Battle of Crogen site, Castle Mill

Link to French translationBattle of Crogen site, Castle Mill

At Castle Mill, in the Ceiriog Valley, the Offa’s Dyke Path passes the site of a battle in 1165 between Welsh soldiers and the army of King Henry II.

Henry took control of large areas of Wales after he gained the throne in 1154. In part, this was down to Powys landowners seeking protection from their neighbours further west in Wales. Henry was a powerful king, ruling a large swathe of France as well as England.

Henry’s authority was later undermined by his dispute with Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who defied the king to protect the Church’s interests. The Welsh leaders saw their opportunity to recapture the lands they had yielded to Henry, who responded by sending a full-strength army to the Oswestry area.

For once, the Welsh forces were united. Led by Owain Gwynedd, they waited until Henry’s army had entered the narrow Ceiriog Valley and then attacked. They had the advantage of local knowledge and may have made use of the remains of Offa’s Dyke – built to defend England from the Welsh. In the ensuing battle, many soldiers on both sides were killed. Eventually Henry’s forces retreated in defeat.

Gerald of Wales referred to the battle in the description of his tour of Wales in 1188 with Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, to recruit for the third crusade. They had travelled from the North Wales coast via Chester and Oswestry, then entered the territory of the princes of Powys, who came to meet them. Gerald wrote that the area was noted for its stud farms, breeding fine horses of Spanish ancestry.

When Henry II entered Powys in 1165 he had murdered hostages and burned churches and villages, according to Gerald. Owain’s sons wanted to attack English churches in revenge, but Owain said it was vital to have God on their side. Gerald regarded the English defeat as a lesson from God.

Gerald and Baldwin completed their tour by travelling to Hereford via Ludlow and Leominster.

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