Penybont and District History Group Notes 6th July 2015 Main Topic: “Elystan Glodrydd and the Princes of Maelienydd” – Jennifer Lewis

Geraint welcomed another almost full house to the meeting.
Derek got very excited as Jennifer had a projected picture of the view from Crug Eryr, the Eagle’s Mound, the view that directly led to Liz and Derek eventually settling in Penybont, after they had purchased a piece of woodland directly under this ancient motte and bailey castle, of which more later.
Main Topic: Jennifer explained that her talk on “Elystan Glodrydd and the Princes of Maelienydd” would be in the form of a guide to a website that she had on the screen: – The website has been set up by the direct descendants of Elystan Glodrydd for the family and wider historical interest.
So who is Elystan Glodrydd?
Elystan is referred to as ‘enigmatic’ as so little is known about him. What is generally accepted is that he was included in a list as one of the founders of the 5 Tribes of Wales when this was compiled in the 12th century.
Another website: . This website goes into some detail about different theories and even different Elystans. His birth and death seem to give rise to controversy. He has been variously associated with being born in 933 AD; 955 AD; 970 AD; 975 AD; and 990 AD. One of the few events associated with him attributes his death to a ‘civil broil’ in 1010 AD but this is disputed as his son’s birth, Cadwgan, is cited as 1020 AD. The alternative date for his death is suggested as 1067 AD?
His name Elystan Glodrydd or Elystan the Renowned or praiseworthy or even famous is highlighted on the Home Page of our site: and it refers to his area of influence, or dynasty, as: Rhwng Gwy a Hafren (between the Wye and the Severn). This includes the Princes of Maelienydd, Elfael, of Ceri and the Lords Radnor, Gwerthrynion, and Buelt. This area is said to have been a Kingdom ruled by Elystan, Prince of Fferllys. A map of Fferllys, which seems to be much the same as Rhwng Gwy a Hafren, is shown at: and highlighted in yellow. Maelienydd Cantref is also shown on a map at: . This shows the administrative areas (Cantrefs and Commotes) with our own commote Dineithon clearly marked. An explanation of these administrative regions can be found at: .
I have diverted from Jennifer’s talk, so getting back to
1. – The Home Page
Elystan’s father was Cuhelyn ab Ifor. He was also descended from Teon. Also descended from Teon was Owain Glyn Dwr. His mother is reputed to be Gwen, great granddaughter of Hywel Dda (880 – 950 AD) who later became a ruler of most of Wales. This site goes on to site the civil broil of 1010 AD:
Elystan was slain during a civil quarrel on Long Mountain, near Welshpool and he was buried at a chapel in a place later called Trelystan, a tiny settlement on the slopes of Long Mountain, just over the border in England.
Elystan [c975 – 1010] or Elstan or Ethelystan is a Welsh rendering of the Anglo Saxon name Athelstan. He has often been referred to as King of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren or Prince of Fferllys. We can assume that Elystan ruled the region all or some during his lifetime. Certainly his descendants ruled all or parts of this region afterwards.
It is to Elystan’s legacy and descendants that most of the site pertains. Clearly he was an important figure who ruled at a time when Welsh Kingdoms were fought over and only held by fortitude and good governance. There is a picture further down the page:
View from the old mountain road to Aberystwyth into an area called Gwerthrynion, ruled by Elystan. Behind the farm with the smoke rising is a hill, on which is Maen Serth, an ancient standing stone where Elystan’s great grandson Einion was killed in 1177.
The Home page gives a much fuller account of Elystan’s birth, life and death leading to his burial at Cappell Tref Elistan in Causeland (i.e. Trelystan in the hundred of Cawrse). The is a picture of the current church : The Church of St. Mary, Trelystan. This is an ancient church on the site of an even older barrow and is the only completely timber framed church in Wales.
Two further pictures give views from Stiperstones or Carneddau Teon (The Stones of Teon). One towards the Beacons and the other towards the Radnor Forest (Fforest Clud).

2. – Geography
The geography section starts with an ancient proverb:
“Blessed is the Eye Between Severn & Wye”
The map of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren, or Fferlys, is the one mentioned before but then goes on to refer to it as Cynllibiwg and linking it to St. Cynllo. The Church of St. Cynllo at Llanbister is sited as the Mother Church of Maelienydd. An interesting article written by Paul Remfry on the “forgotten kingdom of Radnor” is quoted and referenced: : along with a picture of the coat of arms for Radnorshire. The coat of arms depicts the coats of arms of Elystan, Cadwgyn ap Elystan in a shield surrounded by the coat of arms of the Mortimer family who after about 150 years of fighting finally deposed the Welsh dynasty and replaced it with Norman patronage.
Two pictures of the common at Llanbister, Moelienydd, that takes its name from Maelienydd, and one of the Elan Valley conclude this section.
3. – Royal Tribes
This part of the website is drawn from a book written in 1799 Philip Yorke of Erthig. This book can be found on the web:
In his notes on page 1 of the book Philip Yorke explains how a change in the oral traditions of recording history and genealogy by the Bards of Wales during the 13th century to the use of books led to, initially 3, and then five Tribes being identified as carrying the lines of ‘royal blood’ into future generations. Philip Yorke also highlighted another fifteen nobilities in North Wales.
Our hero, Elystan, in being described as the founder of the 5th Royal Tribe of Wales is recorded by the Bards in that role, and as carrying royal blood into future generations.
The opening picture in this section is of the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in July 1969. The banners on the left show six coats of arms of six kingdoms of old Wales, these include the Five Royal Tribes.
1. Gruffudd ap Cynon [King of Gwynedd c. 1081 to 1137 AD]
2. Rhys ap Tewdwr [King of Deheubarth South Wales c. 997 to 1093 AD]
3. Bleddyn ap Cynfyn [King of Powys, North Wales Died 1075]
4. Iestyn ap Gwrgant [King of Morgannwg, now Glamorgan and Monmouth c.1045 to 1093 AD]
5. Elystan Glodrydd. [As above]
Elystan is a generation or so earlier than his ‘peers’ and two, Rhys ap Tewdwr and Iestyn ap Gwrgant have connections to Elystan’s son Cadwgan. Interestingly both Rhys ap Tewdwr and Elystan Glodrydd are said to be descendants of Hywel Dda. It is not understood why the Kings/Princes straddle this period of time but what can be said is that:
They were men of status and power. By birth and blood they were Royal. Their power was derived in a large part from their royal status but was dependent also on their courage in combat and leadership on the battlefield. Heroic in deed, dynastic in ambition and rulers by intent, the princes were the elite of a privileged aristocratic class. Although the princes were Royal they were not necessarily equal. Most were rulers of a single kingdom and by dint of conquest more than one. However the gains made by one ruler could be lost in the next generation.
4. – Castles
Some of the Castles in this section were covered in the Notes of Marion’s talk on the 3rd November 2014 –
The first Castle in this section Crug Eryr, the one I got so excited about above, is of particular significance because of a visit by Gerald of Wales born Gerald de Barri, Giraldus Cambrensis, in 1188. Gerald, who was Archdeacon of Brecon, was touring Wales with the Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury in a recruitment exercise to enlist the Bards of Wales for the Crusades. Gerald, who travelled extensively in Ireland and Wales, chronicled in books that have been influential through many generations. As well as containing factual information his views on the Irish, who he described as barbaric. Gerald was thwarted in his attempts to become Archbishop of St David’s and to consolidate a Church of Wales. For more on Gerald it is worth listening to the BBC In Our Time at:
In writing and researching these notes I became interested in Gerald who is a descendant of Rhys ap Tewdwr and therefore from the connections above is more distantly related to Elystan. Then in a bizarre twist the ‘Barri’ connection took me to Ireland where his two brothers had been successful in conquering the Irish. They respectively established the Fitzgerald and Barry clans in Ireland. My elder brother’s middle name is Barry with probable links back into this clan.
Most of the Castles are covered in Marion’s Notes:
1. Castell Cefnllys (‘Court Ridge Castle’) whose much older and more impressive name is said to have been Dinieithon (i.e. Dinas Ieithon “Citadel of the Ithon’)
It is suggested that the older castle on the site could have been the centre of power of Elystan and his son Cadwgan within Maelienydd. Later, in the 15th century, Ieuan ap Philip, a direct descendant of Elystan, built the Hall on this site.
2. Castell Tinboeth, The Burning Citadel
This castle is associated with Cadwallon ap Madog ap Idnerth ab Elystan Glodrydd who was Prince of Maelienydd in the 12th century. Cadwallon founded Abbeycwnhir in 1176 and was closely linked with the Parish Church at Llanbister.
3. Buddugre, Hill of Victory
There is a reference a tradition celebrating a major battle between the family of Elystan Glodrydd and the Mortimers at Buddugre won by Elystan’s family.
4. Gaer

5. Castell Cymaron
Unlike most of the Welsh castles, which were set on the top of hills to give strategic advantage, Cymaron is tucked away. It changed hands between the Mortimers and the family of Elystan and like Buddugre was associated with Cadwallon ap Madog for many years.
6. Tomen Castle

7. Painscastle
Einion o’r Porth, and his father Prince Einion Clud the brother of Cadwallon ap Madog, were Princes of Elfael and in possession of Painscastle in the 12th century. His son Anarawd was killed at the Battle of Painscastle in 1198. Elystan’s relatives lost possession of the Castle in 1231. The Castle was regained by the Welsh King between 1265 and 1276 through Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, Llywelyn the Last.
8. Twyn y Garth (‘Hillock of the Enclosure’)
Overlooking the Wye this hill fort was probably built by descendants of Elystan, Einion Clud Prince of Elfael.
5. – Heraldry
This section of the website follows on from the Royal Tribes section where we were introduced to the coats of arms of Elystan and the other Tribes of Wales.
The golden lion rampant retardant on a red shield is attributed to Elystan Glodrydd.
Elystan was said to have had more than one wife. Cadwgan’s mother was either Gwen the great granddaughter of Hywel Dda, and/or Gladys granddaughter of Ednowain Bendew, Lord of Flintshire. His coat of arms has 3 boars’ heads like Cadwgans. Ednowain was also distantly related to Elystan. Cadwgan ab Elystan adopted the three boars’ heads as his coat of arms. Many descendants of Cadogan ab Elystan have used a combined version of quartered arms showing the golden lion and the three boars’ heads in diagonally opposite corners.
The site shows how these heraldic emblems have been used over the generations in churches, by families, football clubs, pubs, etc., and in the county sign for Radnorshire. Particular examples shown are:
Chelsea football club’s coat of arms comes from its relationship to the old borough of Chelsea. It relates to the Cadogan’s Lordship of the manor of Chelsea.
A nearby example can be seen in Llananno church as it belongs to the Stephens family of Crychell.
The golden lion rampant retardant is within the arms of Sophie Rhys Jones before she married Prince Edward. Her family can trace their roots back to the parish of Nantmel. The middle picture represents her arms since her marriage to Prince Edward also shows the golden lion of Elystan. Apparently the reason Prince Edward was made Viscount Severn alludes to Sophie’s ancestors ruling the land between Wye and Severn.
6. – Family in context
Elystan was shown to be descended from the Princes of Powys, who in turn were descended from Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, King of Gwynedd and Powys. One of the branches of Bleddyn’s family produced the great Welsh prince Owain Glyndwr. Another branch of this family produced the present day Earls of Powys. If you go back further into Elystan’s past you will also find he is descended from King Vortigan of Britain, who married Severa, daughter of the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus.

The history of Elystan’s descendants was one of continual conflict with the house of Mortimer, based in Wigmore. Elystan’s descendants faced intense Norman pressure, and competition from other Welsh kingdoms. Elystan’s family is a forgotten dynasty in Wales, ruling in an area riven by chaos and conflict, and it is remarkable that their influence lasted to the end of the 13th. Century.

Cydwgan married and had several sons. Their descendants settled in different areas.
1. Builth area from whom is descended the Earls of Cadogan
2. Llanbister area from whom the Dorddu family are descended.
3. Ceri and Shropshire
4. Maelienyddd and Elfael
Cadwgan is also supposed to have founded 3 churches, Kerry, Llanfihangel Brynpadarn, and Cefnllys.
In 1143 3 of Elystan’s descendants, Cadwallon ap Madog, Maredudd ap Madog and Einion Clud ap Madog are supposed to have founded the Abbey of Cwm Hir in 1143. The abbey was re-founded in 1176. This foundation could be read as a clear sign of the family’s strength and confidence at that time.
Having established links between Elystan Glodrydd and Rhys ap Tewdwr and Iestyn ap Gwrgant above there is a family chart in this section that establishes a relationship between all five of the founders of the Royal Tribes. The common link is through Rhodri Mawr, Roderick the Great, King of Gwynedd and Powys (c. 820 – 878 AD)
7. – Descendents
The descendants of Elystan stretch far and wide. It is probably true that a lot of local people in this room are descended from Elystan.
Some local families descended from Elystan’s grandsons.
• Cadwaladers of Newtown and Cedewain
• Prices of Monaughty, Green prices of Pilleth and Norton.
• Merediths of Crungoed, Llangynllo
• Pryces of Newtown Hall
• Bowens of Gilwern, Llanafan Fawr
• Gwynn of Maeslech
• Rhys Jones of Nantmel
• Thomas Llwynmadoc
• Thomas Wellfield
• Clun family
• Lloyd of Rhayader
• Meredith of Croescynon, Llanbister
• Meredith of Cwmllechwedd, Llanbister
• Meredith of Cwmyrychen, St Harmon
• Miles of Harpton
• Morris of Hurst, Clun
• Phillips of Llanddewi Hall
• Powel of Cwmdeuddwr
• Lewis Lloyd of Nantgwilt, Cwm Elan
• Vaughan of Llinwent, Llanbadarn Fynydd
• Vaughan of Bryndraenog
• Beddoes of Clun, Bishop’s Castle, Church Stretton etc.
• Evans of Nantmel
• Mathews of Mochdre
• Powel of Cascob
• Stephens of Crychell
One famous descendant was John Dee, grandson of Bedo Ddu of Nant-y-gros, Whitton who was an advisor to Elizabeth I. John Dee wrote a paper for Elizabeth in which he explained about the discovery of America by Prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd, which gave her a legal pretext for her claims of dominion of the New World and her attacks on the Spanish.
8. – Elystan Glodrydd 1000
The descendants of the dynasty of Rhwng Gwy a Hafren came together to celebrate 1,000 years of history. These included Elystan’s four grandsons, Idnerth, Llywelyn, Hoedlyw and Ieuaf. People had come as far away as Florida, California, Canada and France. Readings were read by Christopher Rhys-jones, [father of Sophie], Lord Elystan-Morgan of Aberteifi, and Dr. John Davies, chairman of the Abbeycwmhir trust. One person who had looked forward to coming but had died before the event was Richard, Lord Livesey of Talgarth.
The descendants of Elystan Glodrydd had been supportive of the Welsh language and culture, and were known for having maintained a warm welcome to bards in their halls
Descendants of the other royal tribes were there also.
Prince Charles’ greeting.
“I am delighted to thank the descendants of Elystan Glodrydd for their kind greetings and return them warmly, hoping that your inaugural assembly at Llanbister proves a worthy celebration of a thousand years of this illustrious family.”
Jennifer was warmly thanked for her talk by Geraint and the members present.
There will be no meeting in August. At the 7th September meeting Shirley will be leading a session devoted to the life of domestic servants.