Abergavenny Castle

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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].

 

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Gatehouse, later addition circa 1400 (photo source Emma Powell, Oct 2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Further ruins within curtain walls (photo source Emma Powell, Oct 2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_de_Braose,_4th_Lord_of_Bramber#Abergavenny_Massacre

https://www.castlewales.com/abergav.html

https://abergavennynow.com/2016/11/01/abergavenny-castle-villainous-william-de-braoze-versus-welsh

https://abergavennynow.com/2016/08/23/abergavenny-castle-the-massacre-history-on-the-buses-guest-post

https://friendsofcastlemeadows.wordpress.com/national-eisteddfod

Turnips. It’s all about the Turnips.

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No, it’s not a selfie on a Monday morning but a good old traditional vegetable of the British countryside, the humble Turnip.  Yes, I’m giving it a capital T as I fear it is overlooked, under-estimated and its’ importance in Halloween completely ignored.  It deserves elevation to a proper noun, in my humble opinion 😉

Anyway, I digress.  So, here we are again, celebrating Halloween.  American style.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the American way; many young children enjoy the dressing up and the innocence of knocking on doors hoping for sweets.  I do live in hope that most of the population will realise this isn’t actually what Halloween is about.  Originally a pagan festival of celebrating life, honouring the dead and the cross-over into the darkest part of the year, one must remember how much superstition dictated the lives of our ancestors.  However, the celebration also respected the power of nature, gave thanks to food on their plates (entwined with Harvest celebrations) and a general understanding of gratitude.

Known as Samhain in Old Irish, Hop-tu-Naa in the Isle of Man, Calan Gaeaf in Wales and Kalan Gwav in Cornwall, one can see how these age-old names pre-date christianity.  Many pagan celebrations were overtaken by christianity to make them more acceptable in the eyes of the early church (namely Easter and Christmas here in the UK).  Most of these are now very commercialised, too much in my opinion, that the real meanings are lost in all the hype.  It takes a bit of internet digging around nowadays if you really want to know why kids dress up and knock on doors for sweets; why you get chocolate eggs in April or why Christmas is a time to get what you want (assuming you’ve outgrown the Santa theme).  Yes, have fun but also show remember to have gratitude.

So back to the humble Turnip, the once-used jack-o-lantern of old.  According to  The Oxford companion to American food and drink (p.269. Oxford University Press, 2007) immigrants to North America preferred the native pumpkin due to it being softer and easier to carve (did they even consider taking Turnips with them I wonder?!).  Apparently, pumpkin carving wasn’t officially recorded until 1837 anyway.  So the pumpkin may take all the glory but the Turnip is where it’s at!

I’ll stop going on about it now, especially as I don’t even like Turnip.  Here’s a couple of photos for you instead – if any of these knock at my door, I’ll just let the dog bark I think! 

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I think old style costumes were much more authentic – and scary!

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Sleep well …