« PreviousContinue »
The position of affairs in North Wales at the building of Dyserth Castle shows that towards the end of the career of Llywelyn' the Great, his health gave way, and the direction of affairs passed to his son David. Llywelyn henceforth chiefly concerned himself with the succession of the Principality. He released from prison, after six years of confinement, Gruffydd, a half-brother of David, and gave him some land in Carnarvonshire. Llywelyn again acknowledged King Henry as his feudal over-lord.*
In the year 1238, Llywelyn convened his Welsh vassals to a meeting at Strata Florida, at which they swore fealty to David. Having arranged his affairs, Llywelyn assumed the monastic habit, and died on April 11th, 1240, in the Cistercian monastery at Aberconwy.5
This most brilliant of Welsh princes adopted the policy of frankly admitting the suzerainty of the English King, and devoting his energies to prevent any encroachment on Welsh lands, he took his place among the great vassals of the realm, and we may reasonably suppose that he intended his successors to follow a similar course. David, however, treacherously seized his half-brother Gruffydd, with whom he had been for some time at feud, and imprisoned him. He then received for the second time the submission of the Welsh vassal lords, and himself did homage to King Henry at Gloucester. Gruffydd, however, had partisans in Gwynedd, foremost among whom was Richard, Bishop of Bangor, who lost no time in
1 Ll. married Joan, daughter of King John, Powell and Wynne,
2 Palsy, according to Powell and Wynne, 258.
3 His sister, Gladys (sometimes known as Gladys Ddu, Powell and Wynne, 270), married Ralph, Lord Mortimer of Wigmore; she was therefore mother of Sir Roger.
4 Powell and Wynne, 258.
5 Powell and Wynne, 259.
6 Powell and Wynne, 261.
excommunicating David and interviewing the King, whom he induced to take an interest in Gruffydd's grievances. In addition to receiving homage of rebellious royal tenants, David gave aid to the enemies of Roger Mortimer, under which circumstances King Henry decided to make an expedition into Wales and advanced towards Gwynedd. Without striking a blow, terms were made at a place called Gwern Eigron, near St. Asaph, on August 29th, 1241. Under the arrangement Gruffydd was to be transferred to the care of the King; the quarrel was to be submitted to the King's court; Mold was to be given to the seneschal of Chester; and Gruffydd ab Gwenwynwyn and other Welsh lords, were conceded their claims in Powys and Merionethshire. David was ordered to attend the court in London, and proceeded there in October, when a further agreement was forced upon him by the King's government that the Principality should be surrendered to the English crown if he died without heirs of his body.
Gruffydd was confined in the Tower, where he was well treated, but, trying to escape in 1244, he fell and broke his neck. David returned to North Wales, and the years 1241-1243 were peaceful. Between 1238 and 1241 the King decided to build a castle near Diserth, and selected for the site the rock of Maelan, In Annales Cestrienses the site is described
1 Powell and Wynne, 261.
2 Sometimes called Alnet, Alnetum, a grove of alders, being a translation of Gwern. Cal. Pat. Rolls, i, 264.
3 Powell and Wynne, 262.
4 Powell and Wynne, 263.
5 Annales Cambria, 1241. Rex Angliæ omnes Walenses sibi subjugavit, castrumque firmavit in forti rupe juxta Disserth in Tegeygell obsidibus acceptis a David nepote suo pro Gwyneth sibi relicto ipsum David necando usque Londoniam ad concilium celebre ibi constituto.
6 From Maelan or Faelan, a market, we get the corruption
as "forti rupe iuxta Diserth (fortified rock near Diserth), and in Brut y Tywysogion, "Kastell y garrec yn ymyl y Disserth" (Castle of the rock near to the Disserth). This, however, was not the first site contemplated, for, in the first instance, the site chosen for the Castle was situated further up the hill, on the opposite side of the present highway, and considerable progress had been made with the building before a
command' was issued at Chester on September 3rd, 1241, to John L'Estrange, Justice of Chester, in the following terms:
"It is well pleasing to the King that he fortify that
Ffailon, which means something different. The rock stands in the township of Trecastell. Cal. Pat. Rolls, i, 258, 267, 278; Rhys' Welsh Philology, 206; 2nd edition, 202, 380.
1 Cal. Pat. Rolls, i, 258.
place which he has provided as a gift' near Rothelan ; and therefore the King commands that, giving up the first place which he began to fortify by his order, he cause the new place to be fortified."
For some time past these ruins have puzzled several people, and having myself a suspicion of them being those of a castle, at least the commencement of one, requested a military friend to make for me a rough scale drawing. The result was completely successful, so far as my requirements went. There were evidences. of an unfinished building, masons' marks, an angular tower, between which and a circular tower was the gateway, a south wall, and a well. There are, however, no indications of a north wall, which, if they had been carried out, would have been built up or across a considerable rise of rocky hill. This could have been done, and prevented any military mining on that side from being carried out by an enemy. On the south side are several springs, which would probably have been taken advantage of to form a moat; otherwise, from a military point of view, the position is bad. In the immediate vicinity are several mounds, and although some of them are the results of lead mining, others are clearly connected with the ruin2 and for purposes of defence, with the vallum on the inside.
Comparison with the scale drawings of both the
1 This is curious, for ten years afterwards, on May 14th, 35 Hen. III (1251) the Justice of Chester was commanded to assign ten acres of land to Gronow Jareford, son of Gronow, and his brothers, in recompense for their land taken in the construction of · Dissard Castle. (Close Rolls, 35 Hen. III.) This instance does not stand alone, for in 1281 the men of Flint complained of their land being taken to build the Castle, and although the Justiciary of Chester had received the Royal mandate "to grant them remuneration of ground equal in goodness and quality," they did not receive in lieu thereof either land or money. Powell, 36; Parry's Flint Castles, 27.
2 Advantage had been taken of the foundations to build a house. It was standing sixty-two years ago (1850), and occupied twenty years previously.