Friday, November 15, 2013

Radnorshire From Above - Review

Let's get the praise out of the way first; this is a beautifully produced book - in Aberystwyth - containing more than a hundred aerial photographs illustrating the archaeology and landscape of the old county of Radnorshire.  The colour photographs are accompanied by an informative text describing the background to aerial archaeology and what each of the often stunning images tells us about the past.

Anyone with the slightest interest in our Radnorian heimat should snap up a copy without delay.  Published by the Radnorshire Society and the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust, it costs just £9 from the Society and a still great value £12.99 from local bookshops.  Congratulations to all involved in its production.

Here you'll find snowscapes, landscapes, the complexities of the Walton basin, hill forts, castles plundered of every last stone by the perspicacious Radnorshire folk and the churchyard of Newbridge-on-Wye with the graves of the local toffs shielded from the hoi polloi by a neat hedge.  Innes Ireland's old home at Downton merits a page, there are splendid shots of the Elan Valley including nostalgic shots of dried-out 2003, Roman marching camps, tai un nos and traces of the Glasbury church which ended up on the wrong side of the Wye after one 17C flood.

Any complaints I have may seem trivial to those who view the world through anglocentric spectacles, but here you go:

First off the text does recognize that the Anglo-Norman hold on Radnorshire castles was pretty precarious.  For long periods they were back home in Herefordshire and at others, a bit like the British army in Basra, confined to barracks.  So where were successful local rulers like Cadwallon ap Madog hanging out, since they tended to despoil the Norman castles rather than move in?   In Welsh castles more than likely, places like Buddugre - I would have liked to have seen some discussion about that.

Castell Cwm Aran?  This monstrosity may be perpetrated by the Ordnance Survey and the local High School but it's just wrong.  I'm far from being a language purist, I'm not vexed by the use Rhayader instead of Rhaeadr and I positively welcome the use of a localism like Noyadd instead of Neuadd.  But there is no river Aran in Radnorshire - the river and the castle are properly called Cymaron.  It was good enough for the bards and it should be good enough for the Radnorshire Society.

Likewise the use of placenames like Crug Erydd (Crug Eryr) and Penarth Mount (Bryn Pennardd).  Indeed the names used by the bards for these supposedly Norman sites might offer a big clue that they were in use by the local uchelwyr in the 15C.  None of them have been - so perhaps it's time CPAT dug one of them up?  I guess archaeologists don't like documentary evidence much, but Lewis Glyn Cothi describes Cefnllys Castle being rebuilt and occupied in the 15C - he even names the builder!

To me it illustrates the fact that in order to get a fuller picture of medieval and early modern Radnorshire history you really have to get to grips with the bards and their work.

Mistakes?   Well no-one was transported for  Rebeccaite attacks on toll gates in and around Rhayader, p87.


Jeremy Jones said...

Radnorshire From Above- Review
I was intrigued by your assertion that there was NO river Aran, although you stated that the Ordnance Survey and the local High school refer to the castle as castell Cwm Aran and the river as Aran, and that you believe the proper name for the castle and river is, Cymaron. My hypothesis is that you maybe right, and that the prefix Cym has been wrongly asserted as Cwm (Valley). My hypothesis it that the Welsh proper name as being cymer hwn (m.) or hon (f.), meaning This Confluence or Merging (of rivers). Why I say this is that an old map of Castell Cymaron, shows the fortress in the fork of two rivers (aber or cymer = confluence/merging). I do not know the area around Cymaron, or if there is still a river on both sides of the ancient monument, in addition, my road atlas doesn't show the castle or its location on the map for that area. I have taken the liberty of linking the old map as aforementioned for your perusal.
On a similar note, I noticed another intriguing name in your comment on Radnorshire, Buddugre! A name and place I am also unfamiliar with, however, it is very similar to the Welsh Buddug rheg = Boudica's Curse! Legend has it that Buddug = Boadicea = Boudica, was killed in battle somewhere on the ancient highway of Watling Street in c. 60 CE, and was buried on a hill top. What is coincident is that I was researching the battle which Buddug met her end, and Watling Street, runs through Old Radnorshire or is very close to it, see link
One has to remember that Buddug was a Brython/Welsh ancient hero Queen, however, the English in the 1800's plagiarized the story of Buddug, claiming her (like that of king Arthur) as their ancient queen. Nothing can be further from the truth, she was Brythonic through and through, speaking the 'P' Celtic or Brythonic language or Old Welsh. The Germanic tribes (Old Englisce) did not arrive in Prydain (Britain) until four centuries after the death of Buddug, etc. Today the English equivalent of Buddug is Victoria. A statue of Buddug/Boudica stand on Westminster bridge London, in a tribute to the revival of her in the English renaissance.

Regards Jero Jones

radnorian said...

There are references to Cymaron dating back to the 13C and it was certainly the name used by 15C bards, Lewis Glyn Cothi for example. Combe Arran makes its first appearance in 1734.

Richard Morgan's Study of Radnorshire Place-Names speculates that the name could be derived from cymar - battle or conflict and the ending -on, similar to the nearby Ieithon.

Buddugre or Swydd Fuddugre was one of the three divisions of the old cantref of Maelienydd. Trying to make sense of this name doubtless accounts for the modern OS version Beddugre. I wasn't aware of the possible southwards extension of Watling Street which makes a Radnorshire connection with Boudica's resistance more plausible than I had previously thought.

Jeremy Jones said...

Hi Radnorian
Many thanks for getting back to me, and thanks for the information on Cymaron and Lewis Glyn Cothi aka Llywelyn y Glyn. I believe Lewis or Llywelyn was probably born in Sir Gaerfyddin (Carmarthenshire) in the village of Pont-ar-Gothi (Pontargothi) on the Afon (River) Cothi. However, I did notice the Welsh term cymar (partner or a mate), before thinking of cymer (confluence; merge; merging) as both fitted my hypothesis, that is, cymar = partner, which could be used for a single river splitting into two or two rivers merge into one, etc. Richard Morgan has been studying Welsh place-names, whereas I am a researcher of Hanes (History), and I willingly concede to this scholars interpretation of cymar(on).
On the word Buddugre, I did not notice a link to the Henebion Cymru (Old/Ancient Monuments of Wales) site, which gives various other names for Buddugre = Tomen Bedd ugre; Tomen Bedd-Turc; Bedd-y-gre. I blame this mishap on old age, senility, and poor eye sight on my part. Tomen Bedd Ugre, Tomen = heap or pile; Bedd = grave; urgre = geugred = Heresy or camgred = misbelief. So it could mean the Grave Pile of Heresy? However, this Old Man will stick to Buddugre or Boadica's Curse!
Jero Jones

Fferllys said...

Jeremy, I'd like to unstick you from your "this Old Man will stick to Buddugre or Boadica's Curse!".

It is very simple. Buddugre is named after a victory. As written here:
J.E. Lloyd in his authoritative History of Wales from the Earliest times to the Edwardian Conquest provides some detail about Buddugre on page 255 of Volume 1, in a passage about the Cantref of Maelienydd as follows:

"The “swydd” or “shire” of Buddugre was the northern portion of the cantref, the particular Buddugre or “Hill of Victory” which formed the centre of this commote being on the banks of the Iethon."

He adds further information in a page note relating to this:

"It is the “Bedd Ugre” of the maps. For the true form see Bruts, 409, Cymr. ix. 328; for the meaning and other instances, Evans, Dict. s.v."

In welsh ‘Buddugwr’ means ‘victor’ and ‘Buddug’ means ‘victorious’. There is also a tradition of a big battle at Buddugre between the Normans and the family of Elystan Glodrydd in which the latter were victorious, so this may be how the site gained its name.

It is clearly a Welsh castle, high up like Crug Eryr ('Eagles Mound') and a fortress of the Princes of Maelineydd. The likelihood is that it is a much older site than thought. On the opposite side of the valley is another ancient fortress call the "Gaer", whose shape and name immediately tells one that such places were settled and fortified from the earliest times.

Radnorian, as ever, is spot on about the Welsh names. But there is one that may be misleading - this is 'Cefn Llys'. It is possible, and I think more likely that this was a name that replaced the original, once there was a 'Court' set up there by the Normans. It is much more likely that its true original name was 'Dinieithon' i.e. Dinas Ieithon - 'Citadel of the Ithon'. A small motte and bailey castle exists down by the river in the valley below Cefn Llys that was given the name 'Dinieithon'.

Interestingly enough, an extract from the Elegy to Cadwallon ap Madog, Prince of Maelienydd & later also of Elfael (after his brother Einion Clud's death) by Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr (court poet of Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys, whose daughter Efa was Cadwallon's wife), provides mention of Dinieithon and Cymaron:

Gŵr ail flaidd, gwraidd, gwrhyd Nwython,
Gwrawl gleddyfawl gwrial gwron,
Prif arglwydd, bro lwydd, bro Din Eithon,
Priodawr clodfawr Clud ac Aeron…

A man who was another wolf, valiant, a ruddy Neptune,
Manly with his sword, a valiant warrior in battle,
Chief lord of a prosperous region, the region of Din Eithon,
Rightful owner of Clud and Aeron…

- the Welsh wording is from Fransis Payne's ‘Crwydro Sir Faesyfed’ / ‘Exploring Radnorshire’ with the English added in Dafydd y Garth's 2nd volume translation of Payne's book published in the Transactions of the Radnorshire Society Vol. LXXIX 2009, page 149.

I hope I haven't misspelt or mis-represented anything above, but know that if I have, Radnorian will thoughtfully and kindly let us know.

John Price said...

I'm trying to get Radnorshire From Above reprinted as the first edition sold out within months, please reply if you are interested in a copy, as a decision will be made in early October 2017, Numbers count. This book should be available for the good people of Radnorshire or Radnorshire descent worldwide, Fantastic pictures and archaeological notes by Chris Musson.