Bathed in glorious sunshine on an unusually warm October day, sits the curtain wall remains of Abergavenny Castle, Monmouthshire. Difficult to believe that this romantic, proud ruin signifies the site of one of the most infamous massacres in the history of the Welsh Marches …
William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber probably goes down in history as one of the cruellest of the Marcher Lords. Christmas Day, 1175. After luring a Welsh Lord, Seisyll ap Dyfnwal of Gwent – supposedly for blood revenge – to Abergavenny Castle on the pretext of a peace treaty and new beginnings (meaning the Welsh would have lain their weapons at the door and were thus defenceless), William and his men proceeded to cut down the Welsh royalty within the walls like that pictured above. This included Seisyll’s eldest son and other notable Welsh leaders too; more than likely, a bloodthirsty attempt to weaken Welsh influence around Abergavenny. Of course, we must always allow for the mindset of the day – nothing like our modern, more socially aware way of life (no, you cannot chop the head off the bloke driving the van that just cut you up on the ring road). In this case however, as cruel as the massacre was, William – whether partaking himself or commanding his men – rode to the home of the slain Welsh lord before news reached his people, and slaughtered the seven-year-old son of the prince:
“In this case, once the guests were all assembled inside the great hall, the doors were barred and every single man was cut down. William and his attendants then hopped onto their swiftest horses and sped south a few miles to the country of Seisyll ap Dyfnwal, one of the slain. De Briouze arrived ahead of the news of the slaughter, found Seisyll’s wife, executed the youngest son, seven-year-old Cadwaladr, in her arms, and left the wife and mother to a fate unrecorded in the historical legend.” Haltom, E.A. (2015) The Massacre at Abergavenny http://abergavennynow.com/2015/06/28/the-massacre-at-abergavenny/ [accessed 2.11.16].
Gatehouse, later addition circa 1400 (photo source Emma Powell, Oct 2016)
Further ruins within curtain walls (photo source Emma Powell, Oct 2016).
View from adjacent car park overlooking Blorenge Mountain. The Castle ruins look down on flood plains, aptly named Castle Meadow with it’s rich biodiversity, bordered by the River Usk. (Photo source Emma Powell, Oct 2016).
Beautiful, tranquil and how one can imagine ‘how lovely it must have been’. Hmmm … violence was abound, it was originally a defensive castle after all but thankfully now a visitor spot on the edge of a bustling market town. Take time out in the ruins to relax, chill or whatever you please.
At least you know you’re safe!
References and recommended reading: