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The Abergavenny Massacre

Sometimes we hear a tale that is so incredible it makes your hair stand on end. This week our story takes us just across the Herefordshire border into Abergavenny, a popular town and one which Herefordians love to visit. But what you may or may not know is that Abergavenny was the location for one of the most egregious massacres recorded in British History.

It all started when the Lord of Abergavenny one Henry FitzMiles was murdered along with his only son. Upon his death his nephew William de Braose, Lord of Bramber inherited his seat and castle. Battles between the English and the Welsh were frequent and brutal. Living on the border was dangerous and rarely peaceful, which invariably led to many different victors taking Abergavenny castle. This time however it was personal for William de Braose, he raged about the untimely death of his uncle and secretly plotted to take his revenge on the man responsible, the Lord of Gwent Seisyll ap Dyfnwal.

William’s plan was to lure Seisyll to the castle with an invitation to a marvellous Christmas Day celebration and feast. It was under the guise of a peace offering, a move to reconcile the factions and bring peace to the area. It was to be a grand affair and Seisyll’s sons, along with notable leaders and Welsh Princes were welcomed to attend. Word travelled fast and there was a willingness for peace, the leaders were tired of the constant battles and loss of men.

As Seisyll and members of his family entered the castle, they along with the other attendees removed their weapons and proceeded to enjoy the celebrations, drinking, eating and dancing into the night. William watched as his enemies enjoyed his hospitality, relaxed and unarmed, vulnerable and totally unaware of what was coming next. Revenge was about to be dealt with one almighty blow. William signalled to his men that it was time to enact his bloody plan and within moments complete chaos broke out. Every guest was attacked and mercilessly murdered, adults and children alike.

Aware that Seisyll’s youngest son and wife had not attended the gathering and such was his thirst for revenge, William gathered his men, located their whereabouts and killed the boy as his mother tried to protect him in her arms. The night had been bloody and brutal and it earned William the nickname of The Ogre of Abergavenny.

Amazingly his actions were forgiven as he was favoured by King John of England and he later took up post of Sheriff of Herefordshire.

As they say karma always comes around to bite you and in 1175 The Lord of Caerleon took Abergavenny castle and burnt it to the ground. William was said to have fled to Ireland and was later seen in France where he lived out the remainder of his life dying in exile there. His wife and son were taken to Corfe Castle and are said to have starved to death in the dungeons.

If you think this tale sounds familiar, you would be right, it does. For those of you who are Game of Thrones fans you’ll remember the ‘Red Wedding’, we wonder if this moment in history inspired George R R Martin at all?

These stories are curated from many sources and retold in our fun ESL style, in the true spirit of Folklore.

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