Monmouthshire Trip – September 3rd, 2016



       After his victory at the Battle of Bryn Glas in 1402, Owain Glyndŵr and his troops moved further south into Monmouthshire, burning and looting the English-held towns as they did so.


       A few years later, a number of these locations would become the scene of major battles in the uprising.


       Owain had good reason for wanting to stamp his authority in Monmouthshire:-


* Prince Hal - the future Henry V of England - was born in Monmouth and claimed the   title ‘Prince of Wales’.


Prince Hal


* The area had become a stronghold for the Marcher lordships - the Normans built numerous castles from the 11th century onwards in order to safeguard the land       they had taken from the Welsh.


* Dafydd Gam - one of Owain’s principal enemies - had a manor house in Llantilio Crossenny, and he provided the English forces with local information for a number of the battles in the area.




       Following defeat at Grosmont in May 1405, a Welsh force led by Owain’s son Gruffydd then attacked Usk Castle. The castle had been heavily fortified and so the attack was repulsed, with many Welsh soldiers being slaughtered as they retreated.

       Gruffydd was captured, and among those killed were his uncle, Tudur, and the Abbot of Llantarnam.


Castle Farm Plaque


       The main battle was fought near this plaque at Castle Farm on the hill above the castle, although the fighting reached almost as far as Monkswood to the north-west.,,

Pwll Melyn


       When a railway was being built through Usk in the 1850s, the pond called ‘Pwll Melyn’ was cleaned and a number of skeletons from the battle were discovered.




       By 1400, Adam of Usk had been a lecturer in Canon Law, a practising lawyer, and was involved in securing the legal grounds for the deposition of Richard II.

       He is best known for writing a chronicle of life in Wales, England and Europe which covered the period 1377 to 1421, and included a ‘contemporary’ account of Glyndŵr’s uprising.

       Unfortunately, much of his writing about the uprising must have been second-hand, however, because from February 1402 until June 1406 he lived in Rome - and he did not return to Wales until 1408.



Adam of Usk’s brass plaque


       Adam died in Usk and is buried in St Mary’s Priory Church in the town. It has a beautifully carved 15th century screen, and on its east face is a brass plaque which commemorates him.

       The inscription is written in Welsh cywydd metre, and a translation is:-


              After fame the tomb from the bench,

                     The practiced advocate of London

              And ‘judge of the world’ by gracious privilege,

                     May the heavenly abode be thine, good sir!

              Lo, a Solomon of Wisdom,

                     Adam of Usk is sleeping there,

              The wise doctor of ten commotes.

                     Behold a place full of learning.




    Following a heavy defeat at Campstone Hill, Glyndŵr’s men regrouped at Craig y Dorth near Monmouth, and managed to defeat an English force in the summer of 1404.


Craig y Dorth


    They pushed them four miles down the valley to the gates of Monmouth Castle, and apparently captured the baggage train which had been abandoned by the English in their flight to safety.




    The Monnow Bridge in Monmouth is the only remaining medieval fortified river-bridge in Britain.

    It has been pedestrianised, and is now a Scheduled Monument and a Grade I listed building.




       ‘The Three Castles’ are usually grouped together because they were under the control of a single lord for almost their entire history.


       Between 1219 and 1232, Hubert de Burgh spent a small fortune on rebuilding each of them in stone using the latest military architecture.


Skenfrith Castle


       The Three Castles formed part of the duchy of Lancaster, and during Owain’s campaign they were under the control of Henry IV.


White Castle


       After briefly seeing action in 1404-05, they were never again to play a major role in military affairs and by 1538 the castles were abandoned and ruinous.




    In the 15th century, Grosmont Castle was a well-established strategic base for the English with a three hundred year history.

    It was the birthplace of Henry of Grosmont, the first Duke of Lancaster. He was Henry Bolingbroke’s grandfather, and Grosmont was one of the largest towns in South Wales at the time.


Grosmont Castle


    The primary source of information, for the battle with Glyndwr’s forces on March 11th 1405, comes from Prince Hal. He was keen to prove himself as a military leader even at the young age of 17.

    In a letter to his father he described how 8000 Welshmen had attacked and burnt the town that day, and were confronted by a ‘small force’ led by Gilbert Talbot, William Newport and John Greyndor.


    He described the battle as a major victory for his men but, as the letter was sent from Hereford on the same day, it is more than likely that his account was second-hand.


    Rhys Gethin was probably killed in this battle - which was a major blow to Owain’s campaign.




       Dafydd ap Llewelyn ap Hywel was better known as Dafydd Gam (or Davy Gam in Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’). The name ‘Gam’ is taken from a Welsh word for lame or deformed.


       A member of a prominent Welsh family in Brecon, his ancestors had supported the de Bohun family for many years and, when Mary de Bohun married Henry Bolingbroke, his allegiance transferred to Henry as the new Lord of Brecon.


Dafydd Gam’s Coat of Arms


       He owned the manor house ‘Hen Gwrt’ near White Castle, and provided local information to the English forces before the battles in the area.


Hen Gwrt, Llantilio Crossenny


       Dafydd was captured by Owain in 1412, but Henry IV paid a large ransom to have him freed. He died in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and is commemorated in a stained-glass window in the church in Llantilio Crossenny.




    On August 20th, 1404, Owain’s forces moved north through Monmouthshire and encountered a large English contingent on Campstone Hill near Grosmont.

    Here the English were led by Richard Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick, but this battle is often confused with that at Grosmont in 1405.


Campstone Hill


    It was a foretaste of later battles in the area where the Welsh were often surprised by the strength of the English army. Glyndŵr’s standard was captured here and its bearer, Elis ap Rhisiart ap Hywel ap Morgan Llwyd, was killed.


Glyndŵr’s Flag

    Owain’s men regrouped, however, and moved south to achieve success at Craig y Dorth.




       Abergavenny Castle had been the scene of an infamous massacre in the 12th century, after which control of it passed back and forth between the English and the Welsh.

       A large amount of building work was done to fortify it in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the gatehouse was built to counter the threat posed by Glyndŵr’s uprising.

Abergavenny Castle


       In 1404 Abergavenny was besieged by Owain’s forces, and a small number of his men were allowed entry to the town by a local woman. She was sympathetic to his cause and they entered through a small postern gate situated at the bottom of Market Street.


       This small force then opened a main gate so that the rest of the invading party could gain entry. They set fire to the town and plundered its churches and homes, although the castle remained intact.


       For many years afterwards, Market Street was referred to as “Traitor’s Lane”.




    The Priory Church of St. Mary in Abergavenny was originally a Benedictine priory, and is said to have been plundered by Glyndŵr in 1404.


Priory Church and Tithe Barn


    Most of the town was burnt and, when the Tithe Barn was being renovated recently, scorch marks were revealed on its walls.

    Upstairs in the Tithe Barn is a tapestry which was made to celebrate the new millennium. It depicts Owain on a horse looking towards Abergavenny.




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                            1 Y Fenni (Abergavenny)

                            2 Brynbuga (Usk)

                            3 Pwll Melyn

                            4 Craig y Dorth

                            5 Trefynwy (Monmouth)

                            6 Ynysgynwraidd (Skenfrith)

                            7 Y Grysmwnt (Grosmont)

                            8 Mynydd Camstwn (Campstone Hill)

                            9 Castell Gwyn (White Castle)