The Welsh Marches are the borderlands between England and Wales – they are not a precise area – so there is room for flexibility here. March comes from the Anglo-Saxon mearc which means boundary. Although there was a Norman presence in the marches the Welsh did not take kindly to yet another invader. William the Conqueror created marcher lordships to control the area. This mean that the barons who had their castles on the margins between England and Wales had much more autonomy over their tenants than elsewhere in the country.
The three key towns/cities that demarcate the line of the marches are Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford. The area saw centuries of conflict and as a consequence is heavily fortified with motte and bailey castles – their current condition varies!
And then of course there are the castles of Wales – there are about 600 of them – that’s more per square mile than anywhere else in the country and I certainly shan’t be attempting to name them all – some castles were built by the Welsh themselves but the ones which tend to stick in our imaginations are the ones that make up Edward I ‘s so-called ring of steel.
Your challenge this week is to name as many Welsh and Welsh March castles as you can.
Wild Edric is a fabulous rose that scents the June air with its profusion of vivid pink roses at the end of very thorny stems. I always wondered who Wild Edric was and what made him ‘wild.’
Eadric or Edric the Wild was a local landowner along the Welsh Marches. He may have been the nephew of Eadric Streona a.k.a. the Grasper who in 1016 switched sides from Cnut to Edmund Ironside then promptly left the battle field half way through it. Edmund unsurprisingly lost the Battle of Ashingdon. He probably also had something to do with the St Brice’s Day Massacre of the Danes. The Grasper didn’t prosper because his Christmas gift from the new King Canute (who had undoubtedly benefited from the battlefield exit) was to have Eadric executed and thrown into a ditch. More positively, Edric the Wild was probably also related to the Princes of Gwynedd and Powys.
In the aftermath of Hastings, William the Conqueror confiscated all the land of any man who’d taken part in the battle against him. Edric hadn’t been there. It may have been that he was on one of Harold’s ships, he is recorded as being the Bishop of Worcester’s ‘shipman’ attempting to blockade the South Coast. Seeing which way the wind was blowing Edric made his submission and kept his lands.
And that might have been that were it not for the delightfully named Richard Fitz Scrob who had arrived in England before the conquest. Now that the Normans had the upper hand Fitz Scrob couldn’t resist trying to help himself to Edric’s land. By 1067 Edric had enough. He joined with Bleddyn and Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn and set about showing the Normans a thing or two. Herefordshire went up in flames before Edric and his allies retreated.
In 1069 as the North rose in rebellion so to did Edric and the Welsh Marches from Herefordshire to Chester. He and his allies attacked Shrewsbury Castle. The town burned but the garrison stood until it could be relieved by Roger of Montgomery.
William finally confronted Edric at the Battle of Stafford in 1069. Edric and the Welsh left the men of Cheshire and Staffordshire to tackles the Conqueror who was probably in a foul temper having spent most of the year subduing rebellions, harrying the North and then having to cross the Pennines in bad weather.
It comes as a bit of a surprise then that by1072 Edric was part of the army heading north to Scotland to attack King Malcolm I. Perhaps he wanted no further part in the misery that most of the native population were experiencing by then. In 1075 he seems to have been invited to take part in the Earl’s Rebellion but there is no further mention of him. He seems to have disappeared by 1086 as he is not mentioned in the Domesday Book as a landowner. One suggestions offered in the fifteenth century was that he continued to fight against the changes imposed by the Normans, eventually being captured by Ralph Mortimer and ending his days in a dank dungeon somewhere.
People who disappear suddenly from history are prone to become the subject of story telling and Edric is no exception. In another version of the story Edric’s support of the Normans led to him being cursed and imprisoned with his wife Godda in the Stiperstones leadmines where he awaits an opportunity to save his country. He was seen in 1914 and 1939 taking part in the Wild Hunt. Oh yes – did I mention that Godda was a faerie?