Wednesday, 6 October 2021

The Story of Wales


 This is the first episode of a superb BBC/Open University Series about the history of Wales. It is based on Jon Gower's excellent book of the same name. I hope that the BBC will restore the series to the BBC iPlayer (which is where I first discovered it), or re-release the set of DVDs. The series opened my eyes to the depth of the riches of Welsh History - and I have consequently purchased a number of books about different aspects of that history - & have joined the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society and extended my membership of the Council of British Archaeology to CBA Wales

There are some excellent books available on Welsh History - from  John Davies' "A History of Wales", to books about specific periods or events. David Williams' book about the Rebecca Riots and Gwyn A Williams' "The Merthyr Rising" are two favourites of mine - and I'm just about to start on a book about the Newport Rising of 1839. 

Welsh history does not, of course, exist in a vacuum - and the interaction between Welsh and English history is fascinating - from the conflicts that involved King Oswald and other Northumbrian Kings with other Anglo-Saxon and Welsh Kings (Max Adam's "The King in the North" is excellent) to Welsh influence on Alfred the Great and the interactions leading up to Edward I's invasion. Owain Glyndŵr has been written about by a number of writers - and this year I've managed to visit some of the sites associated with his life (Sycharth, Glyndyfrdwy, Harlech Castle and Six Ashes (which Glyndŵr sought to reach (but was blocked) - and was associated with a prophecy attributed to Merlin). 

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Edward F Dafis

 These are videos of two songs I played on Spectrum on Air by the aforesaid Welsh pop group - with lyrics in English and Welsh. They can be a great aid to learning the language.

St Fagan's National Museum of History

Whilst we were staying in Caerleon during our recent trip to Wales, I took a day out to visit the National Museum of (Welsh) History at St Fagan;s near Cardiff. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. There is so much to see there - which really brings Welsh History to life.

Over the last year or so, I've been reading a lot about Welsh history. My favourite general books on the subject are Jon Gower's "The Story of Wales"; John Davies' "A History of Wales" and Gwynfor Evans' "Land of My Fathers".Miranda Alehouse-Green and ray Howell have written an excellent book on "Celtic Wales", and Kari Maund has a useful introduction to the lives and activities of "The Welsh Kings". 

There are a number of other books I have & journals that I use.

The National Museum of History brought these to life.

Some buildings within the site are based on archaeological finds. I was particularly interested in the Llys Llywelyn - based on the Llyn Rhosyr in Ynys Môn (Anglesey) which was excavated in the 1990s. The Bryn Eryr Iron Age Roundhouses are re-creations based on a farmstead in Eastern Ynys Môn. These are modelled on the findings of an excavation done during the 1980s.

Othe buildings have been taken down from their original site - and reconstructed. I visited the church next to the Llys Llywelyn - and was surprised and really thrilled to find that it was the church in the village where my Great Great Grandparents lived in the 19th Century - before the Griffiths' moved to Betws, near Ammanford.

As well as lots of places to visit, there are some excellent indoor exhibitions - and a bookshop with lots of books that I was tempted to buy (and was not able to resist).

The website is https://museum.wales/stfagans/. A map of the museum is available at https://museum.wales/media/52014/Site-Map-of-St-Fagans-National-Museum-of-History_r.pdf.

Further information about individual buildings and displays can be found here.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Six Ashes


This village, on the border today of Staffordshire and Shropshire - was proposed as a meeting place of international borders of much greater significance. In 1405 Owain Glyndŵr, Henry Percy, the 1st Earl of Northumbria and Edmund Mortimer (who had a better claim to the throne than Henry IV who usurped the throne from Richard II (who Henry imprisoned - and who died shortly afterwards)) agreed in the "Tripartite Indenture" to divide England and Wales into three countries - with "Onnenau Meigion" as the place where the boundaries of the three states would meet.

“... Owain and his heirs shall have the whole of Cambria or Wales, within the borders, limits, and boundaries underwritten, divided from Loegria, which is commonly called England; namely, from the Severn coast where the River Severn leads from the sea, going down to the North Gate of the city of Worcester [Foregate]; and from that gate directly to the ash trees commonly called Onennau Meigion in the Cambrian or Welsh language, which grow on the high road from Bridgnorth to Kinver [Six Ashes]; thence directly by the high road, which commonly is called the old or ancient way, as far as the head or source of the river Trent [Biddulph Moor, north of Stoke]; thence directly to the head or source of the river commonly called the Mersey [Compstall, east of Manchester]; and thence, as that river leads to the sea [at Liverpool], going down within the borders, limits, and bounds written above.”

Percy (the Earl of Northumberland) would then have roughly the northern half of Lloegr -

(Northumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Warwickshire, Norfolk.)

- and Edmund Mortimer would have the rest of Lloegr.

This place was chosen because it was the subject of a prophecy of Merlin - that a great eagle  would muster a host of Welsh warriors who would defeat the English. Sadly, the "prophecy" was centuries later than the time of Merlin - and may even be a "post-dated prophecy" of a defeat here of Penda of Mercia by Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd in the Seventh Century.

Glyndŵr tried to make his way to Six Ashes, but was halted by Henry IV at Great Witley, about 15 miles away. A stand off ensued, with both sides eventually retreating.

Visiting Historic Sites

On today's Heritage Matters, I talked about the best websites to visit if you wish to make a trip to one of the many historic sites in England and Wales.

United Kingdom

National Trust

and try this out - https://www.historyhit.com/the-best-neolithic-sites-in-britain/ 



Coflein - the online database for the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW)

St Fagans National History Museum (the picture below is of the Llys Llewelyn)


English Heritage 

Historic England