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The History of Oswestry

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All being well we should soon hear whether we have the go ahead for a new museum in Oswestry serving the area surrounding the place. Whilst waiting for the go ahead we have all been busy compiling a time line for the area and what a time line it is. Fantastical and exciting. Battles, wars, destruction, great charismatic leaders, legends, then development of transport links and trade in the industrial era. Today it is such a tranquil and sleepy backwater which looks as if nothing has ever happened but there have been phases in the past when we would have been living in a war zone if we had been around, with all the knife edge stuff about who's side you are on at any given moment, and strange mixed up border loyalties and feuds between feudal marcher lords and Welsh versus English conflicts.

Owain Glydwr was local, his fathers estates were in Glyndyfrydwy and Sycharth near Llansilin, and he married a girl from Hamner. He was a rebel leader in the late 14th and early 15th century, was declared Prince of Wales in 1400, led the Welsh Revolt from 1400-1415, and formed the first Welsh Parliament in Machynlech in 1404. He was born into the Marcher nobility and like all good adventure stories, he was driven into being a rebel by a baddy on the English side setting things up against him and his family so that he could take their land. This guy, called Baron Grey de Rhythin was a mate of Henry IV and sounds like a real moustache twiddling villain. After he was declared Prince of Wales (and he is the last Welsh born Prince of Wales), many men joined Owain's army. Welsh undergraduates left Oxford to join him. Welsh labourers and workers left England and later he had trained soldiers and archers in his army. He became a master of disguise took on the English armies sent in to squash his revolt. In 1402 he captured Baron Grey and held him for a year before Henry IV came up with the ransom to release his friend. Henry IV appointed Henry Percy, otherwise known as Hotspur to sort out the rebels, and he was another swashbuckling hero to add to the mix.

Glyndwr had the English on the run and persuaded the French and Bretons to join him in 1404 and 5, and they raided Devon and the Isle of Wight. But the tide turned, England used economic sanctions and torture to regain control in the Welsh Borders, and pretty soon Owain Glyndwr was reduced to being a guerilla leader of suicide raids against the English, last seen alive in an ambush in Brecon in 1412 . He always retained the Celtic romantic high ground, was never betrayed or captured, and legends grew about him. Like many great heroes no-one knows when he died or where he is buried. Some argue that he went to live with a daughter in Herefordshire, where his further adventures gave rise to the local legends about 'Jack of Kent'. Shakespeare uses him as a character in Henry IV where he is exotic and magical and a bit of a Merlin.

Since the 19th century Owain Glydwr has been used as an icon for Welsh revival and patriotism, and the romance has grown. After the success of Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart there were strong rumours that he was planning to make a film about Owain Glyndwr. There are many obvious similarities between the two archetypal underdog heroes, not least that William Wallace's family had moved north from near Oswestry before he was born!

This is just one of many such legendary people who have strong links to this area. I suppose if you go up onto Selattyn Hill, or the Racecourse and look out, it is the sort of landscape where legends are made. I wonder what legends are growing in the area now.

This is a link to the timeline


(but watch out for pop ups advertising Chinese women on the Dipity site)

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i went into the museum just after it opened and found it very interesting although the stairs were a little daunting. I only found out about the lift when I came down but a very worthwhile couple of ours finding out more about the area.

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