History Files

Celtic Kingdoms of the British Isles

Celts of Britain


MapCaer-Guendoleu / Carwinley (Solway) (Romano-Britons)

The former tribal area of the Selgovae, north of Hadrian's Wall, crystallised as Caer-Guendoleu. This petty kingdom bore the same name as its chief stronghold, which was ruled by the king who was most closely associated with the area, Guenddolau, and which has survived as modern Carwinley. The kingdom was bordered by Bernaccia to the east, Rheged to the south, Galwyddel to the west, and Alt Clut to the north.

FeatureThe Selgovae appear to have been staunchly opposed to the Roman invasion, judging by the number of forts built in their territory, but the early battles may have knocked the heart out of their defiance. Instead, the focus for resistance seems to have moved north, to the Damnonii, and it is this people who can be found dominating much of the Selgovae territory by the end of the fourth century. The southern remnant, near Hadrian's Wall, was part of 'High King' Coel Hen's 'Kingdom of Northern Britain'. According to tradition, this territory gradually broke up during the course of the fifth and early sixth century, and Caer-Guendoleu emerged as one of its last, and smallest, divisions.

As an independent territory, Caer-Guendoleu seems first to have been ruled by Ceidio, the son of Einion ap Mor, who was himself the first king of a reduced Ebrauc. Upon Einion's death, his territory was divided between his sons, with Eliffer gaining Ebrauc itself, and Ceidio gaining the region north of the 'Salway' (the modern Solway). The new ruler's title, 'King North of the Salway', reflected a remnant of Coel Hen's grander title, although this is information that has only survived from several centuries after the event, making at least some of it rather suspect. Given the title, though, it is clear that the kingdom included at least part of the Solway Firth in its borders, probably the eastern opening of the firth.

FeatureWhen Ceidio's son was killed in battle in 573, close relatives in the powerful kingdom of North Rheged absorbed the territory, with Urien's two brothers ruling it, probably as a sub-kingdom. Once North Rheged had been destroyed, its remnants, including whatever remained of Caer-Guendoleu, seem to have been taken over and held into the eleventh century by Alt Clut, although the situation regarding this is extremely sketchy. It may have fallen under Viking control from York for a time in the late ninth century.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Landscape of King Arthur, Geoffrey Ashe, from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, from History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and from the Annales Cambriae, James Ingram (taken from the Harleian manuscript, the earliest surviving version, London, Everyman Press, 1912).)


Upon the death of Einion ap Mor, king of Ebrauc, his younger son, Ceido, inherits the western portion of the domain, gaining the remnants of the former Selgovae tribal territory.

c.505 - c.550

Ceidio ap Einion

Son of Einion ap Mor of Ebrauc. 'King North of the Salway'.


To the east, the British kingdom of Bernaccia is seized by the Angles who have been serving as laeti and the ruling king, Morgan Bulc is forced out. He takes refuge with the Guotodin, shifting his power base there, but the loss leaves Caer-Guendoleu's border exposed to the invaders. Fortunately they remain relatively weak for some decades to come.

Solway Firth
The incredibly scenic Solway Firth, one of the very few modern links back to the Selgovae, although a highly debatable one


Galwyddel is invaded by Rheged and is annexed to the kingdom. How Rheged might have managed an invasion when it seemingly doesn't share a land border with Galwyddel is a simple matter to answer. Caer-Guendoleu apparently stretches down to the head of the Solway Firth, blocking Rheged's land access to Galwyddel, but Guendoleu and Rheged are allies (they do not fight each other in the battle of AD 573), so there's no reason to suppose that Rheged's warband would not be permitted to pass through Guendoleu's territory to reach Galwyddel. Sadly the records are so lacking in detail that Guendoleu's warband could even have ridden with them and it will never be known.

c.560 - 573

Guenddolau / Gwenddolew ap Ceidio

King of Caer-Guendoleu. Died at Battle of Arfderydd.


One of the most pointless and destructive disputes of the period arises over the stronghold of Caerlaverock (the 'Fort of the Lark'), located on the northern side of the Solway Firth immediately south of Dumfries. This is very likely to be in Caer-Guendoleu's territory, where it abuts Galwyddel. Although the spot is tranquil today, traces of fortification can still be seen nearer Liddel Water. Not far away is Arfderydd (Arderydd, Armterid, or even Atterith, and today known as Arthuret, near Longtown in Cumbria). The principle leader of the side opposing Guenddolau is Rhiderch Hael of Alt Clut, most probably for territorial reasons.

FeatureGuenddolau dies in the battle at Arfderydd against Alt Clut, Ebrauc, and Dunoting, with Rhiderch being backed up by Guenddolau's own brother and cousin respectively. The early source of information for this event comes from the Annales Cambriae, which also records that 'Merlin went mad'. This would be Myrddin Wyllt, Guenddolau's court bard who ranks with Taliesin in seniority and who seems to be confused with a possible Merlin of the mid-fifth century in the eyes of later tradition (most especially by Geoffrey of Monmouth in The History of the Kings of Britain).

This is one of many internecine wars which all serve to weaken the British defences in this century and, with the king having no heir, Caer-Guendoleu passes into the hands of another cousin, Urien Rheged of North Rheged, and is ruled by his two brothers. With this acquisition, Rheged would now be able to access its earlier conquest of Galwyddel by land if Caer-Guendoleu had indeed held the entrance to the Solway Firth.

573 - c.616

Llew ap Cynfarch

'King in the North'. Brother of Urien Rheged.

573 - c.616

Arawn ap Cynfarch

'King North of the Salway'. Mayhave ruled alone 616-c.630.

c.616 - 632

The remnants of North Rheged fall to Edwin of Bernicia and Caer-Guendoleu is apparently absorbed into Alt Clut, to be amassed into one complete southern territory known as Cumbria (after the British 'people of the same land', the Cymri). It perhaps exists as a pocket enclave until about 630, and is perhaps ruled by Arawn ap Cynfarch during that period, but the situation in this phase is even more obscure than for the rest of the kingdom's existence. For a time during the late ninth century Cumbria (including Caer-Guendoleu) may be controlled by the Vikings of York, and for periods afterwards it is either a short-lived independent kingdom of Cumbria or a sub-territory of Strathclyde, before being claimed permanently by the English crown.