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THE HEIRESS OF COCHWILLAN
By Darrell Wolcott
The Griffith family seated
at Penrhyn in Caernarfonshire since the 15th century, together with the Williams family seated at Cochwillan even earlier,
trace their ancestry to Ednyfed Fychan through his son Sir Tudor. Medieval pedigrees cast by the family uniformly cite
the following descent for the two families:
1165 Ednyfed Fychan (ob 1246)
Sir Tudor (ob 1278)
1235 Heilyn (ob 1298)
1300 Gwilym (ob 1370)
1335 Gruffudd (ob 1405)
Griffith family of Penrhyn Williams family of Cochwillan
It is believed that a
marriage with an early heiress brought the manor of Cochwillan to the family. Located in the township of Bodfeio, Caernarfonshire, the latter contained a "gafael Iarddur" held by one
Gwilym ap Gruffudd in 1352. Since most early family pedigrees identify the wife of an ancestor of Robin
ap Gruffudd as an heiress of the lineage of Iarddur, it was long believed the 1352 holder of Cochwillan was the
Gwilym shown above who died in 1370.
Both the identity
of this heiress, and the Williams ancestor she married, are far from established. From Genealogical Account
of the Families of Penrhyn and Cochwillan , we are told her name was Efa ferch Gruffudd ap Tudor ap Madog ap Iarddur
and that she married Gruffudd ap Heilyn ap Sir Tudor ap Ednyfed Fychan. Since several other medieval pedigrees claim she
lived one generation later and married Gwilym ap Gruffudd ap Heilyn and at least two sources call her "ferch Gruffudd ap
Dafydd ap Tudor ap Madog", we should look for other ways to date the lady.
A single pedigree
identifies her mother, calling that lady "Nest vz Iorwerth ap Llewelyn ap Gwilym ap Einion ap Rhiryd Flaidd".
Most authorities date Rhiryd Flaidd from the mid-twelfth century, so Nest would occur c. 1300. An Efa born c. 1320
would be the right age to marry Gwilym ap Gruffudd ap Heilyn and to have been the mother to the Gruffudd ap Gwilym in
our chart who died in 1405. We should expect her father, also named Gruffudd, to occur c.1280/90 and her marriage
about 1335/40. But did she inherit Cochwillam prior to 1352 so that her husband owned it on that date?
The identification of
the Gwilym ap Gruffudd who held Cochwillan in 1352 was challenged by Glyn Roberts, former head of the Department of Welsh
History at the University College of North Wales at Bangor. In his 1950 paper "Wyrion Eden", Roberts noted that
the cited marriage of Efa would date to c. 1300. But among the Penrhyn Castle papers lodged at his university was a
1375 will executed by a Gwilym ap Gruffudd ap Tudor of Llaneistyn in which unidentified lands in Anglesey and Carenarvon
were left to Gruffudd ap Gwilym (the father of Gwilym and Robin in the above chart). Roberts concluded in that
paper it was probably the maker of that will who held Bodfeio in 1352, and that Bodfeio might well have been among the various
properties willed to Gwilym ap Gruffudd ap Heilyn. Roberts admitted he did not know the ancestry of the Llaneistyn man
and offered no guess as to why he left property to an apparently unrelated person.
Fast forward to 1959 when Professor
Roberts was asked to write the entry for Griffith of Penrhyn for the "Dictionary of Welsh Biography Down to 1940". By
this date, he has not only identified the 1375 will author as descending from Tudor ap Madog ap Iarddur but claims that Efa
was his sister. Furthermore, says Roberts, it wasn't Gruffudd ap Heilyn she married but his son Gwilym. And it
was her son, Gruffudd, to whom her brother willed his lands. He gives us no insight into his reasons for drawing these
conclusions, but we suspect a look at the chronology was an important factor. A chart will show the problem:
Sir Tudor Tudor
1235 Heilyn Gruffudd
1265 Gruffudd=======Efa Gwilym*
*Maker of the 1375 will
of the will
Obviously, the fact that
Efa was described in most of the pedigrees as "ferch Gruffudd ap Tudor" coupled with the will's author being named "ap Gruffudd
ap Tudor" suggests they may have been brother and sister. But it was extremely unlikely that the brother of a c. 1280 Efa
would still be alive in 1375. Aware that other pedigrees existed which claimed that Efa's husband was Gwilym ap Gruffudd
ap Heilyn, not his father, Roberts apparently found that if he moved both Efa and her supposed brother forward one
generation, the problem was solved. And the solution had the extra benefit of explaining the beneficiary of the 1375
will: he was the maker's nephew. A new chart would look like this:
1205 Sir Tudor
1300 Gwilym=======Efa Gwilym 1310
The neatness of this solution
is brought into doubt, however, by examination of another document housed in the same collection as the 1375 will. We
shall refer to it as the Release of Family Interests. It would appear that Gruffudd ap Tudor had just died and that
certain other descendants of Tudor were quitclaiming various lands which had been held by Gruffudd to his son, Gwilym.
Among the lands recited were two tracts described in the 1352 Extent of Anglesey as located in Gwely Tudor ap Madog. Its
parties can be charted as follows:
*Parties to the release; it would appear that Dafydd was dead and his branch of the family represented by his
sons while Hywel was still living and need not be joined by his sons. It is not known why a representative of Tudor Fychan,
a fourth son of Tudor, was not included.
question to be answered is whether the Gwilym ap Gruffudd ap Tudor in this Release is the same man who executed the 1375 will.
The will recites it was written at Penhwnllys and land in that township is also mentioned in the Release. The testator
requests burial at Lamasia which is located in the commote of Prestatyn in Tegeingl. One nearby town, Gwylgre,
is among the lands cited in the Release as formerly held by Gruffudd ap Tudor; a man of that name appears as Rhaglaw of Tegeingl
around 1300. While we believe both the Release and the will relate to the same Gwilym ap Gruffudd ap Tudor, neither
document is helpful in linking him to Cochwillan nor to its heiress.
be able to date Gruffudd ap Tudor from extant source materials. He and his wife, Marged, purchased land in
Carnechan in 1288. He witnessed an inquiry in Dyffryn Clwyd in 1281. He and his brother, Tudor, were the subject of
an inquest in 1289 which established that Pennant Gwernogof had been granted to their father by Dafydd ap Llewelyn. (That
land is mentioned in the Release to his son) One should expect Gruffudd to have been born before 1260; he apparently
died the year his family released his lands to his son. The catalog of the Penrhyn Castle papers says Ms 405,
the Release, was executed June 10, 1310. Its dating clause, however, reads "decimo die mensis June anno sic vi
ooctdecimo anno regui regis Edward iudico". Our reading of that is "tenth day of the month of June in the year as
follows: eighteenth year of the reign of King Edward as declared".
a year to this is not as easy as it seems. If the king is Edward I and we rely solely on his reign in England, then
June 10 in his 18th year of rule would be 1291. But if "iudico" was added to indicate the 18th year after his rule
in Wales was acknowledged then the reference is to 1301. And if the king referred to was Edward II (the assigned
date of 1310 was during his reign), then June 10 of his 18th reginal year was 1326.
Before attempting to defend
one of those 3 years as clearly intended by the parties, another factor should be tossed into the mix. One of those
pedigrees which make Efa the mother of the beneficiary of the 1375 will and the wife of Gwilym ap Gruffudd ap Heilyn (and
not the wife of his father) also cites Efa as "ferch Gruffudd ap Dafydd ap Tudor ap Madog". If that were correct,
it would move Efa one generation later both as to the man she married and within her own family. And she would not seem
to be a sister of the man who executed the will, but a daughter of his first cousin. Let's redo the chart to depict that possibility:
1205 Sir Tudor
1235 Heilyn Dafydd
1265 Gruffudd Gruffudd Gwilym
1300 Gwilym==========Efa 1315
1335 Gruffudd (ob 1405)
would support the conclusion of Glyn Roberts as to the marriage match which belongs to Efa while permitting a dating for Gwilym
ap Gruffudd ap Tudor near 1285 and thus fit with the man of that name in the Release...whether it should be dated 1291, 1301,
1310 or 1326. But it would not explain why he should will his lands to the grandson of a first-cousin. But surely Efa is not a daughter of the Gruffudd ap Tudor born c. 1255 as she
occurs a full generation too late. Except for similarly named ancestors, there is really nothing to connect her with
the man who executed the 1375 will.
Among the other questions posed by
the will are these: why was there no recitation of specific parcels of land? And why no mention of holdings outside
of Anglesey and Caernarvon? Documents in the Public Record Office show his lands in Dyffryn Clwyd were divided
between his five male heirs, two first cousins and three first cousins-once removed. We find it remarkable that a man
supposedly 90 years old was survived by first cousins. Among the co-executors he named was Gwenllian ferch Madog, wife
of Ieuan ap Tudor Lloyd. Tudor Lloyd was a first cousin, the son of Hywel ap Tudor, so Ieuan was a first cousin-once
removed. We assume Ieuan was alive when the will was drafted or his wife would have been called "vidua", not "uxoro".