Edward II’s other curious stone

As my previous blog On finding Edward II’s missing plaque is proving very popular I thought I would share some information about Edward’s ‘other’ stone.

Edward II, Hugh Despenser and members of their party, fleeing from Isabella were supposed to have stayed for a while at Gelli Lenor Fawr Farm at Llangynwyd – a highly unlikely event.

However, a letter writer, Ap Cadrawd, in the South Wales Daily News relates a story concerning a Bridgend contemporary who had brought to light an interesting find that placed ‘beyond a shadow of doubt’ the truth of Edward’s visit to the farm.

According to Ap Cadrawd, Edward tried to spot Isabella’s approaching forces by hiding himself in an oak tree each day, returning to the farm at night. Ap Cadrawd places the tree ‘on a spot below the house,’ and having visited the site myself I can confirm it does indeed give panoramic views across the countryside. Frederick Evans in Tir Iarll also writes that Edward, this time on his own at Gelli Lenor, ‘hid in the leafy branches of an oak tree near the farm, and the soldiers looking for him failed to see him.’

The tree itself was reportedly cut down in the late 1860s, to the ‘annoyance of the landowner C. R. M Talbot,’ and author and poet, Brinley Richards, writes, ‘Tom Evans … could remember seeing the stump of the tree where the stone now stands. His grandfather had cut down the tree by mistake.’

Thomas Christopher Evans, in History of Llangynwyd Parish wrote ‘The trunk of the oak-tree thus honoured stood until within the last twenty years, when it was removed, and was known as Cadair Edward (“Edward’s Chair”).

However, Morien, writing in 1905, refers to the tree as the King’s Oak (Derwen y Brenin) and rather than it being cut down said it had rotted away, adding ‘as long as any portion of it remained, it was revered by the generous country people.’ According to him, when the parish road was widened some years prior to his writing, they bent the road around the remnants of the tree and the bend was still called ‘King’s Oak.’

Morien admits he received this information from Evans and they both had tea on the spot imagining ‘where Edward II must have partaken of cawl.’ However, he seems to have confused his information as Evans refers to the tree as Cadair Edward in 1887 and the 1898-1908 Ordinance Survey map also calls it this – and the location is along a dirt track, not a road.

Cadir Edward

1898-1908 Ordinance Survey showing the site of Cadair Edward   (Crown Copyright: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.)

In the 1890s another tree falling in a storm had, amid its roots, a stone with a legible inscription on it supposedly commemorating the location of Cadair Edward. Ap Cadrawd however, confesses that far from being ancient it was ‘hands that revealed that stone – aye, more, raised it up and carved the inscription upon it barely six months ago – were the hands of three well-known living inhabitants of the parish.’ It seems these men wanted to mark the spot where Edward’s oak tree had stood and in 1899 inscribed a stone with ‘Cadair Edward II., 1327’ – despite the fact he was captured in 1326.

Brinley Richards offers a different story, ‘At the request of Miss Emily Charlotte Talbot, Margam, a stone in front of the farm was removed to the spot where the tree had grown.’

Gildas, a journalist for The Cambrian, saw the stone in 1901: ‘One day last week in the course of a perambulation from Maesteg to Llangoneyd … my attention was drawn to a peculiar shaped stone in a three-cornered field adjoining Gellilenor Farm. On one side, the inscription in good black lettering appeared: ‘Cadair Edward, 1327.” My informant related that a local tradition exists to the effect that at one time Edward the Second rested upon this stone, or within the branches of a neighbouring tree – which he would not be positive, neither will I.’

I went to see the stone in September 2017 and interviewed several local people who explained that two of the three men responsible for erecting the monument were the local stone mason and a farmer, Thomas Evans. The stone itself has now been whitewashed and the original black legend garishly painted red. It is not known who did this – one local resident claiming it was done by an ‘interfering busybody.’

Both Edward’s plaque and Cadir Edward seem to commemorate events which are unlikely to be true, but in doing so they have themselves become historic!

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