Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Welsh Rolls: What's in Them

Wales became thoroughly subduded after the execution of Rhys ap Maredudd [Rees ap Meredith] following his capture in 1289 AD. Ordinances for the settlement and incorporation into England of the new counties of Anglesey, Carnarvon, Merioneth, Flint, Carmarthen, and Cardigan were instituted. Ironically, these records became known as the "Welsh Rolls", but were actually the "English" records following this hostile take over. These documents contain all the different items which required the approval of the monarchy, i.e., passed "The Great Seal". Thus, they became the first offical records of the affairs of "The Principality of Wales" and its "Marches".

Extracts from these rolls can be found at the British Museum [Harleian MS. 320, f 42.] An outline of what they contain are as follows:

Grants of castles, lands, and other possessions, and confirmation of former charters,

Letters of protection and safe conduct,

Appointments of justices,

Inquistions of various kinds,

Presentations to churches,

Appointments of constables and governors of castles, and removal from appointments

Grants of freedom,

Committals to prison, and arrests

Grants of wardship,

Writs (orders) to receive money,

Grants to fairs,

Liberty to trade,

Free from toll,

Release from debt,

Exchanges of land,

Orders for dower, for support of children, and for homage,

Appointments to military rank, and

Settlements and other entries.

Wow, a gold mine for the Welsh genealogist!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cadwgan Tumulus

Offa's Dyke is believed to have been constructed by King Offa of Mercia (757-796 AD). It is near Wrexham that it lies a few miles west of Wat's Dyke. Just passing west of Bersham, this western most dyke, winds its way through a Bronze Age burial mound called "Cadwgan Tumulus". It is here that the area must have been first settled following the neolithic period.

In Wales, the Bronze Age is thought to have began between 2500 BC and 2000 BC. (Dyer, p.28) It was the general practice of these folks to bury their dead in mounds of dirt called a "tumulus". Other terms are "round barrow" or "cairns". Between 30,000 and 40,000 such graves are estimated to dot the landscape of England and Wales. (Dyer, p. 36) I suspect that it was these folks who first provided the Y-chromosome to my JONES family!

The name "Cadwgan" is first used around 700 AD, when a chieftain from Dyfed takes this name. (Ashley, p.137) [The kingdom of Dyfed was originally known as the tribal territory of the Demetae.] The name appears again just to the east, in the kingdom of Glywysing, when Cadwgan ap Owain (930 - 950 AD) appears in Southern Wales. (Ashley, p.130) It was his older brother [Gruffydd ap Owain] who was in constant conflict with Hywel Dda, the father-in-law to Tudor Trevor! I suspect that it was through this route that the name was given to the area around "Plas Cadwgan". It was Cadwgan ap Bleddyn in 1088 AD who laid claim to territory in Powys! (Ashley, p 368) "Plas Cadwgan" [Cadwgan Hall], was to become the largest estate in the manor of Esclusham. The clan who claimed to be the owners were of the descent of Cynwig ap Rhiwallon, the great grandson of Tudor Trevor! What a deal!

The references are:

Dyer, J, The Penguin Guide to Prehistoric England and Wales, Penguin Books, 1981.

Ashley, M, British Kings & Queens, Barnes & Noble Books, NY, 1998.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hen Dinas

Almost due south from the town of Wrexham is Oswestry. It is the southern most anchor of Wat's dyke leading to the ancient hill fort called "Old Oswestry Hill Fort". Strictly speaking, according to James Dyer, "hillforts" were hilltops defended by walls of stone, banks of earth or fences of wood, usually accompanied by one or more external ditches. They are generally associated with the iron age folks, starting around 800 B.C.

Old Oswestry, Selattyn, is considered one of the most complex of this periods hillforts. The fortifications cover about 40 acres, and in parts, has as many as seven ramparts. The hill top contains roughly 16 acres, and is felt by Professor W.J. Varley (excavated site in 1939), at first to have contained a group of circular timber-built huts. Two ramparts were built at a later date, encircling the hill, which by this time contained circular stone huts. Over time, further changes took place extending the defenses, building one of the most complex series of deep hollows and ridges. [More will be said about this later.] This fortification certainly took advantage of a lofty, natural eminence, and is traditionally felt to be the ancient site of the town of Oswestry. Wat's Dyke connects here, and it certainly would have been occupied before this dyke was built. It is around this area that much of my JONES family had its roots. Perhaps, this "Hen Dinas" was the first location of my Celtic tribe.

The reference is : "Prehistoric England and Wales", by James Dyer, Penguin Books, 1981. Old Oswestry is discussed on pages 220-221. Hill forts are discussed on pages 33-34.