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Kingdom of Ceredigion[1]
5th century–early 10th century
Flag
Traditional Banner of Ceredigion
Coat of arms
Coat of arms
Medieval kingdoms of Wales.
Capital Not specified
Languages Welsh
Government Monarchy
King
 •  450 - 460 Ceredig ap Cunedda
Historical era Middle Ages
 •  Established 5th century
 •  Annexed by Kingdom of Deheubarth early 10th century
Preceded by
Succeeded by
sub-Roman Britain
Principality of Wales

The Kingdom of Ceredigion was one of several Welsh kingdoms that emerged in 5th-century post-Roman Britain. It's area corresponded roughly to that of the modern county of Ceredigion. The kingdom's hilly geography made it difficult for foreign invaders to conquer.[1] Cardigan Bay bordered to the west. Ceredigion transparently means "the people of Ceredig." [2]

History[edit]

Tradition found in the work of Nennius, a 10th-century Welsh chronicler, traces Ceredigion's foundation to Ceredig, son of Cunedda.[3] According to Nennius, Cunedda migrated with his sons and followers from the Hen Ogledd (southern Scotland) in the 5th century.

Historically, Ceredigion became recognised as its own small kingdom or gwlad, protected to some degree by its natural boundaries of mountain and river from Dyfed in the south and Gwynedd in the north, and from Powys and the lesser kingdoms of mid-Wales. At some period whose date is lost to us, smaller lordships emerged all over Wales, called cantrefi and cymydau (commotes); we have already encountered them in chapter 2. In the patterns beloved of early lawyers, the law-texts prescribe that there were to be so many commotes in a cantref, which in turn was to be a significant unit in a gwlad, or mini-kingdom. So obscured (or perhaps ineffectual) was this cantref system in Ceredigion that only the name of one cantref survives, that of Penweddig, also called Cantref Gwarthaf, both of which names indicate the ‘furthest’ place. Since Penweddig lies between the Dyfi and the Ystwyth, and is the northernmost cantref of the little kingdom, both names suggest, as would be expected, an administrative centre to the south, perhaps at Trefilan or even Dinefwr, the great centre of 12th century Deheubarth. J.E. Lloyd’s suggestion that such a centre was at Cardigan or Carmarthen would only apply if the names originated in the 13th or 14th centuries, which seems unlikely.[2]

Rulers of Ceredigion[edit]

  • Ceredig (424 - 453)
  • Usai (453 - 490)
  • Serwyl (490 - 525)
  • Boddw (525 - 560)
  • Arthfoddw (560 - 595)
  • Arthlwys (595 - 630)
  • Clydog I (630 - 665)
  • Seisyll (665 - 700)
  • Arthwyr (700 - 735)
  • Dyfnwal (735 - 770)
  • Meurig (770 - 807)
  • Arthen (807 - 808)
  • Gwgan (808 - 872)
  • Cadell (872 - 909)
  • Clydog II (909 - 920)

Roman occupation[edit]

In pre-Roman, and possibly Roman times, a part of southern Ceredigion was in the territory of the Demetae and possibly part of that of the Ordovices. In post-Roman times, however, there is no evidence that the Kingdom of Dyfed included any part of Ceredigion. Modern Ceredigion corresponds almost exactly to the ancient kingdom of Ceredigion. This name is derived from an adjective Cereticianus,[4] itself a derivative of the proper name Cereticus (Cere- dig), known as the son of Cunedda. Though modern Ceredigion corresponds very closely to the old kingdom of Ceredigion, yet it would appear that, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, certain places in Carmarthenshire, situated in the Vale of Cothi, in Cantref Mawr, and far south of the county boundary of the Teifi, were sometimes spoken of as being in Cardiganshire (Ceredigion).[4] The Chronicon of Adam of Usk states that the cwmwd of Caio (properly Cynwyl Caio) was situated "in Comitatu di Cardikan." In the Charter of Talley Abbey, Brechfa is also spoken of as "Lanteilau Brechfa apud Keredigaun." These statements may be simply mistakes, or they may be echoes of the fact that the kings of Ceredigion conquered Y Cantref Mawr in, the eighth century.[4]

Medieval period[edit]

The emergence early in the 10th century of Hywel Dda as king, first over the south-west, then over Powys and Gwynedd, must have brought change to Ceredigion. Suddenly the former kingdom may to some extent have lost its marginal status; it would have provided a natural routeway for Hywel and his servants to travel to and from Gwynedd. Hywel certainly saw that it was wiser to become a client kingdom of the powerful united English state rather than be defiant; faced with the variety of customs in various parts of his own expanded kingdom, he may perhaps have been responsible for the first codification of Welsh traditional legal practice. Despite his success during his long life, Hywel's death in 950 saw the immediate collapse of his kingdom, and war returned to Ceredigion, ravaged as it was by the princes of Gwynedd in 895 (with English assistance), and again in 952 and 954.

Thenceforward Ceredigion suffered the cut and thrust of internecine Welsh military politics, interspersed with seaborne Viking attacks, throughout the next hundred years. The area was mainly subject to rule by Deheubarth in the tenth century and by Gwynedd in the first half of the eleventh century. Some warlords, whether or not of royal descent, succeeded briefly in uniting disparate kingdoms as Hywel Dda had done; thus Ceredigion was ruled with Deheubarth and Gwynedd between 985 and 999 by Maredudd ab Owain. Such a union did not bring peace; in 992 Maredudd's lands were devastated by a rival who called in English aid. The incidental interference of the Vikings, who had attacked the monasteries at St Dogmaels and Llanbadarn Fawr in 988, was an added burden. In 1039 Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, king of Gwynedd, ravaged Llanbadarn Fawr and occupied Ceredigion, and in 1055 internal conflict again brought him on the rampage through the south-west. His rule over all Wales died with his defeat by Harold Godwinsson (later briefly king of England) and his murder in 1063 or 1064. The less marginal status that Ceredigion had acquired under the rule of Hywel Dda did not prove beneficial in later years; the district provided a highway for the clashing forces of Gwynedd and Deheubarth. Moreover, Ceredigion was soon to provide a route southwards to Penfro for incursions by the Norman invaders who had overwhelmed the flower of the English military at Senlac, near Hastings, in 1066.

English conquest[edit]

By the Statutes of Rhuddlan (1284) Edward I. constituted Ceredigion out of the former principality of Wales a shire on the English model, dividing the new county into six hundreds and fixing the size at Carmarthen. By the act of Union in the reign of Henry VIII., the boundaries of the county were subsequently enlarged to their present size by the addition of certain outlying portions of the Marches round Tregaron and Cardigan, and the sizes were assigned to the county town.[5]

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Boundries[edit]

The same authority on Welsh topography also deals with the statement given in the Life of St. Carannog, that the River Gwaun, which flows into the sea at Abergwaun (Fishguard), formed the southern boundary of the kingdom, and shows that in an older version of the same, the Teifi is represented more correctly as the southern boundary. The substitution of the Gwaun for the Teifi, is due to the inclusion, in 1291, of the deaneries of Cemaes and Emlyn with Ceredigion, in the Archdeaconry of Cardigan.[4]

Castle Howell[edit]

Castle Aberystwyth[edit]

Castle Cardigan[edit]

Life in early Ceredigion[edit]

There is no certain understanding of what life was like for the men, women and children of the little kingdom or chiefdom of Ceredigion. They were most likely depended on agriculture, keeping cattle and sheep and growing crops on the land. A certain amount of woodland regeneration had happened after the early impact of the Romans, but although there was more woodland than there is today, there would have been large stretches of open ground, sometimes boggy, sometimes yielding thin pasture. Houses would have been of the simplest – earth and timber, thatched, so that they have long sunk back into the soil, leaving no trace of settlement that we have so far been able to recognise, other than the mounds of burnt stone and charcoal at Morfa Mawr. The people’s diet was supplemented by hunting, fishing and gathering; the ruling class would have depended on food renders from the bond population. Infuriatingly, they seem not to have made or used any pottery.[6]

Equally uncertain is the organisation of landownership. It seems possible that the division between landowning free people and tenants of bond-land, known to exist in the 13th century, may well go back for centuries – even perhaps to the pre-Roman period. Free men owned land by right of descent, closed to women; they would have owed limited military service and some duties to their princes. Bond-people owned nothing, living in groups on land belonging to a local chief whose protection they earned in exchange for their labour. Bond-families probably outnumbered free. It would have been bond-land that the princes gave so lavishly to the Church. Some bond settlements survive as modern villages, for example Llan-non, while others have vanished; however one has been recently discovered at Llanerchaeron, and a hut excavated.[7]

Chief amongst the county families of Cardigan is that of Lloyd, descendants of the powerful Cadifor ap Dinawal, lord of Castle Howell, in the 12th century. Certain branches of this family, such as the Lloyds of Millfield (Maes-y-felin), the Lloyds of Llanlyr and the Lloyds of Peterwell, are extinct, but others are still flourishing. The Vaughan family of Trawsgoed (now represented by the Earl of Lisburne), has held its family estates in the male line for many centuries. A representative in the female line of the ancient house of Pryse, long prominent in the annals of the county, still possesses the old family seat of Gogerddan. Other families worthy of mention are Lloyd of Bronwydd, Powell of Nanteos Mansion and Thomas Johnes of Hafod and Llanfair-Clydogau.[8]

Christianity[edit]

At some measure, the whole population of early Ceredigion may have been Christian, though it is difficult for us to imagine quite what Christianity meant to the vast majority who could not read. How they became Christian, who were their priests and how they gained an education, even the source of wine for the mass, are matters of great obscurity. The names of a number of the earliest Ceredigion Christians survive as ‘saints’, both men and women, though we know virtually nothing of them. Did early Ceredigion’s Christianity derive from the Roman occupation, from Ireland, or from the European continent? Did it come up the sea-coast from Pembrokeshire? Early Christianity in south-east Wales is certainly rooted in Roman times, but whether it spread into Ceredigion overland or by coasting missionaries from south-east Wales, or whether the Irish brought it, or whether other missionaries arrived here from elsewhere, is largely obscure – perhaps two or all three sources were involved. Certainly there is evidence for Irish influence; indeed, Padraig O Riain has argued that Irish Christianity was the dominant influence, especially in southern Ceredigion. His case is founded mainly on the dedications of churches to saints of Irish origin: St Ffraid ( = Bridget), commemorated at Llansanffraid on the coast between Llanrhystud and Aberarth is the most obvious, but O Riain argues for the Irish origin of the saints commemorated at Llanwnnws, Llanwenog, Llanwnnen and Capel Wnda (Troed-yr-aur), all connected by him with the Irish cult of St Finnian. A third source of Christian influence in Wales was Gaul, whence the idea of living in monastic communities seems to have reached Wales by the fifth or sixth centuries. Whatever the extent of Irish influence, native figures predominate in church dedications, though interpreting these is controversial. Ceredig was believed, at least in the 12th century, to be a progenitor of saints, including Ina (Llanina), Tysul and Saint Afan, not to mention Dewi. [9]

It is certainly clear that the figures considered to be of the greatest importance were Padarn and Dewi, though of course the sources are biassed in favour of their own heroes. Padarn is a puzzling figure. The saint’s ‘Life’, almost certainly written at Llanbadarn, claimed that he came from ‘Llydaw’ (the Welsh name for Brittany, but his place of origin may have been in south-east Wales). His cult is an interesting one. Llanbadarn Fawr, as is obvious from the name, was its centre, and the church was early endowed with lands between the rivers Clarach and Paith. Llanbadarn Odwyn (sometimes incorrectly written ‘Odyn’) and Llanbadarn Trefeglwys also survive as witnesses to Padarn’s cult. Nothing visible survives of the early Christian settlement at Llanbadarn Fawr, other than two ninth or tenth-century crosses and the fine manuscripts produced by the sons of Sulien at the turn of the eleventh century. It must nevertheless have been the major church in nothern Ceredigion, preserving a tradition that it had once been the seat of bishops in the pre-Norman days when Wales had bishops but no fixed dioceses or designated cathedrals. The visit of Gerald of Wales in 1188 records the survival or revival there of the Welsh clas; a similar ecclesiastical group existed at Llanddewibrefi, of which more below.[10]

Strata Florida[edit]

Llanbadarn Fawr[edit]

Llanddewi Brefi[edit]

Land ownership[edit]

Is there any way of understanding what life was like for the men, women and children of the little kingdom or chiefdom of Ceredigion? They certainly depended on agriculture, keeping cattle and sheep and growing crops on the land. A certain amount of woodland regeneration had happened after the early impact of the Romans, but although there was more woodland than there is today, there would have been large stretches of open ground, sometimes boggy, sometimes yielding thin pasture. Houses would have been of the simplest – earth and timber, thatched, so that they have long sunk back into the soil, leaving no trace of settlement that we have so far been able to recognise, other than the mounds of burnt stone and charcoal at Morfa Mawr. The people’s diet was supplemented by hunting, fishing and gathering; the ruling class would have depended on food renders from the bond population. Infuriatingly, they seem not to have made or used any pottery.

Equally uncertain is the organisation of landownership. It seems possible that the division between landowning free people and tenants of bond-land, known to exist in the 13th century, may well go back for centuries – even perhaps to the pre-Roman period. Free men owned land by right of descent, closed to women; they would have owed limited military service and some duties to their princes. Bond-people owned nothing, living in groups on land belonging to a local chief whose protection they earned in exchange for their labour. Bond-families probably outnumbered free. It would have been bond-land that the princes gave so lavishly to the Church. Some bond settlements survive as modern villages, for example Llan-non, while others have vanished; however one has been recently discovered at Llanerchaeron, and a hut excavated.

Foreign invaders[edit]

According to a tradition recorded in the ninth century A.D., the fifth century Irish settlers in Wales were driven out by the north Briton Cunedda, aided by his sons. The names of these sons appear for the first time in a tenth-century genealogy, and include that of Ceredig. There is no particular difficulty about believing that Ceredigion was named from a man named Ceredig; Glamorgan and Meirionnydd are reasonable parallels. As has been shown in chapter 2, lesser regions within Ceredigion such as Gwynionydd, Mabwynion and Mefennydd seem to have been named after individuals. On the other hand, people were always willing to devise personal names to ‘explain’ a place-name, so Ceredig may be an eponymous figure without historical reality. But whether Ceredig, even if he was a real leader, was a son of Cunedda, is highly uncertain, not to say unlikely. The Cunedda tradition itself, whatever its foundation in fact or fiction, may have been strong enough to attract other names to it just as the Arthurian tradition did. Realistically it can be suggested that early Gwynedd propaganda incorporated Ceredig’s name into the Cunedda family in order to justify the subordination of Ceredigion to Gwynedd. Ceredig, in turn, is recorded as the ancestor of the early kings of Ceredigion, the last of whom was Gwgon. The record of Gwgon's death by drowning in A.D. 871/2 is probably reliable, as is that of his great-grandfather Arthen's death in 807. But the history of these men, and of their ancestors, is completely obscure. Another ancestor of Gwgon was Seisyll ap Clydog, who must have flourished in the eighth century, and who extended his kingdom into present-day Carmarthenshire, occupying the three cantrefs of Ystrad Tywi, and leaving behind him a realm known after him as Seisyllwg.

Whether Gwgon, last king of Ceredigion, ruled the whole of Seisyllwg is not known; it is possible that his kingdom had been reduced to the original Ceredigion. No son succeeded him, and it is therefore not surprising that the little kingdom should have been taken over by his sister Angharad's descendants through her marriage to the most powerful man in Wales, Rhodri Mawr, king of Gwynedd, who died in 878. This dynasty also took control of Powys, and therefore ruled much of Wales at a time when the land were under severe pressure both from Viking attacks by sea and both English and Viking attacks across the eastern land border. Indeed, with the expulsion of Rhodri Mawr from Gwynedd in 877 by the Vikings and his death the following year at the hands of the English, the separate existence of the Welsh kingdoms seems, in retrospect at least, to have been seriously threatened. Admittedly, English influence helped sustain south Wales against the Vikings, but in 895 Ceredigion and Ystrad Tywi were devastated by Anarawd king of Gwynedd, who had English support. In 954 the north Welsh princelings Iago and Ieuaf, sons of Idwal the Bald, ravaged Ceredigion. There thus emerges from our fog of ignorance some anticipation of the wretched later period of Ceredigion's war-torn history between 1070 and 1295, the subject of the next chapter, although the long rule of Hywel Dda till his death in 950 may have been a period of comparative peace, once he had united Gwynedd to his southern kingdom. It is certainly clear that Ceredigion, too small and weak to maintain any form of independence, was to be regularly contested between Deheubarth, Gwynedd, Powys, and eventually the Normans.

Passing references have made in this chapter to the Vikings, but hardly anything is known of them in Ceredigion. There is the Norse name of Cardigan Island, Hastiholm, referred to in a previous chapter, and a single record of a raid on Llanbadarn Fawr, mentioned below. But whereas Pembrokeshire and Anglesey in particular have considerable evidence of the Viking presence in archaeology and place-names, the only archaeological evidence in Ceredigion is the hog-backed stone at Llanddewi Aberarth church, probably of Viking origin, which must have marked a burial. Obviously there must have been more to the story of the Vikings in Ceredigion; not every raid would have been recorded, and Llanddewi Aberarth as an early Christian centre may well have been the object of an attack.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Lloyd, J.E., A History of Wales; From the Norman Invasion to the Edwardian Conquest
  2. ^ a b Ceredigion, A Wealth of History
  3. ^ Davies, John, A History of Wales
  4. ^ a b c d Archaeologia Cambrensis
  5. ^ 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica
  6. ^ Morgan
  7. ^ Morgan
  8. ^ 1911
  9. ^ Morgan
  10. ^ Morgan

References[edit]


Category:History of Ceredigion Ceredigion Category:States and territories established in the 5th century