A Student of History

June 27, 2006

History Paved Over, in Wales

Filed under: Historic Places — John Maass @ 12:33 pm

Well, not exactly “paved” but at least lost as far as not being able to buy a key piece of ground in Wales. In a BBC article, preservationists have lost a fight to save an ancient battlefield in Wales.  The Battle of Pilleth in June 1402 was a landmark victory in Owain Glyndwr‘s fight for Welsh independence from England. The battlefield itself, known as Bryn Glas, is part of a 168-acre lot worth £445,000. 

In June 1402 Owain Glyn Dwr led a force into Radnorshire. He was intercepted by “almost all the militia of Herefordshire” under the command of Edmund Mortimer, which would have been largely made up of tenants from the Mortimer estates. The two armies met near the village of Pilleth, a few miles from Presteigne. The chronicles imply that the battle took place on the hill above Pilleth church, Bryn Glas (“Green Hill”). As with all accounts of battles in the middle ages it is impossible to be sure of the numbers involved, but Mortimer’s army could not have consisted of more than 4,000 men.

The battlefield site at Pilleth (picture: The Friends of Pilleth) [The battlefield]

It seems probable that Owain’s forces took up a position on the hillside, and that Mortimer’s army advanced up the hill to meet them. At the crucial moment, however, their own archers turned on them and they were utterly defeated. The slaughter was said to be horrendous, and accounts put the numbers killed at between 200 and 1,100. This was one of the most significant moments of the rebellion: an English county levy had been utterly overwhelmed by the Welsh. Reports also quickly circulated that the Welsh women accompanying Owain’s army had “obscenely mutilated” many of the bodies of the fallen.

Royal banner of Owain Glyndwr

Mortimer was captured, and when the English government procrastinated over his ransom he threw his lot in with the Welsh, marrying Owain’s daughter on 30 November 1402. As his claim to the throne was arguably better than that of the king, Henry IV, this was a serious development.

Local tradition indicates that the bodies were buried in mass graves on the hillside and six Wellingtonia trees were planted to indicate one of the sites; although no records exist to substantiate this claim, it is quite possibly true.

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