The battle of Arthuret

The battle of Arthuret
May 2011

Report by Mike Goodman from Off The Wall.

Around 570ad two armies faced each other, one led by the Christian king Rhydderch and the other by the pagan warlord Gwenddoleu. The battle was fought somewhere around Arthuret church.

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The name Arthuret comes from the old welsh language meaning “Arthurs head”. The story goes that some years previously the hero and warlord King Arthur had fallen in battle at Camboglanna near Castlesteads and his enemies had cut off his head which according to their beliefs would give them great power in battle, sticking his head on a wooden pole they would go into battle with this trophy as their battle standard thinking it would put fear into their enemies. Rhydderch had marched south from his stronghold of Dumbarton rock determined to take the strategic area of the Solway from his rival Gwenddoleu, he camped at a place overlooking the Solway near Annan, we now know this as Carrutherstown after his name, they then marched on to the river Esk.
Waiting for him was Gwenddoleu local warlord who ruled the local area, his stronghold was the hill fort overlooking the valley where the rivers Liddle and Esk joined at Liddle strength, now the ruins of a Norman Motte and Bailey, this area is known as Carwhinley today just northeast of Longtown. Legends say that the battle was fought for many days and that the slaughter was tremendous and that upwards of eighty thousand men fell there.
Rhydderch was victorious, Gwenddoleu was killed and the standard with the head of Arthur on it captured. They then took his head and buried it in the local chapel which now bears his name of Arthuret. After the battle a story is told of Gwenddoleu’s bard being driven mad by the sight of the great army being destroyed, who then fled north and lived in the forests around Beattock as a wild man who became a prophet, he foretold his death as a triple death, shortly before his death St Kentigern had searched him out and converted him to Christianity, Kentigern had been invited by Rhydderch to found a diocese in the area this he did at the site of Hoddom near Ecclefechan .
The bards name Myrddin, we know it as Merlin, whether this was the same Merlin of the Arthurian legends we will never know, taunted one day by local shepherds he was driven off a cliff falling onto a wooden stake with his head stuck under the flowing water of a stream, bringing true his prophesy of his three deaths falling, stabbing and drowning.

To learn more about local myths, history and legends look out for future tales in BIG and join us at Off The Wall for one of our heritage tours.

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