Brecknockshire

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Brecknockshire
Welsh: Sir Frycheiniog
United Kingdom
Corn Du from Pen Y Fan - geograph.org.uk - 140882.jpg
Pen y Fan
Brecknockshire
[Interactive map]
Area: 742 square miles
Population: 68,088
County town: Brecon
County flower: Cuckoo flower [1]

The County of Brecknock or Brecon is a shire in the mountains of Mid-Wales.

Geography

Brecon County signpost to the south-west of Builth Wells

Brecknockshire is an inland county bounded to the north by Radnorshire, to the east by Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, to the south by Monmouthshire and Glamorgan, and to the west by Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire.

The County is predominantly rural and mountainous. The Black Mountains occupy the south-east of the county, the Brecon Beacons the central region, Fforest Fawr the south-west and Mynydd Eppynt the north. Most of the Brecon Beacons National Park lies within the county. The highest point is Pen-y-Fan at 2,907 feet. The River Wye traces nearly the whole of the northern border, and the River Usk flows in an easterly direction through the central valley. The Gospel Pass, the high road pass at the scarp edge of the mountains, at the head of the Vale of Ewyas in the Black Mountains, is one of the most spectacular drives in the land. Of the many waterfalls in the county, Henrhyd Falls are particularly spectacular.

The main towns are Brecon, Brynmawr, Builth Wells, Hay-on-Wye, Llanwrtyd Wells and Ystradgynlais. The most important industries are agriculture, forestry and tourism. Hay-on-Wye is famed as a "book town", with a far great density of second-hand bookshops, many of great size, than in any other town in the country.

History

Brycheiniog

Brycheiniog was a small, independent petty kingdom in the Early Middle Ages, approximating to today's Brecknockshire, the county taking its name from the kingdom. Brycheiniog often acted as a buffer state between the English to the east and the powerful south Welsh kingdom of Deheubarth to the west. It was conquered and pacified by the Normans between 1088 and 1095 and transformed into the Lordship of Brecon. To its south was the Kingdom of Morgannwg; Glamorgan.

Brycheiniog was probably founded by Irish raiders in the late fifth century; the oral tradition was that the kingdom was founded by a Hiberno-Welsh prince named Brychan out of the old Welsh kingdom of Garth Madrun in the mid-5th century. Brychan was a son of Anlach, an Irish settler who had peacefully taken control of the area by marrying Marchel, the heiress of Garth Madrun. Brychan's eldest son, Rhain Dremrudd, founded a dynasty which ruled the kingdom uninterrupted until the mid-7th century.

In the 7th century, the kingdom was inherited by Ceindrych; she married Cloten of Dyfed, uniting the kingdoms for about a century until Seisyll of Ceredigion invaded in the mid 8th century and separated Brycheiniog from Dyfed. In the 880s, King Elisedd of Brycheiniog gave homage to Alfred the Great, King of the English, an alliance made in a time predations from Gwynedd and from Vikings; in the spring of 896 Brycheiniog, Gwent and Gwynllwg were devastated by the Norsemen who had wintered at Bridgnorth that year, while Asser, Alfred's Welsh chaplain and biographer, wrote that Elisedd of Brycheiniog was under pressure from an expansionist Gwynedd.

Brycheiniog was always in the midst of troublesome neighbours and at risk of retaliation; in the early summer of 916 Queen Æthelflaed, Lady of the Mercians and the daughter of King Alfred, invaded Brycheiniog and on 19 June stormed the royal llys in Brecenanmere (Llangorse Lake). There, Welsh chronicles tell us, she captured the queen of the land and 34 others. The king is not identified, but the English Chronicles call him Clydog. The last recorded king of Brycheiniog was Tewdwr ab Elise, who witnessed a charter at the English royal court in 934. Brycheiniog was divided between the three sons of Gruffudd of Brycheiniog in the mid-eleventh century.

Lordship

The land of Brycheiniog was conquered between 1070 and 1093. In 1070 William FitzOsbern, 1st Earl of Hereford invaded the land and defeated three kings of South Wales. By 1088 Bernard de Neufmarché held a lordship in Brycheiniog and in April 1093, while building a castle at Brecon, he defeated and killed the King of Deheubarth, Rhys ap Tewdwr. The lordship of Brecon remained ruled by Bernard's descendants.[1]

During the reign of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd of Gwynedd the homage of the Lord of Brycheiniog was transferred to him from the King of England (Henry III) by the Treaty of Montgomery in 1267. However, it was an attack on Brycheiniog by the Marcher Lords Humphrey de Bohun and Roger Mortimer in 1276 which led to the final breakdown of the peace, after which Llywelyn's domain was reduced to just his lands in Gwynedd. Brycheiniog was thereafter subject to the King of England.

Shire

The Laws in Wales Act 1535 created the County or Shire of Brecknock by combining a number of "lordships, towns, parishes, commotes and cantreds" in the "Country or Dominion of Wales. The areas combined were: "Brekenoke" (Brecknock), "Crekehowell" (Crickhowell) "Tretowre", "Penkelly", "Englisshe Talgarth", "Welsshe Talgarth", "Dynas", "The Haye" (Hay-on-Wye), "Glynebogh", "Broynlles", "Cantercely", "Llando Blaynllynby", "Estrodewe", "Buelthe" (Builth), and "Llangors". The town of Brecknock or Brecon was declared the county town.[2]

Hundreds

Brecknockshire is divided into six hundreds:

  • Builth
  • Crickhowell
  • Devynnock
  • Merthyr
  • Penkelly
  • Talgarth

Towns and villages

Brecon
Hay-on-Wye

Parishes

Transport

Road

The A40 London-West Wales trunk road passes in an east-west direction through the south of the county and the A483 Swansea-Manchester trunk road passes through the north. The A470 Cardiff-Glan Conway trunk road enters the county north of Merthyr Tydfil and after meeting the A40 at Brecon hugs the eastern border until it leaves the county just south of Rhayader.

Rail

The Heart of Wales railway line follows a similar route to the A483 through the north of the county, with stops at Sugar Loaf, Llanwrtyd Wells, Llangammarch Wells, and Cilmeri. Builth Road station to the north of Builth Wells is situated in Radnorshire. The south of the county once had an extensive rail network with connections through Glamorgan and Monmouthshire to Neath, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, Newport and thence to the main Great Western main line.

Things to see in Brecknockshire

Llangorse Lake
Key
Cathedral/Abbey/Priory Cathedral/Abbey/Priory
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Amusement/Theme Park Amusement/Theme Park
Castle Castle
Country Park Country Park
Cadw Cadw
Forestry Commission Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Museum (free)
Museum (not free)
Museum (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust
Zoo Zoo

Built heritage

Natural landscape

Cribyn, from Pen-y-Fan

See also

Flag of Brecknockshire

References

  1. Nelson, Lynn H. (1966). "The Normans in South Wales". Carrie: A Full-Text Electronic Library. http://vlib.iue.it/carrie/texts/carrie_books/nelson/index.html. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  2. "Laws in Wales Act 1535". UK Law Statute Database. Ministry of Justice. http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?activeTextDocId=1517920&versionNumber=1. Retrieved 2008-07-26. 

Historical References

  • Remfry, P.M., Castell Bwlch y Dinas and the Families of Fitz Osbern, Neufmarché, Gloucester, Hereford, Braose, Fitz Herbert (ISBN 1-899376-79-8)
  • Remfry, P.M., 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 (ISBN 1-899376-81-X)
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