Skip navigation

Morgannwg

 - 

Vol. 6 1962

The Vale of Glamorgan. Book review.

Previous page Rotate Left Rotate Right Next page Original Image Large Image Zoom View text PDF
Jump to page
but the evidence on which it is based might have formed a useful section
of Mr. Randall's last chapter. The author on p. 95 speaks of a "quiet
peasant migration" from Somerset and is inclined to date it to the Age of
the Saints. In 650, however, Somerset was still in British hands and Anglo-
Saxon colonisation of the area did not begin until at least 658. It would
seem more reasonable to date any pre-conquest Anglo-Saxon settlement in
the Vale to the two centuries preceding the actual conquest, when the
hegemony of the Anglo-Saxon kings was being effectively exercised over
the native kings of Morgannwg.
On the strategic siting of the castles Mr. Randall is original and con-
vincing but he has probably read too much into his distribution map of
early castles. It seems unlikely that the conquerors of Glamorgan had any
clear-cut strategic plan for the defence of the lordship during the initial
stages of the conquest. Not everyone will agree, for example, that in the
eastern part of the Vale "there was a complete absence of early castles,
except possibly at Dinas Powis." Intensive farming in the more fertile
Vale might well have eliminated the more primitive structures which have
been allowed to remain in the less intensively cultivated "Border Vale"
(cf. Merrick's eyewitness account of the moated house at Bonvilston, part
of whose walls were burned "to lyme ground withall"). There is a strong
presumption, too, that a number of surviving castles in the Vale whose
fabric cannot be dated earlier than the thirteenth century cloak earthworks
or foundations of a much earlier date. The siting of a castle was not
always the result of purely military considerations as a recent authority on
the subject has been at pains to point out (Brown, Medieval English Castles
pp. 191-2). A castle certainly existed at Dinas Powis at the end of the
twelfth century and was something more than a mere status symbol when
the earl of Gloucester was massing troops for its reduction in 1222 (Cal.
Pat. Rolls, p. 346). It is to be hoped that the present excavations at Llan-
trithyd will shed more light on twelfth-century fortified sites in the Vale.
Mr. Randall may be wrong, too, in the role he allots to Ewenny in the
Anglo-Norman scheme of defence, if such a unified scheme existed. Ewen-
ny priory has often been cited as a perfect example of a fortified monastery
but as Mr. Ralegh Radford has shown, its fortifications are largely a sham,
placed where they would most impress visitors, whereas "on the vulnerable
east side the simple unfortified precinct wall remained unmodified
throughout the Middle Ages."
A brief resume of its chapters and an appendix of criticisms of subsidiary
points scarcely does justice to the qualities of Mr. Randall's book. His
discursive studies, the result of a long and careful study of both the written
record and the landscape, are full of interesting observation and fresh
discovery. His work has the further virtue of drawing attention to valuable
work on Glamorgan which has appeared in journals not specifically devoted
to local history. One such article may be singled out for special mention
for its pervasive influence can be detected in much that Mr. Randall has
written. Aileen Fox's article on the Dual Colonisation of East Glamorgan
should be known by all local historians of Glamorgan whatever their special
period. F. G. COWLEY
Previous page Rotate Left Rotate Right Next page Original Image Large Image Zoom View text PDF
Jump to page

This text was generated automatically from the scanned page and has not been checked. Typical character accuracy is in excess of 99%, but this leaves one error per 100 characters.

The National Library of Wales has created and published this digital version of the journal under a licence granted by the publisher. The material it contains may be used for all purposes while respecting the moral rights of the creators.