BBC History Team Solves Riddle of Welsh History
One of the last great mysteries of the history of the independent Welsh nation was apparently solved yesterday by a group of English historians working for the BBC.
For centuries, people living in and around the chicken farm called Pen y Bryn on top of a hill overlooking the Menai Straits in Caernarvonshire have been convinced that it is a royal place.
More than that, they all firmly believed that the 36-acre farm was the last remnant of the palace of Llywelyn, the first and last prince of a "free" Wales, who died in 1282.
But Cadw, the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage, says it has found traces of a medieval house about 400 yards away, near to a Norman motte, or defensive mound, that is the real site of the palace.
Today, even the current prince has become intrigued in developments after Kathryn Gibson, the owner of Pen y Bryn, tried to convince him to accept that he is the 22nd, not the 21st Prince of Wales.
"We had all the local tradition that this was the palace site, but what we were lacking was the last documentary proof that this was the case," Mrs Gibson said yesterday after the broadcast of the programme on BBC2's History Mysteries series. "But thanks to Nick Barratt and his colleagues, we now have that."
Mr Barratt, who is The Daily Telegraph's "Family Detective" found the crucial evidence in archives at Bangor, a few miles from the site. A document dating to 1284 stated clearly that there was a "Ty Hir" or long house, at the centre of the manor of Aber, previously known as Aber Garth Celyn.
It was from there that Llywelyn was known to have written his last letter of defiance to the English. But the site near the motte was not a long house, but an H-shaped dwelling which the historians believe was an administrative centre for the infant Welsh court, but not the prince's home.
Investigations showed that the chicken farm, which has a tower attached to it tentatively, is built on the ruins of a long house. On another document, dating from the 1730s, the manor house at the centre of the lands of Aber is clearly identified as Pen y Bryn.
Mr Barratt said: "It shows that Llywelyn had two separate buildings, one domestic, one business, and that the Welsh court was much more sophisticated than English historians have portrayed it to be."
Mrs Gibson is hoping that the programme will be seeen by Prince Charles, whom she met a few years ago. "I told him that he ought to acknowledge that Edward I's son was not the first Prince of Wales and that he is the 22nd, not the 21st person to hold that title."
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