History associated with the Vawer family

Welsh Origins

David Vawer and Jean Woodward

Being able to trace our lines back to William Vawer who was one-time mayor of Bristol and a Merchant Venturer of some standing has allowed us to follow back some fascinating bloodlines into the Welsh side of the Vawer ancestry. He has proved to be a pivot point for our researches into mediaeval times.

Using IGI information, Jean Woodward discovered that there was a significant link through William to a number of prominent Welsh families, but there appeared to be some gaps. Fascinated by the potential links she contacted Sandra Oman, a researcher in Utah specialising in Welsh family history. Sandra was very interested by the connections which still exist to these lines and carried out research on our behalf, providing a comprehensive link to these ancestral welsh lines.

It is important to realise that a freeborn Welshman would be expected to know his lineage back seven generations. As such, lines are traceable with minimal risk of error, though surnames, as such, were at that time not in common use. Some additional clarity is given however by the use in many cases of a “suffix” or nickname which can be helpful in linking lines. It is somewhat regrettable that in a lot of cases the female lines are neglected in favour of the male line, unless the lady herself was of an important family link. The most useful help however is the fact that a lot of the people which are of interest to us are also prominent leaders, chiefs, or local rulers at the time, and so there is documentary evidence to support these links.

The initial links led us back to 210 AD/CE, but Sandra Oman's extended information suggested links to lines back as far as 270 BC/BCE. This very large Gedcom file is available if anyone wants to examine it by contacting Jean or David. The file is in excess of 150 Mb of data, so not of an Email-able size, even in compressed form.

Extracting from these files, here are a few notes of some of the more known personages listed. A number of the lines inter-relate with one another with marriages between cousins etc. However, do note before checking yourself for blue-bloodedness, that potentially there is a great deal of dilution of these genes. Even twenty generations ago we have more than a million ancestors each, and we are here looking at more than 50 generations. As a guide, when reading welsh names “ap” means “son of” and “ferch” means “daughter of”.

Dates around the early centuries are often vague. At times there are dates which are suggested dates in that they are approximations to the real date and calculated to fit known events. True dates are then inserted when they are known.

The date of birth of Annun Ddu is approximated to 210 AD/CE. He is described as King of Greece. This may well be a fact that he was just a very important person, prince or leader. His son, Tathal ap Annun Ddu was however born in Wales.

Macsen Wledig however was Maximus, Emperor of Rome, living from approx 330 AD/CE to 388 AD/CE. The suffix wledig or gwledig is the equivalent of protector and crops up in a number of names. He was born in Callaecia, Spain. Magnus Maximus Augustus "Macsen Wledig" Flavius, was the Western Roman Emperor, having userped the throne from the Emperor Gratian in 383 AD/CE. In 384 he negotiated with Theodosius I and the following year he was made emperor of Britannia and Gaul. Gratian's brother Valentinian II retained Italy, Pannonia, Hispania, and Africa. He was over ambitious, however, and in 387 AD/CE he invaded Italy in an attempt to take over the whole Empire. As a result he was defeated at the Battle of the Save by Theodosius and killed August 28, 388 in Aquileia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

Macsen's wife was Elen Luyddog (“of the host”) ferch Eudaf, daughter of Eudaf Hen ap Einydd (latinised name Octavius the Old ~283 - April 4, 384 AD/CE) who is described as Konge i Wales, Lord of the Gewissae, High King of Britain. However this title appears to be significantly overinflated. She was born in Caer-Segeint (Caernarfon), Gwent, North Wales. Elen's brother was Erbin I (~310-?) ap Eudaf, King of Gwent. She has been described as Saint Elen of the host, and like her son-in law, Brychan, must have been one of the very earliest British Christians.

She and Macsen had 6 known children, and three of them feature on our chart Gratian ferch Macsen (Gratianna), Severa ferch Macsen, and Annun, (Anwn, or Antonius Donatus Gregorius) who has also been given the title of King, though he was more likely a local ruler only as is often the case. Gratian married Tudwal ap Gwrfawr, King of Dumnonia (~375 AD/CE – ~425 AD/CE). The Dumnonii were a British Celtic tribe who lived in the southwest region which is now Cornwall, Devon, and parts of Somerset and Dorset.

Severa ferch Macsen married Vortigern (i.e High King) Gwrtheneu (the thin) ap Gwidol, or Gwytheyrn Gwrtheneu in Welsh, High King of Britain. He was the king left behind by the Romans as they left Britain.

Macsen's Grand-daughter, daughter of Gratian and Tudwal, Prawst ferch Tudwal married Saint Brychan: King of Brycheiniog which is in what is now Breconshire.

Many sources state that there is no known history for St. Brychan. The author of his biography, Brian Starr does state a number of facts about his ancestry but there is no citation as to source, so they may well be totally fictional. He suggests that there is descendency from St Joseph on his fathers side, hence King David of the Jews, and also St Helen of the Host, St Constantine and St Joseph of Aramathea. I am sceptical about the accuracy of a lot of the facts quoted. I suggest that you read the relevant sections of the book for yourself, and make your own decisions. It is obvious however that he was one of the earliest British Christians. His saint's day is April 6th. Note that the biography links to an external website.

What is not doubted is that he had 3 wives and they produced a large number of offspring, possibly up to 48 according to Starr, and at least 24 were themselves saints. He is reported to have abdicated and become a hermit, dying of a very old age in the 5th century AD/BCE.

Coel Hen or, in English, Cole the Old, the “Old King Cole” of the nursery rhyme (approx 350-420 AD/CE,)was a legendary king of northern Britain. It is important that this Coel Hen is not confused with Coel, of Colchester, whose sister (Saint) Helen was the mother of Emperor Constantine.

David Nash Ford's site Early British Kingdoms recounts that he may have been one of the local lords left behind as the Romans departed the British isles. He ruled over a large part of the north of what is now England. His last campaign is reported to be an attempt to cause a rift between the Picts in what is now Scotland and the Scots who were making an influx from Ireland onto the west coast. They were driven into Ayrshire by Coel and his army, but after his initial success, they joined forces to retaliate, took him by surprise, and Coel's army was scattered. Lost in Ayrshire he wandered into a bog and was drowned. His remains were eventually buried in the church at Coylton. His realm was then divided between his 2 sonsCeneu and Gorbanian. It is the line from Ceneu that is a thread of our ancestry, his great grandson Elidir "Lydanwyn" ap Meirchion "Gul" (500-560 AD/CE) marrying St Brychan's daughter Gwawr ferch Brychan. She may have been a daughter of Prawst, or it is possible that she was an illegitimate daughter. Both are suggested. She was however according to Starr born in 467 AD/CE in Brycheiniog.

Esyllt ferch Cynan "Dindaethwy" (Approx 770 AD/CE) was 9x great grand-daughter of Coel Hen. She married Merfyn "Frych" ap Gwriad Brenin of Powys (770-844 AD/CE) Their son was Rhodri "Mawr" ap Merfyn "Frych" Brenin, of Gwynedd, Powys and Seisyllwg (830-878 AD/CE) Mawr means great and the official website of the British Monarchy (http://www.royal.gov.uk/HistoryoftheMonarchy/WelshMonarchsandPrinces/RhodriMawr.aspx) refer to him as the first high King of All Wales and the most notable king before the Norman conquest. This is quite impressive, but it is also suggested that this may be legend as much as fact. Darrell Wolcott on the Ancient Wales Studies Website suggests that a number of the areas attributed to his domain may well not be accurate. However, some of his assumptions seem to be inaccurate also. Some facts are determined however. Wikipedia states that his mother or grandmother was Nest ferch Cadell, of the ruling dynasty of Powys. Sandra's genealogy lists her as his paternal grandmother.

Cunedda ap Edern (approx. 370 AD/CE) was grandson of Padarn "Beisrudd" ap Tegid who was an important Roman or Romano-british ruler in the area which is now Clackmannanshire in charge of the Votadini troops. His son and then his grandson inherited his title. They led the Votadini against incursions of the Picts and Irish south of Hadrian's wall. Under Cunedda they relocated to Wales, where they became established as the kingdom of Gwynedd, where his ancestors ruled.

Cunedda's male line ended, and Merfyn "Frych" ap Gwriad Brenin claimed Gwynedd as his own. Rhodri “Mawr” inherited this on his father's death in 844 AD/CE. Cyngen ap Cadell, ruler of Powys, died in 855 AD/CE while on a pilgrimage to Rome, and Rhodri used his Grandmother, Nest's, relationship as sister to Cyngen as an excuse to annex Powys and extend his own domain. His acquisition of Seisyllwg (or Ceredigion) came via his marriage to Angharad ferch Meurig. Her brother, Gwgon, who had inherited Seisyllwg from their father, drowned in 872 AD/CE without an heir, and so the inheritance moved to her, and hence to Rhodri by jure uxoris.

As a result Rhodri became ruler of more than half of Wales. The area was challenged both by the Danish Vikings from the sea and also from the English in the east. The Vikings raided Anglesey in 854 and in 856 AD/CE were defeated in battle by Rhodri, who killed their leader Gorm. The Brut y Tywysogion (English: Chronicle of the Princes) records 2 victories by Rhodri in 872 AD/CE the first on Anglesey at Bangolau described as a “hard battle” and the second at Manegid (or Enedgyd) where the vikings were “destroyed”. Rhodri and either a son or brother Gwriad died in battle. Sandra says 878, but there are varying dates and suggestions of where and when, from 873 AD/CE in Anglesey, to 877 or 878 on the borders against the invaders from Mercia. Legend reports that the women took up arms in retaliation when he was killed. The “kingdom” was divided between three sons, Tudwal the fourth and youngest being too young to inherit. The eldest son, Anarawd became king of Gwynedd and the head of the subsequent Aberffraw line which produced Gryffudd ap Cynon and Llywelyn the Great. Another, Cadell, was given Ceredigion/ Seisyllwg and killed his brother Merfyn to claim Powys as well. (It is possible that Rhodri was not able to inherit this and that it passed directly to Cadell.)

Cadell ap Rhodri (854-909 AD/CE) was father to Hywel “Dda” ap Cadell (880-950 AD/CE)(Hywel the Good). It was probably the two of them together who captured Powys. They then combined the two kingdoms to form Deheubarth. Brycheinog was also added and a seat set up at Dinefwr. He later extended his rule to cover almost all of Wales.

Hywel is important as the person who codified Welsh Law (in Welsh: Cyfraith Hywel) which was the basis of the mediaeval laws of Wales until the final conquest of Wales by the English and the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 -1542 in the reign of Henry VIII. The law was passed down the generations by judges and bards orally. He was well educated and the first welsh prince to make a pilgrimage to Rome and return. His association with Æthelstan the first true king of England, grandson of Alfred the Great was very important and well documented.

The office building and original home of the National Assembly for Wales is named Ty Hywel (“Hywel House”) in honour of Hywel Dda. The original Assembly chamber, is now known as Siambr Hywel (“Hywel's Chamber”).

The 6x great grandson of Hywel Dda was Yr Argllwyd Rhys ap Gruffudd Brenin of Deheubarth (1130-1197) or in English “The Great Lord Rhys”

Towards the end of the 11th century the Normans were building fortifications all over Wales. One of them, Gilbert de Clare, built Cardigan Castle in 1100. It seems immediately to have caused risings amongst the local population. By 1136 Gilbert de Clare’s son possessed the castle, but in that year Rhys ap Gruffud took the castle, and held it for 61 years. He was aided in this venture by two princes from North Wales (Gwynedd), one of whom was our ancestor Cydifor ap Dinawal, the other probably his father Dinawal ap Tudwal. Cydifor scaled the castle with ladders to effect its capture. In return the Lord Rhys gave him Castle Howell (then called castle Wmphre, Ceredigion), another of Gilbert de Clare’s fortifications, a new coat of arms bearing three scaling ladders etc., and probably other lands. Gilfach Wen may well have been one of these.

The arms of Dinawal (Dyfnwal) Cadifor's Father The original arms of Cydifor

According to Sandra's genealogical tree, Lord Rhys's Daughter, Catrin, married Rhydderch ap Cydifor (1170- ) whose father was Cydifor ap Dinawal, Lord of Gilfach, Pant Ystreimon, and Castell Hywel (1100-1165). Cydifor was a male line descendant of Rhodri Mawr (see above). Burke’s  Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry, however states -

CADIVOR ap DYFNWAL, lord of Castle Howel, ninth in descent from RHODRI MAWR, or the Great, King of Wales, lived in the reign of Henry 1 of England, and acquired martial renown in an age in which every man capable of bearing arms was bound to be a soldier.  In 2 Henry 11, he took by escalade the Castle of Cardigan from the Earl of Clare, and in requital of his valour obtained from his prince, the great Lord Rhys of South Wales, a new shield of arms, viz "Sa. three scaling ladders, and between the two uppermost a spears head, arg., its point imbrued, on a chief Gu., a tower triple turreted of the second."   By his wife, Katherine, dau. of his prince and kinsman, the Lord Rhys, he had, with other issue, a son. (Sa. = Sable – black, Gu.=Gules – Red, Arg. = argent – silver, imbrued = bloodied)

The new arms of Cydifor (Cadifor) ap Dinawal

This suggests that she was married to Cydifor himself, not his son. This contradiction obviously needs further work. We are fairly certain that this is an error on the charting side and that Burke has the much more likely truth. Dinawal ap Tudwal arglwydd of Castell Hywel (1070- ) was Cydifor's father. He had a coat of arms which is depicted below, with a triple towered tower and a scaling ladder.

Cydifor had arms showing three scaling ladders. The lord Rhys awarded new arms to Cydifor which combines the two coats of arms into those which are very similar to the ones awarded to William Vawer Merchant. It is likely that these were the direct result of the marriage to his daughter.

The line from Dinawal to William is as follows

Dinawal ap Tudwal of Gwynedd North Wales b. abt 1050 (Lord of Castell Hywel - Castle Howell)
Cydifor ap Dinawal, Lord of Gilfach , Pant Ystreimon and of Castell Howell, Llandysul, b. abt 1100+ m. Catrin ferch Rhys – Lord Rhys of Deheubarth
Rhydderch ap Cydifor of Castell Howell, Llandysul, b. abt 1166
Rhys ap Rhydderch of Castle Howell b.abt 1198 (?eldest son seems to have taken the name Lloyd)
Rhys ‘Foel’ ap Rhys (third son) of Gilfach-Wen Uchaf, Llandysul 1230 – 1290
Hywel ap Rhys ‘Foel’ of Gilfach-Wen Uchaf, Llandysul, 1270 - ?
Hywel ‘Fychan’ ap Hywel of Gilfach-Wen Uchaf, Llandysul, 1300 - ?
Daffyd ap Hywel of Gilfach-Wen Uchaf, Llandysul, b. abt 1320 (m. Angharad daughter and heiress of David ap Ieuan Lloyd ap Gruffydd ap Cadwgan of Gelliladron in Llanllwni, a Carmarthenshire parish separated from Llandysul bythe waters of the Teifi. )
Thomas ap Daffyd of Gilfach-Wen Isaf, Llandysul, b. abt 1340
Rhys ap Thomasof Gilfach-Wen Isaf, Llandysul, b. abt 1370
Hywel ‘Fawr’ ap Rhys, of Gilfach-Wen Isaf, Llandysul, b.abt 1400 m. Efa ferch Mareddud
Rhys ‘Fawr’ ap Hywel ‘Fawr’, of Gilfach-Wen Isaf, Llandysul, b. abt 1430 m. Angharad ferch Jenkin
Jenkin ‘Fawr’ ap Rhys ‘Fawr’, of Gilfach-Wen Isaf, Llandysul, b. abt 1470
Thomas ap Jenkin ‘Fawr’, (second son) b. abt 1500 at Gilfach-Wen, Isaf Llandysul, moved to Hwlfford (Haverfordwest).
Jenkyn Vawer (formerly Jenkyn ap Thomas) b. abt 1530, Hwlfford, Pembs. m. Elizabeth Hygda
William Vawer b. abt 1548 in Hwlfford, Pembs, Merchant Venturer who became Mayor of Bristol in 1602

Haverfordwest was referred to as ‘Little England beyond Wales’. It was established by Henry 1 as a colony of Flemings in the 12th century, and it was here that William’s father, Jenkyn ap Thomas, took the name Vawer as a surname, as was the English custom. In those days Haverfordwest was a thriving port, and during the middle ages and well into Tudor and Stuart times it became the most prosperous town in Wales. Jenkin’s father, Thomas had probably moved to Haverfordwest because, as he was the second son, would have left his elder brother at Gilfach-Wen to earn his living from the family estate, while he went about 50 miles away to Haverfordwest to earn his own living by trade. He is recorded as being a “Sherman”, or Shearman – a man who finished woolen cloth. (Book - Annals and Antiquities of the Counties and County Families of Wales  By Thomas Nicholas )

Gilfach Wen went on to be the seat of the Lloyd family. An interesting account of the history of Gilfach Wen comes from a paper entitled "Lloyd of Gilfachwen, Cilgwyn and Cilgwyn and Coedmore" by Francis Jones. It was published in “Ceredigion : Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society” Vol. 8, no. 1 (1976), p. 72-99. It is available to download via the site for the National Library of Wales.

Suggestions have been made that Jenkyn's father, Thomas, moved from the family seat as, being the second son, his future was limited at Gilfach Wen. Jenkyn's occupation as a shearman may have been twofold, but this is unclear. As well as the finishing of woolen cloth, he may have been associated with the business of trading in that cloth, which would have made him a much more important businessman at the time. Whatever the level of business, Jenkyn seemed able to send his son William to Bristol to serve an apprenticeship.

Haverfordwest was very much an active port on the Bristol Channel, and had a vibrant trade with Bristol. As such there were vessels plying that route in number, and there would have been no difficulty in arranging the transport for William to his new home.

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