Battle of Crug Mawr

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Battle of Crug Mawr
Part of the Norman campaigns in Wales
DateOctober 1136
Location
Crug Mawr, two miles from Cardigan

52°05′46″N 4°37′16″W / 52.096°N 4.621°W / 52.096; -4.621Coordinates: 52°05′46″N 4°37′16″W / 52.096°N 4.621°W / 52.096; -4.621
Result Decisive Welsh victory
Belligerents
Welsh forces from Gwynedd and Deheubarth Norman forces from all the south Wales lordships
Commanders and leaders

Owain Gwynedd Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd

Gruffydd ap Rhys

Robert fitz Martin, Robert fitz Stephen and

Maurice FitzGerald, Lord of Lanstephan
Strength

6000 infantrymen

2000 cavalrymen
Several thousand
Casualties and losses
Said to be light 3,000 killed

The Battle of Crug Mawr ('Great Barrow'), sometimes referred to as the Battle of Cardigan, took place in September or October 1136, as part of a struggle for control of Ceredigion which had been captured by the Normans.[1]

The battle took place near Penparc, Cardigan and resulted in a rout of the Norman forces, setting back their expansion in Wales.

Background[edit]

A Welsh revolt against Norman rule had begun in South Wales, where on 1 January 1136 the Welsh won a victory over the local Norman forces at the Battle of Llwchwr between Loughor and Swansea, killing about 500 of their opponents. Richard Fitz Gilbert de Clare, the Norman lord of Ceredigion, had been away from his lordship in the early part of the year. Returning to the borders of Wales in April, he ignored warnings of the danger and pressed on towards Ceredigion with a small force. He had not gone far when he was ambushed and killed by the men of Iorwerth ab Owain, grandson of Caradog ap Gruffydd (the penultimate prince of Gwent).

The news of Richard's death led to an invasion by the forces of Gwynedd, led by Owain Gwynedd and Cadwaladr ap Gruffydd, sons of the king of Gwynedd, Gruffudd ap Cynan. They captured a number of castles in northern Ceredigion before returning home to dispose of the plunder. Around Michaelmas (11 October in the Julian Calendar used at the time) they again invaded Ceredigion and made an alliance with Gruffydd ap Rhys of Deheubarth. The combined forces headed for the town of Cardigan. This army was said to include hundreds of armoured horsemen, a style of warfare which the Welsh had learnt from the Normans.

Location[edit]

The exact location of the battlefield is not known. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales puts the site of the battle on the southeast slopes of Banc y Warren, a prominent conical hill near Penparc, 2 miles (3.2 km) northeast of Cardigan. There is a farm nearby named Crugmore.[2] A geophysical survey and archaeological appraisal were carried out at Crugmore Farm in 2014 in support of planning applications. No evidence indicative of a battle was found in the areas covered by the surveys.[3][4][5]

Gerald of Wales, in his Descriptio Cambriae of 1191, describes:

We proceeded on our journey from Cilgarran towards Pont-Stephen, leaving Cruc Mawr, i.e. the great hill, near Aberteivi, on our left hand. On this spot Gruffydh, son of Rhys ap Theodor, soon after the death of King Henry I, by a furious onset gained a signal victory against the English army...

The translator (in 1863) notes that the victory of the Welsh happened in 1135.[6]

The battle[edit]

Two miles outside Cardigan the Welsh army encountered a Norman force and battle was joined. The Normans were led by Robert fitz Martin, supported by Robert fitz Stephen, constable of Cardigan Castle, with the brothers William and Maurice FitzGerald, Lord of Lanstephan. After some hard fighting, the Norman forces were put to flight and pursued as far as the River Teifi. Many of the fugitives tried to cross the bridge, which broke under the weight. Hundreds are said to have drowned, clogging the river with the bodies of men and horses. Others fled to the town of Cardigan which, however, was taken and burned by the Welsh even though Robert fitz Martin managed to successfully defend the castle.

There is a detailed description of the battle online, supported by a number of (mostly 20th century) publications; these are listed below under "Further reading".[7]

Aftermath[edit]

Ceredigion, which had been part of Deheubarth before the Normans had conquered it, was now annexed by Gwynedd as the more powerful member of the coalition. Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth won it back for his kingdom by during the war of 1165-1170.

The battle was a significant setback to Norman expansion in Wales. Owain Gwynedd became king of Gwynedd on the death of his father the following year and further expanded the borders of his kingdom. In Deheubarth Gruffydd ap Rhys died in uncertain circumstances in 1137 and the resulting disruption allowed the Normans to partially recover their position in the south.

Further reading[edit]

  • John Edward Lloyd (1911) A history of Wales from the earliest times to the Edwardian conquest (Longmans, Green & Co.)
  • Griffiths, R.A. (1972). The Principality of Wales in the Later Middle Ages. London.
  • Pryce, H. (2005). Acts of the Welsh Rulers: 1120-1283. University of Wales, Cardiff.
  • Davis, P.R. (2007). Castles of the Welsh Princes. Y Lolfa Cyf, Talybont.
  • Douglas, D.C. and Greeaway, G.W (ed) (1981). English Historical Documents Vol 2 (1042-1189). Routledge, London.
  • Gater, D. (2008). The Battles of Wales. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst.
  • Matthews, R. (2012). Anglo-Welsh Wars: Cardigan / Crug Mawr 1136. Bretwalda Battles.
  • Johnson, G.K. (2014). Cardigan Castle: A History
  • Turvey, R.K. (2014). The Marcher Lords. Gwasg Carreg Gwalch

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dyfed Archaeological Trust: Cardigan". Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Crug Mawr, site of battle, near Cardigan". Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Archaeology Wales: Crugmore Farm, Penparc". Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Archaeology Wales: Crugmore Farm, Penparc: Archaeological watching brief" (PDF). Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Archaeology Wales: Crugmore Farm: Archaeological Appraisal" (PDF). Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  6. ^ Gerald of Wales (1863). The historical works of Giraldus Cambrensis. Bohn, London. p. 431-432. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Battlefields of Britain: Battle of Crug Mawr (1136)". Retrieved 13 May 2018.