Chwilio uwch

Siôn Edward of Plasnewydd, fl. c.1474–d. 1498, and his wife, Gwenhwyfar daughter of Elis Eutun, d. 1520

Only one poem has survived by Guto for Siôn Edward of Plasnewydd, Chirk, and his wife Gwenhwyfar daughter of Elis Eutun (poem 107). Another four poems for Siôn are found in the manuscripts:

  • a praise poem by Gutun Owain (GO poem LV);
  • an elegy by Gutun Owain, 1498 (GO poem LVI);
  • a praise poem for Siôn and his brother Ednyfed by Hywel Cilan (GHC poem XXI);
  • a praise poem for Siôn and his wife Gwenhwyfar by Deio ab Ieuan Du (GDID poem 14).

For Tudur Aled’s poem to Siôn’s son, Wiliam Edwards, see Bowen 1992: 137–59. From the notes to poem 107, it can be seen that some of Guto’s lines echo lines from Deio ab Ieuan Du’s poem, which was probably sung at an earlier date (see below). But it is not safe to suggest that Guto was drawing on Deio’s poem, as we do not know how many poems have been lost.

The lineage below is based on information from WG1 ‘Tudur Trefor’ 3, 13, Puleston and WG2 ‘Tudur Trefor’ 13E, 25 A1, ‘Hwfa’ 8G. Those named in Guto’s poem to Siôn are given in bold, and his patrons are underlined.

Lineage of Siôn Edward of Plasnewydd

Siôn’s son, Siôn Wyn, was the husband of Elsbeth, the daughter of one of Guto’s patrons from Anglesey, Huw Lewys. Also Jane, Siôn’s daughter, was the wife of Llywelyn ab Ieuan, the grandson of another of Guto’s patrons, Hywel ab Ieuan Fychan of Moeliwrch.

Based on the poem by Hywel Cilan, we may assume that Siôn was the eldest son of Iorwerth ab Ieuan (GHC XXI.15–18):

Siôn Edward sy newidiwr
Mwnai er gwawd, myn air gŵr.
Ednyfed, dan iau Ifor,
Wrol iawn, ydyw’r ail iôr.

‘Siôn Edward is the exchanger of
money for poetry, he insists on the praise of a man.
The second lord is Ednyfed, of great valour,
of Ifor’s discipline (i.e. generosity).’

His name also suggests that he was the eldest. Both Siôn and Ieuan derive from the Latin Johannes (Morgan and Morgan 1985: 130–8), and Ieuan was the name of Siôn’s uncle and grandfather, both eldest sons (see lineage above). In the following generations, many an eldest son would be named Siôn or John Edwards (see DWB Online s.n. Edwards, Edwardes (Family), Chirkland). Siôn Edward or Siôn Wyn was also Siôn’s eldest son, a fact which is confirmed by the order in which the sons are named in Gutun Owain’s elegy for him (GO LVI.38, 40): Siôn Wyn, Wiliam, Edward and Dafydd. (In the note on Edward ap Dafydd it was seen how the poets and genealogists often named offspring in the order of their age.) It is possible that Siôn Wyn died fairly young, because it was Wiliam who was lord of Plasnewydd when Tudur Aled sang there (TA poem LXIII).

The poetry for him
It is argued that Guto’s poem for Siôn was sung shortly after Siôn’s return from the battle of Bosworth in 1485 (see the background note to poem 107). In a poem written at Valle Crucis during the abbacy of Dafydd ab Ieuan (c.1480 onwards), Guto states that Siôn was one of his main patrons in this late period in his career (see 108.27–30 and 117.57–8 Siôn Edward, nis newidiaf / Er dau o’r ieirll, i’w dai ’r af ‘Siôn Edward, I would not exchange him / for two earls, I will go to his court’). As neither Gutun Owain, Deio ab Ieuan Du nor Guto refer to Ednyfed, Siôn’s brother (probably because he had died young and without any children, Bowen 1992: 142), we may assume that Hywel Cilan’s poem to the two brothers predates the others. Hywel refers to Siôn and Ednyfed as Dau etifedd i feddu / Ar wŷr a thir Iorwerth Ddu ‘two heirs to rule over / the men and lands of Iorwerth Ddu’ (GHC XXI.11–12), but by the time Gutun Owain sang his praise, Siôn was the head of the family: Tir Ierwerth yw’r tav ’r owron. / Tref tad ytt yw’r wlad lydan ‘Now the land of Iorwerth is yours. / The wide land is your heritage’ (GO LV.12–13). Gutun further suggests that Siôn had begun to produce offspring: Duw tyved dy etivedd ‘By God, may your heir grow’ (ibid. LV.40). Deio ab Ieuan Du’s poem for Siôn and Gwenhwyfar also seems to have been sung for a young couple, and their home is referred to as Plas Ierwerth ‘the palace of Iorwerth’ and Plas Catrin ‘the palace of Catrin’ (GDID 14.45, 46), these being the names of Siôn’s parents (contrast the suggestion, ibid. 139, that Catrin was Siôn’s sister). Perhaps the poem was sung soon after Siôn came into his full inheritance and after he and Gwenhwyfar had settled as husband and wife in Plasnewydd. In his elegy to Siôn, sung in 1498, Gutun Owain refers to the mourning of his eight children: Pedair merched tyledyw ‘Four beautiful girls’ (who are not named, GO LVII.41), and the four sons named above.

Gwenhwyfar daughter of Elis Eutun
Siôn married Gwenhwyfar daughter of Elis ap Siôn Eutun. Her mother was Angharad daughter of Madog Puleston. Guto, Gutun Owain and Deio ab Ieuan Du refer to her as merch Elis ‘daughter of Elis’) (107.23, GO LVI.28, GDID 14.36), but Deio also refers to her grandfather, Siôn Eutun, and her grandmother, Gwenhwyfar daughter of Einion ab Ithel, after whom Gwenhwyfar was named (GDID 14.40, 41). Guto and Deio ab Ieuan Du also play with the idea that Gwenhwyfar was the name of King Arthur’s wife, comparing the hospitality in Plasnewydd with that of Arthur’s court. Gwenhwyfar died in 1520, according to a note in Pen 287, 67.

Neither Guto, Gutun Owain nor Hywel Cilan name Siôn’s home (although Guto and Gutun Owain refer to the place as plas ‘palace’ or ‘place’, possibly playing on the name Plasnewydd). Guto locates the house dan y castell ‘below the castle’ (107.17), which describes the location of Plasnewydd, below Chirk castle in the township of Gwernosbynt. Tudur Aled, in his praise to Siôn’s son, Wiliam Edward, also locates his home Is y castell ‘below the castle’ (TA LXIII.77), and Lewys Môn confirms that Wiliam’s house was called Plasnewydd (GLM LXXIV.8 Palis nawoes Plasnewydd ‘Plasnewydd, a palisade for nine generations’).

D. Pratt (1996: 10) explains that Plasnewydd had been a house of status since the age of the princes: ‘This moated site was of quasi manorial status, the home of high-born native Welshmen … who held, or farmed, important administrative positions under both the Welsh princes of Powys Fadog and the English lords of Chirk’. The site had been in Siôn’s family for generations. In the 1391 survey of Chirk, we learn that Iorwerth Ddu (Siôn’s great-great-grandfather) and his brother Ieuan owned the township of Gwernosbynt (Jones 1933: 8–9; Pratt 1997: 37). When Ieuan ab Adda died in 1448, ‘Ieuan Fychan inherited Pengwern while to Iorwerth ab Ieuan fell the estates in Gwernosbynt and adjacent townships’ (Pratt 1996: 15). Iorwerth had undertaken much rebuilding work, as would his grandson, Wiliam Edward, in the early years of the sixteenth century (ibid. 15–16). It is possible that the name Plasnewydd ‘new place / palace’ was given to the site as a result of this work. However, Pratt (1996: 14–15), suggested that it may have been at the end of the thirteenth century, under Iorwerth Foel, Ednyfed Gam’s father, that the house was named, when Iorwerth received the township of Gwernosbynt on lease from Roger Mortimer.

Career and dates
The earliest reference to Siôn is in a deed dated 21 September 1474, recording the transfer of land to him by Wiliam Eutun. By the end of the fifteenth century, Siôn was the chief receiver of Chirk, under Sir William Stanley, as well as the chief forester of Chirkland (Jones 1933: xiv; DWB Online s.n. Edwards, Edwardes (Family), Chirkland). Guto is probably referring to administrative duties of this kind when he describes Siôn as Noter gwŷr yn y tair gwart ‘The clerk of men in the three districts’ (107.29). On 3 February 1489, another document records the transfer of land to him in Chirk by a certain Hywel ap Deicws. Siôn died in 1498 (Pen 287, 67), on Ascension Day, according to Gutun Owain (LVI.10, 25).

We know from manuscripts written in his own hand that Siôn had scholarly interests, and we would expect the three poets who praised him to mention this. However the three refer only to ability to preserve law and order in Chirk and the hospitality of his home. Apart from calling him noter gwŷr (which in reality, is a reference to his administrative duties), they don’t give us any suggestion that he was interested in learning as such (in contrast with Guto’s description of Edward ap Dafydd’s scholarly interests (104.25–6, 43–4n), or the description of Robert ap Siôn Trefor’s similar interests by Gutun Owain, GO XXXVIII.27–34). In LlGC 423D there is a Latin grammar written by Siôn in the 1480s, probably for his son, Siôn Wyn (see RepWM under NLW 423D). Siôn Wyn added a few English words above the Latin, and signed his name here and there throughout the manuscript (e.g. Joh[ann]es Wyn[n] and Nomen scriptoris Johannes plenus amoris), and tried out his handwriting skills. The manuscript is described by Thomson, 1979: 105–13, as ‘Latin verses giving lists of verbs, glossed extensively in English; verse vocabulary of words for parts of the body, again for house¬hold words, treatise on orthography and grammar’. Thomson (1982: 77) further suggests that this type of learning, with its emphasis on grammar and syntax, was typical of university education in the period, and associated with a certain John Leylond (d. 1428) of Oxford University (DNB Online s.n. Leylond, John). It is quite possible that Siôn had been educated in such an university, but we have no conclusive evidence, just the nature of his scholarly interests as seen in his manuscripts.

Bowen, D.J. (1992), ‘I Wiliam ap Siôn Edwart, Cwnstabl y Waun’, YB XVIII: 137–59
Jones, G.P. (1933), The Extent of Chirkland (1391–1393) (London)
Morgan, T.J., and Morgan, P. (1985), Welsh Surnames (Cardiff)
Pratt, D. (1996), ‘New Hall Moated Site, Chirk’, TDHS 45: 7–20
Pratt, D. (1997), ‘The Medieval Borough of Chirk’, TDHS 46: 26–51
Smith, Ll.B. (1987), ‘The Grammar and Commonplace Books of John Edwards of Chirk’, B xxxiv: 174–84
Thomson, D. (1979), A Descriptive Catalogue of Middle English Grammatical Texts (New York)
Thomson, D. (1982), ‘Cistercians and Schools in Late Medieval Wales’, CMCS 3 (Summer): 76–80