Horrible Histories of Wales
600: Heads You Win 

We’d never want to put you off visiting our lovely country, but some pretty nasty stuff has happened in Wales over the last 250,000 years or so. It’s fine now, though, honest.

Severed heads

Severed heads appear in lots of Welsh tales. That tells us something about the Celts who lived in Wales in ancient times. At one time heads must have been bouncing round Celtic lands like lottery numbers in a drum.

A famous story 

One of the most famous loppings was St Gwenfrewi (or Winifride in English) – around 600AD.

Winifride was a nun. She was also the niece of Saint Beuno, an abbot in sixth-century Wales. Young Welsh Prince Caradog ap Alyn loved her but she refused to marry him.


This upset the young prince so he drew his sword and cut off her head. As her head hit the ground a spring of water gushed out of the dry rock.

Along came Saint Beuno, stuck her head back on her body and she was restored to life, with just a thin white line round her neck to show her little accident.

Beuno was not so kind to Caradog. The saint cursed the prince until the earth opened up and swallowed him. Winifride’s well waters are now said to cure illnesses and the well in Holywell, North Wales, is still visited by tourists today.

Reproduced by kind permission of Scholastic Children’s Books.