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At the Edge / Bob Trubshaw /

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Boudica and The Gop

Charles Evans-Gunther

The Gop is a fascinating place that can be seen for miles. An old friend of mine suggested, years ago, that it was a focus for a ley line. There is no doubt in my mind that when in the area of Maen Achwyran some sort of energy or water or something leaves the cross and travels in the direction of Gop Hill, which can be seen from there. I actually dowsed around Maen Achwyran myself; I do believe there is something behind dowsing but do not consider myself to be anything of an expert.

Gop Hill is classed as the second-largest man-made hill next to Silbury Hill. No burial has been found and it could as easily be neolithic as bronze age. There are a considerable number of tumuli in this area and this many have given rise to the belief of a battle. Some of the sites had names, such as 'The hill of slaughter', 'Hollow of woe', and so on, but I do not put any weight on the belief.

As for Boudica and Y Gop - the source is basically Edward Parry's Royal visit and progress to Wales (1851 p20-23) but he quotes from Thomas Pennant who claims that Coperleni (one of the names for the area of The Gop) means Cop Paulini, from Seutonius Paulinus. There is no evidence whatsoever that this is fact. Edward Lhuyd in his Parochalia (1699) does however connect The Gop with a Roman general called Aurelius, who fortified the site and was later interred there. No mention of Boudica being buried on the hill. The earliest reference to Coperleni is in 1602 by George Owen of Hen Llys, Pembrokeshire, and he makes no mention of Roman generals or Boudica.

There are a number of suggestions as to what Coperleni meant - one is that is Copa'r goleuni - the Summit of Light (a strong possibility). However, the hill was also known as Carnychan, meaning the Oxen Cairn. Ellis Davies in his Prehistoric and Roman remains of Flintshire (p156-162) covers the subject excellently.

The links between Boudica and north Wales seem to be basically a series of misunderstandings and wishful thinking - finally helped along by Owen Morien in 1913 with his silly little booklet. Among the misunderstandings is that Maen Achwyfan was connected with a battle. The cross is late dark Age and the designs on it are distinctly viking. Similar examples can be found in many areas of the English coastal areas as well. No one is sure what achwyfan means - gwynfan means 'lamentation' but here there is no 'n' after the 'y'. It may well have something to do with St Gwyfan as in Llangwyfan. Could it be Maen Ach-wyfan, 'the stone of Gwyfan's lineage'? I do not know.

Parry and Morgan connect the torc found at Bryn Sion and the stone called Carreg Bedd Buddug with Boudica. The former was certainly a torc made of Irish gold but has no connection with Boudica. Carreg Bedd Buddug was an inscribed stone of Roman origin that was in the possession of Thomas Pennant at Downing Hall near Whitford; it is believed to have been removed from a site near Ysgeifiog. The inscription reads Hic iacit mulier bona nobili, which translates as 'Here lies the good wife of Nobilis'. Where the name Carreg Bedd Buddug came from is anyone's guess.

As far as I am aware, apart from Pennant, Parry and Morgan, there is no evidence that Boudica ever came to Wales. When Suetonius moved from Anglesey is is more likely that he joined up with soldiers from the south of England and would have been in the Midlands by the time Boudica attacked. he had picked his ground and it does not sound remotely like Trelawnyd (Newmarket) or Gop Hill.

Having said that, the Romans had only one choice when trying to get back into England by road from Wales. That would certainly have meant crossing the River Clwyd somewhere near St Asaph, heading towards Holywell and then on through Flint or along Halkyn Mountain (not actually a mountain but a ridge running above and south of Flint). This is just logic, not historical fact.

Boudica's last battle - introduction | Did Boudica die in Flintshire? | In search of Boudica at The Gop | Buddug in Flintshire | Boudica - the case for Atherstone and Kings Cross

Originally published in Mercian Mysteries No.25 November 1995.

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