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THE MANOR OF DINAS IN MECHAIN IS COED
By Darrell Wolcott
"The little commote of
Mechain is Coed, which formed the eastern portion of the cantref of y Frynwy, though afterwards included in the territory
of Powys Wenwynwyn, claims a separate notice from its having been originally a portion of Powys Fadog. Its lords are
frequently named in the troublous period which preceded the final conquest of Wales, but they gradually disappear before the
close of the thirteenth century, since which time it has formed an acknowledged portion of the Lordship of Powys Wenwynwyn".
From the manner in which
the nearby lands were seized by Edward I and regranted to men he favored, we think the above description relates only to the
part of Mechain is Coed which was handed over to the barony of Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn in 1281. Until Edward I moved into
Powys in his campaign to conquer all Wales, we think there was a larger tract which was part of Mechain is Coed which
remained in Powys Fadog. This tract extending northward lay between Offa's Dyke and the present border of Wales,
terminating just below Chirk. We suspect that land was always a part of Powys Fadog and that only the portion
south of the Tanat river was incorporated into Powys Gwenwynwyn as a commote in the cantref of y Frynwy.
It is supposed the
new commote contained perhaps 5000 acres or something less than 8 square miles, extending from the Tanant river
to the Cain and adjoining the cantref of Deuddwr to its southeast, with the Frynwy river forming its eastern boundry.
It has been described as containing a scenic valley in roughly circular shape about 3 miles across, and may have been worth
as much as the larger part from which it was detached.
Upon the death of
Prince Madog ap Maredudd in 1160, his second legitimate son Owain, sometimes called Fychan, received as his share Mechain
is Coed. We acknowledge that his older brother, Gruffudd Maelor, inherited the Princedom of Powys Fadog and much of the
lands which had been owned by his father, but the small commote of Mechain Is Coed later found in Powys Gwenwynwyn seems a
tiny inheritance for Owain. It must have been much larger in 1160; it may have included much of what was later called Cynllaith. Owain
added Mochnant is Rhaeadr to his holdings by conquest in 1166; it was then and remained within Powys Fadog.
Owain ap Madog, Lord of Mechain is Coed, was slain at Carreg Hofa in 1186/1187 by sons of his first-cousin.
The castle at Carreg Hofa is north of the Tanant in what is now Shropshire, not within Powys Gwenwynwyn. He left two sons,
Owain Fychan and Llewelyn, who each received half of Mochnant is Rhaeadr and half of Mechain is Coed. It is not
known which manors made up the two pieces of Mechain in Coed, nor if any manors which had originally been held by Owain ap
Madog had been alieniated by grants to others prior to 1277.
be recognized that holding the Lordship of a commote did not necessarily equal today's concept of owning land: the right to
occupy, enjoy and dispose of it. A lord often owned (in modern terms) no more than a single manor, but those who
owned the other land in his lordship owed various taxes, labors and renders to the lord. The lord usually owned the
mills and storehouses which the entire lordship was required to use for fees. He operated the commote court which heard
complaints against the residents, assessing a whole range of fines and fees. Thus, the emoluments which such a lord
could pass on to his sons may have been mostly financial but included actual ownership of only a small fraction of the total
land in the lordship. Often, one son received his father's residence, another his title, but all his sons got some
agreed share in his income stream as well as phyical possession of whatever lands the father may have owned other than his
living quarters. A lord might have acquired other manors by purchase, forfeiture or escheat...even conquest. A man who
held one-half of Mechain is Coed was entitled to one-half its revenues but perhaps little actual land.
Llewelyn ap Owain ap Madog died in 1241, and his "holdings" were divided between sons Owain, Maredudd and Llewelyn
Fychan. By 1277, Llewelyn Fychan was dead and survived by three sons. His surviving brothers complained that
Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn was demanding they render the tributes due him as their lord, whereas their father had held his lands
in capite from the English king. And that together, Owain and Maredudd ap Llewelyn, with the sons of their brother Llewelyn
Fychan, owned one-half of Mechain is Coed. We suspect this was an undivided 50% interest which did not correspond
to any specific tracts of land, but to a revenue stream. The men likely resided on whatever actual land Llewelyn ap
Owain ap Madog had owned, simply building additional houses on that land without legally granting pieces to each brother or
nephew. For reference, we shall call this Parcel
A of Mechain is Coed.
The other half of the commote had descended from Owain Fychan ap Owain ap Madog to his son, called Owain Vaughan...a
first-cousin of Owain and Maredudd ap Llewelyn. He was also dead by 1277 and his lands and share of the revenue
stream, had apparently been claimed (or taken by conquest) by Gruffudd ap Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor, prince
of Powys Fadog. This may well have been the part which lay north of the Tanant in Powys Fadog. We shall refer
to this as Parcel B of Mechain is Coed.
between all these men can be seen in the following chart:
1065 Maredudd ap Bleddyn, ob 1132
1100 Madog, ob 1160
1135 Owain, ob 1186/7 1130 Gruffudd Maelor, ob 1191
1165 Owain Fychan 1170 Llewelyn
1160 Madog, ob 1236
l l l
1200 Owain III** Owain* Maredudd* Llewelyn Gruffudd
Maredudd* Gruffudd* Madog*
*The 5 men who in 1277 shared ownership
of 1/2 Mechain Is Coed which we have designated as Parcel A; Llewelyn Fychan ap Llewelyn was dead so his sons held his share.
This parcel lay within Powys Gwenwynwyn
**Holder of the other 1/2 of Mechain is
Coed, possibly shared by a brother of unknown name. We have designated this as Parcel B
***Prince of Powys Fadog who, by 1283, had
come into possession of Parcel B, either by conquest or escheat. We suspect this parcel was always a part
of Powys Fadog
In 1283, King Edward seized Parcel B from Gruffudd Fychan and granted it to Roger Springhouse, Sheriff of Shropshire. We
would identify this Gruffudd Fychan as the son of Gruffudd ap Madog ap Gruffudd Maelor, a man some call Gruffudd Maelor II.
In 1286, the aging Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn gave Parcel A to his son, Gruffudd de la Pole. There is little to explain
how he obtained it from its 1277 holders except by conquest. We do find one of the 3 sons of Llewelyn Fychan ap Llewelyn
(nephew of the brothers Owain and Maredudd ap Llewelyn) holding lands in Abertanat and Blodwel located north of the Tanat.
Perhaps he had fled to his cousin in Powys Fadog when Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn seized Parcel A. There is no record
of what happened to the other 4 former co-holders.
After the death of their father, Gruffudd ap Gwenwynwyn, there was considerable ill-feelings between Gruffudd de le Pole and
his eldest brother Owain over the shares each claimed from their father's lands. A resolution was apparently reached
in 1290 when they agreed that Gruffudd would keep the Mechain Parcel A so long as their mother Hawise lived, after which it
would revert to Owain. And Owain agreed that all of Deuddwr which was now held by Hawise would, at her death, go to
Gruffudd instead of to Owain.
Owain died in 1293, leaving a 2 year old son and a 1 year old daughter. Then in 1309, his son died at age 18 without
heirs. The daughter, Hawise, was now 17 and married John de Cherleton. That man began to take charge of
his wife's inheritance which had been held in escrow during the minority of her brother. Owain's brother, Gruffudd de
la Pole, was still very much alive and had his own ideas about what he owned as opposed to what Owain had owned. And
when their mother Hawise died in 1310, he moved to claim Deuddwr. About this time, he also acquired Mechain Parcel B
from Springhouse, either by purchase or grant. And he declined to cede Parcel A to Owain's heir as he had previously
agreed. It seems to have been his position that Owain had no legal heirs; his only son had died without children and
his daughter was, under Welsh law, not competent to inherit. But de Cherleton argued that only English law mattered
and daughters did have the right to inherit.
John de Cherleton might have believed the whole of Mechain Iscoed was his wife's inheritance, for in 1312 Gruffudd de la Pole
was reported to be in wrongful occupation of the territory of Mechain Iscoed. In 1313, Gruffudd complained that
he had been dissiezed of all his Powys lands, presumable meaning both halves of Mechain Iscoed as well as Deuddwr.
He and John de Cherleton were having a private war over the matter rather than awaiting or abiding by rulings from the courts.
In 1316, a writ was issued ordering the men to cease hostilities and settle their issues in court. While de Charleton
obeyed and muzzled his troops, Gruffudd could not be found when the Sheriff tried to serve him with the writ. When he
did not appear in court, a default judgement was granted to de Cherleton. Defiant of the legal processes which seemed
to favor de Cherleton, Gruffudd entered Mechain Iscoed with an armed force and took all the movable good and chattels found
there. Their feud went on for several years, when in 1327 Gruffudd finally complained to the king that de Cherleton
had forcibly evicted him from his lands in Mechain Iscoed and Deuddwr which had been his rightful inheritance for upwards
of 30 years. After a review of the matter, King Edward II ordered those lands restored to Gruffudd, a man now nearing
his 70th year. Almost immediately, de Cherleton came with an armed force and retook his lands, so Gruffudd renewed his
claim with the king in 1328. But no decision had been handed down by 1330, so the two men assembled armies and went
to war again. Both were ordered to cease hostilities, and that was the last we hear from Gruffudd de la Pole.
He died in 1332.
During the long fight with de Cherleton, Gruffudd de la Pole had, in 1321, deeded Mechain Parcel B, which he'd acquired from
Springhose, to himself and his wife Katherine, with the provision that if both died without heirs of their body, the land
would go to her brother Thomas. Clearly those lands were no part of the estate which Owain de la Pole left to his
daughter, and thus et uxor to her husband John de Charleton, but there is no indication that de Cherleton cared. To
him, all of Mechain Iscoed should belong to his wife.
on to future events, we should pause to consider why Gruffudd de la Pole would record such a deed in 1321. He was then
near 60 years of age and already had "heirs of his body": one daughter who married Sir Richard Chambers and a second
daughter who married Hugh Montgomery. While he may have grown up accustomed to Welsh laws of inheritance, by this
date he was well aware that English laws were being enforced as to lands in Mechain and that females could inherit their father's
land. We suggest the deed was actually written back when he first married Katherine c. 1290 and didn't yet have children.
And that many years later, when it seemed that John de Cherleton might succeed in taking his paternal lands with the aid of
English courts, that he may have discovered no record of the deed could be found in official rolls. To protect this
land, which was no part of the family inheritance, from the clutches of John de Cherleton he might have recorded the deed
again in 1321. We shall revisit this deed later in this paper.
From separate sources, we learn that, in fact, one manor in Mechain Iscoed had apparently never been part of either Parcel
A or Parcel B and was never claimed by either Gruffudd de la Pole nor John de Cherleton; the demense manor called Dinas.
It had been partitioned off from the remainder the demense lands called Plas Dinas and been occupied by tenants who paid rents
to an absentee landlord. In 1333, records show it was held in chief of the king by Sir Thomas Rotherick of Tatsfield,
Richard Morgan, in his article "The Barony of Powis, 1275-1360, published in the Welsh History Review for 1980, advanced the
That it was this small manor of Dinas which Springhouse had owned, not a full half of the commote. That it passed
to Gruffudd de la Pole by purchase or otherwise, having nothing to do with his father or brother or the politics of the era.
That when he died in 1332, it went to Thomas Rotherick because he was the brother of Gruffudd's wife Katherine. And
that it was no part of the lands de Cherleton took in Mechain Is Coed.
also suggests that all the tenements scattered over both Mechain is Coed and Mechain uwch Coed, which de Cherleton had seized
from Thomas Rotherick, were a part of his Dinas manor. We have seen nothing even hinting that this was
the case; those tenements have every appearance of being investments made solely for rental income, probably by the father
Subsequent records show that Thomas Rotherick, in 1341, granted John de Cherleton, and his heirs, a remainderman interest
in Dinas should he and his wife die without heirs of their body. To us, such a transaction must have involved some
compensation such as a cash payment or foregiveness of a debt. No historians have suggested a reason why Thomas
would make such a grant; the only other reasonable explanation would be if the two men were related. But if Cicely,
the wife of Thomas, or Katherine, the mother of Thomas, had been a member of the de Cherleton family, no one yet has come
forward with any evidence. We certainly don't believe this is the case.
At the inquest when Thomas died in 1363, the jury found Thomas had no heirs and granted Dinas to the son of John de Charleton.
But Thomas did have a son living in France; he returned in 1365 to claim his father's estate and a second inquest nullified
the verdict and awarded Dinas to Owain fitz Thomas Rotherick. When that Owain was assassinated in France in 1378
with no issue, John de Cherleton III finally obtained this last piece of Mechain Iscoed for his family. Owain's
lands had been forfeited to the crown for treason, but de Charleton had the 1341 deed showing that Owain had only a fee-tail
interest in Dinas and his claim was honored.
When we critically examine Morgan's theory, we assign the following as plusses:
The mother of Thomas Rotherick was named Katherine, and it would have been commonplace for her to give the same name to a
daughter, if she had one.
2. Gruffudd de la Pole did deed his Mechain
Parcel B to himself and wife Katherine, with her brother Thomas named as remainderman.
3. Gruffudd de la Pole died in 1332 and our first notice of Dinas being held by Thomas Rotherick was in 1333.
But we find substantially more minuses which argue against Morris' theory:
1. There is no independent record or mention of a sister
of Thomas Rotherick, of any name.
2. To assume that Parcel
B of Mechain Iscoed consisted of nothing but a small demense manor called Dinas would mean that there had been far from an
equal division of the land between the sons of Owain ap Madog back in 1160. We deem that most unlikely.
3. In the 1365 finding that Thomas was survived by a son Owain (a prior jury had ruled that he had no known heir), we
learn that Dinas had been held in capite "per servicium militare". Thus Thomas, or some ancestor of Thomas, acquired
Dinas via military service, not by being a remainderman in a deed.
Gruffudd de la Pole and his wife actually did have "heirs of their body"; at least two daughters are known. Thomas,
the remainderman of the 1321 deed, (whoever he was) would have no claim to Mechain Parcel B.
5. Thomas Rotherick was born c. 1295/1300 to Rotherick fitz Griffin born c. 1265. Any sister of his would date
from c. 1290/1305. She would not have been an age-appropriate wife for Gruffudd de la Pole, a man born c. 1255/70, but
a full generation younger than him.
6. Why would Gruffudd de la
Pole name his wife's brother as remainderman for Mechain Parcel B unless both siblings had a prior interest in this property?
We suggest that Katherine and Thomas were the children of Roger Springhouse, who left his son Thomas all his property save
Mechain Parcel B which he settled on his daughter and her husband....with the stipulation that the lands revert to his son
Thomas in the event his daughter and son-in-law had no children. And that Parcel B did not contain the manor of Dinas
anyway. We also think that one little house, together with its 100 or so acres of ariable land and a lesser amount
of pasture for livestock, had been parcelled off from the main manor of Plas Dinas c. 1225 the Lord of Mechain
Is Coed, and granted to Caradog ap Thomas ap Rhodri for his military services. The fact that it was within the lands
reserved as the principal residence of the Lord also suggests that Caradog ap Thomas had been given a daughter of the Lord
as his wife. Accordingly, we believe Dinas descended via paternal inheritance to Thomas ap Rhodri ap Gruffudd ap Caradog,
the man known as Sir Thomas Rotherick in 1333.