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18 June 2014
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Legacies - South West Wales

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Immigration and Emigration
Pembroke Castle
The Flemish colonists in Wales

Little England beyond Wales

The story behind this curious name for south Pembrokeshire involves ravished lands, economic migrants and mercenaries. This part of South Wales has seen many invaders come and go, Romans, Vikings and Normans, to name but a few. The Flemish people who arrived in the 12th Century, after the Norman Conquest, made a lasting and unique impression, still present today in the geographical divide across the county between the English and Welsh language.

On the Flemings
‘The inhabitants of this province derived their origin from Flanders, and were sent by King Henry I to inhabit these districts; a people brave and robust, ever most hostile to the Welsh; a people, I say, well versed in commerce and woollen manufactories; a people anxious to seek gain by sea or land, in defiance of fatigue and danger; a hardy race, equally fitted for the plough or the sword; a people brave and happy’. Geraldus Cambrensis, Itinerary Through Wales, 1188

One of the first arrivals of the Flemish to the British Isles was at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. In the 11th Century, Flanders was becoming perilously overpopulated and the Flemish, in the area now known as Belgium, were forced to move. Many moved to Germany, while others joined the Norman army, becoming an important element in their forces. The Norman kings rewarded those who fought with land in the conquered countries, giving them territory to live on, on the proviso that they defended it on behalf on the Norman invaders.

Before the Norman Invasion, Wales was subject to much infighting and was in no position to defend itself with a united front. William I installed his earls along the Welsh border at Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford, and they soon made progress into Wales. The Earl of Shrewsbury took his forces southwest, through Powys and Ceredigion, to Dyfed, where they established a castle at Pembroke.


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