Blaenavon Ironworks – Where better steel was born!

Not our usual fare because you can in no way look at this and say it is a castle but it is none the less very interesting from a historical viewpoint and can be described as robustly built. If you have an interest in Industrial history, specifically the innovation that allowed the production of cheaper, better quality steel. The “basic steel process” or the “Gilchrist-Thomas process”, named for the industrial chemist Sidney Gilchrist Thomas and his cousin Percy Gilchrist who was a chemist at the Blaenavon Ironworks came about when Sidney discovered a solution to the problem of phosphorus in iron, which resulted in the production of low-grade steel. By using dolomite or sometimes limestone as a lining for the Bessemer converter rather than the usual clay they were able to remove the phosphorus and produce a better quality of steel at a fraction of the price. It also produced a byproduct of phosphate fertilizer.

Tiny Castle, Big Impact – St. Quentins Castle

St. Quentins has many names. You say St. Quentins and I say St Quintin’s. It’s also known as Llanblethian, and Castell Llanfleiddan. It sits in what appears to be a quiet, out of the way village in Llanblethian, Cowbridge, Wales.

It’s thought to have started out as a ringwork with a bank and ditch in around 1102 with the stonework being added in the late 12th century and then reinforced in the early 14th by the Earl Gilbert de Clare. However, Gilbert was killed before the castle was completed, and because the castle lacks certain features, it is possible that the building work was discontinued as a result of the Earl’s death. By 1740 it was was said to be in a ruinous state.

The gatehouses did see some use as a prison in the 15th century and was briefly occupied as a dwelling in 1820.

Strata Florida Abbey – ‘Valley of Flowers’

Abaty Ystrad Fflur in the Welsh tongue. This former Cistercian abbey, just outside Pontrhydfendigaid, near Tregaron in the county of Ceredigion, Wales was founded in 1146 by the Cambro-Norman Knight Robert FitzStephen. The name Strata Florida is a Latinisation of the Welsh Ystrad Fflur which means ‘Valley of Flowers’.

Strata Florida controlled many farms throughout Wales; these “granges” provided the monastery with food and income.

In 1401, during Owain Glyndŵr’s rebellion, Strata Florida Abbey was taken by King Henry IV and his son. The monks, sympathetic to Glyndŵr, were evicted and the monastery plundered. It was then turned into a military base. It was returned to the Cistercians with the end of the rebellion.

Caerleon Amphitheatre.

Wolf Nipple Chips! Get ’em While They’re Hot, They’re Lovely! Monty Python quotes aside, this is the location of a Roman legionary fortress or castra and the headquarters for Legio II Augusta from about 75 to 300 AD. That’s Augustus’ Second Legion to the likes of you and me. And where you have soldiers you need to have entertainment. Apparently, subduing the indigenous population just wasn’t entertaining enough and their company clearly wasn’t that good. Probably because they didn’t want to be subdued. (The locals were revolting) Cinema hadn’t been invented yet and so instead, in around 90 AD they built an Amphitheatre with seating for around 6,000 spectators. The word Amphitheatre isn’t even Roman but instead comes from the Greek (amphi), meaning “on both sides” or “around” and (théātron), meaning “place for viewing”. That’s the trouble with the Romans. If it isn’t nailed down, they would have it away.

Haverfordwest Priory

A Priory of Augustinian Canons Regular on the banks of the Western Cleddau at Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales, thought to date to the late 12th or early 13th centuries. Between 1983 to 1996 the site was excavated revealing the outlines of buildings and unearthing a unique medieval garden with raised beds.

A River, a major road and a railway line now flank the Priory. It was probably a major route at the time being so close to the river and the valley bottom.

What did the Romans Ever Do For Us? Caerwent Roman Town (Venta Silurum)

If you happen to be bimbling along the lovely leafy lanes of Monmouthshire in Wales, you might just happen across Caerwent Roman Town, also known as Venta Silurum.

It was established by the Romans in around AD 75 as an administrative centre for the defeated Silures tribe in Roman Wales.

Venta Silurum seems to mean “Market town of the Silures” As you can see there are plenty of ruins to explore, including the town walls and the foundations of a number of buildings.

The site even boasts a Norman Motte. It has a bit of everything we love!

Better Death Than Dishonour At Old Beaupre Castle!

Old Beaupre Castle is actually a ruined medieval fortified manor house rather than a castle, built circa 1300 and located in the community of Llanfair, outside Cowbridge in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales.

It was owned by the Basset family who carried out intensive remodelling in the 13th century, adding other buildings to what was originally an L-shaped building to create a courtyard, with an impressive outer gatehouse, a three-storeyed Renaissance porch and buildings around the middle court. After the English Civil War, the Basset family fortunes went into decline it is thought because they supported King Charles I. Spoiler alert! He lost!

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Castle passed by inheritance to the Jones family who chose, in 1709, to sell it and live to the more modern New Beaupre. Oh, and in case you were wondering, ‘Better Death Than Dishonour’ is the motto of the Bassett family and can be found on a heraldic panel above the front door.

Is There A Better Location For An Eldritch Ruin? Llanthony Priory

On a misty Sunday morning, we visit LLanthony Priory, a partly ruined former Augustinian priory in the secluded Vale of Ewyas, in the Black Mountain region of Brecon Beacons in Monmouthshire, South East Wales.

In around 1100, Norman nobleman Walter de Lacy reputedly came upon a ruined chapel of St. David in this location and was inspired to devote himself to solitary prayer and study.

He was soon joined by Ersinius, a former Chaplain to Queen Matilda, the wife of King Henry I, and then a band of followers. By 1118, a group of around 40 monks from England had founded the first priory of Canons Regular in Wales. The Welsh were none too pleased with the arrival of these Norman and English interlopers and regularly attacked the Priory until in 1135 the monks retreated to Gloucester where they founded a secondary cell, Llanthony Secunda. In around 1186, Hugh de Lacy- the fifth Baron, rebuilt the priory church, which was completed by 1217.