GGN asked about the use of Welsh in England in modern times. Of all the bilingual signs about the one above, just over the Severn Bridge, gives me the most pleasure. Anyway:
2 Major areas:
1)Archenfield, part of ancient Welsh kingdom of Erging but left in Herefordshire on the dark side after the Acts of Union 1536-42.
2) The area of Shropshire around the town of Oswestry. Mercia’s encroachment into Powys left it on the wrong side of Offa’s Dyke. We won and lost it back a couple of times during the Middle ages but again ended up in England post 1542.
Erging was the cradle of the early Celtic Church – the first great saint, Dyfrig, was of the area and Dewi Sant pretty well thought also – Much Dewchurch – with a massive church dedicated originally to Dewi. Moving on hundreds of years it is here that it’s thought that Owain Glyndwr sought haven after the end of his glorious uprising. His daughter Alys had married John Scudamore sherriff of Hereford. Nice quote from that Wiki piece (I’d missed this) – “In 2006 The Owain Glyndwr Society’s president Adrien Jones said: “Four years ago we visited a direct descendant of Glyndwr (Sir John Scudamore), at Kentchurch Court, near Abergavenny. “He took us to Monnington Straddel, in Herefordshire, where one of Glyndwr’s daughters, Alice (Alys), had lived. (He) told us that he (Glynd?r) spent his last days there and eventually died there. It was a family secret for 600 years and even (Sir John’s) mother, who died shortly before we visited, refused to reveal the secret. There’s even a mound where he is believed to be buried at Monnington Straddel.”
Anyway post acts of Union Archenfield would remain largely Welsh speaking until mid 18th century and many of the place names are clearly Welsh rather than the usual distortions and mangles you get over the rest of the border countries – Llangarron, Bagwyllidiart, Pontrilas, Cwm and Olchon typical. Olchon of real significance in the establishment of the Welsh speaking Baptist cause – this stuff new to me also. As to when it died out there exactly I quote from a wonderful document – Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club A letter to the Hereford Times in 1891 “In other Churches also in this region directions to Churchwardens in Welsh and English were to be seen twenty years ago” – so on its last legs mid to late nineteenth century.
Oswestry a different kettle of fish – it has always been a market town with strong links to the Welsh rural hinterland. The Welsh Weekly “Y Cymro” was founded there in 1932. the Encylopedia of Wales states that well into the 20th century there were well established Welsh speaking familes around Oswestry with no ancestral connections to Wales at all. Again many place names and field names are Welsh – Cae Glas Park in Oswestry town and a council ward of Carreg Lwyd. Active Welsh Chapel (in 2003) I would say that the Welsh language is still alive amongst people born and brought up in this area.