Finding Caerau – Part Two

The Case of the Missing Mountain: CHP Historian Mel Julian-Jones continues her search for the origins of Caerau…

Now armed with the knowledge that we might have a different name to search for – Cairdwygil, and variant spellings thereof – the search for Caerau continues through the Middle Ages. Now we hit some real problems.

The rate of survival for the acta and letters of the bishops of Llandaff is not ideal. Only three definite acts of Bishop Uhtred survive, although Uhtred was bishop for about ten years. Bishop Nicholas’s average is a little under one surviving act per year, and remains on average one per year until the time of Bishop William de Braose, when the average survival is one act for every four years. Bear in mind that a bishop would be almost constantly dealing with administration and sending letters, dealing with problems, and writing to his various churches throughout each year of his episcopate. For example, there are 219 acts surviving for Bishop Robert Chesney of Lincoln, and only 30 for Bishop Nicholas. In fact, the 219 acts of Bishop Robert are just under double the total number of surviving acts for Llandaff from 1140-1287. The statistical chances of finding an act specifically relating to Caerau or Caerdwygil are tiny. And, in fact, there isn’t one. Not a single one. We have no idea how many acts there were to begin with, so we don’t know exactly how many we’ve lost – but it could be anything from 85-99% of them. So more than likely all the acts relating to Caerau or Caerdwygil are in that missing proportion of acts. And that doesn’t help us AT ALL. Depressingly, Llandaff acta have a pretty good rate of survival for a Welsh diocese – far better than St David’s! [See, Llandaff Episcopal Acta 1140-1287, ed. David Crouch, (Cardiff, 1988), pp. xxxii-xxxiii].

Papal Bulls for 1119 (Pope Calixtus II), and the bulls of Pope Honorius II for 1128 and 1129 all confirm the villam of ‘Cairduicil’ with its chapel to the diocese of Llandaff, but after 1129 there is no further reference to this name. The official switch from its ancient name of ‘Dinduicil’ to ‘Cairduicil’ was not the last name-change it went through – at some point in the twelfth century the name shortened to ‘Caer’ and became ‘Caerau’ to reflect the presence of a second fortification. This could have happened unofficially and naturally in the vernacular or oral culture of the area prior to 1128 or 1119, of course, as the pope was unlikely to know himself the current local names of various places, and the Bulls simply copy the list of original (and in this case, ninth century) place names which Llandaff had provided. The change from ‘Cairduicil’ to variant spellings of the modern-day ‘Caerau’ only reflects the shift in what people were calling it, rather than officially marking the change. An undated thirteenth century charter of Caradoc, son of Gruffudd Began, grants land in ‘Lan Leuder near Caerau’ to Walter de Regny. [See, Cartae et Munimenta de Glamorgan, vol. III, 1271-1331, ed. G. T. Clark, (Cardiff, 1910), pp. 755-56]. The Latin reads, …et alterum capud tnedit se ad metas de la KAYRE …, but the geographical identifier ‘Began’ and the presence of Robert de Sumery, William de Barri the younger and Elias of St Michael on the witness list puts it in the Cardiff area and implies that this is indeed our Caerau. The next charter in the collection is one of Pagan de Regny granting a meadow in Papelmore (Dinas Powys) to Walter de Regny, which again would place the gift of lands near Kayre as being near Caerau. [See, Cartae et Munimenta de Glamorgan, vol. III, 1271-1331, ed. G. T. Clark, (Cardiff, 1910), p. 756].

Map of Cardiff in 1840 showing various placenames. Map from Cardiff Library Collection
Map of Cardiff in 1840 showing various placenames. Map from Cardiff Library Collection

Interestingly, from c.1196, a family bearing the locative(?) surname ‘Kairus’ or ‘Cairus’ is to be found in Glamorgan. It is unclear whether this is a locative or not, as it lacks the ‘de’ (meaning ‘of’, typical in locative surnames) and if it is, there are so many caerau to which it might refer that the name itself is not that helpful or defining. However, it is likely to be a locative surname because Caerau and Caer are Welsh terms, and the first names of these men are John and Milo, typical Norman or ‘Anglo-Norman’ names. What is more, they are likely to be middling knights, probably not important enough to have their own coat of arms, but they do seem to have their own seals, which they used to authenticate their gifts to Margam abbey [See, Cartae et Munimenta de Glamorgan, vol. II, 1196-1270, ed. G. T. Clark, (Cardiff, 1910), p. 432). Milo’s seal is a round seal in red wax, 1.5 in. in diameter, and shows a fleur-de-lis of elaborate design. Fleurs-de-lys were quite common symbols to use on seals, and there are several examples of South-Eastern Marchers under Gilbert de Clare’s lordship using such a device around this time, including William Cantilupe of Merthyr Mawr, and William de Sumery [See, NLW_PM 2050]. The land given to Margam was near Swansea rather than Cardiff, however, which leads me to suspect that they are from a different Caer, perhaps the Caer found in the Gower. However, the witnesses to the charters may shed light on the personal networks of these men, and they do seem to indicate a connection with our area of interest.

Firstly, the original charter to Margam Abbey was for a pasture, but in the time of Bishop Henry (1193-1218) the original grant was in dispute [See, Cartae et Munimenta de Glamorgan, vol. I, 447-1218, ed. G. T. Clark, (Cardiff, 1910), pp. 214-15]. John had long ago conceded the pasture to the monks because of a great offence (unspecified in the grant) that he and his son Milo had caused them. So as not to trouble the monks unjustly, John surrendered the pasture to the monks in this grant, and his son Milo swore an oath, touching holy relics in front of the bishop, that he would be ever faithful and obedient to the monks in all things and warrant the pasture against everyone with all his power [See, Llandaff Episcopal Acta 1140-1287, ed. David Crouch, (Cardiff, 1988), p. 45]. The actual date of this dispute is probably sometime in the 1190s, certainly before 1200, when Milo is found quitclaiming the land to the monks [See, NLW_291]. Milo is here named Milo de Penvey – it specifically states that his father was John Kairus. On the same roll, which covers 1200×1275, Milo de Penvey’s nephew Milo son of ‘Cadivor’ (a Welshman whose name has been Latinized by the scribe, one would assume) also gives or confirms lands to Margam, which includes the lands ‘his grandfather, John Kairus, gave to the monks’. Penvey is Pen-y-Fai, near modern-day Bridgend, and so it is more likely that John Kairus or Kayrus came from a nearer ‘Caer’, and is unconnected with the hillfort. However, Milo de Penvey’s grant is witnessed by Elias Fleming and his brother William Fleming, members of the same family who were lords of Michaelstone-super-Ely in the fourteenth century, as well as lords of St George’s and Wenvoe, which is an interesting connection in our context. Added to this, we are also told in Milo de Pevney’s confirmation that the land John Kairus gave to Margam bordered lands belonging to Herbert Scurlag, whose family did have lands in the county of Cardiff as well as the fee of Langewi (Llangyfelach) in the Swansea area [See, Cartae et Munimenta de Glamorgan, vol. II, 1196-1270, ed. G. T. Clark, (Cardiff, 1910), pp. 432-33]. Sadly, without a surviving inquisition post mortem detailing the lands in Milo or John’s possession when they died, we are unable to tell if they too had any lands in the Cardiff area as well as around Bridgend – but given the (albeit slim) evidence of personal connections with families in the right area, it is not inconceivable. However, I will still tentatively suggest that this is not the right family, particularly as my own research into family strategy indicates that families who ‘spiritually invested’ by granting lands to the church tended only to give to churches and foundations with strong connections to their power centres – which in this case seems to be the Bridgend/Pen-y-fai area, and not Caerau or the county of Cardiff. Nevertheless, I will keep them in mind and continue to look them up in the records as a possibility, just to be sure.

This deceptive little rabbit hole aside, we find much firmer ground with the various taxation records for the thirteenth century. Here, Caerau is certainly a prebend of Llandaff, and an important one at that.

The Synodal Rating of the Churches in the Deanaries of Llandaff offers an interesting insight into the relative status of Caerau as a prebend of Llandaff. Caerau is the second prebend to be listed in Calendar or Register of the tenth collection of tax to the work of the Pope or King of England of individual churches in the diocese of Llandaff whose amount exceeded the sum of six marks [See, Cartae et Munimenta de Glamorgan, vol. III, 1271-1331, ed. G. T. Clark, (Cardiff, 1910), p. 944]. The first of the prebends listed is that of St Andrew’s, 6s. and 5d. over the amount; Caerau, listed next as Prebenda de KAYR cum capell’, is 14s. 8d. over. The first church listed is Llanririd. The churches of Peterston with its chapel, St George’s and St Fagans follow it in that order, each being varying amounts over the six marks. The list appears to be typically compiled in terms of status rather than value or geographical or alphabetical order. The temporalities of the bishop are at the top of the list, followed by the Chapter, the Archdeaconate, the Precentor, the Treasurer, and the Chancellor, with the prebends following, then the churches, then the vicarages. [See, Cartae et Munimenta de Glamorgan, vol. III, 1271-1331, ed. G. T. Clark, (Cardiff, 1910), p. 944].

Being valued in the papal tax of 1291 at £4 is fairly significant, too – that’s the rough equivalent of around £2,000 today. That was more than a craftsman in the building trade earned in a year, even if he worked solidly for the full 365 days and took no Sundays or holy days off. In fact, in 1291, £4 would buy you roughly 400 working days of a craftsman’s time. [See The National Archives Currency Converter Tool,].

But this is information we already know – I’m just as interested in the reference to the chapel here. Note that ‘chapel’ is not necessarily referring to the church – a chapel was set up for perpetual memorial of someone and their spouse, heirs and/or ancestors, and provided for in the founder’s will to support priests or chaplains whose task was to say mass for those souls in perpetual memoriam. Private manorial chapels were set up within the manors of the affluent laity, so that they did not necessarily need to worship in the parish churches. William (II) de Cantilupe established a chapel at his manor of Eyton in Bedfordshire, for example, as part of his lavish and impressive additions in the 1240s. So who was the chapel at Caerau founded by, and who was it for?

Sadly, this is probably something we may not find out. I’d like to look more closely at the ecclesiastic angle as far as possible, but I also want to delve further into the personal aspect of Caerau as a place – who was living here, working here, and worshipping here? Sadly, because it was a possession of Llandaff and the patchy nature of surviving sources has already been explained, it may be impossible to look at individuals at Caerau in this way. On the other hand, the nearby village of Michaelston-super-Ely was in the hands of several Marcher families throughout the period, and it is possible to look at those families and to get a picture of their personal networks throughout the area and beyond. As the CAER Heritage Project is seeking to expand into researching this deserted village, as well as the Caerau ringwork, I will be looking further into this as the research progresses. I would love to be able to build up pictures of the medieval men and women who were once familiar and powerful figures in the area, and reintroduce them to modern-day residents as part of the rich tapestry of local stories and heritage this part of Cardiff has to offer.

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