The Welsh Marches (Welsh : Y Mers) is an imprecisely defined area along the border between England and Wales in the United Kingdom. The precise meaning of the term has varied at different periods.
The English term Welsh March (in Medieval Latin Marchia Walliae)was originally used in the Middle Ages to denote the marches between England and the Principality of Wales, in which Marcher lords had specific rights, exercised to some extent independently of the king of England. In modern usage, "the Marches" is often used to describe those English counties which lie along the border with Wales, particularly Shropshire and Herefordshire, and sometimes adjoining areas of Wales. However, at one time the Marches included all of the historic counties of Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.
In this context the word march means a border region or frontier, and is cognate with the verb "to march," both ultimately derived from Proto-Indo-European *mereg-, "edge" or "boundary".
After the decline and fall of the Roman Empire which occupied southern Britain until about AD 410, the area which is now Wales comprised a number of separate Romano-British kingdoms, including Powys in the east. Over the next few centuries, the Angles, Saxons and others gradually conquered and settled in eastern and southern Britain. The kingdom of Mercia, under Penda, became established around Lichfield, and initially established strong alliances with the Welsh kings. However, his successors sought to expand Mercia further westwards into what is now Cheshire, Shropshire and Herefordshire. Campaigns and raids from Powys then led, possibly around about AD 820, to the building of Wat's Dyke, a boundary earthwork extending from the Severn valley near Oswestry to the Dee estuary.As the power of Mercia grew, a string of garrisoned market towns such as Shrewsbury and Hereford defined the borderlands as much as Offa's Dyke, a stronger and longer boundary earthwork erected by order of Offa of Mercia between AD 757 and 796. The Dyke still exists, and can best be seen at Knighton, close to the modern border between England and Wales.
In the centuries which followed, Offa's Dyke largely remained the frontier between the Welsh and English. Athelstan, often seen as the first king of a united England, summoned the British kings to a meeting at Hereford in AD 926, and according to William of Malmesbury laid down the boundary between Wales and England, particularly the disputed southern stretch where he specified that the River Wye should form the boundary.By the mid-eleventh century, Wales was united under Gruffudd ap Llywelyn of Gwynedd, until his death in 1063.
Immediately after the Norman Conquest, King William of England installed three of his most trusted confidants, Hugh d'Avranches, Roger de Montgomerie, and William FitzOsbern, as Earls of Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford respectively, with responsibilities for containing and subduing the Welsh. The process took a century and was never permanently effective.The term "March of Wales" was first used in the Domesday Book of 1086. Over the next four centuries, Norman lords established mostly small marcher lordships between the Dee and Severn, and further west. Military adventurers went to Wales from Normandy and elsewhere and after raiding an area of Wales, then fortified it and granted land to some of their supporters. One example was Bernard de Neufmarché, responsible for conquering and pacifying the Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog. The precise dates and means of formation of the lordships varied, as did their size.
The March, or Marchia Wallie, was to a greater or lesser extent independent of both the English monarchy and the Principality of Wales or Pura Wallia, which remained based in Gwynedd in the north west of the country. By about AD 1100 the March covered the areas which would later become Monmouthshire and much of Flintshire, Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire, Brecknockshire, Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. Ultimately, this amounted to about two-thirds of Wales.During the period, the Marches were a frontier society in every sense, and a stamp was set on the region that lasted into the time of the Industrial Revolution. Hundreds of small castles were built in the border area in the 12th and 13th centuries, predominantly by Norman lords as assertions of power as well as defences against Welsh raiders and rebels. The area still contains Britain's densest concentration of motte-and-bailey castles. The Marcher lords encouraged immigration from all the Norman-Angevin realms, and encouraged trade from "fair haven" ports like Cardiff. Peasants went to Wales in large numbers: Henry I encouraged Bretons, Flemings, Normans, and English settlers to move into the south of Wales. Many new towns were established, some such as Chepstow, Monmouth, Ludlow and Newtown becoming successful trading centres, and these tended also to be a focus of English settlement. At the same time, the Welsh continued to attack English soil and supported rebellions against the Normans.
The Norman lords each had similar rights to the Welsh princes. Each owed personal allegiance, as subjects, to the English king whom they were bound to support in times of war, but their lands were exempt from royal taxation and they possessed rights which elsewhere were reserved to the crown, such as the rights to create forests, markets and boroughs.The lordships were geographically compact and jurisdictionally separate one from another, and their privileges differentiated them from English lordships. Marcher lords ruled their lands by their own law—sicut regale ("like unto a king") as Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester stated — whereas in England fief-holders were directly accountable to the king. The crown's powers in the Marches were normally limited to those periods when the king held a lordship in its own hands, such as when it was forfeited for treason or on the death of the lord without a legitimate heir whereupon the title reverted to the Crown in escheat. At the top of a culturally diverse, intensely feudalised and local society, the Marcher barons combined the authority of feudal lord and vassal of the King among their Normans, and of supplanting the traditional tywysog among their conquered Welsh. However, Welsh law was sometimes used in the Marches in preference to English law, and there were disputes as to which code should be used to decide a particular case. From this developed the distinctive March law.
The Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284 followed the conquest of the Principality by Edward I of England. It assumed the lands held by the Princes of Gwynedd under the title "Prince of Wales" as legally part of the lands of the Crown, and established shire counties on the English model over those areas. The Marcher Lords were progressively tied to the English kings by the grants of lands and lordships in England, where control was stricter, and where many marcher lords spent most of their time, and through the English kings' dynastic alliances with the great magnates. The Council of Wales and the Marches, administered from Ludlow Castle, was initially established in 1472 by Edward IV of England to govern the lands held under the Principality of Wales which had become directly administered by the English crown following the Edwardian conquest of Wales in the 13th century.
By the 16th century, many marcher lordships had passed into the hands of the crown, as the result of the accessions of Henry IV, who was previously Duke of Lancaster, and Edward IV, the heir of the Earls of March; of the attainder of other lords during the Wars of the Roses; and of other events. The crown was also directly responsible for the government of the Principality of Wales, which had its own institutions and was, like England, divided into counties. The jurisdiction of the remaining marcher lords was therefore seen as an anomaly, and their independence from the crown enabled criminals from England to evade justice by moving into the area and claiming "marcher liberties".
Under the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 introduced under Henry VIII, the jurisdiction of the marcher lords was abolished in 1536. The Acts had the effect of annexing Wales to England and creating a single state and legal jurisdiction, commonly referred to as England and Wales. The powers of the marcher lordships were abolished, and their areas were organised into the new Welsh counties of Denbighshire, Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire, Brecknockshire, Monmouthshire, and Carmarthenshire. The counties of Pembrokeshire and Glamorgan were created by adding other districts to existing lordships. In place of assize courts of England, there were Courts of Great Sessions. These administered English law, in contrast with the marcher lordships, which had administered Welsh law for their Welsh subjects. Some lordships were added to adjoining English counties: Ludlow, Clun, Caus and part of Montgomery were incorporated into Shropshire; Wigmore, Huntington, Clifford and most of Ewyas were included in Herefordshire; and that part of Chepstow east of the River Wye was included in Gloucestershire.
The Council of Wales, based at Ludlow Castle, was reconstituted as the Council of Wales and the Marches, with statutory responsibilities for the whole of Wales together with, initially, Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. The City of Bristol was exempted in 1562, and Cheshire in 1569.The Council was eventually abolished in 1689, following the "Glorious Revolution" which overthrew James II (VII of Scotland) and established William III (William of Orange) as king.
List of Marcher lordships and successor shires:
There is no modern legal or official definition of the extent of the Welsh Marches. However, the term the Welsh Marches (or sometimes just the Marches) is commonly used to describe those English counties which lie along the border with Wales, particularly Shropshire and Herefordshire.The term is also sometimes applied to parts of Powys, Monmouthshire and Wrexham.
The Welsh Marches Line is a railway line from Newport in South Wales to Shrewsbury, via Abergavenny, Hereford, and Craven Arms.
The Marches Way is a long distance footpath which connects Chester in the north, via Whitchurch, Shrewsbury, Leominster and Abergavenny to Cardiff in South Wales.
The Marches School is a secondary school in Oswestry, Shropshire. The school has several meeting rooms named in Welsh, and has students and staff from both sides of the border.
Shropshire (; alternatively Salop; abbreviated, in print only, Shrops; demonym Salopiansə-LOH-pee-ən, is a landlocked county in England, bordering Wales to the west, Cheshire to the north, Staffordshire to the east, and Worcestershire and Herefordshire to the south. Shropshire Council was created in 2009, a unitary authority taking over from the previous county council and five district councils. The borough of Telford and Wrekin has been a separate unitary authority since 1998, but remains part of the ceremonial county.
A Marcher Lord was a noble appointed by the King of England to guard the border between England and Wales.
Montgomeryshire, also known as Maldwyn is one of thirteen historic counties and a former administrative county of Wales. It is named after its county town, Montgomery, which in turn is named after one of William the Conqueror's main counsellors, Roger de Montgomerie, who was the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury.
The Maelor is an area of north-east Wales along the border with England. It is now entirely part of Wrexham County Borough.
The History of Herefordshire starts with a shire in the time of Athelstan (895–939), and Herefordshire is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1051. The first Anglo-Saxon settlers, the Magonsætan, were a sub-tribal unit of the Hwicce who occupied the Severn valley. The Magonsætan were said to be in the intervening lands between the Rivers Wye and Severn. The undulating hills of marl clay were surrounded by the Welsh mountains to the west; the Malvern Hills to the east; the Clent Hills of the Shropshire borders to the north, and the indeterminate extent of the Forest of Dean to the south. The shire name first recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was derived from "Here-ford", Old English for "Army crossing", the location for the city.
Shropshire was established during the division of Saxon Mercia into shires in the 10th century. It is first mentioned in 1006. After the Norman Conquest it experienced significant development, following the granting of the principal estates of the county to eminent Normans.
The Principality of Wales existed between 1216 and 1536, encompassing two-thirds of modern Wales during its height between 1267 and 1277. For most of its history it was ’annexed and united’ to the English Crown except for its earliest few decades. However, for a few generations, specifically the period from its foundation in 1216 to the completion of the conquest of Wales by Edward I in 1284, it was de facto independent under a Welsh prince of Wales, albeit one who swore fealty to the king of England.
Wigmore is a village and civil parish in the northwest part of the county of Herefordshire, England. It is located on the A4110 road, about 8 miles (13 km) west of the town of Ludlow, in the Welsh Marches. In earlier times it was also an administrative district called a hundred.
de Lacy is the surname of an old Norman family which originated from Lassy, Calvados. The family took part in the Norman conquest of England and the later Norman invasion of Ireland. The name is first recorded for Hugh de Lacy (1020–1085). His sons, Walter and Ilbert, left Normandy and travelled to England with William the Conqueror. The awards of land by the Conqueror to the de Lacy sons led to two distinct branches of the family: the northern branch, centred on Blackburnshire and west Yorkshire was held by Ilbert's descendants; the southern branch of Marcher Lords, centred on Herefordshire and Shropshire, was held by Walter's descendants.
Gwent was a medieval Welsh kingdom, lying between the Rivers Wye and Usk. It existed from the end of Roman rule in Britain in about the 5th century until the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century. Along with its neighbour Glywyssing, it seems to have had a great deal of cultural continuity with the earlier Silures, keeping their own courts and diocese separate from the rest of Wales until their conquest by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn. Although it recovered its independence after his death in 1063, Gwent was the first of the Welsh kingdoms to be overrun following the Norman conquest.
Eadric the Wild, also known as Wild Edric, Eadric Cild and Edric the Forester, was an Anglo-Saxon magnate of Shropshire and Herefordshire who led English resistance to the Norman Conquest, active in 1068–70.
The Marches Way is a partially waymarked long distance footpath in the United Kingdom. It runs 351 kilometres / 218 miles through the Welsh–English borderlands, traditionally known as the Welsh Marches and links the cities of Chester in the north and Cardiff in the south.
Wales in the Middle Ages covers the history of the country that is now called Wales, from the departure of the Romans in the early fifth century, until the annexation of Wales into the Kingdom of England in the early sixteenth century.
The history of Gwynedd in the High Middle Ages is a period in the History of Wales spanning the 11th through the 13th centuries. Gwynedd, located in the north of Wales, eventually became the most dominant of Welsh principalities during this period. Distinctive achievements in Gwynedd include further development of Medieval Welsh literature, particularly poets known as the Beirdd y Tywysogion associated with the court of Gwynedd; the reformation of bardic schools; and the continued development of Cyfraith Hywel. All three of these further contributed to the development of a Welsh national identity in the face of Anglo-Norman encroachment of Wales.
The England–Wales border, sometimes referred to as the Wales–England border or the Anglo–Welsh border, is the border between England and Wales, two constituent countries of the United Kingdom. It runs for 160 miles (260 km) from the Dee estuary, in the north, to the Severn estuary in the south. It has followed broadly the same line since the 8th century, and in part that of Offa's Dyke; the modern boundary was fixed in 1536, when the former marcher lordships which occupied the border area were abolished and new county boundaries were created.
Pain fitzJohn was an Anglo-Norman nobleman and administrator, one of King Henry I of England's "new men", who owed their positions and wealth to the king.
Walter de Lacy was a Norman nobleman who went to England after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. He received lands in Herefordshire and Shropshire, and served King William I of England by leading military forces during 1075. He died in 1085 and one son inherited his lands. Another son became an abbot.
The conquest of Wales by Edward I, sometimes referred to as the Edwardian Conquest of Wales, to distinguish it from the earlier Norman conquest of Wales, took place between 1277 and 1283. It resulted in the defeat and annexation of the Principality of Wales, and the other last remaining independent Welsh principalities, by Edward I, King of England.
The Lost Lands of Wales, a minor political idea of the mid 1960s, called into question the status of areas along the east side of the England–Wales border which its proponents regarded as Welsh. The idea was propounded by the Lost Lands Liberation League, and related to parts of the counties of Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire.