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Gerald of Wales

places mentioned

Book II, Ch. 10: Flintshire

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Of the passage by Deganwy and Ruthlan, and the see of Lanelwy, and of Coleshulle

Having crossed the river Conwy,162 or rather an arm of the sea, under Deganwy, leaving the Cistercian monastery of Conwy163 on the western bank of the river to our right hand, we arrived at Ruthlan, a noble castle on the river Cloyd, belonging to David, the eldest son of Owen164 where, at the earnest invitation of David himself, we were handsomely entertained that night.

There is a spring not far from Ruthlan, in the province of Tegengel,165 which not only regularly ebbs and flows like the sea, twice in twenty-four hours, but at other times frequently rises and falls both by night and day. Trogus Pompeius says, "that there is a town of the Garamantes, where there is a spring which is hot and cold alternately by day and night."166

Many persons in the morning having been persuaded to dedicate themselves to the service of Christ, we proceeded from Ruthlan to the small cathedral church of Lanelwy;167 from whence (the archbishop having celebrated mass) we continued our journey through a country rich in minerals of silver, where money is sought in the bowels of the earth, to the little cell of Basinwerk,168 where we passed the night. The following day we traversed a long quicksand, and not without some degree of apprehension, leaving the woody district of Coleshulle,169 or hill of coal, on our right hand, where Henry II., who in our time, actuated by youthful and indiscreet ardour, made a hostile irruption into Wales, and presuming to pass through that narrow and woody defile, experienced a signal defeat, and a very heavy loss of men.170 The aforesaid king invaded Wales three times with an army; first, North Wales at the above-mentioned place; secondly, South Wales, by the sea-coast of Glamorgan and Goer, penetrating as far as Caermarddin and Pencadair, and returning by Ellennith and Melenith; and thirdly, the country of Powys, near Oswaldestree; but in all these expeditions the king was unsuccessful, because he placed no confidence in the prudent and well-informed chieftains of the country, but was principally advised by people remote from the marches, and ignorant of the manners and customs of the natives. In every expedition, as the artificer is to be trusted in his trade, so the advice of those people should be consulted, who, by a long residence in the country, are become conversant with the manners and customs of the natives; and to whom it is of high importance that the power of the hostile nation, with whom, by a long and continued warfare, they have contracted an implacable enmity and hatred, should be weakened or destroyed, as we have set forth in our Vaticinal History .

In this wood of Coleshulle, a young Welshman was killed while passing through the king's army; the greyhound who accompanied him did not desert his master's corpse for eight days, though without food; but faithfully defended it from the attacks of dogs, wolves, and birds of prey, with a wonderful attachment. What son to his father, what Nisus to Euryalus, what Polynices to Tydeus, what Orestes to Pylades, would have shewn such an affectionate regard? As a mark of favour to the dog, who was almost starved to death, the English, although bitter enemies to the Welsh, ordered the body, now nearly putrid, to be deposited in the ground with the accustomed offices of humanity.


162 The travellers pursuing their journey along the sea coast, crossed the aestuary of the river Conway under Deganwy, a fortress of very remote antiquity.

163 At this period the Cistercian monastery of Conway was in its infancy, for its foundation has been attributed to Llewelyn ap Iorwerth, in the year 1185, (only three years previous to Baldwin's visitation,) who endowed it with very extensive possessions and singular privileges. Like Stratflur, this abbey was the repository of the national records, and the mausoleum of many of its princes.

164 [David was the illegitimate son of Owen Gwynedd, and had dispossessed his brother, Iorwerth Drwyndwn.]

165 This ebbing spring in the province of Tegeingl, or Flintshire, has been placed by the old annotator on Giraldus at Kilken, which Humphrey Llwyd, in his Breviary, also mentions.

166 See before, the Topography of Ireland, Distinc. ii. c. 7.

167 Saint Asaph, in size, though not in revenues, may deserve the epithet of "paupercula" attached to it by Giraldus. From its situation near the banks of the river Elwy, it derived the name of Llanelwy, or the church upon the Elwy.

168 Leaving Llanelwy, or St. Asaph, the archbishop proceeded to the little cell of Basinwerk, where he and his attendants passed the night. It is situated at a short distance from Holywell, on a gentle eminence above a valley, watered by the copious springs that issue from St. Winefred's well, and on the borders of a marsh, which extends towards the coast of Cheshire.

169 Coleshill is a township in Holywell parish, Flintshire, which gives name to a hundred, and was so called from its abundance of fossil fuel. Pennant, vol. i. p. 42.

170 The three military expeditions of king Henry into Wales, here mentioned, were A.D. 1157, the first expedition into North Wales; A.D. 1162, the second expedition into South Wales; A.D. 1165, the third expedition into North Wales. In the first, the king was obliged to retreat with considerable loss, and the king's standard- bearer, Henry de Essex, was accused of having in a cowardly manner abandoned the royal standard and led to a serious disaster.

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

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