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…

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…

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…

Wiston Castle

Wiston Castle is located in the Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth, in South Wales. It’s one of the best-preserved motte and bailey castles in Wales, built by an early Flemish settler to Deheubarth with the exceptional name of Wizo. (a motte is a small hill, usually fortified, surrounded by an open area, or bailey, inside an outer wall). Wiston Castle first appears in documents in 1147 when it was attacked by the Welsh, in an attempt to evict the Flemish from Wales. Flemish settlers and fighting men had been brought in by Henry I, actually to counter one of his own barons, Arnaulf de Montgomery. They stayed to be a countering force to the Welsh in the region. Wizo seems to have chosen an existing Iron Age settlement as the basis for his castle. The motte was thrown up across the bank Read more…

The Battle of Cymerau

The fortunes of the Welsh ebbed and flowed in the 13th century, but between 1255 (the Battle of Bryn Derwin when Llywelyn defeated his brothers, Dafydd and Owain) and 1277, they were on the rise. One of the first important battles was that of Cymerau. In September of 1256, Stephen Bauzan, Prince Edward’s officer in south-west Wales, brought a substantial force of men to Ystrad Tywi, located in the northern portion of Deheubarth at the base of the Cambrian Mountains. Thus, on the eve of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd’s advance into Perfeddwlad, a force was arraigned against Maredudd ap Rhys Gryg, the Welsh lord of those lands. Llywelyn and Maredudd, eyeing each other with mutual concern about their own power and authority, struck an alliance, and perhaps this is the true impetus for Llywelyn’s foray east of the Conwy River. After Read more…

The Revolt of 1136

Warfare was nearly constant in Wales both before and after the Norman conquest.  Of course, the Normans didn’t actually conquer Wales–only parts of it–until the final defeat of Llywelyn in 1282. In the years since 1066, however, the native Welsh princes and kings had lost out to the conquering Normans.  Deheubarth, the southwestern region of Wales, was flatter and more accessible than the northern areas, and had been of particular interest to the conquerers.  They had successfully overrun much of it by 1136, but in that year, the time was ripe for rebellion: “By 1136 an opportunity arose for the Welsh to recover lands lost to the Marcher lords when Stephen de Blois displaced his cousin Empress Matilda from succeeding her father to the English throne the prior year, sparking the Anarchy in England. The usurption and conflict it caused eroded Read more…

Dryslwyn Castle

Dryslwyn Castle is built on the same ridge as Dinefwr Castle. It is likely that Lord Rhys, the ruler of Deheubarth in the 12th century, maintained a stronghold in both places, although both castles were rebuilt in stone by later rulers. Dryslwyn Castle as it exists today “stands on top of a hill overlooking the Tywi valley. Its date of construction is unknown but the similarity between it and neighbouring Dinefwr Castle suggest that it was built at a similar time and possibly by the same person. The most likely builder was Rhys Gryg who occupied Dinefwr in the early 13th century, or possibly his son Maredudd, who inherited Dryslwyn from his father. By the late 13th century the castle at Dryslwyn had developed into the largest native Welsh castle in South Wales. In 1277 the English king, Edward I sent an Read more…

The Kingdom of Deheubarth

Deheubarth was a southern Welsh kingdom, arising from the former kingdoms of Dyfed and Seisyllwg in 920 AD, under the rule of Hywel Dda.   At various times, it fell under the auspices of Gwynedd, namely, during the rule of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn in 1055 AD.  The Norman conquest, as for the Saxons to the east, was not a happy event, however, and Deheubarth fell to them before 1100 AD.  These Normans conquered the southern regions of Wales more fully than they ever did the north, including Deheubarth (until 1282, at which point Edward I conquered all of Wales). The Normans accepted a client rule in certain instances and granted Cantref Mawr to Gruffydd ap Rhys in 1116. In time, he passed its rule onto his son, Anarawd.  With the help of Owain Gwynedd, Anarawd and Gruffydd successfully revolted against their Norman masters Read more…

Lord Rhys ap Gruffydd, King of Deheubarth

In my book, The Good Knight, the King of Deheubarth, Anarawd, dies in the opening chapter.  This is in 1143 AD, and King Owain of Gwynedd rules Gwynedd–and much of the rest of Wales–with a strong hand. After Anarawd’s death, the rule of Deheubarth falls to his younger brother, Cadell.  “Cadell’s career was effectively ended in 1151. When out hunting, he was attacked by a Norman force from Tenby, who left him assuming him to be dead. In fact he survived, but was so badly injured as to be unable to resume his activities. In 1153 he left on a pilgrimage to Rome, leaving the rule of Deheubarth to his younger brothers Maredudd and Rhys. Cadell is not heard of again until 1175, when he entered the abbey of Strata Florida after a long illness and died there.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadell_ap_Gruffydd The bastard son of Owain Gwynedd, Hywel, plays a key Read more…