Britannia, by William Camden


Big M MOntgomeryshire, call’d in British Sîr Dre’ Valdwyn, from its chief town, is bounded on the south with Cardiganshire and Radnorshire; on the east with Shropshire; on the north with Denbighshire, and on the west with Meirionydhshire. This Shire, though it be mountainous, is yet in general a fertile Country, having fruitful Vales as well for pasture as arable land: and was formerly a breeder of excellent horses; which (as Giraldus informs us) were much esteem’d, as well for the shape and stateliness† Membrosâ suâ majestate., as the incomparable swiftness, which nature had given them.

At the utmost limit of this County, westward, where it ends in a Cone or sharp point, lies Machynlheth;Machynlheth. the MaglonaMaglona. perhaps of the Romans, where, in the time of Honorius the Emperor, the Præfect of the Solensians lay in garrison under the Dux Britanniæ, in order to keep in subjection the inhabitants of that mountainous tract. And at two miles distance, near Penalht, ⌈in the County of Meirionydh,⌉ we find a place call’d Kevn-Kaer, or the back of a city ** Dorsum urbis., where they sometimes dig-up Roman Coins, and where are seen the footsteps of a round wall of considerable extent. Kevn Kaer. ⌈Concerning which ancient place, a Gentleman who has liv’d there many years, adds this further account: The main Fort which was on the highest part of the hill, was built quadrangularly, and encompass’d with a strong wall and a broad ditch, of an oval form; excepting, that towards the valley, it was extended in a direct line. On the out-side of the great ditch next the river Tal Gareg kae Dyvi, the foundations of many houses have been discover’d; and on a lower Mount, there stood a small Fort, which may be suppos’d to have been built of bricks, for that they find there plenty of them. All the out-walls were built of a rough hard stone, which must have been carry’d thither by water, there being none such nearer than Tâl y Gàreg, which is distant from this place about seven miles. From the Fort to the water-side, is a broad hard way of pitch’d pebles and other stones, continu’d in a strait line through meadows and marsh-grounds, which may be about two hundred yards in length, and ten or twelve in breadth. It is very evident, that this Fort was demolish’d before the building of the Church of Penalht, for that we find in the walls of that Church, several bricks mix’d with the stones, which were doubtless brought thither from this place. Roman Coins have been found here, since those before-mention’d, particularly some silver pieces of Augustus and Tiberius: and near the main Fort, in a field call’d Kâe Lhwyn y Neuodh (i.e. the Court or Palace-grove) a small gold chain was found, about four inches long, and at another time a Saphire-stone neatly cut. Some other things of less note have been discover’d in the same place; as, a very large brass Cauldron, us’d since as a brewing-vessel at Kae’r Berlhan; several pieces of lead; and very odd Glasses of a round form like hoops, which were of various sizes, some about twenty inches in circumference, others much less, &c. These hoop-glasses were curiously listed, of divers colours; some of which being broke, it was observ’d, that that variety of colours proceeded from Sands or Powders of the same colours, inclos’d in several Cells within the glass.⌉vulgo lhuman

Five miles hence, that mountain of † † Vulgò Plymhymmon; an rectiùs Pen Lhùman, i.e. Jugum vexillare? Plinlimon, which I mention’d, rises to a great height; and on that side where it is the bound of this County, it sends out the river Sabrina, call’d by the Britains Havren, and in English Seavern;The fountain-head of Severn. which, next to Thames, is the most noble river in Britain. Whence it had that name, I could never learn; for, that a Virgin call’d Sabrina was drown’d in it, seems only a Fable of Jeffrey’s invention; on whose authority also a late Poet built these verses:

in flumen præcipitatur Abren,
Nomen Abren fluvio de virgine; nomen eidem
Nomine corrupto, deinde Sabrina datur

Headlong was Abren thrown into the stream.
And hence the river took the Virgin’s name,
Corrupt’d thence at last Sabrina came.

This river has so many windings near its Fountain-head, that it often seems to return; but proceeds nevertheless, or rather wanders slowly, through this County, Shropshire, Worcestershire, and lastly Glocestershire; and having, throughout its course, very much enrich’d the soil, is at last discharged calmly into the Severn-sea. In this County, Severn, being shaded with woods, takes its course northward by Lhan Idlos,Lhan Idlos. and Tre’newydh or New town,New-town. and Kaer SwsKaer Sws. which is reported to be both ancient, and to enjoy ancient privileges. ⌈That it was a town of considerable note, may be concluded from the street there, and the lanes about it. I cannot learn, that any Roman coins have been discover’d at this place; however that it was of Roman foundation seems highly probable, for that there have been lately (besides some neat hewn stones for building) several bricks dug-up there, of that kind which we frequently meet with in such ancient Cities as were possess’d by the Romans. It has had a Castle, and at least one Church, and is said to have been heretofore the seat of the Lords of Arwystli; but how far this town extended, seems at present altogether uncertain. It has had encampments about it at three several places, viz. First, on the north-side, on a mountain call’d Gwyn-vynydh: secondly, eastward, near a place call’d Rhos dhiaberd, in the parish of Lhan Dhinam, where, besides entrenchments, there is a very large Mount or Barrow. And thirdly, at a place call’d Kevn Karnedh, about a quarter of a mile on the west-side of the town. Moreover, about half a mile southward from this Kevn Karnedh, on the top of a hill above Lhan Dhinam Church, there is a remarkable entrenchment call’d y Gaer Vechan, which name may signify either the lesser City, or the lesser Fortification, but is here doubtless put for the latter.⌉

Not far from the bank, on the east-side, the Severn leaves Montgomery,Montgomery. the chief town of the County, seated on a rising rock, and having a pleasant plain under it. It was built by Baldwin, Lieutenant of the Marches of Wales, in the reign of King William the first; whence the Britains call it Tre’ Valdwin,Tre’ Valdwyn. i.e. Baldwin’s Town; but the English, Montgomery, from Roger de Mont Gomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, whose inheritance it was, and who built the Castle, as we read in Domesday-book: though Florilegus fabulously tells us, that it was call’d Mons Gomericus (from its situation) by King Henry the third, after he had rebuilt it; for the Welsh, putting the garrison to the sword, had demolish’d it in the year 1095, after which it lay a long time neglected. However, certain it is, that King Henry the thirdAnno 11. granted by Charter, That the Burrough of Montgomery should have the privilege of a free Burrough; with other liberties. Near this town, Corndon-hillCorndon-hill. rises to a considerable height; on the top of which are placed certain * * Commonly call’d Magifold.stones, in form of a crown (whence ⌈say some⌉ is the name) in memory perhaps of a victory. ⌈But these stones are no other, than four such rude heaps as are commonly known on the Mountains of Wales, by the name of Karneu and Karnedheu, of which the Reader may find some general account in Radnorshire. And to me it seems very probable (seeing these stones can in no respect be compar’d to a Crown) that the name of Corndon is deriv’d from this word Karn (the singular of Karneu) with the addition of the English termination don, signifying Mountain or Hill, as in Snowdon, Huntingdon, &c. which conjecture is much confirm’d, when we consider, that there are many hills in Wales denominated from such heaps of stones; as Karn Lhechart in Glamorganshire, Karnedh Dhavidh, Karnedh Higin, and Karnedh Lhewelyn in Caernarvonshire, with many more in other Counties.⌉

A little lower, the river Severn runs by Tralhwn, i.e. the town by the Lake (whence the English call itWelsh Pool. Welsh Pool;) ⌈which EtymologyEtymology of the word Tralhwn. is agreeable enough with the situation of this place: otherwise, I should suspect, that the word Tralhwn might be the name of a place near this pool, before the town was built, and that the town afterwards took its name from it. For in some parts of Wales, it is a common appellative, for such soft places on the Roads Koch (or elsewhere) as Travellers may be apt to sink into, as I have observ’d particularly in the Mountains of Glamorganshire. And that a great deal of the ground near this place is such, is also very well known. As for the Etymon of the appellative Tralhwn, I suppose it only an abbreviation of Traeth-lyn, i.e. a Quagmire.⌉

Near Tralhwn, on the south-side,Red Castle. is a castle, call’d from the reddish stones of which it is built, Kastelh Kôch, where, within the same walls, are two Castles; one belonging to the Lord of Powys, the other to Baron Dudley. Kadwgan ap Bledhyn, that renown’d Britain mention’d in the last County, who, whilst he was intent on the building of this Castle, was slain by his nephew Madok, as we find in the Abridgment of Kradok of Lhan Garvan. Opposite to this, on the other side the river, lies Buttington,Buttington. a place noted for the Danes wintering there: whence, as Marianus tells us, they were driven by Adheredus Duke of Mercia, in the year 894. The river Severn, having left these places, winds it self by degrees towards the east, that it may the sooner receive a small river call’d Tanat ** L. Myrnwy., wherewith being united, it enters Shropshire.

I am fully perswaded (because it seems a certain truth) that the MediolanumMediolanum. of the Ordovices, celebrated by Antoninus and Ptolemy, stood in this Country; the footsteps whereof I have diligently endeavour’d to trace out, tho’ with no great success; so far doth age consume even the skeletons and ruins of Cities. However, if we may conjecture from its situation (seeing those Towns which Antoninus places on each side, are well known; viz. on one side Bonium, call’d now Bangor, by the river Dee, and on the other Rutunium, now Rowton Castle, for he places it twelve Italian miles from this, and twenty from the other,) the lines of Position, if we may so term them, or rather of Distance, cross each other betwixt Mathraval and Lhan Vylhin, which are scarce three miles asunder, and in a manner demonstrate to us the situation of our Mediolanum. For this method of finding out a third from two known places, cannot deceive us, when there are neither Mountains interpos’d, nor † Itinerum flexus impeditus.the turnings of roads discontinu’d. This MathravalMathraval. lies five miles to the west of Severn; and (which in some degree asserts the Antiquity of it) though it be now but a bare name, it was once the Royal Seat of the Princes of Powys; and is also noted in Authors, who tell us, that after the Princes left it, * * De veteri ponte.Robert Vipont an English-man built a Castle there.mon armon arvon But Lhan VylhinLhan Vylhin. (i.e. the Church of Mylhin) a small market-town, though in respect of distance it be a little farther off, is yet, as to affinity of name, much nearer Mediolanum. For the word Vylhin is, by an Idiom of the British, only a variation of Mylhin; as Kaer Vyrdhin, from Kaer and Myrdhin, and Ar-von from Ar-môn; ⌈and very lately a great many Roman Coins have been found here.⌉ Nor is this name of Mylhin ⌈or Myllin⌉ more remote from Mediolanum, than Millano in Italy, or Le Million in Xantoigne, or Methlen in the Low-Countries; all which (as is generally allow’d) were formerly known by the name of Mediolanum. But whether of these conjectures comes nearer the truth, let the Reader determin; for my own part, I do no more than deliver my opinion. ⌈Only, as to Lhan-Vyllin, there is this objection against it, that we do not find it was customary among the Britians, to prefix the word Lhan (i.e. Church) to the name of Roman Cities; but if any word was prefix’d, it was generally Kaer (i.e. a Fort or Fence) as Kaer Lheion, Kaer Went, Kaer Vyrdhin, &c. And tho’ we should allow the invalidity of this objection, and suppose the word Lhan might be introduced in latter times; yet considering that a learned and inquisitive Gentleman of this Town (who amongst his other studies, has always had a particular regard to the Antiquities of his Country) has not in the space of forty years met with any Coins here, or other tokens of a place inhabited by the Romans; nor yet discover’d the least signs that this Town was anciently of any considerable note; I think we cannot with safety (barely on account of its name, and vicinity to the situation requir’d) conclude it the old Mediolanum. Mediolanum. Therefore it seems convenient to have recourse to the situation assign’d this City by Dr. Powel; who, in his learned Annotations on Giraldus’s Itinerary †† L.2. c.4., assures us, it was not only the opinion of some Antiquaries, that the ancient Mediolanum was seated where the village of Meivod stands at present; but also that the same village and places adjoyning afforded in his time several such remarkable Monuments, as made it evident, that there had been formerly a considerable town at that place. Also, this Meivod is seated about a mile below Mathraval, on the north-side of the river Myrnwy; and three miles southward of Lhan Vylhin. At present, there remains only a Church and a small village; but several yet living have seen there the ruins of two other Churches. I am inform’d, that about a mile from the Church there is a place called Erw’r Porth, i.e. the Gate-acre, which is suppos’d to have taken its name from one of the Gates of the old City; and, that in the grounds adjoyning to this village, Causeys, Foundations of Buildings, Floors and Harths are often discover’d by Labourers; but whether any such Monuments, as we may safely conclude to be Roman (as Coins, Urns, Inscriptions, &c.) are found at this place, I must leave to farther enquiry. Meivod (as Bishop Usher supposes) is call’d by Nennius Cair Meguid, and in other copies Cair Metguod; but what the word Meguid or Metguod, or yet Meivod or Mediolanum, might signify, is hardly intelligible at present; unless the name be taken from an Hermitage, in regard they have a tradition at that place, that a Religious Hermit call’d Rhys (corruptly, as some suppose, for Gyris) liv’d there; and the word Metguod was the same, according to old orthography, with Medvod or Meidwyvod, i.e. a hermitage; from Meiduy a hermit, and bod an habitation. What confirms this, is, that at Lhan distio in Denbighshire, there is another Meivod, with the very same tradition; and both Churches bear the name of the same Founder, namely, Tissitio the son of Brychwel Yskithrog, Prince of Powys, about the year 600.⌉

If I should affirm, that this our Mediolanum, and those other Cities of the same name in Gaul, were built either by Duke Medus or Prince Olanus; or that whilst it was building, Sus mediatim lanata [a Sow half clad with wooll] was dug-up; should I not seem to grasp at clouds and trifles? And yet the Italians tell all these stories of their Mediolanum. But seeing it is most evident that all these were founded by people who spoke the same language (for we have shewn already, that the Gauls and Britains us’d one common tongue;) it seems highly probable, that they had their denomination from one and the same original. Now, our Mediolanum agrees in nothing with that of Italy, but that each of them are seated in a Plain between two rivers; and a learned Italian has from thence deriv’d the name of his, Mediolanum, for that it is seatedLana, what it signifies. media inter lanas which he interprets betwixt Brooks or small Rivers.

Mathraval before-mention’d, as heretofore the seat of the Princes of Powys, shews at present no remains of its ancient splendour, there being only a small Farm-house where the Castle stood. Lhan Vylhin is a market-town of considerable note, first incorporated by Lhewelyn ap Grufydh Lord of Mechain and Mochnant, in the time of Edward the second. It is govern’d by two Bailiffs, chosen annually, who, besides other Privileges granted to the town by King Charles the second (bearing date March 28. Anno Reg. 25.) were made Justices of the Peace within the Corporation during the time of their being Bailiffs.⌉

This CountyEarls of Montgomery. had dignify’d no Earl with its name and title, till † † So said, ann. 1607.very lately Anno 1605. King James ⌈the first⌉ created at Greenwich, Philip Herbert, a younger son of Henry Earl of Penbroke by Mary Sydney, at one and the same time Baron Herbert of Shurland and Earl of Montgomery, as a particular mark of his favour, and for the great hopes he had conceiv’d of his virtuous qualifications.

⌈Which Philip being also Earl of Penbroke, by the death of his brother without issue;See Penbrokeshire. the same persons ever since have enjoy’d both the titles of Penbroke and Montgomery.⌉

Princes of Powys. The Princes of Powis, descended from the third son of Roderic the Great †† From Bledhyn ap Kynvyn., possess’d this County with some others (only Roger and Hugh of Montgomery had got away part of it) in a continu’d series till the time of Edward the second. Powel 109. For then Owen the son of Grufydh ap Gwenwynwyn the last Lord of PowysLords of Powys. of British Extraction (for the title of Prince was discontinu’d long before) left one only daughter, call’d Hawis,D. Powel. who was marry’d to John Charlton an English-man, the King’s Valect, and he thereupon was created Earl of Powys by King Edward the second. His Arms (as I have observ’d in several places) were Or, a Lion rampant Gules. He was succeeded in this title by four Brothers, till the male-line became extinct in Edward; who by Eleanora, daughter and one of the heirs of Thomas Holland Earl of Kent, had two daughters, viz. Jane marry’d to Sir John Grey, and Joyce the wife of John Lord Tiptoft, from whom descended the Barons Dudley, and others. This Sir John Grey,Dupli. Norm. 6 Hen. 5. by his own martial valour, and the munificence of King Henry the fifth, receiv’d the Earl of Tanquervil.Earldom of Tanquervil in Normandy, “to him and his heirs-male, delivering one Bassinet at the Castle of Roan, yearly on St. George’s day”. His son was Henry Lord Powys, in whose Family the title of Powys continu’d with great honour, till Edward Grey, not long before † † So said, ann. 1607.our time, dy’d without lawful issue. ⌈The Lordship of Powys was afterwards purchased by Sir Edward Herbert, second son of William Earl of Penbroke; to whom succeeded his eldest son Sir William Herbert, who was created Lord Powys; and was succeeded in the same title by Percy his son; and William son of Percy, was first made Earl, and afterwards Marquiss of Powys, by King James the second. Vid. Ossulston, in Middlesex. As to the title of Earl of Tanquervil, it lay dormant, till Ford Lord Grey of Werk was advanc’d to that honour by King William the third.⌉

There are in this County 47 Parishes.

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