Battle of Stalling Down
|Battle of Stalling Down|
|Part of Glyndŵr Rising|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Owain Glyndŵr||Henry IV of England|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Stalling Down is a battle reputed to have taken place in the late autumn or early winter of 1403, between the supporters of the Welsh leader Owain Glyndŵr and those of King Henry IV of England. It was part of the Glyndŵr Rising or Welsh Revolt of 1400–1415.
Stalling Down is a rolling area of open land a few miles east of the town of Cowbridge, now the village common of St Hilary in the Vale of Glamorgan. The exact site of the battle and the precise details of the action are not known. The general site is known locally as Bryn Owain, meaning Owain's Hill.
The site was known as Stallington, evolving to Stalling Down. A Roman road runs over the hill as it traverses the area and would have been a convenient route for moving a very large army along for the English.
The Opposing Forces
The Welsh army also included a French contingent assimilated into forces from Morgannwg led by Rhys Gethin ('swarthy Rhys') and Cadwgan, Lord of Glyn Rhondda commanding the contingent from the Rhondda Valleys region. Cadwgan had a home at Aberochwy, near what is today Treorchy. He fought using a battleaxe as his weapon of choice and was later known as Cadwgan of the Bloody Axe. Owain Glyndŵr is also reported to have been present in the battle in person.
The battle is said to have lasted 18 hours and resulted in an appalling defeat for the King's army. The blood was fetlock deep on the horses that survived the bloody battle.
The English army retreated through Cardiff pursued by the Welsh, in a thunderstorm and terrible conditions including flooding.
A Grisly Find
In nearby Llanblethian church in 1896 explorations prior to Victorian church improvements revealed an oak plank in the floor, which when prised up, revealed a stone stairway descending to a crypt. Inside the crypt were piled three hundred male skeletons, without coffins. The crypt measured some seventeen feet by fifteen and stood seven feet high at its highest point, the apex of the arched and vaulted roof. Small wall openings to the exterior had been covered up on the outside by earth, effectively sealing the crypt to the outside world.
The bones were immediately buried in the churchyard. The clerk's pew contains an inscription that this church was the burial place of the Sweeting family 'before the war with Owen Glyndŵr'.
The church is some three miles from the battle ground.
Re-examination of historical sources
More recently, historians have begun to question the veracity of the report of a battle at Stalling Down; for example, the foremost modern authority on Glyndŵr, the late R. R. Davies, made no mention of it in his meticulous account of the revolt, published in 1995. The problem lies in the fact that the earliest recorded reference to the battle is late, and is found in the works of the 18th-century writer Iolo Morganwg. Morganwg was well known for taking liberties with Welsh history, and the 'ancient' manuscript on which he is supposed to have based his account of Stalling Down has never been traced. Morganwg's account held considerable sway for some years, and was repeated by several later writers, including the Edwardian historian Arthur Bradley in his 1901 biography of Owain Glyndŵr. In it, he places the battle in 1405, calling it the 'battle of Bryn Owen'. Such uncritical recountings of Morganwg's version of events have had a considerable effect on popular perceptions of Glyndŵr's revolt in the Glamorgan area.
Nevertheless, in spite of this uncertainty it is not safe to conclude that Stalling Down never occurred. There is much local tradition to be found in connection with it (see above), and the context of a battle in either the summer of 1403 or 1405 accords well with our understanding of the progress of Glyndŵr's revolt. Glyndŵr's presence at nearby Carmarthen in the summer of 1403 is well attested, and it may be that an incursion into nearby Glamorgan produced a confrontation of which the battle of Stalling Down, as remembered today, is a manifestation.
- Bradley, Arthur. Owain Glyndŵr (1901).
- Davies, R. R. The Revolt of Owain Glyn Dŵr (Oxford, 1995).