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WALES AND THE NORMANS
in the conquered districts, but do not always tell when the Norman recovered and rebuilt them.
Fortunately we are not called upon here to trace the history of the cruel and barbarous warfare between Normans and Welsh. No one can turn that bloodstained page without wishing that the final conquest had come two hundred years earlier, to put an end to the tragedy of suffering which must have been so largely the portion of the dwellers in Wales and the Marches after the coming of the Normans." Our business with both Welsh and Normans is purely archæological. We hold no brief for the Normans, nor does it matter to us whether they kept their hold on Wales or were driven out by the Welsh ; our concern is with facts, and the solid facts with which we have to deal are the castles whose remains still exist in Wales, and whose significance we have to interpret.
“Wales was under his sway, and he built castles therein,” says the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in summing up the reign of the Conqueror; a passage which is scarcely consistent with its previous almost complete silence about events in Wales. There can be little doubt that William aimed at a complete conquest of Wales, and that the policy he adopted was the creation of great earldoms along the Welsh border, endowed with special privileges, one of which was the right of conquering whatever they could from the Welsh.” To these earldoms he appointed some of his strongest men, men
1 The barbarity on both sides was frightful, but in the case of the Welsh, it was often their own countrymen, and even near relations, who were the victims. And so little patriotism existed then in Wales that the Normans could always find allies amo some of the Welsh chieftains. Patriotism, however, is a virtue of more recent growth than the 17th century.
2 There is, however, no contemporary evidence for the existence of the Marcher lordships before the end of the 12th century. See Duckett “On the Marches of Wales," Arch. Camb., 1881.
little troubled by scruples of justice or mercy, but capable leaders in war or diplomacy. It was an essential part of the plan that every conquest should be secured by the building of castles, just as had been done in England. And we have now to trace very briefly the outline of Norman conquest in Wales by the castles which they have left behind them.
We shall confine ourselves to those castles which are mentioned in the Brut y Tywysogion, the Pipe Rolls, or other trustworthy documents between 1066 and 1216, the end of King John's reign. Of many of these castles only the earthworks remain ; of many others the original plan, exactly similar to that of the early castles of Normandy and France, is still to be traced, though masked by the masonry of a later age. Grose remarked but could not explain the fact that we continually read of the castles of the Marches being burnt and utterly destroyed, and a few months later we find them again standing and in working order. This can only, but easily, be explained when we understand that they were wooden castles built on mottes, quickly restored after a complete destruction of the wooden buildings.
North Wales appears to have been the earliest conquest of the Normans, though not the most lasting. North Wales comprised the Welsh kingdoms of Gwynedd and Powys. Gwynedd covered the present shires of Anglesea, Carnarvon, and Merioneth, and the mountainous districts round Snowdon. Powys stretched from the estuary of the Dee to the upper course of the Wye, and roughly included Flint, Denbigh, Montgomery, and Radnor shires. Hugh of Ayranches, Earl of Chester, was the great instrument of Norman
1 The districts of Cyfeiliog and Arwystli, in the centre of Wales, were also reckoned in Gwynedd.
NORMAN ADVANCE IN NORTH WALES
conquest in Gwynedd, and in the northern part of Powys, which lay so near his own dominions. He was evidently a man in whose ability William had great confidence, as he removed him from Tutbury to the more difficult and dangerous position of Chester, and gave his earldom palatine privileges; all the land in Cheshire was held under the earl, and he was a sort of little king in his county.
Hugh appears to have at once commenced the conquest of North Wales. As Professor Lloyd remarks, Domesday Book shows us Deganwy as the most advanced Norman post on the North Welsh coast, while on the Bristol Channel they had got no further than Caerleon. In advancing to the valley of the Clwyd and building a castle at Rhuddlan, the Normans were only securing the district which had already been conquered by Harold in 1063, when he burnt the hall of King Griffith at Rhuddlan. Nearly the whole of Flintshire (its manors are enumerated by Domesday Book under Cheshire) was held by Earl Hugh in 1086, so that he commanded the entire road from Chester to Rhuddlan. His powerful vassal, Robert of Rhuddlan, who became the terror of North Wales, besides the lands which he held of Earl Hugh, held also directly of the King Rhos and Rhufeniog, districts which roughly correspond to the modern shire of Denbigh, and “Nort Wales” which Professor Lloyd takes to mean the remainder of the principality of Gwynedd, from which the rightful ruler, Griffith ap Cynan, had been driven as an exile to Ireland.
It does not appear that there was any fortification at RHUDDLAN? before the “castle newly erected” by
1 “Wales and the Coming of the Normans,” Cymmrodorion Trans., 1899. In the descriptions of castles in this chapter, those which have not
Earl Hugh and his vassal Robert. They shared between them the castle and the new borough which was built near it. One word about this new borough, which will apply to the other boroughs planted by Norman castles. There were no towns in Wales of any importance before the Norman Conquest, and this civilising institution of the borough is the one great set-off to the cruelty and unrighteousness of the conquest. Mills, markets, and trade arose where castles were seated, and civilisation followed in their train.
The castle of Hugh and Robert was not the magnificent building which still stands at Rhuddlan, for that is entirely the work of Edward I., and there is documentary evidence that Edward made a purchase of new land for the site of his castle. More probably Robert and Hugh had a wooden castle on the now reduced motte which may be seen to the south of Edward's castle. In Gough's time this motte was still “surrounded with a very deep ditch, including the abbey.” Nothing can be seen of this ditch now, except on the south side of the motte, where a deep ravine runs up from the river. As from Gough's description the
been specially visited for this work are marked with an asterisk. Those which have been visited by others than the writer are marked with initials : D. H. M. being Mr D. H. Montgomerie, F.S.A. ; B. T. S., Mr Basil T. Stallybrass; and H. W., the Rev. Herbert White, M.A. This plan will be followed in the three succeeding chapters.
1 “Hugo comes tenet de rege Roelent (Rhuddlan). Ibi T. R. E. jacebat Englefield, et tota erat wasta. Edwinus comes tenebat. Quando Hugo comes recipit similiter erat wasta. Modo habet in dominio medietatem castelli quod Roelent vocatur, et caput est hujus terræ. ... Robertus de Roelent tenet de Hugone comite medietatem ejusdem castelli et burgi, in quo habet ipse Robertus 10 burgenses et medietatem ecclesiæ. Ibi est novus burgus et in eo 10 burgenses. . . . In ipso manerio est factum noviter castellum similiter Roeland appellatum." D. B., i., 2692, 1.
? Ayloffe's Rotuli Wallia, p. 75. "De providendo indempnitati magistri Ricardi Bernard, Personæ Ecclesiæ de Rothelan', in recompensionem terræ sụæ occupatæ ad placeam castri de Rothelan' elargandam.”
hillock (called Tut Hill)? was within the precincts of the priory of Black Friars, founded in the 13th century, it is extremely probable that Edward gave the site of the old castle to the Dominicans when he built his new one.2
Another of the castles of Robert of Rhuddlan was DEGANWY, or Gannoc, which defended the mouth of the Conway. Here it is said that there was an ancient seat of the kings of Gwynedd.* The two conical hills which rise here offer an excellent site for fortification, one of them being large enough on top for a considerable camp. The Norman Conqueror treated them as two mottes, and connected them by walls so as to form a bailey below them. The stone fortifications are probably the remains of the castle built by the Earl of Chester in 1211. This castle was naturally a sorely contested point, and often passed from hand to hand;
1 Tut or Toot Hill means “look-out” hill; the name is not unfrequently given to abandoned mottes. The word is still used locally. Cf. Christison, Early Fortifications in Scotland, p. 16.
2 Such presentations of abandoned castle sites, and of old wooden castles, to the church, were not uncommon. We have seen how the site of Montacute Castle was given to the Cluniac monks (ante, p. 170). Thicket Priory, in Yorkshire, occupied the site of the castle of Wheldrake ; and William de Albini gave the site and materials of the old castle of Buckenham, in Norfolk, to the new castle which he founded there. The materials, but not the site, of the wooden castle of Montferrand were given in Stephen's reign to Meaux Abbey, and served to build some of the monastic offices. Chron. de Melsa, i., 106.
3 “Fines suos dilatavit, et in monte Dagannoth, qui mari contiguus est, fortissimum castellum condidit.” Ordericus, iii., 284 (edition Prévost). The verb condere is never used except for a new foundation.
4 The Brut says that in the year 823 the Saxons destroyed the Castle of Deganwy. This is one of the only two instances in which the word castell is used in this Welsh chronicle before the coming of the Normans. As the MS. is not earlier than the 14th century it would be idle to claim this as a proof of the existence of a castle at this period. Castell, in Welsh, is believed to have come straight from the Latin, and was applied to any kind of fortress. Lloyd, Welsh Place-names, “Y Cymmrodor,” xi., 28.
6 The “new castle of Aberconwy” mentioned by the Brut in 1211, undoubtedly means this new stone castle built by the earl at Deganwy, as the castle of Conway did not then exist.