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…
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.
Edgar Walter Savours was born in 1897 and was brought up on Fontygary Farm which today is the Fontygary Inn on the western edge of the village of Rhoose. Throughout his life he kept diaries and journals and he published them in his memoirs. His gift for writing takes you right to the heart of the action and spares no detail.
What follows is an extract from his memoirs, recalling his memories of active service during the First World War when he arrived in Flanders in 1918.This is the first of two such extracts which I shall be blogging over coming weeks.
I shall never forget my first experience of enemy shell fire. I was a 2nd Lieutenant in command of an infantry platoon of 20 NCOs and men. With my battalion the 24th Denbigh Yeomanry Royal Fusiliers I had come from Egypt in May 1918.
We joined the 31st Division on the front, east of Harzbruck in Flanders. We were in reserve trenches. Each evening at dusk we marched up the forest sides or tracks, platoon by platoon, to the front line trenches then situated immediately in front of Nieppe Forest.
For two nights we worked almost undisturbed erecting barb wire defences, repairing trenches and placing war stores in position. The German Verey lights lit up the sky but did not alarm us. There was occasional machine gun and rifle fire, showing that the sentries on both sides were alert.
We worked quietly and returned to our reserve positions, when our task was done, for breakfast and sleep.
On the third evening we had almost reached the front line when all hell was let loose. The enemy guns opened up a terrific bombardment on our positions. Shells exploded around like thunder claps, trees fell with crackling thuds, dirt and soil whizzed about us. The smell of explosive material reached our nostrills. The din was unbearable and seemed to go on and on for ages. I thought none of us would escape alive. However, when at last the barrage did end, to my surprise we all stood up shaken and terrified, but uninjured. The men had needed no orders to fall flat on their faces on the ground when the bombardment commenced. A few casualties were reported in adjoining platoons.
After a rest and after making a count of heads I ordered the men to proceed to their working stations but we did not easily forget the experience – perhaps because it was our first under shell fire. We were to have more.
Some days later I was ordered to attend a conference of officers who were to take part in an attack at dawn. We were told that our division was to attack the enemies’ position in front of Nieppe Forest and capture the devastated village of Vieux Berquin across the valley. The divisions on our flanks were to support.
The raw Yeomanry brigade officers were impressed by the calm and matter of fact way the other seasoned officers discussed the proposals. They had taken part in Many battles before, some wore several wound stripes
Cyril Falls in his edition of Military Operations in France and Belgium states that by 1918 the British Army had become a magnificent fighting machine unequalled in war before.
Our battalion was given the task of acting as carrying party and of mopping up behind the second wave of attack, done by the East Yorkshire Regiment. I later handled written orders detailing objective lists of stores to be carried e.g. machine gun parts, ammunition, picks and shovels. We were to make two trips across “no mans land” with material. I was allocate two platoons on the day the barrage from our guns opened up. Zero hour arrived. Cautiously we advanced walking, wounded men met us returning – one shot through the mouth, others bleeding. mAchine guns rattled, one smelt cordite. We encountered the enemy hiding in slits in the ground under corrugated iron shelters. They were Saxons. How near they were to our lines: presumably listening posts.
The East Yorkshires were well ahead by now and these enemy troops were glad to surrender coming out of their holes like rabbits. Forward we went, eastwards with our loads. Things were getting a bit confused. There was a Prussian sprawled dead across his machine gun. He had caused some damage but theSaxons were more willing to put up their hands and walk west out of battle.
Had we gone too far forward? In a dip of ground with about ten men of our party I spotted an enemy occupied trench, I took a few pot shots with my revolver. Some of the men fired their rifles. the enemy heads disappeared, as if ready to surrender. Our job was carrying and we moved right to some Yorkshire lads who soon had the enemy group in the bag.
The firing seemed to have quietened down. We returned to collect and deliver more stores.
Later I was standing at the edge of the forest before returning to reserve when a wounded German on a stretcher carried by an enemy party passed down the forest side followed by Captain Thomas, my company CO, who incidentally was my cousin from Cardiff. We chatted and a few seconds later followed down the side some 50 yards behind the stretcher party. Suddenly we saw a german shell hit the Germans. All were killed. I turned to Captain Thomas and remarked “I think I have saved your life sir, by delaying you.” He gratefully agreed.
Part two of these extracts from his memoirs will follow soon.
This exert is taken from the book “Fontygary, Rhoose and other family farms” by Edgar Savours – Edited and re-published by Elaine Savours (April 2011). If you would like to know more about the contribution made by other local men to the two World Wars, they are discussed in this video about the lost regiments of the county And of course Glamorgan’s most famous day of the Second World War; the great escape for Island Farm is discussed in this video.
We know his real name was Edward Williams and that he was undoubtedly one of the most charismatic, influential, and controversial sons of Glamorgan. But what about beyond that?
In this video, author and broadcaster Graham Loveluck-Edwards interviews Gareth Thomas, author of Iolo Morganwg’s biography entitled: “I Iolo”. We talk about the man, the controversy, and his extraordinary legacy.
We look at his early life in a small cottage near Llancarfan and his family background. How his father was a skilled stonemason – a trade he handed onto him. And how his mother was of noble birth but through circumstances she could not control, was forced to marry below her expected social standing and how that family cocktail of social influences played a part in Iolo’s world view.
His most famous legacy is the Gorsedd of the Bards and the modern Eisteddfod, but what is that all about? How did it come about? And how true is it that this is some ancient ceremony?
To some people he is regarded a fraudster and forger. To other’s he is the father of Welsh national identity and a cultural trail blazer.
But who was the real Iolo Morganwg? What were his influences? What was his output? What was it that means we are still debating who and what he was nearly 200 years after his death?
In this video we answer these and many other questions about one of Glamorgan’s most famous sons. This programme is part of the ‘History on your doorstep’ series which is all about the history of Glamorgan. Made and broadcast by Bro Radio FM in April 2023. Written and presented by Graham Loveluck-Edwards.
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.
We have just had a very significant anniversary in Bridgend which many local people may be forgiven for not having noticed. But it is a remarkable story that bears repeating until everyone is aware of it.
It was 10th March 1945, and the world was in the closing stages of its second World War. Earlier in the day, the people of Bridgend, much like those everywhere else in Britain, were glued to the evening news on their ‘wirelesses’. Reports were coming in that the last remaining German forces west of the Rhine had retreated. They must have been jubilant and gone to their beds with a spring in their step. The horrors of war would have seemed far away. Surely the war is now nearly over?
In the bigger scheme of things, these thoughts would have been quite justified. But events were to unfold that very night that would give the people of Bridgend one last fright.
The lead story on the midnight news must have had people shocked to their cores. 70 German prisoners of war had broken out of Island Farm Prisoner of War camp in Bridgend. The single biggest breakout of German POWs of the entire war in Britain. Soldiers and Police were being drafted in from surrounding areas to try and track them all down. People were warned to stay indoors and keep their windows and doors bolted shut.
Eventually all 70 had been rounded up. Most seemed to see the escape as just some high jinks as 23 of them only went as far as the dunes in Merthyr Mawr before stopping to set up a camp. A couple more were altogether more adventurous. They stole a doctor’s car in Bridgend but without the keys they had trouble starting it. Then some off duty soldiers came across them. The escaped German POWs convinced the soldiers that they were Scandinavian engineers working in Bridgend and persuaded the soldiers to give them a push. With a wave as they disappeared into the distance, they drove the stolen car until it ran out of fuel in Gloucestershire. They then boarded a train that took them to within a few miles of Birmingham where they got off and hid in a bush near an airfield to plan their next move. They potentially could have made a ‘home run’ if it were not for a curious herd of cows who surrounded the bush to investigate who their new neighbours were. The farmer raised the alarm, and the last remaining fugitives were captured.
There is a small group of volunteers who are determined to keep this story and all the other history wrapped up in the Island Farm camp alive. They call themselves the Hut 9 Island Farm Preservation Society and they are custodians of the last remaining hut on the camp. The one from which the Germans tunnelled out and that tunnel by the way, 78 years later, is still very much intact. German engineering you see – there’s nothing like it.
In most people’s minds, Island Fam Camp is synonymous only with just one event. But as momentous as it was, there is a lot more than that to discover.
Island Farm Camp was originally planned as a dormitory for the ladies working in the vast munitions factory in Bridgend during WWII. At its hight employing over 40,000 people (mostly women) from all over South Wales. This was the biggest factory in the UK at the time.
In the run up to D-Day it was commandeered by the US army to house American Infantrymen. And after D-Day, when German soldiers started to be captured in their thousands it was needed to hold prisoners of war.
In this video I talk to Brett Exton from the Hut 9 (Island Farm) Preservation Society. We look at the background and the fall out from the largest break out of German Prisoners of War ever on British soil when the eyes of the nation was on South Wales.
We look at how the camp came into being and its full life cycle in four very different phases. Including the period immediately after the war when it was used as a holding bay for top German brass awaiting trial at Nuremberg.
We also take a look at the work being done today to keep the history alive and to give members of the public the opportunity to visit the camp and see what life was like for those who lived there.
I hope you enjoy this video. And if you do, please subscribe to this channel and share on social media.
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.
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?
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.
Ever wondered why we make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday? Because the practice might all originate from a tradition started at an old pub in North Wales. The Groes Inn, in Ty’N-Y-Groes near Conwy. This lovely old pub on the pilgrimage route to the shrine at St Winifred’s Well has many claims. Not least of which is a copy of its first licence to trade dated 1537. This means it can prove that it has been trading as an inn for longer than any other pub in Wales.
It is also (possibly) the birthplace of the tradition of making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.
Before we get carried away, let’s just examine the alternative theory too.
I am sure at some point or another we have all been guilted into making pancakes for our children because that’s what their friends’ parents are doing. It’s only fitting really: guilt is a big part of Shrove Tuesday. The word ‘shrove’ comes from an old Saxon word ‘shriven’, which means ‘absolved of sins’. Early Saxon Christians would make sure that they had confessed to all their sins on Shrove Tuesday so they could enter the holy fast of Lent free from the burden of guilt.
There is a theory that the flat bell chimed to draw people to confession on Shrove Tuesday was nicknamed ‘the pancake bell’, and many think this is the origin of the pancake day tradition.
But this being Wales, we obviously have an alternative theory that suggests it was all our idea first. And it begins near Conwy with an amateur historian called Stan Wicklen.
Shrove Tuesday is known in Welsh as ‘Dydd Mawrth Ynyd’, which means ‘the day of the martyr Ynyd’, a sixth-century Welsh saint. The name this pub goes by, the ‘Groes’, is actually an abbreviation of its proper name ‘Groesynyd’, which translates as ‘Ynyd’s cross’. In other words, the inn had the patronage of the saint whose festival day was Shrove Tuesday. This meant that the inn had a special tradition and celebration of their own, to mark their namesake’s day. It involved playing tricks and practical jokes on visitors and passers-by, as well as the eating of Welsh cakes and other ‘pan cakes’ and pastries. And that, in Stan Wicklen’s opinion, is where the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday started.
As you know, I love an old story with an ancient pub at its heart. Regardless of how true it is likely to be. Maybe we should substitute the bottle of maple syrup on the pancake day table with a bottle of ‘cwrw da’ (Welsh for good beer).
This information is taken from ‘Historic Pubs of Wales’ by Graham Loveluck-Edwards. A book full of the quirky back stories of Wales’ oldest and most interesting pubs. For more information visit our online bookshop.
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/
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.