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Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 402320

Map Reference SO30SE

Grid Reference SO37840127

Unitary (Local) Authority Monmouthshire

Old County Monmouthshire

Community Usk

Type of Site BATTLE SITE

Broad Class DEFENCE

Period Medieval

Site Description To inform the consideration of The Inventory of Historic Battlefields in Wales, a phased programme of investigation was undertaken on the 1405 battle of Pwll Melyn. Detailed reports of these investigations are available and comprise documentary and historical research (Border Archaeology), and non-invasive fieldwork (Archaeology Wales).

The battle of Usk is covered in several contemporary English, Welsh and Scottish chronicles (Border Archaeology). The most informative account is contained in the chronicle of Adam of Usk :

'Gruffydd, the eldest son of Owen, attacked Usk castle with a great host on the feast of St Gregory – an evil hour for him; however the defences there had been considerably strengthened, and Lord Grey of Codnor, Sir John Greyndour and many more of the King’s soldiers were there, and they made a sortie in force from the Castle and captured him and his men, driving them relentlessly across the River Usk, where many of them – most notably the abbot of Llantarnam – were killed either at the point of a sword or drowning in the river, through Monkswood, where Gruffydd himself was captured, and onto the mountains of Upper Went. Of those whom they took alive, three hundred were beheaded in front of the castle, near Ponfald, although some of the nobler ones, including Gruffydd, were sent as prisoners to the King' (Given-Wilson, 212-3).

The site of the battle of Pwll Melyn can be fairly securely located on the basis of documentary and archaeological evidence as lying on the higher ground to the north and north east of Usk Castle. This area was called ‘Mynydd Pwll Melyn’ (hill of the yellow pool), in the Annals of Owain Glyndwr (Livingstone and Bollard, 9174-5) and an extant pond (now called Castle Oak pond) located at SO 3784 0127 is thought to be a surviving, though altered, remnant of the pool. The pool was situated in what was formerly a large pasture field but is now surrounded by modern housing. Local antiquaries noted that ‘numerous skeletons’ were found during the scouring of the pond in the 1850s (Border Archaeology).

There is also potential for the survival of archaeological remains associated with the battle in the immediate vicinity of the castle where 300 captured Welsh prisoners were summarily executed. Adam of Usk locates the execution site ‘near Ponfald in front of the castle’ and this could be identified with the site of the ‘town pound’ at Twyn Square (SO 3776 0092) or immediately south of the castle, roughly in the area between Porthycarne Street and Castle Parade (SO 3768 0095) (Border Archaeology)

A plaque commemorating the battle is attached to a rock at Castle Farm (SO 3771 0168).

RCAHMW (Battlefields Inventory), Nov 2016

Archaeology Wales, 1405 Battle of Pwll Melyn: Battlefield Survey (2014).
Border Archaeology, Pwll Melyn (1405): Documentary and Historical Research Report (2009).
Livingston, Michael and Bollard, John K. (eds) Owain Glyndŵr A Casebook (Liverpool University Press, 2013).

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