ITHEL of BRYN in POWYS
By Darrell Wolcott
This man occurs c. 1010 in the
pedigrees of Einion ap Gwalchmai and Rhiryd Flaidd, but no sources connect him to known families of that era. His line
appears to become extinct after two more male generations, ending with two daughters born near the start of the following
century. Yet based on the status of those families connected by marriage, Ithel must have been descended from noble
Cymric stock. Is what we know about him sufficient to make an educated guess as to who they were?
We begin with what the pedigree
sources tell us; the mother of renowned bard Einion ap Gwalchmai ap Meilyr is cited as Genhedles (or Genilles) ferch Gwrgeneu
ap Ednowain ap Ithel of Bryn. Elsewhere we are told that the father of Rhiryd Flaidd, Gwrgeneu ap Collwyn, was a
son of Arianrod ferch Gwrgeneu ap Ednowain ap Ithel of Bryn. Marriage matches cited include: Ithel married to Nest ferch
Cynfyn ap Gwerystan; Ednowain married to Generys ferch Rhys Sais of Maelor; and
Gwrgeneu married to Gwledyr ferch Seisyll ap Gwrgi.
Daughters of Cynfyn were
born between c. 1020 and 1030, some by a first (unnamed) wife, others perhaps by Angharad ferch Maredudd ap Owain who he married
after she was widowed in 1023. Rhys Sais ap Ednyfed ap Llywarch Gam ap Llyddocca ap Tudor Trevor was born c. 1020/1025 and
his daughter Generys about 1055. These marriages point to birthdates for Ithel near 1005/1015 and for his son Ednowain
near 1040/1045. No dates are known for Seisyll ap Gwrgi or his daughter, but Gwrgeneu would occur c.
1075 which is consistent with the known floruit of the men who wed his daughters.
The final thing we can learn
from the pedigrees is that Ithel is said to be "of Byrn in Powys and of Pennant Melangell parish". These two locations,
while both in Powys, are not near each other. In 1086, Bryn was a "village" in Teigeingl (now Flintshire) to
which the following lands belonged: Cwybr, Cefn Du, Bryn Hedydd, Llewerlydd and half of Pentre. This territory bordered
the Royal Manor at Rhuddlan. The seat of King Gruffudd ap Llewelyn, Rhuddlan sat on the river Clwyd near its mouth with
the Irish Sea in the northwest corner of the cantref of Tegeingl. Pennant Melangell was a civil parish located
in the commote of Mochnant some 30 miles to the south in what is now Montgomeryshire. We suspect one of these places
was his patrimony and the other a grant from the king to reward his services.
Much after his era, the Heralds assigned
Ithel the following arms: "argent, 3 hounds courant in pale sable, collared by the field". When considering the nature
of his probably services to his king, these arms suggest he may have been the Pencynydd or chief huntsman of the king's court.
The arms are not associated with any other Welsh families of the era but solely to the Lord of the Bryn. They provide no clue
to his ancestry but may be helpful if given in recognition of his position.
Welsh law in the early eleventh
century required that boys from noble families, on their 14th birthday, be sent to their father's Lord and become thereafter
that Lord's man. If we assume Ithel turned 14 somewhere near 1025, he would have been sent to the royal manor of
interim king of Powys, Cynfyn ap Gwerystan, and thus grew up with the young Nest ferch Cynfyn he would later marry.
Another youngster of that household was Cynfyn's stepson Gruffudd ap Llewelyn, already designated as the future king.
When Gruffudd did become king in 1039, it would be natural for him to select men he grew up with as his trusted court officers...especially
if they were also related to him. We know that another youngster who had entered the household shortly before Gruffudd's
father was slain was Llewelyn ap Coel, the man King Gruffudd chose as his "head of household" or penteulu and who wore a gold
torc denoting the Celtic battle leader and became better known as Llewelyn Aurdorchog. That Llewelyn was to marry another
of the daughters of Cynfyn, this one called Efa. Since she was born c. 1020, we believe she was merely a step-sister
of Gruffudd by Cynfyn's first wife and not a blood relative of the future king. We have suggested elsewhere that the
two men were related by blood, and believe the mother of Llewelyn Aurdorchog was a sister of Gruffudd's father. Did
a similar blood relationship exist between Ithel and Gruffudd?
In examining the male names chosen
by the family of Llewelyn Aurdorchog, we find a son called Ithel Hen and another called Ednowain. The eldest son, Llewelyn
Fychan, named his first son Ithel who became better known as Ithel Felyn. It would not be merely a wild guess to suspect
Ithel of Bryn might be a brother of Llewelyn Aurdorchog. They were born perhaps 5 years apart, both married daughters
of Cynfyn, one and perhaps both served at the court of King Gruffudd and both surely were "foster" brothers of that king.
And both might have also been his first cousins.
Our search also considered
what families might have owned land in the vicinity of Rhuddlan and Bryn. One version of the Brut y Tywysygion mentions,
under date of 890, that Anarawd ap Rhodri Mawr had invited certain "Men of the North" to expel the Saxons who had taken over
lands in north Wales, including Tegeingl;if successful, those men could claim the land for themselves. In the 11th century,
we trace all the known families north of the river Dee and east of the Clwyd to two patriarchs: Lles Llyddog ap
Ceido and Cynddelw Gam ap Elgudy. While ancestors of both those men were once Men of the North, by the time of Anarawd's
invitation (probably nearer 900 than 890) both those families are thought to have relocated to the area between the Wye and
Severn rivers in south Powys. The 11th century descendants of Lles Llyddog include Cynfyn ap Gwerystan, Ednowain Bendew
and (we think) Edwin of Tegeingl. Cynddelw Gam's only know male descendant was Coel ap Gweirydd, the father of Llewelyn
Cynfyn is called Lord of Cibwr by medieval
genealogists who misidentify it as the commote of that name in Senghennydd, Glamorgan. His family never had any
connection to that area; his home was probably Cwybr in the commote of Rhuddlan in Tegeingl. Ednowain Bendew was
seated in the parish of Cilcain, commote of Coleshill in Tegeingl, while Edwin held land in the parishes of Caerwys and Ysgeifiog,
commote of Rhuddlan in Tegeingl.
We aren't told where Llewelyn Aurdorchog's
patrimony was located, only that he was called Lord of Ial. Most scholars think the commote of Ial had long been the
property of the Royal Family of Powys; it is there where Cyngyn ap Cadell erected the Pillar of Eliseg in the ninth century.
Normally, when a Welsh king granted land to a man who served him with honor, it was escheat or forfeited land which had been
acquired by the king or his family. Grants made of land which was a part of the king's patrimony were normally
limited to his top court officials; thus we would contend Llewelyn Aurdorchog only received Ial after his services to Gruffudd
ap Llewelyn. It is entirely possible his father's land was actually Bryn and that Ithel received it as his gavelkind
since his putative brother Llewelyn now had an entire commote. And also possible that Ithel was granted the non-dynastic land
in Pennant Melangell parish for his services in a lesser office. One suspects that Gwrgeneu, grandson of Ithel, actually
resided on the latter land since his eldest daughter married the Lord of Penllyn, a commote immediately adjacent to Mochnant;
as co-heiress, she carried those lands to her husband and son.
A positive identification of
Ithel of Bryn must await evidence not now seen, but the scant data currently available is at least not inconsistent with his
having been a younger son of Coel ap Gweirydd.