It is a curious thing to stand within the bramble overgrowth of Llŷs Edwin and know you are amongst the buried remains of the foundations of one of the Fifteen Tribes of North Wales. From here, in this field on the very fringes of the modern, thunderous A55 and surrounded by a wealth of placenames indicating the presence of a llŷs, Edwin of Tegeingl ruled. And from his line several of the noble families of north Wales, including the Mostyns can claim descent. It was taken as read by T.A. Glenn (1864-1948), the soldier, historian, genealogist, and archaeologist, that Llŷs Edwin appeared as Castretone in the Domesday Book, and has been largely accepted as such ever since.
‘Edwin held it as a free man. There is half a hide paying geld. There is land for one plough. There 2 villains have half [a plough], with 1 bordar. [There is] woodland 1 league long and as much wide. It is worth 5s.’
Domesday Book, ed. A. Williams & G. H. Martin, Penguin, London, (2002) p.736
Little is known of Edwin, though enough to warrant some curious questions. The name is interesting, certainly, seemingly of Saxon origin, though the point has been made that Edwin has made several appearances in native Welsh genealogies. However, it is likely that Edwin’s mother was Ehelfleda, daughter of Edwin of Mercia - he of the Battle of Fulford in September 1066, absent at Senlac Hill in October 1066. And it is curious, and a little refreshing, that we know more of his mother than of his father. He had, then, a Saxon pedigree of some stature, and thus the complicated nature of the politics of Tegeingl in the 10th and 11th centuries are brought to light. As for his Welsh lineage, it is possible, if not probable that he was the great great grandson of Hywel Dda (d.949/50) - indeed, one of Hywel’s sons was named Edwin.
Edwin married Iwerydd, the sister of Bledddyn ap Cynfyn, who had been allied to the Saxons and indeed aided Edwin of Mercia and Edric the Wild in the resistance to William of Normandy in the years immediately following the Battle of Hastings. Ties with Mercia, then, would seem to have been deliberately maintained and strengthened. Edwin had three sons with Iwerydd - Owain, Uchdryd and Hywel. He was said to have been killed in 1071 or 1073 and he was given attributed arms in later years, illustrated upon the gate leading into the enclosure of Llŷs Edwin.
‘He beareth argent between four Cornish crows armed gules a cross Fleury engrailed sable.’
P. Yorke, The Royal Tribes of Wales, Liverpool, (1887), p.201
If Edwin’s loyalty was to the Saxons in their resistance to the Normans in 1067-1068, his grandsons had seemingly grasped the new political reality by the time of the Battle of Maes Maen Cymro in 1118. At Rhewl, on the border between the cantrefs of Dyffryn Clwyd and Rhufoniog, they had the aid of the Norman Earl of Chester, who sent soldiers out of Rhuddlan to their aid in their fight against Hywel ab Ithel. It was a battle in which Edwin’s son, Uchdryd fought alongside his nephews. A pyrrhic victory for Hywel, who later died of his wounds sustained in the battle which led to Gwynedd annexing both Rhos and Rhufoniog. One of Edwin’s grandsons, Llywarch ab Owain also died in the battle.
The entry for Llys Edwin in the Royal Commission’s Inventory for Flintshire (1912), while recognising it as, ‘doubtless the seat of the Welsh chieftain, Edwin of Tegeingl, from whom many of the principal families of Flintshire deduce their origin’, is rather terse. Visited in June 1910, their conclusion describes the site as,
‘A small mount-and-bailey structure, but although standing on a slight elevation the post is not a strong one.’
RCAHM, ‘An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Wales, Flintshire’ (p.75)
They seemed entirely underwhelmed. A tad surprising perhaps, given its undoubted historical importance. It’s almost as if they could not gather themselves to quite believe what they were standing within. However, in 1931, T.A. Glenn was commissioned to excavate the site on behalf of Lady Daresbury. The results of his efforts, visited on several occasions by Canon Ellis Davies, were published in, ‘The Family of Griffith of Garn and Plasnewydd’ in 1934. The excavation unearthed the shade of a complex which suggested a long history of high status occupation.
Glenn claimed to have discovered four phases of occupation at the site, the most prominent being the remains of an early 13th century stone hall within a walled complex of some 50mᒾ. This would place the site in a period of time in which Tegeingl was in Welsh hands (until the English invasion of 1241). The evidential remains of two earlier phases were apparently indicated by the presence of post holes, which he suggested pushed the history of the site back to the original llys of Edwin in the mid 11th century. Artefacts discovered also seemed to suggest a Tudor and 17th century presence at the site.
The complex was surrounded with a 10m wide moat, revetted with stone with an palisaded outer bank, the charred remains of which were found within the ditch. The entrance to the walled complex is thought to have been to the north west, with a cobbled yard leading up to a gateway, flanked by two towers, projecting from the external wall. The remains were impressive enough to be able to identify the location of the portcullis. An abutment for a stone bridge was found opposite the gateway. The stone hall was sited to the south east of the gateway, surrounded by the remains of the kitchen and pantry. The hall enclosure, within the greater complex, was protected by towers to the north and south. Outside of the hall complex, but within the confines of the moated site, Glenn found what he supposed were the remains of a forge to the north west and a stables to the south east - the latter said to have been large enough to accommodate twenty horses or more. A further tower was found to the near north east of the stables. What was thought to be a second moat was also found to the south west, wider and extending further to the north west than the halled complex. This was later identified as fishponds, though there is continuing debate on this.
Artefacts found at the site were dated to between the late 13th century to Tudor times. They included much pottery from the 13th century, although possibly earlier, along with various metal work, including pot handles, a meat cleaver, two keys, a lock and a spur, along with weapons - a sword blade and javelin heads. Many of these finds can be considered high status, further enhancing the importance of the site. Later investigations made it clear that the primary purpose of the Glenn excavation was not in artefact retrieval, since much material was found which had been unearthed and left in the dig of 1931, including spindle whorls, a buckle, chain fragments, iron nails, glass, a coin and token. The coin was of particular interest, since it bore a St George Cross upon a shield, with a wreath above it. The words, ‘England Fardin’ surrounded the shield. On the reverse of the coin was an Irish harp, with the words ‘For Necessary Cha[nge]’. This coin can be dated to the post English Civil War period, the Commonwealth administration to be accurate, of around 1654. The token was found to be a jeton, produced in the Low Countries in the middle of the 16th century.
Within the Llŷs Edwin complex today, it's difficult to get a sense of the enclosure - this the view to the north west. Beneath the branmble and soil are the stone remains of the hall, kitchen and scullery.
If the evidence of the Glenn excavation, along with the field name evidence, seemed to point toward this being the site of Llys Edwin, problems appeared - minor issues perhaps, but issues nonetheless. The stratigraphy and the finds were inadequately described, it seems, and this has led to a gnawing element of doubt. However, Ellis Davies, writing in 1949, seems to have been unperturbed by Glenn’s conclusions, having visited the site several times both during and after the excavations - lastly in 1945.
‘The earthworks are not of prehistoric date, but part of the outer defences of Llŷs Edwin, the fortified house of Edwin of Tegeingl, the site of which, presumably the Castretone of Domesday Book.’
Ellis Davies, The Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Flintshire’ (1949) p.291
Surveys by the Clwyd and Powys Archaeological Trust in 2015-16 seemed to largely confirm the general layout as described by Glenn in 1934, based on his excavation three years earlier. An excavation by CPAT, as part of the North East Wales Community Archaeology Project, in 2016-17 investigated the area identified by Glenn as the kitchen and scullery abutting the hall. Again, their findings confirmed much of the findings of Glenn from 1931, with stone walls and earlier mediaeval post holes being found, suggesting that the origin of the enclosure could well have been that of the original llŷs of Edwin of Tegeingl. Still, it is clear that Glenn did not document all that he found, since there are glaring absences in his writing of finds subsequently discovered by CPAT that he must have come across in his enthusiastic diggings. Perhaps the discovery of drains and curious hollows did not easily lend themselves to immediate understanding and were thus passed over.
A view from within the enclosure, to the north east.
If it was hard for the RCHAM in 1910 to get a sense of Llŷs Edwin, it is quite the act of faith in 2022, since it could have quite inspired a fantastic John Wyndham tale, so overgrown the enclosure has become. Indeed, if it was not for the wonderful and genuinely moving hand fashioned signs upon and about the gate to the field beyond, one would be hard pressed to visualise anything resembling a llŷs here. But it’s there. Llŷs Edwin - remembered in the soil.
Domesday Book, ed. A. Williams & G. H. Martin, Penguin, London, (2002)
The Llys and Maerdref in East and North East Wales, R.J. Silvester, CPAT Report No. 1331, CPAT, (2015)
The Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Flintshire, E. Davies, Cardiff, (1949)
An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Wales: Flintshire, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments, London, (1912)
The Royal Tribes of Wales, P. Yorke, Liverpool, (1887)