Caerhun (Canovium)

Canovium is located on the Conwy River, at what is known now as Caerhun. It was a Roman fort built to guard the northernmost ford across the Conwy River. The road associated with this ford ran from Holyhead to Llanfaes, across the Menai Strait via the Lafan Sands, to Garth Celyn (Aber), and then over the Bwlch y Ddeufaen to Caerhun and points east. Rather than build a brand new road, the Romans improved this ancient pathway. (And we have made videos of many of these places) The fort was originally built around 75 AD in timber, to house upwards of 500 men. The fort was rebuilt in stone in the 2nd century and acted as the Roman administrative headquarters in this area. In addition to a headquarters building, granaries, and barracks, the fort also included a bathhouse outside the Read more…

Medieval Planned Communities

When Edward I conquered Wales, he did more than build castles.  He also built townships.  These were villages associated with one of his castles.  In most cases, he imported English people to live in them, ousting the native Welsh.  Caernarfon, Rhuddlan, Conwy, Flint, Harlech and Beaumaris were among these combined castles/villages. “The strategy of building Welsh Medieval Castles was combined with King Edward’s ambition to build and integrate fortified towns with the great castles. These purpose-built townships were designed to predominantly house the English conquerors. The towns were defended by the city walls and, of course, the castles. The Constable of the castle would often perform a dual role as Mayor of the town. Not only did the English have control over the local Welsh population they also had control of commerce and finance. The townships were established as trading Read more…

The Celts in Wales

The Celts are an overarching term to refer to the ethnic group that spread through Europe in the pre-Roman era. The Irish, Welsh, and Scots all have a Celtic ancestry, but they settled their respective regions before the Roman conquest of Britain.  There is an amazing amount of debate as to the origin of the Celts:  were they Phoenician?  stocky and dark?  tall and blonde?  as culturally cohesive as the label suggests?   The standard theory is that the Celts were an Indo-European group that gradually migrated across Europe and Asia, with an identifiable, distinct culture by 750 BC.  As a group, they were well-known to the Greeks and Romans.  The map to the right shows the migrations of the celtic (or proto-celtic) groups around 1000 BC.   Note the expansion of the Celts in particular between 500 and 200 BC into the Read more…

European Invasions

Throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, different groups moved from one location to another.  Sometimes, the purpose was conquest, sometimes raiding, and sometimes it involved a quest for a better life and the intent was to settle, rather than conquer, new lands. But usually somebody was already there.  The map at right show the paths of various groups from Roman times to through the Middle Ages. After the sack of Rome in 410 (see my post here: https://sarahwoodbury.com/the-fall-of-rome/) tribes were on the move all through Europe: Angles/Saxons/Jutes:  These three groups derived from Denmark and Germany.  “Following the departure of the Romans in A.D.410 and after the sacking of Rome, Britain was left unprotected. The distant dominions frantic call to Rome went unheard. Mutiny spread through the ranks of the British defenders remaining who were now descendants of Roman stock. Britain Read more…

Twthill

Prior to the arrival of the Normans, Twthill was a court of the kings of Gwynedd. What we see today, however, are the remains of a ‘motte and bailey’ castle erected by Robert of Rhuddlan in 1073. A kinsman of Hugh d’Avranches, the Earl of Chester, Robert attempted to consolidate Norman advances in north Wales after the conquest of William the Conquerer. Twthill was Robert’s base, and from it he subdued much of Gwynedd until his death in 1193. The area around Rhuddlan Castle was reunited with Gwynedd as part of the campaign of Owain’s father, Gruffydd, that cost the life of Owain’s elder brother, Cadwallon in 1132. Cadwallon killed some of his own uncles in order to achieve this. Owain’s marriage to Cristina reconciled these two sides of the family. The campaigns of 1136/37, which brought Ceredigion into the fold, expanded Gruffydd’s (and Read more…