v. The Establishment of the Marcher Lordships

ENGLAND CHANGED RAPIDLY in the course of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It follows that the institutions with which Domesday Book dealt, and the country it described, altered swiftly in the years following the great survey. Domesday Book pictures the country as it existed in 1086. This may seem a fairly obvious statement, but it can hardly be overemphasized, especially in regard to the frontier we are discussing. The medieval Welsh frontier was neither a particular geographic location nor a specific group of people. It was a process: a process of which Domesday Book records only one particular stage.The character of the frontier changed considerably only a few years after 1086. It would have changed in any event, but in this particular case the process was accelerated by the peculiar nature of the royal frontier policy.

We have seen that William the Conqueror finally secured peace along his western border by developing a policy based on balance of power. He stationed a strong group of Norman lords along the frontier to guard against Welsh attack. He then helped to stabilize the position of Rhys ap Tewdwr and used Rhys as a counter balance to the power of the border barons. As long as both of these antagonistic powers remained intact, each limited the other's freedom of action. It was in the royal interests that this situation be maintained, and William took steps to avoid a decisive clash between the two. It was probably for this reason that he allowed the Welsh kingdoms of Morgannwg, Gwynllwg, and Brycheiniog to retain their independence; they were to act as buffer states. Unfortunately for this plan,

80 The Normans in South Wales

these kingdoms never developed sufficient strength to fulfill their roles adequately. Rather than forming a buffer between the Welsh king and the Norman lords, they formed a vacuum. They offered a tempting avenue for expansion, especially for the border barons.

There was little danger that Rhys would attempt to upset this balance of power, for it was in his interests to maintain the situation as it was. Due to the peculiar nature of the Welsh political system, his power was none too secure and he was surrounded by rivals. Any active Norman intervention in the affairs of Deheubarth could have been disastrous for him. At the same time the system worked to Rhys' advantage by eliminating his external enemies. The rival kingdom of Gwynedd was fully occupied with the threat of Robert of Rhuddlan, and the buffer kingdoms were in too precarious a position to entertain any thoughts of westward expansion. The status quo was as favorable a situation as Rhys could hope for, and it was in his direct interest to cooperate in maintaining it.

The greatest danger to this balance of power came from the turbulent and land-hungry marcher lords. If the royal frontier policy was to be successful, the border barons had to observe the agreement of 1081 and had to respect the independence of the buffer kingdoms which separated them from Rhys. William was more than equal to the task of ensuring this and he had many advantages working for him. In the first place, he had chosen many of the frontier lords because of their personal loyalty; ties of affection and kinship assured that royal interests along the border would be served. Secondly, many of these marcher lords held estates both along the Welsh border and in the duchy of Normandy. Although rebellion might have gained them a Welsh kingdom, it would assuredly have lost them their ancestral homes. Thirdly, William had granted these men extensive privileges for serving on the frontier. The privileges they possessed may have atoned for the denial of those they coveted. Finally, disobedience to the Conqueror was not a course to be undertaken lightly. He was a ruler without challenger and had concentrated great powers in his hands. Moreover, he used these powers decisively in enforcing his will. While he lived, his authority was supreme and his frontier policy was maintained.

On September 7, 1087, he died and his strong hand was removed from the border. By his wishes, his possessions were divided among his three sons. Robert, the eldest, received the duchy of Normandy, William, surnamed Rufus, became king of England, and Henry was

The Establishment of the Marcher Lordships 81

forced to content himself with a sum of money. The balance of power which the elder William had established along the border deteriorated, since his son lacked the power by which he could enforce his will in the region. The border nobility felt no special feelings of loyalty or respect for Rufus. As a matter of fact, many of them had already taken oaths of allegiance to Robert. Nor did Rufus control their Norman estates. These were in the hands of Robert, who quickly became a challenger to Rufus' authority in England. Despite his obviously weak position, Rufus refused to adopt a conciliatory path. On the contrary, he set about to destroy the customary limits which had been set upon the feudal powers of the king, and began to strip the border barons of the privileges they enjoyed. Within a few years he had even resurrected the almost-forgotten doctrine that a fief was a lifetime benefice only, granted at the pleasure of the king. This reactionary point of view must have alienated large segments of the nobility, especially among the border barons. Even this need not have been disastrous, if Rufus had carried out his plans with the determination and pragmatism of his father. These qualities, however, were sadly lacking in him. His personal characteristics were passion, capriciousness, a tendency toward delusions of grandeur and a complete contempt for the basic standards of conduct.1

To all of these factors acting against him was added the treachery of his uncle, Odo of Bayeux, who enlisted the aid of many nobles in his attempt to depose Rufus and to place Robert on the throne. The rebellion erupted in 1088, ostensibly over the question of succession. The list of nobles arrayed against Rufus, however, betrays a deeper cause of disaffection. Roger of Montgomery, Bernard of Neufmarche, Roger of Lacy, Geoffrey of Coutances, Robert of Mowbray, Gilbert of Clare, and William of Calais were all prominent among those who took up the cause of Robert Curthose. This was, in essence, a marcher revolt and was directed, no doubt, at gaining these men a greater measure of freedom from the restrictions of royal authority. Despite its powerful supporters, the insurrection was soon quelled by the resolute action of the fyrds and some few loyal barons, all led by the archbishop of Canterbury and by Rufus himself. It is difficult to say whether the movement actually failed, however, since most of

1For the administration of William Rufus, see E. A. Freeman, The Reign of William Rufus and the Accession of Henry I. The complexity of Rufus' character has excited the imagination of many writers. One of the most romantic is H. R.Williamson, in The Arrow and the Sword.

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the marcher lords who took part appear to have escaped serious punishment. What is more, this rebellion of 1088 coincided with the apparent disappearance of the royal policy of maintaining a balance of power along the Welsh frontier.

Bernard of Neufmarche seems to have begun his conquest of Brycheiniog shortly after the end of the ill-fated insurrection. At least, in a charter of the same year, Bernard was in possession of Glasbury.2It is thus clear that royal guarantees of the independence of this buffer state had been allowed to lapse. At the same time the marcher lords began to probe the position of Rhys ap Tewdwr, and to seek a means of eliminating him and, with him, the last obstacle to the conquest of South Wales. It seems clear that the agreement of 1081 still had some force, at least in respect to Rhys, for the means employed by the border barons were uniformly indirect. In 1088, Rhys was attacked by the sons of Bleddyn, king of Powys. The attackers may well have enjoyed Norman support in this, the first serious attack on him since 1081. In any event, the attempt failed when Rhys obtained the aid of a Danish fleet from Ireland. In 1091, another attack was launched. This time the Herefordshire landholder, Gruffydd ap Maredudd, attempted to assert his claim to the throne of Deheubarth. The hand of the marcher lords can be seen even more clearly in this action. Rhys again proved triumphant and defeated and killed his rival. Despite these victories, however, his position was rapidly deteriorating. Although he was able to maintain himself against these Norman-inspired conspiracies, Brycheiniog was slowly crumbling before the relentless pressure of Bernard of Neufmarche. In a short time, the independent kingdom of Brycheiniog would cease to exist, and Rhys would find a strong Norman lordship established on the very borders of Deheubarth. He took the only course that was open to him when he allied himself with the hard-pressed king of Brycheiniog. In Easter week of 1093, they moved against the Norman forces engaged in rearing a strong fortress in the central plain of Brycheiniog. Rhys had been forced to put himself in the power of the Normans and, in the ensuing battle, he was killed. With his death the last vestiges of the agreement of 1081 came to an end, and the last obstacle to massive Norman invasion was removed. J. E. Lloyd states:

2Historia et Cartularium Monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae, ed. W. H. Hart Part I, p. 80.

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...the death of Rhys put an end to a period of orderly, legitimate rule; there was no one who had a rightful claim to the position which he held, and force was to be henceforth the sole arbiter of the affairs of the distracted and unhappy country.3

After the death of Rhys, the Norman onslaught began.

Rhys' death was a momentous event for South Wales and ultimately opened the way for Norman domination of that region. Bernard of Neufmarche appears to have been a dynamic figure in the chain of events that led to the demise of the Welsh prince. It was he who led the way in destroying the kingdom of Brycheiniog and forcing Rhys to battle. Finally, it was at the hands of his troops that Rhys died. Despite his importance the accounts of the time are largely silent concerning this marcher lord. Only incidental references, together with the evidence of a few charters, make it possible to discern even the broad outlines of his life. The details of his activities must remain vague.

In his sketch of Bernard, Orderic Vitalis stated that he was a member of the powerful Norman family of Aufay, distinguished by its close connections with, and services to, the ducal house. It had as its caput the town of Aufay, a few miles south of Dieppe and on the river Sie. The effective founder of the family was Gilbert of St. Valeri, who established his fortunes by marrying a daughter of Duke Richard. Their son, Richard, continued long in the service of his uncle and was rewarded by being given Ada, the widow of Herluin of Heugleville, in marriage. Richard was greatly enriched by this advantageous marriage. He founded the town of Aufay and gave his colonists the customs of Corneilles.

In 1035, Duke Robert died and was succeeded by the eight-year old William the Bastard. Normandy entered a stormy period which saw Richard supporting the young duke. His greatest trial came during the revolt of William of Arques in 1053, when, alone of all of the nobles of his district, he remained loyal to Duke William's banner. He garrisoned and held his castle of St. Aubins against the insurgents. Supporting him in this action was his son-in-law, Geoffrey, son of Turketil of Neufmarche. Turketil had acted as guardian of the young duke, and was assassinated while performing this office, per-

3J. E. Lloyd, A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest, II, 399.

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haps in the same plot that took the life of William Fitz-Osbern's father. Geoffrey now had entered into close contact with his father-in-law's group. The rebellion was quelled, and the family of Aufay achieved the high regard of Duke William for their loyalty. Geoffrey continued in the ducal service, but with less success than had his father-in-law. He was the lawful heir of Turketil's fortress of Le Neuf-Marche-en-Lions, on the borders of Beauvais. He appears to have been unable to halt the raids of his French neighbors in this region and for this reason lost the confidence of Duke William. He apparently fell far from favor and was finally dispossessed of his fortress for some trivial reason.4

Geoffrey had two sons to witness his disgrace in 1060. The one, Dreux, gave up military service and entered the monastery of St. Evroult. He does not seem to have shared his father's disgrace, for his duties consisted of staying with the ducal court and attempting to obtain grants and benefactions for the abbey.5 The other son was Bernard of Neufmarche, who remained in the service of the duke. Born at the castle of Le Neuf-Marche-en-Lions, he no doubt grew up with the excellent military experience which life on the marches afforded.

There is some question as to whether or not Bernard participated in the invasion of England. Although his name is generally accepted in the lists of the conquerors made by modern compilers,6 the evidence is somewhat mixed. To support the contention that he was present at Hastings, one might point to the fact that he maintained a connection with Battle Abbey so close as to suggest a special regard for the establishment. His name appears on the charter by which William founded the abbey to commemorate forever the battle in which the power of Harold was broken.7 Bernard later established a cell of this abbey near his castle of Brecon.8This evidence is less con

4Orderic Vitalis, "Historiae Ecclesiasticae libri XIII in partes tres divisi," in Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, vol. CLXXXVIII, col. 281. The castle was difficult to defend, and a series of barons appointed by the duke failed in this task. Hugh of Grantmesnil finally defeated the people of Beauvais, and the fief, or a portion of it, was granted to him.

5Orderic Vitalis, cols. 455 and 457.

6Such as J. G. Nichols, "The Battle Abbey Roll," The Herald and Genealogist, ed. J. G. Nichols, I, 202.

7Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae, et cujuscunque Generis Acta Publica ...., ed.T. Rymer, Vol. I, Part 1, p. 4.

8See Monasticon Anglicanum ..., ed., W. Dugdale, Carta II, 15 Ed. II, n. 8.

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clusive than one might think. In the first place, the foundation charter of Battle Abbey must be dated between 1086 and 1087.9Secondly, the Battle Abbey cell at Brecon may have been established as an analogy to the mother house; to commemorate the battle in which Bernard broke the power of Rhys ap Tewdwr and delivered South Wales into Norman hands.

To argue against Bernard's participation in the Conquest, it may be pointed out that his name is not present in Domesday. It is hard to believe that he would not have received at least some English lands if he had taken part in the original expedition. While this test is certainly not conclusive, the burden of proof must rest with those who wish to include Bernard among the conquerors. The lack of evidence suggests that Bernard did not join William's expedition against England, or if he did, that he played a very minor role. In any event the year 1086 found him without English lands, but in attendance at the Conqueror's court, perhaps in his personal service. The evidence shows that Bernard's fortunes took a decided turn for the better in the next two years. His name appears in a charter of 1088 as the donor of certain lands to the Abbey of St. Peter's at Gloucestershire.10 The location of the grants shows that by then he was not only a landholder in Herefordshire, but had already extended his control to Glasbury, a vill which lay considerably within the borders of the Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog. The question arises as to how and why Bernard had come to the Welsh frontier.

At the time of Domesday, Gilbert Fitz-Turold, Alfred of Marlborough, and Osbern Fitz-Richard held the Herefordshire lands which were later to form part of Bernard's honor of Brecon. Some few of Osbern Fitz-Richard's lands which later appeared in Bernard's hands were probably obtained as the dowry of Agnes, Osbern's daughter, whom he had married sometime before 1088.11 He also held the estates of Pembridge, Burghill, and Brinsop, all formerly in the hands of Alfred of Marlborough.12 No account can be found as to

9It is interesting to note that the name "Willielmus filius Osb' " appears as a testor to this charter. Since William Fitz-Osbern, earl of Hereford, was long since dead, it is difficult to discern the identity of this witness.

10 Historia et Cartularium Monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae, I, 80, charters 281 and 282; II, 314.

11Chronicon Monasterii de Bello nunc primum typis mandatum, ed. J. S. Brewer, p. 35. For Osbern's Domesday estates, see Domesday Book: or the Great Survey of England by William the Conqueror A.D. MLXXXVI, fol. 186b.

12Domesday Book, fol. 186.

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how Bernard gained possession of these estates. The same is true of the estates of Gilbert Fitz-Turold, which formed the greater part of Bernard's Herefordshire holdings. As we have already noted, Gilbert's estates had centered around the vills of Bach, Middlewood, and Harewood, which lay south of Clifford Castle and at the head of the Golden Valley. In addition Gilbert had been entrusted with the border station (domus defensabilis) located at Eardisley. By this time he may have commenced construction of the fortifications at Dorestone, Snodhill, and Urishay which were later to connect Clifford and Ewyas Harold to form an unbroken line of frontier defenses.13

It has been suggested that the factor that brought Bernard to the frontier was most probably his marriage to the daughter of Osbern Fitz-Richard.14 Although this is possible, there is no evidence to connect his interests prior to 1088 with those of Osbern. It seems rather unlikely that Osbern would have given his daughter in marriage to a landless knight. In any event, the marriage would not explain Bernard's acquisition of the lands of Gilbert and Alfred. If it is assumed that these lands were granted first, then the factors encouraging the marriage become quite clear. It appears that, for some reason or another, the estates of Gilbert Fitz-Turold and Alfred of Marlborough reverted to the crown and were granted by the Conqueror to Bernard, who was at the time one of his household knights.15 Once firmly established on the border, he contracted a marriage with Agnes which brought him Osbern's estates of Beryngton and Little Hereford.16

13I. C. Gould, "Ancient Earthworks," The Victoria Histories of the Counties of England: Hereford, I, 236, 244-245, 254-256.

14W. H. Hunt, "Bernard de Neufmarche," The Dictionary of National Biography. This view is shared by Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 397.

15 This is substantially the view expressed by W. Rees, "The Medieval Lord ship of Brecon," The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion for 1915-1916, pp. 170-172. Rees points out that although Bernard apparently received all of Gilbert's holdings, only a portion of Alfred's estates were granted to him.

16 It might be well to clear up some misconceptions concerning the identity of Bernard's supposed first wife. The Duchess of Cleveland (The Battle Abbey Roll: With Some Account of the Norman Lineages, II, 352-353) states that Bernard had two wives, the latter being Nest, the daughter of Rhys ap Gruffydd. The duchess apparently derived this information from T. Nichols, Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales.... The Duchess holds that it was this later Nest who granted lands to Battle Abbey (See Chronicon Monasterii de Bello, p. 35) while suffering "Qualms of Conscience." This is doubtful, since the lands she granted were de propria hereditate, and, at the time of Domesday lay in the hands of Osbern Fitz-Richard (Domesday Book, fol. 176b), the father of Bernard's supposed first wife. J. E. Lloyd, considering this matter (A History of Wales, II, 397, n. 135), concludes that Bernard's only wife was Agnes, daughter of Osbern Fitz-Richard. Nest, daughter of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, was the wife of said Osbern, and, hence, Bernard's mother-in-law, not his second wife.

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William Rees points out that this order of events is corroborated by the evidence of the charters, which show that the earliest grants made by Bernard were drawn exclusively from those estates previously held by Gilbert and Alfred.17

The evidence clearly shows that sometime between 1086 and 1088, Bernard of Neufmarche came into possession of a compact group of estates lying athwart the Wye River. From these estates the comparatively broad valley of the Wye, and the remains of an old Roman military road, led directly into the heart of the independent Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog. It was perhaps only natural that the energetic Bernard should have expanded along this line.

It is not likely, however, that his first encroachments in this direction took place much before the autumn of 1088. William the Conqueror, as has been said before, discouraged the border barons from disturbing the stability of the frontier. Bernard would not have attempted to circumvent his sovereign so soon after having received the grants which had established his fortunes. William died in September of 1087, however, and the border barons began to organize that rebellion against Rufus which finally crystallized during Lent of 1088. The rebel cause enlisted the aid of virtually all of the families along the border, including the newly arrived Bernard. Together with his father-in-law, he joined the insurgent army which gathered at Hereford shortly after Easter. A rather large force met at this city, where the royal garrison had been recently captured by Roger of Lacy.18 According to one chronicle, the entire shire of Hereford, the men of Shropshire, and many Welsh joined the expedition directed against the royalist city of Worcester.19 The rebels were met by the garrison of that city, led by Bishop Wulfstan, and were decisively defeated.20 By summer, the rebellion was quelled, and the major in

17Rees,"The Medieval Lordship of Brecon,"pp.170-172.

18Orderic Vitalis, cols. 562 ff.

19The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, According to the Several Original Authorities ed. and trans.B. Thorpe, Part I, pp. 356-358.

20Wulfstan's role in saving the threatened city was later magnified into miraculous proportions. See E. A. Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest of England: Its Causes and Results, II, App. D, for a detailed discussion of the development of this tradition.

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surgent stronghold of Rochester fell into Rufus' hands. Strangely enough the king's vengeance against the frontier nobles appears to have been quite mild. In the case of Bernard there appears to have been no punishment at all. To the contrary, almost immediately after the collapse of the rebellion he turned to an activity hitherto strictly denied the border barons by royal authority - invasion of the Welsh buffer states lying west of the frontier. By the fall of 1088 he had advanced as far as the vill of Glasbury, and the grant of this estate to the church of St. Peter's of Gloucester may well have been in the nature of a first fruit.21

What prompted Bernard to flout a long-standing royal frontier policy by attacking Brycheiniog? J. E. Lloyd, the eminent Welsh historian, suggests that "... Rufus could not hold the reins of discipline with the firm hand of his predecessor."22 This may well be, but it is hard to believe that this was the factor operating in Bernard's case. In the first place, Rufus' power in the summer of 1088 was as firmly established as it was ever to be, and had but recently been impressed upon the marcher lords. Why did the invasion not begin before, or after, Rufus had given "the reins of discipline" such a sharp jerk? Again, it appears to be a general rule that, given a sovereign's weakness, it is the greater, and not the lesser, nobles who are first freed of royal restrictions. Why then was it the parvenu and minor lord, Bernard of Neufmarche, who led the forward edge of Norman penetration, and not the rich and powerful earl of Shrewsbury?

It is far easier to believe that royal frontier policy had been changed, and that the border lords had been given license to attack the buffer states that lay along their borders. Such an interpretation fits well with the facts. It was obvious that the old system of a balance of power had failed to keep the marcher lords from rebelling. Thus the continued protection of the buffer states was of no value to Rufus. At the same time, the restriction was galling to the border barons and had no doubt contributed to the disaffection which they had displayed. Abandonment of Brycheiniog, Gwynllwg, and Morgannwg would have cost the king nothing and would have been useful in restoring the loyalty of the border barons. In this respect it is interesting to note that some of these nobles, including Roger of

21Historia et Cartularium Monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae, I, 80, charters 281 and 282; 11, 314. The charter is dated here 1088. It is confirmed by William II in his second regnal year, which did not begin until September.

22Lloyd A History of Wales, II, 396-397.

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Montgomery, earl of Shrewsbury, had returned to active support of the king by the summer of 1088. It is quite possible that this support was bought by removal of royal restrictions on expansion into the buffer states.

Later events show that, although the king abandoned the buffer states, he continued to honor at least the letter of the royal agreement with Rhys ap Tewdwr. The difference may have been that royal recognition and protection of the buffer kingdoms was de facto, but the relationship between the king and Rhys was de iure and consisted of a formal and binding contract between the two. Abandonment of Brycheiniog, Morgannwg, and Gwynllwg simply entailed a change of policy while abandonment of Rhys would have required perfidy. On the other hand, the nature of the feudal contract between the Welsh and Norman kings was of a purely personal nature and it is likely that Rufus agreed that Deheubarth was to be regarded as fair game for the border barons after the death of Rhys. Deheubarth, and not Brycheiniog, was the ultimate goal of the Norman lords, and the invasion of the latter appears to have been at least in part a lure to force Rhys to commit himself. Meanwhile, indirect methods were pursued in an attempt to encompass the fall of Rhys. Bernard was the obvious choice to undertake the invasion of Brycheiniog; his lands lay athwart the major invasion route to that unhappy kingdom, and the lands which he might conquer would constitute an adequate reward for his activities.

As we have stated before, Bernard reached Glasbury by the autumn of 1088. Probably with the assistance of Richard Fitz-Pons lord of Clifford, he advanced steadily for the next two years. Talgarth was reached early in the process, and a castle, Bronllys, constructed at the confluence of the Dulais and Llyfni rivers, probably on the site of the Llys of the tywysog of the commote of Bronllys.23 He then moved south, along the Llyfni River, extending his control into the valley of the Usk. Moving up the latter, he reached the area where Brecon now stands in about 1091. Brecon was the strategic key to Brycheiniog, and Bernard probably immediately started the fortifications at the confluence of the Usk and Honddu which were later to serve as the caput of his honor of Brecon. The topography provided excellent defensive advantages since Brecon lay at the intersection

23See G. T. Clark, "Bronllys Castle," Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series III Vol. VIII (1862), pp. 81-92.

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of the remains of a number of Roman roads, which were still probably as good transportation routes as could be found.

In the next two years, it seems likely that Bernard continued extending his control over the surrounding countryside, but no record of such operations remains. The first mention occurs in Easter week of 1093, when an allied Welsh army led by Rhys ap Tewdwr and Bleddyn ap Maenarch, king of Brycheiniog, advanced out of the hills on Bernard's force.24 The king of Deheubarth had, at last, been forced to discard the protection of the agreement of 1081 and to gamble on battle. The Normans met the Welsh force near the new fortifications, perhaps at the site north of Brecon later marked by Bernard's donation for a priory of Battle Abbey.25 The battle ended, as has been said, with the death of Rhys and the removal of the last obstacle to a full-scale Norman invasion of South Wales.

Rhys' death, coupled with that of Bleddyn ap Maenarch, allowed Bernard to extend his power throughout Brycheiniog. His path of conquest turned down the valley of the Usk, and he advanced in that direction as far as Ystradyw.26 Even while this movement was underway, the rest of South Wales was swept by a popular revolt of the Welsh, who reacted violently to Norman appropriation of their homeland. This reaction, which began in the spring of 1094, at first left Brycheiniog untouched. In 1095 the Normans of this region attempted to come to the aid of their hard-pressed countrymen elsewhere in South Wales. Attacking through Cantref Bychan and Ystrad Tywy, the Brecknockshire Normans devastated Kidwelly and Gower, but without effect.27 The following year, Brecknockshire itself felt the violence of revolt, when the Welsh of the area allied with bands from Gwynllwg and upper Gwent, and apparently gained complete control of the open country. The Normans sought refuge in their castles and waited for the flame of revolt to die out.23

24Brut y Tywysogion: or The Chronicle of the Princes of Wales, ed. J. Williams ab Ithel, p. 54. Note that the date given by the Brut is 1094.

25It may well be that, as Battle Abbey itself was constructed on the spot where Harold supposedly fell, Brecknock Priory occupied the spot of Rhys' death.

26The bishops of Llandaff complained of this annexation, since it brought the area into the honor of Brecon, which lay in the diocese of St. David's. See The Liber Landavensis, Llyfr Teilo, or the Ancient Register of the Cathedral Church of Llandaff ..., ed. and trans. W. J. Rees, p. 550.

27The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Part I, pp. 361-362.

28The various readings of the Brut y Tywysogion leave different impressions of the events of 1094. Most versions read that "the inhabitants remained in their houses, confiding fearlessly, though the Castles were yet entire, and the garrisons m them. MS D, however, a corrupt copy dating from the fifteenth century, replaces "fearlessly" with "tremblingly." The former reading is much to be preferred.

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Two separate expeditions were mounted in an attempt to relieve these beleaguered garrisons.29 The first was directed into upper Gwent and experienced no opposition in its advance. It was ambushed, however, on its withdrawal and suffered heavy losses. A second expedition, directed toward the heart of Brycheiniog, was crus hed by the men of that region at Aber Llech.30 The Annales Cambriae point out, however, that it succeeded, before its defeat in performing what must have been one of its major objectives "Again they came into Brycheiniog and built ca stles there."31 There is no further mention of the region in contemporary sources for this period, but it seems clear that the rebellious countryside was slowly brought back under control by the Norman garrisons in the area. The following year s were quiet ones for Brecknockshire, in which the settlement of the area was finally established.

Little mention of the processes of the Norman settlement of Brecknockshire can be found in contemporary records. Only the charters help to give some indication of the lines which this settlement followed. Bernard endowed the knights who followed him with extensive Welsh fiefs.32 The strong fortresses of Tretower, Blaen Llyfni, and Crickhowell were then constructed to guard those passes which offered easy access to the lands south and east of Brycheiniog.33 This policy of continuing the task of guarding the border of England led to a repetition in miniature of the process which had given birth to the lordship of Brecon. To guard the western frontier of Brecknockshire, Bernard established Richard Fitz-Pons in Cantref Selyff, on the far western border of the lordship. From this base of power Richard continued, on his own, to extend Norman power westward. He moved across the border and, by 1115, was in control of Llandovery

29Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 406, n. 9. Lloyd is of the opinion that both expeditions originated from the newly conquered region of Glamorganshire.

30Brut y Tywysogion, p. 58.

31Annales Cambriae, ed. J. Williams ab Ithel, p. 30 and n. 18.

32T. Jones, A History of the County of Brecknock ..., I, 61.

33See G. T. Clark, "Tretower, Blaen Llyfni and Crickhowell Castles," Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series IV, Vol. II (1873), pp. 276-284; "The Castle of Builth," Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series IV, Vol. V (1874 ), pp. 1 -8.

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and the surrounding Cantref Bychan.34 The records state that Richard made this conquest with the express permission of Henry I, and the area was long held in fief by the Clifford family.35 Richard's achievement offers some indicati on that the process which led to the creation of the marcher lordships was, to some degree, self-generating.

At the same time that Bernard acted to promote the formation of another dynamic group of Norman border barons, he also created what amounted to a new Welsh nobility by investing the sons of Bleddyn ap Maenarch with some of the more untillable and mountainous portions of his lordship. Gwrgan received parts of Blaen Llyfni and Aberllyfni, while Caradog was granted an otherwise unidentifiable mountainous region. Drymbenog ap Maenarch, Bleddyn's brother, was established in the hills of Cantref Selyff as a neighbor of Richard Fitz-Pons.36

It is clear then that the moors and mountains were allowed to remain in Welsh hands, while the Norman conquerors concentrated their activity in the central plains of the lordship. Castles were built on the slopes which overlooked the comparatively fertile valleys of the Usk and Wye. Around Brecon a settlement was established and was granted borough status. Manors were organized, and farming villages soon began to dot the landscape. This agricultural exploitation, one of the more interesting aspects of the settlement of Brecknockshire, was made possible by a combination of circumstances. The land which lay in the valleys of Brecknockshire was, and is, at least partly alluvial in origin. For this reason, the soil has a higher fertility than one might expect from the region. Secondly, although the area is at a comparatively high elevation, it is protected from the extremely heavy rainfall of such altitudes by the high mountains which lie to the west and south. These mountains produce, in the valleys which cut through them, a rain shadow effect which reduces rainfall to tolerable limits. Although these and other factors made agriculture possible to the Normans, the nature of the region is such that it could never have been an easy or very profitable pursuit. In any event, Norman agricultural development was limited to the valley floors, for the

34Rees, "The Medieval Lordship of Brecon," p. 173; also see the essay entitled "The Family of Ballon and the Conquest of South Wales," in J. H. Round, Studies in Peerage and Family History, pp. 181-215.

35Brut y Tywysogion, p. 122.

36Jones, A History of the County of Brecknock, I, 62.

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slopes were not at all arable, considering the technology of the times. As a consequence, Normanization was restricted to the valleys, where the manors which formed the economic basis of the society could exist. The moors, slopes, and mountains were left to the growth of gorse and bracken amidst which the Welsh pastoralists continued to tend their herds. They took no part in the development of Brecknockshire, other than by paying tribute to their Norman lords, who had established their manors and reared their castles in the valleys far below.

The Welsh of Brycheiniog had lost little through the Norman conquest of the area. For the most part, the Normans could not use the pasture lands which the Welsh valued most highly and made no effort to dispossess the natives of these areas. On the other hand the land which the Normans had to control to exist were the valleys which the free Welsh tribesmen had little desire to utilize. A peaceful accommodation was possible, in which the Norman lords occupied a dual position. In the valleys, the traditional manorial and feudal structure of Anglo-Norman society was simply transplanted into the new region. In the moors, however, the Norman lords displaced the native Welsh rulers and collected the dues and tributes which hitherto had been rendered to them. The situation was such that the two societies of the region impinged only at the uppermost governmental level, and, by assuming a dual role, the Normans avoided too much contact even here. In discussing the economic aspects of the Norman conquest of Brycheiniog, William Rees states:

The advent of the Norman ... did not necessarily imply a violent displacement of the native Welsh. Rather may it be said the Norman agriculturalist of the valley supplemented the Welsh pastoralist of the hills so that economically the area gained by the conquest. The Norman hold on the lowland belt not only weakened the resistance of the Welsh, but also formed a suitable base for expansion into the hill districts from the chief Norman settlements either by force of arms or by the less spectacular but more successful silent diffusion of Norman influences among the Celtic population.37

We have seen that Rufus' abandonment of his predecessor's frontier policy spelled the end of the independent buffer states which lay along England's western border. Brycheiniog was the first to fall, and by 1093, Bernard was actively engaged in transforming that ancient

37Rees, "The Medieval Lordship of Brecon," pp. 203-204.

94 The Normans in South Wales

kingdom into his honor of Brecon. The death of Rhys in that year then opened the way for the invasion of Deheubarth itself. The marcher lords were not slow to take advantage of this opportunity. In July of 1093, less than four months after the death of Rhys, Roger of Montgomery completed his preparations and moved down from his mountainous base of Arwystli. In a short time, Ceredigion and Dyfed, the heart of Deheubarth, lay in his hands.

If control of this region had truly been the aim of the border baron's activity,then this goal had been achieved; Deheubarth had fallen and the core of Welsh power in the south was broken. But what was the fate of the other two buffer kingdoms, Morgannw g and the mountainous realm of Gwynllwg which lay along its eastern border?

This question is far from easy to answer. The major outlines are clear: the region was conquered by Robert Fitz-Hamon, and was eventually organized as a marcher lordship. With this statement, however, we have presented all that can be definitely said. The silence surrounding the Norman conquest of Glamorgan, and Robert Fitz-Hamon to a lesser extent, constitutes one of the major historiographic problems of the period. The major chronicles, both Anglo-Norman and Welsh, make almost no mention of Glamorgan, one of the richest and most fertile regions of all Wales. The most that can be derived from reasonably contemporary data is a few bits of incidental information which are distorted and often contradictory. To add to the confusion, a series of Welsh antiquarians took it upon themselves to remedy this dearth of information by fabricating some accounts out of equal parts of imagination and popular tradition.38 The lack of reliable data, the attractiveness of the spurious accounts, and their appearance of authenticity all have tempted scholars to make use of these accounts.39 Few secondary works are completely free from con-

38These accounts may be found in the following works: ( 1 ) D. Powel, The Historie of Cambria Now Called Wales ..., pp. 88-90. (2) Sir Edward Stradling's account contained in the same volume, pp. 90-101. (3) The "Gwentian Brut" c ontained in The Myvyrian Archaeology of Wales ..., eds. O. Jones et al., pp. 690-701. (4) The "Brut Ieuan Brechfa," in the same volume, pp. 719-720. (5) "The Names and Genealogy of the Kings of Glamorgan," contained in Iolo Manuscript s ..., ed. T. Williams ab Iolo, pp.15-16. An English translation of this section is contained on pages 377-382.

39E. A. Freeman, for instance, is quite aware of the unreliable nature of these accounts. Nevertheless, he tends to make use of the data and to allow it to color his account. He stated in reference to these accounts that he was "perhaps inclined to put more faith in the general story" than he once thought was justified. See Freeman, The Reign of William Rufus, II, 613.

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tamination by these sources, and some of the earlier treatments are content to accept this worthless data at face value.

The silence surrounding the conquest of Glamorgan is supplemented by the inadequacy of the data concerning Robert Fitz-Hamon, the leading spirit of this conquest. Poor scholarship has succeeded in obscuring secondary accounts of Fitz-Hamon to the same degree that forgeries have confused the picture of his great accomplishment in Wales. Although the lack of data makes it impossible to construct a detailed picture of Fitz-Hamon and the conquest of Glamorgan, enough material is available to trace the general outlines, and to correct some of the many errors which have crept into treatments of the subject.

Robert Fitz-Hamon was a member of a powerful Norman family who traced its lineage from a close relative of Rollo, the original duke of Normandy.

Since the tenth century this family had held the extensive lordships of Thorigny, Creully, Mezy, and Evrecy in lower Normandy.40 Robert's exact genealogy is a matter of some doubt, but it seems clear that he was a direct descendant of the Haimo Dentatus who was among the nobles slain during the battle of Val-ès-Dun in 1047.41 It is difficult, however, to decide Whether he was the son or the grandson, of this Haimo. William of Malmesbury states explicitly that Haimo was Robert's grandfather.42 Acceptance of this source leads to some difficulty, however, in that one is then forced to assign no t one, but two sons to Haimo Dentatus. The first of these is Haimo Vicecomes,mentioned in Domesday as a tenant-in-chief of lands in Kent and Surrey.43 If Haimo Dentatus is the grandfather of Robert, then Haimo Vicecomes would be his fa ther. This is quite all right, except that a certain Robert Fitz-Hamon appears as witness on certain charters which may be dated as early as 1049, and which are certainly no later than 1066.44 These are too early for a grandson of

40This, and much of the other material in the following discussion is based on T. F. Tout's article "Robert Fitz-Hamon" in The Dictionary of National Biography, XIX, 159-162.

41Wace, Maistre Wace's Roman de Rou et des Ducs de Normandie, nach den Handschriften, ed. H. Andresen, 11.4037 ff., p. 192.

42William of Malmesbury, De Gestis regnum Anglorum, libri quinque, Historiae novellas, libri tres, ed. R.V. Stubbs, Part 1, p. 286. 43Domesday Book, fols.14 and 36b 44See G. T. Clark, The Land of Morgan: Being a Contribution towards the History of the Lordship of Glamorgan, p. 43, M. Pezet, Les Barons de Creully: Etudes Historiques, pp. 21-52; "Chartes normandes de l'abbaye de Saint-Florent pres Saumur, de 710 a 1200," ed. P. Marchegay, Memoires de la Societe des Antiquaires de la Normandie, XXX ( 1880), 702.

96 The Normans in South Wales

Haimo Dentatus. Thus it would be necessary to assign him another son, one with the name of Robert Fitz-Hamon, to whom the uncomfortably early charters might be assigned.45

Some scholars have suggested that Robert was the son, not the grandson of Haimo Dentatus.46 It is tempting to agree with this view, which would eliminate the need of postulating a shadowy elder Robert Fitz-Hamon. Only the single testimony of William of Malmesbury acts to discredit this suggestion. Furthermore, if one assumes that he was indeed the son of Haimo Dentatus, and was born five years before his father's death, for instance, in 1042, he would have been twenty-four years old at the time of the Conquest, sixty-five at his death in 1107, and of suitable age for all of the charters and the accomplishments which are ascribed to his name.47

Whoever his immediate parent might have been, it is clear that he was not an only son. William of Jumieges states that Robert was the brother of Haimo Dapifer, a man whom Domesday notes as having been an extensive landholder in Essex.48 E. A. Freeman goes so far as to identify Haimo Dapifer as the elder brother, but this can hardly have been the case.49 In a listing of fees held under the church of Bayeux, Robert is credited with ten fees in the honor of Evreux and with the hereditary post of standard bearer for the Blessed Mary of Evreux.50 Under the system of primogeniture, such family estates and honors norm ally passed to the eldest son. Since Robert held them, and since no evidence exists to the contrary, Haimo Dapifer must have been his younger brother.51

45Tout, "Robert Fitz-Hamon."

46 Clark, The Land of Morgan, p. 19.

47 Fitz-Hamon probably married Sybil sometime about 1090. This would have made him forty-eight at the time of the marriage. His ability to father four children by her (see Monasticon Anglicanum, II, 60) is not unusual enough to present any obstacle.

48Historiae Normannorum Scriptores ..., ed. A. Duchesne, 306C; Domesday Book,fols. 54b, 100b, and 106.

49Freeman, The Reign of William Rufus, II, 82-83.

50Clark, The Land of Morgan, p. 20.

51 Pezet, Les Barons de Creully, p. 20. Pezet makes the same point and, interestingly enough, claims that Richard of Grenville is yet a third son of Haimo. Sources do mention a "Ricardus filius Haymonis as a Norman lord in 1096. Pezet points out that Grenneville in La Manche was one of the family estates, and that Richard may have derived his name from this place. One must note, however, that Richard Grenville's foundation charter to Neath lists a certain Robert Grenville, probably a brother, as a witness. This would add a fourth son, a second Robert, and confuse matters entirely

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Fitz-Hamon's early history is just as confused. It seems clear that he was not present in the Norman expedition that conquered England, but even this is disputed. When his biographer, Pezet, considered the evidence, he expressed some surprise that none of the sons of Haimo Dentatus were listed on the Battle Abbey Roll.52 To this must be added the fact that none of the chroniclers of the Conquest mention Fitz-Hamon as having participated. After having considered the dearth of positive evidence, Pezet was forced to suggest that Robert must have joined the expedition since most of his immediate neighbors did so. On the basis of this flimsy conjecture, Pezet firmly decided that Robert took an active role in the Conquest of England.

Pezet would have been much happier had he read the Chronicle of Tewkesbury, which states:

...in the year of our Lord 1066 William, duke of Normandy, acquired England; he who led with him a young and noble man, Robert Fitz-Hamon, lord of Astremerville in Normandy.53

One should not place too much credence in this source, however, for it would have been only too easy for the monkish compiler to have attempted to glorify a man who had greatly enriched the monastery, was regarded as its actual founder, and lay buried in an honored position within its walls. In the second place, the records of Tewkesbury appear to have been carelessly kept. In one case, William I is made to confirm the grant of a Welsh church made by Fitz-Hamon. As will be shown later, this seems quite unlikely, and the grant was probably confirmed by William Rufus.54 Finally, the language of this particular entry is suspect, and introduces the relationship between Fitz-Hamon and the Conqueror much too abruptly to seem an integral part of the passage. The test provided by Domesday is reasonably conclusive. If Fitz-Hamon had taken part in the Conquest of England, we should expect to find his name entered in Domesday as having shared in the spoils. His name does not appear, however.55 This is a very important point, but it has been obscured by Sir Henry Ellis' presentation of

52Pezet, Les Barons de Creully, pp. 274-275.

53Monasticon Anglicanum, II, 60.

54Historia et Cartularium Monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae, I, 93.

55Pezet (Les Barons de Creully, pp. 275-276) states that Fitz-Hamon was listed in Domesday. He is mistaken on this point.

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MS Cotton Vespasian B. XXIV, especially folios 53 and 55. These folios present an account of those individuals and institutions holding burgages in the towns of Gloucester and Winchelcombe. Ellis presented the list with the suggestion that it may have been one of the original returns which formed the foundation for Domesday.56 Robert Fitz-Hamon appears as a major holder in this listing, credited with twenty-two burgages in Gloucester and five in Winchelcombe. Ellis attempted no explanation of why he appeared in this "preliminary compilation," but not in the finished product. The problem lies in an erroneous dating of the document. Among the names which appear are those of Earl Hugh and Bishop Sampson. The bishop was not consecrated until 1097, and the earl died in 1101. The document dates within those limits and can have nothing to do with the compilation of Domesday.57 The single objection to the Domesday test is, therefore, without value.

Pezet was unwilling to accept the obvious conclusion, and, amidst all the rhetoric by which he sought to bolster his contention, he suggested that Fitz-Hamon received a delayed reward for his services.58 It is true that, as some time after Domesday, he did acquire the great expanses of land which formed the honor of Gloucester, which had lain for some time in the hands of Henry, the Conqueror's son.59 One account, that of the anonymous scribe who continued Wace's narrative, states that he received these lands from the Conqueror himself.60 The bulk of the evidence is to the contrary, however. The Chronicle of Tewkesbury states that William rufus, not his father, granted these lands to Robert "because of the great labors the aforesaid Robert underwent with his father."61 Pezet seized upon this passage as proof that Robert earned the honor of Gloucester by his

56H. Ellis, A General Introduction to Domesday Book ..., II, 446. Unfortunately, Clark accepts this view; see Clark, The Land of Morgan, p. 20.

57See A. S. Ellis, "Some Account of the Landholders of Gloucestershire Named in Domesday Book, A.D. 1086," unpublished, British Museum, number 10352.h.12, p. 5.

58 Pezet, Les Barons de Creully, p. 275. "... on peutêum;tre certain que sous l'une des armures de ces nobles hommes portant la gonfacon et la lance, de ces cottes de mailles, de ces longs et larges boucliers dont la tapiss eries de Bayeux contient la representation battait le coeur du baron de Creully ....Il ne fut point de recompenses dont il gratifia ses vaillants compagnons."

59 The transmission of these lands is considered in some detail by Freeman, The Norman Conquest, IV, 761-764.

60Chroniques Anglo-Normandes ..., ed. F. Michel, I, 74.

61 Monasticon Anglicanum, II, 60.

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activities during the Conquest.62 One wonders why, in that uncertain age, Robert would have been willing to wait twenty-one years for his share of the spoils.

It seems far more likely that Rufus rewarded Robert, not for services rendered to his father twenty-one years before, but for services rendered to himself quite recently. The revolution of 1088 had been quelled by the combined force of the English fyrds and that small band of barons who remained loyal to the king.63 Fitz-Hamon had been pre-eminent among this group of loyal nobles. In view of this, it is not surprising to see the lush lands of the honor of Gloucester placed in Robert's hands. They had proven difficult to defend during the rebellion, and Rufus had been forced to abandon them while he pursued the siege of Rochester. By placing Robert in Gloucester, he not only rewarded a faithful follower, but also took steps to strengthen the defenses which barred the routes to London to the powerful, faithless, and turbulent frontier nobility.64 Thus it was the expediency of royal politics, rather than the lure of the frontier or his accomplishments during the Conquest, which first brought Fitz-Hamon to the Welsh border.

He soon cemented his position there by marrying Sybil, the daughter of Roger of Montgomery and sister of Robert of Bellêum;me. After his marriage, a blanket of silence descends upon his activities as earl of Gloucester. Pezet, in his customary attempt to exalt the position and activities of the baron of Creully, held that he joined Robert Curthose in the First Crusade.65 This seems unlikely for a number of reasons. In the first place, Fitz-Hamon, a close confidant and supporter of William Rufus, would not have joined forces with a man who had a counterclaim to the throne. We should expect that Curthose received no more support from Fitz-Hamon than he did from Rufus. Robert's supporters were not Fitz-Hamon's friends. Secondly,

62 Pezet, Les Barons de Creully, p. 278.

63 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Part I, pp. 356-358.

64 One need not believe, as does G. T. Clark (in The Land of Morgan), that the purpose of this grant was to provide Robert with a strategic location for the invasion of Glamorgan. No indication can be found that Glamorgan presented either a danger or an attraction for William Rufus. The events of 1088, on the other hand, had shown clearly that the marcher lords did present a danger. Only Wulfstan had stood between Rufus and the armies of the border.

65 Pezet, Les Barons de Creully, p. 283. Pezet's only authority for this remark seems to be the testimony of L. de Masseville, Histoire Sommaire de Normandie, I, 248-249. De Masseville gives no indication of the sources from which he drew his list of the companions of Curthose.

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Fitz-Hamon had much at home to occupy his attention. Probably by now he had occupied Glamorgan, and was engaged in the immense task of organizing and developing his new acquisition. Moreover, a general Welsh insurrection had broken out in 1094, and the Welsh of Brycheiniog, Gwynllwg, and upper Gwent were in arms by 1096. It is unlikely that he would have left his newly won domains surrounded by powerful enemies.66 A third point is that no contemporary account of the crusade mentions Fitz-Hamon. Fourthly, as Pezet himself points out, Curthose was still on his return trip from the Holy Land when he received word of Rufus' death.67 Robert, on the other hand, was in England, and in Rufus' company, on the very day Rufus was to die.68 Finally, Fitz-Hamon joined the forces of Henry in the confusion following the death of William Rufus.69 If he had spent the previous four years under the command of Curthose, it is difficult to explain his rapid espousal of the duke's rival.70 It is clear that Robert Fitz-Hamon did not join the First Crusade; the close of the eleventh century found him ensconced on the marches of Wales, consolidating the conquest of the Welsh kingdom of Morgannwg.

In the struggle between Henry and Robert Curthose, Fitz-Hamon took an active part on behalf of the former. He engineered a truce between the two; but it failed, and armed conflict broke out. He gathered followers from his paternal estate in Normandy and attacked the nearby town of Bayeux, held by Duke Robert's supporters. The attack failed, and Fitz-Hamon himself was led captive into the town.71 This defeat stung Henry into action, and he attacked Bayeux. He forced the liberation of Fitz-Hamon and then devastated the town. Fitz-Hamon accompanied Henry in his successful attack on Caen, and was active during the subsequent sie ge of Falaise. In this

66Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 406. Lloyd refers to Norman expeditions directed against the Welsh in 1096. If his inference is correct that these forces came from Glamorgan, they may well have been led by Fitz-Hamon himself.

67Pezet, Les Barons de Creully, p. 284.

68William of Malmesbury, Part I, p. 333. This is not too telling a point, however, since Robert was notoriously slow in relinquishing the delights of his triumphal return. Fitz-Hamon could have decided to precede him. William of Malmesbury does picture Fitz-Hamon as transmitting to Rufus the warning vision of a monachus quidam transmarinus. However, this says only that the monk was foreign, and not that he was in foreign parts when communicating this vision to Fitz-Hamon.

69 William of Malmesbury, Part I, p. 394

70 Pezet, Les Barons de Creully, pp. 284-285. Pezet suggests a falling-out between Fitz-Hamon and the duke.

71 Wace, ll. 11,125 ff., pp. 469 ff.

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last struggle, he suffered an injury which deprived him of his reason and forced his withdrawal from active life.72 He was returned to England, where he lingered for a time, before dying in March of 1107, without male issue. His body was then interred at Tewkesbury, the abbey which he had done so much to enrich and glori fy.73

Very little more is known of the life of Robert Fitz-Hamon. The striking lack of information concerning him makes every account of his life more or less unsatisfactory. Unless new information is found, the only aim of the biographer can be to clear away the structure of error which contradictory evidence and ill-founded conjecture have reared about the man. Much the same is true of the story of Fitz-Hamon's great achievement: the conquest of Glamorgan. We have already remarked on the dearth of data concerning this event and mentioned the spurious accounts perpetrated by the Welsh antiquarians. Although the falsity of this narrative has long been known, many of the older works on the subject, otherwise quite respectable, have been contaminated. For this reason, it is well for the student of the subject to be acquainted with the details of this rather romantic tale.

According to this tradition, the conquest of Glamorgan occurred in the following manner.74 Cydifor ap Gollwyn, a great chieftain of Deheubarth, died in the year 1091, and his two sons, Eneon and Maredudd, rebelled against the authority of the reigning king, Rhys ap Tewdwr. The brothers allied themselves with Gruffydd ap Maredudd ab Owain, a claimant to the throne of Deheubarth. The allies met Rhys at Llandudoch, and in the ensuing battle were defeated, with Gruffydd being killed. So far, the account of the antiquarians agrees quite well with contemporary narrative. From this point on, however, the antiquarian tradition presents events for which no contemporary source can be found.

According to this narrative, Eneon survived the battle, and fled to the court of Jestyn ap Gwrgant, king of Morgannwg, who had also opened hostilities against Rhys.75

75Eneon was well received at the court, perhaps due to the fact that he had "served in England before." 72At Falaise, and not Tinchebrai as Clark states in The Land of Morgan, p. 43.

73 Monasticon Anglicanum, II, 60

74For the source of this tradition, see note 38 above

75 Jestyn was probably an actual person. Although no contemporary evidence of his existence can be found, his name appears immediately after the conquest as the patronymic of certain Welsh lords in Glamorgan.

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and was well-knowen and acquainted with all the English nobilitie."76 He was given the promise of Jestyn's daughter in marriage and, in exchange, offered to secure the services of a Norman army in Jestyn's struggle against Rhys.77 He obtained the aid of Robert Fitz-Hamon, twelve other knights, and a sizable force of Norman men-at arms. The contingent sailed for Glamorgan and landed at Porthkerry early in 1093. Jestyn and Fitz-Hamon made a concerted attack on Dyfed, devastating the region. Rhys struck back, and met the allies in battle at Bryn-y-Beddau, near the border of Brycheiniog. The allies were victorious, and not only Rhys, but his two sons, Goronwy and Cynan, were killed. The triumphant Jestyn paid the Normans their promised rewards; and Fitz-Hamon's force returned to their ships. Jestyn was not so faithful to the bargain he had struck with Eneon. Having been scorned, Eneon pursued the departing Normans,

and when he came to the shoare, they were all ashipboard; then he shouted to them, and made a signe with his cloake, and they turned againe to know his meaninge.78

Eneon spoke with Fitz-Hamon, and urged him to attack the faithless Jestyn. The Normans "were easilie persuaded, and so ungratefully turned all their power against him, for whose defense they had come thither, and at whose hands they had been well entertained, and recompensed with rich gifts and great rewards. At first they spoiled him of his Countrie, who mistrusted them not, and took all the fertile and valley ground to themselves and left the barren and rough mountains to Eneon for his part."79

The battle was fought at Mynedd Bychan, near Cardiff, where Jestyn himself was killed. Eneon, henceforth surnamed fradwr, or traitor, received the lordship of Senghenydd as his portion. The various accounts of the conquest of Glamorgan then end with a listing of the twelve knights who followed Fitz-Hamon.80These lists agree in recording the names of Londres, Stradling, St. John, Turbeville, Grenville, Humffreville, St. Quentin, Soore, Sully, Berkeroll, Syward, and Fleming.

76 Powel, The Historie of Cambria, p. 89.

77Ibid., p. 92. In Sir Edward Stradling's account, Eneon appears simply as a follower of Jestyn- "a Gentleman of his."

78 Ibid., p. 89.

79 Ibid., p. 89.

80 That is, Powel's and Stradling's accounts so end.

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      These accounts can be directly verified in only two respects: in their account of the death of Rhys ap Tewdwr, and in the genealogies appended to the texts. In both instances contemporary data cast doubts on the narrative. In the first place, these Elizabethan versions ascribe the death of Rhys to the allied force of Jestyn and FitzHamon. Genuine records which refer to this event make no mention of such an allied army. To the contrary, they explicitly state that Rhys met his death at the hands of the Normans of Brecknockshire. 81

      In addition to this, the genealogies are clearly in error. While some of the names are probably those of original conquerors, the Stradlings, for instance, did not settle in Glamorgan until considerably after the conquest of the region.82 The completeness and romantic detail of the accounts found in Powel's Historie create distrust by their very richness. The well-developed narrative seems to be more a literary endeavor based perhaps on local tradition than a sober history based upon now-inaccessible evidence.83 The narratives found in the Historie, however, were corroborated by data presented by more recent Welsh antiquarians. In the Myvyrian Archaiology and the Iolo Manuscripts, Edward Williams presented what he said were transcripts which he had made during his distinguished career, from original manuscripts. 84 They verified the earlier narrative in all essential points. For this reason, many were more disposed to accept the Elizabethan narrative than before. More recent scholarship, however, has branded the "transcriber" of these "documents" as having been guilty of numerous forgeries. 85 Thus, all accounts which have presented this rather romantic account of the conquest of Glamorgan have proven to be of the most dubious validity. Since almost nothing contained in the Elizabethan narrative can be corroborated, it must be regarded as conjecture, or at the most as representing a sixteenth-century popular tradition.

      The genuine data is extremely limited and appears to be rather untrustworthy. The evidence as to the time at which the conquest was made can be briefly summarized as follows.

(1) The Annals of Margan states: ". . . and the city of Cardiff was

81 Lloyd, A History of Wales, 11,402, n. 9.

82 Clark, The Land of Morgan, p. 187; Freeman, The Reign of William Rufus, II, 613.

83 Clark makes this same point: Clark, The Land of Morgan, p. 18.

84 The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales, pp. 719-720 and 690-701.

85 G. J. Williams, Iolo Morgannwg, a Chywyddau'r Ychwanegiad.

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built, under King William I."86 This would indicate that Norman power was established in Glamorgan by 1081. This period, however, is prior to the founding of Margam, and the account contained in the annals is clearly a conflation, probably of a Winchester chronicle and some other source. Since the Annals make no mention of William I's visit to South Wales in this same year, it seems unlikely that the sources from which they are drawn were well acquainted with affairs on the Welsh border at this time. If this is true, the Margan annals may represent only a popular tradition, or, at best, a transitory aspect of William's visit to Wales.2 A somewhat more impressive piece of information may be found in the Cartulary of St. Peter's of Gloucester. This cartulary records a confirmation by William the Conqueror in the following words:

In the year of our Lord 1086, I, William, King of the English, upon the petition of Serlo, abbot of Gloucester, and certain of my nobles, concede to God and to the church of St. Peter in Gloucester possession of [those] lands which archbishop Thomas held of the same church. To wit: Lecche, Otidona, Standisse; and also the church of St. Cadoc, with the lands which Robert Fitz-Hamon gave to the same abbey87

If the dating of the document is correct, this passage would indicate that Robert Fitz-Hamon held Welsh lands under William I, and hence prior to 1087.88 Few scholars would be willing to assign such an early date to the conquest of the kingdom of Morgannwg. The objections which might be raised are many. In the first place, there is the silence of Domesday on this point. This compilation minutely records the composition of the small outpost the Normans had established on the banks of the Usk. It is silent concerning any acquisitions further west. It is difficult to believe that a permanent Norman settlement in Glamorgan would completely have escaped the notice of these compilers. Secondly, it seems unlikely that Fitz-Hamon could have undertaken such an extensive task as the subju-

86Annales de Margan, ed. H. R. Luard, p. 4. MS D of the Brut y Tywysogion agrees, but its editor characterizes it as very carelessly constructed, the facts in many instances perverted and the language frequently obscure." see Brut y Tywysogion, p. xlvi.

87Historia et Cartularium Monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae, I , 334, i.e., fol. 85 of the cartulary. Serlo was abbot of the monastery from 1072 to 1104.

88see Freeman, The Reign of William Rufus, II, 84, n. 2. Freeman suspects that an erroneous date has been given by the cartulary.

The Establishment of the Marcher Lordships 105

gation of Morgannwg without possessing an equally extensive base of attack from which to draw the manpower and revenues necessary to support the operation. The conquests begun by other border lords illustrate that this was the normal procedure. Bernard of Neufmarche possessed considerable lands in Herefordshire from which he advanced into Brycheiniog, as did Roger of Lacy. Roger of Montgomery, the conqueror of Deheubarth, was, of course, earl of Shrewsbury. Even Braose's conquest of Buellt was based upon his early grant of lands around Radnor.89 More instances could be adduced, but it is clear that the conquerors of South Wales generally launched their attacks from extensive landholdings near the object of their attack.90 Fitz-Hamon did possess such holdings, but he did not acquire them until after the death of William I.91 If Fitz-Hamon undertook the conquest of Glamorgan before He received his vast Gloucestershire holdings, his achievement was quite unique in character and represented a radical departure from the general mode of Norman operations in the region. The evidence concerning the conquest of Morgannwg is thus not only scanty, but apparently untrustworthy, and assigns a date to the conquest which is far too early. Some scholars would place the conquest of Glamorgan after 1093 in order to make it accord with the general Norman onslaught which followed the death of Rhys ap ewdwr.92 This is not a necessary supposition, however, since Morgannwg, like Brycheiniog, was a buffer kingdom. The forces which acted to protect Rhys and Deh eubarth ended in 1093, it is true, but the policy protecting the buffer kingdoms ended as early as 1088. Brycheiniog was invaded in that year, and there is no reason to assume that the invasion of Morgannwg was much delayed. It is impossible to draw any conclusions from the scanty and fragmentary evidence which has survived. It can only be stated that at sometime, very probably after the accession of William Rufus, Normans under Robert Fitz-Hamon occupied the lowland region of Glamorgan. Various features of this occupation strongly suggest that the attack was launched across the Bristol Channel, rather than overland.

89Chartes Normandes de l'abbaye de Saint-Florent pres Saumur, de 710 a 1200, p. 14, n. 2.

90Freeman, The Reign of William Rufus, II, 73-74.

91See the discussion of this point earlier in this chapter.

92 Lloyd, A History of Wages, II, 398-399; Clark, The Land of Morgan, pp.18-19

106 The Normans in South Wales

The most natural invasion route for the Normans to have followed consisted of the Roman road leading from Caerleon to Cardiff and then through the vale of Glamorgan along the line now followed by the A48 highway. If this were the route used, we should expect the conqueror of Glamorgan to be also the lord of Gwent. He was not, but was, rather, the lord of lands lying directly across the Bristol Channel from the region invaded. It is clear that, although the Via Juliana had acted as the axis of early Norman penetration into Wales, this route was abandoned by Fitz-Hamon and his colleagues. Glamorgan was invaded from Gloucestershire, Gower from Somersetshire, Carmarthenshire from Devonshire, and Pembrokeshire from the north. The cause of this new departure can easily be seen in the topography of Glamorgan. On the eastern and western borders of the country, tongues of highland project southwards from the upland mass of central Wales, and extend to within a short distance from the sea. In these two places, Avon in the west and Senghenydd in the east, the Roman road runs at the very foot of the mountains. At these two points the overland route of South Wales clearly lay under a constant threat of Welsh attack. The efficiency of the road seems not to have been worth the expenditure which would have been necessary to fortify these points adequately. As a matter of fact, Fitz-Hamon not only neglected to fortify these places at all, but actually left the highland regions in the hands of native Welsh chieftains, and made no effort to extend any direct Norman authority there. Even now these two upland areas are among the least anglicized of the county of Glamorganshire. He could have afforded such a negligent policy only if the Via Juliana held no strategic value for him. Furthermore, the road could have been without strategic value only if Fitz-Hamon were assured of secure sea communications with less threatened Norman-held lands, most probably those which he held in Gloucestershire.

The conquest of Glamorgan by sea in itself represents a radical innovation in Norman methods of invasion. It seems to have been a rather dangerous policy in view of the continuing strength of the sea raiders who had long dominated the region of the Irish Sea. Numerous indications exist that the threat of attack by such raiders influence the policies of the Norman conquerors. When Gower was occupied, for instance, two castles would have been quite sufficient to defend the peninsula from attack by the mainland Welsh. Far more than two castles were constructed, however, and most of them were

The Establishment of the Marcher Lordships 107

located in positions of no value except as defense from sea-borne attack.93 Fitz-Hamon appears to have ignored this danger when embarking on the conquest of Glamorgan, and after the occupation of the region, took no extraordinary steps to construct defenses on the seacoast. Two factors possibly influenced his thinking in this matter. In the first place, the coast of Glamorgan was vulnerable to sea raiders at too many points to make effective fortifications feasible. While such raids could have been irritating, the raiders could have threatened Fitz-Hamon seriously only if they possessed a mainland base. The Normans could reasonably expect to be able to control any base which such raiders might attempt to establish. Secondly, in all probability there existed a relatively large Scandinavian agricultural and trading community in the vale of Glamorgan.94 It seems likely that Fitz-Hamon expected amicable relations with the countrymen of his new tenants.

The sources are silent concerning the Scandinavian settlement which may have aided him in his conquest of the region. In any event it is clear that the existence of this colony influenced the disposition which Fitz-Hamon made of the newly won area. The area of Scandinavian settlement, which corresponded roughly to the vale of Glamorgan proper, became the core of his lordship, and was retained under his direct control as the body of the shire.95 This region, comprising the only lands of any appreciable agricultural worth in the county, was apparently devoid of Welsh, and Celtic place-names are nonexistent in the area. The northern frontier of this region was formed by the old Roman road, and Fitz-Hamon took care to retain personal control of Cardiff, Cowbridge, and Kenfig, all centers lying along this northern border and linked by the Via Juliana. At Cardiff and Kenfig he maintained fortresses which not only protected the northern borders of the body of the shire, but were also able to act as

93 D. T. Williams, "Gower: A Study in Linguistic Movements and Historical Geography," Archaeologia Cambrensis, LXXXIX (1934), 312.

94See B. G. Charles, Old Norse Relations with Wales. The possibility and extent of Norse settlement in Wales have been much inflated. Charles rejects these claims in every area except Glamorgan, where the evidence indicates that a permanent agricultural settlement was made.

95 Place-name studies have roughly defined the area of Scandinavian settlement. See D. R. Paterson, "The Scandinavian Settlement of Cardiff," Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series VII, Vol. LXXVI ( 1921), pp. 53-83, "Scandinavian Influences in the Place-Names and Early Personal Names of Glamorgan," Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series VI, Vol. XX (1920 ), pp. 31-89.

108 The Normans in South Wales

ports for a coastal fleet" Fitz-Hamon thus retained direct control of the most fertile areas of the old kingdom of Morgannwg, together with a relatively large settlement of non-Welsh people from which he could draw manpower in case of need. The care which was taken to organize and defend this area makes it clear that the vale of Glamorgan and its Scandinavian settlement was regarded by Fitz-Hamon as forming the core of his holdings and providing the firmest base for his power.

To a greater or lesser extent, Welshmen and Celtic influences were present throughout Glamorgan outside of the vale proper. The general rule seems to have been that Welsh population and culture was concentrated in the uplands, while the river valleys were largely devoid of such influences. This entire region was organized into member lordships, perhaps corresponding to earlier Welsh commotes each of which was accorded special treatment based upon particular local conditions. From the Norman point of view, the most valuable lands were those in which Celtic influences were least, both because this allowed the importation of a more subservient population and because such lands were of a higher agricultural potential than those favored by the Welsh. With these considerations in mind, we need not be surprised to see that the lordships of Meisgyn and Glyn Rhondda, comprised of the valleys of the Taff and Rhondda respectively, were kept under the direct control of the earl himself. To these two must be added the somewhat mountainous, but strategic district known as Tir yr Iarll (Earl's Land), lying between the Avon and Ogmore rivers. Four districts, Coety, Llanblethian, Neath, and Talavan were placed in the hands of Fitz-Hamon's vassals. Each of these constituted a separate member lordship, but their organization was somewhat similar. Norman power in each was concentrated in the fertile and arable lowland area. The mountainous portion of the district, however, constituted a "welshery," in which Welsh laws and customs were allowed to continue with a minimum of Norman interference. The Norman lords apparently endeavored to maintain a dual position with respect to the Welsh and non-Welsh tenants, for in Neath and Coety, at least, there is some indication that the ruling families of Grenville and Turbeville married Welsh heiresses.97

96 At least these places were able to provide ports. There is no evidence that any such fleet existed.

97For the family of Turbeville see G. T. Clark, "Coyty Castle and Lordship, Archaeologia Cambrensia, Series IV, Vol. VIII (1877), pp. 121; "The Manor-

The Establishment of the Marcher Lordships 109

Finally, three mountainous districts were allowed to remain under the direct control of Welsh chieftains. One of these, Senghenydd, was granted to Eneon, the "Eneon Fradwr" of the Elizabethan narrative. Welsh life and customs remained undisturbed in this region for many years. The Welsh lords of the region were little affected by Normanization, and maintained a fierce independence for many centuries.

To the west the situation was quite different. The lordships of Ruthyn and Avon were granted to two sons of Jestyn ap Gwrgant. These Welsh lords of Avon especially showed the effects of Normanization. Under Caradog ap Jestyn (Ca. 1078 Avon was transformed into a Norman lordship. A castle was constructed on the bank of the Avon River, and a Welsh borough established at Aberafon. Intermarriage brought the ruling family closer to conformity with the ideals of Anglo-Norman aristocracy. The lords of Avon thus became benefactors of Margam and Neath, dropped the Welsh system of patronymics, and adopted the family name of Avene. By the fourteenth century, Avon was, to all intents and purposes, an English district, and its lords members of the English aristocracy.98

The processes by which Glamorgan was conquered are obscure, but the general outlines of its settlement are clear. The governing philosophy of the conquerors is evident in the details of the post-conquest political organization of the region: to reduce friction and reach an early modus vivendi through decentralization and recognition of the local problems of each of the separate districts which comprised the lordship. There appears to have been no single rule which governed the organization and administration of Glamorgan. This is, in itself, most significant.

Brecknock and Glamorgan were only two of a number of Norman lordships established in Wales in the closing years of the eleventh century. In the course of time, the Normans succeeded in extending at least nominal authority throughout all South Wales, and organizing the region into the distinctive political entities which we know as the marcher lordships. Cemais, Pembroke, Kidwelly, Laugharne, Gower, and others, not to mention such inland districts as Buellt and

-ial Particulars of the County of Glamorgan," Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series IV, Vol. VIII (1877), pp. 249; Vol. IX (1878), pp. 121 and 114-134. For the Grenvilles, see J. H. Round, Family Origins and Other Studies..., p. 138.

98For the lords of Avon, see G. T. Clark, "The Lords of Avan, oF the Blood of Jestyn," Archaeologla Cambrensis, Series III, VoL XIII (1867), pp. 1-44; "The Manorial Particulars of the County of Glamorgan."

110 The Normans in South Wales

Elfael, are all worthy of study. The character of each of these lordships was unique, representing, as it did, a particular response to unique local conditions and problems. The differences between the marcher lordships were sometimes striking. Cemais, situated on the very edge of the border, faced constant danger of being swamped by the overwhelming numbers of native Welsh who surrounded the lordship on all sides. Lacking a firm agricultural base to attract immigration, Cemais gradually absorbed Celtic influences and population, until it became decidedly pro-Welsh in outlook. In return, Cemais became an area of acculturation, through which Norman influences percolated into Welsh Wales.99 Only a few miles to the south, the lordship of Pembroke presented a strikingly different aspect. This lordship consisted of a relatively extensive and fertile plain, the limits of which were sharply defined. The Norman conquerors of the region imported English and Flemish settlers into this fertile area to defend it against all Welsh encroachments. Welsh-English relations along the borders of Pembroke were marked by the most unrelenting hostility and uncompromising distrust. As a result, Pembroke took little part in the development of distinctive Cambro-Norman institutions, and was content to remain an imperiled outpost of almost purely English society-a "Little England Beyond Wales."100

The Norman response to the frontier in South Wales was marked by variety. Each lordship was, in large measure, independent, and each strove to establish the modus vivendi best suited to the particular local circumstances. Glamorgan represents a miniature example of the processes of conquest and settlement in South Wales as a whole. There were, however, characteristics common to Norman frontier experience throughout Wales. For this reason, the marcher lordships, although exhibiting extreme variety in many aspects of their development, show great similarity in others.

In the first place, there was a certain newness and freedom surrounding the establishment of these lordships. In Wales, the conquerors were able to construct new societies, and, in the absence of a restrictive central authority, were able to model their new states after

99For Cemais, see E. Laws, The History of Little England beyond Wales and the Non-Kymric Colony Settled in Pembrokeshire, and G. Owen, Prooffes Out of Auntient Recordes, Writings and Other Matters That the Lordship of Kemes is a Lordshippe Marcher, Baronia de Kemeys, from the Original Documents at Bronwydd

100For Pembroke, see footnote 99 above.

The Establishment of the Marcher Lordships 111

their hearts' desires. Throughout the conquered regions, the barons sought to institutionalize and formalize their independence of a regulation which royal authority had been unable to enforce on the turbulent border.

Secondly, the marcher lords faced the necessity of establishing and maintaining peace within their holdings. To do this, they attempted to avoid unnecessary disturbance. Finding that Welsh population tended to concentrate in upland regions of little or no agricultural potential, the marcher lords expended no effort in dispossessing the natives of these lands. They found that immigrants tended to prefer agricultural land and the Welsh preferred pastoral land. They attempted to maintain this division and to rule each people in accordance with that people's custom. Intercultural contacts were kept at a minimum in the interests of peace.

Lastly, there was the necessity of defending these small lordships against the attacks of the turbulent and still-unconquered Welsh. The task of conquest had been slight compared to the problems of defense. The problems grew greater as time passed. Faced with a common enemy, the Welsh people responded by developing a degree of common identity and a cultural vigor which made them an ever more formidable adversary.


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