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Avengers Assemble…Part II

In 1378 a Mercenary Captain fighting in the Hundred Years War was assassinated. His name was Owain ap Thomas, and he was a Welshman fighting for the French against the English, and his assassination was ordered by the English Crown.

Assassination of Yvain de Galles at the siege of the castle of Mortagne-sur-Gironde - from Jean de Wavrin’s 'Chronique d’Angleterre' British Library Royal 14 e iv
Assassination of Yvain de Galles at the siege of the castle of Mortagne-sur-Gironde – from Jean de Wavrin’s ‘Chronique d’Angleterre’ British Library Royal 14 e iv

[Owain is on the right falling backwards – his assassin, John Lamb, is behind him].

This might sound a sub-plot from ‘Game of Thrones’, but this was all very real and had repercussions which we are only just really beginning to understand in terms of the history, archaeology, literature and art history of this particular man.

Owain ap Thomas was also known as Owain Lawgoch or Yvain de Galles. His career as a mercenary captain in France, Switzerland and Guernsey, lasted from what the documentary sources can tell us from 1363 to 1378. He was buried in the nearby chapel dedicated to St.Leger, and his mercenary company continued on, fighting for the French Crown without him.

The story of Owain ap Thomas was written about by in A.D. Carr (1991). Owen of Wales: The End of the House of Gwynedd. University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-1064-8. Copies are hard to find, but if you are interested in the period you should try and find a copy. The book identified the manors (consisting of a manor house and associated land) which Owain left behind when he went to France, and these were in Powys, Gloucestershire, Cheshire and Surrey. Inquisitions were held by the authorities in each of these places to find out when he had left and what property and possessions he had left behind.

The manor in Surrey was at Tatsfield (Latitude 51.287393; Longitude 0.029869080) and had been in Owain’s family for three generations. His grandfather Rhodri ap Gruffudd (brother of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd who had been Prince of Gwynedd until his death in 1282) had come into possession of the manor in about 1310, and it belonged to his son Thomas from 1315 to 1363.

I’ve been researching the archaeological evidence for the estates of Owain Lawgoch since 2004, and a paper on them was included in a book published in 2008 entitled ‘Mercenaries and Paid Men: The Mercenary Identity in the Middle Ages’. You can download a copy of the paper from http://works.bepress.com/spencer_gavin_smith/ The history of Tatsfield in the years after 1363 is for me, particularly fascinating. The manor itself ceased to exist as an administrative entity after Owain left, and it was handed over to the lords of the adjoining manor of Titsey (Latitude 51.278615; Longitude 0.014226437). They constructed a court house in Tatsfield to deal with the administration of the cases that happened there, but they continued only to live in Titsey.

I directed an excavation in Tatsfield in 2004, and the evidence from this and from the historical evidence I’ve also been able to research, suggests that the Manor House there was dealt with in the same way the Llysoedd were removed during the Edwardian Conquest (see https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/avengers-assemble-but-where/). The paucity of building materials left on the site suggested careful dismantling rather than simply pushing the building over and rendering it unusable. Doing this would leave a visible marker and a place where assembly could happen, and the proximity to London – only 20 miles to Westminster – would have been an even more potent and visible reminder than a series of castles along the north Wales coast.

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Hand Axis

Archaeology – and matters related to it, have been in the news this week. With the death of Mick Aston, we have lost someone who knew how to communicate his passion for several layers of informative dirt piled on top of each other to the public, in a way they found engaging and interesting.

Mick was part of a team, and we should remember that many of us in the profession have been involved with at least one show during its long run in one capacity or another. We, and the watching public are all part of that team and must continue to keep archaeology in the minds of the public, in whatever form it may take.

Announced in the Government Spending Review was that £80 million pounds will be provided by the Government to establish a charity to care for the historic properties in the National Heritage Collection of English Heritage on a self-financing basis http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/news/80million-boost-heritage/.

Also announced was £100 billion pounds to be spent on infrastructure improvements http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23080965 including upgrades to the A14, a new Mersey Gateway Bridge and the first stages of work on the HS2 rail link.

By association, some of this money will have to be spent on the archaeology effected by these announcements. We should embrace the opportunity to do justice to whatever is found, whichever archaeological units secures the contracts.

At the same time as the commercial units will be opening up swathes of countryside in advance of the road and rail building programmes, or working with the new charity to better interpret the properties in their care, Heritage Lottery Funded archaeological projects will be opening their own smaller, but no less important holes in their towns and villages.

Answering specific research questions and aided by professional archaeologists, these focused pieces of work will in essence, fill gaps which the commercial units will never be able to reach. http://www.hlf.org.uk/HowToApply/whatwefund/Pages/Archaeology.aspx.

Publicising the findings, whether through personal Twitter accounts, newspaper articles or television programmes, we must demonstrate that this money was well spent and increased our knowledge of the island palimpsest we live on.

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The Revolution will be Televised

Last Friday a medieval home called Sycharth made an appearance on a programme called ‘Britain’s Secret Homes’. The five part series is looking at 50 (as the title reveals) of the lesser known, but very important houses in Britain.

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Sycharth was number 37 https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/britain-s-secret-homes/series-1/episode-2 and I’m really pleased with the finished result. Probably the most satisfying feeling was that this was all about Owain Glyn Dŵr’s property, and not about the fight for freedom which usually clouds the issue when discussing his legacy.

Also important is that we were able to tell the story to an English language audience and have the poem written about the house spoken in its original language. Reaching an audience of millions with this is an amazing experience and importantly this is just one house from one point in the medieval period and the wider landscape and all the archaeological potential was only lightly touched upon.

Something which was cut from the segment was a specially commissioned ‘cywydd’ (a form of poem) by the poet Tudur Dylan Jones. Tudur is a multiple Eisteddfod winning poet, so you know you are going to get quality when you commission a cywydd from him. http://vimeo.com/68401196

Below you’ll find the original poem in Welsh, and a recent English translation. Even if you are unable to read the Welsh, you should be able to discern the beautiful rhythm of the original.

Llys Owain Glyn Dŵr yn Sycharth

Addewais yt hyn ddwywaith,
Addewid teg, addo taith;.
Taled bawb, tal hyd y bo,
Ei addewid a addawo.
Pererindawd, ffawd ffyddlawn,
Perwyl mor annwyl mawr iawn,
Myned, eidduned oddain,
Lles yw, tua llys Owain.
Yn oddain yno ydd af,
Nid drwg, yno y trigaf
I gymryd i’m bywyd barch
Gydag ef o gydgyfarch;
Fo all fy naf, uchaf ach,
Eurben clear, erbyn cleiriach;
Clod bod, cyd boed alusen,
Ddiwarth hwyl, yn dda wrth hen.
I’w lys ar ddyfrys ydd af,
O’r deucant odidocaf;.
Llys barwn, lle syberwyd,
Lle daw beirdd aml, lle da byd.
Gwawr Bowys fawr, beues Faig,
Gofuned gwiw ofynaig.

Llyna’r modd a’r llun y mae:
Mewn eurgylch dwfr mewn argae.
(Pand da’r llys?) pont ar y llyn,
Ac unporth lle’r ai ganpyn;
Cyplau sydd, gwaith cwplws ynt,
Cwpledig pob cwpl ydynt.
Clochdy Padrig, Ffrengig ffrwyth,
Clostr Wesmustr, clostir emswyth;
Cynglynrhwym pob congl unrhyw,
Cangell aur, cygan oll yw.
Cynglynion yn y fronfron fry,
Dordor megis daeardy,
A phob un fal llun llyngwlm
Sydd yn ei gilydd yn gwlm.
Tai nawplad fold deunawplas,
Tai pren glan mewn top bryn glas;
Ar bedwar piler eres
Mae’i lys ef i nef yn nes.
Ar ben pob piler pren praff,
Llofft ar dalgrofft adeilgraff,
A’r pedair llofft, o hoffter,
Yn gydgwplws lle cwag cler.
Aeth y pedair disgleirlofft,
Nyth lwyth teg iawn, yn wyth lofft;
To teils ar bob ty talwg,
A simnai lle magai’r mwg.
Naw neuadd gyfladd gyflun,
A naw gwardrob ar bob un.
Siopau glan, glwys cynnwys cain,
Siop lawndeg fal Siep Lundain.
Croes eglwys gylchlwys galchliw,
Capelau a gwydrau gwiw;
Popty llawn poptu I’r llys,
Perllan, gwinllan, ger gwenllys,
Melin deg ar ddifreg ddwr;
A’i glomendy gloyw maendwr.
Pysgodlyn, cudduglyn cau,
A fo rhaid i fwrw heyday
Amlaf lle, nid er ymliw,
Penhwyaid a gwyniaid gwiw.
A’I dir bwrdd a’i adar byw,
Peunod, crehyrod hoywryw,
Dolydd glan gwyran a gwair,
Ydau mewn caeau cywair,
Parc cwning ein por cenedl,
Erydr a meirch hydr, mawr chwedl;
Gerllaw’r llys, gorlliwio’r llall,
Y pawr ceirw mewn parc arall;
Ei gaith a wna pob gwaith gwiw,
Cyfreidiau cyfair ydiw,
Dwyn blaendrwyth cwrw Amwythig,
Gwirodau, bragodau brig,
Pob llyn, bara gwyn a gwin,
A’I gig, a’i dan i’w gegin;
Pebyll y beirdd pawb lle bo,
Pe beunydd caiff pawb yno;
Tecaf llys bren, pen heb bai,
O‘r deyrnas, nawdd Duw arnai;.
A awraig orau o’r garaged
Gwyn fy myd o’i gwin a’i medd!
Merch eglur llin marchoglyw,
Urddol hael anianol yw;.
A’i blant a ddeuant bob ddau,
Nythaid teg o beneathiaid.
 
Anfynych iawn fu yno
Weled na chlicied na chlo,
Na phorthoriaeth ni wnaeth neb,
Ni bydd eisiau budd oseb,
Na gwall, na newyn, na gwarth,
Na syched fyth yn Sycharth.
Gorau Cymro, tro trylew
Piau’r wlad, lin Pywer Lew,
Gwr meingryf, gorau mangre,
A phial’r llys; hoff yw’r lle.

Court of Owain Glyn Dŵr in Sycharth

I have promised twice before now,
fair promise, promising a journey;
let everyone fulfil, as much as is due,
his promise which he promises.
A very great pilgrimage,
certain prosperity, such a dear destination,
is going, swift promise,
It is beneficial, towards Owain’s court;
swiftly will I go there,
not bad, there will I dwell
to bring honour into my life
by exchanging greetings with him;
my leige can, highest lineage,
bright golden head, receive an old codger;
it is praiseworthy, though it is but alms,
Course without shame, to be kind to the old.
I will go to his court in haste,
The most splendid of the two hundred;
a baron’s court, place of refinement,
Where many poets come, place of the good life;
queen of great Powys, Maig’s land,
promise of good hope.

This is its manner and its form
In the bright circle of water within an embankment:
(isn’t the court fine?) a bridge on the lake,
and one gate through which would go a hundred loads;
there are couples, they are couple work,
every couple is coupled together;
Patrick’s bell house, French fruit,
the cloister of Westminster, comfortable enclosure;
each corner is bound together in the same way,
golden chancel, it is entirely symmetrical,
bonds side by side above,
cheek-to-cheek like an earth house,
and every one looking like a tight knot
Is tied fast to the next one,
nine-plated buildings on the scale of eighteen mansions,
fair wooden buildings on top of a green hill;
on four wonderful pillars
his court is nearer to heaven;
on top of each stout wooden pillar
a loft built firmly on the summit of a croft,
and the four lofts of loveliness
coupled together where poets sleep;
the four bright lofts turned,
a very fair nest load, into eight lofts;
a tiled roof on every house with frowning forehead,
And a chimney from which the smoke would grow;
nine symmetrical identical halls,
and nine wardrobes by each one,
bright fair shops with fine contents,
a lovely full shop like London’s Cheapside;
a cross-shaped church with a fair chalk-coloured exterior
chapels with splendid glass windows;
a full bakehouse on every side of the court,
an orchard, a vineyard by a white court;
a lovely mill on flowing water,
and his dovecot with bright stone tower;
a fishpond, hollow enclosure,
what is needed to cast nets;
place most abounding, not for dispute;
In pike and fine sewin,
and his bord-land and his live birds,
peacocks, splendid herons;
bright meadows of grass and hay,
corn in well-kept fields,
the rabbit park of our patriarch,
ploughs and sturdy horses, great words;
by the court, outshining the other,
stags graze in another park;
his serfs perform all fitting tasks,
those are the necessities of an estate,
bringing the best brew of beer from Shrewsbury,
liquors of foaming bragget,
every drink, white bread and wine,
and his meat and his fire for his kitchen;
shelter of poets, everyone wherever he be,
were it daily, he will have everyone there,
loveliest wooden court, chief without fault,
of the kingdom, may god protect it,
and the best woman of all women,
blessed am I by her wine and her mead!
Fair girl from the line of a knightly ruler,
she is dignified and noble by nature;
and his children come in pairs,
a fine nestful of chieftains.

Very rarely was bolt or lock
to be seen there,
nor did anyone act as porter;
there will be no want, beneficial gift,
nor lack not hunger nor shame,
Nor ever thirst in Sycharth.
The best Welshman, valorous feat,
owns the country, of Pywer Lew’s line,
slender strong man, best spot,
and owns the court, splendid is the place.

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Making the Familiar, Unfamiliar

Academic disciplines move at different speeds. So a piece of information that may be common knowledge to one group may be completely unknown to another. In this case, ignorance really isn’t bliss.

To illustrate my point, here’s one a thousand years (or so) in the making.

Eyton (Latitude 52.991226; Longitude -2.968168) is an area to the south of Wrexham. The name, which means “Island Settlement”, is applied to a village, and also to several buildings including ‘Eaton Hall’ and ‘Eaton Grange’, as well as to landscape features including ‘Eyton Bank’ and ‘Park Eyton’. You will have noticed that in the case of ‘Park Eyton’, the words are reversed. This is because it should be ‘Parc Eyton’, and therefore, is in the Welsh, not the English language.

Why? Well, let’s start with a date nearly everybody knows. 1066. William the Conqueror arrives from France and before you know it is King of England (this blog isn’t about the minutiae of that topic – you can read those elsewhere). The Welsh, well, to be honest, they didn’t really notice. Their Chroniclers are still dealing with the fallout from the death of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn “King of the Britons” who had been assassinated three years previously.

During Christmas 1085, William commissioned a survey of the land he held and of the people living on it. Originally it was known as the Winchester Roll / the King’s Roll or the Book of the Treasury, but by 1180 it was known as the Domesday Book.

The western edge of William’s land holdings was, to be honest, a little blurry. Wales, certainly in the North, had not been ‘conquered’. A little singed and plundered, yes. But not conquered. At the time the Surveyor’s for the roll / book passed through, some places were under new control, and Eyton provides an excellent example. The entry covers Trevalyn, Eyton and Sutton Green. This is an area approximately 14km (8 miles) long and 5km (3 miles) wide. Importantly for my research the Surveyor’s list 2 ‘enclosures’ or ‘hays’. The full entry can be found here http://www.domesdaymap.co.uk/place/SJ4148/sutton/ and explains what it all means at the same time.

The Surveyor’s role was to record items of value, so an enclosure for the capture and control of deer (which is what a ‘hay’ is) would have been recorded. Just because of where it is in Wales doesn’t necessarily mean the invading Normans or the previous neighbours next door, the Anglo – Saxons, built it.

So. The medieval historians are aware of a deer enclosure in Eyton. Are any other academic disciplines like to have encountered it? Well, yes. The academics studying medieval Welsh poetry were aware of two poems by different authors mentioning ‘Eytun’ http://www.dafyddapgwilym.net – Poem 154 is by the very famous and very, very funny Dafydd ap Gwilym and is one of the examples.

Documents survived from 1269 and 1270 discussing who the park belonged to and how it should be divided up on the death of its owner. Parish historians had identified that Parc Eyton was a distinct landholding during their research into the Tithe Maps (a map of a parish or township, prepared following the Tithe Commutation Act 1836. This act allowed tithes to be paid in cash rather than goods. The map and its accompanying schedule gave the names of all owners and occupiers of land in the parish) produced in the early 19th century.

First archaeological record of Parc Eyton? 2004. http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/308744/details/PARK+EYTON%2C+PARK%2C+RUABON/

First Map of Parc Eyton which shows the original boundaries and suggests how large the landholding eventually became? Last Week. I made it.

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