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Gerald of Wales

places mentioned

Book I, Ch. 9: Lochor and Kidwelly

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Passage over the rivers Lochor and Wendraeth; and of Cydweli

Thence we proceeded towards the river Lochor,86 through the plains in which Howel, son of Meredyth of Brecheinoc, after the decease of king Henry I., gained a signal victory over the English. Having first crossed the river Lochor, and afterwards the water called Wendraeth, 87 we arrived at the castle of Cydweli.88 In this district, after the death of king Henry, whilst Gruffydd son of Rhys, the prince of South Wales, was engaged in soliciting assistance from North Wales, his wife Gwenliana (like the queen of the Amazons, and a second Penthesilea) led an army into these parts; but she was defeated by Maurice de Londres, lord of that country, and Geoffrey, the bishop's constable.89 Morgan, one of her sons, whom she had arrogantly brought with her in that expedition, was slain, and the other, Malgo, taken prisoner; and she, with many of her followers, was put to death. During the reign of king Henry I., when Wales enjoyed a state of tranquillity, the above-mentioned Maurice had a forest in that neighbourhood, well stocked with wild animals, and especially deer, and was extremely tenacious of his venison. His wife (for women are often very expert in deceiving men) made use of this curious stratagem. Her husband possessed, on the side of the wood next the sea, some extensive pastures, and large flocks of sheep. Having made all the shepherds and chief people in her house accomplices and favourers of her design, and taking advantage of the simple courtesy of her husband, she thus addressed him: "It is wonderful that being lord over beasts, you have ceased to exercise dominion over them; and by not making use of your deer, do not now rule over them, but are subservient to them; and behold how great an abuse arises from too much patience; for they attack our sheep with such an unheard-of rage, and unusual voracity, that from many they are become few; from being innumerable, only numerous." To make her story more probable, she caused some wool to be inserted between the intestines of two stags which had been embowelled; and her husband, thus artfully deceived, sacrificed his deer to the rapacity of his dogs.


86 Lochor, or Llwchwr, was the Leucarum mentioned in the Itineraries, and the fifth Roman station on the Via Julia. This small village is situated on a tide-river bearing the same name, which divides the counties of Glamorgan and Caermarthen, and over which there is a ferry. "Lochor river partith Kidwelli from West Gowerlande." - Leland, Itin. tom. v. p. 23. [The ferry is no more. The river is crossed by a fine railway bridge.]

87 Wendraeth, or Gwen-draeth, from gwen, white, and traeth, the sandy beach of the sea. There are two rivers of this name, Gwendraeth fawr, and Gwendraeth fychan, the great and the little Gwendraeth, of which Leland thus speaks: "Vendraeth Vawr and Vendraith Vehan risith both in Eskenning commote: the lesse an eight milys of from Kydwelli, the other about a ten, and hath but a little nesche of sand betwixt the places wher thei go into the se, about a mile beneth the towne of Kidwely."

88 Cydweli was probably so called from cyd, a junction, and wyl, a flow, or gushing out, being situated near the junction of the rivers Gwendraeth fawr and fychan; but Leland gives its name a very singular derivation, and worthy of our credulous and superstitious author Giraldus. "Kidwely, otherwise Cathweli, i.e. Catti lectus, quia Cattus olim solebat ibi lectum in quercu facere: - There is a little towne now but newly made betwene Vendraith Vawr and Vendraith Vehan. Vendraith Vawr is half a mile of." - Leland, Itin. tom. v. p. 22.

89 The scene of the battle fought between Gwenllian and Maurice de Londres is to this day called Maes Gwenllian, the plain or field of Gwenllian; and there is a tower in the castle of Cydweli still called Tyr Gwenllian. [Maes Gwenllian is now a small farm, one of whose fields is said to have been the scene of the battle.]

Gerald of Wales, The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales (Oxford, Mississippi, 1997)

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