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Archaeologia Cambrensis. .
THIRD SERIES, No. LIV.-APRIL, 1868.
BERW, AND THE HOLLANDS.
It is upon record that Llewelyn ap Jorwerth, Prince of North Wales, used to hold his court at Aberffraw, in Anglesey, between the years 1190 and 1216. Besides being the ruler, he was the actual owner, according to the ideas of that time, of most of the land which he governed, subject to such grants as he or his predecessors had made of parts of it. Powerful nobles there were who, under such grants, held estates large enough to qualify them to rival their liege lord, but in few cases was their influence so used; faithful adherence was commoner than rebellious opposition, and these grants of territory tended more to strengthen than to weaken the hands of the prince.
One important landowner was Llywarch ap Bran, Lord of Menai, a descendant of Rhodri Mawr, and the ancestor of many families in Anglesey. He lived on the brow above Plâs côch and Porthamel, where still some ancient thorn-trees mark the spot, though nothing remains of buildings. Llywarch had a son Jerwerth. Mr. Henry Rowlands states “ Jerwerth, who is always considered as the eldest son of Llywarch, of the Menai, doubtless lived at Porthamel-ychaf; this Jerwerth was succeeded by his son Meredydd, and he also by Goronwy, who in his turn was followed by Meredydd the Black
3RD SER., VOL. XIV.
The first of these Meredydds stood high in the favour of Prince Llewelyn ap Jorwerth, who rewarded his good services by considerable grants of land in addition to the estate which he had inherited, and further testified his friendship by giving the land with very few and slight feudal reservations. Many of the townships in the hundreds of Menai and Malltraeth have their “ Wele Meredydd ap Jorwerth,” part of the demesne of this Meredydd, and named after him who first held it independently. About the end of the thirteenth century most of these places were in the possession of the second Meredydd surnamed “The Black.” Mr. Rowlands has shown that he owned the lands now known as Plas Newydd, Bodowyr, Porthamel, Plasgwyn, and Berwthe latter possibly so-called from the cresses which abound there, as the neighbouring district took its name of Ysceifiog from the elder trees.
Meredydd the Black had two sons, by different wives. Cynwrig, the elder, succeeded to the mansion and all the manor of Porthamel, while Bodowyr was given to his half-brother Evan, surnamed “the Irishman," his mother having been an Irish woman. Evan Wyddel also had “Wele Jerwerth ap Llowarch” in Porthamel, and “ Wele Meredydd ap Jerwerth" in Ysceifiog. Llewelyn ap Evan Wyddel succeeded his father, and in due course his possessions came to be divided, by the law of gavelkind, between his two sons; Rhys took Bodowyr, while Howel, the younger, was sent to found, at Berw, a new branch of the ancient line of Llywarch
Berw, described in 1360 as in the “hamlet of Trerbeirdd,” seems to have been regarded as part of Porthamel Manor, because in 1422 (8th Henry V), this Howel, described himself as “ of Porthamel” in a deed whereby he granted to David ap Kenrick ap Meredydd, probably his cousin, a place called “ Tyddyn Margad Verch Evan ap Hwfa,” in the township of Bodlew; but the actual limits of the manors, and even of the larger
| Antiquitates Parochiales. See Arch. Camb., vol. iv, p. 285.
divisions of hundreds at that early period, are not now accurately known. The manor of Porthamel was doubtless an extensive one, and one would have expected the parish of Llanidan, in which it is, to have been coextensive with it; Berw, though a long way from the parish church, is in Llanidan parish; but there is nothing in the extent of Edward III, by which it can be actually identified as any one of the “Weles” there enumerated as part of Porthamel.
No date or inscription is discoverable on the oldest portion of the walls now standing at Berw. The masonry is of antique character, massive, and meant to last, as if indeed there had been in those days giants to build it. The material is chiefly coarse grit-stone, cut into huge well-squared blocks, which are built up, especially at the angles, with most commendable regularity, the interstices, where any occur, being filled with shale. In form this old building is a square tower, about fifteen feet each way, having three storeys of low rooms. The doorway faced the south. Eight enormous stones defend the door-frame; a great threshold, a huge lintel, and three large blocks on either side, yet the opening is only two feet and a-half wide. On the ground floor, to the west, are two small square windows; to the east, one, which seems to have been tampered with and enlarged. Above there is to the south a small window and two more to the east; while the top storey of all has only three very small square openings framed with heavy stones, and one window with two lights, a little larger. All these openings suggest a period when to admit much light was to admit much wind and rain also, when glass was unknown, when men lived out of doors, and women in the dark.
Howel was succeeded at Berw by his son Ithel, and may be regarded as the founder of the house, which appears to have been completed in Ithel's time. Ithel had a son Owain, and a daughter Elinor; to the former descended much of his estate, but Elinor had the great house, which by and by departed out of the possession
of the descendants of Llowarch ap Bran, by her marriage with a certain Englishman "descended from the Dukes of Valence," and named John Holland.
In a grant, or confirmation of arms—(“azure a lyon rampant gardant between five flowers de lice argent”) – to this family, bearing date 1635,1 it is stated that this John Holland was “household servant to King Henry the Sixth,” in which capacity he would very probably have met Owen Tudor, and may, perhaps, have formed through him his connection with Anglesey. He had arrived at sufficient influence there to be sheriff of the county in the last year of King Henry the Sixth, 1461, the year in which Owen Tudor died; but it is not known when his marriage with Elinor took place. There is a local tradition that an heiress of Berw "built a church and a tower, and made a road before she got a husband.” This can only apply to Elinor Verch Ithel ap Howel. There is an old ruined building close to Berw, in which church service was held even in late years. There is on the brow above Tyddyn Hick a very curious old tower with a vertical opening all down one side of it, which does not look like a mill tower. And, indeed, Elinor may well have been the builder of the square old house at Berw above described. There are plenty of bad roads about the neighbourhood, and there is a long space of time between 1422, when Howel was " of Porthamel," and 1461, when John Holland was sheriff. Even in 1503, in a description of “Hamlett de Berw ychaf,” given in a Crown Rental, Holland's name does not appear. It runs thus :
" Hamlett de Berw ywchaf.
some, vs. iijd.”
There is no mention of Berw isaf in the roll, although the name was in use in 1500.
The circumstance that in 1523 a son of this marriage was made sheriff of Anglesey, gives foundation for a guess that Elinor found a husband about 1470-80.
The pedigree and history of John Holland's ancestors has already appeared in the Arch. Camb. (third series, vols. xii, p. 183, and xiii, p. 161.)
We have no account at all of the married life of the heiress of Berw, and may, therefore, presume that her husband and her brother managed to agree; for, had they quarrelled, it is likely that records of the quarrel would have come down to us. A few years ago the writer of this paper discovered in an ancient chest a number of most beautifully preserved deeds relating to Berw, from which a large portion of his information is, by the permission of the then and present owners, derived.
The extract given from the Crown Rental shows that in 1503 Owain ab Ithel was dead, and his sons held his lands. They were Hugh Owen, and Sir John Owen, the latter in holy orders. All these lands subsequently came to Elinor's son, but not without much legal busi
Of his mother's lands this son, Owen Holland, granted a seven years lease in 1515, the lessee taking not only the farm but the stock upon it, to be restored or paid for as valued in the lease.
xx oxen, price of every oxe, xs. Item xxxv keyne wt xxxv calff beside them, price of every cowe and calf vjs. viijd. Item, x other heffers and sterys of iiij yere age, price of a peece vs. Item, x smal beestes of one yere age, price of a peece, ijs. vjd. Item, twelve score shepe and the woll upon theyre Bakks, xl. lambys wt them, price of a peece of the shepe, xd., and lammys, iiijd.”
The rent for the whole taking was ten pounds per annum. Of his uncle's estate Owen Holland took a grant from Sir John Owen on 8th November, 1521. “ John Owen, son and heir of Owen ap Ithell, gentilman, releases to Owen Holland, gentilman, for ever, all his