Britannia, by William Camden


Big O ON this side the river Conwy, Denbighshire, call’d in British Sîr Dhinbech, retires-in from the Sea, and is extended eastward as far as the river Dee. It is encompass’d on the north for some space by the Sea, and afterwards by the small County of Flint; on the west by Meirionydhshire and Montgomeryshire, and on the east by Cheshire and Shropshire.sir

The western part of it is somewhat barren; the middle, where it falls into a Vale, exceeding fruitful; the eastern part next the Vale not so kindly a soil; but towards Dee, it is much better. Towards the west (except by the sea-side, where it is somewhat more fruitful,) it is but thinly inhabited, and swells pretty much with bare and craggy hills: but the diligence and industry of the husbandmen hath long since begun to conquer the barrenness of the Land on the sides of these Mountains, as well as in other places of Wales. For having pared-off the surface of the earth, with a broad iron instrument for that purpose, in thin clods and turfs, they pile them up in heaps, and burn them to ashes; which being afterwards scatter’d on the lands thus pared, does so enrich them, that it is scarce credible, what quantities of Rye they produce. Nor is this method of burning the ground any late invention, but very ancient, as appears out of Virgil and Horace.Drudion Druidae

Amongst these Hills, is a place call’d Kerig y Drudion,Kerig y Drudion. or Druid-stones; ⌈and that it was so denominated from Druids, seems highly probable, though not altogether unquestionable: for, that the word Drùdion signifies Druids, is, for what I can learn, only presumed from its affinity with the Latin Druidæ; and because we know not any other signification of it.Derw Kyndhelw In the British Lexicon, we find no other word than Derwŷdhon† Used by Lhywarch Brydydh y Moch, who writ An. 1240, and Kyndhèlw Brydydh mawr 1250.for Druids, which may be fitly render’d in Latin Quercetani; Dèrw signifying, in Welsh, Oak-trees; which, agreeing in sound with the Greek, might occasion * * Hist. Nat. l.16. c.44.Pliny’s conjecture (who was better acquainted with that language, than the Celtic or British) that Druides was originally a Greek name. The singular of Derwydhon is Derwydh, which the Romans could not write more truly than Deruida, whereof Druida seems only an easier variation. The word Drudion might likewise vary only in dialect from Derwydhon, and so the name of this place be rightly interpreted by our Countrymen and others, Druid-stones; but what stones they were that have been call’d thus, is a question which I could not be throughly satisfy’d in, though I have made some enquiry. The most remarkable stone-monuments now remaining in this parish, are two of that kind which we call Kistieu maen or Stone-chests; whereof some have been mention’d in other Counties, and several omitted as not differing materially from those I had describ’d. These I have not seen my self; but find the following account of them, in a Letter from an ingenious Gentleman of this neighbourhood. As for ancient Inscriptions, either of the Druids or others, I believe it is in vain to glean for them now in these parts. Nor can those mention’d at Voelas in our neighbourhood (as we may collect from their characters) boast of any great Antiquity: for, that they are so obscure and intricate, I impute to the unskilfulness of the stone-cutter, supposing they were not plainly legible in those times that first saw them. —The most remarkable pieces of Antiquity in this parish of Kerig y Drudion, are those two solitary prisons, which are generally supposed to have been used in the time of the Druids. They are placed about a furlong from each other, and are such huts, that each prison can well contain but a single person.Rwth vaen One of them is distinguish’d by the name of Karchar Kynrik Rŵth, or Kenric Rŵth’s Prison; but who he was, is altogether uncertain. The other is known by no particular title, but that of Kist-vâen or Stone-chest; which is common to both, and seems to be a name lately given them, because they are somewhat of the form of large chests, from which they chiefly differ in their opening or entrance. They stand north and south, and are each of them composed of seven stones. Of these, four being above six foot long, and about a yard in breadth, are so placed as to resemble the square tunnel of a Chimney: a fifth, which is not so long, but of the same breadth, is pitch’d at the south-end thereof, firmly, to secure that passage. At the north-end, is the entrance, where the sixth stone is the lid and especial guard of this close confinement. But in regard it was necessary to remove it when any person was imprison’d or releas’d, it is not of that weight as to be alone a sufficient guard of the prisoner, and therefore on the top-stone or upper-most of the four first mention’d, lies the seventh, that is a vast stone, which with much force was remov’d towards the north-end, that with its weight it might fasten, and as it were clasp, the door-stone. These, and the name of our parish, are all the memorials we have, of the residence of those ancient Philosophers the Druids; at leastwise, all that tradition ascribes to them, &c.

Thus far the Letter: which makes it very probable, that these are some of the Stones (if not all) whence this parish receiv’d the name of Kerig y Drudion; and adds not a little to Mr. Aubrey’s conjecture, that those rude Stones erected in a circular order, so common in this Island, are also Druid-Monuments ** See Penbrokeshire.: seeing that in the midst of such circles, we sometimes find Stone chests, not unlike those here describ’d; as particularly, that of Karn Lhechart, mention’d in Glamorganshire; which, without all doubt, was design’d for the same use with these. But that any of them were used as Prisons in the time of the Druids, does not at all appear from this account of them; there being no other argument for it, than that one of them is call’d Karchar Kynric Rŵth; whereas that Kynric Rŵth, as I find in an anonymous Welsh writer †† A MS. in the hands of Thomas Price of Lhan Vylhin Esq., was only a tyrannical person in this neighbourhood (of no antiquity in comparison of the Druids) who, shutting up some that had affronted him, in one of these Cells, occasion’d it to be call’d his Prison ever after.Rwth vaen What use they were of in the time of the Druids, we must leave to further enquiry; but that they really are some of their Monuments, I scarce question. Whether they were ever encompass’d with circles of stones, like Karn Lhechart above-mention’d, or with a wall as the Kist vâen on Mynydh y Drymmeu in the same County, is altogether uncertain. For in this revolution of time, such stones might be carried off by the neighbours, and applied to some use; as we find has been lately done in other ¦ V. Ty Ilhtud at Lhan Hammwlch, Brecknockshire.places ¦.

These Druid-stones put me in mind of a certain relique of their Doctrine, which I have lately observ’d to be yet retain’d amongst the vulgar. (For how difficult it is to get rid of such erroneous opinions as have been once generally receiv’d, be they never so absurd and ridiculous, may be seen at large in the excellent Treatise written upon that subject by Sir Thomas Brown.) In most parts of Wales, and throughout all Scotland, and in Cornwall, we find it a common opinion of the vulgar, that about Midsummer-Eve (though in the time they do not all agree,) it is usual for Snakes to meet in companies, and that by joyning heads together and hissing, a kind of Bubble is form’d like a ring about the head of one of them, which the rest by continual hissing blow on till it comes off at the tail, and then it immediately hardens, and resembles a glass ring; which whoever finds (as some old women and children are perswaded) shall prosper in all his undertakings.Gemmae Anguinae Glune The rings which they suppose to be thus generated, are call’d * * Glùne, in the Irish signifies Glass.
In Glamorgan­shire and Monmouth­shire, these Rings are call’d Maen Magl, and corruptly Glaim for Glain.
Gleineu Nadroedh, i.e. Gemmæ Anguinæ, whereof I have seen, at several places, about twenty or thirty. They are small glass Annulets, commonly about half as wide as our finger-rings, but much thicker; of a green colour usually, though some of them are blue, and others curiously wav’d with blue, red, and white. I have also seen two or three earthen rings of this kind, but glaz’d with blue, and adorn’d with transverse streaks or furrows on the out-side. The smallest of them might be supposed to have been glass-beads worn for ornament by the Romans; because some quantity of them, together with several Amber-beads, have been lately discover’d at a Stone-pit near Garvord in Berkshire, where they also find some pieces of Roman Coyn; and sometimes dig-up skeletons of men, and pieces of Arms and Armour. But it may be objected, that a battel being fought there betwixt the Romans and Britains, as appears by the Bones and Arms they discover, these glass-beads might as probably pertain to the latter. And indeed it seems to me very likely, that these Snake-stones (as we call them) were used as charms or amulets amongst our Druids of Britain, on the same occasions as the Snake-eggs amongst the Gaulish Druids. For Pliny, who liv’d when those Priests were in request, and saw one of their Snake-eggs, gives us the like account of the origin of them, as our common people do of their Glain Neidr (a).

(a)—Præterea est ovorum genus in magna Galliarum fama, omissum Græcis. Angues innumeri æstate convoluti, salivis faucium corporumque spumis artifici complexu glomerantur; anguinum appellatur. Druidæ sibilis id dicunt in sublime jactari, sagóque oportere intercipi, ne tellurem attingat. Profugere raptorem equo: Serpentes enim insequi, donec arceantur amnis alicujus interventu. Experimentum ejus esse si contra aquas fluitet vel auro vinctum. Atque ut est Magorum solertia occultandis fraudibus sagax, certâ Lunâ capiendum censent, tanquam congruere operationem eam serpentium, humani sit arbitrii. Vidi equidem id Ovum mali orbiculati modici magnitudine, crusta cartilaginis, velut acetabulis brachiorum Polypi crebris, insigne Druidis. Ad victorias litium ac regum aditus mire laudatur: tantæ vanitatis ut habentem id in lite in sinu equitem Romanum è Vocontiis, à Divo Claudio principe interemptum non ob aliud sciam, &c. Hist. Nat. l.29. c.3.

Thus we find it very evident, that the opinion of the vulgar concerning the generation of these Adder-beads or Snake-stones, is no other than a relique of the Superstition, or perhaps Imposture, of the Druids. But whether these we call Snake-stones, be the very same Amulets that the British Druids made use of; or whether this fabulous origin was ascribed formerly to something else, and in after-times applied to these glass-beads, I shall not undertake to determine; though I think the former much more probable. mor Rwst As for Pliny’s Ovum anguinum,Philos. Trans. N.335. it can be no other than a shell (either marine or fossil) of that kind which we call Echinus marinus, whereof one sort (though not the same that he describes) is call’d at this day in most parts of Wales where they are found, Wyeu’r môr, i.e. Sea-eggs. I had almost forgotten to add, that sometimes these glass Annulets were struck through a larger ring of Iron, and that again through another much larger of Copper, as appears by one of them found in the river Cherwell near Hampton Gay in Oxfordshire, and figur’d and describ’d by Dr. Plot in his Natural History of that County †† Pag.345. Tab.16. Numb.4.. To these Amulets (but whether British or Roman I know not) that small brass Head ¦¦ About an inch long, and with the same Figure or Impression on each side., figur’d numb. 18. must be refer’d; which was found in a Well somewhere in this Country, together with certain brass Snakes, and some other figures now lost, all hung about a wire.⌉

At Voelas,Voelas. there are some small Pillars, inscribed with strange Letters, which some suspect to be the Characters used by the Druids. ⌈But if the following Inscription be one of those, it will scarce be allow’d to be half so old as their time. The Pillar whence it was copied, is a hard, rough Stone, of somewhat a square form, about ten foot in length; and is now to be seen at Voelas. The Copy here inserted was sent me by a worthy friend Mr. Griffith Jones, School-master of Lhan Rŵst, who I doubt not hath transcrib’d it from the Monument, with great accuracy.

Stone inscription

This Inscription is so very obscure and different from all I have seen elsewhere, that it seems scarce intelligible. However, I shall take the liberty of offering my thoughts, which, though they should prove erroneous, may yet give some hint to others to discover the true reading. I have added under each Character the Letters I suppose to be intended; which if I rightly conjecture make these words:

Ego Joh de Tin i Dyleu Kuheli leuav
Fford cudve Braech i Koed Emris
Leweli op priceps hic hu—

Which I suppose, according to our modern Orthography, might be written thus:

Ego Johannes de Tỳ’n y Dylau Gwydhèlen leuaf,
[ar] ffordd gyddfau braich y coed Emris—
Levelinus optimus princeps hic humatur.—

The meaning whereof is, That one John, of the house of Dyleu Gwydhelen, &c. on the Road of Ambrose-wood Hill, erected this Monument to the memory of the excellent Prince, Lhewelin. But who this Lhewelyn was, I must leave to be determin’d by others. If it was any of the three Princes of that name, recorded in the Annals of Wales, it must be the first, i.e. Lhewelyn ap Sitsylht, who was slain (but where, is not mention’d) by Howel and M’redydh the sons of Edwyn, in the year 1021. Rwst For we find that Lhewelyn ap Jorwerth was honourably buried in the Abbey of Conwy, Anno 1240. * * Dr. Powel, p.298.and his Stone coffin remov’d, upon the dissolution, to the Church of Lhan Rŵst, where it is yet to be seen: And, thatIbid. p.374. Lhewelyn ap Grufydh, the last Prince of Wales of the British Race, was slain near Bualht in Brecknockshire; so that his body was in all likelyhood inter’d somewhere in that Country, though his head was fix’d on the Tower of London.⌉

Not far from KlokainogKlokainog. we read this Inscription on a Stone; ⌈which is doubtless an Epitaph of some Soldier of note, who can be but very little, if at all later than the Romans;AEmilinus AEmilianus AEmilius Rhos


The name Aimilinus, we are to understand, as the same with Æmilinus, and that no other than Æmilianus. Thus, amongst Reinesius’sPag.228. Inscriptions, we find M. AIMILIVS for M. Æmilius. And in the same Author,Pag.560. we have two or three examples of the letter A in the same form with the first character of this Inscription. As for the second word, I am in some doubt whether we ought to read it Tovisag or Tovisaci: if the former, it is British, and signifies a Leader or General †Tywysog, Dux, Princeps, from the Verb Tywyso to lead; as the Latin Dux from Duco.; and if the latter, it seems only the same word latiniz’d. Mr. Lloyd (from whom I receiv’d this more accurate Copy of the Inscription, than had been printed before) adds, that the place where this Stone lies, is call’d Bryn y Bedheu, which signifies the Hill of Graves, and that there is near it an artificial Mount or Tumulus, call’d y Krig-Vryn, which may be english’d Barrow-hill ¦¦ See Radnorshire.: Also, that on the Hills adjoyning there are several Circles of Stones; and, in the same neighbourhood, a place call’d Rhôs y Gadva, or Battel-field.⌉

Towards the Vale, where these Mountains begin to be thinner, lies Denbigh,Denbigh. seated on a steep rock, and call’d formerly by the Britons Kledvyrn yn Rhôs, which signifies the craggy hill in Ros; for so they call that part of the County, which King Edward the first bestow’d, with many other large possessions, on Davidh ap Grufydh, brother of Prince Lhewelyn. But he being soon after attainted of High Treason and beheaded, King Edward granted it to Henry Lacy Earl of Lincoln, who fortified it with a very strong wall (though of a small circumference,) and on the south-side with a castle adorn’d with high towers. But his only son being unfortunately drown’d in the Castle-well, he was so much griev’d at it, that he desisted from the work, leaving it unfinish’d. After his decease, this Town, with the rest of his Inheritance, descended by his daughter Alice to the house of Lancaster. From whom also, when that family decay’d, it devolv’d first, by the bounty of Edward the second, to Hugh Spenser, and afterwards to Roger Mortimer, by covenant with Edward the third. For his Arms are seen on the chief gate. But he being sentenced to die, and executed, it fell to William Montacute Earl of Salisbury, though soon after restor’d to the Mortimers; and by these at length it came to the house of York. For we read, that out of malice to King Edward the fourth (who was of that house) this Town suffer’d much by those of the family of Lancaster. Since which time, either because the Inhabitants disliked the situation of it (for the declivity of the place was no way convenient,) or else because it was not well serv’d with water; they remov’d hence by degrees: infomuch, that the old Town is now deserted, and a new one, much larger, sprung-up at the foot of the hill; which is so populous, that the Church not being large enough for the Inhabitants, they have † † So said, ann. begun to build a new one, where the old Town stood; partly at the charges of their Lord Robert Earl of Leicester, and partly with the money contributed for that use by several well-disposed Persons throughout England. This Robert Earl of Leicester was created Baron of Denbigh by Queen Elizabeth in the year 1566. Nor is there any Barony in England that hath more Gentlemen holding thereof in fee.

Dyffryn Clwyd. We are now come to the heart of the County, where nature, having remov’d the Mountains on all hands (to shew us what she could do in a rugged Country) hath spread out a most pleasant Vale; extended from south to north seventeen miles and about five in breadth.Boreae It lies open only to the Ocean, and to * * Serenanti Boreæ.the clearing North-wind; being elsewhere guarded with high mountains, which (towards the east especially) are like battlements or turrets; for by an admirable contrivance of nature, the tops of these mountains seem to resemble the turrets of walls. Among them, the highest is call’d Moel Enlhi:Moel Enlhi. at the top whereof I observ’d a military fence or rampire, and a very clear Spring. This Vale is exceeding healthy, fruitful, and pleasant: the complexion of the Inhabitants is bright and chearful; their heads of a sound constitution; their sight very lively, and even their old age vigorous and lasting. The green Meadows, the Corn-fields, and the numerous Villages and Churches in this Vale, afford the most pleasant prospect imaginable. The river Clwyd,Clwyd, riv. from the very fountain-head runs through the midst of it, receiving on each side a great number of rivulets. And from hence it has been formerly call’d Ystrad Klwyd; for Marianus makes mention of a King of the Stradcluid-Welsh: and at this day it is called Dyffryn Klwyd,See Caernarvonshire. i.e. the Vale of Cluid; where, as some Authors have told us, certain Britons coming out of Scotland, planted a Kingdom; having first driven out the English which were seated there. Rhudh

In the south part of this Vale, on the east-side of the river, lies the Town of Ruthin,Ruthin. in Welsh Rhuthyn, the greatest Market in the Vale, and a very populous Town; famous † † So said, ann. 1607.not long since, for a stately and beautiful Castle, which was capable of a very numerous family. Both the Town and Castle were built by Roger Grey, with permission of the King, the Bishop of St. Asaph, and the Rector of Lhan Rhûdh, it being seated in that parish. To this Roger Grey, in consideration of his services against the Welsh, King Edward the first granted almost the whole Vale; and this was the seat of his posterity (who flourish’d under the title of Earls of Kent) till the time of Richard Grey Earl of Kent and Lord of Ruthin; who dying without issue, and having no regard to his brother Henry, sold this ancient inheritance to King Henry the seventh; since which time the castle has been uncover’d, and has daily decay’d.Ial desert * * So said, ann. 1607.Of late, through the bounty of Queen Elizabeth, it † Spectavit.hath belong’d to Ambrose Earl of Warwick, together with large revenues in this Vale.

Ascending eastward out of this Valley, we come to Iâl,Iâl. a small mountainous tract, of a very high situation, if compared with the neighbouring tract; so that no river runs into it from any other country, though it pours out several. By reason of this high situation, it is a very rough, cold, bleak Country. I know not whether it might receive it’s name from the small river Alen, which, springing up in this country, hides it self in one or two places by undermining the earth. These mountains are well stored with Oxen, Sheep, and Goats; and the Valleys in some places are pretty fertil in Corn; especially to the east, on this side Alen: but the western is somewhat barren, and in some places mere heath and desart. It hath nothing in it memorable, except the ruins of a small Monastery; seated very pleasantly in a Valley, which, amongst woody hills, is extended in the form of a Cross: whence it had the name of Vale-Crucis;Vale-Crucis. whereas in British it is call’d Lhan Gwest. Eastward of Iâl, the territory of Maelor Gymraeg or Welsh Maelor, call’d in English Bromfield,Bromfield. is extended to the river Dee; a pleasant little Country, and well stored with Lead,Lead. especially near Mwyn-glodh, a small Village, denominated from the Lead-mines.

In this part lies Wrexham,Wrexham. call’d in Saxon Saxon Writtlesham, remarkable for a very neat tower, and the Organ there: and near this place is Leonis Castrum, so call’d perhaps from the Legio vicesima Victrix; which kept garrison a little higher, on the other side Dee. It is now call’d Holt,Holt. and is supposed to have been repair’d,D. Powel.† So said, ann. 1607.more lately by William Stanley, and formerly by John Earl of Warren, who being guardian in trust to one Madok a British Prince, seiz’d for his own use this Province, together with that of Iâl. From the Earls of Warren, it descended afterwards to the Fitz-Alans, Earls of Arundel; and from them to William Beauchamp Baron of Aber Gavenny: and afterward, to William Stanley; who being beheaded, this, as well as the rest of his estate, was forfeited to the Crown.Bran

Southward of Bromfield, lies Chirk,Chirk. call’d in Welsh Gwayn, a Country also pretty mountainous, but honour’d with two Castles; viz. Chirk, whence it receiv’d its name, and which was built by Roger Mortimer: and Kastelh Dinas Brân,Castle Dinas. seated on the highest top of a sharp hill, whereof there remain at present only some ruinous walls. The common People affirm, that this was built and so call’d by BrennusBrennus. General of the Gauls; and some interpret the name, The King’s Palace: for Bren in British signifies a King (from whence possibly that powerful Prince of the Gauls and Britons was call’d by way of eminency, Brennus:) but others will have it to derive the name from the situation on a hill, which the Britons call Bryn: and this, in my opinion, is much more probable. In the time of Henry the third, it was the seat of Grufydh ap Madok, who when he sided with the English against the Welsh, was wont to secure himself here. But upon his decease, Roger Mortimer, who was appointed guardian to his son Lhewelyn, seis’d this ⌈and⌉ Chirk into his own hands; as John Earl of Warren, mention’d before, had usurp’d Bromfield.

⌈There are divers old Forts or EntrenchmentsEntrench­ments. in this County, that seem no less remarkable, than that at Moel Enlhi; some of which are mention’d in the Letter from the foresaid Mr. Lloyd. As first, Pen y Gaer vawrPen y Gaer vawr. on Kader Dhimmael, distant about a mile from Kerrig y Druidon; which is a circular Ditch and Rampire, of at least one hundred paces diameter. But what seems most remarkable, is, that it is presum’d to have had once some kind of wall; and that the stones have been long since carried away by the neighbours, and applied to some private uses. Secondly, Kaer Dhynod,Kaer Dhynod. or as others, Kaer y Dhynod, which lies (as also Pen y Gaer) in the Parish of Lhan Vihangel. This is situate close by the river Alwen, and is rather of an oval form, than circular. The Dike or Rampire consists of a vast quantity of stones, at present rudely heap’d together; but whether formerly in any better order, is uncertain. On the river side, it is about three hundred foot high perpendicularly, but not half that height elsewhere. On the other side the river, we have a steep Hill, about twice the height of this Kaer Dhynod; on which lies Kaer-Vorwyn,Kaer Vorwyn. i.e. Maiden-Fort, a large circular Entrenchment, and much more artificial than the former. This Kaer Dhynod (as the said Mr. Lloyd supposes) was in all likelyhood a British Camp, seeing it agrees exactly with † † Annal. 12. c.33.Tacitus’s description of the Camp of King Caratacus, when he engag’d Ostorius Scapula somewhere in this Country of the Ordovices—He chose such a Camp to maintain, as, in point of approach, retreat and all other respects, was difficult to the Enemy, and convenient to themselves: On a high hill, guarded with great Stones in the nature of a Vallum, wherever it was accessible; and before it, a River with uncertain Fords; &c. caesar Gwyg ucha Thirdly, Dinas Melin y Wŷg,Dinas Melin y Wyg. which he supposes to have been a British Oppidum, it being much such a place as Cæsar informs us they call’d so, in these words, The Britains call thick Woods fenced with a Vallum and ditch, a Town; where they meet to defend themselves as oft as an enemy makes Incursions ** Cæs. Com. lib.5.. This place, as the word Gwŷg implies, is full of Woods, Dingles, &c. The Fortification rises about fifteen or twenty yards where lowest; and is faced for the most part with a craggy Rock, and encompass’d with a deep Trench, having two Entries call’d y Porth ùcha, and Porth isa, or the upper and lower Gates.⌉

When the dominion of the Welsh, by factions among themselves, and invasions of the English, fell to decay, and could now subsist no longer; the Earls of Chester, and Warren, the Mortimers, Lacy, and the Greys (whom I have mention’d) were the first of the Normans that by degrees reduc’d this small Province, and left it to be possess’d by their posterity. Nor was it made a County before the time of King Henry the eighth, when Radnor, Brecknock, and Montgomery, were likewise made Counties by Authority of Parliament.

⌈In the year 1622.Earls of Denbigh. William Viscount Fielding, and Baron of Newnham Padox, was created Earl of Denbigh; and was succeeded in that honour by Basil his son (created also Lord St. Liz, in the 16th year of King Charles the second.) To whom succeeded William Fielding Earl of Desmond, his Nephew; and after him Basil Fielding his son; who was father of William, the present Earl.⌉

It contains 57 Parishes.

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