The first historical mention of the village of Gwaenysgor was in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it is referred to as Wenescol.
Over the centuries it has been known as Gwenscor (1284), Wenescor (1302),Gwenusker (1610) and Gwaenyskor (1699). The differences are likely to stem from the efforts of various scribes to render the spoken name for a virtually non-literate population.
Gwaenysgor is an ancient settlement. People have lived here for more than 5,000 years. There are indications of a walled Stone Age settlement, about 4,000 BC, to the north of the present village on what is known as King Charles’ Bowling Green. The Gop in the south of the parish – the second largest mound of its type in Great Britain – is another Neolithic site where cave burials have been found. Bronze Age and Iron Age enclosures and burial mounds exist in the hills around the village.
The Romans were in Wales by 60 AD. Roman coins have been found in the village and a small bronze horse was dug up in the churchyard. A silver coin dating from the reign of Emperor Domitian (78-96 AD) was found in the glebe lands south of the Old Rectory.
By the 8th century the area was more or less under the control of the Anglo-Saxons. Traces of the ridge and furrow field system, in which villagers held strips of land, can still be seen to the south of the village. They can be seen best when the grass is short and the sun is low. During this period the coast was subjected to raids by the Vikings and some historians have claimed a Norse origin of the village name. King Offa of Mercia (760-784) was responsible during this time for the building of Offa’s Dyke.
While Gwaenysgor was not centrally involved, being in an area where the Anglo-Saxons retained control; conflict between the English and the Welsh continued however. Then in the 10th century Hywel Dda became king of all Wales. After his death in 950, fighting broke out between rival groups and continued for nearly 100 years until Gruffydd ap Llywelen defeated the Norse, English and his fellow Welsh between 1039 and 1055. In 1063 Wales was again ravaged by English armies and Gruffydd was caught and beheaded. Although the country as a whole was in turmoil, the village probably continued as a subsistence agricultural community throughout these centuries.
The Normans conquered England in 1066 and eventually this part of Wales came under Norman control. Under the Normans, the village was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. This is the first historical record of a name for the village. Wenescol is described as a small village with a “wasted” church and four householders, two of whom were Normans. The total population would have been about 20 at that time.
From the booklet: ‘Explore Gwaenysgor’