Avengers Assemble…but where?


A very powerful word. It tends to be used to describe the removal of an item from the landscape – and conflict – where ever it may happen, can provide examples of something that was there at one moment only to have ceased to exist in a recognisable form the next.

If you visit a medieval site today, with manicured lawns and helpful guidebook, the most obvious thing to notice is that there is actually something left to visit. Even with a tumultuous event like the Dissolution of the Monasteries, where the communities were removed and buildings stripped of useful materials, much of the fabric can have survived the 500 or so years since the event, albeit with piles of fallen masonry removed and a gift shop for all the essential purchases.

Valle Crucis Abbey (Latitude 52.988696; Longitude -3.1868157) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/1e/Valle_Crucis_Abbey.JPG
Valle Crucis Abbey (Latitude 52.988696; Longitude -3.1868157)

Sites composed of earthworks, for example motte and bailey castles, can appear at first glance even more ephemeral. Understanding how each individual lump and bump relates to another does take practice, but an understanding of the typology of different monument types means that even these can be interpreted as the visitor walks around the site.

Earthworks of Tomen y Bala Motte and Bailey Castle (Latitude 52.911565; Longitude -3.5954770)
Earthworks of Tomen y Bala Motte and Bailey Castle (Latitude 52.911565; Longitude -3.5954770)

Some sites however, defy simple interpretation if they have been ‘removed’ from the landscape because of their social, political or cultural importance. During the Croat-Bosnian war in 1993, the 16th century Stari Most bridge over the river Neretva in the City of Mostar, Bosnia (Latitude 43.205425; Longitude 17.483822) was destroyed by Croat forces.

Stari Most bridge over the river Neretva in the City of Mostar, Bosnia (Latitude 43.205425; Longitude 17.483822) prior to destruction.
Stari Most bridge over the river Neretva in the City of Mostar, Bosnia (Latitude 43.205425; Longitude 17.483822) prior to completion of the destruction process.

The removal of the bridge had a twofold purpose. Firstly, access from one side of the river by the inhabitants of Mostar to the other was limited, and secondly the Stari Most bridge was considered one of the most important pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans, and designed by Mimar Hayruddin, an apprentice of architect Mimar Sinan. With the cessation of hostilities, reconstruction of the bridge was considered a priority as the destruction was seen as a deliberate removal of cultural property by the Croatian forces. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) headed up a process which saw the bridge rebuilt and reopened in 2004 http://www.gen-eng.florence.it/starimost/

Here then, we see that cultural pressure can be brought to bear both to destroy and replace an important monument, but what happens when only the first part of the process is carried out?

During the Edwardian Conquest of Wales, part of Edward I’s strategy was to construct a series of castles at strategic points around the North Wales coast. As well as providing places where soldiers could be based in order to react to any Welsh threat, perceived or otherwise, these castles replaced the pre-existing system of llysoedd which served as the administrative centres for the Welsh Princes. The main hall of the llys complex was an important meeting point, and as such Edward had each of them removed, either taking them down and recycling their component parts into other buildings or moving them to be reconstructed within one of the new castles.

Ystumgwern Hall, reconstructed within Harlech Castle (Latitude 52.859926; Longitude -4.1092917). Originally from the Llys at Ystumgwern - location not known but general centre of Ystumgwern at Latitude 52.795159; Longitude -4.1002822.
Ystumgwern Hall, reconstructed within Harlech Castle (Latitude 52.859926; Longitude -4.1092917). Originally from the Llys at Ystumgwern – location not known but general centre of Ystumgwern (Latitude 52.795159; Longitude -4.1002822).

The removal of the hall from the llys complex at Ystumgwern meant that the location was subsequently lost to future generations who might have used the halls as a meeting point at which to assemble and plan a revolt against their new rulers. As archaeologists we can apply a suite of techniques to search for the llys complex and find out more about why these locations were so important, but we cannot replace these buildings in the landscape in the same way the Stari Most bridge has been replaced.

Next week’s blog post will examine the fate of a llys complex and its inhabitants with a very particular story to tell.

Again, thank you for your support through http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks – the last fortnight brought another £25 in donations towards my PhD course fees.


Enroled…Thank you so much! Let’s keep the adventure going…

So now I’m back in the fold of the academic community.


And I wouldn’t be here with the help of the online community of people who may never have met me, but have read my posts on this blog and felt able to contribute to funding my research.

Am I nervous about restarting? Yes. But, having been able to keep a toe in academia through attending conferences and seeing material published in books and journals whilst I have been a little bit out of the loop is very comforting.

Time I feel to provide a comprehensive update of what I am writing about and why it needs to be done.

My PhD will consist of four chapters when completed. These will be:

1. Introduction to the topic and previous research undertaken.

2. Parks

3. Gardens

4. Temporary and Permanent Designed Landscapes

In addition to these, there is a Bibliography and a Gazetteer – created so each landscape component can be entered onto either a regional or national archaeological database.

Some of the people mentioned in the research will be be very familiar to you. The ‘big’ names like Owain Glyn Dŵr or Edward I make an appearance, but not as the leader of a rebellion, or as ‘The Hammer of the Scots’, but rather as men who created landscapes to enjoy with their families and utilise for economic gain.

I’m also writing about men like Reginald Balle, who lived in the village of Hope in north east Wales (Longitude: 53.118235; Latitude: -3.0328984) during the middle of the fourteenth century and how he profited from the creation of a brand new park just outside the village. And the numerous un-named servants who for 15 days in May, for at least a century and probably much longer, would have to climb trees to capture fledgling sparrowhawks in Pennant Lliw, near Llanuwchllyn in central north Wales (Longitude: 52.876692; Latitude: -3.744210).


You may have visited some the places I’m writing about, for example Conwy castle (Longitude: 53.280082; Latitude: -3.825695) on the shore of the Conwy Estuary and the River Gyffin. Others, however are a bit further off the beaten track, like Hornspike on the Wales-England border Longitude: 52.903693; Latitude: -2.775291).

This research needs to be done for the simple reason that it has never been done before in a complete way. This research pulls together information from many different sources in three different languages and helps archaeologists, historians and literature specialists all work together to look at this area of the country.

So, please, if you enjoy my blog and would like to help. Either share the link for my blog, or if you are able to contribute then you can do so at: http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks

Thank you…and enjoy watching the work unfold here.


Tweeting isn’t only for the birds…

You might have read last week’s post about Cefn Park near Wrexham (Latitude 53.045083; Longitude -2.9931521) https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/patterns-in-the-palimpsest/ and how I identified that it dates back to at least the turn of the thirteenth century.

However, I made a mistake in attributing its ownership, and I’ll explain how and why this week.

After completing my blog post, I sat back and thought I might carry on developing a theme within my the introductory chapter of my PhD. So, I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. In the hallway between the Living Room and the Kitchen I have hanging up two old maps.

One is an original John Speed map of Denbighshire and Flintshire, left to me by my Paternal Grandfather, and the other is a hand-tinted Robert Morden map of Denbighshire, which came from the estate of my Maternal Grandfather. I look at them often, sometimes from inspiration and sometimes for motivation.

So, whilst the kettle boiled, I stood looking at the maps…and ever so slowly one of the many pennies which have dropped and I’m sure will continue to drop during this research, dropped.

How could the park have been disparked and then re-parked on the same boundaries? It was intact on the early 17th century maps, and so few of the parks I’ve been studying are actually recorded on the maps? With tea made, I went back through the sources.

As I wrote last week, the Extant of Bromfield and Yale was taken in 1315 for the new English Lord describing who owed what service to the him after he had replaced the Welsh Prince following the Edwardian Conquest of 1282-1283. One-fifth of Abenbury, within which Cefn Park is situated, is recorded as being held by the Queen (the wife of King Edward II). So, I tweeted Kathryn Warner, all round Edward II expert to ask her advice.

One of the other parks in my study area, that at Eyton, which I wrote about in https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/making-the-familiar-unfamiliar/ was given, in part, to Eleanor of Castile by her husband, King Edward I. Could the one-fifth of Abenbury mentioned actually be Cefn Park, and have been given to the Queen by her husband. It would explain why the new English Lord John de Warenne had to create two new parks at Holt and Glyn if he didn’t have access to Cefn Park.

Whilst I waited for Kathryn’s reply, I set to measuring. Cefn Park measures roughly 200 acres, and the area of Abenbury is 1,000 acres, so this calculation appears to correlate with the available evidence.

Kathryn got back to me, and said although she hadn’t come across this park specifically, the grants of land to Eleanor, wife of King Edward II were scattered through several different sources and because of the mangling of Welsh words, it might take someone who spoke Welsh to spot it when it was found.

This then appears to be how the park survived the fourteenth century, as a Royal possession, before being granted to a favoured family in the following century. That this could happen elsewhere can be found in a document of 1318 for the park at Brynkir, one of the parks I found last year and which has recently been the news here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-23882385

The manor of ‘Dolpenmayn’ (in which the Park of Brynkir is situated) was one of those given by King Edward II to his son and daughter ‘for their sustenance’. The relevant blog post by Kathryn Warner is here: http://edwardthesecond.blogspot.co.uk/2008/11/edward-iis-daughters-eleanor-and-joan.html

I’m pleased that I was able to work out how these Parks all relate to each other, and also how historians and archaeologists can work together to answer questions about the medieval world.