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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.
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
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Camb. De Rebus (R.S) Vol. 1 p. 28).
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
Bishop of St
David, with whom he was staying at Kerreu, Gerald set out to grant it.
Camb. De Rebus (R.S) Vol. 1 p. 29).
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".
Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales - Benj. Heath Malkin
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
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.
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.
to have been another wave in 1154.
Scenery, Antiquities and Biography of South Wales - Benj. Heath Malkin 1804).
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