Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Made of Stone

The Battle of Hastings, 1066 A.D., introduced a new threat to the independence of Wales. At the time of Hastings, Wales was divided against itself by civil war with the three major tribes fighting against one another. In Anglo-Saxon England, the Normans brought a certain measure of unity and stability. In Wales, the Normans brought only added stress to the divisions already fighting to gain control.

The Normans took strategic advantage of the Welsh civil wars to establish themselves along the Welsh border. This was accomplished by placing Norman barons in fortified centers at key locations. The map shows the geographic strategy taken by the Normans.

The strategic centers were:

1) Chester: the northern border-placed under Hugh of Avranches (made Earl of Chester 1070 A.D.- confronted Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd and Powys

2) Shrewsbury: the central border-placed under Roger of Montgomery (made Earl of Shrewsbury 1071 A.D.) confronted Welsh kingdom of Powys

3) Hereford: the south-central border,placed under William Fitaosbern (made Earl of Hereford 1067 A.D.) confronted Welsh kingdom of Gwent.

Fortified enclosures made of stone marks the gradual conquest of Wales. [The first stone castle built in Wales was by William Fitzobern in Chepstow, 1067 A.D.] This permanent occupation of the land also brought with it the introduction of the "borough". This Norman-French borough, organized the immediate areas surrounding the castle, providing military, political and social structure. Hereford was the first to receive a charter embodying the customs of the Norman borough. The borough of Hereford was to serve as a model for many of the future boroughs established in Wales by the Normans. Key military strongholds were established at Rhuddlan and Chester in the north...Montgomery and Clifford in the Central areas...Monmouth and Caerleon in the south. By 1086 A.D., it appeared that all of Wales would come under Norman control!

The map is taken from: The Jones Genealogist, Vol.IV, No.5, March/April 1993, p.3.

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