View Full Version : Flemish Settlement in England and Wales

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008, 10:04 PM
I realize it is from the BBC, but it is the most concise source on this topic I could locate.


How refugees from Flanders (Belgium) found themselves creating a little England beyond Wales in Pembrokeshire.

Back in the 12th century, Flanders - a region of Belgium - had been devastated by floods and was becoming dangerously overpopulated. Many Flemings escaped to England. Initially welcomed, they soon began to irritate their hosts.

Henry I's solution to this little local difficulty was to shift them en masse to a remote farming settlement in south Pembrokeshire.

It was a move that created a divide in Pembrokeshire between the native Welsh and the incoming Flemish/English that exists to this day. The legacy of 12th century Flemish incomers is 'Little England beyond Wales.

Castles were built - the Landsker Line stretched from Newgale to Amroth. The Chronicle of the Welsh Princes records "a certain folk of strange origins and customs occupy the whole cantref of Rhs the estuary of the river Cleddau, and drove away all the inhabitants of the land". It was almost ethnic cleansing.

The influx of Flemings was so great the Welsh language was eradicated south of the divide. Flemish gradually gave way to English but with a distinctive dialect and accent - traces of which can still be heard today.

The region has kept its anglicised culture and sense of separation ever since. Until 19th century it was the only English-speaking area of Wales away from the English border.



...Before Caesar's conquest of Britain, there were Low Dutch people who had immigrated into Britain from Flanders, because of floods. The Frisians conducted most of Britain's import and export trade before the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons in the fifth and sixth centuries. In the eighth century, England was a centre of learning. Some missionaries, like Willibrod and Boniface, worked among the Frislans. Then in the ninth and tenth centuries, the learned people of England - Alcuin among them - were driven by the attacks of the Danes to the Continent. In the latter half of the tenth century, the foreign trade of London laid the foundations of its future commercial greatness. Because of its relations with the merchants of the Dutch towns of Tiel and Dordrecht - the greatest commercial centres of that time - England's prosperity increased.

Following the Norman Conquest, there came many Flemish weavers who had a large share in the development of England. Dutch immigrants started sheep-farming, which was to contribute so much to England's early greatness. The Flemish type of industrial organisation inspired the formation of the English guilds of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In the twelfth century Dutch merchants had their own private wharves in London and were members of the Guildhall. At the time of the Conquest, many Anglo-Saxon refugees settled in the Low Countries. Time and again, Dutch soldiers have fought on English soil, where some of their descendants now are. In 1165, for example, Henry II fought the Welsh with Flemish and Brabant troops...



Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008, 02:33 PM
I believe common surnames such as Jenkins and Watkins are of Flemish origin.

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008, 05:21 PM
I believe common surnames such as Jenkins and Watkins are of Flemish origin.

Indeed; delving further into it, it seems the Flemish had quite a disproportionate influence on the British Isles, especially in the "Celtic" regions. Here is some additional information on settlement in Scotland (as well as the origins of some prominent clans).

For the Anglo-Flemish, the half century between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the witnessing of that Glasgow Inquisition which brought them into Scottish affairs in 1116 must have seemed like the summit of the world. After the awe-inspiring repulse of the Vikings by their fathers in Flanders, they had gone on in their own time to reach and sustain a pinnacle of achievement never known before in the history of a nation. Nationhood itself was a very young concept. Family bonds, loyalty to a liege lord, be he count, duke or king, the honour of a sacred cause, adherence to the chivalry code - these things were what bound men together, with national borders apt to be secondary to kinship, perhaps because they were so unfixed. Those Flemings who had followed Count Eustace II of Boulogne to England in 1066 and received their territories there from William of Normandy, were now being offered large tracts of Scotland because their Lady had become that country’s Queen...


Imperator X
Sunday, January 27th, 2008, 08:32 PM
Could there be found more info about the Flemish influence on these areas' English language?

Sunday, August 24th, 2008, 05:28 PM
This is a wave of migration often overlooked against the backdrop of more spectacular invasions, but one which has obviously given us many an Englishman that wouldn't otherwise have been born, strengthening our Germanic links in the process. I would like to see more made of this link in future. A free Flanders would obviously help bring it to the fore a bit.

For my own part, I can contribute this photo of a Ford Maddox Brown mural in Manchester Town Hall. Our civic fathers in a more nationalistic and respectful age saw fit to include it as one of 12 scenes that decorated the Great Hall;

Monday, August 25th, 2008, 03:44 PM
Several sources I've seen say that during the middle ages flemish travellers in the Essex/kent Thames estery area could make themselves adequately understood.

Saturday, November 15th, 2008, 04:00 PM
I've got Watkins and Jenkins in my family - and they hail from Pembrokeshire.