After the Roman administration departed Britain for Italy, the Mediterranean way of life certainly didn't disappear from the country overnight. In the Romano-British towns of the North and the West, prominent men rose to power and constructed little kingdoms for themselves, based on the Imperial model. Such kingdoms emerged in the midlands too, they were just less long lived. Details are, therefore, far more scarce.
Some of the
descendants of the Northern King, Coel
Hen, appear to have moved south and made their mark on Midland
Britain. King Arthuis of the
Pennines' youngest son, Cynfelyn, was one. His son, Cynwyd,
found willing followers in the Chiltern Hills where he set up the Kingdom
of Cynwidion, which was named after him. The appellation later changed to
Calchfynedd (Chalk-Hills) during his son, Cadrod's
reign. Though the exact area described is not known for sure, it was
certainly south of Powys and tradition ascribes it the towns of
Northampton and Dunstable. It may have been the precursor of Saxon
Chilternset. Archaeological evidence indicates the British held out here
well into the 7th century.
kingdoms were probably based on old Roman cities. Caer Luit Coyt (Wall in
Staffordshire) was supposedly from where the Kings
of Glastening (Somerset) fled. Caer Guricon (Wroxeter, Shropshire)
and Caer Magnis (Kenchester, Herefordshire) were eventually conquered by
the Saxons and became the centres of the Kingdoms of Wrocenset and
Magonset respectively. They may originally have been one kingdom, possibly
part of Powys under the personal authority of High-King
Vortigern. Later they would have been divided among sons in the
traditional Celtic manner. Caer Guricon would have been the main centre.
The town has provided the most extensive archaeological evidence for the
5th and 6th century survival of the Roman way of life.
following century, one Constantine was ruling in this area, probably
around Caer Magnis. His apparent brother, Cyndrwyn Fawr (the Great,
though he was also called the Stubborn), ruled the lost Kingdom
of Pengwern. He fought against King Aethelfirth of Bernicia at the Battle
of Caer-Legion (Chester, Cheshire) in AD 613. His son, Cynddylan's capital,
Llys Pengwern, is traditionally said to have been the Saxon foundation of
Shrewsbury, though it could also have been the Berth at Baschurch,
just to the north. There are indications that there was also an outpost at
Din Guricon, the hillfort on the Wrekin overlooking Caer-Guricon (Wroxeter).
A more defendable site than the old Roman town was evidently needed by
this time. Cynddylan's exploits are remembered in the Marwnad
Cynddylan and the Canu Heledd, the latter being a cycle of
poems named after his sister, but erroneously said to have been composed
by King Llywarch Hen of South
Rheged. They tell of Heledd's lament at the destruction of the Kingdom of
Pengwern, Cynddylan and his family. The King of Pengwern had faught
alongside King Penda of Mercia against the invading Northumbrians,
particularly at the AD 642 Battle of Maes Cogwy (Oswestry, Shropshire). Here
their enemy, King Oswald,
was killed. Fourteen years later, after Penda's death, Oswald's brother,
Oswiu, found his way clear to wreak revenge on Cynddylan. He overran Llys
Pengwern and the Penwernian King was brutally hacked down with several of
his brothers. He was buried at Eglwysseu Bassa (Baschurch, Shropshire) and
the Royal Court dispersed. Their old allies, the Mercians, later moved in
and settled the area.
Below Caer Magnis, lay the Romano-British cities of Caer Gloui (Gloucester, Gloucestershire), Caer Ceri (Cirencester, Gloucestershire) and Caer Baddan alias Aquaemann (Bath, Somerset). Small kingdoms were apparently set up here in the 5th century, but their last kings, Cynfael, Ffernfael and Cyndyddan respectively, were all killed fighting the West Saxons at the Battle of Dyrham (Gloucestershire) in 577. The two former realms may have been sub-kingdoms of Welsh Ergyng, as there are faint traditional associations. St. Aldate, Bishop of Gloucester was said to be a prince of Ergyng and, in an old tale, King Caradog Freichfras of Gwent held court at Cirencester. Caer Baddan may have been associated with Dumnonia.
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