Medieval History Term of the Week: Cantred or Cantref

Cantred:

– Name applied by Anglo-Normans (usually when making grants of land) to pre-existing territorial units; later used of administrative divisions of certain counties in Ireland. (Frame, Robin. Colonial Ireland, 1169-1369, 144)

Cantref:

– A Welsh political and administrative division, similar to English shires.

*term definitions retrieved from Netserf’s Medieval Glossary

From The Itinerary of Archibishop Baldwin through Wales by Giraldus Cambrensis:

CHAPTER X

Tywy river – Caermardyn – monastery of Albelande

Having crossed the river Tywy in a boat, we proceeded towards
Caermardyn, leaving Lanstephan and Talachar {97} on the sea-coast to
our left. After the death of king Henry II., Rhys, the son of
Gruffydd, took these two castles by assault; then, having laid
waste, by fire and sword, the provinces of Penbroch and Ros, he
besieged Caermardyn, but failed in his attempt. Caermardyn {98}
signifies the city of Merlin, because, according to the British
History, he was there said to have been begotten of an incubus.

This ancient city is situated on the banks of the noble river Tywy,
surrounded by woods and pastures, and was strongly inclosed with
walls of brick, part of which are still standing; having Cantref
Mawr
, the great cantred, or hundred, on the eastern side, a safe
refuge, in times of danger, to the inhabitants of South Wales, on
account of its thick woods; where is also the castle of Dinevor,
{99} built on a lofty summit above the Tywy, the royal seat of the
princes of South Wales. In ancient times, there were three regal
palaces in Wales: Dinevor in South Wales, Aberfrau in North Wales,
situated in Anglesea, and Pengwern in Powys, now called Shrewsbury
(Slopesburia); Pengwern signifies the head of a grove of alders.

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