Britannia, by William Camden

sir vaesyved Montgomeryshire


Big O ON the north-west of Herefordshire, lies Radnorshire, in British Sîr Vaesỳved; of a triangular form, and gradually more narrow as it is extended further westward. On the south, the river Wye divides it from Brecknock, and on the north-part lies Mongomeryshire. The eastern and southern parts are well cultivated; but elsewhere it is so uneaven with mountains, that it is hardly capable of tillage; tho’ well-stor’d with woods, and water’d with rivulets, and in some places with standing lakes.

Towards the east, it hath to adorn it (besides other Castles of the Lords Marchers, now almost all bury’d in their own ruins) Castelh pain,Castelh Pain. which was built by Pain a Norman, from whom it had the name: and Castelh Colwen,Colwen. which (if I mistake not) was formerly call’d Maud-Castle in Colwent.Maud-castle.
v. Castelh Colwn.
For there was a Castle of that name, much noted, whereof Robert de Todney, a very eminent person, was Governour in the time of Edward the second. It is thought to have belong’d before, to the Breoses Lords of Brecknock, and to have receiv’d that name from Maud of St. Valeric, a † Procacissima.malpert woman, wife of William Breos, who rebell’d against King John. This Castle being demolish’d by the Welsh,Matth. Par. was rebuilt of stone by King Henry the third, in the year 1231.maesyved hen But of greatest note is Radnor,Radnor. the chief town of the County; call’d in British Maesỳved, fair-built, but with thatch’d houses, as is the manner of that country.Rhys Formerly it was well-fenc’d with walls and a Castle, but being by that rebellious Owen Glyn DowrdwyOwen Glyndwr. laid in ashes, it decay’d daily; as well as old RadnorOld Radnor. (call’d by the Britains Maesỳved hên, and from its high situation Pencraig) which had been burnt by Rhŷs ap Gruffydh, in the reign of King John. If I should say that this Maesỳved is the city MagosMagi. which Antoninus seems to call Magnos, where (as we read in the Notitia Provinciarum) the Commander of the Pacensian regiment lay in garrison, under the Lieutenant of Britain, in the reign of Theodosius the younger; in my own judgment (and perhaps others may be of the same mind) I should not be much mistaken.Magesetae For we find that the Writers of the middle age call the inhabitants of this Country Magesetæ,Magesetæ. and also mention Comites Masegetenses and Magesetenses: and the distances from Gobannium or Aber-Gavenni, as also from Brangonium or Worcester, differ very little from Antoninus’s computation. Scarce three miles to the east of Radnor, lies Prestean,Prestean. in British Lhan Andras, or St. Andrews; which from a small village, in the memory of our † † So said, ann. 1603.grandfathers, did, by the favour and encouragement of Martin Lord Bishop of St. David’s, become so eminent and beautiful a market-town, as in some measure to eclipse Radnor.Trevyklawdh Scarce four miles hence, lies KnightonKnighton. (which may vye with Prestean) call’d by the Britains, as I am inform’d, Trebuclo for Trevỳklawdh,Offa Dike. from the dike lying under it; which was cast-up with great labour and industry by Offa the Mercian, as a boundary between his Subjects and the Britains, from the mouth of Dee, to that of the river Wye, for the space of about ninety miles: whence the Britains have call’d it Klawdh Offa or Offa’s Dyke.Rhyd Concerning which, Joannes Sarisburiensis, in his Polycraticon saith, that Harald establish’d a Law, that whatever Welshman should be found arm’d on this side the limit he had set them, to wit, Offa’s Dike, his right-hand should be cut-off by the King’s Officers. ⌈The tracing of this Dike gives us the exact bounds of the Britains and Saxons. It may be seen on Brachy-hill, and near Rhŷd ar Helig, and Lanterden in Herefordshire: and is continu’d northwards from Knighton, over a part of Shropshire into Mongomeryshire; and may be traced over the long Mountain call’d in Welsh Kevn Digolh, to Harden-castle, cross the Severn and Lhan Drinio-Common; from whence it passes the Vyrnwy again into Shropshire, not far from Oswaldstry, where there is also a small village call’d Trevyrclawdh. In Denbighshire, it is visible along the road between Rhywabon and Wrexham; from whence being continu’d through Flintshire, it ends a little below Holywell, where that water falls into Dee, at a place formerly the site of the castle of Basingwerk. This limit seems not afterwards to have been well maintain’d by the English: for although we find that the British tongue decreases daily on the borders of Wales; yet not only that language, but also the ancient British customs and names of men and places remain still for some space on the English side, almost the whole length of it.⌉

All the land beyond this, toward the west and north, call’d by the natives Meliènydh,Melienydh. from the yellowish mountains, is for the most part a barren and hungry soil. Which, notwithstanding, shews the ruins of several Castles, but especially of Kevn Lhys,Kevn y Lhys. and of Tinbod standing † Acuminato colli.on the summit of a cop’d hill, which was destroy’d by Lhewelyn Prince of Wales in the year 1260. This Country of Meliènydh reaches to the river Wye, Gwy or Wy, what it signifies.⌈which word, though it be here the name of a river, seems to have been anciently an appellative, either for river, or water. For although it be not used at present in that sense, nor yet preserv’d in any Glossary, or other Books; yet I find it in the termination of the names of many of our rivers: ex. gr. Lhugwy, Dowrdwy, y Vyrnwy, Edwy, Conwy, Elwy, Hondhwy, Mynwy, Mowdhwy, Tawy, Towy, &c. Now, that this final syllable [wy] in these names of rivers, is the same with gwy, seems more than probable; in that we find the river Towy call’d in the Book of Landaffe Tiugui (ab hostio Taratir super ripam Gui, usque ad ripam Tiugui, &c.) and also the river Elwy, call’d Elgui. And that gwy or wy signified water, seems further to be confirm’d from the names of some aquatick animals, as Gwyach, Giach, eog aliàs oiog, &c. This being granted, we may be able to interpret the names of several rivers which have hitherto remain’d unintelligible: as Lhugwy, clear water, from lhug, which signifies light or brightness: Dowrdwy, loud water, from Dwrdh, noise: Edwy, a swift or rapid stream, from Ehed, to fly, &c.⌉

The Wye crosses the west angle of the County; and having its rapid course somewhat abated by the rocks it meets with, and its chanel discontinu’d, continu’d, it suddenly falls headlong over a steep precipice. Whence the place is call’d Rhàiadr Gwy,Rhaiadr Gwy. that is, the Cataract or fall of the river Wye. Rhaiadr Fred And I know not whether the English might not from that word Rhàiadr impose the name of Radnor, first on the County, and afterwards on the chief Town therein. ⌈Several places in Wales are thus denominated; all which have cataracts near them: and the word is still us’d appellatively among the mountains of Snowdon in Caernarvonshire, where such falls of water are very frequent. Rhaiadar-castle (whereof not the least ruins are now remaining) was very advantageously situated in a nook of the river, close by this Cataract. But what seems very remarkable, is a deep trench on one side of the Castle-yard, cut out of an exceeding hard and solid rock. About two furlongs below this place where the castle stood, I observ’d a large Tumulus or Barrow, call’d from a Chapel adjoyning, Tommen lhan St. Frêd: and on the other side, at a farther distance, there are two more, much less than the former, call’d Krigeu Kevn Keido,Barrows or Lows call’d in Welsh Krigeu. viz. the Barrows of Kevn Keido, a place so call’d; where, it is suppos’d, there stood heretofore a Church, in regard a piece of ground adjoyning is call’d Klyttieu’r Eglwys.Gwastedin

On the top of a hill, call’d GwastèdinGwastèdin. near Rhaiadr Gŵy, there are three large heaps of stones, of that kind which are common upon mountains in most (if not all) the Counties of Wales; call’d in South-Wales Karneu, and in North-wales Karned-heu. Karn, what it signifies. They consist of such lesser stones from a pound weight to a hundred, &c. as the neighbouring places afford; and are confusedly pil’d up without any farther trouble than the bringing them thither, and the throwing them in heaps. On Plin Lhimmon, or, as otherwise call’d, Pym lymmon mountain, and some other places, there are of these Karnedheu so considerably big, that they may be suppos’d to consist of no less than a hundred Cart-loads of stones; but generally speaking, they are much less. They are also found in the North, and probably in other parts of England; and are frequent in Scotland and Ireland, being call’d there by the same British name of Kairn: whereof I can give no other account to the curious Reader, than that it is a primitive word, and appropriated to signify such heaps of stones. cairn That most of these Karnedheu (not to say all) were intended as memorials of the dead, I am induced to believe, for that I have my self observ’d near the summit of one of them, a rude stone monument (which I shall have occasion to prove Sepulchral hereafter) somewhat of the form of a large Coffer or Chest; and have receiv’d unquestionable information of two more such monuments, found of late years in the like places. But what removes all scruple, and puts this question beyond farther debate, is that it is still the custom in several places, to cast heaps of stones on the Graves of Malefactors and Self-murderers. suicide traitors And hence perhaps it is, since we can assign no other reason, that the worst of Traytors are call’d Karn-Vradwyr, the most notorious Thieves, Karn-Lhadron, &c. That this was also the custom amongst the Romans, appears from that Epitaph ascrib’d to Virgil, on the infamous Robber Balista:

Monte sub hoc lapidum tegitur Balista sepultus,
Nocte, die, tutum carpe, viator, iter

Under this stone Balista lies inter’d,
Now (night or day) no danger need be fear’d.

But that this was nevertheless usual among the Britains, before they were known to the Romans, seems evident, for that they are common also in the Highlands of Scotland, and in Ireland, where the Roman Conquests never reach’d.

Now, if it be demanded whether Malefactors only were thus serv’d in ancient times; or whether other persons indifferently had not such heaps of stones erected to them, as Sepulchral monuments: I answer, that before Christianity, men of the best quality seem to have had such Funeral Piles, conformable to a custom among the Trojans, as we find by Homer’s description of Hector’s Funeral, at the end of the Iliads: and such I take to have been the largest of them, those especially that have the monuments above-mention’d within them. But since the planting of Christianity, they became so detestable and appropriated to Malefactors, that sometimes the most passionate wishes a man can express to his enemy is,Karn ardy Wyneb. that a Karn be his monument: and (as we have already observ’d) the most notorious and profligate Criminals are distinguish’d by that word.⌉rhys

By the foresaid Cataract, there was a Castle, which, as we find it recorded, was repair’d by Rhỳs Prince of South-Wales, in the reign of King Richard the first. Near this place, is a vast Wilderness, render’d very dismal by many crooked ways and high mountains: into which, as a proper place of refuge, that bane of his native Country, King VortigernVortigern. (whose very memory the Britains curse) withdrew himself, when he had at last repented of his abominable wickedness, in calling-in the English-Saxons, and incestuously marrying his own daughter. But God’s vengeance pursuing him, he was consum’d by Lightning, together with his City Kaer-Gwortigern, which he had built for his refuge. Nor was it far from hence (as if the place were fatal) that not only this Vortigern the last British Monarch of the race of the Britains; but also LhewelynLhewelyn. the last Prince of Wales of the British line, being betray’d and intercepted in the year of our Lord 1282, ended his life. From this Vortigern, Ninnius calls that small region Gwortiger mawr, nor is the name yet lost; but of the city there is not any memorial remaining, but what we have from Authors.Gwthrenion Some are of opinion, that the Castle of GwthrénionGwerthrynion. arose out of the ruins of it; which the Welsh, out of hatred to Roger Mortimer, laid eaven with the ground An. 1201. This part of the Country hath been also call’d Gwarth Ennion, as we are inform’d by Ninnius; who writes that the foremention’d Vortigern, when he was publickly and sharply reprov’d by St. German, did not only persist in his obstinacy, and his wicked practices, but also cast false and malicious reproaches on that godly Saint. Wherefore (saith Ninnius) Vortimer the son of Vortigern, to make amends for his Father’s fault, ordain’d that the Land where the Bishop had receiv’d so great an indignity, should be his own for ever. Upon which, Guarth in British Calumny, and Eniawn Just.and in memory of St. German, it has been call’d Gwarth Enian, which in English signifies a slander justly requited.

The * * Mortuomarii sive de mortuo mari.Mortimers, descended from the Niece of Gonora, wife of Richard the first Duke of Normandy, were the first of the Normans,Earls of March.
G. Gemet. l.ult. c.10.
who, having overcome Edric Weald or Wild. Sylvaticus a Saxon, gain’d a considerable part of this small Territory. And having continu’d for a long time the principal men of the County, at length Roger Mortimer Lord of Wigmore was created * * Hujus limitis Wallici, vel (ut loquuntur) Marchiæ Comes.MarchiaeEarl of March by Edward the third, about the year 1328, who soon after was sentenced to death, having been accus’d, of insolence to the Government, of favouring the Scots to the prejudice of England, of conversing over-familiarly with the King’s mother, and of contriving the death of his father King Edward the second. Lib. Monast. Lanthony.
29 Ed.3.
He had by his wife Jane Jenevil (who brought him large revenues as well in Ireland as England) a son call’d Edmund, who suffer’d for his father’s crimes, and was depriv’d both of his inheritance and the title of Earl. But his son Roger was receiv’d into favour, and had not only the title of Earl of March restor’d, but was also created Knight of the Garter, at the first Institution of that noble Order. This Roger marry’d Philippa Mountague, by whom he had Edmund Earl of March, who marry’d Philippa the only daughter of Leonel Duke of Clarence, the third son of King Edward the third, whereby he obtain’d the Earldom of Ulster in Ireland, and the Lordship of Clare. After his decease in Ireland, where he had govern’d with great applause, his son Roger succeeded, being both Earl of March and Ulster; whom King Richard the second design’d his successor to the Crown, as being in right of his mother the next heir: but he, dying before King Richard, left issue Edmund and Anne. King Henry the fourth (who had usurp’d the Government) suspecting Edmund’s Interest, and Title to the Crown, expos’d him to many hazards; insomuch that being taken by the Rebel Owen Glyn-Dwr, he dy’d of grief and discontent, leaving his sister Anne to inherit. She was marry’d to Richard Plantagenet Earl of Cambridge, whose Posterity in her right became afterwards Earls of March,See in Yorkshire, towards the end of the County. and laid claim to the Crown; which in the end (as we shall shew elsewhere) they obtain’d; and Edward the fourth’s eldest son, who was Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, &c. had also confer’d on him by his Father, as an additional Honour, the title of Earl of March. ⌈From which time, this title lay dead, till it was revived by King James the first, and bestow’d upon Esme Steward, Lord Aubigny, and afterwards Duke of Lennox; who was succeeded by James his son, and Esme his grandson. Which Esme dying young, the honour descended to Charles, fourth son of Esme the first Duke of Lennox; who also dying without issue, in the year 1672, this honourable Title, among others, was confer’d by King Charles the second, in the year 1675, upon Charles Lenos, created at the same time Duke of Richmond.⌉ As for the title of Radnor, † † No Person that I know of, hath enjoy’d it severally, C.⌈it was erected into an Earldom by King Charles the second, in the person of John Roberts Lord Roberts of Truro: whose son Robert, stil’d Lord Viscount Bodmin, dying in the life-time of his Father, the honour descended to Charles his Grandson, the present Earl.⌉

In this County are 52 Parishes.


Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06