Britannia, by William Camden


Big W WE have already observ’d, that the County of Caernarvon, which we last survey’d, deriv’d its name from the chief Town therein, and that the Town borrow’d that name from the Island Mona, which lies opposite to it. It remains now, that (having heretofore, not so properly, plac’d it among the Islands) we restore that tract to its right place, and describe it in order; seeing it also enjoys, and not undeservedly, the title of a County.Tir Mon millstone This Island was call’d by the Romans, Mona;Mona. in British, Môn and Tîr Môn, i.e. the Land of Mon, and Ynys dowylh or the shady Island; by the old Saxons, Saxon Moneg; and in latter times, when reduc’d by the English, Saxon engles-ea and Saxon Anglesey, i.e. the English Island. It is divided from the Continent of Britain by the narrow frith of Meneu ** St. David’s in Penbrokeshire.; and, on all other sides, is wash’d by that raging Irish sea. It is of an irregular form, and extended in length from east to west twenty miles †† From Beaumaris to Holy-head are 24 miles., and where broadest, about seventeen. “This Land (saith Giraldus) although as to outward appearance it may seem a dry, rocky, and unpleasant country, not unlike that of Pebidiog near St. David’s; is yet, as to the quality of the soil, much otherwise; for it is incomparably the most fruitful country for wheat, in all Wales: insomuch that in the Welsh language, it is proverbially said of it, Môn mam Gymry, i.e. Mon the Nursery of Wales: because when other Countries fail’d, this alone, by the richness of the soil, and the plentiful harvests it produced, was wont to supply all Wales.” It is also at this time very rich in cattel, and affords milstones; and in some places a kind of * * Of the Alumen plumosum or Amianthus, in the Parish of Lhan Vair yng Hornwy; See Philos. Trans. n.166.Alum-earth, of which they † † So said, ann. 1607.lately began to make Alum and Coperas; but the project not succeeding, they * * Have now, C.desisted.

This is that celebrated Island Mona, anciently the seat of the Druids; which was attempted first by Paulinus Suetonius, and reduced under the Roman yoke by Julius Agricola. In the reign of Nero, this Paulinus Suetonius (as we read in Tacitus) prepared for an attempt on the Island Mona, a very populous country, and a receptacle of deserters; and to that end, built flat-bottom’d vessels, because the shores were but shallow and hazardous: Thus, the foot passed over; and the horse follow’d, either at a ford; or else, in deeper waters (as occasion requir’d) swam their horses. On the opposite shore, stood the Enemies army, well provided of arms and men; besides women running about with dishevel’d hair like furies, in a mournful habit, bearing torches in their hands. About the army, stood the Druids, who (with hands lifted up to heaven) pouring forth dreadful Imprecations, so terrify’d the soldiers with the novelty of the sight, that (as if their limbs had been benumn’d) they expos’d their bodies, like so many stocks, to the strokes of the enemy. But at last, partly by exhortation of the General, and partly by encouraging each other not to stand amaz’d at the sight of distracted women and ¦ ¦ Fanaticum agmen.a company of frantick people; they advanced their ensigns, and trampled down their enemies, thrusting them into their own fires. They being thus conquer’d, a garrison was planted there, and their groves cut down, which were consecrated to their cruel superstitions. For they held it lawful to sacrifice with the blood of Captives; and to consult their Gods by inspection into human Entrails. But while these things were in agitation, a sudden revolt of the whole Province recall’d him from this enterprise. Afterwards, as the same Author writes, Julius Agricola resolv’d to reduce the Island Mona; from the Conquest whereof Paulinus was recall’d (as we have already observ’d) by a general rebellion in Britain: but being unprovided of transport Vessels, as it commonly happens in doubtful Counsels, the policy and courage of the General found new means of conveying over his army. For, after they had first laid down their baggage, he commanded the choicest of the Auxiliaries (to whom the fords were well known, and whose custom it was in their country, so to swim as to be able to guide themselves and their arms, and horses) to pass over the chanel. Which was done in such a surprising manner, that the enemies, who expected a Navy, and watch’d the sea, stood so much amaz’d; that, supposing nothing difficult or invincible to men of such resolution, they immediately supplicated for peace, and surrender’d the Island. So Agricola became famous and great.

Many ages after, when this Island was conquer’d by the English, it took their name; being call’d formerly by the Saxons Saxon engles-ea, and now Anglesey; which signifies the English Island. But seeing Humfrey Lhwyd, in his learned Epistle to that accomplish’d Scholar Ortelius, has restor’d the Island to its ancient name and dignity, it is not necessary we should dwell long upon this County.

However, we may add, that about the decline of the Roman Government in Britain, some of the Irish Nation crept into this Island. For besides certain intrench’d Banks, which they call Irish Cottages; there is another place known by the name of Yn hericy Gwidil, from some Irish, who under the conduct of one Sirigi, overcame the Britons there, as we read in the Book of Triades. ⌈Which words Yn hericy Gwidil seem to have been erroneously printed for Kerig y Gwydhel, i.e. Irish stones; for we find a place so call’d in the parish of Lhan Gristiolis. But I think, we may not safely conclude from that name, either that the Irish had any settlement in these parts, or that there was any memorable action here betwixt that Nation and the Britons; seeing it relates only to one man, who perhaps might be buried at that place, and a heap of stones cast on his grave, as has been usual in other places. Casulae Gwydhelod I also make some doubt, whether those Monuments mention’d by the name of Hibernicorum Casulæ, or Irish Huts, be any proof that ever the Irish dwelt there; for they are only some vast rude stones laid together in a circular order, enclosing an Area of about five yards diameter, and are so ill-shap’d, that we cannot suppose them the foundations of any higher building: and as they are, they afford no shelter or other convenience for Inhabitants. Those I meant, are to be seen in a Wood near Lhygwy, the Seat of the worshipful Thomas Lloyd Esq; and are commonly call’d Kittieu’r Gwydhêlod, i.e. Irish Cotts; whence I infer, that they must be the same which are here call’d Hibernicorum Casulæ.

A Monument of this kind, though much less, may be seen at Lhech yr AstLhech yr Ast. in the parish of Lhan Goedmor near Cardigan, which was doubtless erected in the time of Heathenism and Barbarity; but to what end, I dare not pretend to conjecture. The same may be said of these Kittieu’r Gwydhêlod, which I presume to have been so call’d by the vulgar, only because they have a tradition, that before Christianity, the Irish were possess’d of this Island, and therefore are apt to ascribe to that Nation, such Monuments as seem to them unaccountable; as the Scotish Highlanders refer their circular Stone-pillars to the Picts ** Dr. Garden’s Letters to Mr. Aubrey..hir For we must not suppose such barbarous Monuments can be so late as the end of the sixth Century; about which time, the Irish Commander Sirigi is said to have been slain by Kaswalhawn law hîr (i.e. Cassivelaunus Longimanus) and his people forced to quit the Island †† See the Description of Wales before Dr. Powel’s History.. We have many places in Wales besides these, that are denominated from the Irish; as Pentre’r Gwydhel in the parish of Rhos Golin in this County; Pont y Gwydhel in Lhan Vair, and Pentre’r Gwydhel in Lhysvaen-parish, in Denbighshire; Kerig y Gwydhel near Festineog in Meirionydhshire; and in Cardiganshire we find Kwm y Gwydhyl in Penbryn-parish, and Karn Philip Wydhil in Lhan Wennog; but, having no History to back these names, nothing can be infer’d from them.

About the year 945.Mr. Robert Vaughan’s Manuscript. there was a battel fought for the Isle of Anglesey, betwixt Howel Dha King of Wales, and Kynan ap Edwal Voel, wherein Kynan fell. Afterwards Grufydh his son, renewing the war, was likewise overcome; and Kyngar a potent man, being driven out of the Isle, Howel kept quiet possession thereof.⌉AEthelred Ethelred

Marianus. Nor was it afterwards harass’d by the English only, but also by the Norwegians: and, in the year 1000, a Navy of King Æthelred sailing round the Island, wasted and consum’d it in a hostile manner. After this, two Normans of the name of Hugh, the one Earl of Chester, and the other of Salop, oppress’d it in a grievous manner; and, to restrain the Inhabitants, built the Castle of Aber Lhienawg. But Magnus the Norwegian coming thither at the same time, shot Hugh Earl of Chester through the body with an arrow, and having pillag’d the Island, departed. The English having afterwards often attempted it, at last brought it under their subjection in the time of Edward the first. It contain’d formerly three hundred and sixty three Villages; and is a very populous Country at this time.

The chief Town is Beaumaris,Beaumaris. built in the east-part of it, in a moorish place, by King Edward the first, and call’d by the name of Beau-marish from its situation, whereas the place before was call’d * * This seems not to be a British name.Bonover. He also fortify’d it with a Castle, which yet seems not to have been ever finish’d; the † † So said, ann. 1607.present Governour whereof is the right worshipful Sir Richard Bulkley Knight, whose civility towards me, when I survey’d these Counties, I must always gratefully acknowledge.Gwydh Vaes

Not far from hence, lies Lhan Vâes,Lhan Vâes. a famous Cloister heretofore of the Friers minors; to which the Kings of England were bountiful Patrons, as well on account of the devoutness and exemplary lives of the Friers who dwelt there, as (that I may speak the language of the Records)2 Pars Pat. ann. 2 Hen 5. because there were bury’d at that place, a daughter of King John, a son of the King of Denmark, the bodies of the Lord Clifford, and of other Lords, Knights, and Esquires, who were slain in the wars of Wales, in the times of the illustrious Kings of England.

⌈On the Frith of Meneu, about half way between Beaumaris and Newburgh, is Lhan Idan,Lhan Idan. between which, and Lhan-Vair îs Gaer on the other side in Glamorganshire, it is thought that the Romans pass’d the said Frith into the Island. * “* A Letter from the Reverend Mr. John Davies, Rector of Newburgh.Opposite to this suppos’d passage, there is a hill call’d Gwydryn (a name corrupted perhaps from Gwŷdh-Uryn, i.e. Conspicuous Hill) which having two Summits or Tops, one of them shews the ruins of an ancient Fort; and on the other I observ’d a round pit sunk in a Rock, of about nine foot diameter, fill’d up with pure Sand. What may be the depth of it, I cannot at present inform you; some who have sounded it for three yards, having discover’d no bottom. I have had some suspicion, that this might be the place where the Druids offer’d their cruel Sacrifices with the blood of Captives; but having nothing out of History to confirm my conjecture, I shall not much contend for it, but leave it to you and others to consider, what so odd a contrivance was design’d for.”Twrkelyn kerig

“About a mile from the place where we suspect the Romans to have landed, we find Tre’r Druw,Tre’r Druw. which doubtless took its name from some Druid, and may be interpreted Druids-Town, seeing we find the adjoyning Township is call’d Tre’r Beirdh, i.e. Bards-Town. And this puts me in mind of a place call’d Maen y Druw, i.e. Druid-Stone, within the Kwmmwd of Twrkèlyn in Lhan Elian parish; where we need not much question, but there was formerly a Sepulchral Monument of a Druid, though now it is only the name of a house.”

“Upon the Confines of the Townships ofTre’r Druw and Tre’r Beirdh. Tre’r Druw and Tre’r Beirdh, we meet with a square Fortification, which may be suppos’d to be the first Camp that the Romans had, after their landing here; and opposite to it, westward, about the distance of three furlongs, there is another strong hold, of a round form and considerable height, which probably was that of our Ancestors. Farther westward, under the protection of this Fort, there are stones pitch’d on end, about twelve in number, whereof three are very considerable, the largest of them being twelve foot in height, and eight in breadth where it is broadest; for it is somewhat of an oblong oval form. These have no other name than Kèrig y Brŷngwyn ** Bryngwyn signifies White-cliff, or White hill. (or Bryngwyn-stones) and are so call’d from the place where they are erected. On what occasion they were rais’d, I cannot conjecture, unless this might be the burial-place of some of the most eminent Druids. In Bod-Owyr, which lies on the north-side of the same round Fort, at a farther distance, we find a remarkable Kromlech, which several, as well as my self, suppose to be another kind of Sepulchral monument since the time of Heathenism. These (for we have several others in the Island) are compos’d of three or four rude stones, or more, pitch’d on end as supporters or pillars, and a vast stone of several tuns laid on them as a covering; and are thought to have receiv’d the name of Cromlecheu, for that the Table or Covering-stone is, on the upper side, somewhat gibbous or convex: the word Krwm signifying (as you know) crooked or bunch-back’d, and Lhech, any flat stone †† See Penbrokshire.. This Kromlech at Bod-Owyr, is more elegant than any Monument that I have seen of its kind: for whereas in all others which I have noted, the top-stone, as well as the supporters, is altogether rude and unpolish’d: in this it is neatly wrought, considering the natural roughness of the stone, and pointed into several angles, but how many I cannot at present assure you. We have a tradition, that the largest Kromlech in this County, is the Monument of Bronwen, daughter to King Lhyr or Leirus, who, you know, is said to begin his reign Anno Mundi 3105. But of this, and the rest of our Kromlecheu, take here the words of an ingenious Antiquary whilst living, Mr. John Griffith of Lhan Dhyvnan, in a Letter to Mr. Vaughan of Hengwrt.” —Bronwen Leiri filiam quod attinet, &c. i.e. As to the daughter of Bronwen Leir; there is a crooked little Cell of stone not far from Alaw, to the west, where, according to Tradition, she was bury’d. But whether there ever was such a King in being, is doubted by many; how justly, will rest upon them to shew. Such little Houses, which are common in this Country, you know are call’d, by an apposite name, Cromlechau. Lastly, this Island, which in those days was almost one continu’d Wood, and, as it were, appropriated to the Druids, abounds with the Graves of Noblemen; who were induced by a Reverence for the Place, to be bury’d here, &c.

“I know there are some who suppose these Monuments, and such like, to have been federal testimonies; but that I take to be a groundless conjecture: and the opinion of their being places of Interment seems much confirm’d, for that a Gentleman of my acquaintance remembers that an odd kind of Helmet * * I am also inform’d, there was a kind of Spear or Halbert, found by digging near the same place.was discover’d, by digging about a rude stone, which, together with some others, is pitch’d on end at a place call’d Kae y maes mawrMaes signifies, properly, only a large open field; but I am told, that in the names of places in this Country it is us’d for battel; so that Ka’er maes-mawr implies some great battel fought here. A farther Confirmation whereof, as also that these stones are Sepulchral Monuments, is, that a small Brook on the South of them is call’d Rhyd y Bedheu, i.e. Graves-ford., in the parish of Lhan Rhwydrus.” [Of these stones there are but three now standing; and those in a manner triangularly. One of them is eleven foot and a half high, four foot broad, and fourteen inches thick; another, about three yards high, and four foot brord; and the third, ten foot high, eight broad, and but six inches thick.]

“As for inscrib’d Stones,Inscrib’d Stones. I have noted only two in this County: one whereof was a kind of square pillar in the parish of Lhan Babo,Lhan Babo. of about ten foot in height, one in breadth, and near the same thickness. I never was so curious as to copy the Inscription, and I am told it is now too late, it being † † See below.broken in several pieces. The other is in my neighbourhood; but is so obscure, that I scarce think it worth while to trouble you with a Copy of it. I could read only— Filius Ulrici erexit hunc Lapidem.—”
[This was perhaps erected by some Dane or Norwegian, Ulricus seeming to be rather a Danish name, than British.]

“I can give you no certain information of any Coins found here, except a large gold Medal of Julius Constantius ¦¦ Figured Num. 20., which was found on the plow’d land at a place call’d Tre’ Varthin,Tre’ Varthin. about the year 1680, and was afterwards added by the late Sir Thomas Mostyn, to his curious Collection of Antiquities. —”

Thus far Mr. Davies; since the date of whose Letter I receiv’d a Copy of the Inscription which he mentions at Lhan Babo, from the Reverend Mr. Robert Humphreys, Rector of Lhan Vechelh. For though the Stone be (as he mentions) broken in two pieces, and remov’d from the place where it stood; the Inscription, whatever it may import, is yet preserv’d: which though I understand not my self, I shall however insert here, because I know not but it may be intelligible to several Readers, and so give some light towards the explaining of other Inscriptions.

Stone inscription

This Monument is call’d Maen Lhanol,Maen Lhanol. corruptly I suppose for Maen Lhineol, i.e. Lapis insculptus sive lineolis exaratus, a Stone graven or written with lines: for there is such another, known by that name, at Penbryn parish in Cardiganshire. It seems scarce questionable, but this Stone, as well as those others above-mention’d, was a Sepulchral Monument; and that the words Hic jacet end the Inscription. But now, to proceed in the description of the more remarkable Towns in this Island.⌉Rhosir

The Town of Newburgh,Newburgh. in British Rhosîr, is esteem’d next to Beaumarish, and distant from it about twelve miles westward; which having struggl’d a long time with the heaps of Sand cast against it by the Sea, has now lost much of its former splendour.

⌈The Welsh name of Newburg is so variously written, that it is doubtful which is the right. In the description of Wales, before Dr. Powel’s History, it is call’d Rhossyr, and in another impression of the same (which was never publish’d, because not compleated) it is written Rhôs îr, which either alters the signification, or makes it more distinct. In a Manuscript Copy of the same it is call’d Rhosfir, which we are to read Rhosvir; but Mr. Davies above-mention’d, Rector of the place, informs me, that it ought to be Rhòs Vair; in confirmation whereof he adds this Englin:

Mae lhŷs yn Rhos-Vair, mae lhyn,
Mae eur-gluch, mae Arglwydh Lhewelyn,
A Gwyr tàl yn ei gàlyn,
Mîl myrdh mewn gwyrdh a gwyn.

This place hath been honour’d,Baron Newburgh. by giving the title of Baron to George Cholmondley, the only surviving Brother to Hugh Earl of Cholmondley.⌉Aber

Abèr-Fraw,Abèr-Fraw. not far from thence, though at present but a mean place, was yet heretofore of much greater repute than any of the rest, as being the Royal Seat of the Kings of Gwynedh, or North-Wales, who were thence also styl’d Kings of Abèr Fraw.

⌈Not far from hence, is Llangudwaladr;Llangudwaladr. where, over the Church-door, is the following Monument of Kadran, who was Prince of North-Wales about the middle of the sixth Century:

Monument of Kadran

To be read thus: Catamanus Rex sapientissimus opinatissimus omnium Regum.⌉

Near the western Cape of this Island, which we call Holy-head,Holy-head. there is a small Village call’d in Welsh Kaer Gybi;Kaer Gybi. which receiv’d its name from Kybi (a devout man, and Disciple of St. Hilary of Poictiers) who led here a religious life: from whence there is a common passage into Ireland. ⌈In Mr. Aubrey’s Monumenta Britannica ** Aubr. MS., I observ’d a note of some remarkable Monument near Holy-head, in these words: There is in Anglesey, about a mile from Holy-head, on a hill near the way that leads to Beaumaris, a Monument of huge stones. They are about twenty in number, and between four and five foot high; at the Northern end of it there are two stones about six foot high. They stand upon an hillock in a Farm call’d Trevigneth, and have no other name than Lhecheu †Id est, Flat-stones., whence the field where they are rais’d, is call’d Kaer Lhecheu.⌉

Of the Islands adjoyning to Anglesey, see among the British Isles. The other parts of this Island are well planted with Villages, which afford little worth our notice; and therefore I shall now pass over to the Continent, and take a view of Denbighshire; ⌈having observ’d (according to the course and method of this Work) that the first who took the title of EarlEarls of Anglesey. from this Island, was Christopher Villers, brother of George Duke of Buckingham, created Septemb. 24. 1623; who was succeeded by Charles his son and heir. But he dying in the year 1659 without issue-male, it was conferred on Arthur Annesley, created Lord Annesley of Newport-Pagnel (in the County of Bucks) and Earl of Anglesey, April 20, 1661. In which titles he was succeeded by James his Son, and then by a Grandson of the same name, who dying without issue-male, was succeeded by John his brother; but he dying also without issue-male, this title descended to Arthur, the present Earl, brother of the two last Earls; a person of great Eloquence, and distinguish’d Abilities.⌉

There are in this Island 74 Parishes.

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