Five poems can be associated with Sir Benet: a poem of praise by Guto (poem 43); a humorous poem in which Guto recounts his experiences driving Sir Benet’s sheep to markets in England (poem 44); a poem by Tudur Penllyn in reply to the poem above in which Guto is satirized (poem 44a); a poem by Guto in reply to the poem above in which Tudur Penllyn is satirized (poem 45); an elegy by Guto (poem 47). Guto also refers to him in his praise poem for Sir Siôn Mechain, parson of Llandrunio (84.7n).
Although there is no complete certainty concerning Sir Benet’s lineage, it is likely, following Bartrum, that he was the son of Hywel ap Gruffudd of Llygadog in Edeirnion. Guto names a number of his ancestors (43.37–40):
Y gŵr o Ronwy, geirwir ynad,
Ac o ryw Cadell, gorau ceidwad,
Ac ŵyr i Lywarch, gwir oleuad,
Ac Ithel Felyn a’i hŷn a’i had.
‘A man descended from Gronwy, wise and truthful man, and from the stock of Cadell, best protector, and descendant of Llywarch, true brilliance, and Ithel Felyn and his ancestors and his seed.’
As is seen below, all four men named in the passage above can be identified as the ancestors of the Sir Benet whose name is found in the genealogies. The genealogical table below is based on WG1 ‘12’, ‘13’, ‘14’, ‘41’, ‘Llywelyn Eurdorchog’ 3; WG2 ‘Einudd’ 9A, ‘Llywelyn Eurdorchog’ 3 A1. Those named by Guto in his poems to Sir Benet are shown in bold print.
However, the parson of Corwen in 1439 is named as Benedict ap Grono (see below). The name of Sir Benet’s father may have been unknown to the author of this information, yet he may well have been familiar with one of Guto’s poems to Sir Benet, where he calls him a Hydd o garennydd Gronwy ‘hero from the stock of Gronwy’ and a gŵr o Ronwy ‘man descended from Gronwy’ (43.36–7), and he may therefore have incorrectly understood this as a reference to the parson’s father. Furthermore, it is unclear why Guto chose to mention Sir Benet’s ancestors on his mother’s side only, as he was also descended from noble stock on his father’s side.
Another man named Bened was found in the genealogies, namely Bened ab Ieuan ap Deio of Llangar in Edeirnion (WG1 ‘Idnerth Benfras’ 8). Like the man whose lineage is outlined above, this Bened was descended on his mother’s side from a man named Gronwy and also from Llywarch Hen and Cadell Ddyrnllug. Nonetheless, it is highly unlikely that he is Sir Benet as he is not styled thus in the genealogies and as he is not known to have been descended from Ithel Felyn.
Following Bartrum’s order of generations, Sir Benet was born c.1430. In Thomas (1908–13, ii: 144), under the year 1439, the name Benedict ap Grono appears as Sinecure Rector in Corwen. According to Thomas (ibid. 148) and CPR (358), he died sometime in 1464 and a chaplain called Roger Cheshire was appointed to succeed him as parson of the church on 1 January 1465. As is noted above, this information does not match the genealogical evidence. However, in light of the fact that the name was extremely uncommon, it is very unlikely that another man named Benet was parson of Corwen during the fifteenth century and, furthemore, the dates c.1439–65 match closely Sir Benet’s probable dates.
There are other references to a man or possibly more than one man named Benet which may be relevant:
Sir Benet was doubtless a well-to-do man. Like a number of rural deans of his time, he received income from breeding and selling sheep as well as a parson’s stipend. He may be compared with Sir Siôn Mechain, parson of Llandrunio, another churchman who had made his fortune by breeding sheep. Neither did church parsons receive small stipends in this period, and rural deans like Sir Benet were apparently much better off financially than the parish clergy (Smith 2001: 289). There is considerable evidence that Corwen church was the richest church in Edeirnion at the end of the thirteenth century, and the effigy of bishop Iorwerth Sulien (c.1340–50) can still be seen there (Smith 2001: 225; cf. Tywyn church, ibid. 264–4, 289). In the mid fifteenth century, Corwen church would still have been in clover and its parson may have enjoyed considerable status. Furthermore, according to the genealogies (see above), Sir Benet was the vicar of Llanfair as well as the parson of Corwen, although it is unclear which Llanfair is intended.
Capes, W.W. (1914) (ed.), The Register of John Trefnant, Bishop of Hereford (A.D. 1389–1404) (Hereford)
Smith, J.B and Smith, Ll.B. (2001) (eds.), History of Merioneth Volume II: The Middle Ages (Cardiff)
Thomas, D.R. (1908–13), The History of the Diocese of St Asaph (Oswestry)
Thomson, D. (1982), ‘Cistercians and Schools in Late Medieval Wales’, CMCS 3 (Summer): 76–80
Williams, G. (1976), The Welsh Church from Conquest to Reformation (second ed., Cardiff)