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18 June 2014
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Immigration and Emigration
The Flemish colonists in Wales

Asylum Seekers

Flanders suffered greatly after a series of storms, in 1106. Samuel Lewis wrote, "During a tremendous storm on the coast of Flanders, the sand hills and embankments were in many places carried away, and the sea inundated a large tract of country."

This led a large number of Flemings to seek asylum in England, where they were welcomed by Henry I. They settled in various colonies across England, but soon, Samuel Lewis wrote, they "became odious to the native population", and Henry I moved the Flemings to the remote farming settlement in the cantref, a district of Rhôs, in south Pembrokeshire.

This systematic planting of Flemish settlers by Henry I, and later Henry II, had significant consequences for the people of south Pembrokeshire. Geography Professor, Harold Carter looks at the effects, "If you look at the 'Brut y Tywysogyon' - the Chronicle of the Welsh Princes - it records 'a certain folk of strange origins and customs occupy the whole cantref of Rhôs the estuary of the river Cleddau, and drove away all the inhabitants of the land'. In a way you could almost call it a process of ethnic cleansing."


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