Celtic-Saxon boundary map

After 400 years of occupation the Romans left Britain and almost immediately Angles, Saxons and Jutes arrived. They moved westwards through the country establishing their own new kingdoms as they went but Herefordshire did not feel the effect of this Anglo-Saxon invasion and settlement until the end of the 6th century and then only in the northern and eastern parts of the county. The map shows the extent of the early Anglo-Saxon settlement in Herefordshire. The area to the west of this remained under Celtic control.

At this time Garway was part of the Welsh kingdom of Ergyng, called Archenfield by the Anglo-Saxon English, which occupied the area bounded by the river Wye in the east, the Worm Brook to the north and the river Monnow to the west and south. The powerful Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia soon became Archenfield's eastern neighbour while the Welsh kingdom of Gwent continued to border them in the southwest. The people of Archenfield appeared to suffer no aggression from their new English neighbours as they continued to use their Welsh language, laws and customs without any interference. But the Mercian kings did expect duties from them. They were to march with the English army, providing the vanguard into battle and bringing up the rear in its retreat; priests of the three churches in Archenfield were bound to carry the king's messages into Wales and to say two masses every week for him; and certain men were to accompany the sheriff into Wales when required. Archenfield was being used as a buffer state between the English and Welsh kingdoms, an arrangement that seems to have lasted until the Norman Conquest by which time the original inhabitants had been assimilated into Anglo-Saxon society.

Medieval Farming. Click to open

Christianity had arrived in Britain about the same time as the invaders from Europe but had developed in two distinct ways, Roman and Celtic. In 597AD Augustine arrived from Rome to convert the British heathens to Christianity. He and his fellow missionaries landed on the east coast of England and it was there that they began their work. But by this time Christianity had been well established in parts of Wales by the missionaries who became known as the Celtic Saints. Completely free from the influence of Rome they went out into the countryside telling the local people of Jesus, his life, death and resurrection. The King of Archenfield made a gift of land in Garway 'for the sake of the Heavenly Kingdom unto God and Saint Dubricius and his community'. (Dubricius is the Latin version of the Welsh Dyfrig) Dyfrig, who was born about 450AD and is believed to be the grandson of the King of Archenfield, founded several monasteries in the area and later became the Bishop of Llandaff. The settlement built in around 600AD on a site in Garway, possibly in the vicinity of the existing St Michael's church, was known in Welsh as a Clas and was home not only to the monks but also to their families - celibacy had no place in the Celtic Church. A necessity for the people living in the Clas would have been water and the spring still found in the south-east corner of today's churchyard could have provided a ready source for everyday use and for baptisms. This could be the clue to the site of Garway's Clas.

Medieval Harvesting. Click to open

The Vikings were next to arrive on the coasts of Britain but made no memorable changes in the Monnow Valley, although, as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles for 917AD, a Viking raiding party did kidnap Cyfeiliog, the Bishop of Archenfield, in 914AD and held him until King Edward the Elder paid the required £40 ransom.

The 2006 archaeological investigation on Garway Hill Common concluded that the area appears to have been subject to intensive cultivation during the medieval period, when all available land was needed to support the increasing population, and to other uses, including quarrying, in the post medieval period. The illustrations shows ploughing with an oxen and harvesting in medieval times. Many of the rights and customs of the people of Archenfield were maintained until comparatively recently. Men born in Archenfield had the right to take salmon from the river Wye until 1911.