Dinefwr

Dinefwr Castle is located in South Wales, on a ridge on the northern bank of the Tywi, near Llandeilo. It was the chief seat of the Welsh Kingdom of Deheubarth. Tradition says that the first castle was built by Rhodri the Great in the 800s, but the first evidence of a castle is from a hundred years later during the time of Hywel Dda (Hywel the Great). The castle was also the main seat of another great leader of Deuheubarth, the Lord Rhys (who happens to be my ancestor). He ruled starting in 1155. Legend tells the story of King Henry II’s plan to assault the castle during a campaign against Rhys. One of Henry’s men asked a local Welsh cleric to lead him to the castle by the easiest route. Instead, the cleric took the most difficult route he could Read more…


Whittington Castle

Whittington Castle is located in the March of Wales, in the village of Whittington in North Shropshire. It’s on the English side of Offa’s Dyke. The castle was originally built in 1138 by William Peverel as a motte and bailey castle and a Norman stronghold, constructed originally in support of Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I, against King Stephen during The Anarchy. In 1149, the lordship of Whittington was annexed by Madog ap Maredudd and became part of the Kingdom of Powys until Madog’s death in 1160. In 1223, it was captured and destroyed by Llywelyn Fawr, the Prince of Wales, but was returned to English control after a peace treaty. For the next forty years, the castle remained in English possession, but was ceded to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1267, and remained in his possession until he was defeated Read more…


Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle overlooks the Menai Strait on Anglesey in north Wales and was built by King Edward I in 1295 as part of his Iron Ring of Castles, a series of castles built around Gwynedd to control the Welsh. Beaumaris itself was begun in response to a rebellion led by Madog ap Llywelyn. In order to build Beaumaris, Edward destroyed a Welsh llys (palace), along with the entire Welsh town of Llanfaes, which was the most important trading port in Gwynedd at the time. The people were moved inland to Newburgh, and English settlers were brought in to populate Beaumaris. The English crown spent a total of 15,000 pounds on the castle, but it was never finished, the work finally being abandoned in 1330. Key features to visit within the castle are the many passages within the walls, the numerous Read more…


Aigues-Mortes

Located on the south coast of France, Aigues-Mortes is a fortified city built by the kings of France to be a port on the Mediterranean. The name Aigues-Mortes comes from Latin and means ‘dead water’ or ‘stagnant water’. Although it was possibly founded as long ago as 102 BC by a Roman general, the first tower was erected in 791 by Charlemagne as protection for the fishermen and salt workers. In 1240, Marseille was controlled by the King of Naples, and King Louis of France was determined to have his own access to the Mediterranean. He built roads and a canal in order to ferry troops to the sea. He launched both the eighth and ninth crusades from Aigues-Mortes. Still visible today are the 6 towers and walls of the city, encompassing 1640 square meters. Also, King Philippe, King Louis’s Read more…


Skipton Castle

Skipton Castle is located in North Yorkshire, England. It was built in 1090 by a Norman baron, Robert de Romille. The castle occupies a strong, defensible position on a cliff on the south bank of the Eller Beck. While initially a traditional motte and bailey castle, the fortifications were upgraded to stone to withstand increasing raids by the Scots. The castle was expanded and remodeled through the 17th century and is still a private residence. Most of the castle is no longer truly medieval, but you can still see the 12th century chapel, as well as the original kitchen, great hall, withdrawing rooms, and the lord’s bedchamber. Skipton Castle is the seat of a major battle in Champions of Time.


Din Lligwy

Din Lligwy is an ancient fortified village located on the east coast of Anglesey near the village of Moelfre. It dates to the pre-Roman and Roman period but was inhabited by Native Britons. Coins and pottery found here have been dated to the 4th century AD. This was a farming village that is remarkably preserved for being so old. It is one of our very few examples of how local people lived during the Roman occupation of Britain. Still visible today are the foundations of both round and rectangular buildings, all built in using locally available limestone. Large amounts of metallic slag as well as remains of several hearths with charcoal formed from oak were found in one of the large rectangular structures, indicating it was a workshop for the smelting and working of iron. The outer protective wall is Read more…


Housesteads Roman Fort

Housesteads Roman Fort is located midway along Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. One name for it is Vercovicium. The fort is one of fifteen built along Hadrian’s Wall and the most complete example of a Roman fort in Britain. It was built within the first decade after the wall was begun in 122 and was garrisoned by 800 men until the 4th century AD. The men who manned the fort were Roman auxiliary forces, composed of infantry and cavalry raised from the conquered peoples of the empire. Still visible today are the remains of the walls, barracks, hospital, and the best preserved stone latrines in Roman Britain. Note the absence of running water. Housesteads was completely dependent upon rainwater for its supply. Housesteads does not relate directly to my books, but when Meg time travels to Hadrian’s Wall, she lands Read more…


Roscommon Castle

Roscommon Castle is located near the very center of Ireland. The name derives from Coman mac Faelchon who built a monastery there in the 5th century. The woods near the monastery became known as Ros Comáin (St. Coman’s Wood) The castle was built by the Justiciar of Ireland, Robert de Ufford, in 1269, on land seized from the nearby Augustinian monastery that furthermore for centuries was the homeland of the Connachta dynasty. The O’Connors besieged the castle starting in 1272 and it went back and forth between English and Irish control until the O’Connors regained it in 1340. The Irish retained control for the most part until 1652 when it was partially blown up by Cromwellian forces. What to see when you visit: Note the towers, which were built to a design similar to that of Harlech. The associated lake Read more…


St. Mary’s Church, Trefriw

Today we are talking about St Mary’s Church in Trefriw. Llanrhychwyn was also patronized and supported by Llywelyn Fawr. Why did he build another one? That’s the story we’re telling today, and it’s pretty simple, really. This area already had Llanrhychwyn, one of the oldest churches in all Wales, founded by St. Rhychwyn in the 6th century. We talked about it earlier in this season of videos. Llywelyn Fawr, who was the Prince of Wales, had many homes but came sometimes to his hunting lodge near Trefriw and in the early days always worshipped at the church at Llanrhychwyn. But, as anyone who has visited can’t help but notice, it’s quite a hike. Joan found the uphill walk to the church, followed by a steep descent, tiring. To please her, Llywelyn had St. Mary’s built at the bottom of the Read more…


Welsh Christianity

In one of this season’s earlier videos, we talked about ‘early’ Welsh Christianity and religion. Today we are talking about what was different about Christianity in Wales in later eras. Christianity in the first centuries AD was in still to some degree competing with paganism, particularly following the fall of Rome. While Rome had officially become Christian in 388, not only was Britain located at the end of the Roman Empire at that time, Rome completely abandoned it by 410. That meant that the Christianity that developed in Wales was organized around small cells of believers, led by inspired leaders who came to be known as saints. That’s why the period was called ‘the age of Saints’, where men and women formed monasteries and convents, but with little to none of the hierarchy and oversight that came later. By 800 Read more…


Temple Church London

  Temple Church is the only commanderie in England we have ever visited. Unlike in France, they aren’t so thick on the ground. Only guessing, but the lack of surviving commanderies may be a product of the way their lands were parceled out after the fall of the order, combined with the Reformation, which destroyed many, if not most, religious sites throughout Britain. The Templars in England were disbanded but were allowed to continue living, which is one of the significant differences between what happened to the Templars in England as compared to in France. Initially, the London Templars met at a location that had once been a Roman temple. But because of the rapid growth of the order since its founding in England in 1128, by the 1160s the site was too small, and the Templars established a larger Read more…