Britannia, by William Camden


Big A ABOVE Meirionydhshire, lies that County which the Britains call Sîr Gaernarvon, and the English Caernarvonshire (from the chief Town,) and, before the division of Wales into Counties, Snowdon Forest: whence in Latin Historians it is call’d Snaudonia; as also Arvonia, because it lies opposite to the Island of Mona or Anglesey. The north and west parts of it border on the Sea; the south on Meirionydhshire; and on the east the river ConwyConwy, riv. divides it from Denbighshire. sir The maritim part of it is fertile enough, and well-peopled; especially that south-west Promontory, which with it’s crooked shores faces Octopitarum, or St. David’s Land, in Penbrokeshire.

But for the inner parts, nature has raised them far and wide into high Mountains (as if she would † Compages hujus Insulæ visceribus terræ densaret.condense here within the bowels of the earth, the frame of this Island;) and made a most safe retiring-place for the Britains in time of war. For here are such a number of rocks and craggy places, and so many valleys incumber’d with woods and lakes, that they are not only unpassable to an army, but even to men † Expediti.lightly appointed. We may very properly call these Mountains the British Alps;The British Alps. for, besides that they are the highest in all the Island, they are also no less inaccessible, by reason of the steepness of their rocks, than the Alps themselves; and do all of them encompass one hill, which far exceeding all the rest in height, does so towre the head aloft, that it seems, I shall not say, to threaten the Sky, but to thrust its head into it. And yet it harbours Snow continually, being throughout the year cover’d with it; or rather with a harden’d crust * * Nivium senio.of Snow of many years continuance †† In this he was misinformed. See below, p.797.
. And hence the British name of Kreigieu Eryreu, and that of Snowdon in English; both which ⌈seem to⌉ signifie Snowy Mountains: So, Niphates in Armenia, and Imaus in Scythia, as Pliny informs us, were denominated from Snow.

⌈But it is observ’d by others, that the British name of these Mountains Kreigieu’r Eryreu, signifies Eagle Rocks, which are generally understood by the Inhabitants to be so call’d from the Eagles that formerly bred here too plentifully, and do yet haunt these Rocks some years, though not above three or four at a time, and that commonly one summer in five or six; coming hither, as is suppos’d, out of Ireland. Had the mountains been denominated from Snow, the name must have been Kreigieu’r Eira, whereas the Welsh always call them Eryreu. Nor do the ancientest Authors that mention them, favour that other Etymology; for Giraldus Cambrensis writes it Eryri (which differs nothing in pronunciation from the present name,) and Ninnius, who writ Anno 858, Heriri. However, seeing the English call it Snowdon, the former derivation was not without grounds; and it is possible the word yrau might be either the ancient pronunciation, or a corruption of eira; and so these Rocks call’d Kreigiau yr Yrau, which might afterwards be written Kreigieu Eryreu.⌉

Notwithstanding the Snow, these Mountains are so fertile in grass, that it is a common saying among the Welsh, That the mountains of Eryreu would, in case of necessity, afford Pasture enough for all the Cattel in Wales. I shall say nothing of the two lakes on the tops of these Mountains (in one of which there floats a wandering Island, and the other affords plenty of Fish, each whereof has but one eye;) lest I might seem to countenance † † See below.Fables; though some, relying on Giraldus’s authority, have believ’d both. However, that there are lakes and standing waters on the tops of these mountains, is certain: whence Gervase of Tilbury, in his book entitl’d Otia Imperialia, writes thus: In the land of Wales within the bounds of Great Britain, are high Mountains, which have laid their foundations on exceeding hard rocks; on the * * This, an error. See below.tops whereof the ground is so boggy, that where you do but just place your foot, you’ll perceive it to move a stone’s cast off. Wherefore upon any surprise of an enemy, the Welsh by their agility skipping over that boggy ground, do either escape their assaults, or resolutely expect them, while they advance forward to their own ruin. Joannes Sarisburiensis, in his Polycraticon, calls the Inhabitants of these Mountains by a new-coin’d word Nivi-collinos; of whom he wrote thus in the time of Henry the second. Nivicollini Britones irruunt, &c. The Snowdon-Britains make inroads; and being now come out of their caverns and woods, they seize the plains of our Nobles, and before their faces, assault and overthrow them, or retain what they have got; because our youth, who delight in the house and shade, as if they were born only to consume the fruit of the land, sleep commonly till broad day, &c.

⌈Amongst these Mountains, the most noted are Moel y Wydhva, y Glyder, Karnedh Dhavidh, and Karnedh Lhewelyn; which are very properly call’d the British Alps. For besides their extraordinary height, and craggy precipices, and their abounding with Lakes and Rivers, and being cover’d with Snow for a considerable part of the year; they agree also with the Alps in producing several of the same * * See Ray’s Synopsis of British Plants.Plants, and some Animals; as particularly Merula Saxatilis Aldrovandi, call’d here, and in Meirionydhshire, Mwyalchen y Graig, i.e. Rock-ouzl, and in Switzerland, Berg-Amzel, or Mountain Black-bird; and the Torgoch, a Fish †† Umbla minor Gesneri, p.1201., which Mr. ¦ Ray¦ Willough. Ichthyol. supposes to be the same with the * * The word Roetel signifies the same with Torgoch.Roetel of the Alpine Lakes. In these Mountains (as probably in the Alps also, and other places of this kind) the greatest variety of rare Plants are found in the highest and steepest Rocks.krib gyvylchae du ymhen The places here that afford best entertainment for Botanists, are, Klogwyn Karnedh y Wydhva, call’d commonly Klogwyn y Garnedh (which is probably the highest Rock in the three Kingdoms,) Krîb y† Call’d so corruptly perhaps for Krîb y Distilh; for water drops down this precipice continually.Diskil, Trigvylchau, or as it is generally, and perhaps more truly, pronounced y Du-gyvylchæ ¦¦ i.e. Treigl-Vylcheu., and y Klogwyn dû ymhèn y Glyder, which are all near Lhan Berys, and well known to the Shepherds. Such as have not seen Mountains of this kind, are not able to frame an Idea of them, from the hills of more champain or lower Countries. For whereas such hills are but single heights or storeys, these are heap’d upon one another; so that having climb’d up one Rock, we come to a Valley, and most commonly to a Lake; and passing by that, we ascend another, and sometimes a third and a fourth, before we arrive at the highest Peaks.

These Mountains,Rocks. as well as Kader Idris and some others in Meirionydhshire, differ from those by Brecknock, and elsewhere in South-Wales, in that they abound much more with naked and inaccessible Rocks; and that their lower skirts and valleys are always either cover’d, or scatter’d over, with fragments of Rocks of all magnitudes, most of which I presume to have fall’n from the impendent Cliffs. But of this, something more particular may be seen in Mr. Ray’s Physico-Theological Discourses;Pag.285. wherefore I shall mention here only two places, which seem’d to me more especially remarkable. The first, is the summit, or utmost top of the GlyderGlyder. (a Mountain above-mention’d as one of the highest in these parts) where I observ’d prodigious heaps of stones, many of them of the largeness of those of Stone-henge ** See Wiltshire., but of all the irregular shapes imaginable; and all lying in such confusion, as the ruins of any building can be suppos’d to do. Now I must confess, I cannot well imagin how this hath happen’d: for that they should be indeed the ruins of some Edifice, I can by no means allow, in regard that most of them are altogether as irregular as those that have fall’n to the Valleys. Let us then suppose them to be the Skeleton of the hill, expos’d to open view, by rains, snow, &c. but how came they to lye across each other in this confusion? some of them being of an oblong flat form, having their two ends (ex. gr.) east and west; others laid athwart these: some flat, but many inclining, being supported by other stones at the one end; whereas we find by Rocks and Quarries, that the natural position of stones is much more uniform. Had they been in a valley, I should have concluded, that they had fall’n from the neighbouring Rocks, because we find frequent examples of such heaps of stones augmented by accession of others tumbling on them; but being on the highest part of the hill, they seem’d to me much more remarkable.

The other place, which I thought no less observable, though for contrary reasons (that being as regular and uniform, as this is disorder’d and confus’d:) is this. On the west-side of the same hill, there is amongst many others one naked Precipice †† This Klogwyn is near Trigvylchau; or is perhaps one of them; but distinguish’d by no particular name., as steep as any I have seen; but so adorn’d with numerous equidistant Pillars, and these again slightly cross’d at certain joynts; that such as would favour the Hypothesis of the ingenious Author of the Sacred Theory, might suppose it one small pattern of the Antediluvian Earth. But this seem’d to me much more easily accounted for than the former; for it was evident, that the gullets or interstices between the pillars, were occasion’d by a continual dropping of water down this Cliff, which proceeds from the frequent Clouds, Rains and Snow, that this high Rock, expos’d to a westerly Sea-wind, is subject to. But that the effects of such storms are more remarkably regular on this Cliff than others, proceeds partly from its situation, and partly from the texture or constitution of the stone it consists of. However, we must allow a natural regularity in the frame of the Rock, which the storms only render more conspicuous.

That these Mountains are,Snow, not constantly here. throughout the year, cover’d either with Snow, or a harden’d crust of Snow of several years continuance, &c. is a wrong notion, probably receiv’d from some persons who had never been at them. For generally speaking, there is no Snow here from the end of April to the midst of September. Some heaps excepted, which often remain near the tops of Moel y Wydhva and Karnedh Lhewelyn, till the midst of June, e’er they are totally wasted. It often snows on the tops of these Mountains in May and June; but that Snow, or rather Sleet, melts as fast as it falls; and the same shower that falls then in Snow on the high Mountains, is but Rain in the Valleys. As for an incrustation of Snow or Ice of several years continuance, we know not in Wales what it means: Though Wagnerus ¦ ¦ Joan. Jac. Wagneri Hist. Nat. Helvetiæ Curiosa. Sect.2.tells us they are common in the Alps of Switzerland.aestivo Helvetiae lasTempore æstivo, &c. i.e. in summer-time the tops of the Alps have perpetual frost, and perpetual snow: And adds, There are Mountains crown’d with hillocks or vast heaps of such Ice, call’d by them Firn or Gletscher, which may be presum’d to have continu’d for two or three thousand years, insomuch that for hardness it may seem to be rather Crystal than Ice, &c.

Lakes. The number of Lakes in this mountainous tract, may be about fifty or threescore. I took a Catalogue of fifteen, visible from the top of Moel y Wydhva. These are generally denominated either from the rivers they pour forth, or from the colour of their water; amongst which I observ’d one, under the highest Peak of Snowdon, call’d Fynon lâs, that signifies the Green Fountain, which I therefore thought remarkable, because Mr. Ray ** Observations Topographical, &c. observes that the waters of some of the Alpine Lakes, are also inclin’d to that colour. Others receive their names from some Village or Parish-Church adjoyning, or from a remarkable Mountain or Rock under which they are situated; and some there are (though very few) distinguished by names scarce intelligible to the best Criticks in the British, as Lhyn Teirn, Lhyn Eigiau, Lhyn Lhydaw †† Some might interpret the two former Kings-mear and Shole-mear; the word Teirn signifying a King or Prince: and Eigieu Sholes of fish. Lhydaw is the name whereby we call Armorica; but signifies nothing else that we know of., &c. Giraldus Cambrensis (as was before observed) informs us of two Lakes on the highest tops of these Mountains; one remarkable for a wandering Island; and the other for monocular Fish. To this we must beg leave to answer, that amongst all the Lakes in this mountainous Country, there is none seated on the highest part of a hill, all of them being spread in Valleys either higher or lower, and fed by the Springs and Rivulets of the Rocks and Cliffs that are above them.Dywarchen ykwn The Lake wherein he tells us there’s a wandering Island, is a small Pond, call’d Lhyn y Dywàrchen (i.e. Lacus cespitis,) from a little green moveable patch, which is all the occasion of the Fable of the wandering Island; but whence that other of monocular Fish (which he says were found also at two places in Scotland) took beginning, I have nothing to say, but that it is credibly reported that Trouts having only one eye are sometimes taken at Lhyn ykŵn, near Lhan Berys. Most of these Lakes are well stor’d with Fish, but generally they afford no other kinds than Trout and Eel. The Torgochiaid or red Charres (if we may so call them) are found in some other Lakes of this County and Meirionydh, besides Lhyn Peris. But this Lake of St. Peris affords another kind of Alpine Fish; and by the description I hear of it, I suspect it to be the Gelt or Gilt Charre of Winandermear in Westmorland, which Mr. Willoughby and Mr. Ray conclude to be the same with the Carpio Lacus Benaci of Rhondeletius and Gesner. The season here for catching both, begins about the eleventh of November, and continues for a month. These Fish, as well as the Guiniad of Lhyn Tegid in Meirionydhshire, are never taken by bait, but always in nets, near Pontvawr, in the river Seiont, which issues out of this Lake, and is call’d now corruptly Avon y Sant, from St. Peris.

I observ’d, that the Inhabitants of these Mountains call any low Country Hendrev, which signifies the ancient habitation; and that it is a common tradition among them, as also amongst those that inhabit the like places in Brecknockshire and Radnorshire, that the Irish were the ancient Proprietors of their Country. Which I therefore thought remarkable, because it is impossible that either those of South-wales should receive it from these, or the contrary; seeing they have no communication, there being a Country of about fourscore miles interposed.⌉

But let us now descend from the Mountains to the Plains; which we find only by the Sea, and therefore it may suffice if we coast along the shore.

That Promontory which we have observed already to be extended to the south-west, is call’d in the several Copies of Ptolemy,Canganum. Canganum, Janganum, and Langanum. Which is truest, I know not; but it may seem to be Langanum, seeing the Inhabitants at this day call it Lhŷn. Lhyn. It runs in with a narrow and strait Peninsula, having larger Plains than the rest of this County, which yield plenty of Barley. It affords but two small Towns worth our notice: the innermost, at the bay, call’d Pwlh heli,Pwlh Eli. which name signifies the Salt Pool; and the other by the Irish Sea (which washes one part of this Peninsula,) call’d Nevin, * * Villam mercatorium.Nevin.a small trading Village; where, in the year 1284. the English Nobility (as Florilegus writes) triumphing over the Welsh, celebrated the memory of Arthur the Great with Tournaments and festival Pomp. If any more Towns flourish’d here,Vita Grufydi fil. Conani. they were then destroy’d, when Hugh Earl of Chester, Robert of Rutland, and Guarin of Salop (the first Normans who advanc’d thus far) so wasted this Promontory, that for seven years it lay desolate.

From Nevin, the shore, indented with two or three Promontories, is continued northwards; and then turning to the north-east, passes by a narrow frith or chanel call’d Meneu, or Menai. See Pembrokeshire.Meneu, which separates the Isle of Anglesey from the firm land. Upon this Fretum, stood the City Segontium,Segontium. mention’d by Antoninus; of the walls whereof I have seen some ruins near a small Church built in honour of St. Publicus.Lhan Beblic. It took its name from a river that runs by it, call’d to this day Seiont, which issues out of the lake Lhŷn Peris, in which they take a peculiar Fish, not seen elsewhere, call’d by the Inhabitants from its red belly, Torgoch fish.Torgoch. See above. Now, seeing an ancient copy of Ptolemy places the haven of the SetantiiSetantii. on this coast, which other copies remove much further off; if I should read it Segontiorum Portum, and should say it was at the mouth of this river, perhaps I should come near the truth; at least, a candid reader would pardon the conjecture. Ninnius calls this City Kaer Kystenydh, and the author of the life of Grufydh ap Kynan tells us, that Hugh Earl of Chester built a castle at Hên Gaer Kystenin; Henwhich the Latin Interpreter renders, The ancient city of the Emperor Constantine. Moreover, Matthew of Westminster hath recorded (but herein I will not vouch for him) that the body of Constantius, the father of Constantine the Great, was found here in the year 1283, and honourably inter’d in the Church of the new Town, by command of King Edward the first, who at that time built the Town of Kaer’n Arvon,Caernarvon. out of the ruins of this City, a little higher, by the mouth of the river; in such a situation, that the Sea washes it on the west and north. This, as it took the name from its situation, as opposite to the Island Mona; so did it communicate that name to the whole County: for thence the English call it Caernarvonshire. This Town is encompassed with a firm Wall, though of small circumference, and almost of a circular form; and shews a beautiful Castle, which takes up all the west-side of it. The private buildings, for the manner of the Country, are neat; and the civility of the Inhabitants much commended. They esteem it a great honour, that King Edward the first was their founder, and that his son Edward the second, the first Prince of Wales of English extraction, was born there; who was therefore stiled Edward of Caernarvon. Moreover, the Princes of Wales had here their Chancery, their Exchequer, and their Justiciary for North Wales.

In a bottom seven miles hence on the same Fretum, lies BangorBangor. or Banchor, enclosed on the south-side with a very steep mountain, and with a Hill on the north-side; so call’d à choro pulchro, from a beautiful Quire; or as others suppose, quasi locus chori, the place of a Quire †† See Dr. Davies’s Welsh Dictionary in the word Ban.
Others, quasi Pen-Chor, or chief Chorus.
. It is a Bishop’s See, and contains in it’s Diocese 96 Parishes. The Cathedral is consecrated to Daniel, once Bishop thereof: It is no very fair building, having been burnt by that most profligate Rebel Owen Glyn Dowrdwy, who design’d no less than the destruction of all the Cities of Wales. It was afterwards * * Restaurata.rebuilt in the time of Henry the seventh, by the Bishop thereof, Henry Deny; but hath not yet recover’d it’s ancient splendour. Now, it is only a small Town;Vita Gruf. but heretofore it was so considerable, that for it’s large extent, it was call’d Bangor-vawr, and was fortified with a castle by Hugh Earl of Chester, of which (tho’ I made diligent enquiry) I could not discover the least footsteps. It was seated at the very entrance of this Fretum or chanel, where Edward the first attempted in vain to build a bridge, that his Army might pass over into the Island Mona or Anglesey (of which we shall speak in its proper place.) Here also, as we find in Tacitus, Paulinus Suetonius pass’d over with the Roman soldiers; the horse at a ford, and the foot in flat-bottom’d boats.

From hence the shore with a steep ascent passes by a very high and perpendicular rock call’d Pen maen mawr:Penmaen-mawr. which hanging over the Sea, affords Travellers but a very narrow passage; where the rocks on one hand seem ready to fall on their heads; and on the other, is the roaring Sea of a vast depth. But having pass’d this, together with Pen maen bychan, i.e. the lesser rocky Promontory, a Plain extends it self as far as the river Conwy,Conwy river, call’d Toisovius. the eastern limit of this County. This river is call’d in Ptolemy, Toisovius for Conovius; an error that has crept into Copies from a compendious way of writing Greek. It springs out of a lake of the same name, in the southern limit of the County; and hastens to the Sea, being confin’d within a very narrow and rocky chanel, almost to the very mouth of it. This river breeds a kind of Shells, which being impregnated with dew, produce Pearl.Pearls. ⌈It is probably one of the noblest streams, of the length, in Europe; for whereas the whole course of it is but twelve miles, it receives so many Brooks and Rivulets from the bordering Mountains of Snowdon, that it bears Ships of burden for eight of them.Gwy Wy Kynwy Kyndharedh Pendharedh Kyntwrch Kynvelyn Kynglas Kynedhav Choerocephalus mussel And hence, if I may be free to conjecture, it receiv’d its name; for supposing that Gŵy (or Ŵy) signifies a River ¦¦ See Radnorshire.; Kỳnwy or Conwy (for in Etymologies we regard the pronunciation, not the orthography) must denote an extraordinary great or prime river: the Particle Kyn prefix’d in compound words, being generally augmentative, or else signifying the first and chief. As Kyn-kan, extraordinary white; Kyndyn, very stiff or obstinate; Kynvid, the Antediluvian world; Kyndhydh, the dawning of the day; Kynverthyr, a Proto-martyr, &c. And (that we may note this by the way) I suspect the word Cyn to have been the same originally with the Irish Cean, i.e. Head; whence Kyntav signifies the first, quasi pennav the chiefest; and Dr. Davies supposes the word Kyndhâredh, i.e. Megrim or Vertigo, to be equivalent in signification with Pendhâredh. If this may be allow’d, I know not but these proper names, Cungetorix, Cunobelinus, Cuneglasus, and Cunotamus ** See the Inscriptions in Pembrokeshire. (call’d in British Kỳntwrch, Kynvèlyn, Kỳnglas, and Kynèdhav †† Hibern. Damh seu Dav, Bos.) might bear the interpretation of Chœrocephalus, Flavicomus, Canus and Capito, or Bucephalus; since we find that persons of the greatest dignity were stiled by such sirnames, not only among the Britains, but the Romans also, and probably most Nations in these parts of Europe.

The Pearls of this river are as large and well colour’d as any we find either in Britain or Ireland, and have probably been fish’d for here, ever since the Roman Conquest, if not sooner. caesar crassissima ponderosissima testa For it is evident, that Pearls were in esteem amongst the Britains before that time, seeing we read in Pliny†† Nat. hist. l.9. c.35., that Julius Cæsar dedicated a Breast-plate to Venus genitrix, placing it in her Temple at Rome, all cover’d or studded over with British Pearls: which must have been receiv’d from the Britains, and not discover’d here by his own Soldiers, for he advanced not much nearer than one hundred miles off any river that affords them. The British and Irish Pearls are found in a large black Muscle (figured and described by Dr. Lister,) under the title of Musculus niger omnium crassissimâ & ponderosissimâ testâ ** Append. ad Tract. de Animal.
Angl. p.11.
; by which it is sufficiently distinguish’d from all other shells. They are peculiar to rapid and stony rivers; and are common in Wales, and in the North of England, and in Scotland, and some parts of Ireland. In this Country, they are called by the vulgar Kregin Diliw, i.e. Deluge-shells; as if Nature had not intended shells for the rivers; but being brought thither by the Universal Deluge, they had continu’d there, and so propagated their kind ever since. They who fish here for Pearls, know partly by the out-side of these Muscles, whether they contain any; for generally such as have them, are a little contracted or distorted from their usual shape. A curious and accomplish’d Gentleman lately of these parts ** Robert Wyn of Bôd Yskalhen, Esq. (whose untimely death I have reason, amongst many others, to bewail) shew’d me a valuable Collection of the Pearls of this river; amongst which I noted a stool-pearl, of the form and bigness of lesser button-mold, weighing seventeen grains, and distinguish’d on the convex side with a fair round spot of a Cornelian colour, exactly in the center.⌉bod hen Rhun hyn

The Town of ConoviumConovium. mention’d by Antoninus, receiv’d it’s name from the river: which Town, though it be now quite destroy’d, and the very name, in the place where it stood, extinct; yet the Antiquity of it is preserved in the present name: for † Kaer hen, is 3 miles above the ruins of it we find a small Village call’d Kaer hên, which signifies the old City. ⌈It is now called Kaer Rhûn, which probably is a corruption of Kaer hên: unless we should rather suppose it call’d Y Gaer hŷn, which signifies the elder Town or City, with reference to the Town of Conway; which was built out of the ruins of it. The common tradition of this neighbourhood is, that it received its name from Rhûn ap Maelgwn Gwynedh, who liv’d about the end of the sixth Century; for his Father, whom Gildas calls Maglocunus (which word I suppose some Copyist writ erroneously for Maelocunus) and, who, by way of Invective, is call’d also Draco Insularis, or Island Dragon, died about the year 586** Mr. Robert Vaughan’s MS.. This I suspect was at first no other than the conjecture of some Antiquary, conceiv’d from the affinity of the names, which being communicated to others, became at length a current Tradition, as we find too many more have, on the like occasion: but whether Rhûn ap Maelgwn gave name to this place or not, it is certain it was a City long before his time, there being no room to doubt but this was the old Conovium of the Romans, mention’d in the Itinerary.Wysk hyn caesar

Not many years since, there was a Roman Hypocaust discover’d at this place, agreeable in all respects (by the account I hear of it) with those found at Kaer Lheion ar Ŵysk, mention’d by Giraldus; and near Hope in Flintshire, as described before in that County. So that in all places in Wales, where any Legions had their station, such stoves or hot vaults, &c. have been discover’d: those at Kaer Lheion ar Ŵysk being made by the Legio Secunda Augusta; that near Hope by the twentieth Legion (entitled Britannica Valens Victrix, which lay at Kaer Lheion ar Dhowrdwy, or West-chester;) and this, by the Tenth Legion. For I find in some notes of a late * * Mr. William Brickdal, Rector of Lhan-Rwst.
Gale, p.122.
Reverend Divine, that he had seen several Brick-tiles, which were found near this Church of Kaer hŷn, inscrib’d LEG. X.  Not the tenth Legion, which Julius Cæsar brought with him (for none ever dreamed that he came thus far,) but the tenth Legion called Antoniana (which serv’d under Ostorius, against the Silures and Ordevices;) as appears by the following Coin, dug-up in Caermarthenshire.

Roman coin

And as those two places above-mention’d were call’d Kaer Lheion (i.e. Urbs Legionum) from the Legions that had their stations there, with the addition of the names of the rivers on which they were seated; so I suspect this place might be call’d anciently Kaer Lheion ar Gynwy, because we find a hill near it, call’d at this day Mynydh Caer Lheion, i.e. Kaer Lheion Mountain. The late Sir Thomas Mostyn Baronet, who may be justly stil’d a Gentleman of exemplary qualifications, shewed me amongst his valuable Collection of Antiquities, some Curiosities which he had received from this place. Amongst these, I noted a hollow brick, taken from the Hypocaust above-mention’d, thirteen inches long, and five and a half square, having a round hole in the midst, of about two inches diameter, the thickness of the brick not exceeding three quarters of an inch. Of this I thought a figure might be acceptable to the Curious, and have therefore added one at the end of these Welsh Counties ** Fig.8. ; as also of a round piece of Copper found here, and preserv’d in the same Collection, which I thought very remarkable. It is somewhat of the form of a Cake of Wax; eaven or flat on one side, and convex on the other; about eleven inches over, and forty pounds weight. It is uneaven in the margin or circumference, and somewhat ragged on each side; and on the flat side hath an oblong square sunk in the midst, with an Inscription as in the figure †Fig.19.. This he supposed to have been a piece of rude Copper or Bullion, and that the Inscription was only the Merchant’s stamp, or direction to his Correspondent at Rome: adding, that there were some signs of a Roman Copper-work near Trevriw, about three miles hence, and elsewhere in this neighbourhood, whence it was probable they had dug it.Anarawd

In the year 880. a memorable BattelAber-Kynwy-Battel. was fought near Aber Kynwy, betwixt Anârawd Prince of North-Wales, and Eadred Duke of Mercia; of which that judicious Antiquary, Mr. Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt, gives the following account, in some notes he writ on Dr. Powel’s History of Wales.

After the death of Roderic the Great, the Northern Britons of Stratclwyd and Cumberland, were (as Hector Boethius and Buchanan relate) much infested and weakened with the daily incursions of Danes, Saxons, and Scots; which made many of them (all that would not submit their necks to the yoke) to quit their country, and seek out more quiet habitations. Under the conduct of one Hobert, they came to Gwynedh ** North-Wales., in the beginning of Anârawd’s reign; who commiserating their distressed condition, gave them the country from Chester to the river Conwy to inhabit, if they could force out the Saxons, who had lately possessed themselves thereof. Whereupon, these Britons first engaged the Saxons; and, necessity giving edge to their valour, soon drove them out thence, being yet scarce warm in their seats. Walhthir Gwaeth About three years after this, An. Dom. 880, Edryd Walhthîr †† Id est, Long-hair’d., King of the Saxons (called by the English Historians Eadred Duke of Mercia) made great preparations for the regaining of the said country; but the northern Britons, who had settl’d there, having intelligence thereof; for the better securing of their cattel and goods, removed them over the river Conwy. In the mean time, P. Anârawd was not idle; but gather’d together all the strength he could make. His army encamp’d near Conwy, at a place call’d Kymryd, where he and his men making resistance against the assaults of the Saxon power, at length, after a bloody fight, obtain’d a compleat victory. This battel was called Gwaéth Kymryd, Konwy, because it was fought in the Township of Kymryd, hard by Conwy; but Anârawd call’d it Dîal Rodri, because he had there reveng’d the death of his father Rodri.Anarawd dial Glof Uchelgoed In this battel, Tudwal the son of Rodri Mawr receiv’d a hurt in the knee, which made him be call’d Tudwal Glôf, or the Lame, ever after. His brothers, to reward his valour and service, gave him Uchelogoed * * An rectiùs Uchèlgoed.Gwynedh. The Britons pursuing their victory, chased the Saxons quite out of Wales into Mercia; where having burnt and destroy’d the borders, they return’d home laden with rich spoils. Anârawd, to express his thankfulness to God for this great victory, gave lands and possessions to the Church of Bangor, as the Records of that See do testifie; and likewise to the Collegiate Church of K’lynog in Arvon, as we read in the extent of North Wales. After this, the northern Britons came back from beyond the river Conwy, and possessed again the lands assigned them between Conwy and Chester, which for a long time after they peaceably enjoy’d. Some English Writers, as Mat. Westminster, &c. not considering, probably, that the Britons had lands in Lhoegria and Albania after King Cadwalader’s time, take those of Cumberland and Stradklwyd for the Britons of Wales. Asser Menevensis, who liv’d A.D. 875, says, that† Chr. Sax. Healfdene.Halden the Dane marched into Northumberland, which he subdued, having before conquer’d the Picts and Britons of Stratcluid: —In regionem Nordan-hymbrorum perrexit, eamque subjugavit, necnon & Pictos & * * The Oxford Edit. An. 1691. hath Strecledenses. Chron. Sax. Stræcledwealas, and Strætledwealas. Ystrad Klwyd signifies Cluyd’s Dale or the Vale of Clûyd; whence Strecled, Straecled, and Straetled, are so many variations.Stratcludenses.⌉

Out of the ruins of this City ⌈as hath been intimated⌉ King Edward the first built the new Town at the mouth of the river; which is is therefore call’d Aber Conwy, a place that Hugh Earl of Chester had fortified before. This new Conwy, both in regard of its advantageous situation, and for its being so well fortified, as also for a very neat Castle by the river side; might deserve the name of a small City, rather than a Town, but that it is but thinly inhabited.Straecledwealas Straetledwealas ⌈In the 3d year of King Charles 1, Edward Lord Conway of Ragley, was created Viscount Conway of Conway-Castle; and also afterwards in the 31st of King Charles 2, Edward Lord Viscount Conway (who had succeeded to another Edward) was created Earl of Conway; whose adopted heir, Francis Seymour-Conway, was created Lord Conway, and Baron of Ragley, in the second year of her Majesty Queen Anne.⌉

Opposite to Conwy on this side the river (though in the same County) we have a vast Promontory with a crooked elbow (as if nature had design’d there an harbour for shipping) call’d Gogarth;Gogarth. where stood the ancient City of DiganwyDiganwy. on the sea of Conwy, which many ages since, was consumed by lightning. This I suppose to have been the City Dictum,Dictum. where under the later Emperours, the commander of the Nervii Dictenses kept guard. As for it’s being afterwards call’d Diganwy: who sees not that Ganwy is a variation only of Conwy: and that from thence also came the English Ganoc?Ganoc. for so was the Castle call’d, which in later times was built there by Henry the third.

⌈About ten years since, there were found at this Castle of Diganwy (or very near it) several brass Instruments, somewhat of the shape of axes; but whether they were British or Roman, or what use they were designed for, I must leave to be determin’d by others. There were about fifty of them found under a great stone, placed heads and points; whereof some are yet preserv’d in the collection above-mention’d. These have been also discover’d in several other parts of Wales; and that, of which I have given a Figure (numb. 13.) is one of seven or eight that were found of late years at the opening of a Quarry on the side of Moel yr Henlhys† A Hill so call’d in Derowen Montgomeryshire.Catapultae Ballistae Dr. Plot, in his * * Pag.403.Natural History of Staffordshire, mentions such brass Instruments found at four several places in that County; which, though they differ something from ours, were yet in all likelihood intended for the same use. But that they were Bolt-heads of Roman Catapultæ (as that learned and ingenious Author supposes) seems to me somewhat questionable: not only for that we find no mention of brass Arms amongst the Romans; but partly because they seem not large enough for that use, nor well contriv’d either for flight or execution: and partly because Antiquaries take it for granted, that the Britons had no wall’d Towns or Castles before the Roman Conquest; so that such machines as Catapultæ and Ballistæ were unnecessary in this Island. If it be urged, that they might be of use to cover the passes of rivers or friths ¦¦ Tacit. Annal. lib. xv. 9. Naves magnitudine præstantes, &c. agit per amnem [Euphratem putà] catapultisque & ballistis proturbat Barbaros; in quos saxa & hastæ longiùs permeabant, quàm ut contrario sagittarum jactu adæquarentur., as that into Anglesey out of this County; it is evident, that they were not used here on that occasion: for if so, the British army had not been posted on the opposite shore to receive the Romans (as * * Annal. lib. xiv.Tacitus expresly tells us they were) but had been compell’d to a farther distance. It seems very probable, that the brass Axes found at St. Michael’s Mount in CornwalSee Cornwall., were of this kind; because there were found with them certain Arms of the same Metal, like short swords or daggers, such as we find also in these parts, and have mention’d in the last County. Of those, the Opinion is, that they were British: and indeed it is not to be doubted but that they were so, if the brass Arms there mention’d were really swords (as is supposed,) for no man will imagin that the Romans used swords of that metal: and that being granted, it will be scarce questionable but the Axes and Spear-heads which are said to be lodg’d with them, belong’d to the same Nation. praestantes puta For my own part, I must confess, that for a long time I suspected these Instruments to be Roman (supposing them too artificial to have been made by the Britons before the Romans civiliz’d them;) and that they were not swords, &c. but intended for some other uses. mistletoe Rwst Penmaen But seeing they had gold and silver Coins before that time (as all Antiquaries allow) and that it is scarce questionable, but the golden Torques described in the last County was theirs; and also that Pliny tells us the Druids cut down their Misseltoe with golden sickles: I know not but they might have more arts than we commonly allow them, and therefore must suspend my judgment.

There are in this County (as also in the other Provinces of North-Wales) several remarkable old forts, and such stone-monuments as we have noted in the Counties of Caer-Mardhin, Penbroke and Cardigan; of which, because I have taken no description my self, I shall here insert, for the satisfaction of the curious, some short notes out of a MS. written by a personSir John Wyn, of Guydyr. of Quality in the reign of King Charles the first, and communicated to me by my worthy friend Mr. Griffith Jones, School-master of Lhan Rŵst.

On the top of Pènmaen, stands a lofty and impregnable Hill call’d Braich y Dhinas;Braich y Dhinas. where we find the ruinous walls of an exceeding strong fortification, encompass’d with a treble wall, and within each wall the foundation of at least a hundred towers, all round and of equal bigness, and about six yards diameter, within the walls. The walls of this Dinas were in most places two yards thick, and in some about three. This Castle seems (while it stood) impregnable, there being no way to offer any assault to it; the hill being so very high, steep, and rocky, and the walls of such strength. The way or entrance into it ascends with many turnings; so that a hundred men might defend themselves against a whole Legion; and yet it should seem that there were Lodgings within these walls for twenty thousand men. At the summit of this rock, within the innermost wall, there is a Well, which affords plenty of water, even in the dryest Summers. By the tradition we receive from our Ancestors, this was the strongest and safest refuge or place of defence that the ancient Britons had in all Snowdon, to secure them from the incursions of their enemies. Moreover, the greatness of the work shews, that it was a princely fortification, strengthen’d by nature and workmanship; seated on the top of one of the highest mountains of that part of Snowdon, which lies towards the Sea. Gwdhw glas

About a mile from this Fortification, stands the most remarkable Monument in all Snowdon, call’d Y Meineu hirion;Y Meineu hirion. upon the plain mountain, within the parish of Dwy Gyvylcheu, above Gŵdhw glâs. It is a circular entrenchment, about twenty six yards diameter; on the out-side whereof, are certain rude stone-pillars pitch’d on end; of which about twelve are now standing, some two yards, and others five foot, high; and these are again encompass’d with a stone-wall. It stands upon the plain mountain, assoon as we come to the height, having much eaven ground about it; and not far from it, there are three other large stones pitch’d on end in a triangular form.

About three furlongs from this Monument, there are several such vast heaps of small stones as we call Karnedheu;Karnedheu. concerning which, the tradition is, that a memorable battel was fought near this place betwixt the Romans and Britons; wherein, after much slaughter on both sides, the latter remaining conquerors, buried their dead in heaps, casting these stones on them; partly to prevent the wild boars (which in those times were common in those parts) from digging up their bodies; and partly as a memorial to posterity, that the bodies of men lay there inter’d. There are also about these heaps or Karnedheu, several graves, which have stones pitch’d on end about them, and are cover’d with one or two large ones. These are presumed to be the Monuments of the Commanders or greatest persons then slain in battel; but having nothing to inform us herein, we must rely on tradition and conjecture, &c.⌉Kynan

Soon after the Norman Conquest, this Country was govern’d by Grufydh ap Kŷnan ** Conanus., who not being able to repel the English-troops which made frequent inroads into Wales, was constrain’d sometimes to yield to the storm. And when afterwards by his great Integrity he had gain’d the favour of King Henry the first, he also easily recover’d his lands from the English, and left them to his posterity, who enjoy’d them till the time of Lhewlyn ap Grufydh †† An account of the life and death of this excellent Prince, may be seen at large in Dr. Powel’s History of Wales, p.314, &c.. But he having provok’d his brothers with injuries, and the neighbouring English with incursions, was at length brought to that strait, that he held this mountainous Country (together with the Isle of Mona or Anglesey) of King Edward the first, as Tenant in fee; paying a thousand Marks yearly. Which conditions when he afterwards would not stand to, but (following rather his own and his perfidious brother’s obstinacy, than led on with any hopes of prevailing) would again run the hazard of war; he was kill’d, and so put an end to his own Government, and that of the Britons in Wales.

⌈In the fourth year of King Charles the first, Robert Lord Dormer of Wing was advanced to the title and dignity of Viscount Ascot and Earl of Caernarvon; and was succeeded therein by Charles his son and heir. Since which this honourable title hath been confer’d on James Brydges, eldest son of James Lord Chandois, invested for some time with both these Titles, and lately advanced to the higher honour of Duke of Chandois ** See Glocestershire..⌉

This County contains 68 Parish-Churches.

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