In a continuation of last month’s blog about Grose’s book of Welsh antiquary, with a focus upon North Wales, this month’s blog delves into the history and myth of the counties of
South Wales, which Grose discovered on his travels in the
late 18th Century.
|A map of Wales 1696. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).|
county of Glamorganshire,
located in the far south of Wales,
encompassing Swansea and Cardiff,
was notable in 1789 due to it being “fruitful, pleasant and populous”, to the
extent that it was often called the “ ”. Additionally,
being home to over 25 castles and a number of abbeys and priories, demonstrates
this county’s historical, strategic and religious significance. Of the
multitude of sites, Cardiff Castle Tower probably can lay claim to the most
intriguing story associated with it, as it was the building in which Robert
Duke of Normandy, brother of William Rufus and Henry I, was confined to for
over 26 years. Following his escape and
recapture during this period, he was blinded when his optic nerve was destroyed
by a hot brass baton close to his face. Following a further incident with his
brother, the Duke of Normandy refused nourishment and starved himself to death. Garden
The largest county in
at the time, Brecknockshire, situated to the north of Glamorganshire, was noted
for its mountainous landscape. In terms of Brecknockshire’s historical
buildings, the most significant is undoubtedly ,
built during the reign of William Rufus, by Barnard de Newmarsh, who had
immense lands due to his marriage to the grand-daughter of Gryffyth ap
Llewellyn Prince of Wales. In an act of revenge against her son for reproaching
her behaviour, she declared him illegitimate, causing him to be disinherited.
This resulted in the castle and estate passing to his sister and then through
her female descendents to the Mortimer family. Brecknock Castle
|An engraving of Brecknock Castle. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK)|
At the time that the book was written, Cardiganshire, modern day Ceredigionshire, had a population of 35,380 inhabitants, and only had four market towns: Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Llanbadernvaur and Tregaron. A site of historical and archaeological importance to this day, the Abbey of Strata Florida, was built in 1164 for Cistercian monks and is thought to be the burial place of many welsh princes. Unfortunately, now nothing more than ruins remain of the abbey.
|An engraving of Strata Florida. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).|
|A map of Carmarthenshire. By permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).|
Pembrokeshire was and is notable for its multitude of stunning headlands, such as Strumble Head and
. This beautiful county however,
is also home to a large array of mysterious and unusual sites and artefacts.
Firstly, in the vicinity of Cape Stuncuin Newport,
there were said to be seven barrows, one of which when opened, contained five
urns full of “burnt bones and ashes”, and whose presence was unexplained.
Additionally, near St David’s was a stone “one hundred oxen could not move”,
called The Rocking Stone, which was apparently rendered immovable by Cromwell’s
soldiers. Finally, Buck’s Pool, near Stackpool, was described as a “pit of
water that cannot be fathomed”. This dubious comment was probably due to the
fact that it was fed from a redundant spring never known to stop in summer or
These two blog posts explored only a small sample of the sites mentioned in Grose’s fascinating book. However, the book and others in the series are available to view by appointment.