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A tombstone to confound the devil.

In a churchyard in Monmouth stands one of the most curious tombstones in the county. And one so unique that it was given Grade II listed status in 2005. As you might expect with such a memorial, it and the man it commemorates, have quite a backstory. It concerns one man’s obsession with outsmarting the devil.

His name was John Renie and he was born in Monmouth in 1799 and worked as a painter and decorator in the town until he died in 1832. He was known to be one of the town’s more eccentric characters and nothing exemplified this more than a plan he hatched to try and ease his own passage to heaven on the event of his inevitable death. The plan was simple. He wanted his gravestone to be so confusing to read, that if the devil were to ever come looking for his soul, he would not be able to work out where his body was buried. Thus allowing Renie’s soul to slip past the devil, straight to the gates of heaven.

He became concerned that he would not be able to trust any local stone mason with this job. Either because he considered them incapable of pulling off his complex instructions, or worse, that they may reveal the secret of it to Satan himself. So to make sure the job was done properly he did the engraving himself. He dedicated years to getting it right. The end result is this fascinating and intricate, stone engraved ‘acrostic puzzle’.

It contains 285 very delicately carved letters in rows and columns. To be able to read the inscription you need to begin at a letter ‘H’ in the centre of the puzzle and follow the letters in any direction. Mathematicians who have studied the stone report that there are 32,032 different ways to read the words “Here lies John Renie”. It is quite an incredible achievement.

If the devil were not yet confused enough by John Renie’s endeavours, there is one final obstacle he might encounter if he was sufficiently determined to find his soul. And It is one Renie himself could not have foreseen but would no doubt have been absolutely delighted with. Put simply, the chances are, he probably isn’t even buried here at all!

In 1851, there was a rash of unexplained deaths amongst the residents of Whitecross Street in Monmouth. The street which runs along the edge of the churchyard at St Mary’s Priory Church, where this tombstone can be found. There were also reports of a terrible stench emanating from the raised area of the churchyard. The bodies and bones of the people buried there had become exposed by ground movement and weathering. All the exposed bodies had to be reinterred else where in the graveyard, but it was an impossible job to know who was who so they just did the best they could.

If this story is not already weird enough, the church council at the time decided to wade in with their own contribution. They felt that the churchyard looked over cluttered with memorials and headstones so a decision was taken to clear them all away as part of this work, to create a park. Only a small handful of stones now remain which have been laid out in accordance with the paths rather than where people are actually buried.

The end result. John Renie’s body could be anywhere. As could his soul.

If you want to see more of this tombstone and the yard of St Mary’s Priory Church in Monmouth, as well as other stories concerning the Devil in Monmouthshire I have made this YouTube video on the subject. Just click on the link below to watch in full. And while you are there, please subscribe to my channel.

If you would like to read more Monmouthshire related folklore, you might enjoy the blog and video available on this link. It is all about the scars of the reformation to be seen to this day at The Robin Hood in Monmouth and the White Harte in Llangybi between Usk and Caerleon. And if you like ancient Welsh myths, folklore and legends in general, then you may also be interested in the books I have written on the subject available to buy on this link. or my YouTube channel which is packed with loads of videos on the subject. Just visit https://youtube.com/GrahamLoveluck.

The tombstone of John Rennie in Monmouth
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Stories from Dai Woodham’s locomotive scrap yard in Barry

You often hear people (of a certain age) reminiscing about lost institutions they used to know and love. Maybe it’s the chapel their nana used to go to that’s flats now. Or the local cinema that they used to queue up outside every Saturday that today is just a car park. However, it’s not very often that you find people waxing nostalgically about a scrap yard. But if you ask people who grew up in Barry in the 60s or 70s, very few will have nothing to say about Dai Woodham’s scrap yard. It used to occupy the old railway sidings next to the abandoned docks. It was a place that dominated the townscape. Even if you had no interest in it or what could be found there. It was difficult to ignore.

What made the place magical to so many and made it famous throughout the world was the mile after mile of decommissioned steam locomotives in various states of decay parked up there. As far as the eye could see. And even more magical if you were a curious little boy like I was the first time I visited Barry, you were allowed to climb up and play on them. What would the Health & Safety bods make of that today?

A good friend of mine suggested that I should make a programme about the yard and volunteered his expert knowledge. Great idea I thought, so I casually posted about the notion on social media, to see if I could flush out some personal recollections. I wasn’t really expecting much in the way of engagement.

How wrong could I have been. It seems that everyone has a story about Dai Woodham’s locomotive scrap yard.

I heard how children used to climb up the front of the first locomotive in a line, down the chimney into the boiler then through the cab and out the back, onto the front of the next one and so on, to see if they could clear the whole line without touching the ground. I heard how amateur film makers used to light fires next to the cabs and fan the flames so billows of smoke would swirl past them, so it looked on the film like they were driving a steam engine. Even if the one they were in didn’t even have any wheels.

Lots of people had stories about how pragmatic Dai was when it came to pricing. One person told me that he found a small green engine on the yard. He fell in love with it. But it was boxed in on all sides by far bigger locomotives, some of which were missing wheels. He asked Dai ‘how much?’ Dai looked at the engine, looked at the others around it and with an air of ambivalence said ‘£60 – if you can get it out”.

I also heard from the relatives of the great man himself and a lady who worked at the yard for most of her life. They told me about all the preservation societies who would come to the yard in their droves. Their mission? To buy locomotives to restore. Even the BBC TV’s kids programme Blue Peter came to buy one. And of course, the back story of the most famous locomotive of all – the Hogwarts Express. How the old GWR Haul Class 460 engine made its way from Barry Sidings to the silver screen.

When you think about it, nostalgia has always been the currency of Dai Woodham’s. People harking back to the golden age of steam are what kept the business viable for over 30 years. And now the yard is gone the institution itself is the stuff of relived memories.

Incidentally, I did make the programme. It will be broadcasted on Bro Radio FM on Monday 25th September 2023 after the 7pm news. But if the date and transmitter range are a barrier to you enjoying it, it is also available to watch on my YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/NScezzobFAI. #like and subscribe.

Moving a 100 ton locomotive is a delicate operation – which did not always go smoothly.

If you want to know more about Dai Woodham’s scrap yard there is a fantastic article from the Western Mail archives you might be interested in. Just follow this link.

If you want to know more about Graham Loveluck-Edwards, the producer of this video, follow this one.

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Owain Glyndwr and the siege of Coity Castle

It is May 1404. Pretty much the whole of Wales is now involved in the Owain Glyndwr revolt as he fights his war of independence. Cardiff is in flames, and just north of Bridgend in Glamorgan, Coity Castle, the home of Sir Lawrence Berkerolles is under siege. A siege which lasts for nearly 2 years – the longest of the entire conflict.

But what do we know of this battle? Why was Coity so important it warranted a two year siege? Who was fighting on behalf of the King of England at Coity and who was fighting for Glyndwr? What was the role of Ogmore Castle and Ewenny Priory and why were those places left in ruins? And the local families at the heart of the action; the Flemings, Berkerolles and Turbervilles, as well as Prince Hal (the future Henry V), Parliament and Owain Glyndwr himself.

In this video I discuss these events with Claire Miles (the history blogger – Hisdoryan). We talk about the origins and causes of Glyndwr’s revolt, his vision for Wales and England, the Triparteid Indenture with Mortimer and Percy, the role played by Henry IV and of course the sieges and battles of Glamorgan. We also look at the tell tale scars in the local landcsape and local buildings that show the evidence of the siege.

And we look at Glyndwr himself. Who he was, his modern legacy, how his revolt got off the ground, how it succeeded for so many years and then ultimately failed. And what was it about him that made him such a charismatic figure, a man William Shakespear described as extraordinary. In his play Henry IV (Part one) Shakespear’s characterisation of Glyndwr says this about himself:

“At my birth the front of heaven was full of fiery shapes…

These signs have marked me extraordinary.

And all the courses of my life do show

I am not in the role of common men”

For further reading, there is a chapter on the Battle of Stalling down in my book; Legends and folklore of Bridgend and the Vale

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Talks on Glamorgan history and folklore

If you, like me, love a bit of Glamorgan history, folklore and legend, you may be interested in joining me at any number of talks I am giving in the coming months. As I am a guest speaker at most of these I have given details of the organisers so where tickets are required you know how to get them. Hopefully something for everyone here.

May Walks In The Vale Of Glamorgan 2023

with Chris Jones & Guests

7th , 13th, 20th and 27th May

After the incredible success of the 10 Days in May walking festival in 2022, Chris Jones is back with another walking festival through some of the Vale of Glamorgan’s most beautiful and historic locations. The theme is very much the same as last year with guided walks, talks about points of historical interest along the way (provided by yours truly) and some surprise appearances as character actors bring to life the stories associated with the area. It is tremendous fun.

These are the walks in this years event.

Sunday 7th May – The Iolo Morganwg Heritage Walk – Starting and finishing in Cowbridge. Meet for breakfast at The Maple and Bean (opposite Waitrose) at 10am.

Saturday 13th May – Llantwit Major and the Heritage Coast – Starting and finishing in Llantwit Major – Meet for breakfast 9.30am at the Piccolo Blu Cafe.

Saturday 20th May – St Athan and Gileston Walk – Start and finish at Gileston Manor where we will meet for breakfast at 9.30am.

Saturday 27th May – Dunraven Coastal Path Walk – Meet for breakfast at 9.30am at The Three Golden Cups in Southerndown.

If you would like to register for any of these walks then please click on the link go to the Visit The Vale website for information.

If that all looks a bit too energetic, then here are some other talks you might be interested in where the audience is altogether more static:

17th May – Social Sisters Barry (The Lounge, Tadcross) 8pm

10th June (2.00pm) – “The Cult, the Captain and the Baron” – the fascinating history of St Curig’s Church, Porthkerry

📍St Curigs Church, Porthkerry CF62 3BZ

🕰 2pm Saturday 10th June

💰 Free

13th June – WI Penarth

15th June – Cowbridge U3A

1st July – Ogmore Walk and Talk

I will provide information closer to the time for The Ogmore Walk and Talk and the St Curigs Porthkerry talks.

For the other talks above I am a guest of an organisation so you will need to contact them direct for more information. Contact details are available for all on Google.

If are interested in having me come along to one of your events to speak on any of my specialist areas, please click here for more information on what I can offer.

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What’s in a name: Laleston

I have quite a strong connection with the village of Laleston, near Bridgend. I grew up in the parish, went to the primary school and sang in the church choir. So speaking as someone with that background who is mad about legends and folklore and the origins of local place names, you can imagine my delight at stumbling across a legend about the origins of the name “Laleston” (or “Trelales” in Welsh). And my embarrassment at only now discovering it.

I am indebted to Bill Howells from the Llynfi Valley History Society for alerting me to it.

The story goes that the village is named after a man called Lales (pronounced “Lalless”) who was a very talented stone mason.

He was not indigenous Welsh but was captured in the holy land during the crusades. He was brought to Wales by his capturer and was put out to general duties on his master’s estate.

However the opportunity to demonstrate his true skills did not present itself quickly. After he had been in Wales for the best part of a year, it came when a stone wall enclosing a field of livestock collapsed during a storm. He was set to work to make good what he could before the animals escaped while a local stone mason was sent for.

When the local craftsman arrived at the scene the wall was not simply patched up as expected. The repairs had been completed and had been done so to a really high standard using techniques which the local man had never seen before.

The stonemason was amazed and asked Lalless how he had done the work and for him to teach the stonemason his unique abilities. Lalless unable to speak a word of Welsh and the stonemason unable to speak his language, the two men communicated solely through mime and gesture and through plans and sketches drawn in the mud with a stick.

They bonded over mutual respect and an appreciation of one another’s skills and through their love of stone.

In time they learned each other’s languages and became firm friends. Lalless converted to Christianity and became popular with local people. He and his friend the local stonemason worked on the construction of many cottages and farms in the area and most particularly the church that has ever since been the parish church of Laleston. But sadly, before the work could be completed he died.

Such was his popularity amongst the people of the village he had helped to build, that the village has ever since been known as Lalless’ town.

It is, I’m sure you would agree, a rather wonderful story. And it does go some way to explaining why the Lale part of “Laleston” is pronounced “Lall” like pal not lale like pale.

Beyond that, how likely is it to be true?

It is hard to say. Some folklore is dreamt up by bards to entertain their audience. But there is also a lot of folklore which has a truth somewhere at the heart of it. Even if evidence to back it up is thin on the ground.

We know that several local knights fought at various crusades. The 12th Century Archdeacon of Brecon and chronicler Gerald of Wales boasted in his writing at how effective he was at recruiting crusaders from amongst both Welsh and Anglo/Norman nobility in our area.

The De Chaworth brothers of Ogmore, Sir Richard Siward of Llanblethian, Sir Hugh Jonnys and Jasper Berkerolles of St Athan to name but a few. And they were lauded for their military prowess. In fact Henry II of England wrote to the Byzantine emperor to praise their military fervour, stating that “they do not hesitate to do battle”. So there is no shortage of candidates to have brought Lalless to our shores.

It wasn’t common place to capture ordinary people even skilled craftsmen and bring them back to put them to work. However kidnapping the heirs of wealthy families and holding them for ransom was very common place. So if this story is true it is more likely this was why we was brought here. And if the ransome was not paid and he was helpful to have around the place then why not keep him on.

Like so many of our fantastic legends, the mystery surrounding its origins is as tantalising as the story itself. And I love that.

Laleston church
The church he helped to build
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King Edward II flees to Glamorgan | The Legends of Morien and Cadrawd explored.

I have always been fascinated by the various legends about that most unpopular of Kings of England; Edward II. Hated by the English for losing Scotland at the battle of Bannockburn, hated by the Welsh for being the first English man appointed to the office of Prince of Wales. Hated by the French for the treatment of his wife Isabella (the she wolf of France) and hated by the Barons for pretty much everything.

Recently the legend about him being murdered by having a red hot poker shoved up his bottom reached a whole new audience when the actor Danny Dyer (of Eastenders fame) appeared on BBC TV’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ and discovered he was descended from one of the King’s illegitimate children. But there are loads more legends about him and many of them are set in our little corner of Wales, here in Glamorgan as this is where he hid, with his lover/favourite Hugh Le Despenser (Earl of Glamorgan) from the army of his vengeful wife.

So I have made a film about them.

With the help of some experts in their field we unpick the truth from the stories to piece together Edwards final months of freedom in 1326 and his probable murder in 1327.

You can watch it here 👇

Despite the fact that the king himself kept a journal we have very little accurate, contemporary account of the events leading up to his capture in Llantrisant. But we do have a couple of spectacular legends that fill in some of the gaps.

The one we focus on was published in full in the South Wales Daily News on 29th August 1899 by a man from the hilltop village of Llangynwyd near Maesetg who called himself Ap Cadrawd. He claimed that he had uncovered a genuine historical account written by a bard called Morien which told the full story.

The narrative of the article was that Edward II and his lover Hugh Le Despenser had fled London and sought refuge in Neath Abbey. There they persuaded the Abbot of Neath to plea on their behalf but in doing so, he inadvertently gave away where they were hiding.  So, they fled again and attempted to find their way to Despenser’s Castle in Caerphilly but knowing there were soldiers looking for them everywhere they had to stay away from busy roads and big towns where they could easily be spotted. Thus, they ended up in Llangynwyd as it lies on the Glamorgan Ridgeway (which you may remember me writing about previously). The ancient road that runs from Margam to Caerphilly through that very parish.

Ap Cadrawd writes “while in hiding from his enemies at Gaily Lenor Fawr… in order to keep up his character as a Welsh peasant, Edward accepted employment as a thresher of corn at the farm where he was afforded temporary shelter from the fury of Isabella and Mortimer, the farmer meanwhile keeping watch for suspicious characters in the locality- should any such characters appear the fugitive King hid himself in the branches of an oak tree near by, after- wards known as “Cadair Edward”, whence he saw on several occasions bauds of soldiers in search of him…”

The legend then concludes with something of a bombshell;

“in Bridgend a contemporary brought to light another interesting find. This find places beyond a shadow of doubt the truth of one at least of Morien’s statements. An inscribed stone is said to be the find which sets forth the fact that Edward II did really and actually come to the farm of Gelly Lenor Fawr. After centuries we are told that the stone has been revealed by the hand of Nature herself by the blowing down of the old tree”

Obviously, this story has a lot of over tones of the one about Charles I hiding in the Royal Oak. However, there is one inescapable fact in all of this. There genuinely is a stone. You need to work quite hard to find it these days, but here is a picture of it.

The Cadair Edward stone at Llangynwyd as described in Morien's legend

Does the presence of this stone actually prove anything? And what of the one at Pant-Y-Brad in Llantrisant which comes to us courtesy of the same legend?

The King Edward's capture stone at Pant-Y-Brad near Tonyrefail and Llantrisant comemorating Morien's legend.

We take a look at both of them in depth and talk about the likely truth in the film. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but don’t hold your breath…

If you are interested in the legends and folklore of Glamorgan then how can I not promote any of my many books on the subject. They are available from my website at discounted prices you won’t find in the bookshops or on Amazon. For more information pop along to my online bookshop on this link.

I am indebted to the various history societies who supported me with making of this film and especially the co-operation of The Berkeley Castle Estate.

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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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Keeping up with the Joneses in 17th C Fonmon

Fonmon Castle
Fonmon Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan

This often overlooked, gem of a stately home near Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan has an incredible and little known history going back 800 years. And it is still inhabited to this day.

In this video, I talk about Fonmon Castle with Sir Brooke Boothby (BART).  

It is his ancestral home. We also hear about his ancestors who can be traced back to the 9th Century and who have lived in Fonmon since the civil war. He reveals some amazing history covering topics as diverse as:

The Norman invasion of Morgannwg

The early days of the 12th Century castle

The St John, Seyes and Umfraville families

Cousins to Henry VIII live at Fonmon

The English Civil war

The most powerful man in Britain lives at Fonmon

Oliver and Richard Cromwell

The Restoration

John Wesley and the Methodists

‘Wild’ Robert Jones and Rococo architecture

The Viking origins of the Boothby family

The power brokers of pre-industrial Wales

 First broadcast on Bro Radio in June 2022 as part of the ‘History on your doorstep’ series.

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When England was run from a small castle in the Vale of Glamorgan

Colonel Phillip Jones of Fonmon Castle

One of the most fascinating and oft overlooked characters in Welsh and British history is Colonel Phillip Jones. He rose to be one of the most powerful men in the entire kingdom and managed to thrive during one of the nations most turbulent periods in history – the English Civil War.

His influence and power was such that it led to questions being asked in parliament as to why it was that “England was being run from a small castle in Wales“.

So who was he? How did he become so powerful? and how was it that despite being a major player under Cromwell during the Commonwealth, that his status continued unhampered when Charles II came to the throne during the Restoration? And how did he manage to achieve that unthinkable goal of any power broker in this period of history; to die of old age in comfortable surroundings with his fortunes and reputation in tact?

And more to the point – how is it that hardly anyone has ever heard of him?

He was born in Swansea in 1618 to a middle ranking ‘county’ family who lived at the Great House (now long gone). They were Calvinist protestants and this influence gave him a natural affinity towards the parliamentarians. As the seeds of dissent were being sewn which led to the English Civil War in 1642 he joined the ‘New Model Army’ under the command of Lord Fairfax where he made quite a name for himself.

Many of the more senior aristocratic families and establishment figures of South Wales were fighting on the King’s side of this war, so when the parliamentarians made gains in the area it was a great opportunity for the likes of Phillip Jones and his more famous counterpart Bussey Mansel to earn fast promotion and patronage.

Jones was appointed Governor of Swansea in 1645, he was promoted to Colonel in the New Model Army in 1646, was made Governor of Cardiff in 1649, became MP for Breconshire in 1650 and then was simultaneously voted MP for both Monmouthshire and Glamorgan in 1654 (he chose Glamorgan) and again in 1656 he was simultaneously voted MP for Brecon and Glamorgan (again he chose Glamorgan). He was appointed Governor of Charterhouse in 1658 and Commander of the militia of Cardiff Castle in 1659.

He also became very close to Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell rather famously fell out with most of the people who were close to him prior to the Civil War once it was over. Even Fairfax turned against him and was instrumental in the second civil war that culminated in Wales at the battle of St Fagans. But Jones was close to Cromwell before, during and after the conflict. We know this because there are records of him visiting Jones at his home in Swansea in 1648 when his armies were moving west to Pembrokeshire (a major royalist stronghold). Then after the civil war in 1654 Cromwell appointed Jones ‘Comptroller’ of his household – which effectively put him in charge of the running of his personal estates. He also appointed him to the privy council and he made him Phillip Lord Jones on 10th December 1657 so he could sit in the upper house of Cromwell’s parliament. So they clearly remained ‘pally’ throughout. In fact Oliver Cromwell was Godfather to Phillip Jones’ son (also called Oliver!)

It was Phillip Jones who organised Oliver Cromwell’s funeral as superintendent on 23rd November 1658.

All of these promotions did wonders for Jones’ income. In 1640 he was estimated at earning £20 a year. By 1658 that had risen to £2,000 a year. Something which put him in a position to be able to upgrade his residence to something more in keeping with a man of his station. And so it was that he bought Fonmon Castle near Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan from the StJohn family who had fallen on hard times and were selling off quite a few of their estates at the time.

Being so close to Oliver Cromwell had served him well, but when you are close to a figure so powerful and divisive, it would be easy to find yourself vulnerable and exposed after their death. But Jones, if anything, wound up being even closer to Oliver Cromwell’s successor; his son Richard Cromwell. It was from this period that we get the quote about England being run from a small castle in Wales, and it was also said at the time that “Richard Cromwell will only take advice from Jones and Thurloe and would do nothing without them” – referring to John Thurloe who had been English Secretary of State under Oliver Cromwell.

It was not all plain sailing however. These were very volatile times and you cannot become so powerful a man in the seventeenth century without making some enemies along the way. When Richard Cromwell had his spectacular fall in 1659 (earning him the nickname ‘Tumble Down Dick’) Jones was very much exposed. History was about to overtake him in a twist of events which saw many of his counterparts destroyed but which he – rather miraculously it would seem – not only survived, but actually benefitted from.

The restoration.

The balance of power had moved dramatically against the commonwealth and Charles II was crowned king. Britain was once again a monarchy, and Charles II was a pretty vengeful king. He wasted no time rounding up those parliamentarians who had executed his father for treason 11 years earlier. It was not a good time to be known for having been close to the Cromwells.

At first things didn’t look too great. A group of his enemies brought a series of charges of embezzlement against him, accusing him of having stolen £139,000 in ‘Tythes’ owed to the church. He was also rather randomly accused of “having carried away the organ of St Mary’s Church, Swansea”. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to support any of these charges but the justice system back then was not quite so reliant on such things as it is now. He came dangerously close to a very sticky end.

He was impeached but never stood trial.

Somehow, Jones found himself in the clear. The new king had intervened on his behalf, and went on to appoint him to be High Sheriff of Glamorgan in 1671. He was more than likely saved by the fact that he was not personally a signatory to Charles I’s death warrant, nor did he play any part in his trial. Also, throughout the period he was in governance he did not take the opportunity others had done, to plunder the king’s estates, nor to take lands from the defeated royalists. In fact he had treated them rather well.

Co-incidentally John Thurloe (who we mentioned earlier) also came out of this new order unexpectedly well. He was initially arrested for treason but never went to trial. He was ultimately given responsibility for foreign policy in Charles II government.

Phillip Jones saw out his days in the leafy and secluded splendour of Fonmon Castle where he died peacefully in his bed on 5th September 1674.

If you want to know more about this amazing character from the Vale of Glamorgan’s history, I will be interviewing one of his direct descendants; Sir Brooke Boothby (Bart) Vice-Lord Lieutenant of South Glamorgan as part of my next episode of ‘History On Your Doorstep’ for Bro Radio which will be all about Fonmon Castle. It is going out on Monday 27th June at 7pm.

If you want to hear that interview and learn what else he has to say about this most wiley of ancestors tune in, or listen again on line or on the app or on my YouTube channel which is packed with videos and podcasts about Welsh history. Please subscribe to it.

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The quirky family of Cadoc

No matter how embarrassing your father may have appeared to be when you were growing up, compared to St Cadoc, you had it easy. ‘Who is St Cadoc?’ you may be asking. I am sure you have noticed the many references to ‘Cadoc’ or ’Cadog’ around South Wales. In the names of churches, streets, wells, houses, schools, community centres and hospitals. To say nothing of the village of Cadoxton.

Historically, he was one of the most revered saints in the early Christian church. It gives you an idea how significant a figure he was when you consider that he was born in the latter quarter of the fifth century. Over 1,500 years ago. And we are still naming things after him today.

The life of St Cadoc is recorded in the ancient works of the Cambro British Saints. His story is the first ever to reference the now legendary King Arthur ‘the Great’ of Camelot. Amongst his achievements are the founding of the ‘Clas’ monastery at Llancarfan near Cowbridge as well as many churches throughout Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Brittany. He also managed to fit in time for the odd miracle. Even as a baby it is claimed that he made the water in the font he was baptised in turn into milk.

All these achievements, however, were in spite of a really dysfunctional upbringing. It was so weird, it wouldn’t look out of place in a Channel 5 documentary

First of all, he was not the only saint in the family. Pretty well his whole family were saints. Then you have his father. All I can say is, I think the bar for sainthood must have been set low back then.

He was a brute, a drunkard, and a pirate. And randomly; a king. He was called Gwynllyw although somehow that got Anglicised in later history to Woolos. He is credited with being the founding father of the city of Newport and the cathedral there is dedicated to him to this day. He fell head over heels in love with Gwladys, the daughter of King Brychan (later Anglicised to Brecon). He wanted to marry her, but Brychan refused him. So Gwynllyw took an army of 300 men to knock on his castle gates and kidnapped her.

His passion for her never seemed to faulter, even in old age. There is an account that in later life after being converted to Christianity by his son; Cadoc, he tried to seek a prayerful retreat on a desolate mountain. His endeavours however would perpetually fail as he could not overcome his carnal urges towards her and could not help himself from continually running back down the mountain to her bed.

If you thought he made a rotten husband, he was hardly parent of the month either. There is also a story that one day, he gave his infant son: St Cadoc away to a total stranger in exchange for a cow while out on a drinking spree. We’ve all done it. Oh no. Hold on, we haven’t, have we?

But against all the odds, Cadoc grew up to be a cornerstone of early Christian mission in northern Europe and became famous across the known world for his wisdom. In the modern Catholic church, he is still patron saint of burns and skin complaints, so he is the one to pray to if you are bothered by such things. His father is patron saint of Newport and pirates. No words needed.