And another nice review on Medieval Battles Volume 1

David Pilling

Harlech Castle and Its True Origins
The Gatehouse

Remfry, Paul Martin, trans. Annales Cambriae: A Translation of Harleian 3859; PRO E.164/1; Cottonian Domitian, A 1; Exeter Cathedral Library MS. 3514 and MS Exchequer DB Neath, PRO E.164/1. United Kingdom: Castle Studies Research & Publishing, 2007. Pp. vi, 335. GBP 29.95. ISBN 1-899376-81-X.

Remfry's love of the field shows. His many detailed and sometimes long notes on the entries are a major asset for anyone seriously examining the Annales Cambriae. His discussion of how the Annales came to be in their present form is helpful and well worth reading. This is importantly the first clear source of the C manuscript I have found - it is not available online.
Be aware that only Remfry's (good) English translation, not the original texts, is given and that the dating used, the conventional one that adds 444 to the figures in the A manuscrip to convert them to the CE calendar, is debatable.
One can argue with some of Remfry's assertions (about the entry for 682 for example), but that is the nature of history.

Wade Miller Knight, 10 May 2010

Remfry, Paul Martin, trans. Annales Cambriae: A Translation of Harleian 3859; PRO E.164/1; Cottonian Domitian, A 1; Exeter Cathedral Library MS. 3514 and MS Exchequer DB Neath, PRO E.164/1. United Kingdom: Castle Studies Research & Publishing, 2007. Pp. vi, 335. GBP 29.95. ISBN 1-899376-81-X.

Reviewed by Craig R. Davis
Smith College, Northampton, MA

Paul Remfry is an expert on the Norman castles of Wales and the families who owned them, especially along the Welsh Marches of the old Angevin empire, with at least 39 books and other publications to his credit. In this volume Remfry provides the first complete translation into English of the Cambro-Latin "Annals of Wales," which survive in the five manuscripts listed in his title. These he labels Texts A-E for convenience. The first three, Texts A-C, were edited by J. Williams Ab Ithel for the Rolls Series in 1860 and derive from a lost set of annals begun almost certainly at St. David's in southwest Wales around the year 795. The first entry is for the year 453 with very sporadic additions thereafter based upon Irish, Northern British and North Welsh sources. Entries become more regular after the year 863 and Text A, British Library MS Harleian 3859, concludes with a notation for the year 954 (= 953). This version most closely represents the original text of the Annales Cambriae as it was completed in the mid-tenth century. It was copied in its current form, Remfry concludes, sometime between the years 1130 and 1200. Texts B and C were copied in the late thirteenth century, but stem ultimately from the same mid-tenth-century archetype as A, continuing their entries through the year 1286 (= 1284) and 1288 (= 1289), respectively. Text D, the Cronica de Wallia in Exeter Cathedral Library, also derives from the lost tenth-century archetype. Somewhat unusually, Remfry has chosen to include a fifth text (E), the Exchequer Domesday of the Public Records Office, even though this manuscript has no direct or demonstrable connection to the original Annales Cambriae. It was compiled from different sources at the end of the thirteenth century with an interest in the lordship of Glamorgan, beginning sub anno 600 (= 597) with sharply increasing content for the years 1066-1298. It is translated here for the first time and included in the collection in order to bring wider accessibility to these various annalistic records of early and later medieval Wales.

As noted above, the best surviving text of the Annales Cambriae and closest to its original form is that in Harleian 3859, where it is inserted after chapter 66 of the Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons), attributed to Nennius and compiled in northern Wales from historical and legendary sources ca. 829-30. Both texts are edited and translated by John Morris in Nennius: British History and The Welsh Annals (1980), with some additions to the Annales Cambriae from Texts B and C as well. However, since there is still no critical edition of the Annales Cambriae in which its four surviving versions, Texts A-D, have been collated, Remfry provides in its place what he calls a "critical translation" (1), that is, one which follows Text A as edited by Ab Ithil for the first five hundred years from 453-953--the coverage of the original tenth-century text as preserved in Harleian 3859--then switches to Ab Ithil's edition of Text B through 1286, with further additions from Texts C, D and E "where necessary" up to the year 1298 (40). The different manuscript sources of these entries are clearly marked. In addition, a separate translation of each one of the five texts follows this composite rendering. The information Remfry supplies in his introduction and notes is often useful for clarification and reference, but also sometimes incomplete, cryptic, incorrect, or uninformed by recent scholarship. For instance, under the year 516, Text A reads in Latin: Bellum Badonis, in quo Arthur portavit crucem Domini nostri Jhesu Christi tribus diebus et tribus noctibus in humeros suos et Brittones victores fuerunt, which Remfry translates: "The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders (upper arms) and the Britons were victorious" (42). In his introduction, Remfry suggests that this entry "would appear to owe more to Geoffrey of Monmouth (d. 1154) and folk law, than to any original source" (4). It is true that Text A in Harleian 3859 was quite possibly copied after Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) appeared around 1136. But essentially the same entry appears in Texts B and C as well, which derive from the same tenth-century archetype as A, with the only difference being that Text B designates Arthur as a "king." This similarity suggests that the entry was indeed part of the original Annales Cambriae and not interpolated from Geoffrey's account of Arthur's lifting of the Saxon siege of Bath, which event that author leaves undated. The site of the Battle of Badon, by the way, has never been confidently located, though it is also mentioned by Gildas in his sixth-century De Excidio Britanniae (On the Ruin of Britain) as the obsessio Badonici montis (siege of Mount Badon). In his foot-of-page note to this entry for 516 Remfry confidently suggests that "Bellum Badonis most likely occurred at the hill fort above Bath in Somerset" (42, note 67), thus making Remfry himself rather than the scribe of Text A the one who is imposing a Galfridian interpretation upon the location of this battle in the Annales Cambriae. In addition, Remfry notes that "Nennius' poem suggests that the siege lasted three days." Not all readers will know that the translator is referring to chapter 56 of Nennius's Historia Brittonum, where that author lists in prose twelve battles fought by Arthur culminating in the bellum in monte Badonis (battle on Badon Hill). (Nowhere does Nennius call this battle a siege--that was Gildas--nor does he refer in any way to its duration, except that in one day 960 Saxons fell in a single charge by Arthur, "and no one laid them low save he alone.") By Nennius's poem Remfry is presumably referring to the fact that the prose battle list, some of whose place-names rhyme, has suggested to Welsh scholars that it was taken from a vernacular praise poem, like those attributed to the sixth-century Northern British poet Taliesin, in which similar series of victories are celebrated.

Furthermore, in his translation itself, Remfry offers a parenthetical gloss upon "shoulders" as "upper arms," apparently finding this a more plausible location for Arthur's bearing an image or replica of the Cross. In an earlier battle in Nennius' list, however, Arthur is said to have worn an image of the Holy Mary Ever-Virgin super humeros suos (upon his shoulders), again suggesting to Welsh scholars a vernacular source for this information in that humeros may be a mistaken translation of ysgwyd (shield), easily confused with ysgwydd (shoulder), which words were sometimes spelled ambiguously in medieval Welsh orthography. John Morris accepts this view in his 1980 edition and translation of the Historia Brittonum and the Annales Cambriae in Harleian 3859, correcting in square brackets his translation in both texts from "shoulders" to "shield," which indeed makes better sense for the location of these images on Arthur's person. Remfry seems unaware of this widely accepted interpretation, unless he wishes us to understand "upper arms" as a metonymy for "shield." Even more puzzling is his suggestion that the entry quoted above is based upon "folk law," the substance of which he neglects to specify. One is tempted to suppose that Remfry means "folk lore" here, possibly referring to the martial hyperbole of medieval Welsh oral tradition or its characteristic "triplism" in reference to a battle that is said to have lasted three days and three nights. Such triple patterns are preserved in texts like the Trioedd Ynys Prydain (Triads of the Island of Britain). Others might see Arthur's three-day deliverance of his Christian compatriots from the heathen Saxons as modeled on Christ's Harrowing of Hell between the Crucifixion and Resurrection as described in the popular Gospel of Nicodemus. In sum, the inadequate note and commentary on the entry sub anno 516 somewhat damages this reviewer's confidence in the information supplied in other notes upon which he is less well informed.

To be fair, Remfry is far more interested in and knowledgeable about Wales in the Norman era. He usefully provides a map of 66 political subdivisions of the country referred to in these texts, as well as an index of the surnames that appear therein, plus 25 neatly annotated genealogical charts adapted from P. C. Bartrum's authoritative Welsh Genealogies AD 300-1400, 8 volumes (1974). These include the kings, princes and lords of the various Celtic-speaking kingdoms and other polities of western and northern Britain in the early and
later Middle Ages, followed by a general index of names, places and topics. There is no bibliography or list of works cited.

Unfortunately, the production values of the volume are weak. Abbreviations and punctuation marks are inconsistent, many pages come loose upon first opening and turning, and the attractive cover illustration of a solitary tonsured scribe at his easel is mislabeled "Llywelyn ab Iorwerth on his deathbed with his sons Gruffydd and Dafydd from Mathew Paris." This volume thus does not replace John Morris's edition and translation of the Annales Cambriae in Harleian 3859, but does provide a convenient further reference for students of later medieval Welsh history and society, who now have to hand a ready if imperfect resource.

Since this review was published the problems with binding and the mislabeling of the cover have been rectified.

It is a pleasure to write a brief preface to Paul Remfry's latest publication on the history and architecture of the castles of the Welsh borderland. When I first met Paul as a first year undergraduate he was already a 'castle buff' and had assembled extensive notes and photographs of various castles. He saw his History degree in Aberystwyth as a way to take this interest further; any other historical courses were at best necessary diversions from his primary ambition. He had his opportunity to concentrate more fully on his beloved castles when he completed a Master in Philosophy dissertation, under my guidance, on the history and castles of the Middle Welsh March in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. But castles for Paul are not merely a means to gain academic degrees; they, and their owners, are an abiding passion. He is now an active member of a small, but dedicated group of local historians who are doing a great deal to unearth, literally and metaphorically, the histories of the castles of the Welsh borderland.

This booklet on Clifford castle is the latest fruit of Paul's meticulous research of the documentary and building evidence bequeathed by these castles. Clifford was one of the earliest points of entry for the Anglo-Norman conquerors as they pushed from the relative security of England down the river valleys of Wales. It is amongst the earliest of the castles of the area and retained its military significance for over two centuries. Its story, and that of its lords (who early adopted the surname Clifford) is closely intertwined with the histories of England and Wales across these generations. It is also a story with its fair share of human interest - be it the Fair Rosamund whose looks captivated Henry II or the last buccaneering Clifford, Walter, who had the temerity to command a royal messenger to eat the royal seal for daring to serve a royal writ in his frontier zone.

Paul Remfry tells the story of this castle and its family in close detail. That is one of the prerogatives of the local historian. Unlike the general historian he can concentrate closely on his chosen topic or area and bring out the rich textures of its life in the past. But in so doing he also enriches general history, for the reverberations of the local story resonate through the histories of Wales and England in these years. Those who are interested in Clifford castle and the surrounding area are now fortunate that they have a detailed and closely-documented account to hand. The work of Paul Remfry and his like performs an invaluable service for historians, local and general. It is an honour and pleasure to recommend it.

Professor R.R. Davies, Aberystwyth, The University College of Wales

Review on Intute, Best of the Web

Anglo-Norman castles : Paul Martin Remfry

This is the informative and well-illustrated site of the historian, Paul Remfry (a contributing editor to the Castles of Wales website). He is the author of publications focussing on castles found along the Marches, (the borderland between England and Wales), and the conflicts that arose between Marcher Lords and native Welsh rulers. The author's writing is enthused with detail and asides that provide a real flavour of life in the castles of Wales and the borders of England in the medieval period. The style of writing is very like storytelling, (indeed there is a preview of a novel still in progress), and includes reference not only to major players (such as Henry III and Edward I and their lords, also Owain Glyndwr and the Llywelyns of Gwynedd) but to the constables of the castles, their families, and their men-at-arms.The site features up-to-date information about Remfry's published works, as well as planned works: bibliographical information; brief descriptions; reviews; photographs; and other illustrations. It is possible to purchase these publications direct. Books listed include "The Battles of Wales, 1055 to 1295". The battles are listed here, (location, year, date, also the magnitude ranging from skirmish to campaign), and there are hyperlinks to the relevant publications elsewhere on the site. These include booklets on the castles in: Wales - Glamorgan, Gwent, Gwynedd, Powys (including separate volumes for Breconshire, Montgomery, and Radnorshire); and England - Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Shropshire. Mr Remfry is a member of the Marches Guide Association, that offers tours, lectures, and trips to the castles located in the Marches, and details of these activities are included here. There are links to further castle resources on the Web, including a direct link to all of Remfry's contributions (the numerous essays and photographs) to the Castles of Wales website.

Alun Edwards and Samantha Letters, 27 June 2007

National Library of Wales
This is a comprehensive resource on Anglo Norman Castles in Wales and the UK by Paul Martin Remfry. The author is responsible for publishing many books on castles in Wales. The resource also provides access to many of his historical essays including one on Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and Rhys ap Gruffydd.

Betty Parkinson has passed on to me a recently published book or thesis on Clifford Castle and has suggested I review it in the forthcoming Newsletter. This will enable all Members to either order a copy direct from the author/publisher, their nearest bookshop, or even the local library. The thesis already has a Foreword by Professor R.R.Davies of the University College of Wales, where Remfry took his degrees, and I go along with all he writes in praise of the work and research very obviously done in order to arrive at these most interesting findings. Although the title is Clifford Castle what could be written about the place without mentioning the Cliffords themselves? So here we have a detailed history where both are interconnected.
The author has given very clear notes on the source material he has used and as there are some 230 such entries accompanying the text his study has certainly been in-depth. His accompanying maps and photographs of the remains of the castle are good and take the reader back in time. Those of us who have visited the castle will clearly recognise all the close-ups.
This monograph does not take the place of what appears in The House of Clifford by any means for that referred to the Cliffords alone . This gives a wider picture of the Lords of Clifford, their changing fortunes and the trials and tribulations of the Marchers up to 1299. The concessionary price to Association Members is £8.50 ... and is worth it.

R.N. Clifford, Founder of Clifford Association, Vol 34

"I found the depth of history regarding the Lords of Clun fascinating. And certainly not ignored is the Welsh involvement in such an important castle. Each page has full references as to where these histories are taken from. An excellent product."

Postern 3:

"A very bold venture which deserves to succeed. Paul is to be congratulated on his zeal and industry. A must for the serious castle student and for anyone else with a desire for local history. The booklets are an attempt to record all that is known of the early history of the sites and their owners together with the latest interpretation of the castle remains complete with interpretative plans, maps and photographs. In A4 format, they are printed and bound by Paul to a high standard and are obtainable direct."

Herefordshire Archaeological News No 62

"These works contain facts derived from the original, mostly Latin sources, and are not compilations of the work of antiquarians of dubious authority. Consequently these booklets contain the evidence for the development of castles, not just in Herefordshire, but throughout the feudal world. As such they are a boon for both the professional archaeologist and historian as well as anyone simply interested in the history of what really occurred on their own door step!"

Herefordshire Archaeological News No 65

"For some there is only limited information available, but for others the author has discovered a surprising number of facts about the backgrounds and history of the castles. He weaves this information with his knowledge of the history of the period and examination of what lies on the ground, to create a picture of each castle, its owners, uses and eventual demise. To those interested in castles, it provides an invaluable guide. Indeed, to those wanting enjoyment tracking down obscure sites it can provide wonderful entertainment."

Heart of Wales Chronicle, Issue 39.

Paul Remfry is a historian with a passion for castles, their history, archaeology, and architecture. He is also a computer consultant. The result of this combination is a series of comb-bound booklets, some only covering one castle, others dealing with a cluster. So far most are about castles in Wales and the Marches, though others have crept in... They are not cheap, but they manage to be both detailed and lively, well-referenced and easily digested. A very acceptable popular version of Remfry's academic work.

Nina Crummy, Editor, RESCUE News, No.71

Paul Remfry has assembled the extensive documentary history of a castle owned by kings and queens, magnates, earls, and chancellors in turn. He describes the dramatic siege by Louis, dauphin of France, in 1216 and the building works both before and after the event. A full account is given of the surviving traces of the castle, with its own arguments for their dates and function.

Dr Derek Renn, Hertfordshire Countryside, March 1999

It is an ideal guide for those who want to brush up on local history or who want to enjoy tracking down obscure sites in the countryside.

The County Times & Express & Gazette, 18 October 1996

This is an excellent guidebook, enlivened by its historical summary, and a valuable pocket companion for the interested traveller.

Nina Crummy, Rescue News, No.70

Castles of Breconshire forms part of a series (Monuments in the Landscape) to which the author has already contributed The Castles of Radnorshire, The study of castles in a Welsh or Marcher context will always provide a continuing fascination for castellologists because of the role castles played in the ebb and flow of Anglo-Norman and Celtic politics and settlement.
The book starts with a useful commentary on the main written sources for the subject, though this is by way of an explanatory note rather than specific citation of sources. Indeed, one of the challenges facing the author (as so often in this sort of study) is how best to explain the context for the many (some 30 out of 50) sites which have no documentation at all.
The first half of the book is a narrative of the long and troubled history of the lordships of Brecon and Builth in which the castles lay. The complexities of family history, of the relations of Welsh princes, Marcher lords and kings of England are well emphasised and the essay makes an interesting read as well as providing the background for the building, occupation and (occasional) demolition of the castles. Pitching such an essay at the right level, however, is no easy task and it might be argued that the author gives too much detail for the casual reader but not enough to satisfy the professional (who would also need to see specific citation of written sources). The second half of the book is a site-by-site gazetteer in which the remains of the castles are described and their historical context given (or suggested, where there is room for debate). The entries are illustrated with plans and photographs and for each the NGR and information on access (or lack of) is provided.
The gazetteer will be a useful "pocket guide" to anyone intent on a visiting itinerary. Although there are limits to what can be described in a book of modest size, one very clear message comes across: the variety of physical forms employed in a fairly restricted geographical area. Here we find ringworks, mottes (with/without baileys), earthworks with stonework, earthworks without (implying timber construction), towers rectangular, towers circular and strong gatehouses.
Despite having studied medieval castles for over thirty years, this reviewer continues to be struck by the diversity of form which characterised the castle-building centuries. In comparison with the more stereotyped fortifications of the Roman and modern eras, medieval castles revealed the particularity of their builders' wishes just as did medieval churches. Despite the recurrence of some elements of design, medieval castles were the product of societies in which individuality flourished. The 'individual' was not a product of the so-called Renaissance.

Dr R.A. Higham, Castle Studies Group Newsletter 13

Castles of Breconshire by Paul Remfry
Monuments in the Landscape 8
Paperback, 196pp, 50 photographs, maps and plans. £8.95

The castle's of Wales and the marches are Paul Remfry's passion. His work on some has been self-published (RN71), but others are under the Logaston Press imprint (RN70). A historian specialising in medieval Wales, Remfry is notable for getting his feet out from under his desk and tramping the countryside to look at what remains of the castles built by the men he studies. Often nothing remains of the structures but a small motte, others are reasonably well preserved.
The first part of the book consists of the history of the Norman conquest of Breconshire, with all the intrigues and marital alliances mixed in with the building, occupation, destruction and rebuilding of Brecon castle and its surrounding companions, great and small. Most of Breconshire was only ever briefly again in Welsh hands, but it was still the scene of overspilling conflict and dispute between neighbour lords and with the English kings. Fascinating as the history is, the second part of the book may end up being more well-thumbed. The castles are presented in their historical groupings, such as lordship or cantref, with each entry prefaced by notes on state of preservation, location and access invaluable information for either a casual or pre-planned visit. Details of construction and occupation follow, together with a description of the visible remains. This whole series is an invaluable guide to both the traveller and the armchair reader. Period and place are evoked in the text and the illustrations, the books are clearly set out for rapid reference and fit comfortably in a pocket.

Nina Crummy, Rescue News 1999

I do hope your work on battles isn't entirely going to take over from your excellent work on your Castles of Wales sites. We do a lot on castles and related matters with our undergraduates and we find your site an invaluable resource.

Dr Madeleine Gray, Reader in History
University of Wales, Newport/Prifysgol Cymru, Casnewydd
Caerleon Campus/Campws Caerllion,
Newport/Casnewydd NP18 3QT