Battlefield Sources

Below is a brief description of the major sources that provide information on battles and conflicts in Wales, and which have been used in the compilation of this Inventory. Please visit the Welsh Chronicles Research Group for more detailed descriptions of each chronicle and further information.

The Latin chronicles concerned with Wales, collectively known as the Annales Cambriae, originated as a series of annals put together in North Wales in the ninth century. These found their way to St David’s in the tenth century, where material from Irish Annals were added and the entries were continued (best represented by the Harleian Chronicle covering the years 445-977). These annals were subsequently copied and updated, and each new copy added material not found in the others. Three main versions survive that provide annals into the latter half of the thirteenth century: the Breviate Chronicle written at the Cistercian Abbey of Neath (creation to the year 1286), the Cottonian Chrionicle written at St David’s (creation to the year 1288), and the Cronicon de Wallia discovered in Exeter cathedral library in 1939 and written at Whitland Abbey, which covers the period 1190-1266 (lacking 1217-27 and 1249-53). Further minor versions also survive, such as the Glamorgan Chronicle, which tend to be more localised in their outlook.

These Latin chronicles and similar ones, now lost, formed the basis of Brut y Tywysogion (Chronicle of the Princes), which adapted this material into Welsh and added further material not found in their Latin source. Three different Welsh versions survive. The Peniarth 20 version covers events from 689 to 1330, and was written at the Cistercian Abbey of Valle Crucis, near Llangollen in north east Wales. The Red Book of Hergest version covers events up to 1282 and is similar to Peniarth 20, but it contains some important differences. The third version is known as Brenhinedd y Saesson and again contains similar material with some additional details. In the Inventory the term Brutiau is used to refer to all three versions where they agree, and the individual versions are noted when they contain information not found in the others.

In 1559 Humphrey Llwyd, from Denbigh, made an English translation of Brut Y Tywysogion with additional material from other chronicles and some of his own commentary. This was not published, but a manuscript of his translation was used by David Powel in his Historie of Cambria printed in 1584. Powel added further references from other sources and this work, reprinted several times, became the standard printed history of Wales; it was not completely replaced until J. E. Lloyd’s A History of Wales was published in 1911. Both Llwyd and Powel were responsible for some dubious battle locations that, due to the centuries of repetition, have become very well-known, but today it is possible to look closely at their sources in both Welsh and Latin and identify some of the errors. Further dubious battles and locations came from a later influential document, the forged Gwentian Brut, a version of Brut y Tywysogion with additional material primarily concerned with south Wales, added by Iolo Morgannwg in the 1790s. This was widely used in the nineteenth century and many of the battles mentioned in it, not otherwise known, gained widespread recognition.

A further source of information about the battles fought by the Welsh princes can be found in the poetry celebrating them in the period 1100-1283. These poems frequently refer to victories and losses by the Welsh rulers, and many of the battles are named. Some of these are named in the chronicles and the poetry can add further details, but some are otherwise unknown.

Alongside the chronicles originating in Wales, there are also the numerous works written in England that refer to battles and conflicts in Wales. These often provide place names and topographical evidence that can help to locate a given battle or conflict site, as well as a different perspective on events. They range from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, through to the works of Roger of Wendover, Mathew Paris and the annals of various monastic houses, including Tewkesbury and Worcester. Official records of Government such as the Pipe rolls, Close Rolls, Liberate Rolls and other documents from the Royal Household also contain references to battles, conflicts and sieges at castles, as well as the number of soldiers and other costs incurred.

For the Owain Glyndŵr revolt we have to rely primarily upon chronicle sources from England, but contemporary Welsh poetry provides crucial evidence as well. The events are also mentioned in Government records and the surviving correspondence between the people involved.

The Civil War battles (1642-51) are well attested in printed newsletters from both sides of the conflict, collected together as the Thomason Tracts and available online (with subscription). Further evidence can be found in the wealth of correspondence from the era and contemporary diary entries from those involved.

The antiquarian and tourist literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth century frequently discuss battles and make attempts to locate them. They are responsible for many long-held identifications of battle sites, but many are unreliable as the editions of the chronicle sources available to them were not as accurate as the ones we use today. The identifications they made were repeated many times by later writers, and some of them made their way onto Ordnance Survey maps in the nineteenth century, although most of these have since been removed. Modern studies and archaeological reports have done much to clarify matters, and references to these are given with each entry for further information.

The individual records in this Inventory are based upon material from the earliest primary sources, and discuss the later attempts at locating the sites where these have become well known, or created confusion. The historiography of how a battle has become associated with a particular site is often as important as the battle itself.