Bernard de Neufmarche, Lord of Brecon

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Bernard de Neufmarché

Birthplace: château de Neuf-Marché, Seine-Maritime, Haute Normandie, France
Death: Died in Brecon / Aberhonddu, Brecknockshire, (later Powys), Wales
Place of Burial: St. John Priory, Brecheiniog, Wales
Immediate Family:

Son of Geoffrey "the incompetent" de Neufmarché and Ada II de Heugleville
Husband of <private> Osborn; Unknown First Wife and Nest ferch Osbern
Father of <private> De Neufmarche; Sybil de Neufmarché; Ivo de Neufmarché; Adam de Neufmarché; Mahel de Neufmarché and 1 other
Brother of Dreu de Neufmarché

Occupation: LORD OF BRECON, Lord of Brecon, was "the first of the original conquerors of Wales.", Lord/Baron
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Bernard de Neufmarché

Bernard de Neufmarché

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bernard of Neufmarché or Newmarket (c. 1050 – c. 1125) was "the first of the original conquerors of Wales."[1] He was a minor Norman lord who rose to power in the Welsh Marches before successfully undertaking the invasion and conquest of the Kingdom of Brycheiniog between 1088 and 1095. Out of the ruins of the Welsh kingdom he created the Anglo-Norman lordship of Brecon.

Coming to England

Because Bernard's family had attachments to the monastery of Saint-Evroul-sur-Ouche, the monkish chronicler Orderic Vitalis of that foundation had special knowledge of him and his family, though this still does not reduce the general obscurity of his origins or his life when compared to the richer Marcher lords, like the great Roger of Montgomery.[2] Bernard was the son of the minor and incompetent Norman baron Geoffrey de Neufmarché and Ada de Heugelville,[3] and he was born at the castle of Le-Neuf-Marché-en-Lions on the frontier between Normandy and Beauvais.[4] His ancestors on his mother's side had founded the town of Aufay south of Dieppe on the Sie, while his paternal grandfather, Turketil had served the young William II of Normandy as a guardian and was killed in that capacity. On his mother's side he also descended from Richard II of Normandy.[5]

The question of Bernard's participation in the Battle of Hastings and therefore in the Norman Invasion is subject to debate.[4] While Bernard had close family connexions to the port of Saint-Valery-sur-Somme from which William's invading fleet launched, Bernard himself was not the ruler of that city and need not have been in the fleet. He had later connexions with Battle Abbey: he established a cell of that abbey in Brecon, but that may have been an analogous foundation intended to mark his conquest of Brycheiniog.[6] Bernard's peculiar absence from the Domesday Book more or less damns the case for his presence at Hastings, for it is impossible that a noble participant in the victorious battle should not have received land to be recorded in Domesday if he was still living in 1087.[6]

Rise to power

Bernard was finally rewarded by the king, then William II of Normandy, in 1086 or 1087. He received lands in Herefordshire and lands which had devolved to the crown with the deaths of Gilbert fitz Thorold and Alfred of Marlborough.[7] Gilbert's lands were concentrated in Herefordshire and included the manors of Bach, Middlewood, and Harewood in the Golden Valley and the castles of Dorstone, Snodhill, and Urishay connecting Clifford Castle to Ewyas Harold, which belonged to Alfred's lordship.[8] Among Bernard's acquisitions from Gilbert was the domus defensabilis of Eardisley. From Alfred he received Pembridge, Burghill, and Brinsop.[6] Of these it should be noted that Snodhill was not founded until the twelfth century and then became the caput of the honour of Chandos. Bernard was also established in Speen and Newbury in Berkshire and Brinsop and Burghill in Herefordshire sometime before 1079. Both these latter vills were held from his honour of Brecon in the twelfth century. Bernard's ommission from Domesday is especially peculiar there. It is possible that he had some kind of exemption.

Probably as a consequence of his rapid rise in the marches, Bernard attracted the attention of Osbern fitz Richard, who gave him his daughter, Agnes (Nest), whose mother was the Welsh princess Nest, daughter of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn and Edith of Mercia,[3] in marriage sometime before 1099.[9] She brought with her a dowry of Berrington and Little Hereford.

All of Bernard's estates lay in the valley of the river Wye and along an old Roman road which led from Watling Street to Y Gaer and on into Brycheiniog. The military possibilities of that road could only have encouraged his subsequent ventures into Wales.[10]

Map of the kingdoms of Wales at the time of the Norman conquest.

Conquest of Brycheiniog

Bernard joined the rebellion of the marcher lords against William Rufus at Lent in 1088.[11] Bernard escaped without recorded punishment and the king probably conceded the marcher lords the right to expand their lands by conquest at the expense of the Welsh buffer kingdoms of Brycheiniog, Morgannwg, and Gwynllwg.[12] Shortly after the settlement with the king, Bernard spearheaded an invasion of Brycheiniog which was to lead eventually to its conquest. Before the end of the year, though, he had captured Glasbury, for he issued a charter for lands near that place to the abbey of Saint Peter's at Gloucester (Autumn 1088).[6]

The chronology of events at this juncture is often confused. Bernard may well have already been in power in Brycheiniog by 1088 if he had already inherited a claim to it after the defeat of Roger de Breteuil, Earl of Hereford, in 1075. In 1088 the king, William Rufus, confirmed a previous charter of Bernard's stating that he had already made an exchange "within his lordship of Brycheiniog" at Glasbury. He also already held Castell Dinas which had probably been built by the Earl of Hereford before 1075.

After the initial conquest of 1088, Bernard continued warring with Brycheiniog until 1090, probably supported by Richard fitz Pons, the lord of Clifford.[13] Talgarth was captured early and a castle was constructed at Bronllys where the rivers Dulais and Llyfni meet, a site probably central to the llys of the tywysog of the commote of Bronllys.[13] By 1091 Bernard had reached the valley of the Usk, which was at the centre of the kingdom which was to become his own principality.

There is some discrepancy in this description of events also. Richard Fitz Pons was lord of Llandovery, which he had reached probably through Glamorgan, already by 1088. Bronllys Castle may not have been built until 1144, when Roger Fitzmiles, Earl of Hereford, is first recorded granting it as a five knights' fee mesne barony to Walter de Clifford, son of Richard Fitz Pons.

According to much later accounts and reconstructions, the accuracy of which is very dubious but which contain some references to verifiable history, the king of Brycheiniog, Bleddyn ap Maenarch, allied with the king of Deheubarth, Rhys ap Tewdwr, in 1093 (or perhaps 1094) and tried to attack the forces of Bernard which were building a castle at Brecon on the Usk and Honddu in the centre of a great plain in his kingdom where several Roman viae met.[14] Bleddyn led a charge up the hill, but the Normans defeated the Welsh and Rhys was killed in battle. Brecknock Priory, which was later founded at the site of the battle, may have been built on the spot where Rhys supposedly fell.[15] Bleddyn died not long after and Bernard was able to advance over the whole of Brycheiniog.

Reliable historical records refer to no king of Brycheiniog after a Tewdwr ab Elise who died after 934. Certainly there is no contemporary reference to a Bleddyn ap Maenarch. The Welsh Bruts simply state that "Rhys ap Tewdwr, king of Deheubarth, was slain by the Frenchmen who were inhabiting Brycheiniog." This passage lends evidence to the belief that the conquest of Brycheiniog was mostly finished by Eastertide 1093 and that the main effect of the battle of Brecon was to open the way to the conquest of Deheubarth.

Pacification and administration of Brycheiniog

He followed the Usk down to Ystradyw and took it, which incited the bishops of Llandaff to protest because the annexation of Ystradyw removed it from their diocese and brought it into the lordship of Brecon, which was under the episcopal authority of Saint David's.[16] In Spring 1094, the southern Welsh rose in revolt against the Normans that had come to dominate them. Brycheiniog was unaffected and the Normans of that region launched a counterattack from Ystrad Tywy and Cantref Bychan which devastated Kidwelly and Gower but did not put down the revolt.[16] In 1095 it spread to Brycheiniog and the Welsh of the countryside, allied with their compatriots of Gwynllwg and Gwent took back control of the province while the Normans were forced into their fortified centres.

Two expeditions from Glamorgan came to the rescue of the garrisons of Brycheiniog. The first was crushed in battle at Celli Carnant, but the second defeated the rebels at Aber Llech.[17] What followed was the complete encastellation of Brycheiniog. Among the castles possibly built during Bernard's lordship to defend the entrances to Brycheiniog from the southeast were Tretower, Blaen Llyfni (not attested before 1207–1215), and Crickhowell.

Bernard also extensively enfeoffed his followers with Welsh land.[17] Richard fitz Pons may have been enfeoffed at Cantref Selyff on the western border of Brycheiniog and immediately he began in miniature the process whereby Bernard had come to rule Brycheiniog.[17] However, Richard's son Walter is the first recorded landholder at Cantref Selyff. Furthermore, Bernard enfeoffed the sons of the king he had displaced in the less habitable land, thereby creating a loyal Welsh aristocracy and extracting more out of his land than the Normans otherwise knew how to do.[18] The Normans lived predominantly in the valleys and lowlands in an agrarian society while the Welsh kept to the hills and mountains living pastorally, thus creating an overall economic gain.[19] Among Bleddyn's sons, Gwrgan received Blaen Llyfni and Aberllyfni while Caradog received an unnamed hill country, and Drymbenog, Bleddyn's brother, was given land neighbouring that of Richard fitz Pons.

Death and succession

By the time of his death around 1125, Bernard had established a flourishing borough around his castle of Brecon. Henry I had married Bernard's daughter Sybil to Miles Fitz Walter, the sheriff of Gloucestershire, in 1121 and passed a significant portion of Bernard's honour to him as a dowry, including Hay-on-Wye Castle.[20] According to Giraldus Cambrensis this was because Mahel de Neufmarché the son and heir of Bernard had mutilated the paramour of his mother. In vengeance his mother, Princess Nesta, swore to King Henry I that her son was illegitimate. Henry was therefore able by law and custom to pass over Mahel and give the land to his friend and confident Miles Fitz Walter with Bernard's legal heiress in marriage.


  • Barlow, Frank. William Rufus. 1983.
  • Holt, J. C. "Presidential Address: Feudal Society and the Family in Early Medieval England: IV. The Heiress and the Alien." Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th Ser., Vol. 35. (1985), pp 1–28.
  • Nelson, Lynn H. The Normans in South Wales, 1070–1171. University of Texas Press: Austin, 1966.
  • Remfry, P. M. Hay on Wye Castle, 1066 to 1521. ISBN 1-899376-07-0.
  • Remfry, P. M. Castell Bwlch y Dinas and the Families of Fitz Osbern, Neufmarché, Gloucester, Hereford, Braose, Fitz Herbert. ISBN 1-899376-79-8.

External links

  • Powys Digital History Project: Cathedral church of St John the Evangelist.
  • The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust: Historic Landscape Characterisation — The Making of the Middle Usk Valley Landscape.
  • Britain Express: History of Wales — Grufudd ap Cynan.


1. ^ Nelson, 123.

2. ^ Nelson, 83.

3. ^ a b Bernard de Neufmarché, Untitled English Nobility, at Foundation for Medieval Genealogy: Medieval Lands Project.

4. ^ a b Nelson, 84.

5. ^ Nelson, 83. He was not, as sometimes claimed, a half-brother of the Conqueror, but rather distant cousin.

6. ^ a b c d Nelson, 85.

7. ^ Nelson, 86. Barlow, 321.

8. ^ Nelson, 86.

9. ^ Nelson, 86. There has been confusion in the past regarding Bernard's wife's identity. He had only one wife and Nest was not his second wife but rather his mother-in-law.

10. ^ Nelson, 87.

11. ^ Nelson, 81.

12. ^ Nelson, 88.

13. ^ a b Nelson, 89.

14. ^ Nelson, 82.

15. ^ Nelson, 90 and n25.

16. ^ a b Nelson, 90 and n26.

17. ^ a b c Nelson, 91.

18. ^ Nelson, 92.

19. ^ Nelson, 93.

20. ^ Holt, 7.


Bernard de Neuf-Marché

Bernard de Neuf-Marché († entre 1121 et 1125), seigneur anglo-normand, fut le conquérant du royaume de Brycheiniog (dit aussi Brecon) au sud du Pays de Galles.


Il est le fils de Geoffroy de Neuf-Marché, gardien du château de Neuf-Marché (Seine-Maritime)1, et d'Ada, fille de Richard de Heugleville2. Par sa mère, il est un cousin éloigné de Guillaume le Conquérant2. Son grand-père paternel Turchetilus de Novo-Mercato (Turquetil de Neuf-Marché)3, peut-être d'origine scandinave, était selon Ordéric Vital4 l'un des gardiens du jeune duc Guillaume le Bâtard, alors menacé par les Richardides et les barons rebelles de l'Ouest du duché. Turquetil sera assassiné vers fin 1040-début 1041 après Alain III de Bretagne, Osbern de Crépon et Gilbert de Brionne, autres protecteurs du duc.

Il est très peu probable qu'il participe à la conquête normande de l'Angleterre2. Il n'apparaît d'ailleurs pas dans le Domesday Book, compilé en 10862. Il est déjà au service de Guillaume le Conquérant, devenu roi d'Angleterre en 1066, au plus tard en 10852. Il est en Angleterre en 1086-1087, quand il atteste la charte de fondation de l'abbaye de la Bataille (Sussex)2. À la fin du règne de Guillaume le Conquérant ou au début du règne de son fils Guillaume le Roux, il reçoit des terres dans le Herefordshire2.

Il épouse Nest (ou Agnès), fille et héritière de Osbern FitzRichard, lord dans le Herefordshire, et petit-fille de Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, roi de Gwynedd et de Deheubarth2. Grâce à elle, il acquiert de nouvelles terres dans le Herefordshire, notamment Bodenham et Berrington. Il a aussi quelques propriétés dans le Shropshire, le Somerset et le Berkshire2.

Il se joint à la rébellion contre Guillaume le Roux d'Odon, l'évêque de Bayeux et de son voisin Roger II de Montgommery, le comte de Shrewsbury en 10882. Il fait partie des rebelles qui attaquent Worcester et sont repoussés par son évêque Wulfstan. Comme pratiquement tous les rebelles, il est pardonné. C'est peu après qu'il semble se tourner vers le Pays de Galles.

Il s'attaque à la conquête du petit Royaume de Brycheiniog, et à la fin de l'année, il est en mesure de donner les terres du village de Glasbury à l'abbaye Saint-Pierre de Gloucester2. En 1093, il a probablement déjà conquis Talgarth, la capitale du royaume. Cette même année, ses hommes tuent Rhys ap Tewdwr roi de Deheubarth, ce qui lui ouvre la voie pour conquérir toute la région2. Il installe son quartier général dans son château d'Aberhonddu, fait construire de nouveaux châteaux et attribue des fiefs à ses vassaux2. Durant la révolte galloise qui agite le Brycheiniog entre 1097 et 1096, il subit de nombreux revers, mais ses châteaux ne sont pas pris et il peut ensuite rapidement reprendre le contrôle de la région2.

Vers 1100, il fonde l'église Saint-Jean l'Évangéliste à Brecon et en fait une dépendance de l'abbaye de la Bataille2. Les moines de la Bataille établissent un prieuré dans cette église. Il est aussi un bienfaiteur de l'église d'Auffay en Normandie, avec laquelle sa famille a de nombreux liens2.

La date de la mort de Bernard de Neuf-Marché est inconnue, mais probablement située entre 1121 et 11252. Sa fille et héritière Sybille épouse Miles de Gloucester.

Il épouse Nest (ou Agnès), fille et héritière de Osbern FitzRichard, lord dans le Herefordshire, et petit-fille de Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, roi de Gwynedd et de Deheubarth2. Ils ont pour enfants2 :

Philippe, qui le précéda dans la mort, sans héritier ; Sybille, qui en 1121 épousa Miles de Gloucester, shérif du Gloucestershire5 et plus tard 1er comte d'Hereford. Celui-ci hérite des terres de son beau-père à sa mort.

Notes et références

  1. * ↑ Il en est privé avant 1066, et le château devient propriété ducale. Lewis Christopher Loyd, The origins of some Anglo-Norman families, Genealogical Publishing Co, Baltimore, 1975, p. 72.
  2. * ↑ a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r et s K. L. Maund, « Neufmarché, Bernard de (d. 1121x5?) », dans Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  3. * ↑ Ordéric Vital (éd. Auguste Le Prévost), Vol. II, Liber VI, p. 42.
  4. * ↑ Historiae Ecclesiasticae libri tredecim, Éditeur J. Renouard, 1855. [1] [archive]
  5. * ↑ David Charles Douglas, English historical documents, Volume 2, Taylor & Francis, 1981, 1083 p.

Lien externe

(en) Lynn H. Nelson, The Normans in South Wales, 1070-1171, Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1966.


K. L. Maund, « Neufmarché, Bernard de (d. 1121x5?) », dans Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. Accédé en novembre 2008.


The Normans in South Wales, 1070-1171

Lynn H. Nelson (Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1966) Library of Congress No. 65-21296

Excerpt from Chapter 5. The Establishment of the Marcher Lordships

In 1035, Duke Robert died and was succeeded by the eight-year old William the Bastard. Normandy entered a stormy period which saw Richard supporting the young duke. His greatest trial came during the revolt of William of Arques in 1053, when, alone of all of the nobles of his district, he remained loyal to Duke William's banner. He garrisoned and held his castle of St. Aubins against the insurgents. Supporting him in this action was his son-in-law, Geoffrey, son of Turketil of Neufmarche. Turketil had acted as guardian of the young duke, and was assassinated while performing this office, perhaps in the same plot that took the life of William Fitz-Osbern's father. Geoffrey now had entered into close contact with his father-in-law's group. The rebellion was quelled, and the family of Aufay achieved the high regard of Duke William for their loyalty. Geoffrey continued in the ducal service, but with less success than had his father-in-law. He was the lawful heir of Turketil's fortress of Le Neuf-Marche-en-Lions, on the borders of Beauvais. He appears to have been unable to halt the raids of his French neighbors in this region and for this reason lost the confidence of Duke William. He apparently fell far from favor and was finally dispossessed of his fortress for some trivial reason.4

Geoffrey had two sons to witness his disgrace in 1060. The one, Dreux, gave up military service and entered the monastery of St. Evroult. He does not seem to have shared his father's disgrace, for his duties consisted of staying with the ducal court and attempting to obtain grants and benefactions for the abbey.5 The other son was Bernard of Neufmarche, who remained in the service of the duke. Born at the castle of Le Neuf-Marche-en-Lions, he no doubt grew up with the excellent military experience which life on the marches afforded.

There is some question as to whether or not Bernard participated in the invasion of England. Although his name is generally accepted in the lists of the conquerors made by modern compilers,6 the evidence is somewhat mixed. To support the contention that he was present at Hastings, one might point to the fact that he maintained a connection with Battle Abbey so close as to suggest a special regard for the establishment. His name appears on the charter by which William founded the abbey to commemorate forever the battle in which the power of Harold was broken.7 Bernard later established a cell of this abbey near his castle of Brecon.8This evidence is less conclusive than one might think. In the first place, the foundation charter of Battle Abbey must be dated between 1086 and 1087.9Secondly, the Battle Abbey cell at Brecon may have been established as an analogy to the mother house; to commemorate the battle in which Bernard broke the power of Rhys ap Tewdwr and delivered South Wales into Norman hands.

To argue against Bernard's participation in the Conquest, it may be pointed out that his name is not present in Domesday. It is hard to believe that he would not have received at least some English lands if he had taken part in the original expedition. While this test is certainly not conclusive, the burden of proof must rest with those who wish to include Bernard among the conquerors. The lack of evidence suggests that Bernard did not join William's expedition against England, or if he did, that he played a very minor role. In any event the year 1086 found him without English lands, but in attendance at the Conqueror's court, perhaps in his personal service. The evidence shows that Bernard's fortunes took a decided turn for the better in the next two years. His name appears in a charter of 1088 as the donor of certain lands to the Abbey of St. Peter's at Gloucestershire.10 The location of the grants shows that by then he was not only a landholder in Herefordshire, but had already extended his control to Glasbury, a vill which lay considerably within the borders of the Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog. The question arises as to how and why Bernard had come to the Welsh frontier.

At the time of Domesday, Gilbert Fitz-Turold, Alfred of Marlborough, and Osbern Fitz-Richard held the Herefordshire lands which were later to form part of Bernard's honor of Brecon. Some few of Osbern Fitz-Richard's lands which later appeared in Bernard's hands were probably obtained as the dowry of Agnes, Osbern's daughter, whom he had married sometime before 1088.11 He also held the estates of Pembridge, Burghill, and Brinsop, all formerly in the hands of Alfred of Marlborough.12 No account can be found as to

how Bernard gained possession of these estates. The same is true of the estates of Gilbert Fitz-Turold, which formed the greater part of Bernard's Herefordshire holdings. As we have already noted, Gilbert's estates had centered around the vills of Bach, Middlewood, and Harewood, which lay south of Clifford Castle and at the head of the Golden Valley. In addition Gilbert had been entrusted with the border station (domus defensabilis) located at Eardisley. By this time he may have commenced construction of the fortifications at Dorestone, Snodhill, and Urishay which were later to connect Clifford and Ewyas Harold to form an unbroken line of frontier defenses.13

It has been suggested that the factor that brought Bernard to the frontier was most probably his marriage to the daughter of Osbern Fitz-Richard.14 Although this is possible, there is no evidence to connect his interests prior to 1088 with those of Osbern. It seems rather unlikely that Osbern would have given his daughter in marriage to a landless knight. In any event, the marriage would not explain Bernard's acquisition of the lands of Gilbert and Alfred. If it is assumed that these lands were granted first, then the factors encouraging the marriage become quite clear. It appears that, for some reason or another, the estates of Gilbert Fitz-Turold and Alfred of Marlborough reverted to the crown and were granted by the Conqueror to Bernard, who was at the time one of his household knights.15 Once firmly established on the border, he contracted a marriage with Agnes which brought him Osbern's estates of Beryngton and Little Hereford.16

William Rees points out that this order of events is corroborated by the evidence of the charters, which show that the earliest grants made by Bernard were drawn exclusively from those estates previously held by Gilbert and Alfred.17

The evidence clearly shows that sometime between 1086 and 1088, Bernard of Neufmarche came into possession of a compact group of estates lying athwart the Wye River. From these estates the comparatively broad valley of the Wye, and the remains of an old Roman military road, led directly into the heart of the independent Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog. It was perhaps only natural that the energetic Bernard should have expanded along this line.

It is not likely, however, that his first encroachments in this direction took place much before the autumn of 1088. William the Conqueror, as has been said before, discouraged the border barons from disturbing the stability of the frontier. Bernard would not have attempted to circumvent his sovereign so soon after having received the grants which had established his fortunes. William died in September of 1087, however, and the border barons began to organize that rebellion against Rufus which finally crystallized during Lent of 1088. The rebel cause enlisted the aid of virtually all of the families along the border, including the newly arrived Bernard. Together with his father-in-law, he joined the insurgent army which gathered at Hereford shortly after Easter. A rather large force met at this city, where the royal garrison had been recently captured by Roger of Lacy.18 According to one chronicle, the entire shire of Hereford, the men of Shropshire, and many Welsh joined the expedition directed against the royalist city of Worcester.19 The rebels were met by the garrison of that city, led by Bishop Wulfstan, and were decisively defeated.20 By summer, the rebellion was quelled, and the major insurgent stronghold of Rochester fell into Rufus' hands. Strangely enough the king's vengeance against the frontier nobles appears to have been quite mild. In the case of Bernard there appears to have been no punishment at all. To the contrary, almost immediately after the collapse of the rebellion he turned to an activity hitherto strictly denied the border barons by royal authority - invasion of the Welsh buffer states lying west of the frontier. By the fall of 1088 he had advanced as far as the vill of Glasbury, and the grant of this estate to the church of St. Peter's of Gloucester may well have been in the nature of a first fruit.21

What prompted Bernard to flout a long-standing royal frontier policy by attacking Brycheiniog? J. E. Lloyd, the eminent Welsh historian, suggests that "... Rufus could not hold the reins of discipline with the firm hand of his predecessor."22 This may well be, but it is hard to believe that this was the factor operating in Bernard's case. In the first place, Rufus' power in the summer of 1088 was as firmly established as it was ever to be, and had but recently been impressed upon the marcher lords. Why did the invasion not begin before, or after, Rufus had given "the reins of discipline" such a sharp jerk? Again, it appears to be a general rule that, given a sovereign's weakness, it is the greater, and not the lesser, nobles who are first freed of royal restrictions. Why then was it the parvenu and minor lord, Bernard of Neufmarche, who led the forward edge of Norman penetration, and not the rich and powerful earl of Shrewsbury?

It is far easier to believe that royal frontier policy had been changed, and that the border lords had been given license to attack the buffer states that lay along their borders. Such an interpretation fits well with the facts. It was obvious that the old system of a balance of power had failed to keep the marcher lords from rebelling. Thus the continued protection of the buffer states was of no value to Rufus. At the same time, the restriction was galling to the border barons and had no doubt contributed to the disaffection which they had displayed. Abandonment of Brycheiniog, Gwynllwg, and Morgannwg would have cost the king nothing and would have been useful in restoring the loyalty of the border barons. In this respect it is interesting to note that some of these nobles, including Roger of Montgomery, earl of Shrewsbury, had returned to active support of the king by the summer of 1088. It is quite possible that this support was bought by removal of royal restrictions on expansion into the buffer states.

Later events show that, although the king abandoned the buffer states, he continued to honor at least the letter of the royal agreement with Rhys ap Tewdwr. The difference may have been that royal recognition and protection of the buffer kingdoms was de facto, but the relationship between the king and Rhys was de iure and consisted of a formal and binding contract between the two. Abandonment of Brycheiniog, Morgannwg, and Gwynllwg simply entailed a change of policy while abandonment of Rhys would have required perfidy. On the other hand, the nature of the feudal contract between the Welsh and Norman kings was of a purely personal nature and it is likely that Rufus agreed that Deheubarth was to be regarded as fair game for the border barons after the death of Rhys. Deheubarth, and not Brycheiniog, was the ultimate goal of the Norman lords, and the invasion of the latter appears to have been at least in part a lure to force Rhys to commit himself. Meanwhile, indirect methods were pursued in an attempt to encompass the fall of Rhys. Bernard was the obvious choice to undertake the invasion of Brycheiniog; his lands lay athwart the major invasion route to that unhappy kingdom, and the lands which he might conquer would constitute an adequate reward for his activities.

As we have stated before, Bernard reached Glasbury by the autumn of 1088. Probably with the assistance of Richard Fitz-Pons lord of Clifford, he advanced steadily for the next two years. Talgarth was reached early in the process, and a castle, Bronllys, constructed at the confluence of the Dulais and Llyfni rivers, probably on the site of the Llys of the tywysog of the commote of Bronllys.23 He then moved south, along the Llyfni River, extending his control into the valley of the Usk. Moving up the latter, he reached the area where Brecon now stands in about 1091. Brecon was the strategic key to Brycheiniog, and Bernard probably immediately started the fortifications at the confluence of the Usk and Honddu which were later to serve as the caput of his honor of Brecon. The topography provided excellent defensive advantages since Brecon lay at the intersection of the remains of a number of Roman roads, which were still probably as good transportation routes as could be found.

In the next two years, it seems likely that Bernard continued extending his control over the surrounding countryside, but no record of such operations remains. The first mention occurs in Easter week of 1093, when an allied Welsh army led by Rhys ap Tewdwr and Bleddyn ap Maenarch, king of Brycheiniog, advanced out of the hills on Bernard's force.24 The king of Deheubarth had, at last, been forced to discard the protection of the agreement of 1081 and to gamble on battle. The Normans met the Welsh force near the new fortifications, perhaps at the site north of Brecon later marked by Bernard's donation for a priory of Battle Abbey.25 The battle ended, as has been said, with the death of Rhys and the removal of the last obstacle to a full-scale Norman invasion of South Wales.

Rhys' death, coupled with that of Bleddyn ap Maenarch, allowed Bernard to extend his power throughout Brycheiniog. His path of conquest turned down the valley of the Usk, and he advanced in that direction as far as Ystradyw.26 Even while this movement was underway, the rest of South Wales was swept by a popular revolt of the Welsh, who reacted violently to Norman appropriation of their homeland. This reaction, which began in the spring of 1094, at first left Brycheiniog untouched. In 1095 the Normans of this region attempted to come to the aid of their hard-pressed countrymen elsewhere in South Wales. Attacking through Cantref Bychan and Ystrad Tywy, the Brecknockshire Normans devastated Kidwelly and Gower, but without effect.27 The following year, Brecknockshire itself felt the violence of revolt, when the Welsh of the area allied with bands from Gwynllwg and upper Gwent, and apparently gained complete control of the open country. The Normans sought refuge in their castles and waited for the flame of revolt to die out.23

Two separate expeditions were mounted in an attempt to relieve these beleaguered garrisons.29 The first was directed into upper Gwent and experienced no opposition in its advance. It was ambushed, however, on its withdrawal and suffered heavy losses. A second expedition, directed toward the heart of Brycheiniog, was crus hed by the men of that region at Aber Llech.30 The Annales Cambriae point out, however, that it succeeded, before its defeat in performing what must have been one of its major objectives "Again they came into Brycheiniog and built ca stles there."31 There is no further mention of the region in contemporary sources for this period, but it seems clear that the rebellious countryside was slowly brought back under control by the Norman garrisons in the area. The following year s were quiet ones for Brecknockshire, in which the settlement of the area was finally established.

Little mention of the processes of the Norman settlement of Brecknockshire can be found in contemporary records. Only the charters help to give some indication of the lines which this settlement followed. Bernard endowed the knights who followed him with extensive Welsh fiefs.32 The strong fortresses of Tretower, Blaen Llyfni, and Crickhowell were then constructed to guard those passes which offered easy access to the lands south and east of Brycheiniog.33 This policy of continuing the task of guarding the border of England led to a repetition in miniature of the process which had given birth to the lordship of Brecon. To guard the western frontier of Brecknockshire, Bernard established Richard Fitz-Pons in Cantref Selyff, on the far western border of the lordship. From this base of power Richard continued, on his own, to extend Norman power westward. He moved across the border and, by 1115, was in control of Llandovery and the surrounding Cantref Bychan.34 The records state that Richard made this conquest with the express permission of Henry I, and the area was long held in fief by the Clifford family.35 Richard's achievement offers some indicati on that the process which led to the creation of the marcher lordships was, to some degree, self-generating.

At the same time that Bernard acted to promote the formation of another dynamic group of Norman border barons, he also created what amounted to a new Welsh nobility by investing the sons of Bleddyn ap Maenarch with some of the more untillable and mountainous portions of his lordship. Gwrgan received parts of Blaen Llyfni and Aberllyfni, while Caradog was granted an otherwise unidentifiable mountainous region. Drymbenog ap Maenarch, Bleddyn's brother, was established in the hills of Cantref Selyff as a neighbor of Richard Fitz-Pons.36

It is clear then that the moors and mountains were allowed to remain in Welsh hands, while the Norman conquerors concentrated their activity in the central plains of the lordship. Castles were built on the slopes which overlooked the comparatively fertile valleys of the Usk and Wye. Around Brecon a settlement was established and was granted borough status. Manors were organized, and farming villages soon began to dot the landscape. This agricultural exploitation, one of the more interesting aspects of the settlement of Brecknockshire, was made possible by a combination of circumstances. The land which lay in the valleys of Brecknockshire was, and is, at least partly alluvial in origin. For this reason, the soil has a higher fertility than one might expect from the region. Secondly, although the area is at a comparatively high elevation, it is protected from the extremely heavy rainfall of such altitudes by the high mountains which lie to the west and south. These mountains produce, in the valleys which cut through them, a rain shadow effect which reduces rainfall to tolerable limits. Although these and other factors made agriculture possible to the Normans, the nature of the region is such that it could never have been an easy or very profitable pursuit. In any event, Norman agricultural development was limited to the valley floors, for the slopes were not at all arable, considering the technology of the times. As a consequence, Normanization was restricted to the valleys, where the manors which formed the economic basis of the society could exist. The moors, slopes, and mountains were left to the growth of gorse and bracken amidst which the Welsh pastoralists continued to tend their herds. They took no part in the development of Brecknockshire, other than by paying tribute to their Norman lords, who had established their manors and reared their castles in the valleys far below.

The Welsh of Brycheiniog had lost little through the Norman conquest of the area. For the most part, the Normans could not use the pasture lands which the Welsh valued most highly and made no effort to dispossess the natives of these areas. On the other hand the land which the Normans had to control to exist were the valleys which the free Welsh tribesmen had little desire to utilize. A peaceful accommodation was possible, in which the Norman lords occupied a dual position. In the valleys, the traditional manorial and feudal structure of Anglo-Norman society was simply transplanted into the new region. In the moors, however, the Norman lords displaced the native Welsh rulers and collected the dues and tributes which hitherto had been rendered to them. The situation was such that the two societies of the region impinged only at the uppermost governmental level, and, by assuming a dual role, the Normans avoided too much contact even here. In discussing the economic aspects of the Norman conquest of Brycheiniog, William Rees states:

   The advent of the Norman ... did not necessarily imply a violent displacement of the native Welsh. Rather may it be said the Norman agriculturalist of the valley supplemented the Welsh pastoralist of the hills so that economically the area gained by the conquest. The Norman hold on the lowland belt not only weakened the resistance of the Welsh, but also formed a suitable base for expansion into the hill districts from the chief Norman settlements either by force of arms or by the less spectacular but more successful silent diffusion of Norman influences among the Celtic population.37

We have seen that Rufus' abandonment of his predecessor's frontier policy spelled the end of the independent buffer states which lay along England's western border. Brycheiniog was the first to fall, and by 1093, Bernard was actively engaged in transforming that ancient kingdom into his honor of Brecon. The death of Rhys in that year then opened the way for the invasion of Deheubarth itself. The marcher lords were not slow to take advantage of this opportunity. In July of 1093, less than four months after the death of Rhys, Roger of Montgomery completed his preparations and moved down from his mountainous base of Arwystli. In a short time, Ceredigion and Dyfed, the heart of Deheubarth, lay in his hands.

37Rees, "The Medieval Lordship of Brecon," pp. 203-204.

3J. E. Lloyd, A History of Wales from the Earliest Times to the Edwardian Conquest, II, 399.

4Orderic Vitalis, "Historiae Ecclesiasticae libri XIII in partes tres divisi," in Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, vol. CLXXXVIII, col. 281. The castle was difficult to defend, and a series of barons appointed by the duke failed in this task. Hugh of Grantmesnil finally defeated the people of Beauvais, and the fief, or a portion of it, was granted to him.

5Orderic Vitalis, cols. 455 and 457.

6Such as J. G. Nichols, "The Battle Abbey Roll," The Herald and Genealogist, ed. J. G. Nichols, I, 202.

7Foedera, Conventiones, Litterae, et cujuscunque Generis Acta Publica ...., ed.T. Rymer, Vol. I, Part 1, p. 4.

8See Monasticon Anglicanum ..., ed., W. Dugdale, Carta II, 15 Ed. II, n. 8.

9It is interesting to note that the name "Willielmus filius Osb' " appears as a testor to this charter. Since William Fitz-Osbern, earl of Hereford, was long since dead, it is difficult to discern the identity of this witness.

10 Historia et Cartularium Monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae, I, 80, charters 281 and 282; II, 314.

11Chronicon Monasterii de Bello nunc primum typis mandatum, ed. J. S. Brewer, p. 35. For Osbern's Domesday estates, see Domesday Book: or the Great Survey of England by William the Conqueror A.D. MLXXXVI, fol. 186b.

12Domesday Book, fol. 186.

13I. C. Gould, "Ancient Earthworks," The Victoria Histories of the Counties of England: Hereford, I, 236, 244-245, 254-256.

14W. H. Hunt, "Bernard de Neufmarche," The Dictionary of National Biography. This view is shared by Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 397.

15 This is substantially the view expressed by W. Rees, "The Medieval Lord ship of Brecon," The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion for 1915-1916, pp. 170-172. Rees points out that although Bernard apparently received all of Gilbert's holdings, only a portion of Alfred's estates were granted to him.

16 It might be well to clear up some misconceptions concerning the identity of Bernard's supposed first wife. The Duchess of Cleveland (The Battle Abbey Roll: With Some Account of the Norman Lineages, II, 352-353) states that Bernard had two wives, the latter being Nest, the daughter of Rhys ap Gruffydd. The duchess apparently derived this information from T. Nichols, Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales.... The Duchess holds that it was this later Nest who granted lands to Battle Abbey (See Chronicon Monasterii de Bello, p. 35) while suffering "Qualms of Conscience." This is doubtful, since the lands she granted were de propria hereditate, and, at the time of Domesday lay in the hands of Osbern Fitz-Richard (Domesday Book, fol. 176b), the father of Bernard's supposed first wife. J. E. Lloyd, considering this matter (A History of Wales, II, 397, n. 135), concludes that Bernard's only wife was Agnes, daughter of Osbern Fitz-Richard. Nest, daughter of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, was the wife of said Osbern, and, hence, Bernard's mother-in-law, not his second wife.

17Rees,"The Medieval Lordship of Brecon,"pp.170-172.

18Orderic Vitalis, cols. 562 ff.

19The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, According to the Several Original Authorities ed. and trans.B. Thorpe, Part I, pp. 356-358.

20Wulfstan's role in saving the threatened city was later magnified into miraculous proportions. See E. A. Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest of England: Its Causes and Results, II, App. D, for a detailed discussion of the development of this tradition.

21Historia et Cartularium Monasterii Sancti Petri Gloucestriae, I, 80, charters 281 and 282; 11, 314. The charter is dated here 1088. It is confirmed by William II in his second regnal year, which did not begin until September.

22Lloyd A History of Wales, II, 396-397.

23See G. T. Clark, "Bronllys Castle," Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series III Vol. VIII (1862), pp. 81-92.

24Brut y Tywysogion: or The Chronicle of the Princes of Wales, ed. J. Williams ab Ithel, p. 54. Note that the date given by the Brut is 1094.

25It may well be that, as Battle Abbey itself was constructed on the spot where Harold supposedly fell, Brecknock Priory occupied the spot of Rhys' death.

26The bishops of Llandaff complained of this annexation, since it brought the area into the honor of Brecon, which lay in the diocese of St. David's. See The Liber Landavensis, Llyfr Teilo, or the Ancient Register of the Cathedral Church of Llandaff ..., ed. and trans. W. J. Rees, p. 550.

27The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Part I, pp. 361-362.

28The various readings of the Brut y Tywysogion leave different impressions of the events of 1094. Most versions read that "the inhabitants remained in their houses, confiding fearlessly, though the Castles were yet entire, and the garrisons m them. MS D, however, a corrupt copy dating from the fifteenth century, replaces "fearlessly" with "tremblingly." The former reading is much to be preferred.

29Lloyd, A History of Wales, II, 406, n. 9. Lloyd is of the opinion that both expeditions originated from the newly conquered region of Glamorganshire.

30Brut y Tywysogion, p. 58.

31Annales Cambriae, ed. J. Williams ab Ithel, p. 30 and n. 18.

32T. Jones, A History of the County of Brecknock ..., I, 61.

33See G. T. Clark, "Tretower, Blaen Llyfni and Crickhowell Castles," Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series IV, Vol. II (1873), pp. 276-284; "The Castle of Builth," Archaeologia Cambrensis, Series IV, Vol. V (1874 ), pp. 1 -8.

34Rees, "The Medieval Lordship of Brecon," p. 173; also see the essay entitled "The Family of Ballon and the Conquest of South Wales," in J. H. Round, Studies in Peerage and Family History, pp. 181-215.

35Brut y Tywysogion, p. 122.

36Jones, A History of the County of Brecknock, I, 62.


-------------------- Lord Marcher, Baron of Brecnoch. Conquered the ancient kingdom of brychan in Breconshire, Wales, including Talgarth, Chatellenie de Hay, Ystradvy forest & the mini-kingdom of Brecon or Brecknock. -------------------- Bernard de Neufmarché was Lord of Brecknock in Wales. He was given Abergavenny and St. Briavel castles by Empress Mathilda.

According to the Chronicle of Ystrad Fflur (1093): "In this year Rhys ap Tewdwr, king of the South, was slain by Frenchmen who were inhabiting Brycheiniog - and with him fell the kingdom of the Britons. And within two months the French overran Dyfed and Ceredigion - and made castles and fortified them. And Bernard de Neufmarchine founded a Benedictine priory at Brecon." He conquered the ancient kingdom of Brychan in Breconshire, Wales, including Talgarth, Chatellenie de Hay, Ystradvy forest, and the mini-kingdom of Brecon or Brecknock, in 1093. .

He married Nesta of Hereford, daughter of Osbern fitz Richard and Nesta verch Gruffyd, before 1104.

See "My Lines"

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from Compiler: R. B. Stewart, Evans, GA

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-------------------- Bernard De Neufmarche was born c. 1050 - c. 1125 in the castle of Le-Neur-Marche-en-Lions on the frontier between Normandy and Beauvais to Geoffrey de Neufmarche and Ada de Hugleville. Bernard married Agnes (Nest) whose mother was the Welsh princess Nest, daughter of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn and Edith of Mercia BEFORE 1099 and had a child: Sibyle de Neufmarche. He passed away on c. 1125.

NOTE: See link:


Bernard De Neufmarche is my 30th great grandfather.

view all 32

Bernard de Neufmarche, Lord of Brecon's Timeline

château de Neuf-Marché, Seine-Maritime, Haute Normandie, France
Age 30
Age 37
Of Aberhonwy, Brecknockshire, Wales
Age 43
Brecon / Aberhonddu, Brecknockshire, (later Powys), Wales
Age 43
St. John Priory, Brecheiniog, Wales
Age 43
Brecon, Wales
Age 43
Aberhonwy, Brecon, Wales
Age 43
Aberhonwy, Brecon, Wales
Age 43
Braybrooke,Market Harborough,Northamptonshire,England
February 1, 1933
Age 43