Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Royal Palace of Aberffraw


I went in search of the royal palace at Aberffraw. There is a heritage and accommodation centre at Llys Llewelyn, and very good they are too. However these are barn conversions from 19th century stone buildings. The church promised something historic, however it has been heavily restored and is generally locked, although I am told that there is a fine Norman arch within. Most of the rest of the buildings in the village are 19th and early 20th century. It is not until you go into the heritage centre (where there is also a good shop and a tea room) that you can read up about the way the village looked in mediaeval times.

St Beuno's Church

This is the layout of the original royal palace. No.1 is the church, No.2 is the main court building, No.3 is the Chamber Block, where presumably the royal party slept, No.4 is the outhouse, which I took to be the latrine, No.5 is the stables (in mediaeval times only the very wealthiest has horses), No.6 is the store house where goods taken as taxes would have been stored and No.7 was the brewery, which was essential to purifying the water.

This is an artist's impression of how the palace would have looked in mediaeval times. Archaeologists have revealed traces of a wall and ditch / moat around the heart of the older part of the village which dates back to Roman times.

Note the position of the church and the bridge above. This was not a palace for the whole of the kingdom of Gwynedd. Monarchs and the court were peripatetic, they moved around their territory collecting tribute and taxes by way of food to sustain themselves and so these commote centres were in several locations in Gwynedd. It was the job of the local minor elites and their surfs (bondmen) to maintain the palace in the monarch's absence.

The royal palace at Aberffraw ceased to exist after the defeat of Llewelyn the Last. King Edward the First redistributed the lands to his own followers and this later led to the rise of the great local families - Bodorgan, Bodawen etc. The stones and timbers from the palace were dismantled and taken to Caernarfon, and were incorporated in the great castle there, a castle that was a tribute to another line of kingship altogether.

View of the village from the south west. Note the position of the church at the extreme left on the horizon.

The bridge is still intact, and crosses the river Fraw which runs from east to west.

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