The Story Continues


This year, the archaeological dig part of the CAER Heritage Project has been amazing. We have uncovered evidence of definite Neolithic activity, with a possible causewayed enclosure that was never settled even in the Iron Age that we can see, which brings the story right back to the first farmers of Britain, over 6,000 years ago.

Check out the CAER Heritage Project’s blog for more information and the latest updates!

Meanwhile, my research is taking me back into the rabbit warren of sources and Latinizations of Medieval Welsh names.

I blogged previously about the difficulties of looking for “Caerau” in the source material when “the fortifications” is hardly a stand-out name in an area full of “fortifications” of one type or another. Given the ancient importance of this site, embedded firmly (as it surely must have been) in oral tradition and folk memory, how likely is it that this place would have gone by such a simple, generic descriptor before the power really shifted away from this enormous, landscape-dominating hill? Given that it is a chapel of Llandaff Cathedral and has its own prebendary, how likely is it that it never appears in the Liber Landavensis [LLD] in any of its various spelling incarnations? And why would locals call is “The Fortifications” before the second fortification, the ringwork, was constructed within the original ramparts? Surely prior to the ringwork, the immense ramparts would still have been impressive but the place as a whole would constitute one fort, or caer?

This being my reasoning, I began to look for geographical markers and any references to “caer” in the LLD. This led me to an apparently unidentified place-name, “Cairduicil”, also known as “Dinduicil”, as the suffixes caer and din were potentially interchangeable until caer superseded din in South Wales as the language developed and notions of what a caer actually was became more fixed. [1]

According to another thesis done recently (2001) at Aberystwyth into the place-names in LLD, Dinduicil or Caerduicil is probably in the Cardiff area but can’t be properly identified since it is listed with other, equally random and vague, place-names. (This is all in the context of what Bishop Urban of Llandaff was claiming was part of Llandaff’s diocese). [2]

The description of the area in the LLD and the corresponding Mon. Ang. entry does make “Cairduicil” a likely candidate. Clicking on the names will take you to the digitized texts – in the LLD’s case, the 1840 English translation, although the Latin version is available from the National Library of Wales.


Here is the full context of that reference in the Mon. Ang. p. 1223:

[Copy & paste from .pdf corrupts some of the letters]


PATER et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus, tres in personis, unus in deitate et substantia inspiravit, per gratiam ipsius, et causa salutis suze creaturw, factae ad imaginem et ad si militudinem sui, cor lapideum Engestil, cujusdam divitis, jacentis in infirmitate et pondere peccatorum, et conversus Engistil ad Dominum, acceptfi sibi remissione peccatorum de episcopo Nud, per intecessionem sanctorum Dubricii, Teliavi, et Oudocei, largitus est in elemosina castellum Din duicil, id est Caer Duicil, cum ecclesia sua, et tribus modiis terree per circuitum arcis, supra montem, et infra montem ; et cum suis omnibus finibus undique, et cum tota sud. libertate, &c.


This is reproduced in LLD on p. 216 with the following amendments:


Pater et Filius et Spiritus Sanctus, tres in personis, unus in deitate, et substantia, inspiravit per gratiam ipsius, et causa salutis suae creaturae factae ad imaginem et ad similitudinem sui, cor lapideum Engistil, cujusdam divitis jacentis in infirmitate, et pondere peccatorum, et conversus En gistil ad Dominum, accepta sibi remissione peccatorum de Episcopo Nud, per intercessionem Sanctorum Dubricii, Teliaui, et Oudocei, largitus est in eleemosyna castellum Dinducill, id est, Cair Duicil, cum ecclesia sua, et tribus modiis terrae per circuitum arcis supra montem, et infra montem, et cum suis omnibus finibus undique, et cum tota sua libertate, et omni communione in campo et in silvis, in aqua et in pascuis, verbo et consensu Houel Regis, filii Ris. De Clericis, testes sunt Nud Episcopus, Bleinguid, Ruid, Guinalau, Gurgarheru; de laicis vero, Houel Rex, Engist, Sauian, Birran, Auallguid. Quicunque custodierit, benedicetur; qui vero violaverit, maledicetur.


The references to the “mountain” or “hill” makes it sound like they expect everyone to know where that is – and it’s a pretty obvious hill. Caerau, when surrounded by nothing but meadowland and marsh, is a pretty obvious hill. It says on the hill and under the hillsupra and infra, implying the hill/mountain [montem -> mons] is a kind of plateau to allow you to have land on top of it; that there is a fortification/citadel [arcis -> arx] on top of the hill; that there are fields and woods in the immediate vicinity; that there is a nearby river/stream; that there is pasture-land. It has all the geographical features that we know medieval Caerau had. It could well be somewhere else, of course, so I’ll be doing more research.

I’m looking into the etymology of the name – Cairduicil may be a Latinized mishearing/misrendering of Caer-uchel, “the high fort” or “the fort above”, or it could be Cair Dui Cil (as it appears in Mon. Ang.) – I’m checking with a Welsh scholar and a local historian who has worked on Caerau in the past to see whether these are viable options.

Cair Duw Cil might be “Fort of God’s Refuge” or something like that, or Cair Du Ichil might be Caer Du Uchel, which could be “Dark Height Fort” or something along those lines. We’re finding a lot of charcoal deposits in the clay soil, but whether that’s where the possible “Du” element comes from, I’ve no idea. It might mean nothing at all.

It will be fun doing the documentary detective work regardless of whether this is right or wrong; I’m back in my element, with no sunburn or horseflies in sight!



[1] Davyth A. Hicks, LANGUAGE, HISTORY AND ONOMASTICS IN MEDIEVAL CUMBRIA: AN ANALYSIS OF THE GENERATIVE USAGE OF THE CUMBRIC HABITATIVE GENERICS CAIR AND TREF, Thesis submitted for the degree of Ph.D. within the University of Edinburgh, (April 2003), pp. 80-81

[2] Jonathan Baron Coe, The Place-Names of the Book of Llandaf, PhD Thesis Submitted for Examination within the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, (August, 2001), pp. 120-121