Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Radnorshire Chapel

Monday, March 26, 2012

Radnorshire Divided?

Is there any truth to the theory mentioned in a footnote to the article by A J Ellis entitled On the delimitation of the English and Welsh languages in the October 1882 issue of Y Cymmrodor? Could Radnorshire have been divided Ulster-style between the native Welsh and the descendants of a Cromwellian plantation?

Howel Lloyd, who mentions the idea (see above) was a Roman Catholic convert and a local historian with mainly Montgomeryshire interests. He was sufficiently well-regarded to make it into the pages of the Dictionary of Welsh Biography, his entry is here.

Now some of the more popular local surnames of English origin turn up in the county before the Civil War: Addis, Bufton, Harding, Mantle, Russell, Shipman, Wilcocks, Wilde. To this we have to add names that drifted into Radnorshire from the 16C plantations in Montgomeryshire (Cleaton, Hamer, Ingram, Jarman, Kinsey etc.), names that originated in the ethnic mix in and around Presteigne, and gentry names, essentially Norman, from Breconshire and Herefordshire (Baskerville, Gunter, Havard, Whitney)

This leaves us with a number of surnames which do indeed first appear in parishes in North Radnorshire during the second half of the Sixteenth Century - the Pitchfords, Bywaters, Palfreys, Wildings, Weales etc. Is there any evidence that these new families stood aloof from their Welsh neighbours? A way of spotting any such social divide would be to look at marriage records. If such a divide existed you wouldn't expect the newcomers to inter-marry in any great number with the Joneses, Davieses, Evanses and the rest. Such an aversion should be easily spotted in the lists of marriage bonds and copies of wills available on-line from the National Library of Wales.

A quick look at the marriage bonds shows that folk with English surnames were three to four times more likely to marry partners with Welsh surnames than partners with names of English origin. I suppose you'd have to do a lot more research to be certain but it doesn't look very likely that a Cromwellian plantation had any lasting identity in Radnorshire.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


That great organ of Welsh identity, the Western Mail (west of where?) is indulging in a series of articles to unearth the most historically important place in Wales. A snore of academics will argue the case for various locations, here's the list:

The soccer grounds of Wales - Professor Huw Bowen
Snowdon - Professor Chris Williams
Lodge Hill, near Caerleon - Dr Ray Howell
Llyn Fawr, in the Cynon Valley, and Llyn Cerrig Bach, on Anglesey - Professor Raimund Karl
Strata Florida - Professor David Austin
Aberlleiniog Castle, Anglesey - Dr David Wyatt
Ysbyty Ifan and the tomb of Rhys ap Maredudd, Conwy - Dr Madeleine Gray
Gower churches - Dr Helen Nicholson
Llangwm Uchaf (Mon) - Dr Alun Withey
Llantrithyd House - Dr Lloyd Bowen
Middleton Hall (National Botanic Gardens) - Dr Lowri Rees
Pumlumon/The Elenydd - Dr Martin Wright
The lower Swansea Valley - Professor Huw Bowen
Merthyr - Professor Chris Evans
Washburn Cemetery, Scranton, Pennsylvania - Dr Bill Jones
Talerddig cutting, Powys - Professor Iwan Morus
Cardiff Castle - Dr Andrew Richardson
Penallta Colliery, near Ystrad Mynach - Dr Ben Curtis
The Street - Dr Paul O'Leary
Tredegar - Dr Steve Thompson
Mametz Wood - Dr Robin Barlow
Barry Island - Dr Andy Croll

No Radnorshire entries of course, unless part of the county is included within The Elenydd - THE Elenydd? Do we say The Meirionydd?

Now I realise that this exercise is not really about finding the most important historical site in Wales. Rather it's an opportunity for our current crop of historians to address their particular interests before a wider audience than the "cloister of the learned journal." If it were a serious list then surely Pilleth - where Glyndwr, with the help of the men of Maelienydd, defeated a sizable English army in the field - would be high up the table.

Any more suggestions for Radnorshire sites that might qualify in a list of sites of real importance in our nation's story?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Not much to say about the above except for the obvious, that Radnorshire isn't in England and that the "fine old stronghold" was built just 90 years or so before the Land Army girls moved in.

On the other hand you come across comments like this from a book called Language in Geographic Context:

"the border counties of Brecon and Radnor, which have long been anglicised since Tudor times"

Now I wouldn't mind if this was penned by purveyors of crockery but it's in a tome authored by two of the leading authorities on the geographical history of the Welsh language and it's nonsense.

I could go on ........ but I've given up blogging so I won't

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Forthcoming Books

I see Lolfa will be publishing a novel of Radnorshire interest this summer based on the life of Gwenllian the daughter of Owain Glyndwr. Gwenllian and her family lived at Cenarth in the parish of St Harmon.

The selling pitch on the Lolfa site mentions that the book may be of interest to those who speculate about Owain's burial site. This is usually thought to be in Herefordshire near the home of his daughter Alys Scudamore. When you think about it St Harmon would have been a better bet, especially if, as some believe, Gwenllian's husband Philip ap Rhys was such a diehard that he continued to fight on, even after the surrender of Owain's son Maredudd in 1421.