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Post-Roman Welsh kingdoms or tribes. Ergyng is in the southeast (lower right). The modern Anglo-Welsh border is also shown.
Southern Wales and Southwestern England prior to the Roman invasion. The Herefordshire Beacon, or British Camp, is shown at or beyond the presumptive northeastern tip of Silurian territory.

Ergyng (Welsh: Erging) was a Welsh kingdom located in present-day southern Herefordshire, southwestern Gloucestershire, and northern Monmouthshire. It flourished from the time of the Roman departure from Britain until the end of the eighth century. Along with the Welsh kingdoms of Glywysing and Gwent, Ergyng emerged from the territory of the pre-Roman Silures, and those three kingdoms acted cooperatively and in concert in all matters of any consequence, with histories that are very amicably intertwined.

As a border kingdom facing the Anglo-Saxon advances of the sixth and seventh centuries, its territories were steadily eroded, and by the ninth century its remainder was absorbed into the lands that would become the southern Herefordshire area of Archenfield. Unlike some other areas where Britons were supplanted by Anglo-Saxons, the region that was once Ergyng has retained the heritage of both peoples, including the survival of Welsh place-names, and the Welsh language into the eighteenth century. By a quirk of history, relics of the ancient Welsh law survived in Archenfield into the twentieth century.

History[edit]

The name Ergyng first emerges onto the historical stage in the wake of the Roman departure from Britain, when it appears as a kingdom in the former territory of the pre-Roman Silures, along with the kingdoms of Glywysing and Gwent. The similarity of its name to that of the former Roman town of Ariconium (Welsh: Din Aricon) suggests (without solid foundation) that the town was in the former Silurian territory.

The spelling of the name has varied in historical references, to include Ercing, Ergic, and Ercic. It is spelled a variety of ways in the Book of Llandaff, including Ergin and Ercicg.[1] The Historia Brittonum of Nennius spells it Erging[2] and Geoffrey of Monmouth refers to it as Hergin.[3]

The kingdoms that emerged from Silurian territory following the Roman withdrawal were Glywysing, Gwent, and Ergyng. The site of Roman Ariconium is shown, as is Madley, the birthplace of Saint Dyfrig.

To c. 500[edit]

Ergyng at the opening of the seventh century.

To c. 600[edit]

Ergyng at the opening of the eighth century.

To c. 700[edit]

After the withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain in 410 AD, new smaller political entities took the place of the centralised structure. The area was originally part of the Kingdom of Glywysing (modern Glamorgan) and Gwent, but seems to have become independent for a period under Gwrfoddw Hen in the late 5th century[4], and again under King Peibio Clafrog in the mid-6th century. Peibio was the grandfather of Saint Dubricius or Dyfrig, the first Bishop of Ergyng and an important figure in the establishment of Christianity in South Wales. He founded large teaching monasteries at Llanfrother near Hoarwithy and at Moccas, and a bishopric seems to have been based at St Constantine's Church at Goodrich.[5]

Dubricius' cousin, Gwrgan Fawr (the Great) was one of its most important monarchs and may have obtained sway over Glamorgan as far as the River Neath. In the middle of the 7th century, Onbraust of Ergyng married Meurig of Gwent, and their son Athrwys became king of both kingdoms. Ergyng eventually became a mere cantref, the Welsh equivalent of a hundred.[5]

Epilogue[edit]

See also Archenfield

By the 8th century, the expanding power of Mercia led to conflict with the native British, and by the 9th century the Mercians had gained control over the area and nearby Hereford. The sites of old British churches fell to Mercia, and the British became foreigners - or, in the English language, "Welsh" - in what had been their own land.[6] The rump of Ergyng then became known to the English as Arcenefelde or Archenfield. Although its Welsh-speaking inhabitants retained special rights, the area was unequivocally incorporated into England in the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542.

As Archenfield (variously spelled) the region would be often-mentioned in discussions on ancient Welsh law, and as a digression in discussions of English law, due to a quirk of history. The Laws in Wales Acts 1535-1542 abolished Welsh law in Wales. However, at that time Archenfield was a part of England, and as these laws applied only within Wales, local law and custom in Archenfield continued as before. This was an unusual survival of ancient Welsh law into the twentieth century, of interest to scholars studying the histories of both Welsh and English law.

References[edit]

Notes

Citations

  1. ^ Rees 1840 The Book of Llandaff
  2. ^ Nennius 1819:146, 170 Historia Britonnum page 146
  3. ^ Geoffrey of Monmouth 1842:147 History of the Britons, Chapter II – a passing reference in the story of Aurelius Ambrosius' pursuit of Vortegirn.
  4. ^ Ergyng at The History Files
  5. ^ a b Hereford.uk.com - Herefordshire History
  6. ^ Archenfield Archaeology - Who we are

Bibliography


  • Ergyng (or Erging) not mentioned by Ussher (in either vol V or VI)
  • Bede ?
  • Gildas ?


  • Wendy Davies. (1979). The Llandaff Charters.
  • Wendy Davies (1982). Wales in the Early Middle Ages.
  • G. H. Doble. (1971). Lives of the Welsh Saints.
  • John Morris. (1973). The Age of Arthur.
  • Raymond Perry. (2002). Anglo-Saxon Herefordshire.
  • A. L. F. Rivet & Colin Smith (1979). The Place-Names of Roman Britain.