald of Windsor, originally as a motte and bailey castle, around 111o as part of the Norman conquest of South Wales. Gerald of Windsor served the the Earl of Pembroke and thus the crown of England. As reward for that service, he was given a wife, Nest, who was the daughter of the King of Deheubarth. Nest had previously been a mistress of Henry I himself. One story about Nest and Gerald is that, despite her marriage, her cousin fell in love with her and attacked Cilgerran Castle where she was living. As the story goes, when her cousin arrived with his army to take her away, Nest urged Gerald to escape down the latrine shaft. This same story is also told at Carew Castle, since Read more…


Battle of Crogen

The Battle of Crogen took place in a field in Powys adjacent to Offa’s Dyke and marked by a 1200 year old oak tree. History has recorded this battle as occurring 1165 between a combined Welsh force that included Owain Gwynedd, his nephew, the Lord Rhys, and the sons of King Madog of Powys, for once fighting with Owain instead of against him. They were opposed by an invasion force led by King Henry II, who was attempting to curb the power of the Welsh. To that end, he brought the largest army the Welsh had ever faced: 30,000 men. Henry also hired upwards of 2000 woodcutters to cut a path through the forest. But when the English army tried to force its way through a gap in Offa’s Dyke, the Welsh rained thousands of arrows down upon them from Read more…


Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd

Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd was born sometime around 1100 AD, the youngest daughter of Gruffydd ap Cynan, the King of Gwynedd, and his wife Angharad. She was born at Aberffraw, which was one of the major seats of the Gwynedd kings in the middle ages. Somewhere after the age 13, Gruffydd ap Rhys, the King of Deheubarth, came on a diplomatic mission to Gwynedd. Despite the age difference, she and Gruffydd fell in love and eloped! There’s obviously a significant story there about which we know nothing more. Gwenllian was Gruffydd’s second wife, so she became stepmother to Anarawd and Cadell, both of whom became Kings of Deheubarth after their father’s death in 1137. Gwenllian herself had at least seven children with Gruffydd. Throughout Gwenllian’s marriage to Gruffydd, the Welsh of Deheubarth were struggling to hold back the Norman conquest of Read more…


St. Govan’s Chapel

St. Govan’s chapel is a 13th century chapel built into the face of a cliff over what legend says was the hermitage of St. Govan, a 6th century saint. The chapel is located on St. Govan’s head in Pembrokeshire, on the southeastern coast of Wales. We took one look at photos of St. Govan’s and knew we had to visit, if only because of the location itself. St. Govan was said to have been an Irish saint, who was chased to this particular spot by pirates. From within the church, it is possible to see a somewhat human-shaped crevice that is said to have formed in the rock specifically to save him from being discovered by the pirates. He felt his escape was miraculous and built his hermitage on the spot. St. Govan himself is said to be buried beneath Read more…


Hen Castell

Hen Castell is a medieval, moated fortification near the village of Llangattock, Crickhowell. “Hen Castell” means “Old Castle” in Welsh. The name could apply to pretty much any of the castles we’ve ever visited, but in this case also indicates how little we know about the site and its origins. Cadw, the Welsh historical society, investigated the site and calls it “the remains of a well-preserved medieval moated homestead.” At one time it is likely the mound, which is about three meters high, was rectangular, and it is surrounded by a flat-bottomed ditch. The land on which it stood was generally considered part of the domain of the nearby castle at Crickhowell, which would have been visible from the site when it was a complete fortification. Crickhowell was controlled by a succession of Norman lords, including the Tubervilles, the Mortimers, Read more…


The Church of the Holy Cross at Mwnt

  The Church of the Holy Cross, or in Welsh, Eglwys y Grog, is an ancient church at Mwnt, and is an example of a medieval sailor’s “Chapel of Ease”–meaning it was built to allow sailors to attend service without having to walk all the way to Mwnt. It is located at a secluded cove in Ceredigion. The church was established during the Age of Saints although it is not credited to a specific saint. The name comes from a cross which was built on the heights above the church as a landmark that could be seen a great distance from land or sea, and it was known as a stopping point for pilgrims traveling north to Bardsey Island and south to St. Davids. In addition, according to legend, a contingent of Flemings–men from Flanders, brought in by the Norman Read more…


Holt Castle

Holt Castle is located in the town of Holt, near Wrexham on the Welsh-English border. It is a medieval castle, begun in 1277 as part of King Edward’s initial conquest of Wales. It wasn’t completed until 1311. Although King Edward began the work at Holt, in 1282, after the final conquest of Wales, he presented the castle to John de Warenne, one of his most loyal vassals. Warenne pledged to complete both the castle and the adjacent town, which would be exclusively for English settlers. The castle was known in the middle ages as ‘Lyons Castle’ because of the lion carved into the stonework above the main gate. The only sizable part of Holt Castle that remains are masonry features perched on the top of its sandstone base. These include the lower walls of the inner keep, the postern gate, Read more…