Sir Benet ap Hywel, parson of Corwen, fl. c.1439–65
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).
Lineage 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.
Lineage of Sir Benet ap Hywel, parson of Corwen
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.
His career 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:
There are some references in the databases of SoldierLME (www.medievalsoldier.org) to a soldier called Benedict or Benet Flyn(t). In 1429, Benedict Flynt went to fight in France under the captain, Henry Fenwick; on 21 August 1431 Benet Flyn went as foot archer and member of a personal field retinue under the captainship of Matthew Gough to besiege Louviers (in Normandy); and in 1439 Benedict Flynt went as a man-at-arms under the captainship of Sir Thomas Gray and the generalship of John Huntingdon, earl of Huntingdon, to serve in a standing army in Acquitaine. The Benedict and Bened of these records are probably the same person (cf. the reference above to Sir Benet as Benedict ap Grono). Nonetheless, as it is likely that Sir Benet was from Edeirnion and not from Flintshire, it is highly unlikely that these military records refer to him, even though Guto and Tudur Penllyn make specific references to Sir Benet’s physical stature and military activity (43.6n, 30n).
In the Bettisfield collection (number 380) at the National Library of Wales there is a document which records that a knight named John Hanmer, on 2 June 1449, granted the manor of Halton, together with lands in the vills of Bronington in Maelor Saesneg and Gredington in Maelor Gymraeg, to Benet Come, clerk and rector of Corwen, and others in the presence of witnesses. Mention should also be made of Benedictus Com(m)e or T(h)ome, a public notary of the diocese of St Asaph whose name is attached to instruments presented before Siôn Trefor, bishop of Hereford, in the years 1391, 1393 and 1395 (Capes 1914: 52, 67, 70, 102, 285). If Benedictus Come as opposed to Tome was this man’s real name (the letters c and t could easily be confused by scribes), was he Sir Benet? If he was, then in view of his death in 1464, he must have lived to a great age, even if he began his profession as early as in his twenties. Otherwise, it was perhaps someone called Benedictus Tome or another Benedictus Come (despite the rareness of the name) who wrote these documents. In Capes’s (1914) indices, Benedictus Come is understood as the same person as Benedict Corner, Benedict Gomme and Benedict Edine. However, Benedict Corner is associated with the benefices of Eastnor, Benedict Gomme with the benefices of Eastnor and Stoke Lacy, and Benedict Edine with the benefices of Colwall, all in Herefordshire (ibid. 180, 185, 189, 212, 214, 215, 217).
One Iankyn’ ap Sir Benet is mentioned in a list of pupils in Pen 356 who very probably received an education at an elementary Cistercian school – which was perhaps under the tutelage of Basingwerk abbey – in the fifteenth century (Thomson 1982: 78). Was he a son of Sir Benet? If so, he does not appear in the genealogies.
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.
Bibliography 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)
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