FLEMISH.

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Landsker Line.

For nearly a thousand years Pembrokeshire has been divided by an invisible but definite line called the Landsker line (Norse boundary?). It runs from Newgale via Roch, Treffgarne, Spittal, Clarbeston, Narberth then down to the sea at the mouth of the river Taf. North of this line is the Welshery where the majority of the people are Welsh speaking descended from the older native tribes. South of the Landsker the people are of very mixed origins: Scandinavians, Normans, Anglo Saxons and Flemings.

Tradition says that the Landsker became fixed in the 12c when many Flemish refugees from the flooding of the Zuider Zee came to England and, as Caradoc of Llancarvan writes "they besought Henry I to give them some void place in which to dwell, and he being very liberal with that which was not his own, gave them the land of Ros in Dyfed or West Wales where are built  Pembroke, Tenby and Haverfordwest, and there they remain to this day, as may well be perceived by their speech and condition differing so greatly from the rest of the country".

A second group, mainly soldiers was imported by Henry II who, according to Geraldus, "placed English among them to teach them the language; and they are now English and the plague of Dyfed and South Wales". He describes them as "a people well versed in commerce and woollen manufactures, anxious to seek gain by sea or land, in defiance of fatigue and danger."

Edward III encouraged another immigration of Flemish cloth workers in 1337, and fulling mills were erected by them at Cilgerran, Narberth and other places. The use of water power in the woollen trade was certainly due to the Flemings.

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The folk who live in the neighbourhood came from Flanders, for they had been sent there by Henry I .... to colonize the district (The Flemings seem to have come at various times, in 1105, 1107 and 1111. They are a brave and robust people but very hostile to the Welsh and in a perpetual state of conflict with them. They are highly skilled in the wool trade, ready to work hard and face danger by land or sea in the pursuit of gain and, as time and opportunity offer, prompt to turn their hand to the sword or the ploughshare.

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A strange habit of these Flemings is that they boil the right shoulder blades of rams, but not roast them, strip off all the meat and, by examining them, foretell the future and reveal the secret of events long past.

c1174  Gerald as personal legate of Archbishop Richard of Canterbury (to insist on the payment of tithes of cheese and wool in the diocese of St David's*) excommunicated William Carquit, Sheriff of Pembrokeshire and Constable of Pembroke Castle, for removing eight yoke of Oxen from Pembroke Priory.

* The Flemings established by Henry I in Rhos had been granted immunity from the tithes of cheese and wool, but Gerald made sure that their fellow nationals outside Rhos should pay.

1175-6 not dated.

The inhabitants of the cantref of Dugledu and those of Angle were recalled under the sentence of interdict. The latter, though dwelling in the province (provincia) of Penbroc, were Flemings, and like those of Ros and Dugledu had spent money to obtain the immunity, which they likewise wished to enjoy.

(Ger. Camb. De Rebus (R.S) Vol. 1 p. 28).

1175-6 not dated.

The parishioners of Angle, which was a church of Gerald archdeacon of Brecon, and which was under interdict, and its parishioners excommunicated on account of their rebellion, sought the grace of absolution, with the leave and blessing of David the

Bishop of St David, with whom he was staying at Kerreu, Gerald set out to grant it.

(Ger. Camb. De Rebus (R.S) Vol. 1 p. 29).

 

The Flemish.

"Take this as a taste of their art in old time. Under Henry II one William Mengunel, a gentleman of those parts, finding by his skill of prediction that his wife had played false with him and conceived by his own nephew, formally dressed the shoulder bone of one of his own rams; and sitting at dinner (pretending it to be taken out of his neighbour’s flock) requests his wife (equalling him in these divinations) to give her judgement, she curiously observes, and at last with great laughter casts it from her. The gentleman importuning her reason of so vehement an affection, receives answer of her that his wife, out of whose flock the ram was taken, had by incestuous copulation with her husband's nephew fraughted herself with a young one".

(The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales - Benj. Heath Malkin  1804).

Flemish into Wales.

(Episcopal Acts relating to Welsh Diocess 1066 1272 - James Conway Davies Vol.1).

About the year 1108 some very high winds blew the sands of the sea shore over the face of the Netherlands in so destructive a manner, that the habitable part of the country was much injured, and what before had been the natural barrier against the inroads of the overwhelming element became deep sea so that many of the inhabitants were obliged to seek their fortunes in other countries. A Part of them came to England where they did much mischief committing depredations on the peaceable inhabitants.

King Henry therefore was under the necessity of driving them into Wales. They landed in Pembrokeshire and settled for sometime in that part of the country called Rhos (Caradoc Llancarvan’s account). Some time between 1113 and 1115 the Flemings came a second time into England.

King Henry being then in want of men to oppose Griffyth ap Rees sent to his garrisons and Norman officers and to such of the Welsh as sided with him requesting that they would kindly receive and entertain these Flemings and give them lands for a subsistence, on condition that they should become his liege subjects and serve in his armies when required, in behalf of him and of those who were faithful to him. To this they agreed and those strangers had lands granted to them in that part of Pembrokeshire called Rhos where they established themselves as subjects of the English King. He with much policy, placed among them Englishmen or Saxons, as they were termed by the natives, to teach them the English language, and now according to the testimony it is English they are, and the depredation of South Wales, addicted to deceit and false swearing, beyond any people that were ever known in the island of Britain.

There appears to have been another wave in 1154.

(The Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales - Benj. Heath Malkin 1804).


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