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Not the usual stuff!

1. The banks of the Taff once had forts to guard against attacks by the Irish

The Irish were a menacing threat to Roman Britain and forts were built along what is now the Taff to guard against their attacks. Colonies of Irish existed in Wales long after the Romans. Names such as Llyn and Dinllaen are of Irish origin, as was the kingdom of Dyfed, where there are 20 stones inscribed with letters in ogham, from Ireland.

2. Vikings sold the people of Wales as slaves

The Vikings repeatedly attacked Wales in the 10th century. From strongholds in the Isle of Man and Dublin they savaged communities along the coast. It's probably in this time that Scandinavian names, later adopted in English, were given to places like Swansea, Bardsey, Anglesey and Fishguard. There is evidence that the Northmen established small trading stations in Cardiff and there was an extensive stronghold in Anglesey, whose people were sold as slaves. In 987, 2,000 men of the island were captured and sold. The next year, places like Llantwit Major and St Dogmaels were among those plundered.

3. The word 'Sais' was first given to a Welshman who knew how to speak English

'Sais' is still used today in Welsh to describe someone English, sometimes in a derogatory context. However, it was first used in the 15th century to describe a Welshman who knew how to speak English. Welsh people had little reason to know the language in the middle ages, and the use of the word suggests the knowledge was rare and viewed with contempt

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4. A martyr was burnt at the stake for heresy in Cardiff

Thomas Capper's life was ended at Cardiff in 1542 when he was burned alive. He was a Protestant and the first religious martyr in Wales since Roman times, a victim of Henry VIII's persecution of those who denied the practice of Catholic mass. In 1584, Rice Jones of Gelligaer appeared before magistrates at Cardiff for playing tennis at the time of divine service.


5. There could have been a 'New Wales' on the east coast of North America

There's a New England in the USA and a Nova Scotia in Canada. And there might also have been a "New Wales". Between 1616 and 1632, William Vaughan of Llangyndeyrn, Carmarthenshire, sought to establish a Welsh colony in Newfoundland. His efforts were in vain.


6 The Four Capitals



The four capitals

The "four centres of the Great Sessions" were Carmarthen, Caernarfon, Denbigh and Brecon - "the capitals, so to speak, of the four corners of Wales", says John Davies. Carmarthen was the biggest town in Wales in the 16th century, with around 2,000 people. The other three had around 1,000. Swansea, Tenby, Monmouth and Pembroke also had around 1,000 people and there were probably slightly more in Cardiff. By 1700, Wrexham was the largest town in Wales but Carmarthen had re-established its lead by 1770. By 1801, Swansea was the biggest town, with over 10,000 people living in what was Britain's main copper-producing area.


The Tywyn Stone 

The first surviving words in Welsh are those inscribed around 700 on a stone in a church in Tywyn. But the first Welsh may have been written down as early as 600. Early Welsh was the medium of Taliesin and Aneirin, poets of the time. This is particularly impressive as Latin was the only written medium throughout Europe and there was virtually no written French, Spanish or Italian until after 1000. The adoption of the word 'Cymru' may have been around the same time, with the word 'Kymry' used in a poem from 633. At that time, the word referred to the Old North as well as to Wales.


8. There were still places where no one could speak English in the 20th century

As late as 1921, 56% of the population of the parish of Llanddeiniolen, near Caernarfon, had no knowledge of English and there was one parish on the Llyn peninsula (Bodferin) where everyone was monoglot Welsh. In the 1930s there were nearly 100,000 people in Wales who could speak only Welsh.

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