History Files


Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Britain




MapDumnonii (Britons)

MapThe Dumnonii were a people with strong traditions reaching back unusually unmixed into the Bronze Age, predating the general Celtic arrival. In the eastern half of their territory, the part of Devon which lay to the west of the Exe, they appear to have used hill forts of the common British type, but across the Tamar (into modern Cornwall) these virtually disappear and their place is taken by fortifications which are very similar to those in Brittany and Spain. Around the first centuries BC and AD, they were neighboured to the east by the Durotriges, to the south across the English Channel by the Osismii, and to the north across the Bristol Channel by the Silures. (See the map of most of Europe's tribes around the first centuries BC and AD to view the tribe's location in relation to all other Celts.)

Although under nominal Roman control until the late fourth century, the Dumnonii probably exercised a certain amount of self-government in their own lands (and may have been almost entirely self-governed during the period - see the Ancient Dumnonia page on the Dewnans Celtic Devon web site for an intriguing viewpoint on this). Their nobles would have retained their lands and position, and the hereditary kingship may well have remained within the same family, given that there may have been little conflict on offer to dislodge them. The Romans clearly found the Dumnonians to be fierce in their resistance to invasion, and it is thought that the two sides reached an understanding whereby the Dumnonians would be cooperative clients if the Romans left them alone.

The Dumnonii name probably means 'the masters', or 'the dominators', or even 'the lords'. It appears to derive from a more militarily and socially dominant (unrecorded) Gaulish word which is cognate with the Latin 'dominus' ('master' or 'owner'). It is a militaristic name for a tribe that dominated the south-western peninsula of Britain. However, sub-groups within the tribal collective may have named themselves after the god they followed. This is an especial possibility with the Cornovii (in modern Cornwall).

FeatureAccording to tradition that was first written down by Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth, the Dumnonians were descended from Corineus and his people, the descendants of Trojan refugees and fellow arrivals with Brutus, the first high king of Britain. Corineus was the eponymous founder of Cornubia (Cornwall) and wore one of the 'Three Coronets of Britain'.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, from Roman Britain: A New History, Guy de la Bédoyère, and from External Links: Dewnans Celtic Devon, and England's western-most Roman town uncovered.)


During the Governorship of Aulus Didius Gallus, the invading Romans build and occupy a legionary fort on a spur overlooking the River Exe, named Isca. Elements of the Dumnonii may flee to Ireland where a similarly-named tribe is later known to exist, and to the far north of Britain where a Damnonii tribe exists. The Romans also inhabit a settlement near St Austell in the neighbouring territory of the Cornovii, which may be an ironworks. It is one of the very few instances of Romans venturing deep into the Cornish peninsula. They are known to provide guards for a few tin mines, but little else is generally found by archaeologists.

Roman Exeter
An artist's impression of the Roman settlement of Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter)

A brand new discovery in 2010 in a green field site in Devon suddenly offers the chance of virtually doubling the amount of land known to have been Roman-occupied in Dumnonia. A previously unknown Roman town appears to have existed several kilometres to the west of Isca, making it the most westerly of all major Roman sites outside of Wales. Almost a hundred Roman coins are discovered, leading to further investigation which reveals a huge landscape, including at least thirteen round-houses, quarry pits and trackways covering at least thirteen fields, the first of its kind for the region, along with a possible cemetery. Much more work on the site is required.

c.60 - 65

The site of Isca's Roman baths are discovered by archaeologists in 1971. Due to a lack of funds the find is reburied under the cathedral green in order to protect it. Built around AD 60-65 the baths are able to accommodate hundreds of bathers. Together, Isca's bathhouse and basilica are the largest set of Roman remains in the south-west of Britain. The baths include a large caldarium, or hot room, a trepidarium, or cold room, an expensive furnace house, exercise yard, and multiple service rooms.

c.75 - 80

The Roman legion based at Isca is withdrawn so that it can help in the conquest of the Deceangli, Ordovices and Silures tribes in the west of Britain (modern Wales). Isca is quickly converted into a bustling Romano-British civilian settlement known as Isca Dumnoniorum, complete with all the usual monumental Roman public buildings, baths and forum (construction of the latter is begun straight away, in AD 75). Some evidence of Roman military occupation remains in the territory of the Cornovii (Cornwall) and on Dartmoor, thought to be protecting supply routes for important resources such as tin.


Roman occupation of the Cornovii site of St Austell site is finally ended, for reasons unknown, making it possibly one of the last sites in the peninsula to experience Roman settlement of any kind. It is interesting to note that traditional claims of a re-emerging Dumnonii tribal aristocracy can be dated to not long after this point, raising the possibility that it gains power to fill a vacuum or is set up in power in much the same way as princes in Wales would be by Magnus Maximus (according to tradition) in the late fourth century. Tribal Dumnonia is reborn.

MapDumnonia (Defnas)

FeatureThis large and well-founded Celtic kingdom took in all of Cornwall (Cornubia), Devon (Dyfneint), and much of Somerset (the 'Summer Land' of the Mabinogion). It apparently emerged much earlier than many of its peers, perhaps up to two hundred years earlier than equivalents in the rest of modern England, while in Wales the picture is more confused. However, much of this claim to early independent or semi-independent kingship may be later tradition alone, perhaps based on an oral tradition that expanded the standing of a line of prominent native administrators.

One of the curiosities of late Roman Britain is the appearance of stones recording building or repair work on Hadrian's Wall. The stones are undated, but are placed in the mid-fourth century and two record work by the civitas Dumnoniorum and the civitas Durotrigum. They seem to represent either an enforced labour party under military supervision (which would not discount the possible presence of a semi-independent Dumnonia), or the provision of civilian labour to maintain the country's defences (which would mitigate against semi-independence, but not wholly).

Dumnonia's original capital would have been Isca (late British Caer Penhuelgoit according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, modern Exeter). Archaeology confirms that this site was abandoned in the fifth century and, given the advances of the West Seaxe, the capital would have been relocated to new locations to the west, time and time again. Modern Devon formed the heartland of Dumnonia, with the county's name being a contorted version of 'Dumnonia' itself. During Britain's confused dark age period between the fifth and eighth centuries, 'Dumnonia' became mangled into 'Defnas'. This is thought to mean 'deep valley dweller' Britons (most appropriate for Devon). The change was likely to be the result of a consonant shift whereby 'dumnon' became 'defnon' and then became 'devon'. Defnas fell to the West Seaxe between 652-685, while the Cornish remnant of the kingdom was still fully independent until 875.

FeatureAlthough under nominal Roman control even in the late fourth century (despite the possibilities mentioned above for some form of de facto independence), the Dumnonii probably exercised a certain amount of self-government in their own lands. The Romans clearly found the Dumnonians to be fierce in their resistance to invasion, and it is thought that the two sides reached an understanding whereby the Dumnonians would be cooperative clients if the Romans left them alone. They most probably re-established their kingdom as a power in its own right by the time of Magnus Maximus, as the latter prepared Britain's defences prior to establishing his own claim for control of the Roman empire in AD 383. Dumnonia is perceived to have been fully independent by 410.

FeatureBy the fifth century, the kingdom also seems to have incorporated the former territory of the Durotriges. Given the dominance of Dumnonia over the whole of the south west, it is unlikely that an independent state emerged here, but either Caer Durnac (Roman Durnovaria, modern Dorchester in Dorset) or Wareham (the site of several early British memorial stones) may have hosted a regional power base, or sub-kingdom. With the apparent abandonment of Isca (Exeter) as a capital in the fifth century, what replaced it? In 2016, the Cornwall Archaeology Unit undertook the beginnings of a fresh dig at Tintagel in Cornwall. They uncovered thick foundation walls and a complex of buildings that point to the site being used as a royal residence by Dumnonia's kings. Coincidentally (or not), Tintagel is precisely where legend states that Arthur, the fifth century 'battle leader' of the Britons was born.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson and Geoffrey Tobin, from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe, and Roman Britain: A New History, Guy de la Bédoyère, from Wessex, Barbara Yorke, and from External Links: Encyclopaedia of Earth, and the Cornwall Archaeology Society.)

c.290 - c. 305

Caradoc / Caratacus / Caradocus

Trusted advisor of Eudaf Hen of Gwent. 'Duke of Cornwall'.

3rd century

The hill fort of Cadbury-Congresbury, close to Yatton in North Somerset, is occupied. It is the only major fortification in the South-West (and in Wales) to produce reasonable evidence for continuous occupation between this period and the sixth century. However, a Roman cemetery that lies along the Roman road at Ipplepen in Devon, near Exeter, remains in use for up to three hundred and fifty years after the end of direct Roman administration of Britain. In 2015, archaeologists unearth fifteen skeletons, a surprise to them which makes this one of the most important burial sites known in the South-West. The bodies suggest that life continues as normal at the settlement at Ipplepen, indirectly supporting the idea that a strong authority exist in the region that remains unaffected by events farther east.

Ipplepen Romano-British cemetery site
The Romano-British cemetery site at Ipplepen has revealed fifteen burials (so far) and a surprising level of continuity of use for a South-West site


Mauric / Meurig

First son. Heir, but predeceased Caradoc.


Donaut / Dionotus / Dynod

Brother. 'Duke of Cornwall'. Left kingdom to his son-in-law, Conan.

c.340 - c.387

Conan Meriadoc / Conanus

King of Vannetais. Left Dumnonia to his eldest son by Ursula.

337 - 343

The death of Roman Emperor Constantine, and then his eldest son, Constantine II in battle in 340, proves serious for Britain. Its early fourth century age of peace and prosperity begins to vanish. Constans makes a sudden and very unusual visit in early 343 and it is also suggested that the widespread refortification of cities which occurs in this century happens as a result of this visit. Units of Germanic laeti begin to appear in some cities, notably Venta Belgarum in the Belgae civitas, and migration begins from south-western Britain (notably the former territories of the Cornovii and Dumnonii) into Armorica.


Around this time, stones recording building or repair work appear along Hadrian's Wall. The stones are undated, but are placed in the mid-fourth century and two of them record work by the civitas Dumnoniorum and the civitas Durotrigum. They seem to represent either an enforced labour party under military supervision (which would not discount the possible presence of a semi-independent Dumnonia), or the provision of civilian labour to maintain the country's defences (which would mitigate against semi-independence, but not wholly).


This is the minting date for the last Roman coins to be found in Dumnonian territory, showing that the region is still integrated into the established Romano-British society at this time. This is also the approximate date at which the forum and basilica at Isca are given a new floor, showing that rebuilding and repair work is still taking place in Roman Britain. Unfortunately, the buildings are demolished within a generation.

383 - 388

Magnus Maximus, military commander (high king?) in Britain, is credited by Geoffrey of Monmouth with setting up Conan Meriadoc as king in Armorica. Conan is the rebellious nephew of Octavius, Maximus' predecessor as high king in Britain, so this could have an element of getting him out of harm's way in Britain. The relationship could make Octavius the father of Maximus' wife, as Conan is also her cousin.

It may be the case that the estimated dates used here for Conan are a little adrift, and the earlier date may even represent a date of birth rather than the beginning of his reign, as a reign of forty-seven years seems a little long. By AD 388, as a result of Maximus' defeat, a large number of his surviving troops appear to return to settle in Armorica.

c.387 - c.390

Gadeon / Cadfan

Son. Half brother Erbin ruled Vannetais.

c.390 - c.400

Guoremor / Gwrfawr / Vorimorus

Son. Probably first independent king of Dumnonia.


By this time, Dumnonia has probably extended the territory under its control to include the former territory of the Durotriges in neighbouring Dorset to the south-east. The apparent lack of centralised tribal control in Dorset prior to the Roman invasion may be to blame for this, with no Durotrigan state able to re-emerge now that central control is slackening.

However, it is during this new century that the Dumnonians finally abandon Isca (Exeter). Archaeology has shown a clear break in occupation around this time, with even renovation work carried out on the Roman forum around AD 378 having been abandoned when the buildings are destroyed, presumably very recently. If the Dumnonian leadership relocates to a single specific site then it may be Tintagel (in Cornwall). In 2016 the Cornwall Archaeology Unit began a fresh dig there and find walls about a metre thick (three feet).

Archaeology has established (in 2016) that Tintagel was the home to a privileged elite that was living a good life in a dense and complex settlement area behind strong stone walls - and perhaps not coincidentally, legend has long stated that it was here that Arthur of the Britons was born

The settlement area is discovered to be a dense one, with a complex of buildings, and large amounts of pottery from the eastern Mediterranean used for olive oil and wine, as well as Merovingian glass and fine Phocaean tableware from the west coast of Anatolia. The people here are clearly well-off and are maintaining old trading links with the Mediterranean and establishing new ones with the Franks via traditional markets in Gaul. No other similar sites have yet been found for this period, so it seems possible that this is a permanent Dumnonian capital.

c.400 - c.410

Tutwal / Tudwal

Son. Probably m Gratianna, youngest of Maximus' daughters.

c.410 - c. 435

Marcus Conomari / Conomor / Cynfawr



Marcus Conomari (or Cunomorus) is likely to be the name inscribed on stone and later found between Castledore and Fowey in Cornwall. The likeliest translation of the Latin inscription is 'Here lies Drustan, son of Cunomori'. Speculation ties Drustan with Tristan, of Lyonesse and of the Arthurian story, Tristan & Iseult, which relates events during the reign of Cyn-March ap Meirchion of Cornubia. In the Life of St Pol de Leon, completed in 883, the king is referred to as 'King Marc whose other name is Quonomorus', or Cunomorus, meaning 'hound of the sea'.


FeatureA theory by Dr John Morris, not fully accepted by modern scholars, is that there are two periods in this century in which elements of the Cornovii of the Midlands are moved into the south-west of Britain. According to the theory, around this time, the leading nobles of Viroconium move to Dumnonia, transplanting their Cornovian name to the western peninsula (Cornubia) and ruling over the Dumnonians (King Constantine of c.530 is unflatteringly described by Gildas as a 'tyrant whelp of the filthy lioness of Dumnonia', suggesting, however obliquely, that he may not himself be a Dumnonian).

While this theory has many detractors, there does seem to be a tradition of the Cornovii nobility joining that of the Dumnonians, and there is not nearly enough evidence to prove that this nobility is from Cornubia. Perhaps instead it represents a unification of two major and fairly powerful tribes in a location in Britain that offers more safety and better protection than the vulnerable West Midlands.

c.435 - 443

Constantine Corneu

Son. Split the kingdom between his two sons.


FeatureThere is a (probable) Irish presence at Dunster Castle (Dindraithov or Dindraethou to the Welsh) in the early post-Roman period. This is a fort which overlooks the approaches to Exmoor, four and-a-half kilometres (three miles) south-east of Minehead in Somerset (roughly on the edges of Dumnonian territory). The modern castle may not be the same site as the post-Roman fort, which could be located a little way inland. Irish settlers are frequenting Somerset at this time, which suggests that they are people who have already been accepted into Britain, such as the Deisi of Dyfed. They are not large in number but they do remain for a long time. Nearby Glastonbury is spoken of as 'Glastonbury of the Gaels' thanks to its shrines of St Patrick and St Brigit. The fort features in the list of twenty-eight cities of Britain in Nennius' Historia Brittonum, appearing as Caer Draithou, and is mentioned in the Life of St Carannog (of Ceredigion).

443 - c.480

Urban / Erbin ab Custennyn

Abdicated in favour of Gerren before 480.

443 - c.510

MapCornubia is governed as a sub-kingdom by Erbin's younger brother, Merchion. Upon his death, the region is sub-divided to create an independent Lyonesse.

c.480 - 508

Gerren / Gereint Llyngesog ab Erbin

First son. Served with Arthur? Died at Portsmouth in 501?


Gereint ab Erbin (otherwise known as Gerren or Gerontius) features in the Arthurian story of Culhwch and Olwen. He is an important character in Arthurian literature, and is probably the brother of Veneva (the Romano-British form of Guinevere), who marries Arthur. Arthur himself is dux Britanniarum, and possibly even an emperor of Britain in the style of several Romans before him. It seems reasonable that he would find a home in the land of his wife, at Cadbury Castle (especially given his own, traditional, origins in distant Armorica).

Cadbury Castle
Even today, Cadbury Castle presents the image of a powerful and defensible location, with views across the whole of Somerset giving it a level of strategic importance


FeatureAccording to tradition Cerdic and his (young) son Cynric, together with Saxon and possibly some Jutish companions, land in five ships on the south coast of Britain at Cerdices ora, and begin a takeover of the local Jutish, Saxon and sub-Roman territories. The Jutes and Saxons who are already settled there are apparently already referring to themselves as the West Seaxe.

Geoffrey Tobin suggests that this 'landing' of 495 be taken literally. The Encyclopaedia of Earth states 'Tidal streams in the eastern English Channel and [around the] Channel Islands area [are] generally anti-clockwise, whilst the western entrance of the Channel has a clockwise tidal circulation [that is] wedded to the Celtic Sea'. Visualising this, one can expect frequent landings in Hampshire from both Brittany and Flanders by skirting the English coast, and return journeys to the Cotentin peninsula then passing along the coasts of Brittany and France. Cerdic may take one of these routes while the Saxons take the other. If the strong states of Domnonia and Dumnonia are one kingdom in the fifth century, and Cerdic is an ambitious noble, perhaps a fractious younger brother of the magistrate or ruler of this region, this would explain his actions in landing near Southampton (as Bretons later often did) and taking on the loyalist Natanleod (in 508). Having established a beach-head, it would reflect the times for him to have forged alliances with rebellious Britons, immigrant Saxons and hybrid groups who needed a seasoned battle leader.


A newly arrived Saxon chieftain and his two ships of followers kill a Briton of very high rank at Portesmutha (British Portus Adurni, modern Portsmouth). This is possibly the last surviving part of the proposed British kingdom of Rhegin, but the Briton could also be Gereint of Dumnonia despite the apparent incongruity in dates (all dates for this period are flexible, being handed down by tradition, or being estimated based on existing records and knowledge).

Dywel ab Erbin

Served with Arthur? Died c.520? Son may have been St Pirran.

c.508 - c.530

Cado / Cato / Cadwy ab Gerren

King of Dumnonia & duke of Cornubia.


The line of sub-kings in Cornubia appears to die out, so the region seemingly passes back into Dumnonian hands, with a 'duke' of Cornubia nominally governing the land. The first of these, Cado, may be the Duke Cador of Cornwall of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It is probably this Cado who is mentioned in connection with Arthur in the Life of St Crannog (of Ceredigion).

Iestyn / St Justin

Brother. Entered the Celtic Church.

Selyfan / Solomanus / St Selevan

Brother. Entered the Celtic Church.

St Breage

Sister. Entered the Celtic Church.

c.530 - c.560

Custennin ab Cado / St Constantine

High King until c.540. Entered a monastery. Killed 589.


FeatureConstantine is one of the kings attacked by Gildas in the monk's work, On the Ruin of Britain, probably indicating his fame as one of the more powerful of his peers at this time. The king is referred to as a 'tyrant whelp of the filthy lioness of Dumnonia'.


According to William of Malmesbury, Cyndrwyn Glas settles in the Dumnonian region of Glastenning with his livestock after finding it deserted, migrating there from Luit Coyt (an early connection to this place in Pengwern that will later become important to him and his offspring).

The Glastonbury region seems to have experienced a power vacuum in the mid-fifth century which allowed the Dogfeilion to walk in and take over

Cyndrwyn Glas appears to be a king or sub-king here, and there is also a Cyndrwyn Fawr who appears as king of Pengwern around 613. Given the links between the Dogfeilion kings and Pengwern, this could also be Cyndrwyn Glas. 'Fawr' means 'great' in Brythonic/Welsh, suggesting that he has built a reputation for himself. Could he also be Cyndrwyn the Stubborn of South Powys?

c.560 - 598

Gerren rac Dehau ('for the South')

Son. Fought the Bernician Angles at Catreath.


FeatureOnce the West Seaxe make the breakthrough of capturing Caer Baddan, Caer Ceri, and Caer Gloui, Glastenning and the heartland of eastern Dumnonia are under direct threat. However, it seems likely that the three cities had been receiving military support from Glastenning or Dumnonia, and one of these two kingdoms hold onto the West Wansdyke territory after their fall. Both are now cut off from any overland contact with any other British territory. Cadbury Castle is also abandoned around this time, perhaps suggesting an evacuation of its occupants.

The Hwicce soon migrate into the northern remainder of the territory of the three cities while Caer Baddan is inhabited by the Saxons of the Somersaete who retain the name, but pronounce it as Bathanceaster (the city or fort of Bathan). In time it becomes the city of Bath.

598 - 613

Blederic / Bledric ap Custennin

Brother. Killed at Battle of Bangor-is-Coed by Aethelfrith.

597 - 611

The West Seaxe under Ceolwulf force the Dumnonians out of the West Wansdyke region of Caer Baddan (Somerset).

It is around this time (in the early years of the seventh century) that the Britons of Glastenning found Glastonbury Abbey.


Bledric ap Custennin dies at the Battle of Bangor-is-Coed, which follows very soon after the British defeat at Caer Legion (Chester). In fact, a great many British leaders have been killed over the course of the two momentous battles, and a power vacuum appears to allow the Dogfeilion kings to secure the Powysian throne. The monks of Bangor-is-Coed are present at the battle to pray for divine support, but they too are slaughtered (the act is seen as divine retribution for their refusal to help evangelise the English in 603).

613 - ?

Clement ap Bledric



Cynegils of the West Seaxe takes advantage of Bledric's death and the accession of his son by invading Dumnonia. Badly defeated at the Battle of Beandun (Bindon, Devon), Bledric's son, Clemen, is forced to retreat back to Caer Uisc (Exeter), where archaeology suggests that a major Roman building was still being occupied into the seventh century. Possibly, this incursion weakens the Dorset and Somerset regions of the kingdom so that independent groups of Saxons are able to make inroads over the next generation, forming the Dornsaete and Somersaete respectively.


Petroc Baladrddellt ap Clemen



Cenwalh of the West Saexe makes a breakthrough against the Dumnonian defensive lines at the battle of Bradford-upon-Avon. This means they make use of the gap in the Wansdyke caused by the passage of the River Avon. The Dornsaete (Dorset settlers) who have been slowly pushing against the Dumnonian borders now come under West Seaxe control whilst Dumnonia loses more territory to the invaders.

bef 658 - af 661

Culmin / Cwlfyn ap Petroc

Defeated at the Battle of Peonna.


The West Seaxe are victorious at the battle of Peonna (Penselwood - the densely forested area on the eastern boundary of Somerset), and its forces are put to flight to the River Parrett. The eastern half of Dumnonia is permanently captured by the Saxons as they advance through the Polden Hills to the new border of the River Parrett (approximately forty-five kilometres (thirty miles) further west). They may even go farther than this, to the hills which separate Somerset from Devon, as place names suggest settlement well before the end of this century.

FeatureThe Brito-Welsh territory of Glastenning (in modern Somerset) is probably taken at the same time. The Somersaete also now come under West Seaxe control (if they didn't already after 652), as does Glastonbury Abbey, which is allowed to retain its British abbot.


An Easter battle is fought at Posentesbyrig - which could be the Iron Age hill fort at Posbury, just three kilometres (two miles) to the south of Crediton (on the way to Exeter in Dumnonia). The result of the battle is not recorded but, assuming a West Seaxe victory, this would give them control of the fertile lands of the Exe and Creedy valleys.


Æescwine of the West Seaxe fights the battle of Biedanheafde (later Bedwyn, possibly Crofton but the actual location is debatable) against Wulfhere of Mercia. Æescwine repels the Mercians but is unable to gain any advantage from it. The Mercians in this period are a serious threat to the West Saxon hold over their northern provinces, and to maintain their prestige and revenue, they compensate by continuing to push hard against the borders of Dumnonia to the west.

The renowned West Saxon missionary to Continental Europe, St Boniface, is born just outside the recently-conquered Crediton (in Devon) around this date, and later receives an English education in a monastery at Exeter, which is conquered by the West Seaxe around 685.


Dungarth ap Culmin

681 - 685

The West Seaxe conquer the remainder of Somerset as Centwine clears the western coastal area of Somerset as far as the Devon border. In a two pronged attacked the territory of the Defnas (Dumnonia / Devon) Britons is also taken by an army army pressing along the English Channel coast from Dorset to Exeter. This also serves to confirm that Dorset has fallen to the Saxons.

Amusingly, it seems the new masters of Somerset ask the Celtic natives for the name of a range of hills to the far west of this region. Rather than a name, they are given the Brythonic word for hill, 'brendo', to which the Saxons add their own word, 'hill'. The area becomes the Brendon Hills of Somerset, literally the 'hill hills'.

bef 700 - 710

Gerontius / Gerren ap Dungarth

Defeated by Ine of Wessex and killed.


MapIne of the West Seaxe defeats and kills Gerren inflicting another defeat on his British neighbours to the west. This victory seems to bring West Seaxe domination to the line of the River Tamar, limiting the Britons to Cornwall. The ASC labels Gerren 'the Welsh king' and some published compilations fail to list the battle's outcome. Twelfth century chronicler John of Worcester - with access to versions of the ASC that have not survived to the present day - states that Gerren is killed.

River Tamar
The mighty River Tamar remained a barrier to travel even in the nineteenth century - until the coming of the railways - but in the eighth century it formed a vital line of protection for the remnants of the Dumnonian kingdom


c.710 - c.715

Ithel ap Dungarth ('the Rock')

Brother. Probably ruled.


From this point onwards, the descent of the kings of Dumnonia becomes highly unreliable, as the kingdom is slowly crushed by Wessex. Ithel's immediate successor is not known, unless it his son who is thought to be active in the 730s. Even this son, Dyfnwal, cannot be confirmed as king. His name, and that of his successors, is mentioned only in the Book of Baglan, a collection of Welsh manuscripts compiled in 1600-1607, and is shown here in green to differentiate them from kings who are known from other sources.


FeatureThe Annales Cambriae refers to three notable 'Cornish' victories (dated tentatively to this year). The opponent is not named but as the 'Britons were the victors in those three battles', the opponent is clearly the West Saxons. The battles take place at Hehil, Garth Maelog, and Pencon (Pencoed). The first has been the subject of much speculation as to its location, with many scholars taking the mention of 'Cornish' too literally and placing it west of the River Tamar. Instead, all three battles are likely to be in what is now Devon, close to Dumnonia's eastern border - the West Seaxe would regard all free Britons in this area as Cornish by this date, whether or not they live to the west of the Tamar, whilst the Annales Cambriae states that the second and third battles take place amongst the 'South Britons'.

The victories are hugely important, as they appear to win the Dumnonians and Cornish a century of peace in which to cement their compressed but surviving kingdom, and possibly ensure the survival of their culture and language much longer than might otherwise be the case. One has to wonder how far the victories allow the Britons to penetrate into Devon - they do seem to recover parts of Devon as evidenced by the West Saxon attack on these parts in AD 814. Also, in the same year of 722, Queen Æthelburg of the West Saxons destroys the fort at Taunton. Could this be to prevent it being captured by attacking Britons?

fl c.730s

Dyfnwal Boifunall ap Ithel

Son. Dyfnwal of Boifunall.


The Romano-British cemetery at Ipplepen near Exeter in Devon falls out of use around this time, some three hundred and fifty years after the official end of the direct Roman administration of Britain. The surprising level of continuity of use up to this period seems to support the picture of Devonian Dumnonia being largely unaffected by the turmoil to the east, but it also backs up a picture of a kingdom that is now being compressed by the West Saxons. By the end of the century, the independent Britons of this region are pushed back to the Tamar, placing Devon in Saxon hands.

fl c.750s

Cawrdolli ap Dyfnwal


fl c.770s

Oswallt ap Cawrdolli



Again recorded by the Annales Cambriae, the 'South Britons' of Dumnonia suffer devastation at the hands of Offa of Mercia. The Bretwalda rules all of southern Britain with a level of aggression typical of the hard-fighting Mercian kings. This appears to be the final mention of the South Britons in Welsh records.

fl c.790s

Hernam ap Oswallt


c.800 - 875

The kingdom of Dumnonia, so compressed by the inroads made by Wessex, effectively ceases to exist during the ninth century. The remaining British territory is known as the kingdom of Corniu (or variously, Cerniu, Cernyw or Kernow). The English know it as Cornwall, meaning 'the Welsh of Corniu'. During this century the absorbed Britons and newly-arrived West Saxon settlers in Dumnonia's lost lands begin to appear in written form, pre-dating the appearance of the shires into which they would be assigned. The Wilsaete are mentioned in 802, the Defna, the 'men of Devon', in 825, the Dornsaete in 940, and the Somersaete in 845.

fl c.810s

Hopkin ap Hernam



Ecgberht of Wessex invades and subdues parts of Dumnonian Devon. Clearly the 'destruction' by Ecgberht of Dumnonia in 802 is not as serious as has been recorded.


The men of Cornish Dumnonia clash with the Wessex Saxon commanders of Devon at the Battle of Galford. This is the first written record of the county of Devon in the Saxon form of the name.

fl c.830s

Mordaf ap Hopkin


833 - 870

At some point between these dates, during the incumbency of Ceolnoth as archbishop of Canterbury, the independent Cornish bishops submit to the English church. Corniu is included within the diocese of Sherborne. The first bishop of Cornwall is Kenstec.

fl c.850s

Fferferdyn ap Mordaf


c.865 - 875

Dunyarth / Doniert / Dungarth / Duncan

Possibly a descendent of Gerren. Drowned.


Dunyarth is traditionally said to be the 'last king', and is mentioned in Annales Cambriae as having drowned in 875. By this tragic event Dumnonia can certainly be said to be extinguished. Wessex already controls most, if not all, of Devon up to the River Tamar. The remaining free Britons of the south-west maintain their independence on the western side of the river, in Corniu.