Kingdom of Gwent

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Medieval Kingdoms in Wales

Gwent (Old Welsh: Guent) was an early medieval Welsh kingdom that lay between the rivers Wye and Usk . It existed from the end of the Roman occupation of Britain at the beginning of the 5th century to the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century. Just like its neighboring kingdom Glywysing , it was evidently largely in cultural continuity with the pre-Roman tribe of the Silurians and until the conquest by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn had a jurisdiction independent of the rest of Wales and its own diocese. Although it regained its independence briefly after his death in 1063, Gwent was the first of the Welsh kingdoms to be overrun after the Norman conquest of England.


The area was already settled in prehistoric times, as is shown by finds from the Mesolithic at Goldcliff (at the mouth of the Severn near Newport ). There are also signs of increasing activity during the Bronze and Iron Ages .

Gwent emerged after the Romans had left Britain, based on the culture of the pre-Roman Silurians as a successor state and ultimately claimed a large part of their Iron Age areas. The name Gwent developed from the name of the civitas - capital Venta Silurum , which probably means "meeting place" or "market place of the Silurians". In the post-Roman period, the area around Venta became the Kingdom of Guenta, later Gwent, the name being derived directly from the city , taking into account the phonetic shift of the Brythonic languages from v to gu . The city itself became Caerwent , "Fort Venta". In contrast to the other Welsh areas, the inhabitants of Caervent and Caerleon received the protective Roman city walls throughout.

The early Gwent

It is commonly believed that the kingdom stretched across the area between the Usk and Wye rivers and the Severn estuary . In the north, the area bordered the early medieval empires of Ewyas and Ergyng (later known as " Archenfield "). According to an old Welsh genealogy, Caradawg Freichfras is said to have been the founder of the kingdom. The initial center of the kingdom was perhaps in Caerwent, the former Roman administrative center, or in the former Roman legionary camp of Isca Silurum . From the 5th century onwards, the area was Christianized by Welsh saints such as Dubricius , Tatheus and Cadoc . According to tradition, Caradawg moved his royal court from Caerwent to Portskewett (on the bank of the Server near present-day Sudbrook ) in the 6th century . According to other accounts, Gwent was founded by the semi-mythical King Erb, a grandson of Caradawg, who ruled Ergyng east of the Black Mountains and gained control of a larger area to the south.

A later ruler was the Christian king Tewdrig ap Teithfallt , who was fatally wounded while fighting off a pagan Saxon invasion. His son Meurig ap Tewdrig is said to have united Gwent by marrying Glywysing in the west. It has been suggested that Meurig's son Athrwys (sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Arthwys") should have been the model for King Arthur , but this is doubtful.

In the 8th century, Gwent and Glywysing apparently formed a single kingdom for a time. Gwent may have expanded to the east side of the River Wye in an area known as Cantref Coch, which later became the Forest of Dean . The Wye was later set as the eastern boundary, probably first by Offa of Mercien in the late 8th century and certainly by Æthelstan of England in 927. The area west of the River Usk , Gwynllŵg , was part of Glywysing.


In 931 Morgan from Owain von Gwent, later known as Morgan Hen (Morgan the Old), was one of those Welsh rulers who submitted to Æthelstan's sovereignty and paid homage to him at his court in Hereford. Even so, Gwent remained an independent Welsh kingdom. Around the year 942 Gwent and Glywysing were reunited by Morgan Hen under the name Morgannŵg for some time, but broke up again after his death. In 1034 King Canute the Great invaded Gwent.


Gwent's existence as an independent kingdom ended again for some time when Gruffydd ap Llywelyn gained control over and over Morgannŵg in 1055, thereby extending his rule over all of Wales. However, Caradog ap Gruffydd restored Gwent as an independent kingdom after Gruffydd's death in 1063. In 1065 the area was raided by Count Harald Godwinson , who tried to set up a base at Portskewett, but it was razed by Caradog, and Harald - now the crowned King of England - died the following year at the Battle of Hastings .

When the Norman invasion of Britain expanded westward in 1067 , Caradog's sphere of influence shifted to Deheubarth in the west. He died in 1081. At that time Gwent was already firmly under Norman control. However, the conflict with the Welsh kept flaring up from time to time. In 1217 William Marshal , the Norman Lord of Striguil, had to send troops to recapture Caerleon Castle from the Welsh.

The Normans divided the area, together with those areas they ruled across the Usk River, into the Marcher Lordships ("stately brands") Abergavenny , Caerleon , Monmouth , Striguil ( Chepstow ) and Usk . They built permanent stone fortresses, often emerging from the network of earlier motte-and-bailey fortresses. The density of forts of this type and age is among the highest in Britain and certainly the highest in the rest of the Welsh Marches, with at least 25 fortifications still preserved in Monmouthshire.

The Heritage

Although the kingdom was extinct in 1091, the name Gwent remained in use by the Welsh people of the time and in later centuries to refer to the area. Traditionally, Gwent was divided by the Forest Hills of Wentwood into Gwent Uwch-coed ("above the forest") and Gwent Is-coed ("below the forest"). These terms were translated into English as Overwent and Netherwent , and the whole area is sometimes called Wentland or Gwentland .

The Marcher Lordships were the basic administrative units for roughly the next 450 years until Henry VIII passed the Laws in Wales Acts in 1535 . The laws eliminated the Marcher Lordships, established the county of Monmouthshire and united the Lordships east of the Usk with Newport ( Gwynllŵg or Wentloog) and Caerleon in the west.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, writers began to use the name "Gwent" as a romantic literary name for Monmouthshire. In the regional administrative reorganizations of 1974/75, various new administrative areas were named after medieval kingdoms: Gwent, Dyfed , Powys , and Gwynedd . Gwent as a regional administrative unit ceased to exist in 1996 when it was replaced by the unified regional administrative divisions of Newport , Blaenau Gwent , Torfaen , Caerphilly (which includes parts of Mid Glamorgan ), and Monmouthshire . The name has been retained as one of the Preserved Counties of Wales , used for various ceremonial occasions, and also lives on in various official names, e.g. B. Gwent Police, Royal Gwent Hospital, Coleg Gwent and the Newport Gwent Dragons rugby team.

Individual evidence

  1. Miranda Aldhouse-Green et al .: Gwent In Prehistory and Early History: The Gwent County History . Vol. 1. 2004, ISBN 0-7083-1826-6 .
  2. ^ South East Wales in the Early Medieval Period
  3. ^ Caerwent Town Walls . In: Gatehouse Gazeteer , December 10, 2012; Retrieved February 13, 2013.
  4. ^ Raymond Howell: A History of Gwent . 1988, ISBN 0-86383-338-1
  5. ^ The Early Welsh Kingdoms, Gwent & Glywysing
  6. ^ Monmouthshire . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 18 : Medal - Mumps . London 1911, p. 728 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).
  7. ^ RJ Mansfield: Forest Story . 1965
  8. ^ Thomas Nicholas: Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales .
  9. a b Ralph A. Griffiths, Tony Hopkins, Ray Howell: The Gwent County History Vol.2: The Age of the Marcher Lords, c.1070-1536 . University of Wales Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7083-2072-3 .
  10. Camden's Britannia at

Pronunciation of Welsh names

  1. Gruffydd ap Llywelyn [ ˈɡrɪfɪð ap ɬəˈwɛlɪn ]
  2. Caradawg Freichfras [ ka'radaug 'vreixvras ]
  3. Tewdrig ap Teithfallt [ ˈtɛudrɪg ap ˈtɛiθvaɬt ]
  4. Morgannŵg [ mɔrˈɡanʊɡ ]