Princess Gwenllian Centre, Kidwelly


The Princess Gwenllian Centre, Hillfield Villas. Kidwelly

This community centre is named after a woman who led a local army against Norman settlers. Her name also appears at Maes Gwenllian (“Gwenllian’s Field”), 1.5km north of Kidwelly.
To hear how to pronounce Gwenllian, press play:Or, download mp3 (13KB)

In 1135 Welsh rulers were buoyed by the outcome of a battle near Loughor in which c.500 Normans were killed. Gruffydd ap Rhys (c.1090-1137), who ruled Deheubarth (southern Wales), thought this was his opportunity to expel the Normans from his kingdom. He travelled north to ask his father-in-law, ruler of Gwynedd, for help.

In his absence the Lord of Kidwelly, Maurice de Londres, launched a counter-attack. Gwenllian, Gruffydd’s wife, fought back. Her army attacked the town and castle at Kidwelly in 1136 but was defeated. Gwenllian was killed at what is now Maes Gwenllian. One of her sons, Morgan, was killed and another, Maelgwn, captured. Legend has it that Gwenllian’s headless ghost roams Maes Gwenllian and the town of Kidwelly, perhaps searching for her head.

Writing later in the same century, Gerald of Wales likened Gwenllian to Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons (who was killed by Achilles when she led an army of female warriors to Troy to attack the Greeks).

Gerald also recorded a practical joke played on Maurice de Londres, who kept deer and many sheep in the Kidwelly area. Maurice's wife had two dead stags stuffed with wool. She teased her husband about not being able to control his deer, which she said had even started attacking the sheep. To prove her point, she had the stags cut open to reveal the wool. Maurice was amazed and sent his hunting hounds to attack the living deer.

These tales appear in Gerald’s account of his journey through Wales with the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1188 to recruit for the third crusade. They visited Kidwelly Castle and probably stayed a night there.

The Princess Gwenllian Centre opened in May 2001 to provide sports and meeting facilities for the community.

Postcode: SA17 4UL    View Location Map

Website of community centre (Kidwelly Town Council)

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