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Were the Welsh popular in Hereford in the 11th century?

Both the Saxons and the Normans fought numerous battles with the Welsh. The following passage from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (an account written by English monks at the time) tells us about something that happened in 1052, 14 years before the Battle of Hastings:

"In the same year Gruffydd, the Welsh king, raided in Herefordshire, so that he came very near to Leominster; and men gathered against him, both local men and French men from the castle. And there were killed very many good men of the English, and also from among the French."

[Note: The castle near Leominster referred to may be called Comfort Castle, but the castle itself has disappeared. If anyone has any information about it, please pass it on to the Historic Environment Record staff.]

Herefordshire was attacked several times in the 11th century, and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells us about another of these attacks, in 1055. Gruffydd ap Llewelyn and his men sacked Hereford itself:

"... and then [the Welsh] turned into Hereford market-town and raided it, burned down the famous minster which Bishop Athelstan built, and killed the priests inside the minster, and many others as well, and seized all the treasures in there and led them away with them."

During the episcopacy of Bishop Aethelstan (1012-1056) a stone cathedral was built. The extent of the destruction during the Welsh raid is uncertain.

The present building was begun as a two-storey chapel by the Norman bishop Robert de Losinga (1079-1095) and developed into a cathedral during the episcopate of Bishop Reynhelm (1107-1115) (see Richard K. Morriss, Hereford Cathedral: A Report on the Archaeological Implications of the Proposed Chained Library Building to the South-west of the Cathedral, Section 4.3, Hereford Archaeology Series 96, City of Hereford Archaeology Unit, January 1991).

Gruffydd ap Llewelyn, the leader of the Welsh, may not have been a popular man in Hereford, but if we read another primary source - the Liber Landavensis, the Charter of the Cathedral of Llandaff - we get a different picture of him:

"And not degenerating from the nobility, piety, and liberality of his predecessors, but imitating and excelling them in energy and bravery, as well against the barbarous English on the one part, who always fled on seeing his face in battle, ..."

Most primary sources of this period of the early Middle Ages were written in Latin. This is what this quote is in the original Latin:

"Et non degenerans a praedecessorum nobilitate, pietate, et largitate, immo imitans, et praecellens rigore et fortitudine tum contra barbaros Anglos ex una parte, semper fugitivos, visa facie sua in acie belli ..."

Here we see that this chronicle, written in Wales, believes the English to be barbarous cowards.

[Original author: Toria Forsyth-Moser, 2002]