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History of Wales, Anglesey, and Llanddeusant

"I y to ifanc"

A Welsh expression meaning, "To the next generation"

Wales, Cymru in Welsh, is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. It lies on the western side of the island of Great Britain, covering 8,000 square miles (roughly 80 miles east-west, by 100 miles north-south), with 2.8 million inhabitants as of 1991.

 

Wales is bordered by the Irish Sea (on the north near Liverpool), the Bristol Channel (to the south off Cardiff), England (on the east), and Cardigan Bay and St. George's Channel (to the west) separating it from Ireland. Thus, it features an expansive coastline, but is also home to the Cambrian Mountains, which rise to 3,500 ft at Mt. Snowdon. Cardiff is the capital and largest city. Large coalfields and major industries are concentrated in the south, as is most of the population. The small island off the northwest coast is Anglesey.

History of Wales

The earliest inhabitants of Wales, like those of the rest of Britain, were a short, dark race, generally referred to as Iberian1. These were succeeded by Celts2. At the time of the coming of the Romans in 55 BC, the tribes of Wales represented a mixture of the primitive Iberians with the later invading Celts. They bore the general name of Cymry.

After a long struggle the subjugation of these tribes was completed during the reign (AD 69-79) of the Roman emperor Vespasian. Soon after the Roman empire disintegrated (early 5th century) came the Anglo-Saxon3 invasion. The Celtic inhabitants of Britain took refuge in the Welsh mountains, where, in time they were merged with their native kin and maintained their independence against the conquerors.

The disparate clans, which were converted to Christianity by Celtic monks, gradually coalesced, and border wars with the now-Anglo-Saxon England were constant. Offa, ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia4 in the 8th century, built an earthwork extending the length of the Welsh border, known as Offa's Dyke; it helped to establish a separation between the Welsh and English.

In the 11th century William I of England set up earldoms along the Welsh border, but for 200 years Welsh soldiers resisted the English threat to their independence. Following a brief relaxation of English pressure in the 12th century during which Welsh medieval culture flowered, English conquest of Wales was finally accomplished in 1282 by Edward I, who, to placate Welsh sentiment, initiated the English custom of entitling the king's eldest son the "Prince of Wales".

In 1485 a Welshman became the first Tudor5 king of England, Henry VII. Under the Tudors, Wales became more assimilated with England. Henry VIII made this official by signing the Act of Union in 1536, which united Wales politically with England. Welsh representatives entered the English parliament, Welsh law was abolished, and English was established as the official language of legal proceedings. Welsh political history became that of Great Britain.

In time, however, the "Anglicization of the gentry"6 created a breach in Welsh society, which was further deepened by religious differences. Slow to adopt Protestantism, the Welsh people were decidedly cool to Oliver Cromwell's Puritanism and had to be persuaded by force. In the 18th century they began to lean heavily toward Calvinism7, and the growth of the Calvinistic Methodist Church was an assertion of Welsh nationalism.

Economic and social conditions in Wales during the 1800's resulted in greatly increased emigration. A sharp increase in the population resulted in more competition for the already limited acreage of good land. Hundreds flocked to bid for any farms for sale. The Welsh had been emigrating to the US since Colonial days, but the flood tide left during the mid- and late-1800's. After the civil war the westward building railroads and land agents flooded Europe with literature extolling the Utopia beyond the Atlantic where land was deep and fertile, relatively cheap, and available in unlimited amounts. About 100,000 Welsh emigrated to America during the 1800's. Of these, more than 90% settled in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Wisconsin.8

Nationalism culminated in 1920 in the disestablishment of the English church in Wales. Welsh nationalism has been kept alive up to the present by the Plaid Cymru party (founded in 1925), which has at times elected members to the British Parliament and otherwise kept pressure on the major parties to protect the special interests of Wales.

The Industrial Revolution tapped the mineral wealth of Wales, and south Wales was soon the chief coal-exporting region of the world. Industrialization brought poverty and unemployment, however, especially in the 1920s and 30s. Following the boom of World War II, the government undertook a full-scale program of industrial redevelopment, including nationalization of the mines. Political nationalism survives as an issue; in 1979 Welsh voters decisively defeated a British proposal to limit home rule.

Anglesey

Anglesey, or Angelsea, was a former county in northwestern Wales. It comprises many islands, including the main isle, Anglesey (which is separated from the Welsh mainland by the Menai Strait) and the small nearby Holy Island, both in the Irish Sea. Anglesey was settled by the Celts by about 100 BC. It became a center of Druidism9 as a result of its being relatively remote and naturally protected, which delayed Roman influence and the spread of their soon-to-be-adopted religion, Christianity. But the Romans eventually conquered (AD 61-78) the island and suppressed Druidism. Roman ruins can still be found in Anglesey today. By the time the Romans left (AD 406) Christianity had taken hold. Anglesey was subsequently invaded by Vikings, Saxons, and Normans10 and fell to Edward I, King of England, in the 13th century. In 1974 Anglesey became part of the new county of Gwynedd.

The island of Anglesey features peaceful farmland, pretty villages and historic towns, and the panoramic views of mountains and sea. It has some of the most impressive prehistoric remains in the British Isles, with standing stones and burial chambers surviving in most parts of the island. The island's main industries have been farming, fishing, and quarries.

The Welsh language is descended from the Celtic language spoken across Britain before the Saxon invasion. Today about half a million people speak the language. Its chief stronghold is in the northwest (Anglesey and nearby mainland areas.)

Llanddeusant

Llanddeusant is a small village on the island of Anglesey, 7.5 miles NE of Holyhead. The word llanddeusant in Welsh means "church of the two saints."  Llan = church; ddeu = two; and sant = saint.  The village lies to the north of the Afon (river) Alaw. Its waters were used to power the ancient Howell Grist Mill, which ground wheat.

Llanddeusant's famous landmark is a three-story windmill to the west of the village. Melin (mill) Llynnon was built in 1775-6 for Herbert Jones. It was badly damaged by storms in 1918, but was restored by the borough council sixty years later and was opened to the public in 1984. The three pairs of millstones and the hoists now work once again, grinding flour.

Anglesey is roughly diamond-shaped, being about 25 miles across from east to west, and also about 25 miles from north to south.  The red circle on the map marks the village of Llanddeusant, between Holyhead, the largest town on the island, and the Llyn (lake) Alaw.

anglesey2.JPG (16184 bytes)

Endnotes

  1. The Iberians were an ancient people of eastern and southern Spain.
  2. The Celts (pronounced "Kelts") were a people who dominated much of western and central Europe in the 1st millennium BC. The word Celt is derived from Keltoi, the name given to these people by Herodotus and other Greek writers. To the Romans, the Continental Celts were known as Galli, or Gauls; those in Britain were called Britanni.
  3. Anglo-Saxon refers to two Germanic tribes. The Angles occupied the region that is now the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. With their kindred ethnic groups, they formed the people who came to be known as the English. The name England is derived from them. The Saxons were originally from areas now in Denmark and northern Germany. The term Anglo-Saxon today commonly refers to anyone with an English ancestry.
  4. Mercia was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom that once occupied parts of western England, and later almost all of southern England as well.
  5. Tudor is the family name of the dynasty that occupied the throne of England from 1485 to 1603. The house was founded by the Welsh nobleman Owen Tudor, who married Catherine of Valois, the widow of the English king Henry V. Their eldest son, Edmund Tudor, married Margaret Beaufort, a descendant of John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III. In 1485 Edmund and Margaret's son, Henry, killed Richard III of the house of York and became Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch. The successive Tudor sovereigns were Henry VIII and his son and two daughters, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I; the three died childless. The Tudors, especially Henry VIII, played an important part in the Reformation by making the English church, now called Anglican, independent of the pope.
  6. "Anglicization of the gentry" means that the former Welsh nobles, now in power close to the throne in London, gradually became more English and less Welsh.
  7. Calvinism is the Christian theology of the French church reformer John Calvin, who wrote highly influential works in the mid-1500's on the subject of Reform from catholic doctrine. It lead to the development of the Methodist and Presbyterian branches of Protestantism.
  8. This entire paragraph is taken from Ancestors and Descendants of Thomas J. Williams, Hugh J Edwards, and Hugh Parry, by M. Coburn Williams, Logan Utah , June 1991. I found the book at the Mormon's Family History Library in Salt Lake City about 1995.
  9. Druidism was the religious faith of most ancient Celtic inhabitants of Gaul (France) and the British Isles from the 2nd century BC. In parts of Britain that the Romans were slow to invade, Druidism survived longer, until it was supplanted by Christianity two or three centuries later. The superior military strength of the Romans and the subsequent conversion of many followers of Druidism to Christianity led to the disappearance of the religion. The Druids believed in reincarnation, and descent from a supreme being. They were also well-versed in astrology, magic, and the mysterious powers of plants and animals; they held the oak tree and the mistletoe, especially when the latter grew on oak trees, in great reverence, and they customarily conducted their rituals in oak forests.
  10. The Normans were Vikings who established colonies in the AD900's along the north coast of current-day France (Normandy). They later conquered all of England (1066), behind their leader, William the Conqueror, who then became William I, King of England.

Much of this is from the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, copyright 1995 by Columbia University Press; and Encarta, copyright 1994 by Microsoft Corporation and Funk & Wagnall's.

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