Monday, November 21, 2011

Wrexham (Wrecsam)

Wat's Dyke made its way through the ancient Lordship of Bromfield. The townships which formed this area are shown in the figure to the right, which was taken from the detailed work of Palmer and Owen. It shows the flow of Wat's Dyke in relationship to Offa's Dyke as they both pass through this area. Less than two miles apart, in the area of Bersham and Wrexham, they form a narrow space which must have been an exchange point between the Welsh, and those Anglo-Saxons, who built the dykes.

It was at this geographic point that the "commot of Wrexham" became the "Manor of Wrexham". Initially called the townships of "Wrexham Fawr" and "Wrexham Fechan", they were jointly called "Wrexham Regis". Early forms of the name were "Wristlesham"(1161 AD), "Wrettesham" or "Wrectesham" (1236 AD), "Wyrcesson (1291 AD), and "Wrightlesham" (1316-17 AD). These names were felt by Palmer and Owen to be errors made by clerks.

Acton (Acatone/une) [Church with Saxon stonework], Allington (Allentune), Broughton (Brochetone/tune), Eaton (Eton) [1000 salmon] {must have been a good place to fish!}, Eyton (Eitune) [fisheries], and Gresford (Gretford) were all recorded in "The Domesday Book", but not Wrexham. Apparently, its name first appears in English records 1161 AD as outlined above. [Taken from: The Domesday Book, Thomas Hinde, Editor.]

It was here that the eldest son of Jeuaf(Ievan)(JH-1), Iorweth Fychan (JI-1), was first identified as "of Llwyn Onn". [Jeuaf (JH-1) was alive 3 March 1140 AD.] This Llwyn Onn, meaning "Ash Grove", was apparently the winter home (hendre). The land was roughly 1.5 miles to the east of Wrexham. The summer home (hafod) was near Llanfiar Dyffryn Clwyd, which was also called Llwyn-ynn (Llwyn Onn). As you can see from the map above, this land was split by Wat's Dyke and Offa's Dyke. Just how did we, my Welsh ancestors, manage to keep active these two areas on different sides of the fence? That story is yet to c0me!

The family tree is given in detail at:

The most detailed reference is : A History of Ancient Tenures of Land in North Wales and the Marches, by Alfred Palmer and Edward Owen, printed 1910. The map above is enlarged from this text.

The Domesday references are taken from the most readable text: The Domesday Book, England's Heritage, Then and Now, Thomas Hinde, Editor, Hutchinson Publishing Group, London, 1985, pp. 52-55.

Monday, November 14, 2011

To The South

Wat's Dyke extends its way southward out of Basingwerk Abbey. Passing near Halkyn Mountain, it moves between Caerwys and Northop to join the eastern bank of the Alyn river. Here it runs parallel on its eastern bank, splitting Mold and Buckley, Leeswood and Hope, and enters Denbighshire near Caergwrle. Continuing southward, it intersects the ground of Erddig estate just west of Wrexham, leaving Brymbo and Moss on the western side, and Gresford on the eastern side. It then passes near Rhuabon, on its eastern side, entering the grounds of Wynnstay. It then joins the Dee for about 2 miles, until it joins the eastern margin of Brynkinallt Park. Then, near Gobowen Station, it follows a line almost due south to Oswestry. Setlattyn is located to the west, with Whittington and Ellesmere to the eastern side. This dyke must have been the Saxons earliest attempt to mark their boundary and new settlement claims. [Offa extending their claims further western under his reign. (d. 796 AD)]

This account is taken from Nicholas, Vol. I, p.388, p. 437. The title of his book is : Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales. It was first published in London, 1872 and reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, 1991. I am not sure if some of the landmarks are still standing as listed. If any reader can make any correction please post. It was along this Wat's Dyke that many of my Welsh family made their Welsh genealogy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A New Blog : Cadwallader Jones

For those with Welsh ancestors and an interest in Welsh genealogy, the surname JONES is paramount. Cadwallader is a Welsh name meaning "War Ruler" or "War King". After many years of research into his life, I wish to tell his story. If interested the link is:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Basingwerk Abbey

The northern most anchor of Wat's dyke was a stronghold called Dinas Bassing. According to Nicholas, this was felt to be of Saxon origin, but the beginnings are unknown. The area was first inhabited by the iron age peoples leaving their hill forts, cairns, and circles. The Ordovices are credited with building some of the fortifications. [ See: Prehistoric England and Wales, by James Dyer, Penguin Books, pp. 346-347.] The area was also occupied during the Roman period. Its location on the coastal road to NW Wales was certainly a strategic military location. Its "heyday" was during the kings of Mercia where Offa's [Offa's Dyke fame!] own son Cenwulf was reported to have died there in the year 821 AD.

The abbey was founded in 1131 AD by Ranulf, Earl of Chester. [The Order of Savigny established 14 such abbeys in Britain. See: "The Abbeys & Priories of Medieval England", by Colin Platt, pp.26-27. A view from the air is shown on p. 207.] However, this Order was merged with the Cistercians in 1147 AD and the monks took on the "white habit" of the Cistercian. [It was officially made a Cistercian abbey by Henry II in 1159 AD.]

It was during the summer of 1277 AD that Edward I established his personal head-quarters here while the castle of Flint was being constructed. It was only a matter of time until the conquest of Llewelyn was completed. (Statutum Wallie of 12 Edward I) [ See: "The Welsh Wars of Edward I", by John E. Morris, pp.130-132.]

Just north along the coastal road is Mostyn. Just west in the town of Whitford. Holywell surrounds the abbey, and Flint Castle is to the south. All these locations were to become the home of my family's DNA. Certainly a strategic location it is.