Yr oedd ym ar ryw ddamwain
The only way of moving livestock for sale in Guto's period was by urging them slowly along the roads. A very interesting cywydd of Guto's is `Droving' where he recounts his journey driving the lambs of his patron, Sir Benet ap Hywel, from his home in Corwen to the distant reaches of England (poem 44). Although there were important livestock markets in Wales, it was necessary to travel further to obtain better prices, especially as a number of the market towns in Wales were still experiencing economic hardship after Glyndŵr's uprising. For more information on the markets, see Gazetteer of Markets and fairs in England and Wales to 1516.
Some of the journeys could, therefore, be very long, and one obvious difficulty would be the tolls levied on goods when crossing bridges, such as Montford bridge on the way to Shrewsbury or the toll at Hereford levied on goods crossing the old bridge over the Wye. It is on record that cattle were brought all the way from Wrexham to Suffolk in 1463, and in the midst of the Wars of the Roses a supply of meat from Welsh cattle was supplied to English soldiers in France after bringing the cattle from Wales to London. It is difficult to guess how long the journeys would last, as this would depend on the condition of the roads, the weather and the amount of livestock. There is extant a record in the form of a drover from England who started on one of his journeys on 12 May 1323. He took an enormous amount of livestock with him from Long Sutton in Lincolnshire, and among them 272 lambs. He had employed four farm-hands to help him urge the animals on a journey from Cowick in east Yorkshire and the journey lasted nearly a month. A journey from Corwen to the Midlands would therefore have taken some time! The medieval map of Great Britain (c.1370), 'The Gough Map of Great Britain' shows the ancient roads of Medieval Wales, see 'The Gough Map of Great Britain'.
There is no doubt that droving was a difficult and tiring task, but fortunately for Guto he had two farm-hands to help him on his journey:
Yr oedd ym ar ryw ddamwain
Wŷr ar hur i yrru’r rhain,
Deuwr yn eu llamdwyaw
A’r prydydd yn drydydd draw.
I happened to have with me
hired men to drive these animals,
two leading them
and the poet third yonder.
But he too experienced difficulties. A number of his lambs perished in the river! Another problem for drovers was theft of their animals and goods by robbers, especially in the Marches according to a law passed in 1441-2, and the complaint is also occasionally voiced by the poets. The condition of the roads too slowed down the journey, especially with so many rivers flooding, and such also is Guto's complaint (poem 44).
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Bibliography: R. Richards, Cymru’r Oesau Canol (Wrecsam, 1933), 210.
: R.T. Jenkins, Y Ffordd yng Nghymru (Wrecsam a Chaerdydd, 1933), 73.
: C. Skeel, ‘The Cattle Trade between Wales and England from the Fifteenth to the Ninteenth Centuries’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 4th series, vol. ix (1926), 135-158.
: F.M. Stenton, ‘The Road System of Medieval England’, The Economic History Review, vii, no. 1 (19361-21), 18-19.
: R. Richards, Cymru’r Oesau Canol (Wrecsam, 1933), 341.
: R.I. Daniel (gol.), Gwaith Llawdden (Aberystwyth, 2006), poem no. 23.
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