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The Gwyns of Gwempa


This is my second blog covering the late Middleton/pre-Paxton era. It looks back to the origins of the Gwyns of Gwempa and casts light on the financial standing of the family at the time that Thomas Gwyn married Elizabeth Middleton, around 1720.

1600 to 1721

The arrival and first hundred years of the Gwyns at Gwempa

The pedigree indicates that Morgan ap Morgan of Gwempa (or Wenpant) was succeeded by his daughter Margaret who married Lewis ap Morgan. Their son Owen ap Lewis of Gwempa also had a daughter Margaret as his heiress, and she became the wife of David ap John Gwyn of Ystlys-y-Coed, Llannon. Thus, at the beginning of the seventeenth century the Gwyns came to Gwempa. (1) (2)

The Estate then passed to their son John, to John’s son Charles, and to Charles’s son Richard. After Richard’s heir Charles died prematurely in 1701, Richard wrote his Last Will and Testament to make provision for his six grandchildren. Richard then passed away in 1702.

Richard Gwyn’s Will  (3)

The Will deals only with that part of the Estate ‘besides that I have already settled.’  This implies that Gwempa and other properties in the parish of Llangendeirne, and also the quarter-portion of extensive properties in the County of Brecon which had been his late wife Rachel’s inheritance, had already been settled on his eldest grandson and heir Richard.

He named as his sole Executrix and residuary legatee his widowed daughter-in-law Mary Gwyn (née Bilson). A mansion with lands he had recently purchased in Pembrokeshire and four other properties with lands in the Carmarthenshire parishes of Llanon and Llanelly were placed in trust with his Executrix and 7 others named in the Will. The instructions were to raise from the mansion property £1,350 in order to discharge the mortgage and then, from all the properties plus the surplus after collecting the testator’s debts and paying his creditors, a further £1,400. Of this latter amount, the four youngest grandchildren Leonard, Mary, Charles and Bilson were to receive £300 each and the second eldest grandson Thomas £200. After this the mansion was to be conveyed to Thomas, and the other properties to the eldest grandson and heir Richard. If Richard should happen to die without issue and his Estate descend to his next brother Thomas, then Thomas’s £200 would be divided between Leonard and Mary.

The Will includes the proviso that if any of the five youngest grandchildren ‘shall behave themselves undutifully to their Mother…by disposing of themselves in marriage without her consent and approbation or otherwise’ then they will lose their entire share which will then be divided equally between the other youngest grandchildren.

The heir forfeits his inheritance

In 1709, seven years after Richard the grandfather’s death, an agreement was drawn up whereby Richard, the eldest grandson and heir, would transfer his inheritance to his next youngest brother Thomas. In brief, the agreement gave Thomas all the Carmarthenshire properties, with the obligation to raise money from them to provide an Annuity for Richard and sums of £500 each for Thomas’s younger brothers, in lieu of their entitlements under their grandfather’s Will. A further £500 was to be made available to their mother Mary, now remarried to Rawleigh Mansel of Muddlescwm to allocate to whom she pleased. The Brecon properties were to be sold and the proceeds used to purchase more income-producing lands in Carmarthenshire. Thomas would have powers to raise up to £400 for a wife, £2,000 for any children other than an heir, and £500 ‘for the payment of his debts, or such other uses as he shall think fit.’

The above allocated sums of money were to be paid on Mary’s death, or on the marriage of Thomas Gwyn, whichever happened first.

Mary Mansel (formerly Gwyn, née Bilson) died in1716, having used her above powers to allocate a further £300 to her son Leonard. Her second youngest son Charles Gwyn died in 1717, leaving his £500 to his brother Thomas. By 1721 Thomas Gwyn was married to Elizabeth Middleton. The quarter-apportionment of the Brecon properties had only ‘lately’ been agreed through the courts. None of the above payments had been made and it was recorded that Leonard, Bilson and Thomas ‘stand in great need of the said Money.’ One of the Trustees, Sir Thomas Powell had recently died and the other, Robert Price, was refusing to act, alleging that he had not sufficient authority (and wished to be discharged of it). Although the brothers were able to find persons willing to lend them money these persons had been advised that the agreement of 1709 was defective ‘through the default of the Clerk’ and should not be relied upon for the grant of a mortgage, ‘unless the said Powers thereby intended to be given to the said Thomas Gwynn, and the said Trustees, were altered by Act of Parliament, so as to be agreeable to and consistent with the Forms and Rules of Law and Equity.’

The Act of Parliament  (4)

The petitioners, Thomas Gwyn, Richard Gwyn, Leonard Gwyn, Bilson Gwyn, Rowland Lewis and Mary his wife (sister of the others) and Robert Price wished it to be enacted that from 1 August 1721 all the Brecon properties (including the Hay Castle) be settled and vested in Owen Brigstocke of Llech Dony in the County of Carmarthen and John Howell of Lincolns-Inn who would sell them ‘so soon as conveniently may be’….’for the best price that can or may be had or gotten.’ After necessary expenses of sale, the proceeds would be applied immediately to pay £800 to Leonard Gwyn, £500 to Bilson Gwyn and £1,000 to Thomas Gwyn (£2,300 in total). In the meantime Leonard would receive £40 a year and the others £25 a year each. This was considered to be the best use of the sale proceeds, ‘whereby all the said premises, in the said County of Carmarthen (the Ancient Estate of the Family), will be no further charged with the said Sum of Two thousand three hundred Pounds, than to make good the Deficiency of the Purchase Money for the said Premises in the said County of Brecon, if any be.’

It was further enacted that from 29 September 1721 all the Carmarthenshire properties (including Gwempa) be settled and vested in Owen Brigstocke and John Howellfor, and during the Term of One Thousand Years,’ for the use of Thomas Gwyn during his life and then his male successors in line, including his brothers and their male successors. From the rents and profits of the lands comprised in the ‘Term of One Thousand Years’ Richard Gwyn would receive an Annuity for life of £70. After making good any shortfall in the £2,300 to be raised from the sale of the Brecon properties, the sum of £2,000 would be raised for any children, other than an eldest son, of Thomas Gwyn and it would be lawful for Thomas Gwyn to assign (in writing with witnesses) to his wife Elizabeth (or any subsequent wife) properties up to the yearly value of £300 for her jointure or maintenance during her lifetime.

In joining in as a petitioner, Thomas’s sister Mary Lewis (née Gwyn) made sure that her £300 legacy from her grandfather’s Will would be unaffected by the new arrangements specified in the Act.

At this time, Thomas Gwyn’s wife Elizabeth (née Middleton) would not have known that she would inherit the Middleton Estate. Her father Richard Middleton survived for another twelve years until 1733 and his heir, Henry Middleton, brother of Elizabeth, might still have produced his own male heir.



(1) Alcwyn C Evans Manuscripts: Pedigrees, Book A, pages 66-67 (The British Genealogist of the Gentry of Carmarthenshire) (National Library of Wales)

(2)  A photocopy of a pedigree chart of the Gwynn family of Gwempa, parish of Llangyndeyrn, co. Carmarthen, compiled by Major Francis Jones (National Library of Wales)

(3)  In the England and Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills 1384-1858, Richard Gwynne, 5 Feb 1703, Gwempas, Carmarthenshire, Wales (via

(4)  An ACT for Sale of the Estate late of Richard Gwynn, Gent. in the County of Brecon, for Payment of Debts ; And for the Settling of an Estate in the County of Caermarthen, to certain Purposes therein mentioned  (National Library of Wales)

In the Gwyn family tree drawn here, the dates in bold italic are confirmed in the Llangendeirne parish registers (via