There are conflicting accounts of this important episode with regard to details, but the salient points are fairly obvious. It was a most turbulent period, as the Welsh princes were continually at war among themselves, and they harboured much jealousy towards one another. This battle was to bring in the Normans who were waiting for an excuse to come into Wales after the death of William the Conqueror.
William the Conqueror visited Wales in 1077 while on route to St David’s Cathedral it is rumoured that he met Rhys ap Tewdwr (Last King of South Wales) where they made a pact for which Rhys ap Tewdwr paid William forty pounds a year which was to stop William invading Wales, this came to an end when William died.
The prelude to the battle of Hirwaun Wrgan
Around the same time Cadifor, son of Collwyn, Lord of Dyfed, died; and his sons, Llewelyn and Einion, and his brother Einion, son of Collwyn, excited Gruffydd, son of Meredydd, to make war upon Rhys, son of Tewdwr ; and having united their forces, a severe battle took place; but Rhys, son of Tewdwr, overcame them in the action of Llandudoch St Dogmael’s”, and Gruffydd, son of Meredydd, was taken prisoner and beheaded; and Llewelyn and Einion, the sons of Cadifor, were slain. Einion, son of Collwyn, brother to Cadifor, fled to lestyn, son of Gwrgan, prince of Morganwg and Gwent, who was at war with Rhys, and related his condition to him. Einion had been an officer in the wars of the king of England and his knights in France and other countries; and great friendship existed between him and the king and his knights, which lestyn being aware of, he promised his daughter in marriage to Einion if he could procure assistance for him from England against Rhys, son of Tewdwr; and with that daughter, as a portion, the lordship of Miskin. Einion went to London, and agreed with Robert Fitzhamon, Lord of Corbeil in France and cousin to the red king, to come to the assistance of lestyn in Morganwg; and Robert persuaded twelve other honourable knights to accompany him, they landed at Port Kerry.
The Battle of Hirwaun Wrgant
Rhys ap Tewdwr was supposedly to have been the last king of South Wales (Deheubarth), his then death in 1093 was clearly the beginning in history when Welsh independence disappeared.
There was a deep-seated grievance between Iestyn ap Gwrgant, Lord of Glamorgan and Rhys ap Tewdwr who became the ruler of Deheubarth in 1077 regarding the lordships of South Wales. Also the death of Caradog ap Gruffydd who was Lord of Morgannwg a relation to Iestyn who died with Trehaearn ap Caradog at Mynydd Carn in 1081 against Rhys ap Tewdwr and Gruffydd ap Cynan.
In 1088, it appears that the sons of Bleddyn ab Cynvyn raised a rebellion against Rhys ab Tewdwr in Ceredigion; they were assisted in their nefarious plot by Iestyn ab Gwrgant. Rhys fled to Dublin in Ireland and returned in the same year with strong forces and munitions. He gained a victory over is enemies at Llychryd Bridge in 1090. Iestyn ab Gwrgant carried on his intrigue against Rhys, and engaged, by specious promises, one named Einion ap Collwyn to go the court of the English king, William Rufus, to solicit the aid of Norman soldiers. Rhys had been hunting Einion for the part he had played in the rebellion at Llychryd Bridge, and he had set a price on Einion’s head. He offered 300 head of cattle and much land for Einion dead or alive. It was on this account that Einion fled to his uncle, Iestyn, and participated with him in the scheme to secure Norman help to destroy the forces of Rhys ab Tewdwr and subjugate his territory.
Einion ab Collwyn, who was known to the principal officers at the court of King William 11, was successful in his enterprise. His request was granted, and he returned to Wales accompanied by Sir Robert Fitzhamon and twelve knights who were de. Londres, Grenville, Turberville, St Qeintin,Seward, Umphreville, Berkerolles, Sully, Le Soer, Le Fleming, St John and Sterlin and 24 shield bearers with an army of 3000 men, 2000 men led by a Welsh prince, Cedrych ab Gweithfoed (Lord of Cardigan), augmented this force; Einion had 1000 and in addition there was an army of Glamorgan soldiers led by Iestyn.
The battle started at Aberdare and ended up on Hirwaun Common a distance of seven miles this battle which involved a tremendous loss of life, particularly among the natives forces of Iestyn, Einion and Cedrych, as the Normans seemed to have occupied the rear of the fighting line, and therefore in an unfavourable position to assert their strength. It appears that Rhys ab Tewdwr’s army was considerably smaller and quite unequal to the task. Consequently he and his men were driven to the upper reaches of Rhigos/ Penderyn, where there are still vestiges of this great conflict in such places as Cwm Cadlan and Bodwigiad. In the Cadlan Valley there are numerous mounds or Carneddau, several of these are reputed to be memorials of the men who fell in the battle between Iestyn ab Gwrgant and Rhys ab Tewdwr e.g. Carn y Frydwr (Battle Cairn) and Maes y Gwaed which changed over the years to Maes y Dre (Field of Blood). On the Rhigos side, there is a Brooke called “Nant-yr-Ochain” which tradition tells, is associated with the groans of men mortally wounded in battle. Aberdare Town have similar traces in the word Gadlys (The hall of Battle), the upper and lower Gladys which is considered to have been the respective headquarters for a time of the contending forces of Iestyn and Rhys. Other suggestion to where the battle on the mountain between Aberdare and Merthyr called Bryn-y-Beddau.
The Battle eventually went completely against Rhys, who then raised the white banners in a place called Bryn Gwyn they tried unsuccessfully suing for terms of peace, was compelled to flee with his enemy afterwards he pursued his men, and slaughtered them cruelly, and took Goronwy, son of Rhys, and beheaded him. Another many of his men; on which account the place is a bastard son of Rhys, called Cynan, a stout and valiant man, returning towards the Yale of Tywi, after the slaughter of his father and his men, was pursued so hard and severely, that he was obliged to attempt to escape through a lake called Cremlyn “between Britain Ferry and Swansea a marsh now”, where he was drowned with s called ever since the Pool of Cynan. He was followed by Iestyn over the mountain to a place about seven miles from Hirwaun, between the rivers Rhondda Fach and Rhondda Fawr, now known as Penrhys (Rhys’s head).
Rhys actually met his death in a conflict against Bernard de-Newmarch in the vicinity of Brecknock at a place called Battle. Bleddin ap Maenarch Prince of old Brycheiniog (Brecon) and brother in law to Rhys ap Tewdwr who both died in the battle in 1093. There is a well was named after him “Pen Sir Rhys” or the well of Sir Rhys’s. Iestyn rewarded his Norman auxiliaries conformably to his engagements, paying them in gold, on a common three miles west of Cardiff, which has ever since been called the Golden Mile (Y Milltir Aur) near Cowbridge. They then started to march towards the coast, with the view of going back to England. Iestyn refused his promise of marriage to Nest and lands to Einion who the looking for Fitzhamon Norman commander. Einion, son of Collwyn, went to lestyn to require his daughter and the portion he had promised with her; but lestyn refused, and laughed at Einion, and said he would do better with his daughter than bestow her on a traitor to his country and lord. At this Einion was greatly enraged, and in his fury and anger he went after Robert Fitzhamon and his company, and related to them the insult he had met with from lestyn, and likewise represented to them the great dislike of the principal men of that country to lestyn, the fertility of the country, and the ease with which it might be wrested from lestyn, who, on account of his treachery and deceit, would not meet with assistance from any prince in Wales. The strangers joyfully listened to Einion, and willingly took his advice. Then Einion went to Rhotpert, son of Seisyllt, and related the whole to him and he brought others of the nobles who disliked lestyn to the same measures. These nobles having collected their men together, and joined the strangers, went against lestyn; and the action of Mynydd Brychan, near Cardiff, took place, where lestyn was put to flight. Cadifor, son of Cedrych, son of Gwaithyoed, lord of Ceredigion, joined the strangers against lestyn. He had before that assisted lestyn against Rhys, son of Tewdwr; but lestyn would not fulfil his promise with him, according to agreement. Cedrych, son of Gwaethvoed, Lord of Cibwyr “Kibbor”, was originally from Morganwg, and went to Ceredigion in company with Rhydderch, son of Iestyn, where a dominion and territory were given to him; and for affection to lestyn, he and his men came to Morganwg, and having seen his treachery, deserted him, and joined the party of the strangers. lestyn being put to flight and despoiled of his country, Robert Fitzhamon and his men took for themselves the best of the vale and the rich lands, and allotted to Einion the uplands and the roughest and least fertile parts of the country; and so the Francs possessed that country, driving out every partisan of Iestyn’s, and taking their lands. These are the names of the French strangers and the places they appropriated to themselves.
Iestyn ap Gwrgant who was allegedly killed in north Rhiwbina near Cardiff in a battle with Robert Fitzhamon, there was so much blood shed at the battle that a nearby stream is called Nant Waedlyd or the “Bloody Brook”. He allegedly buried in a mound in Tympath near Rhiwbiana. It is also said that Iestyn, after his defeat, fled over the sea to Glastonbury; from thence he went to Bath, and finally to Gwent, where he died in the monastery of Llangenys.
Gruffydd, son of Rhydderch, son of Iestyn, collected a great army of the men that fled from the strangers, and defended Caerleon on the Usk, and the country of Gwent, and strengthened himself there against the strangers; and Caradog, son of Gruffydd, son of Rhydderch, son of Iestyn, became prince of the territories in Gwent and Gwaenllwg “Monmouth” and the stronghold of Caerleon on the Usk, which had formerly been the principal resort in Morganwg and Gwent for sovereignty and assembly of the country. Whilst this was acting in Morganwg, the sons of Cadwgawn, son of Bleddyn, son of Cynvyn, were ravaging Dyfed and Ceredigion, and Hugh Earl of Chester ravaging Tegeingl and Rhuvoniog as far as the river Conwy, taking the lands and possessions from the men of that country, and placing the Frenchmen in them; and this Hugh, while Gruffydd, son of Cynan, was intending to assist Rhys, son of Tewdwr, came to Aberlleiniog in Mona “Anglesey”, and made there a castle, and established himself in it to this day. And the Earl of Shrewsbury took, in despite of the sons of Cadwgan, son of Bleddyn, the greatest portions of the lands of Powys and Ceredigion, and his son Arnwlf took a deal of the lands of Dyfed, and Bernard Newmarch established himself in Bryncheiniog; and others took lands in other parts of Wales, and made castles and walled towns in every place to defend themselves against the men of the country, taking spoil from one and giving it as a reward to another, so deceiving the simple, and those that were not well affected to their nation and prince, thus the Frenchmen worked more by artifice than manliness, in the same manner as the Saxons did before them, in such a manner that they disfranchised the “Welsh of their governments, their territories, and their lands, and corrupted the men of the country with their gifts.
Einion ab Callwyn took his army after the battle to the Gower and settled down (Port Eynon)
After Iestyn defeat the Duke of Gloucester “Robert Fitzhamon” ruled the Welsh lowlands. In reality the Normans never really controlled the area and allowed the Welsh to follow their traditions, customs, beliefs and religion, so as to keep the peace. Robert Fitzhamon, earl of Astremeville, in Normandy, came into England with William the Conqueror; and, by the gift of William Rufus, obtained the honour of Gloucester. He was wounded with a spear at the siege of Falaise, in Normandy, died soon afterwards, and was buried, A.D. 1102, in the abbey of Tewkesbury, which he had founded.
Robert Fitzhamon, their prince, took to himself the sovereignty and government of all the country and the castles of Cardiff, Trefufered “St Donats?”, and Kenfig, and the lands belonging to them.
William de London was given: The Aberogwr “Ogmore”, and the lands belonging to that lordship.
Richard Greenfield was given: The lordship of the Glen of the Neath and the privileged town of Neath Castle and the lands belonging to it.
Robert de St. Quentin was given: The lordship of Llan Vleiddan “St Quentin’s” the great, and the privileged town of Cowbridge.
To Richard Seward: Tal y Fan and its lordship.” The borough of Cowbridge”
Gilbert Humphreville: The lordship of Pen Marc. “Penmark”
Roger Berclos: The lordship of Llandathan. “St Athan”
Reginald Sully: The lordship of Abersili. “Sully”
Peter le Soore: The lordship of Llanbedr in the vale. “Peterson”
John Fleming: The lordship of Llanyfelwyn. “St George”
Oliver St. John: The lordship of Aberbernant. “Fonmon”
William d’ Esterling “Stradling”: The lordship of Llanwerydd.
Pain Turberville the lordship of Coety came by marriage with Asar, daughter of Meurig, son of Gruffydd, son of Iestyn, son of Gwrgan.
Einion, son of Collwyn: Obtained Senghenydd and Miskin.
Caradog, son of lestyn: Had Aberavan and all the lands between the Nedd and Avan in the lordship of Rial.
Madog, son of Iestyn: Had the lordship of Rhuthin.
Hywel, son of Iestyn: Had Llan Tryddyd “Dinas Powis”
Rhys, son of Iestyn: Had the lordship of Solven, between the Nedd and Tawe.
Nest, daughter of Iestyn, was given in marriage to Einion, son of Collwyn.
Rotpert, son of Seisyll: Had the lordship of Maes Essyllt.
“The Winning of the Lordship of Glamorgan” by Sir Robert Fitzhamon and his Twelve Knights, in the eleventh century, it is stated that Sir Richard Grenville, one of the Knights, brought with him from the Holy Land “a famous Sarasin that was turned Christian, Lales, a curious ‘man in masonry which Lales built the Town of Laleston a goodly place, and pulled down the Church of Llangewydd and moved it to his new Town of Laleston.” The church, now dedicated to S. David, is subject to Newcastle.
Back to Hirwaun Timeline