Cadwaladr, the last Welsh Prince known as the King of the Britons & Palace of the Bishop of Llandaff

St Cadwaladr Church, Bishton. ©Louise Wyatt

A church dedicated to St Cadwaladr is quite rare but in a small, unassuming area of South Wales in what is now Newport, yet completely rural, is the small village of Bishton.

Bishton – a disruption of Bishop’s Town/Bishopston (Welsh Llangadwaladr Trefesgob) – was once the home of a palace/castle for the Bishops of Llandaff. The area is raised up looking above the wetlands down to the Severn Estuary, which is where the palace would have made a living from – near the estuary crossing, fertile land and sea (the area would have had a higher water level than it does today). Hard to imagine all that now with the railway and M4 nearby but the mound on the assumed area adjoining a working farm is still intact:

Past the sheep, the field in the background! Adjoining the modern working Castle Farm. (Image courtesy of Jeremy Bolwell, by CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Despite the entanglement of myth, legend and fact in post-Roman Wales, the 7th century King Cadwaladr did indeed exist and is the last known Welsh prince to be titled King of the Britons, before the Anglo-Saxon era, ruling from c.655 to c.682. He aided King Penda of Mercia in war against the invading Saxons and although some sources claim he was killed in battle, it is generally considered he died of plague, as mentioned in the Annales Cambriae (the Annals of Wales). He was also known as Cadwaladr the Blessed and it is to him the red dragon of Wales became associated (although in use before the 7th century).

King Cadwaladr was rather important really but has faded into the mists of time; next time you pass an unassuming church or wonder why an area is named what is is, do a little bit of digging. You maybe pleasantly suprised!


The National Library of Wales

A History of Wales by John Davies.

Images ©Louise Wyatt unless otherwise stated. All Rights Reserved.

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