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St Dwynwen the Patron Saint of Lovers in Wales and Welsh bardic romance

The 25th January is the feast day of a 6th century Welsh saint called St Dwynwen. She is the patron saint of Welsh lovers and her own story is suitably romantic.

But who was St Dwynwen? Why is she the patron saint of lovers in Wales? What is her story? Where did that story originate? And more importantly how romantic are the Welsh?

In the video below from the History on your doorstep series we answer these and many other questions. We talk about her fascinating family tree being one of 36 children born of a family full of Kings and Queens and Saints. One of the saintly tribes of Wales. Her father King Brychan (also known as St Brychan) her sister St Gwladys, her nephew St Cadoc, founder of the Clas monastery in Llancarfan and the saint which Cadoxton in Barry is named after.

We also look at the bardic tradition in Wales and some wonderful romantic Welsh stories. Starting with the medieval romantic stories of the Mabinogion like Colhuwch and Olwen and Pwyll and Rhiannon in the first branch. We look at trends in tales of Welsh lovers and the techniques used by bards to bring them to life and look at them in the context of stories from Glamorgan. We also examine what makes them quite different from Romantic stories from ancient Greek folklore and other parts of Europe.

Specifically we look at the folklore behind the naming of the Captains Wife pub in Sully, and the better known romantic stories of the Maid of Cefn Ydfa and the Maid of Sker.

This video is a discussion between historian, author and broadcaster Graham Loveluck-Edwards and the history blogger Claire Miles (AKA Hisdoryan). First broadcast on Bro Radio on Monday 23rd January 2023. We explore the role of the bards in Wales, common themes in Welsh romantic folklore, the creative devices used by the bards to make their stories more credible and engaging.

For further reading on the themes and topics explored in this video I have written several books on local legends and folklore. More information available at https://grahamloveluckedwards.com/shop/

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Old photos of the great houses, mansions and castles of the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend taken between 1890 and 1955

Here is my latest VLOG. It’s a compilation of vintage photographs of some of Glamorgan’s most significant residences. Taken before they got knocked down or converted into hotels, golf courses, flats or schools.

Have you ever scrolled through Rightmove or Zoopla with the filters set at over a million pounds? Well if you were to have done the price equivalent of that (allowing for inflation)  in the early 20th century these are the pictures of the dream homes you would have found in the counties of Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan on the South Wales coast. 

I have trawled through the archives of old photos and postcards for early photographs of castles, country estates, mansions, manor houses, baronial courts, great houses, town houses and quaint thatched cottages from the many villages that surround towns like Cowbridge, Bridgend, Pontyclun, Llantrisant, Llantwit Major and Cardiff. In their day they were described as ‘gentleman’s residences’ or ‘country piles’ and they were the homes of some of the oldest and most famous aristocratic families in Glamorgan. The county set. Families names like Carnes, Nichols, Lewis, Boothby, Edmondes, Picton-Tuberville. Even a maharaja!

Many of the houses in this video are now lost to us. Either in ruins or completely demolished. The most famous example being Dunraven Castle. Others have been split up into smaller houses or flats like Crossways House. Some are now hotels like Miskin Manor or golf clubs like Wenvoe Castle. In the case of St Donats Castle one is now a university college.

This video shows them in their prime, when they were in their hey day.

So if you like a bit of nostalgia, old photographs, vintage or period living, big posh houses, South Wales history or anything related, you will love this. And maybe, you actually live in one of these places. Let me know if you do.

I hope you enjoy it. Just click the play button below. There is no commentary but there is some soothing copyright free music.

If you are interested in the history of the Bridgend and Vale of Glamorgan area you might be interested in my books on the subject. Volumes 1 & 2 of ‘Legends and Folklore from Barry, Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan’ are out now and available from Amazon and all good bookshops. Or you can buy both volumes at a discounted prices direct from me. Just click here for more information.

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A traditional Welsh Christmas

Christmas and New Year celebrations have changed a lot in Wales down the centuries. In this video history blogger Claire Miles (who writes the Hisdoryan blog) and history author & broadcaster Graham Loveluck-Edwards talk about the sort of Christmases our ancestors would have recognised. 

We take a whistle stop tour of all things Christmassy from Welsh history. The customs and traditions people observed. Things like;

Toasting the Ox on Christmas Eve

Wassailing 

The Aderyn Pig

The bird with the grey beak

The Plygain

A Tudor Christmas dinner

Calenig

The Mari Llwyd

First Footing

Hunting the wren

When Christmas was banned

The origins of Father Christmas

The very first Eisteddfod

The Abergavenny Christmas Massacre

We also look at some amazing Christmas stories like  Mallt-y-Nos’, Megan’ the Gwrach-Y-Rhibyn of St Donats and the sitings of the Cwn Annwn in the Vale at this time of year.

We also cover a whole host of ancient Welsh superstitions based around the festive period. Things that would bring you good and bad luck, ways to find love, to be sure of a good harvest and those ever fearsome portents of doom. To be fair most of them are predictors of death, but Some of them will have you laughing hysterically.

We really hope you enjoy this video. And if you do, feel free to share it on social media. But remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel as well. This programme was originally recorded for broadcast on Bro Radio. Click to play the video. First broadcast on Bro Radio.

Read more about Welsh festivals and traditions in my books.

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What happened to the lost regiments of the Vale of Glamorgan? 

There used to be four Welsh regiments whose numbers included numerous volunteers from the Vale of Glamorgan.

In the video below, I am joined by local military historian Mike Davies. In this month of remembrance (November 2022) we discuss the three local army regiments that carried the lions share of local volunteers. The Barry & Penarth divisions of The Royal Engineers and Garrison Artillery and The Glamorgan Yeomanry based in Cowbridge and Bridgend.

We look at where the volunteers came from, who they were, where they lived and what they did when they weren’t volunteering. We look at their roles and duties as soldiers and their contribution to the World Wars.

We also look at the stories of a handful of men from Barry, Penarth, Llantwit Major, Rhoose, Cowbridge and Tythegston who saw action. Some who made it home and some who did not. 

Finally we answer the obvious question of what happened to these old regiments.

Watch this video about the regiments of volunteers from Barry and the Vale of Glamorgan

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The hanged man and the lady at Ogmore

We have some truly wild stories from our history here in South Wales. And this one is right up there.

Arguably the most spectacular story from Welsh medieval history is that of William Cragh and Lady Mary de Brouize. It amazes me how few people seem to have heard of it. These people were superstars in their day and in 1320 they put places like Candleston, Merthyr Mawr, Ogmore, Ewenny and Bridgend on the map.

But who were they? what was their amazing story? Why were they so famous? Why did they visit some really out of the way places in our area on their pilgrimage to Hereford? And why is that pilgrimage known as both The Hanged Man Pilgrimage and St Thomas Way?

The story begins with the backdrop of war. A Welsh rebellion against the Norman land owners and a raid on a Castle which ends in the capture of an enigmatic figure. But when attempts to execute him go spectacularly wrong, stories of a miracle spread throughout the known world. Even the pope got involved. But how does any of that concern Ogmore Castle?

In this video from the ‘History from the Vale of Glamorgan’ series I piece the whole story together and based on my own research, share with you my theory on why they came here.

I also share with you a theory that Ogmore Castle might be on the site of a place which was sacred to our ancient pagan ancestors. A place dedicated to the goddess Bridget. Drawing on things like near by place names such as St Brides, the ever present symbol of the pelican which lent its name to the local pub, and of course legends of ‘a white lady’ in the area. Bridget was the original white lady. In fact that is why when ladies put on a white wedding dress, they are described as ‘brides’.

Strap your selves in folks because this one is a real roller coaster. Click below to watch the video in full. Subtitles are available. Just click the CC button at the top of your screen.

If you would like more information on the story in this video, it is covered in more detail in my new book MORE LEGENDS AND FOLKLORE FROM BARRY BRIDGEND AND THE VALE available from Amazon, all good book shops and my own website at https://grahamloveluckedwards.com/product/more-legends-and-folklore-from-barry-bridgend-and-the-vale/

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The birth and boom of Barry Docks

Barry was a tiny hamlet of farms and cottages until 1886. Then in just 5 years it was turned into the biggest coal exporting port in the world and is now the biggest town in Wales.

How did that happen? What drove that expansion? Who were the people behind it and what was their motivation? And why is the dock now just a shadow of what it once was? In this video podcast, historian, author and broadcaster Graham Loveluck-Edwards discusses the meteoric rise of Barry (the docks and the town) with Nick Hodges of the Victorian Barry Experience. We look at the early years and what Barry was like before the docks, why Barry was chosen as the preferred site for the new docks, the vision of those who planned it, the labour and losses of those who physically built it and the lives of the people who lived and worked in its shadow.

It is amazing how the whole project, from vision to completion was executed. It was one of the most adventurous engineering projects of its age and planned with the type of holistic thinking our modern day planners could do with reflecting on. They didn’t just build a port, they planned streets, railways, sewers, cemeteries, schools etc to make sure the whole scheme worked from start to finish and people were not an after thought.

You can watch this video on the link below and it is available to share from my YouTube channel (which is https://youtube.com/user/GrahamLoveluck ). It is one of a series of discussion videos with expert guests called the ‘History On Your Doorstep’ series. They are written, presented and published by me; Welsh author and historian; Graham Loveluck-Edwards and broadcast on Bro Radio as well my YouTube channel. In this series of short videos, I examine the pivotal moments in the history of the Vale of Glamorgan. The people, places and events that have shaped our county and still impact on our lives today. I hope you enjoy them.

If you would like to read more about Barry history I have several books which cover the area’s more ancient history. More information on them available on this link.

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The imposter of St Donats Castle

The tomb of the Stradlings

Regular readers of this blog may be interested to know that I have a new book out. As you would expect it is packed with fascinating exerts from our local history, as well as all the usual myths, legends, folklore, and ghost stories. Including the following episode. It concerns one of the most powerful dynasties in Welsh history; the Stradlings of St Donats Castle and how their ancestral home passed out of their hands under dubious circumstances.


Sir Thomas Stradling, was unmarried and in his twenties when he planned to go on the Grand Tour with his close friend from university, Sir John Tyrwhitt, the fifth baronet of Stainfield. Before the two young gentlemen set out on this great adventure, they made a pact with each other. If either was to die while on this tour, then the other would inherit the estate of the deceased. Or so it was claimed.


While the young men were both away, news reached the Stradling family that, on the 27th September 1738, while in Montpellier in the south of France, Sir Thomas Stradling had been killed in a duel. The family were devastated. Arrangements were made to bring Sir Thomas’ body home, and it was laid in state at St Donats Castle. But this was just the beginning of their woes.


According to folklore, Sir Thomas Stradling’s nurse, who had raised him since he was a baby, wished to pay her respects. She was invited to see his body in one of the state rooms at the castle. Gliding across the dimly lit room in which the coffin stood, she raised the lid to hold the hand of her young charge one last time. But as she reached inside the coffin, she gasped, stopped short, turned and made a sharp exit.


She was convinced that the man in the coffin was not Sir Thomas. It was animposter. She knew that, as a small boy, Sir Thomas had lost a finger on his left hand; it had been bitten off by (of all things) a donkey. But the man inside the coffin had all his fingers intact. Gossip was rife on the subject, and for years afterwards, locals visiting St Donats
Church would point at Sir Thomas’ tomb and declare, ‘That is where the imposter lies.’


Sir Thomas had left no heir, but before making his verbal agreement with Sir John Tyrwhitt, he had written a will. In it, he had left the castle and his entire estate to his cousin, Bussey Mansel, the 4th baron of Margam. It was said, however, that Bussey had visited St Donats Castle after Sir Thomas’ death, where he had been confronted by the ghost of one of the Stradling ancestors. The ghost had declared that it would never countenance the castle passing to a Mansel. Terrified, he turned his horse and fled as fast as it would carry him, never again to return to the castle.


It would be nice to believe that this property dispute was settled by a ghost, but in reality it became one of the most protracted and expensive courtroom battles of its day. It remained in litigation for over sixty years. Ultimately, St Donats Castle did pass to the Tyrwhitts, much to the dismay of the people of St Donats. In fact, it is
claimed that the vicar of St Donats Church was so incensed that ‘in his fury’ he destroyed a windmill and two watermills. That’s a lot of fury for a village parson. It’s always the quiet ones you’ve got to watch.


If you have enjoyed this blog, then you might well enjoy the brand new book, launched only this week, from which it came. It is called More legends and folklore from Barry, Bridgend and the Vale and is available to buy by clicking this link.

The author; Graham Loveluck-Edwards (me) is a historian, author, columnist and broadcaster specialising in the history and legends of Wales.

This item was also published by The Glamorgan Star newspaper.

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Discussing the ancient monasteries of the Vale of Glamorgan

Did you know that it is likely that Christianity in Wales started in Llantwit Major? That monks from institutions in the Vale of Glamorgan between the fifth and sixth centuries established ministries throughout Britain, Ireland and Northern France?

In this video I discuss this fascinating history with author and historian Philip Morris. We look at the ancient monasteries of the county from the fifth century in Llantwit Major, Llancarfan and Llandough and at pioneers such as St Illtyd, St Cadoc and St Doggo and their influence across Europe.

We look at how different the culture and reach of the Celtic Church was from what came after it. How huge institutions were established, how ideas were spread throughout Europe, how inclusive these communities were and the key role of women as well as men at their healm.

We also look at the impact of the arrival of the Normans, the medieval period and in particular Ewenny Priory.

We discuss the legacy these great institutions left. Everything from the establishment of Cowbridge Grammar School to architectural clues at buildings we can visit today. As well as gems like the story of the miracle of Ewenny, how Corntown got its name, why so many towns in Brittany have Welsh sounding names, why the latin inscribed on the Celtic stones in Llantwit Major is inaccurate and many many more fascinating snippets which anyone with an interest in the local history of South Wales will find truly fascinating.

This video is an episode of ‘History on your doorstep’, first broadcast on Bro Radio on Monday 22 August 2022. Presented by author and historian Graham Loveluck-Edwards cataloguing the history of the Vale of Glamorgan. I hope you enjoy them. And if you do, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and share them on social media.

Monks from the Vale of Glamorgan established foundations across Britain and Northern France
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The railways and viaducts of the Vale of Glamorgan

In the video on the link below I chat with train enthusiast and local historian, Gavin Douglas OBE about the birth of the railways in the county of the Vale of Glamorgan.

We look at when they were built? How they were built? Who built them? and why? The scheme to build a railway line and port at the estuary of the river Ogmore at Ogmore by Sea and why it never happened.

We also look at the iconic viaduct at Porthkerry and the disasters which beset it. How it collapsed multiple times and how it was rebuilt and preserved to this day. This video is an episode in the History on your doorstep series. Written, and presented by Welsh author and historian; Graham Loveluck-Edwards and broadcast on Bro Radio. In this series of radio programmes and accompanying videos, I examine a topic of history local to the Vale of Glamorgan and interview experts who give us unparalleled insight and explanation. I hope you enjoy them. And if you do, please subscribe to this channel and share them on social media.

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How the people of Porthkerry preserve their ancient church

It is one thing to appreciate the beauty of ancient buildings but its a different thing altogether to roll up your sleeves and do your bit to keep them looking that way. But here in Porthkerry we are truly blessed to have had this army of volunteers come to our rescue.

St Curigs is a pretty little 15th century church above the country park in Porthkerry and these volunteers have come to help us lime wash it.

Lime washing is an ancient craft. Since the Romans (and possibly before) people have been weather proofing their buildings with one form of lime wash or another. The distinctive matt white appearance it gives everything is a scene one could describe as quite quintessential in the countryside.

In the Victorian era it fell out of fashion. A desire for more Gothic looking buildings led to a preference for bare stone work. Preferably festooned with creeping ivy. Which may look pretty, but sadly does nothing for the walls. Not only does it let the damp in but it often compromises the mortar in the walls and can lead to the most terrible structural problems.

When St Curig’s Porthkerry were in receipt of a grant from Cadw to do some much needed repair work, it was a condition of the grant that the church be lime washed as it would once have always been. Not necessarily to the liking of all attached to the church at the time, they went along with it and all was well until it was time to apply a fresh coat.

No local contractor was prepared to touch lime wash and those who were prepared to put in bids for the work wanted to charge the cost of a small house. So how to progress?

The parish decided to make it a community event.

Come along and volunteer. Get full instruction, all the equipment you need to do it safely, and try your hand at a craft which has been employed by our ancestors right the way back over thousands of years. And as you can see from the photos that is exactly what happens. And it is a lot of fun. Those in the congregation unable to assist directly bring along cakes and rolls, teas and coffees and snacks and refreshments. Everybody tucks in and has a picnic around the ancient cross (where John Wesley is said to have preached) and a great day is had by all.

And the end result; a weather proof church. And one that looks dazzlingly resplendent in the August sunshine. Now just a small matter of the tower. That I fear is an altogether more industrial process with cherry pickers and hard hats. But we do what we must.