Thursday, June 19, 2008

Monmouthshire and the Land of Gwent

Upper Cwmbran at Bluebell time
Goldcliff Priory Site at Sunset


Extract from 'The Land of Gwent'

To Thee , brave Gwent , praise alone doth belong
Thou n'er wore chains, impatient were of wrong
When Saxons, Danes and Normans Britain swayed
Thou scorned the servile yoke on others laid;
With courage great most bravely did maintain
Thy rights so long enjoyed. May they remain.

by David W.Oates

There is no county in the British Isles richer in historical lore than Monmouthshire, and no district has a more complete and interesting story to reveal than the territory of Gwent. On many grounds, the traces of Goidelic or Brythonic celts roll back the mists of ages and set us in the company of these people of the far dim past. The story thus opens long before history came to be written.

The Ancient Kingdom of Gwent, which speaking roughly, comprised the county of Monmouthshire, derived its name from an ancient British word meaning 'fair', the district being known as 'The Fair Land' from its wealth of natural beauty. It was formed of three distinct regions, Lower Gwent (Gwent Iscoed-Gwent below the (Went)Wood,and Upper Gwent (GGwent Ichoed (Gwent above the (Went)Wood,the boundary between the two being a vast expanse of forest stretching from the Usk at Caerleon, to the River Wye. Then there was Blaenau Gwent, the mountains, which extended towards Brecon containing the villages of Mynyddislwyn, Bedwellty and the towns of Tredegar and Ebbw Vale.

The Romans knew the district by the Latin name 'Siluria'because the British tribe inhabiting the area were the Silures. The boundaries of Gwent and Siluria were very indefinite but it is believed that Siluria embraced a greater sdistrict of land than Gwent. The name Siluria fell into disuse after the Romans were driven out, the natives preferring the British name, which remained in use until the formation of the County of Monmouth by a statute of Henry VIII. Today the name Siluria is preserved in history alone, but the name Gwent recalls a thousand memories to the mind of every Welshman and fills him with a sense of pride in his glorious past.

Long after the enforced union with the English crown the kings laws did not prevail within its boundaries, and fugitives from English justice could find refuge in it, until the reign of Henry VIII. Many English monarchs knew its hills and woodlands almost as well as they knew Windsor Park. No territory in the country could have been more important than 'this old frontier between the king's earls and the semi independent turbulent Lords of the March.'

As we wander among these hills to which the sky can stoop so tenderly and the cornfields climb, the eye falls everywhere upon some spot renowned in tradition or famed in history. Such woods and vales , enchanted shores,mysterious mountains , grassy slopes, are nowhere found outside this land of beauty, virtue and valour.

O charmed realm! O storied scene!
What echoes whisper by your tide!
What memories mingle in your stream
Of lives that here have breathed and died,
Of lips whose unforgotten lays
Made Beauty lovelier by they praise!

Here caractacus held his court:here the Praetor deposited the Roman Eagle and dealt out justice in the name of Caesar; here Britons,Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans triumphed in their turn, while the valiant chiefs and Kings of Wales , and the brave Princes of Gwent fought resolutely side by side.

To this land in its happy dawn, the light of Christianity came, and left ineffaceable traces of learning, virtue and piety.Indeed so full of incident is each period in its history that it is doubtful if any other district in the British Isles possesses a more interesting past than that of Gwent.1930's

To this David Oates writes in his 'Preface'

Children grasp incidents of the history of their own county with deeper and more intelligent interest, than events which happened in places unfamiliar to them; their historical imagination, therefore can be most effectively cultivated by recalling the doings of forgotten heroes of the district in familiar places that can be visited , as this makes a more vivid appeal to the chld than the vague doings of unrealised kings and statesmen can possibly do. From such a treatment of history too,have we the greatest hope of fostering a fervid and reasonable civic patriotism , for a man is ill prepared to think, to dream and to work for his country or city until it has become a reality to him and a vivid and understanding knowledge of its present can be best obtained by a continuous and intelligent picture of its past.

Well there is is-how true, especially for our children whose study of our history seems locked in the study of the Wars of the twentieth century (in case anyone should have such nationalist identy.

A Quiz

Can you answer all these questions from my blog?

1. Name of the Chieftain of Gwent carried off to Rome.
2. Name of the daughter of Caractacus who was a Christian.
3. Name of her brother who became Pope.
4. Name of 6 Rivers in Gwent U_____,W_____,M_______,E________R________.
5 Name of three important streams in Gwent

6. Name of Bishop at the time of Martyrdom of St Julius Julianus and St Aaron.
7. Where are the present day Churches of Saints Julius and Aaron (including Anglican)
8. To which city did the Bishop flee?
9. Who helped the Bishop but was martyred himself?
10.On which side of Caerleon was St Aaron martyred?

11. Where is a memorial stone to St Julius Julianus displayed?
12. Which uncle of the Blessed Virgin Mary was recorded to have come to Gwent with his family and been given land in Garthmadrun and Glastonbury?
13 Who ws the famous Queen of Ynyr Gwent who went to Minster near Boscastle in Cornwal and became a Christian Missionary?
14. What was the difference between a White Martyrdom, a Green Martyrdom and a red Martyrdom?
15. WHo was the hermit, one of the holy Brychan Brycheiniog's family who came to a remote village in the north of the county?

16. What happened to him?
17. What does 'Llan' mean?
18. Who were the Saints of Newport?
19. Name three great monastic teachers and their colleges in Gwent.
20. Who killed Tewdrig, Tegfedd, Tydfil, Maches, Tecla, Cadoc.

21. Name six 'llans' of importance in Gwent.(English names will do)
22. Brythonic Celts were in two other places besides Wales-where?
23. Where was 'Armorica'?
24. What is the name of the Holy Mountain of Gwent?
25. Where is it?

26. Where were St Dials and St Derfyls chapel to be found?
27. Which Gwent monastery was linked the the Shrine at Our Lady of Penrhys?
28. When is the annual three day walk from Llantarnam to Penrhys carried out?
29. What does a Pelican represent in early Catholic symbolism?
28. The serpent is usually portrayed as of the devil. In Celtic illuminated gospels
this has a different meaning. What is it, and which other animal has the same
29. Where did Gwent people go on pilgrimage in Celtic times?
30 What was the purpose of the holy wells? Name the saint who gave her name to a
famous one at Trellech, called 'The Virtuous Well'.

31 Which Gwent Churches are named after St Cadoc?(name two) St Sannan, St Tegfedd,
St Illtyd, St Woolos, St Mary (name one), St Michael and All Angels (name one)St
Teilo, St Basil

32 Name two forests in Gwent.
33. Where did Tewdrig fight his battle against the Saxons?
34 What was a Green Man (look at post on Llangwm)
35. What did St Woolos (Gwynlliw Sant see in his dream? Where can you see this in a
36. Who was the famous Bishop of Caerleon in the time of St Woolos or Gwynlliw?

Hope you have a bit of fun with these. I would print them out and be ready for the answers tomorrow or Saturday. Good Luck! All the Answers are in the blog posts! I'm going to continue with the sixth century a little longer and then move on to the Saxon challenge.

You can email me with your suggestions at

Results of the Quiz I think on Sunday-give you time to do it.

God Bless!

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