Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Call for medieval battlefields to be preserved in Wales

Welsh historians and politicians are calling for efforts to be made to preserve some forgotten historical sites, including several medieval battlefields.

According to a report in the Western Mail, Kirsty Williams, the leader of one Wales main political parties is asking the British government to preserve a 10-acre hillside where the Battle of Pilleth was fought in 1402. This landmark victory in Owain Glyndwàr's fight for Welsh independence. In June 1402, Glyndwàr defeated a formidable force led by Edmund Mortimer, one of King Henry IV's Marcher barons at Bryn Glas, near Knighton.

"This site is an integral part of our history as a nation and the scant interest it has been given officially is in complete contrast to the Bannockburn site, which has been accorded national status in Scotland," Ms Williams said.

Locals would like to see a tourist information site at Pilleth, showing visitors who Glyndwàr was, what happened and what the troops were wearing, rather than just drive by oblivious to the site or its significance.

Historian Martin Hackett wants the site of the Battle of Buttington near Welshpool, promoted as well. Buttington is where a Viking Army was defeated by King Alfred the Great allied to the Welsh under King Merfyn of Powys in the Severn Valley in 893.

He said: "Historians often have difficulty identifying battle sites because of a lack of archaeological records and historical references.

"But for the Battle of Buttington, we have both these things which is very rare and the battle is mentioned in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle. It says the Danes had made their way up the Thames and the Severn rivers, probably by boat, and occupied an existing fort possibly on a mound where Buttington church is now.

"The Danes were then besieged by the English and Welsh armies for some weeks before being forced to fight their way out, in the hope of gaining their freedom.

"Around 400 skulls plus limbs were discovered that showed signs of battle scars and a horse's skull, which the soldiers would have eaten before the fight."

Medieval battlefields have received much attention in other parts of the United Kingdom. In Scotland, the site of the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), in the war for independence, is heavily promoted. while in England, people interested in the Battle of Hastings (1066) can visit an interactive visitor centre.

Martin Hackett added that "Welshpool is privileged sitting amidst battles that run from Roman times to the English Civil War - all of them significant.

"There is enough material in this area, which includes the site of the Battle of Montgomery - probably the biggest battle ever fought in Wales - for Welshpool to become an historical military mecca.

"Surely with the new Welshpool livestock market being built on the site of iron-age/Celtic remains and the new Tesco coming on the site of the old livestock market, commitment could be given to building a new visitor centre.

"Tourists could explore these local sites of national and in the case of the Battle of Buttington, international significance, that could attract Danish tourists in particular. Welshpool is perfect for walkers, with castles, hill forts, battle sites and Offa's Dyke, linked in some cases by the canal."

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: "Cadw, with the assistance of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, is currently carrying out research into the feasibility of creating a register of nationally important battlefield sites in Wales.

"If the register goes ahead, the battlefield at Pilleth would be one of the key sites to be considered for inclusion on a register."

Possible medieval battlefields in Wales would include:

The Battle of Buttington, 893 - The Danish Army was defeated by King Alfred the Great allied to the Welsh under King Merfyn of Powys in the Severn Valley in 893.

Mynydd Carn, 1081 - Gruffudd ap Cynan, claimant to the kingdom of Gwynedd, and Rhys ap Tudor, king of Deheubarth, defeated Gruffudd's enemies and Caradog ap Gruffudd of Morgannwg on the borders of Dyfed. Coleshill, 1157 Owain Gwynedd defeated an army led by Henry II on the Dee Estuary in 1157 but was forced to recognise Henry's control over lands to the east of the River Clwyd. Crug Mawr, 1136 Rhys ap Gruffydd led Welsh forces from Gwynedd and Deheubarth to a decisive victory against Norman forces from all the South Wales lordships.

Maes Gwenllian, 1136 - Princess Gwenllian, sister of Owain Gwynedd, led her husband Gruffydd ap Rhys's troops against a Norman army while he was away, but died afterwards. Painscastle, 1198 Llywelyn ab Iorwerth's troops were slaughtered under the leadership of Prince Gwenwynwyn - the Normans sustained three casualties compared to 3,000 Welsh.

Pilleth, 1402 - Between 1,000 and 7,000 men are buried on the 11-acre battle site that changed Welsh history.

Craig-y-dorth, 1404 - On this occasion Glyndwàr won on the southern outskirts of Monmouth, between Penyclawdd and Monmouth town, when most of the English were slaughtered and chased to the town gate.

Grosmont, 1405 - English forces under Sir John Talbot defeated Welsh rebels.

Campston Hill, 1404 - Owain Glyndwàr's forces defeated here and at Grosmont.

Pwll Melyn, 1405 - Owain Glyndwàr's troops attacked Usk Castle, but were forced back to Mynydd Pwll Melyn - the Hill of the Yellow Pool - where they were routed trying to fight the English advance.

Twthill, 1461 - The series of civil wars fought over the throne of England between the House of Lancaster and the House of York spills into Wales.