Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Aberffraw was the royal site of the kings of Gwynedd from the 7th century (or perhaps earlier) until 1282. It is situated in the south-west of the island of Anglesey (Môn) on the estuary of the river Ffraw. Aber ‘river-mouth’ (< Celtic *ad-ber-) is common in place-names in Brittany (Breizh) and Scotland (Alba)—in what used to be the country of the Picts— as well as elsewhere in Wales (Cymru). Today, the name (locally pronounced Berffro) designates a village, the bay onto which the estuary opens, and the bay’s protected ‘heritage coastline’. The population of the community of Aberffraw according to the 2001 Census was 1293, of which 876 inhabitants over the age of 3 could speak Welsh (69.2%).
Archaeology and History
Excavations carried out in 1973 and 1974 were interpreted as a Roman fort of the later 1st century, with refortification in the 5th or 6th century. Anglesey was first invaded by the Romans under Paulinus in ad 60, as described by Tacitus. However, it could not be immediately garrisoned, owing to the military disaster of the revolt of Boud¼ca. Therefore, the Roman fort probably dates to the subsequent activities of Agricola, who was Roman Britain’s governor in the period c. ad 78–85. The post-Roman re-defence may reflect the arrival at the site of the court of Gwynedd’s first dynasty, who claimed descent from the 5th-century hero Cunedda (Wledig) fab Edern. These early strata were heavily overlain by remains of medieval occupation attributable to the court of Gwynedd. That the site was already a royal centre in the 7th century is further indicated by the Latin commemorative inscription to king Cadfan (who died c. 625) at the nearby church at Llangadwaladr: CATAMANUS REX SAPIENTISIMUS OPINATISIMUS OMNIUM REGUM ‘Cadfan wisest and most renowned of all kings’. The church itself bears the name of Cadfan’s grandson Cadwaladr (†664), who also succeeded as king of Gwynedd.
Aberffraw remained a principal seat or the principal seat for Gwynedd’s ‘second dynasty’, which came to power with the accession of Merfyn Frych in 825.