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Footprints - Middle Ages

In 1282 Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, prince of Wales was killed, Wales lost its independence and new foreign rulers arrived.  John de Warenne became lord of Bromfield and Yale (the lands around Wrexham) and Roger Mortimer gained lands around Chirk.

Chirk castle dominating the surrounding countryside and local people. - ©National Monuments Record of Wales

The new rulers demonstrated their power through their new castles at Holt and Chirk.  They created boroughs with special trading privileges for English newcomers at Holt and Overton.

Mediaeval memorial featuring a woman holding her dead crusader husband’s heart, Chirk Parish Church - © Wrexham Heritage Services

Wrexham prospered as a town during the 14th century.  The town’s market day was on Thursdays and all the people of Bromfield and Yale had to sell their produce through this market.

Immigrants were encouraged too.  By 1391 almost half the people of Wrexham were newcomers attracted by the town’s economic opportunities.  The woollen and leather industries were booming.  There was enough money around for a bard, a jester, a juggler, a dancer and a goldsmith to earn their living here.  Meanwhile, in the Maelor, colonisers were clearing the woodland and building moated houses.

Early 15th century wall painting, Ruabon Parish Church - ©National Monuments Record of Wales

The local peasants were, in effect, slaves.  They paid tithes to the church, taxes to the lord and worked his land.  Unsurprisingly, the local Welsh were keen to serve as soldiers in Scotland and France – the pay was much better – and they soon gained a reputation for bravery on the battlefield.

At the start of the 15th century, the local Welsh gentry and peasants backed the uprising led by Owain Glyndŵr.  The rising was disastrous for Wrexham economically and the English won.  The final flowering of the local bards, Guto’r Glyn of the Ceiriog Valley and Dafydd ab Edmwnd of Hanmer, could not hide the disasters of the 15th century.

There is in Wrexham
a certain market
held on each Thursday.

Robert d’Eggerley, 1391

Cawn feddyglyn gwyn, a gwinau-fragod,
Cawn ffreugwrw o’r pibau,
Cawn win a chnewyllion cnau,
Cawn fil ancwynafalau.

A poem for Dafydd, Abbott of Valle Crucis, Guto’r Glyn, 15th century