BRADWEN of LLYS BRADWEN, MEIRIONYDD
By Darrell Wolcott
Virtually all lists of the 15
Founders of Noble Tribes of Gwynedd include a 12th century man called Ednowain ap Bradwen, and everyone who has addressed
the matter assumes it was his father for whom Llys Bradwen (near Dolgellou in the commote of Tal-Y-Bont) was named.
While we do think Ednowain ap Bradwen held that manor, we suggest it had been constructed and named by a Bradwen nearly
100 years earlier.
The earliest mention of
Bradwen appeared in the now-lost Llanforda Ms written c. 1300. William Llyn (obit 1580) had seen the manuscript, and
described it as an old book containing a copy of the Ancient Welsh Laws, in which its copyist identified himself as David,
the scrivenor for Iorwerth ap Llewelyn ap Tudor ap Gwyn. This David had inserted a gloss following this section of the
Laws describing the Choosing of a King:
"After taking of the crown and sceptre of London from the nation of the Cymry, and their expulsion from Lloegyr, they instituted
an inquiry to see who of them should be supreme king. The place they appointed was on the Maelgwn sand at Aber Tyfi.
And thereto came the men of Gwynedd, the men of Powys, the men of South Wales, of Reinwg, of Morgannwg and of Seisyllwg.
And there Maeldaf the elder, the son of Unhwch Unarchen, chief of Moel Ysbidion in Meirionydd, placed a chair composed of
waxed wings under Maelgwn, so when the tide flowed, no one was able to remain, excepting Maelgwn, because of his chair.
And by that means, Maelgwn became supreme king with Aberffraw for his principal court".
The gloss, written in Welsh
(as was the entire book) can be translated as:
"Iorwerth ap Llewelyn ap
Tudor ap Gwyn ap Bradwen ap Mael ap Bleddyn ap Morudd ap Cynddelw ap Cyfnerth ap Cadifor ap Rhun ap Morgynhor ap Cynfawr ap
Hefan ap Cadifor ap Maeldaf hynaf ap Unhwch Unarchen ap Yspwys ap Yspwch. And Yspwys and Yspwch, father and son, came
into this island out of Spain with Uther and Emrys and first inhabited Moel Ysbidion. When Emrys had recovered his crown
from Vortigern the usurper, he rewarded those men, being his retinue, with the whole hundred of Tal-y-bont and part of Ystumanner
in Meirionydd, where their posterity flourish today. Others say Maeldaf was
Lord of Pennard in Arfon, but that one was the son of Menwyd ap Rhiryd ap Ruol ap Tegog ap Einion Yrth ap Cunedda who lived
in the time of Iago ap Beli".
It is thought that the
family pedigree had been earlier drafted by Llewelyn ap Tudor ap Gwyn ap Bradwen, the man who held lands in Tal-y-bont in
1282 and presented a claim for his paternal lands to Edward I shortly after the conquest.
The notes (now lost) of
William Llyn in which he copied the gloss, were copied by Robert Vaughan (c. 1650) in Peniarth Ms 234, 30 in
which Vaughan acknowledged he was copying from Llyn. Even earlier, Ieuan Brechfa (c. 1500) had seen the old book and
copied the pedigree in Peniarth 131, 288. But he emended the original by inserting "ap Peredur ap Ednowain" between
Gwyn and Bradwen, probably because his sense of the chronology seemed to require two more generations. His emendment
is absent from Vaughan's manuscript even though Vaughan wrote nearly 200 years later than Brechfa. A third copy of Llyn's
notes is found in Griffith Hiraethog's Peniarth Ms 135, 377 (c. 1560) and yet another copy is found in the
1773 Panton Ms 17, 8, both of which also omit the Brechfa emendation. It was Peter Bartrum's belief that neither
version of the pedigree was adopted by genealogists of the 15th century onward, but clearly it was only Brechfa's version
which was rejected.
sources mention another branch of the family, which we shall use for dating purposes:
l Gwynedd 1100
1130 Rhiwallon ap
Ednyfed of Maelor
Peredur (ap Mael) is
described as "of Mon" in one pedigree; if he had an older brother named Bradwen who succeeded to the lordship of Mael's lands
in Meirionydd, it is quite possible Peredur settled elsewhere, either on lands received from his mother or his wife.
Thus, we posit a Bradwen ap Mael ap Bleddyn born c. 1065 and the original occupant of the manor called Llys Bradwen in
When we seek to
date the Llewelyn ap Tudor who held lands in Tal-y-bont in 1282, we suggest he was born c. 1230 since he married Elen ferch
Gronwy ap Einion ap Seisyllt (the second of that name), a lady born c. 1245. Her family held lands in the commote
of Ystumanner, Meirionydd, which had, about 1170, been annexed to Cyfeiliog by the first Einion ap Seisyllt.
We suspect Ieuan
Brechfa reckoned the chronology of the family thusly, when deciding two generations were missing:
1065 Bradwen ap Mael
1230 Llewelyn, lv 1283
By referencing other extant
sources, Brechfa likely saw a pedigree which cited "Meurig ap Madog ap Cadwgan of the Nannau family married Gwenllian
ferch Iorwerth ap Peredur ap Ednowain ap Bradwen". Without doing the requisite work to establish the timeline of
the men in this pedigree, one might easily assume the Gwyn of c. 1160 was a brother of Iorwerth and thus emend Gwyn to "ap
Peredur ap Ednowain ap Bradwen". In fact, that marriage should be charted as:
Cadwgan  1170
1215 Iorwerth Madog
1240 Gwenllian=========Meurig 1230
We immediately observe
that the Bradwen who was the father of Ednowain was born about two generations later than Bradwen ap Mael. Thus a Gwyn
ap Bradwen, brother of Ednowain, would occur c. 1160 just as cited in the unemended pedigree of Llewelyn ap Tudor. The
two generations missing from the c. 1300 pedigree are not between Gwyn and Bradwen, but between Bradwen ap Mael of c.
1065 and Bradwen father of Ednowain of c. 1155:
1065 Bradwen ap Mael, brother of Peredur
We return now to
the pedigree of the Meirionydd family and the c. 1300 tale of how they first came to hold their lands. Maelgwn Gwynedd's
rule began about 525, so the Maeldaf in the tale, if historic, was born in the late 400's. If his ancestors, Ysbwch
and Ysbwys, came into Britain in the time of Vortigern and Emrys/Ambrosius, they must have arrived in the mid-400's.
This would be near the same time that Meirion ap Cunedda received Meirionydd as his share of the Welsh lands. Cunedda was
born c. 385, came to Wales with 8 sons about 430 and likely died by 450. Since the whole of Meirionydd consisted
of the two commotes (Tal-y-bont and Ystumanner), are we to believe that the newcomers from Spain were given the majority of
the land in Meirionydd, with Meirion relegated to a small part of one commote? Further, when we assign probable
birth dates to the men in the c. 1300 pedigree, the men at the top occur in the 7th century or over 150 years after the
era of Maelgwn.
One name found in that pedigee
is especially "iffy". Unhwch Unarchen has also been transcribed as "un hwch un archen" by some copiers of the pedigree.
This literally reads "one sow, one shoe" and is perhaps an epithet applied to a poor old man having little or no worldly
possessions. Whether he was meant to be the father of Maeldaf hynaf, or whether the "ap" appearing before the phrase
is in error, is unclear. Maybe he was "Maeldaf the ancient, having but one sow and one shoe". But more
likely, the Maeldaf in the Bradwen pedigree was a 7th century man paternally descended from Meirion ap Cunedda and who obtained
his lands in Meirionydd by paternal inheritance. We reject the entire tale about Maelgwn and his chair of waxed wings
as purely mythical.
We would suggest the following
chart for the families directly descended from Meirion:
485 Gwrgant Barbtruch
580 Idris Gawr, obit 632
Brochwel* 650 Yspwys
675 Eunydd 680
830 Gwyddno*** 845
*Dwnn ii, 83, without citing
the complete pedigree, derived Bradwen from this man. It is possible that Maeldaf was the earliest historic man in the
c. 1300 Bradwen pedigree, and could have been a son of Brochwel ap Yswallt
**If we reject the 3 doubtful names
above him as having been included only in an attempt to tie the family to the old Maelgwn tale, this Cadifor may have been
the son of Eunydd of c. 675. Also see Note 3
***He had two sons: Cynyr who was the ancestor of Einion
ap Seisyllt; and Sandde who was the ancestor of Cynddelw ap Einion, and of the brothers Peredur Beiswrydd and Peredur Beisgwyn