I am intrigued by history and especially the local history of the beautiful Cynllaith valley, where I live in a 15th century cruck-framed house, made from an oak felled in 1485. That tree must have been growing in the area when Owain Glyndwr was living in his settlement at Sycharth.
It is always difficult to decide where historical fact ends and mythical tales begin. Happily however that is not my problem as I am an artist and not a historian. I get inspiration from my surroundings, talking to historians, reading stories and poems about the historical Welsh characters and their lives.
I can see the remains of the motte and bailey settlement of Sycharth from my studio. It was destroyed by Prince Hal (later to become Henry V) in 1403. The fish ponds can still be seen but the fish are long gone and the area is now farm land. Few people realise that six hundred years ago the area was fertile and cultivated, a veritable 'Garden of Eden'; with a large fortified house, vineyard, deer park, orchard, dovecote and two fish ponds.
We know this from the cywydd (a Welsh metric poem, often written in praise of a house and/or its owner), by Iolo Goch, a famous Welsh bard. He describes the house itself in some detail. ' fair wooden buildings on top of a green hill… Tiled roof and a chimney from which the smoke would grow..”
Owain Glyndwr was born and raised in Sycharth in 1354 or 1359, although the family had another house at Glyndyfrdwyd, near Corwen in the Dee Valley.
In 1380 he went to the Inns of Court in London to begin training as a lawyer. He was said to fit in well at the Court of the English king, Richard II.
Later, he is recorded as taking part in military campaigns, probably as a mercenary...this may have been the source of funding for the splendours of Sycharth.
By 1400 the relationships between the Welsh and English were becoming strained, with the Welsh tending to favour the deposed king, over Henry IV. However it was a local dispute which sparked Glyndwr into open rebellion.
In 1399 Gyndwr had petitioned the English Parliament in an attempt to reclaim some of his lands, which Baron de Grey of Ruthin had annexed, but was rebuffed.
In 1400 Henry IV made his son, Prince Hal, Prince of Wales...probably the final straw for the Welsh.
On 16 September that year Owen Glyndwr was himself proclaimed The true Prince of Wales by a congregation of local nobleman and with the support of the Church. He raised a force which, on 18th September, burned the English town of Ruthin; followed by Denbigh, Ruddlan and Oswestry.
1402: Penal laws against the Welsh were introduced by Henry IV and this merely inflamed the situation. The rebellion gained support, and territory.
1403: Sycharth (and Glyndyfrdwy) were sacked by Prince Hal. Sycharth was burnt to the ground, nothing remained. The Cynllaith valley would never be the same again.
Glyndwr was crowned Prince of Wales at Machynlleth 1404, in the presence of envoys from Scotland and France, and in 1405 a French force landed in support of his cause, but returned home without engaging in any major battle. The foreign support soon faded.
However the rebellion continued as a guerrilla war. It was moderately successfully, until around 1412. William Shakespeare was historically accurate in putting the words into Glyndwr’s mouth: ''Three times hath Henry Bolinbroke made head against my power: thrice to the banks of the Wye, and sandy-bottomed Severn, have I sent him, bootless home, and weather-beaten back”
Glyndwr’s final resting place is unknown, but I believe that his heart was cut out, in true medevial fashion and buried on top of the mound at Sycharth.