ANCIENT LORDSHIP OF GOWER
The territory comprising early
Gower was a portion of the Deisi kingdom of Dyfed, being the lands roughly situated between the rivers Tywi and Tawe.
In the era of Hywel Dda, it comprised the commotes Iscennen, Cydweli, Carnwyllion and Ynys Tawe...the latter also called "Lower
Gower", the peninsula jutting south into the Bristol Channel. It is the same territory some medieval writers wrongly
That notion comes from an early
claim by the Rice family of Newton that their paternal ancestor was Urien Rheged ap Cynfarth Oer, a king of north Britain
in the 6th century. That family asserts their 13th century ancestor, Elidyr II ap Elidyr, styled himself "fitz-Urien"
whom they took to mean Urien Rheged. Various medieval writers expanded the claim to say that Urien had been forced from
his northern kingdom by Saxon incursions, relocated to south Wales where he expelled the Irish from Gower and renamed
it after his old kingdom.
As we argued in another paper,
the ancestor of the Rice family was actually a 9th century man from Rhos named Pasgen ap Urien who was wholly unrelated to
the 6th century Urien Rheged. That Pasgen was granted the lordship of Gower and "was lord of Cydweli, Carnwyllion, Iscennen
and all Gower, and he made all the castles within its boundries". So why was this refugee from Gwynedd not only
welcomed in south Wales, but eventually granted a Lordship?
Return with us to the early
years of the 9th century; Merfyn Frych entered Anglesey in 816 to expel Hywel ap Caradog, claiming it as the maternal grandson
of Cynan Tindaethwy, the last male heir of the First Gwynedd Dynasty. One assumes Hywel retreated to his paternal lands
of Rhos, but probably refused to recognize Merfyn's right to rule any of Gwynedd. Hywel himself was descended from a
junior branch of the Cunedda Dynasty and was a distant cousin of Cynan Tyndaethwy, while Merfyn Frych was only related
through his mother. We are told that Hywel died in 825, but he was only a man near 40 so Merfyn may have had a hand
in his demise. In any event, Hywel's sons were only 5/10 years old in 825, so we suspect Merfyn Frych extended his rule
to their appanage of Gwynedd east of the river Conwy.
History is silent about
events of the next 20 years, but we would posit that the two sons of Hywel (Caradog and Urien) were raised at Merfyn's manor;
when the eldest reached full age, he was granted the lordship of Rhos and history knows him as Caradog Fraich Fras.
Since Merfyn died, or was killed in battle, in 844 it was probably Rhodri Mawr ap Merfyn who allowed Caradog to rule
most of his father's lands. We further would conjecture that the younger boy, Urien ap Hywel, was given a
sister of Rhodri for his wife. The putative son of such a marriage was Pasgen ap Urien, who was residing
in Rhos late in the 9th century when the Danes invaded it. The Lord of Rhos was his first-cousin, Gwgan Gleddyfrydd
ap Caradog Fraich Fras who fell battling the Danes. Thus, about 892/893, Pasgen took his two young sons (Ynyr and Gwrgan)
and fled; his eldest son, Llewelyn, was already 14 years old and no longer at his father's bed and board. That Pasgen
fled to the south of Wales seems certain, but who welcomed him there and why?
If our suggestion concerning
the wife of Urien is correct, then Pasgen would have been a first-cousin of the sons of Rhodri Mawr. While Anarawd and
Merfyn ap Rhodri held lands in northwest Wales and were themselves under attack by Danish sea raiders, Cadell ap Rhodri
had moved to Ceredigion to look after his mother following the death of Rhodri Mawr. We suggest
it was his cousin Cadell who gave shelter to Pasgen and his young sons. Cadell had married a sister of Llywarch ap Hyfaidd,
King of Dyfed, and had a son named Hywel who was near the age of Pasgen's sons. Within the space of a
half-generation, Llywarch and his brother were both dead; about 905, Hywel ap Cadell married the heiress of Dyfed, Elen ferch
This chart shows the conjectural
relationship of Pasgen with the family of Rhodri Mawr:
790 Merfyn Frych
785 Hywel of Rhos
820 Rhodri Mawr 835 daughter====Urien
821 Caradog 820
Although the ruling family of
Dyfed became extinct in 904, there were junior cadets of the old Deisi Dynasty still holding appanages of that kingdom.
Seisyll ap Cynfyn was lord of Gower with his manor in Cydweli; he had descended from Teudos ap Cadwgan ap Caten of the early
8th century. When Hywel ap Cadell (later known as Hywel Dda) began to assemble his new kingdom of Deheubarth about 910,
we think he installed Pasgen (and his now adult sons) in Gower to bring it within the "family" and loyal to Hywel's rule.
It is possible, however, this move occurred as early as 904 at the instigation of Cadell if we assume Cadell ruled Dyfed from
904 until his death in 910.
Pasgen ap Urien likely
died shortly after 910 and his son Ynyr become Lord of Gower. His descendants included Einion ap Llywarch of Iscennin,
the later Gruffudd ap Nicholas of Dinefwr and the illustrious Sir Rhys ap Thomas.