IDNERTH BENFRAS OF MAESBROOK
By Darrell Wolcott
This man, born c. 960, is often
confused with a son of Uchdryd ap Edwin of Tegeingl who is also called Idnerth Benfras. In fact the arms usually assigned
to the name probably belong to the latter; they are the arms of Edwin to which was added, in chief, a single couped boar's
head. We suspect the main reason for confusing the two men, who lived 125 years apart, is that the first Idnerth
Benfras had a son named Lles and the later man of that name had a son named Llewelyn. Many sources, including the
Visitation of Shropshire of 1623, claim that the name Lles is actually Llewelyn. We do not agree.
The manor of Maesbrook
was located in what is now Shropshire near Oswestry, surrounded by lands which in the tenth century were held by the clan
of Tudor Trevor. We are told Idnerth Benfras obtained the manor by marriage to its heiress, Efa ferch Cadwgan Fychan.
The old pedigrees do not trace her ancestry any further back, but if we assume the father of Cadwgan Fychan was named Cadwgan,
that man would occur c. 905 and fit chronologically with a younger (and perhaps an out-of-wedlock) brother of Tudor Trevor.
This may account for his father, Ynyr ap Cadfarch, granting that base son one single manor while giving Tudor vast lands in
the northern march of Wales.
All our extant pedigrees of
the tenth century Idnerth Benfras begin with him and cite no ancestry. That he was of noble Welsh birth can be assumed
by other ties to the Trevor clan; his daughter Anne married Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon ap Dyngad ap Tudor Trevor. We have
noted elsewhere that only a couple other clans were known to hold land in extreme north-east Wales at the start of the
tenth century, the nearest being Gwrydr Hir ap Caradog ap Lles Llyddog. Born c. 920, Gwrydr Hir married a daughter of
Tudor Trevor and was father to Gwaethfoed of Tegeingl to whom we have previously traced both Ednowain Bendew and Edwin
ap Gronwy. We suspect Idnerth Benfras was a younger son of Gwrydr Hir and would chart the family as follows:
855 Lles Llyddog
920 Gwrydr Hir
Idnerth Benfras 960
Gronwy 990 Lles* 995
1020 Ednowain Bendew Edwin 1020
Idnerth Benfras 1085
*Note: the male
name Lles is extremely rare and except for a single citation which misspells "Lucius ap Coel" (ABT 28), the only previous
Lles was the man we posit as the direct ancestor of Idnerth Benfras.
Our construction making the
first Idnerth Benfras a cousin line of the two Tegeingl families brings us back to the arms assigned to the name. Let us suppose the heralds who originally (and much after their lifetimes) associated
arms with Welshmen actually made Gwrydr Hir the bearer of "Argent, a cross flory engrailed sable between 4 crows proper and
in chief azure, a boar's head couped argent". If those arms were also assigned to his sons, Gwaethfoed and Idnerth Benfras,
perhaps it was for the two sons of Gwaethfoed that new arms were created. One son (Neiniad) may have received the
"Argent, a chevron between 3 boars' heads couped sable" now claimed for Ednowain Bendew, while the other son (Gronwy) received
the "Argent, a cross flory engrailed sable between 4 crows proper" claimed for Edwin of Tegeingl; in that case, both new arms
incorporated elements of the original.
Since no extant records
give any reasons why the late 11th century Idnerth Benfras would merit an emolument to the basic family arms (indeed he is
a mostly obscure younger son of Uchdryd ap Edwin), perhaps the assumption we made in our opening paragraph is wrong...maybe
the arms with the chief actually belong to the earlier Idnerth Benfras and to Gwrydr Hir before him, it being separated into
its two principal charges a generation later in a cousin cadet.