Tomen y Mur

Tomen y Mur is one of those special places whose history covers thousands of years, with one chapter being the era of Robert of Rhuddlan. The site has been fortified for two thousand years Local people were there first Welsh mythology references the place with a story of Lleu and Blodeuwedd in the Mabinogion. Romans 78 AD and abandoned it in 140 AD. Built walls, a fort, barracks, baths, parade ground, and small amphitheater—one of the few for just military personnel but an indication of the hardship of the posting. The reason for the fort was because in the 50s AD, the Ordovices had wiped out a Roman legion Roman response was to move into the area in force and almost eliminate the entire people. Tomen y Mur was built to oversee the remaining few and protect the crossroads of Read more…


Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle was begun in March 1283 as part of Edward’s Iron Ring of Castles and mostly completed by 1289 to the tune of 15,000 pounds (over ten million today) The previous castle in the area was at Deganwy, which is visible from Conwy’s walls but was destroyed during the wars with King Henry and not rebuilt Edward built the castle on the western side of the Conwy River as a foothold in the heart of Gwynedd and controls and important river crossing To build castle and town Edward destroyed the monastery of Aberconwy, patronized by the Welsh princes as well as Llywelyn’s palace Like many of the iron ring, consisted of castle and planted town of English settlers, all surrounded by massive stone walls 8 great towers in a relatively compact castle, also, like the others, designed by James Read more…


Trim Castle

Trim Castle is located on the Boyne River at the edge of The Pale–the border between Norman controlled Ireland and Gaelic Ireland. One of the largest castles in Ireland, it was built by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter in the 12th and 13th centuries. The first Norman conquest of Ireland began in 1171 with the arrival of King Henry II, determined to rein in the power of Strongbow, who had arranged for himself to be King of Leinster by marrying the current king’s daughter. The Normans very quickly carved out a portion of Ireland for themselves, called ‘The Pale’, which included the area from Dublin to the Boyne River. Hugh de Lacy, as one of these original magnates, was granted the Lordship of Meath and effective rule over much of Norman-controlled Ireland. It continued to be a powerful Read more…


Castell Caergwrle

Castell Caergwrle is located on the English/Welsh border in Flintshire. The castle was built by Dafydd ap Gruffydd on land given to him by King Edward after the war of 1277 as a reward for serving him and betraying his brother, Llywelyn. Caergwrle was built on an ancient site that had been occupied since before Roman times. The first reference to the medieval castle states that Edward had sent 100 marks to Daffyd on 12 November 1278 to either start building or repair a castle that is already there. Then, in 1282, after Dafydd rebelled against Edward and started the war anew, the king sent Reginald de Grey to take the castle. But when forces arrived on 16 June, they discovered Dafydd had already retreated and abandoned the location, to the point of filling in the well. Grey immediately set Read more…


Fort Saint-Andre

For Saint-Andre is located in the south of France on the opposite side of the Rhone River from Avignon. The fort is a medieval fortress built by Phillipe le Bel, the King of France. In the Middle Ages, Avignon was a border city and not part of the Kingdom of France. Although Philippe had ceded control of Avignon to his cousin, Charles of Naples in 1292, he wanted to maintain control of the Rhone River, so he was granted permission by monks who’d built a monastery on a bluff opposite Avignon to build a fortress around their monastery. Once the Pope officially moved the papal state to Avignon, the fortress acted as a visible reminder of the power of Philippe, should the papacy make decisions unfavorable to the French crown. Philippe also built a tower at the end of the Read more…


Roche Castle

Roche Castle is located in Ireland, northwest of Dundalk. It was built by the Verdun family in 1236 as part of the Norman conquest of Ireland that began in 1169. Bertrum de Verdun arrived in Ireland for the first time with Prince John, son of Henry II, before he became king. John had been declared Lord of Ireland by his father in 1177, though he didn’t arrive in Waterford until 1185, at which point Verdun was granted lands and built his first castle. John’s visit did not go well, mostly because John managed to offend all the native Irish leaders by laughing at their looks and promising his Norman barons their land. In addition, he developed an antagonism for Hugh de Lacy, who held the Lordship of Meath and was the most powerful Norman in Ireland. The Verduns managed to Read more…


Denbigh Castle

Denbigh Castle is located in Gwynedd, south of Rhuddlan and St. Asaph. The castle was built by Henry de Lacy after King Edward’s conquest of Wales in 1282. Like many castles built by the Normans, Denbigh is sited over the top of an ancient settlement and palace of the Kings of Gwynedd. The most recent castle before the Conquest by Edward was held by Dafydd ap Gruffydd, the usually treacherous brother of Llywelyn, who made Denbigh his seat. He built a substantial castle, though all of it was destroyed after 1282. The Welsh referred to it as Dinbych, an abbreviation of Dinas Fechan, meaning “little fortress”. Lacy’s castle was finished by 1294. It was besieged in rebellions by the Welsh led by Madog ap Llywelyn and Owain Glyndwr, and finally ruined by forces of Oliver Cromwell. Still visible today are Read more…


St. Peblig’s Church

St. Peblig’s Church, or in Welsh, Llanbeblig, is located in Caernarfon in Gwynedd. It is one of the oldest churches in Wales and certainly one of the oldest religious sites. St. Peblig’s is currently adjacent to visible remains of the Roman fort of Segontium. Founded in 433, the church was was built over the top of Roman ruins, including a temple to Mithras, and its graveyard contains graves of Roman soldiers. Peblig is the Welsh name for Publicius, whose father was Magnus Maximus, known in Wales as Macsen Wledig and the ruler of the western Roman empire starting in 383 AD. Peblig’s mother was the daughter of a Welsh chieftain, whom according to legend Macsen saw in a dream while in Rome and eventually came to North Wales, only to find her father ruling from the remains of the Roman fort. Read more…


Wroxeter Roman City

The Roman City of Wroxeter is located five miles southeast of Shrewsbury in the March of Wales. Known as Viroconium and initially established as a fort over a native settlement, Wroxeter became the fourth largest city in Britain with a population of up to 15,000 people. Wroxeter was built at the end of Watling Street, the main Roman road that ran from Dover, through London and across much of Britain.The site was initially established as a jumping off point for the Roman invasion of Wales. Once Wales was conquered, the fort was abandoned by the military and taken over by the civilian population that had settled around it. After the departure of the Romans, Wroxeter continued to be inhabited. In 1967, excavation uncovered the ‘Wroxeter stone’ written in ‘partially Latinized primitive Irish’ and dated to the 5th century when the Read more…


Carndochan Castle

Carndochan Castle was built between 1215 and 1230 by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, otherwise known as Llywelyn Fawr. It is located in Gwynedd, two miles west of Llanuwchllyn. We know very little about Carndochan, other than it was one of the many castles constructed by Llywelyn Fawr to oversee roads in Gwynedd and to protect his herds of cattle. Like Castell y Bere, which was built around the same time, it occupies a strong defensive position with steep crags on three sides. The area was strategically important dating back to Roman times. One fort, Caer Gai, lies beside the main road a mile north of Llanuwchllyn, and roads are thought to have converged on the fort from Bala, Brithdir, and Tomen-y-mur.  The castle is described as ‘ruined’, and is basically a pile of rubble. At one time, it had a D-shaped Read more…


Ceide Fields

The Ceide Fields are located on the west coast of Ireland north of Ballycastle. Ceide means “flat topped hill fields”. It is the largest Neolithic site in Ireland and preserves the oldest known stone-walled fields in the world, dating to 3500 BC. This was a farming community where ancient farmers used wooden ploughs with a stone cutting edge for field cultivating. These were drawn by cattle (horses had not been introduced into Ireland at this time). The walls were low enough that they were intended to encompass the fields rather than for defensive purposes. After the fields were abandoned, they were covered over by a bog, preserving the walls, houses, and tombs of the ancient peoples. Archaeological evidence indicates the farmers cleared woodlands dominated by pine and birch to make pasture for grazing livestock. From Wikipedia: The discovery of the Read more…


Did Cancer Exist in the Middle Ages?

My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001, a few months after my mom had a hysterectomy for uterine cancer.  In 2007 at the age of 63, my dad was diagnosed with a second (unrelated) cancer–something horrible called lyposarcoma with a 15 pound tumor in his abdomen. He was given five years to live and made it 4 1/2. A month after my father died in 2011, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, her second (unrelated) cancer. She died in 2019 when it returned. How common was cancer in the past?  If cancer is more common now than before it could be because: 1)  we’ve polluted our environment 2)  we live longer than in the past, so we die from things we wouldn’t have had the chance to die from in the Middle Ages 3)  we’ve circumvented natural Read more…